The Life of the Spinning-Wheel, the Rocking Horse, and the Rabbit (1920)

This, Barbara’s first long story, was inspired by the spinning-wheel Mr. Oberg sent to the Folletts in February 1920. She followed it with a sequel, “Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, Mr. Rocking-Horse, and Mr. Rabbit Go Traveling“, which she completed on June 14, 1921.

THE LIFE OF THE SPINNING-WHEEL, THE ROCKING-HORSE, AND THE RABBIT

Chapter I

Once upon a time, though I can’t say exactly when, there lived in a far-off country a spinning-wheel, a rocking-horse, and a rabbit. They knew many of the people in that country. They lived in a house with many pretty things in it, such as I am going to tell you about: amethysts, turquoises, opals, pearls, diamonds, and rubies, and precious stones of all kinds.

One day when Mrs. Spinning-Wheel had her head stretched out of the window looking down upon the glorious garden of flowers, she was saying to herself, humming a low, sweet little song—”Oh dear! how I wish Mr. Horse were white!”

Mr. Rabbit was hiding in a corner behind the door, and he heard what Mrs. Spinning-Wheel had said. “Ha! Ha!” said Mr. Rabbit to Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, with a wiggle of his nose, “Mr. Horse shall be white, as white as you want him to be!”

“Eh?” replied Mrs. Spinning-Wheel.

“I say” began Mr. Rabbit a little louder. But Mrs. Spinning-Wheel interrupted him, saying:

“What do you mean to say to me?”

“I mean to say to you,” said Mr. Rabbit, “that Mr. Horse shall be as white as you want him to be.”

“Ah! now I get you,” said Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, with a merry little laugh. “But,” said she, in a few minutes, “how are you going to make Mr. Horse as white as snow?”

“I am going to take a fairy’s wand,” said Mr. Rabbit to Mrs. Spinning-Wheel.

“A bright idea!” exclaimed she.

“Well then,” said Mr. Rabbit, “tomorrow morning I’ll go off for the wand. But now Mrs. Clock says seven and so I should think we might as well go to bed.”

And so they all went to bed.

Chapter II

The next day the sun shone through the trees, and warmed the flowers, in their garden. The sun had dried them after the rain had drenched them. How iridescent they were with the sun shining through the drops of rain that hadn’t dried up! The flowers bloomed sweet and fresh. How glad they were to have the morning sun shine on them! I will now tell you what kind of flowers there were in Mrs. Spinning-Wheel’s garden: dahlias, lilies, pansies, bachelor’s-buttons, and yellow sunflowers higher than her head. (As it happened Mrs. Spinning-Wheel was taller than the other two of them.) There were some wild flowers in that country, also: violets, wild sunflowers, buttercups, daisies, and just a few dandelions. Most of them had gone by because it was nearly autumn, and they had all gone out into those little fuzzy balls that children like to blow out.

After the family had had their breakfast, Mr. Rabbit said to Mrs. Spinning-Wheel: “Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, I think that I will now put on my things and go to fetch that fairy-wand. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye,” answered Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, “I shall be sorry to have you leave me.”

“But,” said Mr. Rabbit, “you must remember that it will take me quite a long time to get the fairy-wand.”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, “I could wait forever if I knew that Mr. Horse was going to be white sometime.” As it happened, Mr. Horse was a dark brown.

“Well,” said Mr. Rabbit, “I don’t think that you could wait quite forever.”

So Mr. Rabbit took down from a peg a fur coat which had been given to him by Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, and he took a woolly cap out of the cupboard where he kept things, and he took a little box to carry the wand in. After carefully saying “Goodbye” again to Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, he hurried out the door and soon disappeared down the path that led to the forest.

By and by he met a fairy with two wands in her hand, and he asked her why she had two wands.

The fairy evidently knew his name because she said to him: “Good day to you, my dear Mr. Rabbit, I have two wands because one of them is for you to keep always for yourself.”

“Oh no!,” said Mr. Rabbit, “you’ll want it yourself.”

“No, no take it,” said the kind fairy.

“I thank you,” said Mr. Rabbit politely, “that is the very thing that I came into the woods for.”

“What do you want it for?” said the fairy.

“I want it because Mr. Horse is brown, and Mrs. Spinning-Wheel wants him white. I want to do as she wishes, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” said the fairy, in her softest voice.

So Mr. Rabbit put the wand which she had given him into the box and ran home to tell Mrs. Spinning-Wheel about it.

When he reached home he found Mrs. Spinning-Wheel sitting on the sofa in the living-room putting the jewels into rings. Mr. Horse had four amethyst ones, and Mrs. Spinning-Wheel herself had four turquoise ones, and Mr. Rabbit had all the rest.

There was a hole in the box that Mr. Rabbit had the wand in, and Mrs. Spinning-Wheel saw the star of the wand shining through it; so by that she knew that he had succeeded in getting the wand.

“Hello Mr. Rabbit, so you have returned again, have you? That’s good. I know you have succeeded in getting the wand for I can see something shining in your box; I’m pleased to know that you had good luck,” said Mrs. Spinning-Wheel gaily.

Then Mr. Rabbit took the wand out of the box and touched Mr. Horse with it. Immediately Mr. Horse was snow white.

“Well, well Mr. Rabbit,” said Mr. Horse, “I ain’t brown any more, am I. Ain’t you a smart rabbit to do all this! It don’t seem natural to be white, but then I’ve always wanted to be that color.”

“Doesn’t Mr. Horse talk bad grammar,” muttered Mr. Rabbit to himself.

Just then one of the upstairs windows opened and Mrs. Spinning-Wheel put her head out. When she saw the white horse she jumped with joy, saying: “Oh Mr. Horse is white, oh Mr. Horse is white; I jump for joy, I jump for joy.”

Then Mr. Rabbit looked up and saw Mrs. Spinning-Wheel’s bright face, and he said to her: “Mr. Horse talks very bad grammar.”

“Yes he does; I’ve noticed that,” said Mrs. Spinning-Wheel. The next minute Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Horse noticed that Mrs. Spinning-Wheel’s bright face was gone. She came rushing out of the house like a train of cars without either hat or coat on, and she jumped on the back of Mr. Horse and rode round the yard.

Mr. Horse was angry about that for he did not like to have people on his back. So angry was he that he threw her off Swunk! onto the leaves.

The same fairy that had given Mr. Rabbit the wand was hiding behind an old apple-tree and saw what Mr. Horse had done. She ran out from behind the tree, touched Mrs. Spinning-Wheel with her wand, and in an instant she was standing upright, and she saw that it was getting dark. So they all went in the house, undressed themselves, and all snuggled down in their beds and were soon fast asleep.

Chapter III

The next morning the sun rose high in the sky and the shadows ran swiftly everywhere. The sky was a clear, cloudless blue. That summer Mrs. Spinning-Wheel had planted a double row of sunflowers on each side of the path that led down their front lawn and into the forest. Six o’clock struck, but Mrs. Spinning-Wheel was sound asleep all the time and did not hear it strike. Seven o’clock struck, but she did not hear that, either. But when eight o’clock struck, she heard it and jumped out of bed. She went to the window that looked down upon those lovely sunflowers, and put out her head and looked at them.

Soon breakfast was prepared, and as Mr. Horse always cooked every meal, breakfast, dinner, supper, he rang the bell. Up started Mrs. Spinning-Wheel and like a wild deer she hurried down-stairs. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she found Mr. Horse and Mr. Rabbit already seated at the table; Mr. Rabbit was eating carrots, while Mr. Horse was feasting on oats; and Mrs. Spinning-Wheel joined in and feasted on Post-Toasties and one or two jelly sandwiches.

After they had eaten their fill, Mrs. Spinning-Wheel said to Mr. Rabbit: “Don’t you think it’s time you took that wand back to the fairy again? I don’t think that she would be so kind as to give you her wand. I think she must be joking.”

“Well,” said Mr. Rabbit, wiggling his nose, “perhaps she is. I was thinking about that myself. I believe I will run over and find out.”

So Mr. Rabbit dressed himself up in his warmest out-door clothes, just as he did before when he went to get the wand, took the wand in his hand, and away he rushed helter-skelter into the forest.

When he came to the place where he had met the fairy before, he saw no sign of her. So he wandered on through the forest until he came to a large oak tree under which he sat down to rest. But he did not see her then, either.

So he walked on and on until he got clearly two miles from home. But he wasn’t frightened at all, no indeed, not a brave rabbit like him. By and by he came to a tiny peach-tree on a branch of which he noticed that a large yellow butterfly with black spots on his wings was resting. The minute this wonderful thing that used to be a caterpillar crawling on weeds recognized Mr. Rabbit, he spread his wings and he flew, circling higher and higher up into the air until he reached the topmost branch of the tallest forest tree.

Mr. Rabbit sat down under the peach-tree to rest; his eyelids drooped, and in a minute he fell fast asleep. When he awoke he thought he heard a swooping of wings, and he looked above him to see whose they could be. But when he looked up he could see nothing. So on and on he went until, when he got almost two miles and one half from home, he came to a large oak tree shedding acorns in the wind, and over that he could see a large ball with wings of all colors flying toward the west. The colors in it were emerald, amethyst, turquoise, diamond, and ruby.

It was the fairy that Mr. Rabbit came into the woods for. She had curled herself up into a ball; all fairies do for that is the only way they can fly. Mr. Rabbit knew all this, and he discovered that it was she. Soon as she saw the wand she circled down lower and lower until she alighted on the top of the oak tree. She called to Mr. Rabbit from her perch on the tree. She said to him: “Mr. Rabbit, I wasn’t joking; the wand is yours. And did you make Mr. Horse white?”

“Yes, I did,” answered Mr. Rabbit.

“I am certainly glad of it,” said the fairy. Then she uncurled herself, and said to him: “Hush, Mr. Rabbit. Keep still, I hear a roaring sound. It sounds like this: R-r-r-r-r-r- R-R-R-R-R. Let us run and hide.”

“I thank you, kind fairy,” said Mr. Rabbit, “but I must go home to Mrs. Spinning-Wheel and Mr. Horse, now. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye,” repeated the fairy.

The roaring seemed to grow louder and that meant that the beast that made the roaring was coming nearer to them. Anyway, the fairy curled herself up into a ball and away she flew into her house and hid behind the door. Mr. Rabbit scampered away as fast as his fours could carry him; he hurried into his own house to tell his brother and sister about it. Evidently they both knew what the roaring meant. I cannot tell you how Mr. Horse happened to know what it meant, but he did; and Mrs. Spinning-Wheel knew because he had told her.

Mrs. Spinning-Wheel brought Mr. Horse’s word to Mr. Rabbit, and told him exactly what made the roaring. “It is a lion,” said she. And they all trembled.

After they had all stopped trembling, Mr. Rabbit told them what to do. He said to them: “You two must get quickly into your beds, and I will go down to the door, and when the lion comes in I will prevent him from eating you two up.”

So Mrs. Spinning-Wheel and Mr. Horse both got into Mrs. Spinning-Wheel’s bed. Every night she and Mr. Rabbit slept together, but this time Mr. Horse cuddled up beside her because his bed was made up and he didn’t care to take the trouble to take off the spread. Also he was in a great hurry for he feared that the lion would come in, he was so very near the house.

When Mr. Rabbit saw them safe in bed he went down to the front door. He opened it, and heard the bad Mr. Lion’s loud roaring again. But he didn’t see him. I say “bad” because Mr. Lion was bad for he came there to eat them up.

So long as Mr. Rabbit didn’t see Mr. Lion at the front door, he thought that he might possibly be at the back one. So he went round to the back door, opened it, and looked out upon the piazza. There on the porch with eyes shining in the sun stood the terrible lion roaring louder than thunder. He looked as if he were orange-colored in the sun, but he wasn’t; he was golden for he was Mr. Lion with a great big tawny mane.

Very, very fortunately Mr. Rabbit had the wand which the fairy had given him. He remembered it, and struck Mr. Lion. In an instant the terrible beast with open jaws and big white teeth had vanished: there Mr. Lion stood, but he wasn’t Mr. Lion at all, he was a maiden!

She was very beautiful for she had gentle blue eyes, golden curls, and little teeth white as pearls. Her eyes twinkled in the sun, and her curls were iridescent in it. She wore diamonds around her neck, and had on the most beautiful dress that was ever seen: it was pink satin with gold lace about it; the lace was china and in the sun it sparkled like her eyes. She was standing stock-still smiling at Mr. Rabbit.

“Oh, Mr. Rabbit,” she said in a few minutes, “my step-mother did not like me; she was not kind to me; she did not give me anything to eat; and did not think that I was as beautiful as I am. With a wand she changed me into a lion, and when I was a lion I was afraid until you changed me into a maiden once more. I wish to live with you always, and not go back to my ugly step-mother.”

Then Mr. Rabbit piped up and said in a shrill voice: “I have people to play with, a brother and a sister, and their names are Mrs. Spinning-Wheel and Mr. Horse. You may come and live with us, too.”

The maiden smiled and ran toward Mr. Rabbit as fast as she could. She hurried past him and through the back door and into the house. Both Mrs. Spinning-Wheel and Mr. Rabbit exclaimed at the beauty of the maiden. Her eyes twinkled no more now for she was not standing in the sun, but she was as beautiful as when she was. The fragile lace still sparkled a little bit, but not so much as when she was in the sun.

“What’s your name?” questioned Mrs. Spinning-Wheel and Mr. Rabbit together.

“Yes, what is your name?” asked Mr. Rabbit alone.

“Miss Silver-Leaf Beauty,” replied the maiden.

Mr. Horse was still in Mrs. Spinning-Wheel’s bed for he did not think that Mr. Lion was gone. He thought that the lion was still round the house, and he was waiting for Mr. Rabbit to come and tell him when it was safe to get up.

“Come on Mr. Horse!” called Mr. Rabbit. “The lion is gone.”

“All right,” said he sleepily. “I’ll come; but it don’t seem possible that the lion should be gone; I don’t think anybody could make a lion go away so quick as that. You sure are a smart ‘un to drive away a lion so quick. It’s not easy to drive away a lion, you know; there’s sum’thin that they can always do and it is not easy to drive them away.”

Then Mr. Horse forgot all about being sleepy, and sprang up out of bed. He rushed down stairs like a steam engine and clapped his hands for joy when he saw the maiden. “How’d she ever come here?” he asked quickly. “My, ain’t she beautiful!”

“I touched Mr. Lion with my wand to protect you and I changed him into a maiden. She is coming to live with us always.”

“Oh goody!” exclaimed Mr. Horse.

Because Mr. Horse had said “Oh goody” so loud the maiden heard him, and turned her face to him.

“How’d yuh do? and are you well?” said Mr. Horse.

Mr. Horse did not say her name because he did not know it, but the maiden turned to him and said: “Good afternoon to you, Mr. Horse, and I am quite well indeed, thank you.”

“What’s your name”” asked Mr. Horse, smiling.

Before the maiden had time to answer Mrs. Spinning-Wheel said: “Her name is Miss Silver-Leaf Beauty.”

“Ain’t that a queer name!” said Mr. Horse, suddenly.

“Yes, it is a queer name,” said Mrs. Spinning-Wheel. Pretty soon she said: “Miss Silver-Leaf—?”

“What do you wish to say to me?” said the maiden.

“Do you know what I am going to give to you?” was Mrs. Spinning-Wheel’s next question to the maiden.

“No,” said the maiden in a voice that sounded like the wind stirring through some pine needles.

“You stay here, Silver-Leaf, and I’ll get you a hundred of them,” continued Mrs. Spinning-Wheel.

So the maiden stayed there being entertained by the other people, and Mrs. Spinning-Wheel took out of a little box in another room a hundred rings with rubies in them.

When she was standing at the door of the room, she said: “Close your eyes, Silver-Leaf, and do not open them till I say ‘ready’.”

The maiden closed her eyes, and Mrs. Spinning-Wheel went into the room where they were. She had the box which she had taken the rings out of, and she put the rings back into it.

Still Silver-Leaf had her eyes closed.

Mrs. Spinning-Wheel took a bit of paper, a pencil, and a strong orange-colored string; in the paper she wrapped up the bundle of rings, tied it with the string, and wrote on it: “From Mrs. Spinning-Wheel — Miss Silver-Leaf Beauty”. She had the rings done up in cotton so that they would not get broken in the box by rattling about. She handed Miss Silver-Leaf the precious package.

She took it, untied the bow that the orange string was tied in, took off the paper and the cover of the box. Then she was very much surprised to see that the things, whatever they were, were wrapped in cotton; so they were very precious. Very, very slowly she unwrapped one corner of the cotton and saw one ruby shining; and when she had unwrapped another bit of cotton she saw some gold, and that was the ring, for all the rings that the family owned were made of gold. Then she undid the next bit of cotton a little faster, and the rest of it she undid very fast. And my! wasn’t she surprised when she saw those rings! Then she counted them, and saw that Mrs. Spinning-Wheel hadn’t missed one, but had given her a hundred, just as he said that she would.

“Thank you for the rings,” said the maiden. “They are certainly very pretty.”

“You are certainly quite welcome,” replied Mrs. Spinning-Wheel. “But I think it’s about time we went to bed now.”

“All right,” said Mr. Rabbit. “I’m willing.”

So they all had their supper and went upstairs. Then Miss Silver-Leaf took off her beautiful pink satin dress with the gold china lace and went to bed in the guest-room. Then Mrs. Spinning-Wheel and Mr. Rabbit got into Mrs. Spinning-Wheel’s bed; and Mr. Horse slept in another room. That’s what he did. And they all were soon fast asleep.

Chapter IV

The next morning when they were all wide awake (except Miss Silver-Leaf who was very tired because, you see, when she had been a lion she had wandered about trying to catch the family for dinner), Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, Mr. Horse, and Mr. Rabbit saw the sun neither high nor low in the sky. The rain was falling, not in a few little drops that pattered against the window-pane but in torrents. It just poured! They all were suddenly blinded by a big flash of lightning, and then they were all startled by the boom, boom, boom of the thunder; the yellow lightning streaked the sky like fire while the thunder sounded like a great big angry bear up in the heavens. It rattled the windows, too; and the lightning stripped the bark off the trees; in a minute there was a big flash of lightning that covered every window in the house and then there was a heavy clap of thunder that awoke Miss Silver-Leaf Beauty; this clap of thunder sounded right out in the family’s garden. No wonder it had wakened the maiden! They all nearly cried when they thought that the storm was going to last a long time, but as they watched the sky seemed brighter and in a minute the sun came out making the most beautiful rainbow in the sky. The colors in it were green, purple, indigo, red, lighter purple that is called blue, yellow, and darker yellow that is called orange.

As they watched, the rainbow seemed to fade away: first the green disappeared, then the purple, then the indigo, then the red, then the blue, then the yellow, and finally, the last of the orange faded out. Then Mrs. Spinning-Wheel said: “I think I will go out and get some eggs for breakfast.” They all agreed, and so she did.

When she came back she had a dozen of eggs. Then they went down stairs and set the table for breakfast. They got a large dish and in it put the twelve eggs. Mrs. Spinning-Wheel sat down at her place, Mr. Horse sat down at his, and Mr. Rabbit sat down in his chair. First, Mrs. Spinning-Wheel cracked an egg and, lo and behold! instead of being all yellow and white as most eggs are, it had a baby spinning-wheel in it! How surprised she was! Then Mr. Rabbit cracked an egg and, lo and behold! instead of being all yellow and white as most eggs are, it had a baby rabbit in it! How surprised he was! Then Mr. Horse cracked an egg and, lo and behold! instead of being all yellow and white as most eggs are, it had a baby horse in it. They each cracked another egg to eat instead of eating up their babies. Only those three had babies in them, so after the family had eaten one egg each, there were still five eggs left over for the next day.

The babies didn’t last long; they each fell sick and died.

I think I will end my story here. Mr. Horse remained white the rest of his life to the great joy of all the others; Mr. Rabbit kept the fairy wand, and so if any wild beast came he could touch him with the fairy wand and change him into something that wouldn’t eat them up; the maiden kept the ruby-stoned rings. Mr. Horse went on with his bad grammar day after day; and Mrs. Spinning-Wheel was happy, too. They were all happy all the rest of their lives.

And that is the end of the story, O best beloved.

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