Group Title: secret river
Title: The secret river
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 Material Information
Title: The secret river
Physical Description: 14, 12 p. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Rawlings, Marjorie (Kinnan), 1896-1953
Publisher: s.n.
Place of Publication: ?
Publication Date: [1955]
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00075521
Volume ID: VID00002
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001853367
notis - AJS7727

Full Text

Marjorie Yinnan Rawlings
Cross Crpepk
Pawthorn, Florida


There is a dark green forest far away in Florida. The

trees are so tall that the sky is like a blue veil 6ver their

leafy hair. Vines with red and yellow flowers grow up the trees.

Red and blue and white and gray birds have their nests in the

branches. Squirrels scamper up "a down the trucks, and bury their

acorns and their hickory nuts among the roots. At night, when there

is no one but the owls to see, small animals with softfur and-

bright eyes run and play and hunt for their supper.

There is a path through the forest. It leads to the hone

of Calpurnia and Buggy-horse.

CalFurnia is a little girl and Buggy-horse is her dog.

Her name is Calpurnia because she was born to be a poet. Buggy-

horse is a peculiar name, but even when he was a puppy his back

dipped in the middle and he had an enormously fat stonaoq, just like

a little old buggy-horse. He could not possibly have been called

Rex or Rover or any ordinary name for a dog. Calpurnia wrote her-

first poem about him.

My dog's name is Buggy-horse.
Of course.

The Secret River 2

On the morning when this story begins, Caljurnia was awake
with the birds. Buggy-horse was still asleep on his hooked rug beside

her bed.

She said, "Wake up, my dear dog. I have a feeling this is

going to be a very special day."
CO PurM ,..
rSke' washed her face and hands and brushed her teeth and

combed her hair. Because of her feeling, she put on her best pink

hair-ribbon. She made her bed neatly. Her room was so clean and tidy

that company could have come at any moment. She went out-of-doors with

Buggy-horse and saw that it was indeed a beautiful day. The sun was

shining and the oranges-on the trees were as bright as balls of gold.

She said a poem.

Lovely day,
Come what may.
If I did not love my mother and my father
I would run away.
Because it is a running-away
Kind of day.

As it turned out, she had the best reason in the world for
making a journey.

At.breakfast, her father said, "Hard times have come to the


She said, "What are hard times?"

'It mians that everything is hard. Especially for poor people."

She felt of the table, she laid her hand on Buggy-horse's
back, she ate another mouthful of grits, and it was true, everything

seemed harder than usual.

She asked, "Are we poor people? I don't feel poor."

Her father said, "We are poor people. I make an honest living

The Secret River

selling fish to other poor people. Now there are no fish. Nobody can

catch any fish. I shall have to close my fish market and things will

go hard with all of us."

Calpurnia ate her hard grits and patted Buggy-horse's hard

back and she said a poem.

I wish
We had fish.
Then hard times would end.
But I am not the least little bit worried, because
Everybody be's my friend.

Her mother said, "You canst say 'everybody be's my friend'.

hot. -L .1d t~mii ta . It sounds as if you're talking about bees.

Honey-bees or bumble-bees."

Calpurnia was delighted. She changed her poem in her mind

and said:

Everybody's bees is my friends.
Everybody's flowers is my flowers.
Everybody's happy hours is my happy hours.
All this goes on and there is no ends.

"That's better," said her mother. You are really a smart

child. But you should say, 'are' no ends."

So Calpurnia said, "Are no ends. Are, are, are", and Buggy-

horse said, "Arf, arf, arf."

Her mother said, "I sometimes don't know who's the smartest,

you or that little old Buggy-horse dog."

Her father said, "It won't matter who's the smartest, if I

can't get fish to sell to the other poor people", and he went to his

empty fish market.



Calpurnia went outside and stood beside a tree and thought

the fish market. There was a small pond where she and Buggy-horse

went to fish, but she had never caught anything there except tiny

The Secret River 4

minnows. Also, she used anglwworms for bait, and they were squirmy and

had to be kept in a glass jar. She did not like this and she imagined

that the angleworms did not like it, either. But my, she did love to

go fishing. She did not know which she loved best, Buggy-horse, or

fishing, or making poems.

She said to herself, "Now if I was a fish, what would I like

to bite?"

She thought and thought, and she had a wonderful idea.

She said to Buggy-horse, "If I was a fish, I would only bite

something unusual and something pretty."

She went up a ladder on the outside of the house, that led

to the attic. She remembered some beautiful pink crepe paper, left over

from a birthday party. Buggy-horaftried to follow her up the ladder,

but he was so fat in the stomach that he had to give up. She came down

again with the pink paper, she fouid a pair of scissors, and she went

to her mother.

"Mother dear, may I make some pink paper roses?"

"Of course, my child."

Her mother was very considerate and did not ask questions

unless she had to. So Calpurnia made some large roses from the pinp

paper and tied them to the ends of her pig-tails. She set out with

Buggy-horse and her fishing-pole to find = Albirtha, who had an

elegant beauty parlor and was the wisest person in the forest. Madam

Albirtha was sitting in front of her bt ty Xrah_= She was worried

about hard times, too, like Calpurnia's father, for if there are no fish,

and one person is poor, then everybody else is poor, too, and M aIr

Albirtha had no beauty customers at all.

_ ~_

The Secret River 5

Calpurnia said, "Madam Albirtha, I am rFaing &ay :4 gobf z

fishing, to keep my father from being poor. I have fished in the pond,

but the fish there are so small. You are the wisest person in the forest.

Will you tell me where I can catch some big fish, so that hard times
will be soft times?"
adamN Albirtha rocked back and forth.

She said, "Child, I have not breathed this to a living soul,

but I will tell you. There are big fish in the secret river. Oh my,

the fish. Catfish, perch, bream, mudfish and garfish. Especially catfish."
"Is the secret river far away?"

"Nobody knows. I will tell you this---you will be home again

by nighi-'all."
"How will I find it?"

"Just follow your nose. You will know the river when you see it."
"Thank you, -M44e~ Albirtba. When I catch the fish, I will bring

you some."
"Child, you tall like an angel."

Now Calpurnia thought it was foolish to find anything by

following her nose.

She said to Buggy-horse, "My nose goes straight ahead. How will

I know where to turn?"

But she started out into the forest. The first thing she knew,

a rabbit hopped by. She turned to look at him, which meant that her nose

pointed to the right. So she followed her nose. After a while, a blue-jay

flew into a live-oak tree and scolded her for running atay. She turned her

nose to the left, to look at him. So she followed her nose. All of a

sudden, she heard a sound like music. The forest had ended. Calpurnia hadi

found the secret river. The river was so beautiful that she sat down on

The Secret River

a cypress knee to admire it. The cypress tr'es were sitting at the edge

of the water to cool themselves. Their bony knees stuck out of it.

She said to the cypress trees, "I hope you don't mind if I sit

on one of your knees to admire the secret river."

The cypresses clicked their green needles, which she took for

permission. The river was singing as it ran by. Then she saw the fish.

They were jumping and dancing, and there were so many of them that they

got in each other's way.

Calpurnia said to the fish, "Do you mind if I catch some of you,

to save the forest from hard times?"

The fish did not answer, so she took that for permission, too.

Now she saw a little red boat tied to the bank. It had a sign on it. The

sign said:

"Please tie me up again when you are through with me. I am so

afraid of getting lost."

Calpurnia stepped into the red boat with her fishing-pole and

the pink paper roses tied to her pig-tails. Buggy-horse followed her into

the boat. She pushed away from the shore. The boat rocked gentl$ on the

river. She took one of the pink paper roses from her braids and tied it

to the hook on the end of her fishing-line. The pink rose floated for a

few minutes, and then sank slowly down through the water. An old frog

sitting on the bottom of the river saw it.

He croaked, "Now what in the water is that thing? It's meant to

catch fish, that's what it is. Well, I won't bite it, that's sure."

He settled himself to watch, and before he had blinked his eyes,

a huge catfish tried to swallow the pink paper rose, and was hauled out

of the river on the end of Calurria's fishing-line.

The old frog grunted, "I knew it. There is nothing more foolish
than a fish."

The Secret River 7

Sitting in the red boat, Calpurnia pulled in one fish after

another. Buggy-horse hung over the side in excitement. Just as 1M

Albirtha had promised, there were more catfish than anything else, and

this pleased Calpurnia for two reasons. In the first place, the people in

the forest dearly loved to eat catfish, and her father could get a higher

price for them. In the second place, catfish are extremely disagreeable

and try to stick everybody with the sharp barbs on their heads. Calpurnia

thought that fish who go out of their way to stick people, deserve to be


After a while, Calpurnia had as many catfish in the red boat as

she could possibly carry home. She pushed the boat in to the shore and

tied it carefully to the trunk of a cypress tree. She movedithe fish

to the ground and Buggy-horse helped her. He could only carry one fish in

his mouth at a time, but he worked hard and did his best..

Calpurnia said to him, "How can we carry all these fish home?"

Buggy-horse looked at the fishing-pole and barked. He looked at
a clump of bear-grass and barked. Calpurnia understood at once. Bear-grass

has long, thin, tough leaves, and they can be used like strong pieces of

string. She broke off the leaves and passed them through the gills of the

fish, and tied the fish on the fishing-pole. She put the pole over her

shoulder. It was very heavy with all the catfish od it. She started out

for home. It was late afternoon, and shadows were already falling through

the forest.

She said to Buggy-horse, "IdZ Albirtha told us to find the

secret river by following my nose. Do you think we can get home the same way?)

Buggy-horse barked, and she decided to try to get home the same
way. A gray fox turned her nose to the left, and a mother raccoon with two

The Secret River 8

baby raccoons turned her nose to the right. It was getting dark. The

sun had set, the day animals were going to bed and the night anir:als

were coming out to play and hunt for their supper. Calpurnia heard a

strange sound.

A deep voice called, "Who-o-o-o? 'hy-y-y-y? Who?"

Calpurnia did not know where the questions came from, but she

answered bravely, "I'm Calpurnia. 'bo are you?"

The voice said, "Who-o-o-o."

"Why, itts just a hoot-owl," she said.

But then she saw the hoot-owl sitting in the top of a dead tree.

He was enormous and he did not look friendly. She wondered if he had come

out to hunt for his supper. He rolled his big round eyes at her fish. He

rolled his big round eyes at Buggy-horse. No doubt about it, he was very


Calpurnia said quickly, "PJease, Mister Hoot-owl, can I give

you a nice fresh catfish for your supper?"

The hoot-owl cocked his head on one side and flapped his wings.

He flew down into a small wild plum tree beside her. It was a great deal

of trouble to untie the catfish from the fishing pole, but she picked out

the biggest fish of all and laid it on the clean grass. The hoot-owl

swooped down and began eating it at once, without saying "Thank you."

She said, "You are welcome anyway," and she and Buggy-horse

went on.

The forest was so dark she could not see her nose in front of

her face, so of course she could not follow her nose.

"I'm not a bit worried," she said out loud.

She was really worried, but she said it to cheer up Buggy-horse.

Rawlings 8
The Secret River

All of a sudden she saw a huge black shadow in front of her.

The shadow moved and Buggy-horse growled. Calpurnia thought up a poem

quickly. She called out:
Shadow, shadow, go away.
You wouldn't scare me in the day.
I won't be scared because it's night. '
Shadow, shadow, be polite.

The shadow was a big black bear. Calpurnia's heart went

thump-thump-thump. Buggy-horse tried to hide behind the catfish.
Calpurnia thought, "Maybe the bear is hungry, too."

She said in a small frightened voice, "Mister Bear, could I

interest you in a nice fresh catfish for your supper?"
The bear snuffled as if he needed a handkerchief and he came

closer. She did not wait to pick out the biggest catfish. She pulled

two from the fishing pole as fast as possible and laid them on the clean

grass. She did not run away, but she hurried. She called over her

shoulder, "You're entirely welcome," in case the bear had thanked her.

Buggy-horse did not say a word. He was really scared. The forest was
as black as the bear.

Then Calpurnia saw something crouching ahead of her. It was

a panther. She did not know whether he was friendly or unfriendly, but

she thought, "I'm sure he's hungry. I expect hard times have even come

to the panthers in the forest."
So she said, "Mister Panther, you are a sort of cat, and cats

love fish, and I should like to give you some nice fresh catfish for your


She was not so frightened now, and she took three catfish from

her,'fishing pole and laid them on the clean grass. The panther began

eating them at once, and he purred so loudly that she knew he was saying
"Thank you."

The Secret River IO

She said, "You are certainly most welcome."

She said a poem.

If somebody scares you, the thing to do .9
Is give somebody something to.
Then they never bother you. \ .i-,
Sometimes they say, "Thank you." \ x, S--A-

Calpurnia and Buggy-horse went on, although they could not see

their way. And then the full moon rose and the forest was as bright as
^gJLto3jL.,yu,^L S^UL A r2. ^xae/Y4_4
day. She smelled night-flowers blooming. A mocking-bird began to sing in

the moonlight. The night birds began to fly. A white crane flew straight

across the moon. It dropped a white feather and Calpurnia picked it up

and tucked it in her hair. -nd then she saw that they were out of the
forest, and on the path toward home. Buggy-horse barked joyfully and

ran ahead.

Calpurnia said, "It would be nice to go home this minute,

but I promised Mada Albirtha some fish. So come, my dear dog."
a mAlbirtha was just turning out the light in her beauty

parlor when she heard the knock on her door.

"Who is that, knocking so late?" she called.

"It is Calpurnia, with your fish."

Madam Albirtha's eyes were as big as saucers when she saw the fish.

"Child, where did you catch all those catfish?"

"Why, in the secret river, where you told me to go."

"Oh my goodness to the may-haw bush. I forgot all about what I

told you. Oh my goodness to the swamp maple."

Calpurnia was busily untying the fish from the fishing pole.
"How manj catfish do you want, M Albirtha?" she asked.
"Oh my goodness to the red-bud tree. Just give me one catfish,
child. Just one nice fat catfish."
Calpurnia chose the nicest and fattest and Mrim Albirtha

The Secret River II

wrapped it in her apron. They all said "Good night," and Calpurnia and

Buggy-horse hurried on home. All the lamps were burning in the house.

Calpurnia's mother and father put their arms around her and began to cry.

"Dear daughter, we thought you were lost in the forest."
"Oh, no. I just followed my nose. And see, I brought fish to

turn hard times to soft times. I gave some away, but it was necessary."

Her mother and father could not believe their eyes when they

saw the catfish.

"Child, how did you catch all these fish? How did you carry

them home by yourself? Where have you been?"

But Calpurnia was so tired and so sleepy that she could not

answer. She drank a cup of cocoa and her mother undressed her and tucked

her into bed and Buggy-horse lay down to sleep on the hooked rug beside

her. She did not know another thing until it was morning. Her father had

gone to his market to sell the catfish.

A man who had not had anything to eat for a long time bought

the first catfish. He said he would pay for it as soon as he had eaten

it and had earned money for a day's work, for he had been too weak from

hunger to work. A woman who had not had anything to eat for a long time

bought the second catfish, and said she would pay for it as soon as she

had eaten it and earned money for a day's work, for she had been too weak

from hunger to work. All the people from the forest bought the catfish

and ate them and felt strong again and went out into the world and found

work to do.,they earned money, and that night they all paid Calpurnia's

father for the catfish, and had money to spare./Ma am Albirtha had six

customers in her beaty par-lor, ICalpurnia's father had a big pile of money.

'e- went to the city and bought other things for the poor people to eat.
They all had work to do to earn money, and they were all strong ald hard

tim4s in the forest turned to soft times.

The Secret River 12

One day Calpurnia and Buggy-horse started out to find the

secret river again. They searched all that day, and all the next day, and

the next. Calpurnia followed her nose this way and that way. She found

strange flowers and strange birds and strange little pools of water. But

she could not find the river. So she went to MaaAlbirtha.

't1M Albirtha," she said, "I cannot find the secret river."

441am Albtrtha rocked back and forth.

"Child," she said, "this is a sad thing to tell you. There is

not any secret river."

"But M4&n Albirtha, you told me how to find it, and I found it.

I want to find it again."

Madam Albirtha rocked back and forth.

She said, "Child, sometimes a thing happens oncv, and.does not

ever happen any mote."

Calpurnia said, "But I want to catch more catfish in thu river."

m-drTr Plbirtha said, "Child, you caught catfish when catfish

were needed. Hard times have turned to soft times. So you will' not find

that river again. I told you once, and I tell you twice, there is not

any secret river."

"But I saw it. It must be somewhere."

iela Albirtha rocked back and forth.

"The secret river is in your mind," she said. "You can go there

any time you want to. In your mind. Close your eyes, and you will see it."

Calpurnia was delighted. She skipped all the way home. Buggy-

horse chased his peculiar tail. Calpurnia sat down under a Imajrolia tree

and closed her eyes. She saw the river. It was as beautiful as she

remembered it. She made a poem.

The Secret River 13

The secret river is in my mind.
I can go there any time.
Everything M I Ablbirtha says is true.
The sky is gold and the river is blue.
River, river, I love you.

She opened her eyes, and the river was gone. She felt sad. She

did want to see it again with her eyes open. She knew that it was truly

somewhere in the forest. Some day, she would find it once more. It

probably ran straight out into the world. The world, she was sure, was a

kind and beautiful place. She said another poem.

The world is full of love.
It sings like a turtle dove.
The world will love me
And under a cypress tree,
On its knee,
We will watch the secret river together.
.e will find a white bird's feather.

Calpurnia pulled an orange from the tree beside the gate. She

threw it like a ball for Buggy-horse to play with. He brought it back to

her at last, and then she ate it.


*- 4

The Sweret River 12

O ne day Calpurnia and Buggy-horse started out to find the

secret river again. They searched all that day, and all the next day,

and the next. Calpurnia followed her nose this way and that way. She
found strange flowers and strange birds and strange little pools of

water, but she could not find the river. So she went to Madam Albirtha.

"Madam Albirtha,' she said, "I'cannot find the secret river


Madam Albirtha rocked back and forth.

She said, "Child, sometimes a thing happens once and does not




Th- Sworet River

I rt
One day Calpurnia and Buggy-horse started out to find the
secret river again. They searched all that day, and all the next day,
and the next. Calpurnia followed her nose this way and that way. She
found strange flowers and strange birds and strange little pools of
water, but she could not find the river. So she went to Madam Albirtha.
"Madai Albirtha," she said, "I cannot find the secret river
Madam Albirtha rocked back and Pbrth.
She said, "Child, sumetimes afthing happens once and does not




*;.. '

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