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What the frost giants did to nannies run.
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And, now, who is Nannie? Why, Nannie is Nannie Dwight,--a little girl
not yet five years old, who lives in the small square house standing
under the cliff. She sits even now on the door-step, and her red dress
looks like one gay flower brightening the sombre shadow of the firs. Her
father and mother came here to live when she was but a baby, and before
there was a single house built in the place; and it is out of compliment
to her that one of the streams has been named Nannie's Run.
While Nannie sits on the doorstep, and looks out at the sea, watching
for the vessel that will bring her father home from Victoria, we will go
through the forest, and up the mountain-sides, till we find the home of
the Frost Giants, and see what they are about to-day.
They have been working all winter, but not quite so busily as now; for
since yesterday they have cracked that big rock in two, and dug the
great cave under the hill, and now they are gathered in council on the
mountain-side that overlooks a dashing little stream. As we followed
this stream from the seashore, we happen to know that it is no other
than Nannie's Run. And as we have already begun to care for the little
girl, and therefore for her namesake, we are anxious to know what the
giants think of doing. We have not long to wait before we shall see, and
hear too; for a great creaking and cracking begins, and, while we gaze
astonished, the mountain-side begins to slide, and presently, with a
rush and a roar, dashes into the stream, and chokes it with a huge dam
of earth and rocks and trees.
What will the stream do now? For a moment the water leaps into the air,
all foam and sparkle, as if it would jump over the barrier, and find its
way to the sea at any rate. But this proves entirely unsuccessful; and
at last, after whirling and tumbling, trying to creep under; trying to
leap over, it settles itself quietly in its prison, as if to think about
Now, if you will stay and watch it day after day, you will see what good
result will come from this waiting; for every hour more and more water
is running to its aid, and, as its forces increase, we begin to feel
sure, that, although it can neither pass over nor under, it will some
day be strong enough to break through the Frost Giants' dam. And the day
comes at last, when, summoning all its waters to the attack, it makes a
breach in the great earth wall, and in a strong, grand column, as high
as this room, marches away towards the sea.
As we have the wings of thought to travel with, let us hurry back to the
settlement, and see where Nannie is now, and tell the people, if we only
can, what a wall of water is marching down upon them; for you see the
little channel that used to hold Nannie's Run is not a quarter large
enough for this torrent, that has gathered so long behind the dam.
Peep in at the window, and see how Nannie stands at the kitchen table,
cutting out little cakes from a bit of dough that her mother has given
her; she is all absorbed in her play, and her mother has gone to look
into the oven at the nicely browning loaves.
Oh, don't we wish the house had been built up on the cliff among the
fir-trees, safe above the reach of the water! But, alas! here it stands,
just in the path that the torrent will take, and we have no power to
tell of the danger that is approaching.
Mrs. Dwight turns from the oven, and, passing the window on her way to
the table, suddenly sees the great wall of water only a few rods from
her house. With one step she reaches the bedroom, seizes the blankets
from the bed, wraps Nannie in them, and with the little girl on one arm,
grasps Frankie's hand, and, telling Harry to run beside her, opens the
door nearest the cliff, and almost flies up its steep side.
Five minutes afterwards, sitting breathless on the roots of an old tree,
with her children safe beside her, she sees the whole shore covered with
surging water, and the houses swept into the bay, tossing and drifting
there like boats in a stormy sea. And this is what the Frost Giants did
to Nannie's Run.
What will Nannie do now? Here in our New-England towns it would seem
hard enough to have one's house swept away before one's eyes; but then
you know you could take the next train of cars, and go to your aunt in
Boston, or your uncle in New York, to stay until a new house could be
prepared for you. But here is Nannie hundreds and thousands of miles
away from any such help; for there are not only no railroads to travel
upon, but not even common roads nor horses nor wagons; nevertheless,
there are neighbors who will bring help.
You remember reading in your history, how, when our great-great-
grandfathers came to this country to live, they found it occupied by
Indians. The Indians are all gone from our part of the country now; but
out in the far North-West, where Nannie lives, they still have their
wigwams and canoes, still dress in blankets, and wear feathers on their
heads, and in that particular part of the country lives a tribe called
the Flatheads. They take this odd name because of a fashion they have of
binding a board upon the top of a child's head, while he is yet very
young, in order that he may grow up with a flattened head, which is
considered a mark of beauty among these savages, just as small feet are
so considered among the Chinese, you know.
The Flatheads are Nannie's only neighbors, and perhaps you would
consider them rather undesirable friends; but when I tell you how they
came at once with blankets and food, and all sorts of friendly offers of
shelter and help, you will think that some white people might well take
a lesson from them.
They had been in the habit of bringing venison and salmon to the
settlement for sale; and when Nannie's mother tells them that she has no
longer any money to buy, they say, "Oh, no, it is a potlatch!" which in
their language mean a present.
Happily the warm weather is approaching; and a little girl who has lived
out of doors so much does not find it unsafe to sleep in the hammock
which Hunter has slung for her among the trees, or even on the ground,
rolled in an Indian blanket; and when her shoes wear out, she can safely
run barefooted in the woods or on the sand.
Before many weeks have passed, some of the tall fir-trees are cut down,
and a new house is built, this time safely perched on top of the cliff;
and, so far as I know, the Frost Giants have never succeeded in touching