The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk: Race and Ethnic Images in American Children's Literature, 1880-1939



[illustration - Caradoc]
BEFORE the British lion had met the unicorn,
When When all England was a forest wild and grim,
When the herdsman led his flock
Where the bells of London rock,
There lived a little British boy whose name was Caradoc,
In a clearing by a grassy river's brim.
He hadn't any stockings and
he had n't any shoes;

He had never seen a hansom or a hat;
He had never played at cricket,
Never heard of bat or wicket;
He had never seen a football with a burning wish to kick it:
Yet, believe me, he was every inch a Briton, for all that!
He went, of course, to school, in the forest dark and cool,
Where he studied without pencil, hook, or chart.

He was never taught to read—
What 's the use of that, indeed?
But he learned the name of star and stone, of blossom and of weed,
And could say a lot of pieces all by heart.
He had heard from bard and Druid, as they fed the flaming fluid
On the great stone altar deep within the wood,
Many a tale of deeds sublime,
Which they told in stirring rhyme,
While the congregation followed in a kind of pantomime,
And he thrilled, as any little Briton would.
Oh, he had an education, though it was n't just like yours;
And his treasures—he 'd a cunning coat of skin,
With some amber beads for Sunday—
Well, perhaps he wore them Monday,
For in fact I don't suppose they knew from t' other day the one day!
And he had—his pride and his delight—a little sword of tin.
His ambitions they were simple—you must really not forget
That he lived about two thousand years ago:
Just to paint his body blue,
Like the warriors that he knew,
To have a little knife of flint and arrowheads a few,
And to follow when they cut the mistletoe.
But, alas for little Carry, he was very, very young!
And at New Year's, when the people met to roam
Through the forest, high and low,
Where the sacred branches grow,
(For they made the greatest fuss about a piece of mistletoe!)
He was left to mind the baby girl at home.
Now this sturdy little Briton had no sofa soft to sit on;
He 'd a lumpy, humpy bearskin for a bed;

He had neither toy nor book,
And he could n't even look
From the window, for there was n't one in any niche or nook,
Save a hole cut in the ceiling overhead.
It was very still and lonely, for his baby sister slept
In her cradle — if she had one — by the fire.
His mama was making calls
On some neighbors who were Gauls,
Just across the street — I mean the ditch — and past the willow walls,
In a badger-skin pelisse, her best attire.
His papa and all his brothers,they were
 marching with the others;
Then he sternly knit his little British brow;
Though the boys of old were trumps,
For they never cried for bumps,
(And I don't believe they ever had the measles or the mumps,)
Yet they liked a picnic just as you do now.
And his pride he had to swallow when he thought how they would follow
In the splendid great procession up the glade,
With the Druids, all bedight
In their gleaming robes of white,
Chanting hymns and saying verses while
they marched, with all their might,
Till they stood beneath the oak-tree's spreading shade.
Swish! would go the golden sickle where the bough was seen to prickle
Through the green, with milk-white berries all aglow;
And each Briton, small or big,
[illustration - "It was very still and lonely, for his baby sister slept."]
Who would hunt or fight or dig,
And be lucky all the New Year through,
must carry home a twig
Of the fortune-bringing, magic mistletoe.
Every boy would have a berry save our little Caradoc!
Then the feasting and the frolic in the wood!

All day long—he felt a choking;
It was certainly provoking:
But—he started; some one softly through the willow hedge was poking,
And he sprang within the doorway where he stood.
From a hostile tribe—a stranger—such a looking stranger, too!
You 'd have shaken in your very shoes for fear!
He 'd a terrible mustache,
And a snakeskin for a sash,
And his face was daubed with purple in a manner truly rash,
And he had a very long and horrid spear.

[illustration - "His Mama was making calls on some neighbors who were Gauls"]
Now a tramp, though Early English, still is not a welcome guest,
And 't was plain his plans were sinister and deep.
Thought our little Carry, "But!—
If he should come in the hut,
With the cakes a-baking on the hearth, the pantry door not shut,
And the baby in her cradle, fast asleep!"
On he came without delay in his Early English way,
With a war-whoop and a most ferocious grin;
And was little Carry frightened?
Fiery bold his blue eyes lightened,
And around his little British waist his little belt he tightened,
And he proudly drew his little sword of tin.
Who can say what might have happened!
But in just the nick of time
Came a good old Druid gravely trotting by.
He was hurrying home to see
How his favorite goose might be,—
She'd had something for her breakfast that had seemed to disagree,—
And he spied them in the twinkling of an eye.
Now "Tut, tut!" he cried. "What 's this?
There is something much amiss!"
And although his look was really not unkind,
Down they fell upon their knees;
For a Druid, if you please,
Was, as dreadful as an emperor, and when he made decrees,
Why, the people, they just simply had to mind!
"Rise! But tell me why you 're here on the first day of the year,"
He observed, " when other boys are fain to roam ?"
Then, as steady as a rock,
"Sir," said little Caradoc,
"Will you please not wake the baby!
my mama is round the block,
And I 'm staying, to protect the house, at home!"

Bright the Druid's eyes they twinkled in his 
face so round and wrinkled.
" You protect—" said he (of course he spoke in rhyme),
And his tone was kind, not scoffing,
"You protect—" his oak-wreath doffing,
He began, but could not finish for dreadful fit of coughing;
Could it be that he was laughing all the time?
"Nay; put up the sword of strife now, and spare your victim's life!
And he patted little Carry on the head;
[illustration - "With a war-whoop and a most ferocious grin"]
Sooth, my son, but you have lit on
Such a truth as bards have writ on;
For to guard his home 's the highest, dearest duty of a Briton,
As it shall be hence forevermore!" he said.
"As for you," an eye of danger bent he on the trembling stranger,"
Go—your conqueror shows you mercy!" he began,
When again there seemed to seize him
Such a cough to tear and tease him
That the tramp, politely murmuring he 'd do anything to please him,
Like a deer into the forest turned and ran.
Up his sleeve the Druid fumbled.
"Faith," said he, "your foe is humbled!
Now I fancy I've an extra twig or so"
From the oak-tree in the wood;
And a noble warrior should
Have a guerdon for his prowess—take it, sonny, and be good!"
And he gave the lad a spray of mistletoe!

[illustration - "A good old druid gravely trotting by."]
On the hearth the firelight glowed;
safe the baby waked and crowed,
As she sweetly sucked her little British thumb;
When the household, home returning
While the sunset red was burning,
Heard the tale which little Caradoc to tell them all was yearning.
And for joy and admiration they were dumb.
His mama she hugged and kissed him in her Early English way;
It was rough, perhaps, but loving, so who cares?
And his brothers looked askance
As they praised his happy chance;
For although he tried not to be proud,
't was obvious at a glance
That his mistletoe was twice as big as theirs!
[illustration - "'Take it, sonny, and be good!"]
His papa—well,he pretended that he didn't care a straw;
As a Briton, that was right, of course, for him.
But a proud papa was he:
And they all sat down to tea
Just as happy and contented as a family could be—
When all England was a forest wild and grim.
Though they ate their supper sitting in a circle on the floor,
With the chickens feeding near them, and the cow,
None were gayer, west or east;
For if Love be at the feast,
Such a trifle as a table does n't matter in the least—
Home was home, two thousand years ago, as now!
And in days or new or old beats the same a heart that's bold
'Neath a jacket or a furry coat of skin;

'Mid the busy crowds that flock
Where the bells of London rock,
Could you find a braver Briton than our little Caradoc,
With his true and trusty little sword of tin?
[illustration - "His Mama she hugged and kissed him in her early English way."]