PURSUED BY THE ROCS J.D. Batten
THE LION JUMPED FORWARD INTO THE CROCODILE’S MOUTH Gustave Dore
THE VESSEL WILL BE DASHED TO PIECES G. Romney
TO THE CHILDREN
This volume is made up of stories from seven famous books. These books are as different as they can possibly be; and yet there are not many boys and girls who do not like every one of them. The chief reason for this is because they seem so true, so much more “real” than most other stories. When you read about Tom Thumb, for instance, you do not really believe that there ever was a little boy no bigger than his mother’s thumb; at least, you do not believe it in the same way that you believe the sun shines or the wind blows; but when you read “Robinson Crusoe,” you feel as if every word of it must be true.
The first of these books is “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” In one way it is a little like a fable; that is, when you read it the first time, it is simply a good story. Afterwards—sometimes a long while afterwards—you read it again or sit thinking about it, and suddenly you see that it has another meaning, that it is more than the story of a man who makes a wonderful journey. This book was written in jail by a man named John Bunyan. The English laws of that time would not allow any one to preach except clergymen of the Church of England. Bunyan, however, felt that it would be wicked for him to obey these laws, so he kept on preaching. He was thrown into prison, and the prisons of those days were horrible places. “If you will promise not to preach again, you shall be free,” said the officers. “If you let me out to-day I will preach again to-morrow,” declared Bunyan; and meanwhile he preached to the other prisoners. He thought of his wife and children and of how little he could do to support them while he was in jail; he thought of his little blind daughter Mary; but still he said to himself, “I must, I must do it.” For twelve long years he stayed in prison. He made tags for shoe laces to sell to help his family; and he wrote the book that has been read by more people than any other volume except the Bible.
The second book, “Robinson Crusoe,” was written by Daniel Defoe; and he, too, knew what it was to be in jail. He was not imprisoned for preaching, but for his political writings. Once when he had written a pamphlet that did not please the authorities, he was condemned to stand in the pillory. The people took his part, and, instead of throwing stones at him, they dropped roses about him and bought thousands of copies of a poem that he had written while in jail.