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Title: Fairy Tales, Fables, And
Author: Beatrice Wilcken
eBook No.: 2100111h.html
Date first posted: 2021
Most recent update: 2021
This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore
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The Origin of the Forget-Me-Not
The Rose and the Nightingale
The Ice Queen
The Jenolan Caves, N.S.W.
The Bridal Veil in the Jenolan Caves
The Organ Cave and the Broken Column
The Flower of Knowledge
The Human Heart
The Flower of Poetry
Music or the First Song
Cloud Lands, or Queen Imagination
Why are the Blue Mountains so Very Blue
The Origin of the Waratah
A Legend of the Three Stone Sisters in the Katoomba Blue Mountains
A Legend of the Fairy Caves in the Blue Mountains
I have whiled away some happy leisure hours in writing these little stories. They were not originally intended for publication but I have been strongly urged by many kind friends to have them printed. It seemed ungracious to refuse such a request, and this must be my excuse for sending forth this little memento of my visit to Hobart and its beautiful surroundings,
Hobart, April, 1891.
Deep in a forest where beech, and elm and fir trees grow, there is the source of a little brooklet, and at the side of that brooklet was once a bower of ivey in which lived the loveliest and prettiest of fairies. Her life was one dream of happiness. She danced in the sunbeams, bathed her small feet in the little brook and splashed the old stone with water until his old mossgrown head looked as if it were crowned with diamonds. The old stone looked pleased though it could not smile very much you know. Then she threw kiss-hands up to the trees, and they bowed in return, and rustled their leaves from head to foot in acknowledgment of her sweet winning ways. She chased the butterflies, and when fairy and butterflies were tired they rested—she leaning against her old friend the mossgrown stone and the butterflies resting on her head—a picture as lovely as a dream!
One day when she was tired of her play and resting, there came along a human being with book and pencil in his hand. He threw himself on the moss, and in a rapturous voice read aloud what he had written. He was a poet, and his heart was filled with the beauty of Nature! Like music the words fell from his lips and the fairy listened breathlessly. Then he went; but the next day he came again, and then again, and the little fairy grew silent. All her playing was over. One intense wish seized her heart—the wish, the longing that she also were a human being that the Poet might see her and read her those beautiful words.
Time went on, and it became mid-summer. Now everybody knows that in the mid-summer’s night—in full moonshine —the Queen of the Fairies holds her court to hear the complaints of all her subjects and to judge lightly.
And so it was also this midsummer’s night. In an opening of the forest, where the ground is covered with moss, the trees grow in a circle, and the moonbeams have full play, the fairy court was to be held. All the little flowers stretched their heads up as far as they could to have a look at the Queen—to dream ever after of her. The glowworms lit their lamps, hanging about in garlands and festoons, and then the court came. In front the whole orchestra—the gnats as harp players, the bees as violincello players, the frog as the big drum, and every insect that could hum or sing doing its very best.
Then the Fairy Queen came lying in a lily drawn by golden beetles. When the procession arrived at the open space the orchestra stopped playing, and silence fell on all around. Suddenly, first low, then louder and louder, the wonderful song of the nightingale was heard bursting forth with intense enthusiasm as if all the beauty of the summer’s night was concentrated in that glorious song.
Then silence again,
The Fairy Queen spoke:—“Let all who want to complain come to me that I may help them.”
One little fairy came and told a tale how a malicious bee would persecute her, and insist upon telling how much he was in love with her. Another complained that the nightingale sung the whole night through at her window, and she never could get a good night’s rest. At last our dear little fairy came and threw herself at the feet of the Queen. “And what ails thee, my sweet little thing,” the Queen kindly asked, “you, the happiest in all my empire?”
“Oh, gracious Queen,” the little fairy answered, “grant me one wish—the only wish of my heart—let me be as human beings are, that I may speak to them and they speak to me,”
Seriously the Queen looked down upon the fairy, and seriously she said:—“You ask a dangerous thing. I will grant your wish, but only under one condition. You shall be a human being as long as no man ever says to you, ‘I love you,’ and no man ever kisses your cheek. Men are a false race. They rush at the moment’s pleasure and break the hearts of those who trust them. If ever a man speaks to you of love, you will have to die! Go, and be a human being, but never forget my words.” And, dancing, the little fairy went home.
The next day dreamingly the Poet came along, and looking up he saw a beauteous vision. He thought for a moment that his fancy had created it; but the vision had life and came blushing and smiling with her sweet blue eyes towards him. They sat down together.
The Poet talked to her and read to her.
And he went and came, and came and went, and that deadly poison, which contains the greatest misery and the greatest happiness, that poison which human beings call love, entered and filled their hearts.
One night when the moonlight bathed the whole of Nature in a silver glory—when silence reigned supreme—the youth gently put his arm around the maiden’s shoulder, drew her towards him, kissed her cheek, and whispered “I love you,”
One moment of intense happiness, and then all Nature seemed in an immense uproar. Thunder roared, the lightning flashed, and before them stood the Fairy Queen! The poor girl sank trembling on her knees, and the Fairy Queen cried “You know your doom. You have brought it upon yourself. You trusted a man. He spoke to you of love. You die.”
But the Poet stepped forward and cried “No! she shall not die. She trusted a man’s heart; she shall live for ever in that man’s heart, and shall never die there, or ever be forgotten!”
A smile passed over the Fairy Queen’s face. She laid her hand on the girl’s head, and gently she said “No! she shall not die; but as a human being she cannot live,” and under her gentle hand the body and limbs of the girl formed themselves into leaves, the neck into a stem, the lovely head into a flower, and the blue eyes looked up into the Poet’s face.
“You shall not be forgotten” said the Fairy Queen, “and ‘Forget-me-not’ be thy name.”
And since that time the little blue “Forget-me-not” has been the emblem of true friendship and true love.
On a beautiful summer’s morning the Queen of the flowers, the Rose, opened her eyes to the light of the day. She had slept in her green mossy leaves until the Sun-god’s fiery kisses had awakened her, and, blushingly, she had unfolded leaf after leaf until she stood in all her queenly beauty. And Nature rejoiced! The birds sang rapturously. “The Rose is born, the Rose is born!” The butterflies whisper to each other, “The Rose is born; she is so very beautiful!” The bees carried the news to the fields—to every little flower. “Rejoice,” they said, “the Rose is born, the Queen of flowers. We have no time to-day to chat with you, we must carry the news far and wide, and then we must go and worship her.” And the little flowers begged and prayed—“O dearest bees do stop and tell us how the Rose looks? Is she really so very beautiful?” But the bees had no time to answer. They flew away and the little flowers grew so sad that they cried all night. We often see tears in the eyes of the flower; human beings call them dew, but the Sun-god, who is so good, knows better, and when he rises in the morning and sees all the little flowers in tears he paints them so that they sparkle; and, instead of tears, even the tiniest flower carries a crown of diamonds and gold. And, as the Queen of the flowers had been born, all that could fly and move about, came to worship her. When the Sun-god had given the last kiss to the earth, and blossoms and flowers, birds and insects, and all Nature had quietly gone to rest and only dreamt of him—suddenly the Nightingale began his magic song. He loved the Rose, and in the stillness of night he poured forth all the delight and all the sadness which moved his heart. The sound floated nearer, and then further away, until the air was filled with sweetest melody.
Every night when all Nature was song and beauty, a young maiden rested on a seat for a short while. In dreamful happiness she listened smilingly; her heart understood what the nightingale sang. One night she brought her lover; arm in arm they walked along, and stood before the Rose. He said, “To-morrow is our wedding day; let me give you the loveliest gift on the last day of your sweet maidenhood;” and he broke the Rose and fastened it in her hair. Alone and lonely the Nightingale sang his song, and with his last note fell dead. The intensity of sound had burst his little throat.
Many, many years later, when it was a summer’s night again, and once more a young Rose Queen was born, and a young Nightingale sang of love, a woman stood at the seat; her hair shone like silver in the moonlight. She had a book in her hand. She opened it, and her eyes fell on a withered rose. Slowly she pressed her lips to it, and raised her eyes to the stars. The moonlight kissed the tears on her cheek and wove a silver glory around her head. But the Nightingale sings of undying beauty and of undying love.
Far in the South is a mountain—a mountain of ice.
On the top of the mountain is a palace of ice, and in that palace reigns supreme the Ice Queen. Her eyes are like stars, brilliant and clear, her face snowy white. She is beautiful, but the poor Queen has no heart, she has a lump of ice in her breast and that never melts. She travels sometimes, then she puts on her head a silver crown, and a long flowing silver veil trimmed with fiery red. Human beings call it the Aurora Australis, but it is only the Ice Queen in all her beauty and glory who travels up to the sky to her only friend the polar star. The polar star once upon a time made love to the Ice Queen, but he soon found out she had no heart, so they got to be friends only, and every year she goes and visits him.
Once upon a time she was on her way to her friend, more beautiful looking than ever, when her eyes fell on the sea below. There, heaving up and down with the waves, was a ship, and tied to the mast a beautiful youth, the last survivor of the ship’s crew. Never had the Ice Queen seen so much beauty as in that upturned face.
She met his eyes, and the youth opened his arms towards her.
Then she folded her silver veil around him and carried him to her home.
She was so beautiful that the youth could do nothing else but look at her and wish he could love her, but you know she had no heart, and as human beings cannot exist without love the youth began to pine away and grow more sad every day.
The Ice Queen thought he wanted amusement, and she made him run over the ice with her, slide down the mountain and play at snowball, but it was of no use, he grew more and more silent, and more and more sad. Then she thought she would allow him to roam about sometimes, and she ordered her servant, the south wind, to take him on his wings when he went on her errands. But before the youth left on one of these excursions she told him he was bound to her for ever, unless he could find, when he was flying on the wings of her servant, some kind soul who would open the house door wide and let him in to step up to the homely fireside.
And the south wind sailed forth with him and blew over land and sea, shook the roof of the houses, rattled at the windows and doors, and every time the youth saw the fire on the hearth he called “Let me in, let me in, and save me,” but to all the people it only sounded like the sighing and wailing of the wind.
But there was one little cottage on the heath, lonely and solitary, where lived a mother and daughter.
Every time the wind came dancing round the cottage the sighing and thrilling grew louder, the girl’s eyes turned wistfully to the door, she rose from her seat to open it, but then the south wind carried the youth away, away back to the ice palace on the ice mountain, back to the beautiful Ice Queen.
And so time went on. The south wind carried the youth over land and sea, and back again many a time, and every time he saw the lonely cottage and the maiden with her wistful eyes, and every time his sighing grew louder, and one night when the south wind played around the cottage his cry was so loud that the girl rushed to the door and cried out “Come in, come in, whoever you are,” and in rushed the youth to the fireside. The south wind grew wild, shook the cottage to its foundation, knocked the chimney down, rattled mercilessly at the window, but, the youth and the maiden heard him not, they stood gazing at each other and all the world was forgotten.
The south wind had to go back to his Queen and tell the story of the rescued youth.
How wild with anger the Queen was. Down in the deepest cellars she ordered her servant, there to stop for years—and poor humanity rejoiced.
“The winters have been so mild,” they said.
The next evening the Queen bethought herself of her old friend the Polar Star. She put on her beauteous head her silver crown, wrapped herself in her magnificent silver veil with the fiery border, and rose high in the heavens.
And in the cottage door on the heath the youth and the maiden stood hand in hand gazing up at the wonderful—the glorious—beauty of the Ice Queen.
A youth had been wandering over hill and dale for many a day. He was tired and footsore. Wearily he was toiling up a hill in the broiling sun. “How long the road is,” he thought; “when shall I reach my destination, my home again? No water, and barren all the hills I passed. Dried up with the heat, what will become of me?”
He took off his hat and dried his forehead, then he walked on again; slower and slower, until with a last effort he reached the top of the hill. There he threw himself down. After a while he looked around, Then he raised himself, rubbed his eyes, looked again, and jumped up with a cry of delight. At the foot of the hill was a large lake, clear as crystal, and in the middle of the lake an island. The most luxuriant vegetation covered it, and in the midst of trees and flowers stood a castle. With light steps the youth descended the hill and reached the lake. A boat was on the water; he stepped in, took the oars, and rowed over to the island. Then he tied the boat to a branch, and walked on. The lofty trees formed an archway overhead, gorgeous flowers of all colours peeping out of the leafy bower; insects and butterflies, with the colours of the rainbow, resting here and there on a leaf like a living ruby or diamond. Then the woods opened, and he stood before the castle. White marble were the walls, marble was the archway which formed the entrance, marble was the hall, marble were the slender columns that carried the golden roof. In the middle of the hall was a splashing fountain—gold and silver fish in the wide basin.
Deep silence reigned everywhere, not a soul was to be seen “How beautiful this all is,” the youth thought, “but where may be the fairy to whom the castle belongs?” He turned into the garden. Beautiful marble statues, half hidden by foliage, caught his eye. He wandered on and stood before a rock, creepers hanging from the top to the ground, covering the front of it like a green curtain. He raised the curtain, and, holding it back, looked into a cave. A lovely sight met his glance. On a soft couch was lying the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Her hair a mass of golden curls; her eyes of the deepest blue, wide open, looking at him.
A small fountain softly murmured, and the sun, which peeped in from above through an opening of the cave, caught the falling drops, and formed a rainbow over the head of the girl. The youth stood perfectly still for a while.
Then the girl smiled and rose from her resting place. “Welcome, stranger,” she said, with the sweetest smile, and stretching out her tiny hand, “Welcome to the Island of Delight.”
The youth took the hand, knelt down and kissed it. “This is indeed delight,” he cried. “How wonderful and beautiful it all seems to be.” And his eyes looking at her expressed the deepest admiration
The girl smiled again. “Rise,” she said. “Take my hand; I will show you all the beauty of my domain.”
He took her hand, and they walked out into the sunlight.
“This island is mine,” she continued. “The Gods, whose abode is in the sky, one day saw so much misery on earth that their hearts were overflowing with pity. They concluded they would create one spot on earth, which, when found by human beings, should be a delight to human eyes, the abode of perfect bliss. So in the midst of barren hills they created this beautiful spot, and I am the priestess of it. They took me from my starry home and brought me here. There is only one condition attached to it. No earthly passions are allowed to fill the hearts of human beings here. Pure must be every thought which moves the heart. Alas,” she continued, with a sigh, “how many have been here, and all have failed, and the Gods, who look down upon us wanted long ago to destroy this island of delight. I only begged and prayed, ‘Let me try one more human being, only one more, and if that also fail let the island and castle be destroyed,’ and the Gods granted my wish. You are the last,” she said, and looked at the youth, “Try to save me the island of delight.”
And the days passed on, and the youth lived through a dream of happiness. Everything on which his eyes rested was perfection of beauty. But the most enchanting of all was the priestess. She sang him songs he never had heard, pure and lovely, sung in her heavenly home. She taught him to play the grand golden organ which filled one of the halls. She caught the sunbeams and wove wonderful garments of them, and on moonlight nights she told him the meaning of the stars and the blissful life on them. And the youth looked into her starry eyes, looked at her golden curls, at the sweet smiling mouth, and his heart began to beat quicker. Passionate thoughts entered his mind, and one night, when they were standing under the starlight sky, she with raised hands and eyes, his passion overcame him, he took her in his arms and pressed his lips to hers.
But whilst he kissed her he felt her breath coming cold, her limbs getting lifeless. He opened his arms, and she sank dead at his feet.
The sky turned dark, a gale uprooted the trees and broke the flowers. The ground began to shake, and was rent asunder with a terrific sound, and the castle and the whole island was buried. Then calmly the waters closed over it, and not a trace of all its beauty was left.
The priestess stood before the Gods and prayed: “Do not let all the beauty of the Island of Delight be destroyed; let some of it still charm mankind.”
And the Gods ordained that on the other side of the world the castle should be built up again, not of marble, but of beautiful crystal—not to be found on earth to live in, but underground hidden away from the common sights.
And there the castle stands again; there is the grand organ; there is the veil the priestess wore; there is the cave with the couch on which the priestess rested her golden curls. And there an image of the priestess stands, chaste and beautiful.
And the Gods led human beings to the entrance, showed them the arch, once of marble, now of stone, then led them from cave to cave. And the castle underground, in all its wonderful beauty, is once more the delight of mankind. Human beings call it “The Jenolan Caves.”
It was Titania’s wedding day. The sun had sailed across the heavens in a cloudless sky, and had gone to rest. The golden colours deepened; shadowy grew the outlines of the distant mountains; in the forest night set in. Then the full moon rose, and her silvery rays fell on an open glade in the forest.
Titania rose from her seat of moss. “Friends, companions, fairies, all of you,” she cried, “now is the time for our dances and our songs.” And the fairies formed a circle, took hold of each others hands, and in graceful movements to and fro performed a lovely fairy dance. Then they dispersed in all directions—some climbed into a flower and nodded smilingly; some reclined against a fern; some took hold of a bluebell. Then Titania clapped her hands, and a song began soft and sweet, and between the song the fairies rang the bluebells, and the song and the ringing of the bluebells formed a melody so ethereal that a human being who heard it thought it must break his heart with intense longing.
A young man entered the glade; he stood motionless. The fairies sang on. At last Titania clapped her hands again. The man stepped forward, and Titania saw him. “A human being!” she cried; “how came he here? Bring him before me, my friends.” And the fairies ran up to the man, danced round him, and brought him to Titania.
“Kneel down,” Titania said; “don’t you know that a human being goes blind when he sees Titania, and her fairy friends?” The man knelt down and answered: “I did not look for you, gracious Titania, nor for your fairy friends. I am a poor musician and a singer, and I lost my way, that is all.”
“If you are a singer,” Titania said, “let us hear a song. If you please us you will be rewarded; if you do not please us you must go blind.”
The young man rose from his knees and stood upright. He began to sing, full and clear—his voice rose to the sky. Then more enthusiastic, more impassioned his singing grew—anon his voice sank again, and the last note died away like a sigh.
“You sang well,” Titania said. “He sang well,” the fairies cried, and rang their bluebells. “He sang well,” he heard from all sides of the forest.
“You will be a great singer,” Titania continued, “You shall not go blind, and I will reward you. I will give you my bridal veil. It is woven of the finest spider web, bleached in the moonbeams. Keep it, and never give it away. If any other hand than yours touches it the veil will turn into stone and you will die.”
The sound of a horn was heard.
“That is Oberons horn,” Titania cried. “Come, my friends, come, let us meet him, Good bye, young man; mark my words and be happy.” “Good bye, good bye, good bye,” the fairies echoed as they passed him, till the last fairy sang “Good bye, and be happy.”
Years passed, and the young man was a renowned singer. The sympathy of his voice was great indeed. When he sang tears came into the eyes of men who had not cried for many a year—good and great thoughts moved the hearts of the listeners, and Titania’s bridal veil was always worn next his heart. He had crossed the oceans, and had seen the Northern stars sink below the horizon and the Southern Cross rise in its glory, and amongst palm trees and beautiful flowers his heart was touched for the first time by beaming smiles and lovely eyes. Sweet she was, that maiden of the Southern lands, and he sang to her until he had sung himself into her heart, and it opened to him like the flower to the sun.
“What is the magic of your song?” she often asked him. “I cannot understand it at all.”
He only smiled with a mysterious smile. He knew it was Titania’s veil.
“What is it?” she coaxed and begged, “what is it? Tell me the mystery, tell it to me whom you love best”
Then he told her the tale of Titania and her bridal veil.
“And you always wear that veil?” she cried. “O, show it to me! Titania is not here. She is far away. She will never know.”
He refused to show her the veil. “Don’t let us disturb our happiness, my love,” he said. “Are we not happy as we are?”
“Yes,” she answered, “but I should feel happier if I saw the veil.”
One day they had been roaming about, and had lost their way in the bush. They suddenly stood before an immense arch, the entrance to a cave. “Come in,” she cried. “I have never been here before.” They went in, and went on as long as they had light. “What a wonderful cave,” she said. “Come, dearest, show me your veil now. Underground Titania has lost her right.” He refused.
She begged and prayed, and at last she got cross.
Then he slowly drew out Titania’s veil. “I will hang it over those rocks,” he said, “that you may see all the beauty of it.”
And he unfolded the veil and hung it over the rocks. Then he led her up to it.
She stretched her hand out.
“Don’t touch it,” he cried; but it was too late. She had her hand on it, and with a terrific crash a rock overhead broke loose and buried them both.
Many a year has passed since then. Titania’s bridal veil still hangs over the rocks, delicate and beautiful, but the spider web which was bleached in the moonbeams has changed into stone, and no singer feels the magic influence of the veil any more.
(Jenolan Caves, N.S.W.)
Far below the surface of the earth is the kingdom of Vulcan, the God of Fire. He hammers at his forge—the metals glow—the sparks fly. When finished he throws aside the gold—the ground is covered with it. Then he takes up a golden horn, set with diamonds and rubies, and blows it. From all sides come rushing along his servants, the gnomes— tiny mites, not three feet high, with long beards, a high-pointed cap on their heads, a leathern apron, and a hammer in their hands.
“Take up the gold,” Vulcan cries; mix it with other metals—then hammer it into the rocks all over our wide domain. On earth there lives a race who love it. Let them dig and search for it if they want it.”
The gnomes gathered up the gold and carried it away. Vulcan stood musing for a while, then took up his hammer and moved away. He went from passage to passage, from one cave into another, until at last he reached a large cave. At the end of it he stood still. Golden pipes lay about—large ones and small ones. He took up one after another, and looked at them. “I cannot do it,” he said at last. “Its no use trying. I want that same instrument I heard when one day I was roaming about and walked over one of the mountains into the sunshine. There stood a building, and out of that building harmonies reached my ear that I never have forgotten. I went up to the building and looked in. A man sat before large pipes, his hands moving up and down, and he brought forth that wonderful sound. I made those pipes of gold, but I cannot put them together. What shall I do?”
He stood musing for a moment, then he cried: “I must bring down here one of those human beings who live on earth. But how can I find out where a man lives who makes these pipes and can play them?”
Again he put his horn to his mouth and blew it, and again the gnomes came rushing along.
“I want some of you,” Vulcan cried, “to go up to earth and find me a man who makes such pipes and can play them; take him in his sleep and bring him down here to me.”
In an attic lived a poor young man—so poor that many a time he went to bed hungry. He did not mind it. He lived in a world of dreams, wonderful melodies, and sounds. Whenever he could he walked to the Cathedral and played there the organ hour after hour until he was told to go. Then he walked home, still dreaming, still living in a world of sounds.
He had just gone home after playing in the Cathedral. His attic-room was cold. He had nothing to eat. He threw himself on his bed and closed his eyes. He began to hum a melody. Then he smiled, and softly sleep overtook him. The moon had risen, and looked full into the attic-room. The hour grew late, and all was deep silence.
Then there began a scraping noise, the door softly opened, and in marched a procession of gnomes. They quietly went up to the bed of the man, carefully took him up, and carried him away. Away they went with him over hill and dale—deep into the mountain from cave to cave, till they laid him down at Vulcan’s feet. “That is the man,” the gnomes said, “who puts those pipes together, and then plays on them.”
In that moment the young man opened his eyes. “I am still dreaming,” he said, and smiled. “What a lovely dream,” he said. “Such treasures of stones and gold,” and he closed his eyes again.
“You are not dreaming,” Vulcan’s deep voice said, “get up and follow me.”
Slowly the young man rose, and brushed his hand across his forehead. “Where am I?” he cried. “I do not know this place.”
“You are in Vulcan’s palace, and I am Vulcan, the God of Fire. No evil will befall you if you do what you are told. Follow me.”
Vulcan led the way to the cave where the golden pipes lay. “There,” he cried, pointing at them, “there are the pipes. Put them together. Then play on them. I heard wonderful sounds coming forth from them. I want to have such an instrument for myself. Everything you want my servants shall bring to you. Blow this horn of mine and they will come.”
He gave the golden horn to the young man. Then he left him, For a moment the man stood perfectly bewildered. “Has my dearest wish come true,” he cried at last. “I build an organ—an organ of golden pipes, and then I can play to my heart’s content!” He rushed up to the golden pipes, and took up one after another. “These are right,” he cried, “I will begin at once! But where are my tools? I will blow the horn. Vulcan’s servants will have to come.”
He blew the horn, and the gnomes came rushing along. “Tools, my friends,” he cried. “Tools for my work, and be quick,” Instantly he had everything he wanted. He set to work. Pipe to pipe was fastened. Day after day passed. He knew it not. There was no sun to remind him that the day had gone. He slept when he was tired; he eat and drank when he was hungry and thirsty. The gnomes provided him with everything! Vulcan came often to watch him.
“The organ will be finished to-morrow, and I shall try it for the first time,” the man said at last to Vulcan.
“That is well,” Vulcan answered; “and if it sounds to my satisfaction I will reward you with a column of gold.”
The day arrived. The organ was finished. For the first time the young man tried his own work. Slowly he drew out the stops. Then he touched the keys. The sound came forth mild and soft at first; then it grew in volume, and at last the mighty sound filled the large cave like an immense hallelujah sung by thousands of voices! “That is wonderful,” Vulcan cried, “Play as much and as long as you like, you will never tire me. Here is your column of gold. You have honestly deserved it”
The gnomes brought in a large column of gold, glittering like the sun! “I don’t want your gold,” the man cried; “let me play the golden organ. That is reward enough for me!”
Time passed on—day followed day, month followed month, year followed year; the young man grew into an old man. His life had been music! music! all in all to him.
Then there crept into his heart a longing—a deep longing to see once more the sun, the flowers, the green hills. “Take me up to earth once more, Vulcan. Let me see once more what I have loved when I was young,” he begged.
For a long time Vulcan refused. Years rolled by again. Then the man begged, “Let me see the sun once more.” He looked so sad that Vulcan took pity, and carried him up to see the sun. He kept him in his arms, for the man was staggering when brought out into the sunshine. He took a long, long look at the sun, the flowers, and the green hills. Then Vulcan took him back again to his palace in the mountain. The man sat down at the golden organ and played, and the sun was shining out of his eyes, and his lips smiled. Slower and slower moved the hands; then they stopped, his head sank on his chest, and everything was quiet.
“The man is dead,” Vulcan said. “How faithfully he has served me; how much he was to me. I have lost him, but no other hands than his shall touch his organ.”
He sounded his horn. His servants came. “Bury my friend before his organ, that even in death he may be near his beloved work. Then form a frame of crystal over the golden pipes and over the golden column, that they may be preserved in another form. When finished, direct a little brook so that drop upon drop may flow on them, forming a soft, murmuring sound—an eternal burial song,”
And the gnomes wove a net of wonderful crystal over the golden organ and the golden column.
They broke the column in doing so!
But Vulcan never entered the cave again!
Year after year passed, and no sound was heard but the falling drops of the burial song.
At last, human beings, hunting for gold, found the cave. Hesitatingly they entered it, so solemn was the impression. And the cave is known to this day as the “Organ Cave and the Broken Column.”
In the North of Germany there are mountains called the Hartz Mountains, a rugged and wild range with deep gorges, wild mountain streams, and in parts impenetrable forests. In one of the hidden little valleys, in a small cottage, was living a charcoal burner with his wife and only son. Generation after generation of charcoal burners have lived and died there, content with small earnings and a simple and hard-worked life. This only son of the last charcoal burner was of a different mould—he was a dreamy lad. He passed his time in running about the mountains, deep into the forest—lying day after day under trees, to listen to the song of birds, to the rustling of the wind, and to the wild rush of the mountain stream. The few books which his parents possessed he soon learned by heart, and his soul longed for more. One day he was standing amongst old things in the lumber room, when his eyes suddenly fell on a book he had never seen before, and the presence of which was a mystery to him. He took it up, rushed out with it, and threw himself on the grass. Hour after hour passed and he did not stir, but read until the sun had set and it grew dark. The book contained the most wonderful story.
“Thousands of years ago,” said the book, “there had lived in that same valley a wonderful man, so wise that he understood the language of the birds, and other animals and insects; even the mountains opened to show their treasures to him. He could even hear the grass grow.”
“One day he made a large fire, put a cauldron on that fire, went into the mountains, took lumps of gold and silver and other metals, and put them into the cauldron, then he gathered precious stones and put them also in; then he took of each species parts of a bird, an insect, an animal, and put them in; of every herb and grass he took a leaf, a root of every tree, flowers of all kinds, and then he boiled them together for nights and days, and days and nights.”
“Then he took the cauldron and carried it where the mountains are steepest and most rugged, where the trees grow close together—where utmost silence reigns. He dug a deep hole, poured the contents of the cauldron into the hole, covered it up again and spoke: ‘Here shall the Flower of Knowledge grow —beautiful to sight, but only those will see and find it who do not mind labour and work, who will seek for it far and wide, whose eyes are open for the beauty of nature.’ And slowly rose from the earth a magnificent golden flower—the Flower of Knowledge. And the man disappeared, and was never seen again.”
When the lad had finished the story he jumped up; his heart beat with delight. “I will find that flower,” he cried, “if it should cost me my life.”
And he set out and wandered night and day where the mountains were rugged and where the trees grew close.
But wherever he looked and searched he could not find the flower.
Tired and weary, disappointed and sad, he sank one evening into the moss. Tears ran down his cheeks, and he cried, “It is of no use, I have searched from morning until night, from night until morning, to find the Flower of Knowledge, I cannot find it, and I must now die.”
And suddenly it seemed as if the sweetest music filled the air, and it seemed to sing—“Do not despair, look up and be happy.”
And he looked up, and before him rose slowly and magnificently a golden flower. Intense light seemed to stream out of every leaf, illuminating the scene around and dazzling the lad’s eyes, while the voice sang, “I am the Flower of Knowledge; thou hast faithfully searched for me, behold me in all my beauty.”
But the lad could not look, the light was so intense.
He fell on his knees and cried, “You are so beautiful; if I look at you I shall go blind.”
And the voice sang again, “Human eyes are not created to look into the Flower of Perfect Knowledge. I will give you one leaf; study and love that and you will be happy,” and overcome by his emotion the boy fell senseless to the ground.
When the sun coloured rosy red the tops of the mountains the next morning, the boy opened his eyes. At his feet lay a golden leaf.
“I have seen the Flower of Knowledge,” he cried. “It was not a dream; a thousand times be she blessed; I am intensely happy.”
He pressed the golden leaf to his breast, carried it home, read and re-read the words written on it.
Every day he found new words, and every day saw his knowledge grow.
And he went forth into the world and proclaimed aloud to the wondering and delighted mind of humanity what the Leaf of the Flower of Knowledge had taught hm.
High in Olympus sat Jupiter. All the Gods surrounded him.
He spoke. His voice sounded like thunder.
He said: “All the Gods are assembled, each to give advice and to judge. We formed man; erect he goes; well is he formed; but his eyes are dull, his mouth is dumb. The sun shines, moon and stars rise at night, flowers bloom and grow— man notices it not. What must we give him to afford him delight?”
Silence reigned in the circle of the Gods,—each deeply thinking.
Jupiter’s voice sounded again: “Bring me a beam of the sun and a rosy cloud, bring them in a golden vessel.”
And the messenger brought a beam of the sun and a rosy cloud in a golden vessel. Jupiter took the vessel, and put his hand on it. And the sunbeam and the cloud mixed together, and became firmer.
Then Jupiter took his hands oft, and in the vessel lay a heart.
“This is the form,” Jupiter said; “but as yet it has no life. Touch it, each of ye Gods, and give it a gift.”
Minerva stepped forward and touched the heart. “I give you wisdom,” she said. Then Venus came forward and laid her hand smilingly on the heart: “Look at beauty with delight,” she said. Then Mercury said: “Love the treasures of the world and use them well,” Then the Muses came—; Poetry, History, Song, and Dance. They all touched the heart. At last Jupiter stepped forward, took up the vessel, and breathed on the heart. “It has life now,” he said. “Let it be carried down to Earth and be put in the body of man. Cupid, the God of love, shall carry it to Earth.”
And Cupid took the vessel and went down to Earth with it. The vessel was heavy, and the little God grew tired, so tired that he threw himself under a tree and fell fast asleep; but he kept the vessel in his arms, and the lid was on.
Slowly there came a figure walking along; she peeped here and there into all nooks and corners. It was “Curiosity” on her way. She came nearer, and nearer. She saw Cupid lying asleep, with the golden vessel in his arms. She took the lid off and looked into the vessel. She saw the heart, but not content only to look at the heart, she must also touch it. And so “Curiosity” left her mark upon it.
Then came two other figures, dismal and deformed looking.
“Envy” and “Malice” they were called. They looked into the vessel, nodded with an evil smile at each other, and then touched the heart. Then came along; “Meanness” and “Extravagance.” “Ambition” and “Pride” followed. They all touched the heart.
At last two veiled figures came nearer, hand in hand, “Sorrow” and “Despair” stood before the heart; heavily they laid their hands upon it. Then they walked on.
Cupid opened his eyes, and saw the lid of the vessel lying beside it and the heart open to sight. “Who has been here?” he cried; “what mischief may have been done to the heart?” And he bent his head over the vessel. His loving eyes rested on the heart. Then he laid both his hands on it and said: “What mischief may have been done, I, the God of Love, give all my love to the poor heart, that love may undo whatever wrong has been done to it!” Then he put the lid on again, took up the vessel, and went on his errand. He travelled on and on. At last he found man lying on the moss beside a brook in the forest. It was such a lovely spot, but man saw it not; he had closed his eyes and slept! Cupid peeped round a tree, his golden vessel in his arms. Then he went nearer on tip-toe, and stood beside the sleeping man. He knelt down, took the heart and put it in the man’s breast. Then he rose and looked smilingly down at him, waved his hand and left him. And man awoke. He sprang up, put his hand to his heart. Then he opened his arms wide, his eyes sparkled, and he cried “O, how glorious it is to live!”
And such is the poor human heart. Good and evil mixed— one never without the other—combine to make him unhappy.
But the one redeeming feature is Love. Love softens pain. Love whispers hope. Love forgives. Love brings happiness, because Love is the Divine gift.
There is a dell hidden away in the very heart of the forest. Almost impenetrable is the way to it. Hardly ever a foot enters it. High crags and rocks rise in a circle. A brook forms a pool beneath them. One solitary rock stands out in the middle. In this dell grows the most precious of flowers. Only every hundred years the sunbeams touch a certain spot on that solitary centre rock, and every hundred years the full moon reaches the same spot. And when that happens in the same midsummer’s day and midsummer’s night, then there springs to life a flower, blue as the sky, with the silvery sheen, as of the moonbeams, and a light as from the sun.
That flower is called the Flower of Poetry, and whoever finds that flower is the greatest poet of his time, and blessed beyond everything.
On the border of the forest stood a castle. The baron thereof was a mighty hunter.
From far and wide his friends had come to attend the hunt. The horses neighed, the hounds yelped, and the horns sounded, and away they went into the deep forest.
The last of the men, a youth, lingered behind for a moment.
He raised his hat to the young daughter of the baron. She stood on the terrace and waved her white veil, then she took a rose from her hair and dropped it at the youth’s feet. He alighted from his horse, picked up the rose, pressed it to his lips, and dashed away.
On he rode, and on, forgetting the hunt and everything.
Deep into the forest he rode, and as he rode, narrow and narrower grew the path; the branches of the trees touched his cheek; but on and on he urged his horse.
At last the forest grew impenetrable. Then he dismounted from his horse and tried to lead it on.
The voices of the forest began to sound weird and strange to him.
What did the birds sing?
“His heart is touched, ha, ha! his heart is touched, ha, ha!”
And the old trees seemed to shake their heads, and their rustling sounded as if they sang, “‘He goes to meet his fate. Don’t laugh at him. Don’t laugh at him.”
It grew darker and darker.
Then suddenly the trees opened, and he stood in the dell. “It is late,” he thought, “but we have full moon, a night in the open air won’t do me any harm.”
He tied his horse to a tree, and threw himself at the foot of the solitary rock.
He tried to keep awake, but his eyelids dropped, and calmly he fell asleep.
Slowly and majestically the full moon rose over the dell, higher and higher she sailed in the sky, and then her beams touched the spot on the solitary rock which had been kissed in the day by the beams of the sun.
And it was as if the moonbeams slowly raised out of the ground, a flower, blue as the sky, with the sheen of the moonbeams, and a light as from the sun.
The flower rose at the head of the sleeping youth.
The moon passed on and kissed his eyelids. He opened his eyes, raised himself, turned round and beheld the wonderful flower.
“Oh, how glorious!” he cried, and he sank on his knees before the flower, looked deep into its heart, and then pressed his lips to it.
And slowly the rocks seemed to pass away, soft green moss covered the ground, flowers sprang up, and out of each flower a tiny fairy peeped and smiled at the youth.
And the pool was a dancing brook, and the nixie of the brook rose out of it, shook her long hair so that the drops of water glittered like diamonds, took off her silvery veil and held it out to the youth.
On the top of the crag there rose a castle. The gates were thrown open, and over the drawbridge passed a procession of knights clad in steel armour, with helmets and waving plumes.
And over all the blue flower shed her beaming light. And the youth looked around him then at the flower, and his heart and his eyes drank in the wonderful beauty of the Blue Flower of Poetry.
Once more he sank on his knees, once more he kissed the flower, then his eyes grew heavy. He sank to the ground and fell asleep.
His horse neighed and he awoke
How long he had slept he knew not. He sprang up and looked round. Where was the flower?
“I saw it,” he cried. “It cannot have been a dream.”
He covered his eyes with his hand, and in his mind rose once more the blue flower.
His thoughts formed themselves into words, and verse after verse poured from his lips.
And the beauty of nature, which only poets can express, filled his heart.
That is the story of the blue flower, the Flower of Poetry. Once in a hundred years a poet is born, a true poet, who has kissed the blue flower, with the sheen of the moonbeams and the light as from the sun, and only such a poet can move the hearts of human beings—can understand their grief and their troubles—and only he can find words of consolation and of hope.
In the Garden of Eden burnt a Holy flame.
It never went out.
When the Sun-god rose in the morning, he gave his first kiss to the flame, and it rose high to heaven.
The Sun-god loved the flame—it was a child of his. “Burn pure and bright,” he said, “that whoever nears you may feel purified and happy.”
And the fire gave out light and warmth.
One day the Gods of Nature held great council. “We have created the earth, they said. It looks beautiful. Animals, birds and insects, they all seem happy. Only human beings go about listlessly. They look up to us with beseeching eyes, what can they want with so much beauty about them?”
“They can speak,” said the God of the Winds, “I hear them when I am sweeping past.”
“They can paint,” said the sky, “I saw them looking up at me, and then their brush copied me.
“I saw them raise temples in stone, and copy the leaves and trees of the forest in stone,” said the sun “What could they want more?”
“I know what they want,” said the God of Love, “I looked into their hearts. To speak or to paint is not enough for them, to build temples of stone does not satisfy them: let ns give the greatest gift of heaven, let us give them music. Let music carry their hearts up to the sky. Let them forget in music their troubles. Let them feel in music that purest delight which not all their words can express.”
“We have to create music,” the Gods cried, “where can we find something pure out of which to give it birth?”
“I know,” cried the Sun-god, “I know where it is to be found. It is my child, the holy flame that burns in Eden.”
* * * * * * * * *
A child was born—a boy. “He has not opened his eyes yet,” said the young mother. “Unfasten the shutter and let the light in.”
They opened the shutters, and a sunbeam fell into the room.
At that moment the boy opened his eyes, which caught the sunbeam, and then he closed them again.
The boy grew up a dreamy lad.
“He is no good,” said the parents, “he will never work; he only loves the sun, as if the sun could feed him.”
But the sun fed his heart.
The sunbeam, which his eyes caught when he opened them for the first time in the world, was the holy flame of Eden. It lived in his brain. It sang and sang to him, but the boy did not understand what it sang.
One day the storm gathered. The heavens seemed on fire. The mighty thunder roared, and the boy stood looking up at the sky.
Then nature grew quiet.
The clouds grew lighter and lighter, and once more a sunbeam shone in his eyes.
Then the boy opened his lips, and first low, then louder and louder the sound came forth, and then he sang with all his heart and soul.
And so the first song was born.
Pure and bright, lovely and consoling is music, the holy flame from Eden.
In the clouds there stands a castle. The roof is of silver, the walls of gold. It has battlements, pinnacles, and embrasures. A beautiful Queen lives in it. In one room of the castle sit her maids at a frame working a large veil. Trees, castles, houses, stars, sun and moon are raised under their hands.
When the veil is finished they throw it over their queen. She is covered from head to foot in its soft folds.
Every day the maids finish a new veil.
The castle is called Cloudlands—the veil covers Queen Imagination.
Sometimes the queen descends on earth, walks over a bridge which glitters like silver, and shines in all colours—red and blue, yellow and green.
Human beings call it the rainbow, but it is only the bridge of Queen Imagination, and disappears when she has stepped to earth.
For a long time she had lived in her Castle Cloudlands without descending to earth. Life there had been dreary and dismal, and very matter of fact—eating, drinking, and dressing the main topics of conversation. Yawning and sighing for something not understood
One day Queen Imagination stepped on her rainbow bridge, and descended to earth.
“It is a long time since I have been here,” she thought, “let me watch and see how humanity has fared.”
She listened here, she listened there. She heard commonplace talk commonly expressed everywhere.
“The people have degenerated since I saw them last,” she thought. “I am sorry; let me try to raise their thoughts if possible.”
She walked slowly on. Two men were talking together. The one said, “What a delightful dinner our friend gave last night, the wine was so good. It must have cost a mint of money.”
The Queen softly touched him with her veil.
The man put his hand to his head, as if something long forgotten occurred to his mind. “Ah,” he said, and looked up into the sky, “how beautifully that swallow moves through the air, how gracefully it skims the air, I wish I could sail along like that little bird.”
The Queen passed on and saw a young couple sitting on a seat. She heard the man saying, “Yes, life is very tedious and very stupid. I wish it were not so. I wish, for instance, I could say something very nice to you, but I don’t know anything.”
The queen opened her veil and put one fold around him.
“I know now,” he cried, lifting his head. “Do you hear the nightingale sing? It sings of love to you! Do you see the blushing rose? She blushes because she loves! Do you hear the whispering wind? It whispers Love; and I, I love you.”
The queen passed on smilingly.
“Humanity is not lost, she thought, it only sleeps now and then.”
In a room of a small cottage stood a boy. He put his hands out and groped his way into the garden. He had been born blind. He turned his lifeless eyes towards the sun.
“They say the sun is beautiful,” he murmured, “So should be the sky. How can I describe how they look.”
The queen saw the boy with his lifeless eyes turned towards the sun.
She walked up to him, unfolded her veil, and covered the boy with it.
“Yes,” he cried, “I can describe the sun, the clouds, the sky, the flowers, the birds. How beautiful is the world.”
And there he stood enveloped in the veil of imagination, blind to the outside world; but seeing and living in the world of beauty.
The queen went back to Castle Cloudlands, her maids wove other and different veils. She comes down to earth with them.
Here and there she touches a grieved soul, but when she finds a human being who has been tried hard in life, and who is longing for something lovely and pure, she unfolds her veil throws it around him, and carries him up to Cloudlands, that he may forget his sorrow and be happy.
The sky looked down upon earth in her deepest blue, she smiled at the water, she saw her lovely image reflected in it as in a mirror; she saw her likeness in the upturned eyes of children, clear and bright; she heard human beings praise her in her perfect beauty. Her father, the Sun-god, drove his fiery horses across the heavens, and heard the praise of the people, and he smiled.
“Poor humanity,” he said, “with so much trouble, so much care, and yet so easily delighted with the beautiful. You are so far away from them, my daughter, I will bring some of your beauty within their reach, I know a range of mountains wild and grand; take a piece of your veil my daughter, colour it in all shades of blue, from the darkest purple to the lightest azure, and cover those mountains with it. I will put the finishing touch to the picture in rose colour and gold.”
And the Sun-god looked down and peeped into every corner of the mountains. He touched the little brook, so that it splashed up and threw itself headlong over the rocks in sheer delight. He made the leaves transparent, as if liquid gold dropped through them, He kissed the flowers, and wonderfully they blushed from the lightest rose pink to deepest red. He painted a little bit of gold here, and a little bit of silver there, and then he said, “Put your veil over the mountains now, my daughter, and cover them well.”
And the sky covered the mountains with her blue veil.
That is why the blue mountains are so very blue. And whoever stands on Mount Piddington when the Sun-god goes to rest, will never forget the wonderful colour and beauty of the sky, when he gives his daughter his last embrace.
Cupid, the God of Love, was lying on a white fleecy cloud.
Spring, the young God, in all his radiant beauty stood beside him. He had knocked at doors and windows and had called “Come out, come out, you sad and troubled people, my brother the Winter is gone, bright shines the sun, and my reign has now begun.”
He looked into the nests of birds. “Fly out,” he cried, “spread your wings wide, light is the air, soar up and sing your sweetest song.”
He softly caressed the earth, and the little flowers peeped out. He smiled at them. “Venture out my lovely children, venture out, sunshine and song fills the air.”
He waved his hand over the trees, and young buds and blossoms broke forth, and happy and blooming looked all the world.
One morning the young God looked down upon the earth.
No bird was singing, no human being smiled, the flowers drooped and hung their heads.
“What is the matter,” cried the God, “why is my lovely world so sad”
“I know what it is,” cried a voice, “Let me reign instead of you for a short time, and happiness will be restored.” And Cupid, the God of Love, lifted his arrow.
“May I,” he cried, pointing his arrow to earth.
“Yes you may,” cried the God of Spring, “make all the world happy.”
And Cupid sent his arrow, and another one followed.
A young maiden sat under a blossoming orange tree. Listless were her eyes as she looked up into the sky. The arrow shot by Cupid touched her heart, a slight blush rose to her cheek, a deep sigh escaped her lips, and an expression of delight overspread her features,
A youth was lying on the grass watching the girl. The second arrow went into his heart. He jumped up, bright shone his eyes, and with elastic steps he went towards the maiden. Here and there he stopped to pick a flower or grass, and then he laid the bouquet at the maiden’s feet.
Cupid sent one arrow after another to earth.
He touched the heart of the bird, and it sang its sweetest song. The flowers lifted their little heads, the trees blossomed and all the world was happy.
“I have only one arrow left,” said Cupid, “what shall I do with it.”
“Let us combine and form something that is lovely, beautiful, and rare,” said the young God of Spring. “I will raise a flower and paint it with the deep red colour of the evening sky. Send your arrow into its heart that it may open its beauty to the admiring world, that it may grow and spread and be the delight of mankind.”
And the God laid his hand softly on the earth. A stem rose, higher and higher, leaves spread out, and a beautiful dark red flower sprang into life.
“Now shoot thine arrow, Cupid,” said the God.
And the arrow went into the heart of the flower, and slowly she opened her dark red leaves.
That is the origin of the Waratah—the red flower.
Spring and Love combined to form her, and forever she will be loved by her native people.
Far in the south, nearly at the end of the world, many many years ago, there was a large Empire, and that Empire belonged to a mighty sorcerer. He had everything his heart could wish for. Gold and silver, precious stones, flowers rare and beautiful; and all the living world obeyed his command. One day he sat on a rock before his castle, contemplating his wide domain, when be heard a soft breeze whispering, “You are very mighty, and have everything you can wish and desire, but the most beautiful thing in creation you have not. You have never seen the three beautiful princesses. Far away from your empire is an island, where the sunbeams are living birds, where golden fruit grow on the trees, and the air is laden with perfume, there the princesses live.”
And quietly the soft breeze passed on.
The sorcerer jumped up, and cried, “Have I lived so long, and did not know that such beauty existed. The princesses must be mine, I will sail to the island and bring them to my castle.”
Slowly he raised his staff made a few passes and transformed himself into a golden bird, with a golden crown on his head, then he beckoned to a rosy cloud, stepped on it and sailed over the wide ocean far away.
One morning he saw lying on the blue sea, the island where the sunbeams are living birds, where golden fruit grow on the trees, and the air is laden with perfume.
Slowly be descended, and beheld a lovely sight.
In an opening of the woods were assembled numerous girls, winding garlands, hanging them from tree to tree, chasing each other and throwing roses at each other.
It was the festival of roses.
In the middle stood the three beautiful princesses.
Two of them holding a rosewreath to crown their sister.
In that moment the sorcerer descended on a tree.
He began a magic song
The princesses looked up, and catching his eye, slowly their white robes folded round their limbs in white wings, their rosewreath into a rosy feathery crown.
The cloud took them up, and the sorcerer sailed away with them far over the sea to his own domain.
When they arrived he waved his staff over them, and their white wings unfolded again, and once more the feathery crown became a rosewreath.
He brought them to his castle, and laid all his treasures at their feet—gold and silver, precious stones, and wonderful flowers.
But the poor princesses, carried away from all they loved, were deeply unhappy, and nothing would console them.
One day the sorcerer bethought himself that deep in his mountain was lying a stone, which when touched, enabled one to understand the language of animals, birds and insects, the whispering of the wind, and the language of the water, which made one wiser than anybody else. It was called the philosopher’s stone, or the stone of wisdom.
The sorcerer thought, “Surely if I bring them this stone of wisdom they must feel happy.”
As soon as he was gone the princesses said, “Let us fly away as far as we can, we might find some one to take us back over the sea to our own dear island.”
And they walked away as fast as they could.
When the sorcerer came back with his precious stone, he found the castle empty, the princesses gone. He grew wild with anger, and rushed after them.
He found them standing at the edge of a precipice.
In his rage he cursed them and spoke a dreadful vow; “Grow into stone” he cried, “you shall not be human beings any longer, and stone you shall remain until hundreds of years hence one of your own people, from your own island, comes and finds this stone of wisdom and lays it at your feet.”
He threw the stone to the ground and it disappeared, and the three princesses turned into stone.
You see them standing at the edge of the precipice
But their tears had formed into a little brook, which dashes over the precipice, and when you are very wise you will understand what the little brook tells of the sad fate of the three beautiful princesses.
Deep deep down in the sea there stands a Palace of Crystal—transparent throughout—ornamented with garlands of coral, pearls, and seaweed. At night, illuminated by thousands of those numerous insects, which, in warm summer nights are to be seen moving up and down on the waves.
There lives the king of the seas, Neptune.
His is a mighty empire and he governs it with care and justice.
He has many sons and daughters who roam about far and wide, and report to their father the knowledge they gain.
But there was one little daughter, the youngest, the pet, the favourite.
She was marvellously beautiful, with golden hair, which covers her like a mantle, with eyes like sunlight, with a mouth like living coral, and a voice which moved the hardest heart. With all that she was a vain little thing, this lovely mermaid. She did nothing all day long but decorate herself, crown her head with corals, plait pearls in her hair, and on moonlight nights she sailed along, lying in a large shell, and sang.
The poor sailor who heard her song and saw the beautious vision, forgot everything else, and an intense longing seized him, he pined and died.
But when the storm raised the waters to mountainous waves she could be seen dancing on the top of the waves, from one to another, rising and disappearing in the foam, and her singing would be heard far above storm and sea.
The sailor forgot his duty. He had no ears, no eyes but for her. He let the rudder go, and ship and men were lost. This went on for a long time, but at last all the numerous shipwrecks came to the ear of her father Neptune. It made him very angry, because he was a kind man, fond of human beings, and proud that they should sail and steam over his wide domain, and proud to lead them safely from shore to shore. He ordered his daughter before him.
She came singing along, not dreaming what fate awaited her.
But Neptune was very cross.
He took the pearls out of her hair, the coral crown from her head and said, “You have been gifted with rare beauty, with high talents, and you could use them only to destroy instead of bringing happiness. Go from my sight, and only when you have repented venture to come back. Far inland there is a cave where a tiny spring sees the light of day. That little spring rushes over stones and rocks till it loses itself in the, wide ocean. Travel up that little stream till you reach the cave, and live there until you are forgiven,”
Sadly the little sprite turned away, sadly she travelled up that stream until she reached the cave.
It was a dismal spot—rocks, and nothing but bare rocks wherever she turned.
What a, difference after the blue ocean and the dancing waves.
But the little sprite was such a lovely creature that wherever she turned her sunny eyes young ferns and mosses began to grow and ivy to cover the walls.
And where bare wilderness had been, one vision of beauty created a paradise.
There the little sprite lived and sang her wonderful songs, breathless listened the trees, breathless the little birds peeped out of their nests, and the wind carried away the melody, travelled with it over the wide sea until it reached a great composer, whispered the magic song into his ears, and the world was delighted with a grand and new composition.
So lived the little sprite many a year, harmless, and spreading beauty far and wide.
At last Father Neptune took pity upon his child and called her back to his palace. The cave has never been the same since she left, but whoever enters it feels an inexpressible delight, because the charm of beauty rests on it for ever
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