One day Rollo's mother wanted him to do some errands for her. He went on one, reluctantly; but when she gave him another errand—he murmured aloud. "Oh," said he, "I wish I did not have so many errands to do! What a hard life I lead!"
This gave his mother pain, and he saw it. When he got back from this errand she told him "there was nothing more for him to do." Rollo went and stood at the door a few minutes to see if there were any boys out there. But there were none, so he took a story-book in his hand—and went down into the garden, and took his seat in the little arbor which his father had made for him, and began to read.
The arbor reminded him of his parents' kindness, and this made him feel unhappy to think of his unwillingness to help his mother. These thoughts troubled him, and so he could not concentrate on his book. Before long he became very tired—and his book dropped over upon his lap. His head gradually sunk down—and Rollo fell fast asleep.
While he slept—he dreamed. Rollo dreamed that he lived in a small house, a great many miles away, and that his mother was there alone with him. She asked him one day to go and get a pail of water. "Oh," said he, "I wish I did not have so much water to bring—what a hard life I lead!"
He dreamed that just then he saw a cat lying down in the sun by the door. She seemed to have nothing to do. "Oh," thought Rollo, "how I wish I were a cat! It would be such a fine thing to be a cat."
No sooner had he said this, than he felt somehow or other, a strong desire to get down on his hands and knees—he found himself growing smaller and smaller—his fingers became sharp claws, and Rollo dreamed that he was turning into a cat!
He walked about, a minute or two, stretched himself, meowed and purred to ascertain that he was really a cat, and then laid down again in the sun to go to sleep. As he shut his eyes he said to himself, purring, "How glad I am that I have no more water to bring! What a fine thing it is to be a cat!"
Pretty soon he awakened and was hungry. His first thought was to go to his mother as usual, for some bread and butter. He went in and looked piteously up into his mother's face, and meowed. She did not mind him. He meowed louder. She paid no attention. Then he went to making a louder noise, as cats can, when necessary. His mother went and opened the door, and took the brush and drove him out, saying as he went, "Scat! You bothersome cat!"
Rollo then thought he must go and catch some mice—or he would starve! So he went down cellar and posted himself before a little hole in the wall. He waited here an hour, and at length a little mouse peeped out. Rollo darted his paw out at him, but he missed him, and the mouse ran back into his hole where he was safe. Rollo waited many hours longer, but no mouse came. "This is worse than bringing water!" thought he. "I wish I could get something to eat. What, a hard life I lead!"
Just then he heard, that is, he dreamed he heard, a loud noise, moo-o-o, in the yard. He scampered up, hungry as he was, to see what was the matter. It was the cow lowing to be milked. She looked full and large—as if she had as much as she could eat.
"In the green fields all day," thought hungry Rollo, "with nothing to do but eat and drink and then lie down under the trees. Oh how I wish I were acow!"
He had no sooner said these words—than he found himself growing very large. He felt something coming out of his forehead—he put his paw up, though with difficulty for his paw was growing into a large stiff leg, and he found that horns were growing! By the time his leg was down again, it was changed entirely, and had a hoof at the end! He was becoming a cow! He lashed his sides with his tail, and walked about eating the grass in the yard, till he had satisfied his hunger, and then he said to himself, "How much better this is—than watching for mice all day in a dark cellar! Oh it is a fine thing to be a cow!"
After milking him, they led Rollo into the barn, put a rope round his neck and tied him in a dark, dirty stall. "Have I got to stay tied up here until morning?" thought Rollo. Sadly—he did.
The next morning they drove him off to pasture. The boy beat him with a stick on the way—but he was so large and clumsy that he could neither escape nor defend himself. In the field, the flies bit and stung him, and though he could brush some of them off with his tail—yet the largest and worst of them always seemed to get upon places he could not reach! At night when he was coming home, some boys set a dog upon barking at him—and bothered him greatly. "Ah," said he, "it is a terrible thing to be a cow—what a hard life I lead!"
Just then the dog became tired of barking at him, and trotted away. "Oh" said Rollo, "If I was only a dog. A dog can defend himself. A dog has plenty to eat—and nothing to do. What a fine thing it would be to be adog!" No sooner said—than Rollo began to grow slender and small, his horns dropped off—his hoofs turned back into claws again, his back became sleek and shining, and he found himself a beautiful black dog, with hanging ears and a curled tail, and an elegant brass collar around his neck.
Rollo ran about the streets very happily for half an hour, and then went home. The dream seemed to change its scene here, and Rollo found himself in a beautiful yard belonging to the house where his master lived. He went home hungry, and they gave him a bone to eat. "What!" said Rollo to himself, "nothing but a bone!" He gnawed on it for a while, thinking how sad he was—to have only a bone to eat! And then began to think of going to bed. There was no bed for him however; for his master came and took hold of his collar, and dragged him to a post in the yard, where he chained him, and throwing his bone down by his side, left him to watch for the robbers.
Rollo had a bad night! No robbers came, but he was all the time afraid that they would come, and at every little noise he woke up and growled. Thus disturbed, and chilled by the cool air of the night, he passed his hours restlessly and miserably. "Ah!" said he, "dogs do not have so pleasant a life as I supposed. What a hard way this is to live!"
At this moment he heard a great many people coming along; he jumped up and barked, for it was very early, though beginning to be light. A number of men were leading a huge animal along. It was an elephant. They were taking him into town for a show, and they came in early, so that nobody could see him, without paying.
"That's the life for me!" said Rollo. "What a happy animal the elephant is; he has a dozen men to wait upon him. Hah! Old Long-nose, what a happy fellow you must be. Oh if I was only an
As soon as he had said this, he could feel his nose lengthening into a slender trunk—his body swelled out to a great size—his feet grew large, and his black shining skin turned into a coarse, rough, grey hide—and he found himself walking along the road, with a man riding on his head!
He arrived at the great stable where he was to be displayed to the crowd, thinking that it was an admirable thing to be an elephant. They gave him something to eat—and soon the boys and girls came in to see him. For half an hour, he had a fine time, walking around, carrying boys around on his tusks—picking up nuts and pieces of gingerbread with his trunk—laying down and rising again—at the keeper's command. Pretty soon, however, he got tired, and when the keeper ordered him to lay down, he concluded that he would not get up again. But the zoo keeper beat him with a stick—until he obeyed.
New troops of boys and girls kept coming in to stare at him—and Rollo got tired out completely with doing the same routine over and over again. He could hardly stand at last, and when they left him for the night and he lay down to try to rest, and he reflected that it must be just so tomorrow, and the next day, and so on—as long as he lived! He was in a very sad condition! "Oh!" said he, "how foolish I was to wish to be an elephant! I had rather be any thing else! What a hard life I lead!"
"And what a tiny window to look out of—after my hard day's work!" said he, as he turned his eye upward towards a little square hole in the stable wall. "What a tiny window for an elephant's home!"
As he looked out this hole, his eye rested upon a green tree growing in a garden behind the wall. A bird was perched upon a branch, singing a delightful song.
"Ah, you littlebird, what a happy time you must have there—as free as air, and full of happiness. You find plenty to eat, you have your own pleasant home upon a lofty tree, out of the reach of any danger. You go where you please with your swift wings. Oh if I only had wings, how easily I could escape from all my troubles."
As he said this, his long trunk which was lying over his leg as he was laying upon the stable floor, began to straiten out and stiffen—turning into a huge bill. Feathers began to come out all over him—his immense body dwindled down to the size of an ox, then to that of a sheep, and finally he became smaller than a dove. Beautiful wings covered his sides. He hopped along upon the floor—and finding that he was really a bird, he leaped up and flew out of the window—away from the ugly stable forever!
He spent a pleasant night among the trees, and early the next morning was singing happily on a branch. A man came into the field with something in his hand. Rollo looked at him, happy to think that no man could catch him or hurt him, now that he had such a fine pair of wings. In a minute the man held up the thing he had in his hands and pointed at him. Rollo had just time to see that it was a gun! He started to stretch his wings in terrible fear, when– Bang! – went the gun, and down came the poor wounded bird to the ground, with his wing and leg torn away, and a bullet lodged in his red breast—for he was a Robin.
The terror awakened him from his dream, and he found himself sitting in his arbor, with his book on the ground, where it had fallen from his hand.
He got up and went to his house, thinking that a discontented heart would find trouble in any situation; and that a boy with kind parents, a pleasant home, and plenty of food and clothing—ought not to complain of his home, even if he was called upon sometimes to help his mother!