A summer morning in the mountains!
The door of a little gray cabin opens. Somone you like very much comes out to sit in the sun on the doorstep.
Who is it? Not Dan or Granny! Not Uncle Andy or Aunt Betsy! Not Peddler Jack! If you guess for a year and a day, I will still have to tell you.
It is Mr. Carl. The same Mr. Carl who lives in Friendly Vilage, next door to Alice and Jerry!
Many years before this, when Mr. Carl was a boy, he lived in the mountains.
He always remembered the good times he had there. What fun it was to climb the trails and to hide in the deep pine woods!
So every year when summertime comes around again, Mr. Carl comes back to the mountains.
Every year the mountain boys and girls are looking for him. They like Mr. Carl just as well as Alice and Jerry do.
Nice things always happen when Mr. Carl is around. So nice things are going to happen this summer.
Would you like to know what the nice things are? Suppose we find out.
When Mr. Carl was in the mountains, he was up as soon as the sun.
"It is the wind in the trees," Mr. Carl would say. "It is the birds! I can't sleep when birds are singing."
When breakfast was over, he like to put some more pine wood onto the open fire. Then he sat and played the old mountain tunes on his fiddle.
At home in Friendly Village, he never thought about his fiddle. But he did not forget to bring it to the mountains.
"There is music in the mountain air," chuckled Mr. Carl. "Music in the air!"
And there was music when Mr. Carl played his fiddle.
All the boys and girls who lived in the cabins not too far away came up the trail to hear the music. The tunes they liked best were "The Lonesome trail" and "The Old Pine tree."
They all stayed for a time to sing the tunes. Then, one by one or two by two, they would hurry down along the trail.
Sometimes Dan came from his home on the other side of the mountain. He stayed until Mr. Carl played every tune he knew. The tune Dan liked best was,
Charlie went over the mountain
To see what he could see;
But the other side of the mountain,
Was all there was to see.
It was a jolly tune and Dan liked to sing the words as Mr. Carl played.
"That is the best mountain tune there is Dan," said Mr. Carl one morning. "Why not learn to play it?"
"Play it!" cried Dan. "How could I learn? What would I play on?"
"On my little brown fiddle," said Mr. Carl. "You can learn by working hard."
Dan's eyes showed how happy he was.
So every morning after that, Dan worked hard to learn the fiddle.
The Voice at the Door
It took Dan a long, long time, but at last he could play the tune. Not so well as Mr. Carl, but very well for a boy! Oh, how he did enjoy it!
One morning Dan was playing better than he had ever played before. All at once Mr. Carl jumped from his seat and danced around the cabin floor.
Dan went right on playing.
I guess it must have been the music. Anyway, Mr. Carl went on dancing faster and faster. Nothing could stop him.
"Howdy! Keep it up!" called a voice from the door. "That is a gay tune!"
It was Peddler Jack. His pack with all his pans was on the doorstep.
Mr. Carl stopped in a hurry. Even his ears were red. What would the peddler think of him? An old man dancing! How silly he must have looked!
But Mr. Carl did not have to feel silly for very long. In another minute the peddler was right out on the cabin floor dancing, too.
At last the tune was over.
"Smart boy!" said the peddler, with a twinkle in his eye. "You can fiddle as well as you can riddle. Keep it up, Dan!"
Oh, for a Fiddle
All the rest of the summer Dan did keep it up. Before long he could play one tune after another. Every day he enjoyed that fiddle more.
Still there were times when Dan was not happy. At night in his warm feather bed, he would sometimes think,
"What will I do when Mr. Carl leaves for home? I won't ever be a fiddler. I won't even have a fiddle."
Dan told everyone he knew about the fiddle. But no one could help him.
"I wish I could give YOU what YOU want," said Granny, and she thought of the little iron pot. "But my money must go for something to eat and to get shoes for the winter."
"Try to forget about the fiddle" said Aunt Betsy. "Where is that mouth organ I gave you the day you rode to the village? Play on that and be happy."
"If I were a turnip you wanted, my mule, Old Rusty, might help you out," chuckled Uncle Andy. "Where can you get a fiddle?"
No one found the answer to that riddle. Poor Dan! How he longed for a fiddle!
The Fiddling Bee
One afternoon before sundown, Peddler Jack again made his way up the trail to Mr. Carl's cabin.
"Where is that riddle boy who plays the fiddle?" he asked. "There might be a fiddling bee tomorrow night in the village at the foot of the mountain. All the old fiddlers will be there. They are so old now that this maybe the last fiddling bee in the mountains. I want them to be sure to hear that boy."
Just then Dan came around the cabin. You never saw eyes so big and shining as Dan's were when he heard the news.
The next afternoon Dan, Granny, and Mr. Carl rode down the trail with one of their neighbors in a mountain wagon.
It was sundown when they got to the village. There was a great patch of green grass at one end of the village street. This was the village green. Around it was a great crowd of people.
When everyone was there, the old mountain fiddlers played and played.
Oh, how Dan did enjoy it! The old fiddler who got the prize played some of the tunes Dan liked best. "The Lonesome Trail" and "The Last Old Pine Tree!"
When the last tune was over, Peddler Jack walked out in front of the crowd. He had Mr. carl's fiddle in his hands.
"A surprise for you my friends," called the peddler. "Here is a fiddler you have never heard. Come, Dan! We want to hear you play!"
Now the fiddle was in Dan's hands. He played as he had never played before.
"You're going to be the best fiddler in the mountains if you keep on," said one old fiddler and then another.
Then the fiddler who got the prize took Dan's cap aound to everyone in the crowd. When the cap came back, it was almost full of pennies.
"Someday you will take my prize away from me," chuckled the old fiddler, as he gave Dan the cap full of pennies.
Oh, how delighted Dan was. He ran to Granny and gave her a big hug.
"Now play for your money!" called Mr. Carl. "Play,- Charlie Over the Mountian!"
So Dan played Charlie over the Mountain. I guess it must have been the music. Anyway, before the tune was over, all the crowds was dancing and singing.
What good card Dan took of his cap as he rode up the mountain trail! But even then he did not have money enough to get alittle brown fiddle.
Time to Go
It was Mr. Carl's last night in the mountains. the sun had just gone down behind the mountaintop, and nightingales sang in the pine trees.
All at once Mr. Carl took his fiddle and started up the trail.
"It is the fair thing to do to give away my fiddle to Dan," he said to himself. "He has a birthday coming soon. He can't be a mountain fiddler without any fiddle."
When he came to the mountaintop, Mr. Carl looked down on the other side.
There was Dan on the doorstep, eating corn bread and playing the mouth organ at the same time.
"Put that mouth organ away, Dan" called Mr. Carl. "Here is a fiddle for your birthday. A fiddle all your own!"
Dan's blue eyes told how happy he was. He could not say a word. But the look in his eyes was better than any "Thank you" for Mr. Carl.
"Now," said Mr. Carl. "I hope you get to be the best fiddler in the mountains."
And do you know? That is just what happened. If you go to the mountains today, everyone will say., "Are you looking for the best fiddling man and the best riddling man inthe mountains? Well, he is Riddling Dan."