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In the early days of the world lived the patriarch Noah, a good and venerable man whose years already numbered six hundred.
Now Noah was warned that a great flood was to come, which would pour down from the clouds and drown the whole earth. He straightway told his neighbors what was to happen, but they refused to believe, and scoffed at him, and said: "Let it rain."
BUILDING THE ARK
Then Noah went his way, and set to work to build him a great ship, to be ready for the day of deluge.
And he laid the keel in the pasture fields, among the daisies; while the idlers came to look on and laugh at such folly—a ship for a rainy day!
But Noah knew that he was right, and kept on.
And the ship rose, but troubles arose too; for frequent and grievous strikes delayed him, and his workmen clamored for more pay and stoned those who would work.
And Noah bargained with them, and started afresh; for he feared that the rain might come before he was ready.
PAINTING THE ARK
At last, after many days, the ship was finished. Then Noah tarred the inside and the outside, to keep it tight. And he named it the Ark, and painted it with colors; for Noah was proud of his work.
ASSEMBLING THE ANIMALS
Then Noah went abroad and called together all the animals, by twos, and told them that they must come into the Ark to be saved from the deluge.
But they too doubted, and were slow to decide; for they feared to enter the dark ship.
And they grumbled, and said, "It may be but a shower."
And though Noah argued with them, and explained all the terrible possibilities of the case, still they hesitated, and in their different tongues and ways talked it over, and would not be hurried.
Then Noah called them Stumbling Blocks. But even this did not move them.
GOING ON BOARD
And Noah was vexed, and left them, and began to drive his domestic animals on board, hoping to set the others an example.
And his sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—helped him, while he kept count.
Then new troubles began. For now the other beasts and birds, fearing to be left behind, all tried to get in at once, and could not be controlled.
But they did not leave behind their dislikes and ancient feuds. For how could the cats and the mice live together in peace, or how could the fox and the geese agree? And the hounds and the hares?
And quarrels and dissensions came into the Ark. And confusion reigned.
And Noah lost count, and lost patience as well.
But after much trouble order was established; and the mighty procession, once started, filed steadily in.
And they came from far and near: a great host of beasts and birds and creeping things:
The big elephant and the polar bear, the giraffe and the striped tiger, and the woolly bison of the west.
And from the mountain and the jungle, the hill and the plain, came great and small.
And the earth trembled with their tread, while the sky was dark with flapping wings.
THE DINOSAURS' DILEMMA
And then came even the huge dinosaurs, for in those days were mighty beasts. But they were too big for the door, and could not squeeze in.
Now Noah sorely regretted this miscalculation, but could find no way to help it.
And the dinosaurs, alas! had to be left behind.
THOSE WHO WOULD NOT GO IN
But the mammoth and the mastodon, and the dinotherium, the palæotherium, and the anoptherium, and the pterodactyl, and the archæopteryx,—and a host of other strange beasts and birds with long Latin names,—refused to go in at all, in spite of Noah's warnings.
All these of course were doomed to be lost, and become fossils, to be put in museums with stones and labels.
TAKING IN SUPPLIES
Then Noah took on board plenty foods of every kind for men and beasts. While the hungry animals inside complained that he should have done this first instead of last.
And then he took his wife and his sons' wives into the Ark, though Mrs. Noah was loath and rebelled: "For the domestic arrangements," she said, "are impossible."
WAITING FOR THE RAIN
And now, all being at last ready, the sun still shone, and the rain did not come. And they waited and waited.
And the scoffers laughed and jeered, and called to Noah that it was going to be a dry season.
And Noah was sore perplexed, and marveled, though never doubting.
But at last the rain did come, and beat down upon the scoffers, and they were wet.
And Noah's sons and their wives triumphed. And even the animals were pleased.
But Noah felt only sorrow for his stubborn neighbors, for he knew that much more rain would fall.
And then for forty days and forty nights it rained hard. And the clouds were rent asunder. And a mighty deluge flooded the whole earth. And the waters rose and covered the trees, and then the hills and mountains, till no dry land might anywhere be seen.
But the Ark was lifted up and floated safely away on a stormy sea.
INSIDE THE ARK
Now inside the storm-tossed ship was much discomfort and grievous trouble. And many even regretted that they had been saved. "For lo!" they said, "nothing could be worse than this."
And Noah's heart was heavy.
LIFE AT SEA
But when the storm was passed and the good ship floated on an even keel, they felt better and settled down to their new life.
And the animals took a keen interest in the passenger list, to find their own names, as passengers always do.
And lazy days slipped quietly by; and the stout Ark drifted slowly on her way.
But alas, this could not last. For as the days dragged on and they found themselves still shut up and afloat, they brooded and grew low in their minds.
And a great homesickness, and longing for a change of any kind, came over them. And a wail of despair went up from the Ark. And the roof leaked. And all was gloom.
And life became a burden to the Noah family.
And then patience and good temper deserted the Ark.
And the animals fretted and quarreled, and there was riot and disorder, and furious battle.
And Noah's task grew ever harder, and his load heavier to bear.
THE RAVEN IS SENT OUT
Now Noah became desperate, and something had to be done; so he sent off a raven to bring tidings from the outer world.
But the raven, once free, had no thought of returning, and flew far away, saying to himself: "Never again will I be caught in that trap."
And Noah waited for news, but none came.
RETURN OF THE DOVE
Then, as matters grew worse, Noah sent forth a dove. "She is a gentle bird and will surely come again to her home," he thought. And the dove did return, for she found only water, and no rest for her foot.
Then Noah waited seven days and again sent her out. And she came back, bringing in her beak a twig from the olive tree.
And all welcomed her with joy, for now they knew that the waters were falling.
FIRST SIGHT OF LAND
Then Noah waited still another seven days, and again sent out the dove. But this time she did not come back.
And Noah climbed to his skylight, and lifted it up, and looked out.
And behold the earth had risen from the waters, still damp, but yet solid earth.
And Noah passed along the good word. And in the Ark was great excitement, and hope revived.
LEAVING THE ARK
And soon the good ship thumped and bumped, and struck bottom. And though she landed at an uncomfortable angle, on a mountain top, they knew that at last the great cruise was ended.
And Noah opened the door, and let down the gang-plank.
And beasts and birds surged out on the desolate rock; and though the mud was thick and heavy, some found it to their liking, and all preferred it to the ship.
Now the sun again arose, and sucked up the dampness from the earth.
And a bright rainbow was set in the sky, as a sign that nevermore would a flood cover the whole earth.
Then Spring burst forth, with all its glory and promise. And a new world began. And all was life and joy.
And Noah bade the beasts and birds go forth and seek new homes. And they scattered in every direction to begin life afresh: while Noah's wife murmured "good riddance," and vowed that she would never go to sea again.
Then Noah gladly rested from his labors.
And this is the end of the story of Noah's Ark.
Excerpted from Noah's Ark by E. Boyd Smith. Copyright © 2010 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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