LITTLE Henry was crying. Not because he was cold or hungry, or because he had lost his top, or because his grandmamma had found it necessary to use her slipper for another purpose than protecting her aged foot. He was crying because the time to part with all the dear ones at home had come. That morning his grandmamma had taken him apart and had said, "You're getting a big boy now, Henry, and it is necessary that you go out into the world to seek your fortune. You cannot expect to live in this forest all your days, you know. But before you go let me give you this magic scrap of paper, which will carry you safely even to the very cave of the giant Bowsir, whom you will remember to treat with great respect, for he loves polite little boys. If you conciliate him, your fortune is made. God bless you, my little grandson."
Here the old lady wiped her glasses vigorously; then she took from her pocket a little book, on which was written in mysterious letters - ???, and also the magic paper, which she said would call up to his aid the good fairy Bond, who would intercede for him with the Bowsir. At this point Henry's little sister Lulu came running in with two seedcakes and a lump of sugar for Henry to carry in his pocket to sustain him on his weary journey; which thoughtfulness so affected the boy that with streaming eyes he kissed these dear ones good-by, and went out alone into the great forest.
By and by he became very tired, - for the magic paper seemed to grow heavier and heavier with each step, - until at last he could go no farther, but sank down exhausted upon the ground. He had not long remained in this pitiable position, however, before he heard a strange rattling noise, mingled with a harsh jingle of bells, sounding louder and louder every moment. He rose to his feet, and saw a strange sort of chariot, drawn by two mud-brown steeds, coming toward him. This chariot was lovely golden-yellow, adorned with a strange inscription which Henry could not read, something like this - ???. The genie who was guiding these fiery steeds by means of gossamer reins, although clad in bearskins and seven-league boots, was nevertheless so jolly-looking, that Henry, very much emboldened, clambered upon the step of the chariot as it flew by, and was thus transported with the speed of the wind far beyond the great forest into the wide world that he had never seen. He was wholly absorbed in the contemplation of many marvels, so that he did not see another genie approach and stand beside him, till the genie rang a little silver bell, enclosed in a wonderful pistol-shaped instrument of silver. "???" said the genie. "A ???." Henry did not know what to do, and therefore he drew the magic paper from his pocket; whereupon the genie cried out in a voice of thunder, "???" and vanished in smoke; and Henry felt himself suddenly snatched up and whirled through the air by an invisible force.
When he regained consciousness he found himself before a cave, which he immediately recognized as the cave of the Bowsir, described to him by his kind grandmamma. He could make out the inscription over the door - Bowsir's Offers, 9 to 1. Thinking that this was heavy odds, and finding it was now half-past three, Henry did not attempt to enter the cave, but was about to pass on when he was grabbed violently by the arm. "???" cried a voice; and he saw a person little older than himself with a note-book and pencil. "Two dollars a year; your name, please."
"My name is Henry, but I have no money," replied our hero, feeling for his scrap of paper.
Here the ??? man was interrupted by some one who approached and asked him what he meant by spelling his name, which was Brown, in the more muscular fashion, Brawn. Henry did not wait to hear the answer to this dispute but hastened on.
He found himself suddenly before a high stone castle, with a flight of stone steps leading to it. Henry looked about for the chained lions, and, seeing none, concluded that they were unchained, or else restricted in the dungeons beneath. He gazed in silent awe at a huge tablet, not able to decipher the rude inscription. "Al lnoti ceswi llbe rem o vedf rom." "All hope abandon, ye who enter here," he might have said, had he been a member of the Dante Society. Within the outer court of this castle was another flight of stone steps, winding up to a door marked 5, presumably in reference to the five dragons within, who were very terrible beings, as little Henry soon found out. The first of these dragons was Apex, the greatest and most terrible of all, for he had the power of turning all who displeased him into ice. He dwelt in the innermost secret chamber of the castle. The second dragon was Din, whose voice was louder than thunder and deafened any mortal in his presence. This Din was so fearful a dragon that his slave Subdin usually went before him and suffered no one to approach; and he who after seeing Subdin drew near to Din was reckoned the most rash of mortals. The fourth dragon was a white dragon, known as Rejistrah: and there was a strange legend about him, that he had once been a sea-jay, compelled to assume his present form because of his insolence to the gods. This Rejistrah was ruled over by the fifth dragon, said by some to have been the Third Witch in Macbeth; and this last was usually called Fothi-rejistrah, or, by some, Haricaris. In the presence of these five terrible dragons did our little Henry find himself, when he with great difficulty pushed aside the massive door, impelled to the bold action by the voice of a Siren within, whom the fifth dragon guarded night and day; and the Siren lamented unceasingly her cruel fate.
When little Henry saw Haricaris and the Siren, he took his paper in his hand, and whispering the name of the good fairy Bond, walked boldly forward to the railing which shut in those two.
"Between you and me there is a great gulf fixed," murmured the Siren, looking up at Henry with blushing timidity.
But Haricaris interposed. "Name, parents' names, grandmother's first cousin's name and day of birth," cried she, handing the child a large book, too heavy for his little hands to hold, however; and it dropped to the floor with a loud bang.
For a moment there was dead silence. Then Haricaris leaned over the railing and took the trembling boy by the hair. "Child," she said, in a solemn voice, "who was your Sunday-school teacher? Did you ever go to Sunday-school? Tell me at once what were the dimensions of the Tabernacle, and what was the first month of the Hebrew year."
"I don't know," he said faintly.
"Then you can never pass the ordeal, and be admitted to the Elysian fields - you never can!"
There was terrible noise. ...
But, my dear Freshmen, it is now after eight o'clock, and time for you to go to bed. Some other time, perhaps, if you are good, I shall finish the story of little Henry.