The Wolf and the Goslings

by Amanda B. Harris

An old gray goose walked forth with pride,

With goslings seven at her side;

A lovely yellowish-green they were,

And very dear to her.

She led them to the river's brink

To paddle their feet awhile and drink,

And there she heard a tale that made

Her very soul afraid.

A neighbor gabbled the story out,

How a wolf was known to be thereabout—

A great wolf whom nothing could please

As well as little geese.

So, when, as usual, to the wood

She went next day in search of food,

She warned them over and over, before

She turned to shut the door:

"My little ones, if you hear a knock

At the door, be sure and not unlock,

For the wolf will eat you, if he gets in,

Feathers and bones and skin.

"You will know him by his voice so hoarse,

By his paws so hairy and black and coarse."

And the goslings piped up, clear and shrill,

"We'll take great care, we will."

The mother thought them wise and went

To the far-off forest quite content;

But she was scarcely away, before

There came a rap at the door.

"Open, open, my children dear,"

A gruff voice cried: "your mother is here."

But the young ones answered, "No, no, no,

Her voice is sweet and low;

"And you are the wolf—so go away,

You can't get in, if you try all day."

He laughed to himself to hear them talk,

And wished he had some chalk,

To smooth his voice to a tone like geese;

So he went to the merchant's and bought a piece,

And hurried back, and rapped once more.

"Open, open the door,

"I am your mother, dears," he said.

But up on the window ledge he laid,

In a careless way, his great black paw,

And this the goslings saw.

"No, no," they called, "that will not do,

Our mother has not black hands like you;

For you are the wolf, so go away,

You can't get in to-day."

The baffled wolf to the old mill ran,

And whined to the busy miller man:

"I love to hear the sound of the wheel

And to smell the corn and meal."

The miller was pleased, and said "All right;

Would you like your cap and jacket white?"

At that he opened a flour bin

And playfully dipped him in.

He floundered and sneezed a while, then, lo,

He crept out white as a wolf of snow.

"If chalk and flour can make me sweet,"

He said, "then I'm complete."

For the third time back to the house he went,

And looked and spoke so different,

That when he rapped, and "Open!" cried,

The little ones replied,

"If you show us nice clean feet, we will."

And straightway, there on the window-sill

His paws were laid, with dusty meal

Powdered from toe to heel.

Yes, they were white! So they let him in,

And he gobbled them all up, feathers and skin!

Gobbled the whole, as if 'twere fun,

Except the littlest one.

An old clock stood there, tick, tick, tick,

And into that he had hopped so quick

The wolf saw nothing, and fancied even

He'd eaten all the seven.

But six were enough to satisfy;

So out he strolled on the grass to lie.

And when the gray goose presently

Came home—what did she see?

Alas, the house door open wide,

But no little yellow flock inside;

The beds and pillows thrown about;

The fire all gone out;

The chairs and tables overset;

The wash-tub spilled, and the floor all wet;

And here and there in cinders black,

The great wolf's ugly track.

She called out tenderly every name,

But never a voice in answer came,

Till a little frightened, broad-billed face

Peered out of the clock-case.

This gosling told his tale with grief,

And the gray goose sobbed in her handkerchief,

And sighed—"Ah, well, we will have to go

And let the neighbors know."

So down they went to the river's brim,

Where their feathered friends were wont to swim,

And there on the turf so green and deep

The old wolf lay asleep.

He had a grizzly, savage look,

And he snored till the boughs above him shook.

They tiptoed round him—drew quite near,

Yet still he did not hear.

Then, as the mother gazed, to her

It seemed she could see his gaunt side stir—

Stir and squirm, as if under the skin

Were something alive within!

"Go back to the house, quick, dear," she said,

"And fetch me scissors and needle and thread.

I'll open his ugly hairy hide,

And see what is inside."

She snipped with the scissors a criss-cross slit,

And well rewarded she was for it,

For there were her goslings—six together—

With scarcely a rumpled feather.

The wolf had eaten so greedily,

He had swallowed them all alive you see,

So, one by one, they scrambled out,

And danced and skipped about.

Then the gray goose got six heavy stones,

And placed them in between the bones;

She sewed him deftly, with needle and thread,

And then with her goslings fled.

The wolf slept long and hard and late,

And woke so thirsty he scarce could wait.

So he crept along to the river's brink

To get a good cool drink.

But the stones inside began to shake,

And make his old ribs crack and ache;

And the gladsome flock, as they sped away,

Could hear him groan, and say:—

"What's this rumbling and tumbling?

What's this rattling like bones?

I thought I'd eaten six small geese,

But they've turned out only stones."

He bent his neck to lap—instead,

He tumbled in, heels over head;

And so heavy he was, as he went down

He could not help but drown!

And after that, in thankful pride,

With goslings seven at her side,

The gray goose came to the river's brink

Each day to swim and drink.