On the bank of the river that flows through the Land there stands a beautiful palace, where one of the great men dwells.
The bank rises steep from the rushing water; and the great trees growing on the slope rise so high that their branches wave level with the palace turrets. It is a beautiful spot, where the grass is crisp and short and close like velvet, and as green as emerald. There the daisies shine like stars that have fallen, and lie scattered over the sward.
Many children have lived and grown to be men and women in the old palace, and they have had many pets. Amongst their pets have been many birds – for birds of all kinds love the place. In one corner is a spot which is called the Birds’ Burying Ground. Here all the pets are laid when they die; and the grass grows greenly here, and many flowers spring up among the monuments.
One of the boys that had here dwelt had once, as a pet, a raven. He found the bird, whose leg had been wounded, and took it home and nursed it till it grew well again; but the poor thing was lame.
Tineboy was the youth’s name; and the bird was called Mr. Daw. As you may imagine, the raven loved the boy and never left him. There was a cage for it in his bedroom, and there the bird went every night to roost when the sun went down. Birds go to bed quite regularly of their own accord; and if you wished to punish a bird you would make him get up. Birds are not like boys and girls. Just fancy punishing boys or girls by not letting them go to bed at sunset, or by preventing them getting up very early in the morning.
Well, when morning came this bird would get up and stretch himself, and wink his eyes, and give a good shake all over, and then feel quite awake and ready to begin the day.
A bird has a much easier time of it in getting up than a boy or a girl. Soap cannot get into its eye; or the comb will not stick in knots of hair, and its shoe-laces never get into black knots. This is because it does not use soap, or combs, or shoe-laces; if it did, perhaps it also would suffer.
When Mr. Daw had quite finished his own dressing, he would hop on the bed and try and wake his master and make him get up; but of the two to wake him was the easier task. When the boy went to school the bird would fly along the road beside him, and would sit near on a tree till school was over, and then would follow him home again in the same way.
Tineboy was very fond of Mr. Daw and he used sometimes to try to make him come into the schoolroom during school-hours. But the bird was very wise, and would not.
One day Tineboy was at his sums, and instead of attending to what he was doing, he kept trying to make Mr. Daw come in. The sum was “multiply 117,649 by 7.” Tineboy and Mr. Daw kept looking at one another. Tineboy made signals to the bird to come in. Mr. Daw, however, would not stir; he sat outside in the shade, for the day was very hot, and put his head on one side and looked in knowingly.
“Come in, Mr. Daw,” said Tineboy, “and help me to do this sum.” Mr. Daw only croaked.
“Seven times nine are seventy-seven, seven times nine are seventy-nine – no ninety-seven. Oh, I don’t know – I wish number 7 had never been invented,” said Tineboy.
“Croak;” said Mr. Daw.
The day was very hot and Tineboy was very sleepy. He thought that perhaps he would be able to do the sum better if he rested a little while, just to think; and so he put his head down on the table. He was not quite comfortable, for his forehead was on the 7, at least he thought it was; so he shifted it till it hung right down over the edge of the desk. Then, after a while, somehow, very queer things began to happen.
The Teacher was just going to tell them a story.
The scholars had all settled themselves down to listen; the Raven sat on the sill of the open window, put his head on one side, closed one eye – the eye nearest the school-room – so that they might think him asleep, and listened away harder than any of them.
The pupils were all happy – all except three. One because his leg went to sleep; another because she had her pocket full of curds and wanted to eat them, and couldn’t without being found out, and the curds were melting away; and the third, who was awfully sleepy, and awfully anxious to hear the story, and couldn’t do either because of the other.
The schoolmaster then began his story.
To read the rest of this story visit:
“How 7 Went Mad” at bramstoker.org