Davy and the Goblin/Chapter I
It happened one Christmas eve, when Davy was about eight years old, and this is the way it came about.
That particular Christmas eve was a snowy one and a blowy one, and one generally to be remembered. In the city, where Davy lived, the storm played all manner of pranks, swooping down upon unwary old gentlemen and turning their umbrellas wrong side out, and sometimes blowing their hats quite out of sight; and as for the old ladies who chanced to be out of doors, the wind came upon them suddenly from around corners and blew the snow into their faces and twisted their petticoats about their ankles, and even whirled the old ladies themselves about in a very painful way. And in the country, where Davy had come to pass Christmas with his dear old grandmother, things were not much better; but here people were very wise about the weather, and stayed in-doors, huddled around great blazing wood fires; and the storm, finding no live game, buried up the roads and the fences, and such small fry of houses as could readily be put out of sight, and howled and roared over the fields and through the trees in a fashion not to be forgotten.
Davy, being of the opinion that a snow-storm was a thing not to be wasted, had been out with his sled, trying to have a little fun with the weather; but presently, discovering that this particular storm was not friendly to little boys, he had retreated into the house, and having put his hat and his high shoes and his mittens by the kitchen fire to dry, he began to find his time hang heavily on his hands. He had wandered idly all over the house, and had tried how cold his nose could be made by holding it against the window-panes, and, I am sorry to say, had even been sliding down the balusters and teasing the cat; and at last, as evening was coming on, had curled himself up in the big easy-chair facing the fire, and had begun to read once more about the marvellous things that happened to little Alice in Wonderland. Then, as it grew darker, he laid aside the book and sat watching the blazing logs and listening to the solemn ticking of the high Dutch clock against the wall.
Then there stole in at the door a delicious odor of dinner cooking downstairs, — an odor so promising as to roast chickens and baked potatoes and gravy and pie as to make any little boy’s mouth water; and presently Davy began softly telling himself what he would choose for his dinner. He had quite finished fancying the first part of his feast, and was just coming, in his mind, to an extra large slice of apple-pie well browned (staring meanwhile very hard at one of the brass knobs of the andirons to keep his thoughts from wandering), when he suddenly discovered a little man perched upon that identical knob, and smiling at him with all his might.
This little man was a very curious-looking person indeed. He was only about a foot high, but his head was as big as a cocoanut, and he had great, bulging eyes, like a frog, and a ridiculous turned-up nose. His legs were as slender as spindles, and he had long pointed toes to his shoes, or rather to his stockings, or, for that matter, to his trousers, — for they were all of a piece, — and bright scarlet in color, as were also his little coat and his high-pointed hat and a queer little cloak that hung over his shoulder. His mouth was so wide that when he smiled it seemed to go quite behind his ears, and there was no way of knowing where the smile ended, except by looking at it from behind, which Davy couldn’t do, as yet, without getting into the fire.
Now, there’s no use in denying that Davy was frightened. The fact is, he was frightened almost out of his wits, particularly when he saw that the little man, still smiling furiously, was carefully picking the hottest and reddest embers out of the fire, and, after cracking them like nuts with his teeth, eating them with great relish. Davy watched this alarming meal, expecting every moment to see the little man burst into a blaze and disappear; but he finished his coals in safety, and then, nodding cheerfully at Davy, said: —
“I know you!”
“Do you?” said Davy, faintly.
“Oh, yes!” said the little man. “I know you perfectly well. You are the little boy who doesn’t believe in fairies, nor in giants, nor in goblins, nor in anything the story-books tell you.”
Now the truth was that Davy, having never met any giants when he was out walking, nor seen any fairies peeping out of the bushes in the garden, nor found any goblins sitting on the bedposts about the house, had come to believe that all these kinds of people were purely imaginary beings, so that now he could do nothing but stare at the little man in a shamefaced sort of way and wonder what was coming next.
“Now, all that,” said the little man, shaking his finger at him in a reproving way, — “all that is very foolish and very wrong. I’m a goblin myself, — a hobgoblin, — and I’ve come to take you on a Believing Voyage.”
“Oh, if you please, I can’t go!” cried Davy, in great alarm at this proposal; “I can’t, indeed. I haven’t permission.”
“Rubbish!” said the Goblin. “Ask the Colonel.”
Now, the Colonel was nothing more nor less than a silly-looking little man, made of lead, that stood on the mantel-shelf holding a clock in his arms. The clock never went, but, for that matter, the Colonel never went either, for he had been standing stock-still for years, and it seemed perfectly ridiculous to ask him anything about going anywhere, so Davy felt quite safe in looking up at him and asking permission to go on the Believing Voyage. To his dismay the Colonel nodded his head, and cried out, in a little, cracked voice: —
At this the Goblin jumped down off the knob of the andiron, and skipping briskly across the room to the big Dutch clock, rapped sharply on the front of the case with his knuckles, when, to Davy’s amazement, the great thing fell over on its face upon the floor as softly as if it had been a feather-bed. Davy now saw that, instead of being full of weights and brass wheels and curious works, as he had always supposed, the clock was really a sort of boat, with a wide seat at each end; but, before he had time to make any further discoveries, the Goblin, who had vanished for a moment, suddenly reappeared, carrying two large sponge-cakes in his arms. Now, Davy was perfectly sure that he had seen his grandmother putting those very sponge-cakes into the oven to bake, but before he could utter a word of remonstrance the Goblin clapped one into each seat, and scrambling into the clock sat down upon the smaller one, merely remarking: —
“They make prime cushions, you know, and we can eat ’em afterwards.”
For a moment Davy had a wild idea of rushing out of the room and calling for help; but the Goblin seemed so pleased with the arrangements he had made, and, moreover, was smiling so good-naturedly, that the little boy thought better of it, and, after a moment’s hesitation, climbed into the clock and took his seat upon the other cake. It was as warm and springy, and smelt as deliciously, as a morning in May. Then there was a whizzing sound, like a lot of wheels spinning around, and the clock rose from the floor and made a great swoop toward the window.
“I’ll steer,” shouted the Goblin, “and do you look out sharp for cats and dogs,” and Davy had just time to notice that the Colonel was hastily scrambling down from the mantel-shelf with his beloved timepiece in his arms, when they, seated in the long Dutch clock, dashed through the window and out into the night.