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´╗┐Title: Moonshine & Clover
Author: Housman, Laurence, 1865-1959
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Moonshine & Clover" ***

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MOONSHINE & CLOVER


          This selection of fairy-tales is reprinted from
          the following original editions, now out of print:

          _A Farm in Fairyland_  (1894)
          _The House of Joy_     (1895)
          _The Field of Clover_  (1898)
          _The Blue Moon_        (1904)

[Illustration:

          SHINE, MOON! GROW CLOVER!
          WHEN MY DAY IS OVER.  L.H.]



[Illustration: MOONSHINE & CLOVER

BY LAURENCE HOUSMAN

ENGRAVED BY CLEMENCE HOUSMAN

          NEW YORK
          HARCOURT, BRACE & COMPANY]



  _Made and
  Printed in Great Britain by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld.,
  London and Aylesbury._



CONTENTS


                                             PAGE

    THE PRINCE WITH THE NINE SORROWS           13
    HOW LITTLE DUKE JARL SAVED THE CASTLE      27
    A CAPFUL OF MOONSHINE                      37
    THE STORY OF THE HERONS                    47
    THE CROWN'S WARRANTY                       70
    ROCKING-HORSE LAND                         83
    JAPONEL                                    95
    GAMMELYN, THE DRESSMAKER                  103
    THE FEEDING OF THE EMIGRANTS              113
    WHITE BIRCH                               119
    THE LUCK OF THE ROSES                     129
    THE WHITE DOE                             138
    THE MOON-STROKE                           153
    THE GENTLE COCKATRICE                     164
    THE GREEN BIRD                            177
    THE MAN WHO KILLED THE CUCKOO             187
    A CHINESE FAIRY-TALE                      198
    HAPPY RETURNS                             211



THE PRINCE WITH THE NINE SORROWS

    "Eight white peahens went down to the gate:
     'Wait!' they said, 'little sister, wait!'
     They covered her up with feathers so fine;
     And none went out, when there went back nine."


A LONG time ago there lived a King and a Queen, who had an only son. As
soon as he was born his mother gave him to the forester's wife to be
nursed; for she herself had to wear her crown all day and had no time
for nursing. The forester's wife had just given birth to a little
daughter of her own; but she loved both children equally and nursed them
together like twins.

One night the Queen had a dream that made the half of her hair turn
grey. She dreamed that she saw the Prince her son at the age of twenty
lying dead with a wound over the place of his heart; and near him his
foster-sister was standing, with a royal crown on her head, and his
heart bleeding between her hands.

The next morning the Queen sent in great haste for the family Fairy, and
told her of the dream. The Fairy said, "This can have but one meaning,
and it is an evil one. There is some danger that threatens your son's
life in his twentieth year, and his foster-sister is to be the cause of
it; also, it seems she is to make herself Queen. But leave her to me,
and I will avert the evil chance; for the dream coming beforehand shows
that the Fates mean that he should be saved."

The Queen said, "Do anything; only do not destroy the forester's wife's
child, for, as yet at least, she has done no wrong. Let her only be
carried away to a safe place and made secure and treated well. I will
not have my son's happiness grow out of another one's grave."

The Fairy said, "Nothing is so safe as a grave when the Fates are about.
Still, I think I can make everything quite safe within reason, and leave
you a clean as well as a quiet conscience."

The little Prince and the forester's daughter grew up together till they
were a year old; then, one day, when their nurse came to look for them,
the Prince was found, but his foster-sister was lost; and though the
search for her was long, she was never seen again, nor could any trace
of her be found.

The baby Prince pined and pined, and was so sorrowful over her loss that
they feared for a time that he was going to die. But his foster-mother,
in spite of her grief over her own child's disappearance, nursed him so
well and loved him so much that after a while he recovered his strength.

Then the forester's wife gave birth to another daughter, as if to
console herself for the loss of the first. But the same night that the
child was born the Queen had just the same dream over again. She dreamed
that she saw her son lying dead at the age of twenty; and there was the
wound in his breast, and the forester's daughter was standing by with
his heart in her hand and a royal crown upon her head.

The poor Queen's hair had gone quite white when she sent again for the
family Fairy, and told her how the dream had repeated itself. The Fairy
gave her the same advice as before, quieting her fears, and assuring her
that however persistent the Fates might be in threatening the Prince's
life, all in the end should be well.

Before another year was passed the second of the forester's daughters
had disappeared; and the Prince and his foster-mother cried themselves
ill over a loss that had been so cruelly renewed. The Queen, seeing how
great were the sorrow and the love that the Prince bore for his
foster-sisters, began to doubt in her heart and say, "What have I done?
Have I saved my son's life by taking away his heart?"

Now every year the same thing took place, the forester's wife giving
birth to a daughter, and the Queen on the same night having the same
fearful dream of the fate that threatened her son in his twentieth year;
and afterwards the family Fairy would come, and then one day the
forester's wife's child would disappear, and be heard of no more.

At last when nine daughters in all had been born to the forester's wife
and lost to her when they were but a year old, the Queen fell very ill.
Every day she grew weaker and weaker, and the little Prince came and sat
by her, holding her hand and looking at her with a sorrowful face. At
last one night (it was just a year after the last of the forester's
children had disappeared) she woke suddenly, stretching out her arms
and crying. "Oh, Fairy," she cried, "the dream, the dream!" And covering
her face with her hands, she died.

The little Prince was now more than ten years old, and the very saddest
of mortals. He said that there were nine sorrows hidden in his heart, of
which he could not get rid; and that at night, when all the birds went
home to roost, he heard cries of lamentation and pain; but whether these
came from very far away, or out of his own heart he could not tell.

Yet he grew slenderly and well, and had such grace and tenderness in his
nature that all who saw him loved him. His foster-mother, when he spoke
to her of his nine sorrows, tried to comfort him, calling him her own
nine joys; and, indeed, he was all the joy left in life for her.

When the Prince neared his twentieth year, the King his father felt that
he himself was becoming old and weary of life. "I shall not live much
longer," he thought: "very soon my son will be left alone in the world.
It is right, therefore, now that he should know of the danger ahead that
threatens his life." For till then the Prince had not known anything;
all had been kept a secret between the Queen and the King and the family
Fairy.

The old King knew of the Prince's nine sorrows, and often he tried to
believe that they came by chance, and had nothing to do with the secret
that sat at the root of his son's life. But now he feared more and more
to tell the Prince the story of those nine dreams, lest the knowledge
should indeed serve but as the crowning point of his sorrows, and
altogether break his heart for him.

Yet there was so much danger in leaving the thing untold that at last he
summoned the Prince to his bedside, meaning to tell him all. The King
had worn himself so ill with anxiety and grief in thinking over the
matter, that now to tell all was the only means of saving his life.

The Prince came and knelt down, and leaned his head on his father's
pillow; and the King whispered into his ear the story of the dreams, and
of how for his sake all the Prince's foster-sisters had been spirited
away.

Before his tale was done he could no longer bear to look into his son's
face, but closed his eyes, and, with long silences between, spoke as one
who prayed.

When he had ended he lay quite still, and the Prince kissed his closed
eyelids and went softly out of the room.

"Now I know," he said to himself; "now at last!" And he came through the
wood and knocked at his foster-mother's door. "Other mother," he said to
her, "give me a kiss for each of my sisters, for now I am going out into
the world to find them, to be rid of the sorrows in my heart."

"They can never be found!" she cried, but she kissed him nine times.
"And this," she said, "was Monica, and this was Ponica, and this was
Veronica," and so she went over every name. "But now they are only
names!" she wept, as she let him go.

He went along, and he went along, mile after mile. "Where may you be
going to, fair sir?" asked an old peasant, at whose cabin the Prince
sought shelter when night came to the first day of his wanderings.
"Truly," answered the Prince, "I do not know how far or whither I need
to go; but I have a finger-post in my heart that keeps pointing me."

So that night he stayed there, and the next day he went on.

"Where to so fast?" asked a woodcutter when the second night found him
in the thickest and loneliest parts of the forest. "Here the night is so
dark and the way so dangerous, one like you should not go alone."

"Nay, I know nothing," said the Prince, "only I feel like a weather-cock
in a wind that keeps turning me to its will!"

After many days he came to a small long valley rich in woods and
water-courses, but no road ran through it. More and more it seemed like
the world's end, a place unknown, or forgotten of its old inhabitants.
Just at the end of the valley, where the woods opened into clear slopes
and hollows towards the west, he saw before him, low and overgrown, the
walls of a little tumble-down grange. "There," he said to himself when
he saw it, "I can find shelter for to-night. Never have I felt so tired
before, or such a pain at my heart!"

Before long he came to a little gate, and a winding path that led in
among lawns and trees to the door of an old house. The house seemed as
if it had been once lived in, but there was no sign of any life about
it now. He pushed open the door, and suddenly there was a sharp rustling
of feathers, and nine white peahens rose up from the ground and flew out
of the window into the garden.

The Prince searched the whole house over, and found it a mere ruin; the
only signs of life to be seen were the white feathers that lifted and
blew about over the floors.

Outside, the garden was gathering itself together in the dusk, and the
peahens were stepping daintily about the lawns, picking here and there
between the blades of grass. They seemed to suit the gentle sadness of
the place, which had an air of grief that has grown at ease with itself.

The Prince went out into the garden, and walked about among the quietly
stepping birds; but they took no heed of him. They came picking up their
food between his very feet, as though he were not there. Silence held
all the air, and in the cleft of the valley the day drooped to its end.

Just before it grew dark, the nine white peahens gathered together at
the foot of a great elm, and lifting up their throats they wailed in
chorus. Their lamentable cry touched the Prince's heart; "Where," he
asked himself, "have I heard such sorrow before?" Then all with one
accord the birds sprang rustling up to the lowest boughs of the elm, and
settled themselves to roost.

The Prince went back to the house, to find some corner amid its
half-ruined rooms to sleep in. But there the air was close, and an
unpleasant smell of moisture came from the floor and walls: so, the
night being warm, he returned to the garden, and folding himself in his
cloak lay down under the tree where the nine peahens were at roost.

For a long time he tried to sleep, but could not, there was so much pain
and sorrow in his heart.

Presently when it was close upon midnight, over his head one of the
birds stirred and ruffled through all its feathers; and he heard a soft
voice say:

"Sisters, are you awake?"

All the other peahens lifted their heads, and turned towards the one
that had spoken, saying, "Yes, sister, we are awake."

Then the first one said again, "Our brother is here."

They all said, "He is our enemy; it is for him that we endure this
sorrow."

"To-night," said the first, "we may all be free."

They answered, "Yes, we may all be free! Who will go down and peck out
his heart? Then we shall be free."

And the first who had spoken said, "I will go down!"

"Do not fail, sister!" said all the others. "For if you fail you can
speak to us no more."

The first peahen answered, "Do not fear that I shall fail!" And she
began stepping down the long boughs of the elm.

The Prince lying below heard all that was said. "Ah! poor sisters," he
thought, "have I found you at last; and are all these sorrows brought
upon you for me?" And he unloosed his doublet, and opened his vest,
making his breast bare for the peahen to come and peck out his heart.

He lay quite still with his eyes shut, and when she reached the ground
the peahen found him lying there, as it seemed to her fast asleep, with
his white breast bare for the stroke of her beak.

Then so fair he looked to her, and so gentle in his youth, that she had
pity on him, and stood weeping by his side, and laying her head against
his, whispered, "O, brother, once we lay as babes together and were
nursed at the same breast! How can I peck out your heart?"

Then she stole softly back into the tree, and crouched down again by her
companions. They said to her, "Our minute of midnight is nearly gone. Is
there blood on your beak! Have you our brother's heart for us?" But the
other answered never a word.

In the morning the peahens came rustling down out of the elm, and went
searching for fat carnation buds and anemone seeds among the flower-beds
in the garden. To the Prince they showed no sign either of hatred or
fear, but went to and fro carelessly, pecking at the ground about his
feet. Only one came with drooping head and wings, and sleeked itself to
his caress, and the Prince, stooping down, whispered in her ear, "O,
sister, why did you not peck out my heart?"

At night, as before, the peahens all cried in chorus as they went up
into the elm; and the Prince came and wrapped himself in his cloak, and
lay down at the foot of it to watch.

At midnight the eight peahens lifted their heads, and said, "Sister, why
did you fail last night?" But their sister gave them not a word.

"Alas!" they said, "now she has failed, unless one of us succeed, we
shall never hear her speak with her human voice again. Why is it that
you weep so," they said again, "now when deliverance is so near?" For
the poor peahen was shaken with weeping, and her tears fell down in loud
drops upon the ground.

Then the next sister said, "I will go down! He is asleep. Be certain, I
will not fail!" So she climbed softly down the tree, and the Prince
opened his shirt and laid his breast bare for her to come and take out
his heart.

Presently she stood by his side, and when she saw him, she too had pity
on him for the youth and kindness of his face. And once she shut her
eyes, and lifted her head for the stroke; but then weakness seized her,
and she laid her head softly upon his heart and said, "Once the breast
that gave me milk gave milk also to you. You were my sister's brother,
and she spared you. How can I peck out your heart?" And having said this
she went softly back into the tree, and crouched down again among her
sisters.

They said to her, "Have you blood upon your beak? Is his heart ours?"
But she answered them no word.

The next day the two sisters, who because their hearts betrayed them had
become mute, followed the Prince wherever he went, and stretched up
their heads to his caress. But the others went and came indifferently,
careless except for food; for until midnight their human hearts were
asleep; only now the two sisters who had given their voices away had
regained their human hearts perpetually.

That night the same thing happened as before. "Sisters," said the
youngest, "to-night I will go down, since the two eldest of us have
failed. My wrong is fresher in my heart than theirs! Be sure I shall not
fail!" So the youngest peahen came down from the tree, and the Prince
laid his heart bare for her beak; but the bird could not find the will
to peck it out. And so it was the next night, and the next, until eight
nights were gone.

So at last only one peahen was left. At midnight she raised her head,
saying, "Sisters, are you awake?"

They all turned, and gazed at her weeping, but could say no word.

Then she said, "You have all failed, having all tried but me. Now if I
fail we shall remain mute and captive for ever, more undone by the loss
of our last remaining gift of speech than we were at first. But I tell
you, dear sisters, I will not fail; for the happiness of you all lies
with me now!"

Then she went softly down the tree; and one by one they all went
following her, and weeping, to see what the end would be.

They stood some way apart, watching with upturned heads, and their poor
throats began catching back a wish to cry as the little peahen, the last
of the sisters, came and stood by the Prince.

Then she, too, looked in his face, and saw the white breast made bare
for her beak; and the love of him went deep down into her heart. And she
tried and tried to shut her eyes and deal the stroke, but could not.

She trembled and sighed, and turned to look at her sisters, where they
all stood weeping silently together. "They have spared him," she said
to herself: "why should not I?"

But the Prince, seeing that she, too, was about to fail like the rest of
them, turned and said, as if in his sleep, "Come, come, little peahen,
and peck out my heart!"

At that she turned back again to him, and laid her head down upon his
heart and cried more sadly than them all.

Then he said, "You have eight sisters, and a mother who cries for her
children to return!" Yet still she thought he was dreaming, and speaking
only in his sleep. The other peahens came no nearer, but stood weeping
silently. She looked from him to them. "O," she cried, "I have a wicked
heart, to let one stand in the way of nine!" Then she threw up her neck
and cried lamentably with her peafowl's voice, wishing that the Prince
would wake up and see her, and so escape. And at that all the other
peahens lifted up their heads and wailed with her: but the Prince never
turned, nor lifted a finger, nor uttered a sound.

Then she drew in a deep breath, and closed her eyes fast. "Let my
sisters go, but let me be as I am!" she cried; and with that she stooped
down, and pecked out his heart.

All her sisters shrieked as their human shapes returned to them. "O,
sister! O, wicked little sister!" they cried, "What have you done?"

The little white peahen crouched close down to the side of the dead
Prince. "I loved him more than you all!" she tried to say: but she only
lifted her head, and wailed again and again the peafowl's cry.

The Prince's heart lay beating at her feet, so glad to be rid of its
nine sorrows that mere joy made it live on, though all the rest of the
body lay cold.

The peahen leaned down upon the Prince's breast, and there wailed
without ceasing: then suddenly, piercing with her beak her own breast,
she drew out her own living heart and laid it in the place where his had
been.

And, as she did so, the wound where she had pierced him closed and
became healed; and her heart was, as it were, buried in the Prince's
breast. In her death agony she could feel it there, her own heart
leaping within his breast for joy.

The Prince, who had seemed to be dead, flushed from head to foot as the
warmth of life came back to him; with one deep breath he woke, and found
the little white peahen lying as if dead between his arms.

Then he laughed softly and rose (his goodness making him wise), and
taking up his own still beating heart he laid it into the place of hers.
At the first beat of it within her breast, the peahen became transformed
as all her sisters had been, and her own human form came back to her.
And the pain and the wound in her breast grew healed together, so that
she stood up alive and well in the Prince's arms.

"Dear heart!" said he: and "Dear, dear heart!" said she; but whether
they were speaking of their own hearts or of each other's, who can tell?
for which was which they themselves did not know.

Then all round was so much embracing and happiness that it is out of
reach for tongue or pen to describe. For truly the Prince and his
foster-sisters loved each other well, and could put no bounds upon
their present contentment. As for the Prince and the one who had plucked
out his heart, of no two was the saying ever more truly told that they
had lost their hearts to each other; nor was ever love in the world
known before that carried with it such harmony as theirs.

And so it all came about according to the Queen's dream, that the
forester's daughter wore the royal crown upon her head, and held the
Prince's heart in her hand.

Long before he died the old King was made happy because the dream he had
so much feared had become true. And the forester's wife was happy before
she died. And as for the Prince and his wife and his foster-sisters,
they were all rather happy; and none of them is dead yet.



HOW LITTLE DUKE JARL SAVED THE CASTLE


DUKE JARL had found a good roost for himself when his long work of
expelling the invader was ended. Seawards and below the town, in the
mouth of the river, stood a rock, thrusting out like a great tusk ready
to rip up any armed vessel that sought passage that way. On the top of
this he had built himself a castle, and its roots went deep, deep down
into the solid stone. No man knew how deep the deepest of the
foundations went; but wherever they were, just there was old Duke Jarl's
sleeping-chamber. Thither he had gone to sleep when the world no longer
needed him; and he had not yet returned.

That was three hundred years ago, and still the solid rock vaulted the
old warrior's slumber; and over his head men talked of him, and told how
he was reserving the strength of his old age till his country should
again call for him.

The call seemed to come now; for his descendant, little Duke Jarl the
Ninth, was but a child; and being in no fear of him, the invader had
returned, and the castle stood besieged. Also, farther than the eye
could see from the topmost tower, the land lay all overrun, its richness
laid waste by armed bands who gathered in its harvest by the sword, and
the town itself lay under tribute; from the tower one could see the busy
quays, and the enemy loading his ships with rich merchandise.

Sent up there to play in safety, little Duke Jarl could not keep his red
head from peering over the parapet. He began making fierce faces at the
enemy--he was still too young to fight: and quick a grey goose-shaft
came and sang its shrill song at his ear. So close had it gone that a
little of the ducal blood trickled out over his collar. His face worked
with rage; leaning far out over the barrier, he began shouting, "I will
tell Duke Jarl of you!" till an attendant ran up and snatched him away
from danger.

Things were going badly: the castle was cut off from the land, and on
the seaward side the foe had built themselves a great mole within which
their warships could ride at anchor safe from the reach of storm. Thus
there was no way left by which help or provender could come in.

Little Duke Jarl saw men round him growing more gaunt and thin day by
day, but he did not understand why, till he chanced once upon a soldier
gnawing a foul bone for the stray bits of meat that clung to it; then he
learned that all in the castle except himself had been put upon
quarter-rations, though every day there was more and more fighting work
to be done.

So that day when the usual white bread and savouries were brought to
him, he flung them all downstairs, telling the cook that the day he
really became Duke he would have his head off if he ever dared to send
him anything again but the common fare.

[Illustration]

Hearing of it, the old Chief Constable picked up little Master Ninth
Duke between finger and thumb, and laughed, holding him in the air.
"With you alive," said he, "we shall not have to wake Duke Jarl after
all!" The little Duke asked when he would let him have a sword; and the
Constable clapped his cheeks and ran back cheerfully at a call from the
palisades.

But others carried heavy looks, thinking, "Long before his fair promise
can come to anything our larders will be empty and our walls gone!"

It was no great time after this that the Duke's Constable was the only
man who saw reason in holding out. That became known all through the
castle, and the cook, honest fellow, brought up little Jarl's dinner one
day with tears in his eyes. He set down his load of dainties. "It is no
use!" said he, "you may as well eat to-day, since to-morrow we give up
the castle."

"Who dares to say 'we'?" cried little Duke Jarl, springing to his feet.

"All but the Constable," said the cook; "even now they are in the
council-hall, trying to make him see reason. Whether or no, they will
not let him hold on."

Little Jarl found the doors of the great hall barred to the thunderings
of his small fist: for, in truth, these men could not bear to look upon
one who had in his veins the blood of old Duke Jarl, when they were
about to give up his stronghold to the enemy.

So little Jarl made his way up to the bowery, where was a minstrel's
window looking down into the hall. Sticking out his head so that he
might see down to where the council was sitting, "If you give up the
castle, I will tell Duke Jarl!" he cried. Hearing his young master's
voice, the Constable raised his eyes; but not able to see him for tears
in them, called out: "Tell him quick, for here it is all against one!
Only for one day more have they promised to follow my bidding, and keep
the carrion crows from coming to Jarl's nest."

And even as he spoke came the renewed cry of attack, and the answering
shout of "Jarl, Jarl!" from the defenders upon the walls. Then all leapt
up, overturning the council-board, and ran out to the battlements to
carry on with what courage was left to them a hopeless contest for one
more day.

Little Duke Jarl remained like a beating heart in the great empty keep.
He ran wildly from room to room, calling in rage and desperation on old
Jarl to return and fight. From roof to basement he ran, commanding the
spirit of his ancestor to appear, till at last he found himself in the
deepest cellars of all. Down there he could hear but faintly the sound
of the fighting; yet it seemed to him that through the stone he could
hear the slow booming of the sea, and as he went deeper into the
castle's foundations the louder had grown its note. "Does the sea come
in all the way under the castle?" he wondered. "Oh that it would sap the
foundations and sink castle and all, rather than let them give up old
Jarl's stronghold to his enemies!"

All was quite dark here, where the castle stood embedded; but now and
then little Duke Jarl could feel a puff of wind on his face, and
presently he was noticing how it came, as if timed to the booming of the
sea underneath: whenever came the sound of a breaking wave, with it came
a draught of air. He wondered if, so low down, there might not be some
secret opening to the shore.

Groping in the direction of the gusts, his feet came upon stairs. So low
and narrow was the entrance, he had to turn sideways and stoop; but when
he had burrowed through a thickness of wall he was able to stand
upright; and again he found stairs leading somewhere.

Down, these led down. He had never been so low before. And what a storm
there must be outside! Against these walls the thunders of the sea grew
so loud he could no longer hear the tramp of his own feet descending.

And now the wind came at him in great gusts; first came the great boom
of the sea, and then a blast of air. The way twisted and circled, making
his head giddy for a fall; his feet slipped on the steepness and slime
of the descent, and at each turn the sound grew more appalling, and the
driving force of the wind more and more like the stroke of a man's fist.

Presently the shock of it threw him from his standing, so that he had to
lie down and slide feet foremost, clinging with his eyelids and nails to
break the violence of his descent. And now the air was so full of
thunder that his teeth shook in their sockets, and his bones jarred in
his flesh. The darkness growled and roared; the wind kept lifting him
backwards--the force of it seemed almost to flay the skin off his face;
and still he went on, throwing his full weight against the air ahead.

Then for a moment he felt himself letting go altogether: solid walls
slipping harshly past him in the darkness, he fell; and came headlong,
crashed and bruised, to a standstill.

At first his brain was all in a mist; then, raising himself, he saw a
dim blue light falling through a low vaulted chamber. At the end of it
sat old Jarl, like adamant in slumber. His head was down on his breast,
buried in a great burning bush of hair and beard; his hands, gripping
the arms of his iron throne, had twisted them like wire; and the weight
of his feet where they rested had hollowed a socket in the stone floor
for them to sink into.

All his hair and his armour shone with a red-and-blue flame; and the
light of him struck the vaulting and the floor like the rays of a torch
as it burns. Over his head a dark tunnel, bored in the solid rock,
reached up a hollow throat seawards. But not by that way came the wind
and the sound of the sea; it was old Jarl himself, breathing peacefully
in his sleep, waiting for the hour which should call his strength to
life.

Young Duke Jarl ran swiftly across the chamber, and struck old Jarl's
knees, crying, "Wake, Jarl! or the castle will be taken!" But the
sleeper did not stir. Then he climbed the iron bars of the Duke's chair,
and reaching high, caught hold of the red beard. "Forefather!" he cried,
"wake, or the castle will be betrayed!"

But still old Duke Jarl snored a drowsy hurricane.

Then little Jarl sprang upon his knee, and seizing him by the head,
pulled to move its dead weight, and finding he could not, struck him
full on the mouth, crying, "Jarl, Jarl, old thunderbolt! wake, or you
will betray the castle!"

At that old Jarl hitched himself in his seat, and "Humph!" cried he,
drawing in a deep breath.

In rushed the wind whistling from the sea, and all down the way by which
little Duke Jarl had come; like the wings of cranes flying homewards in
spring, so it whistled when old Jarl drew in his breath.

Off his knee dropped little Ninth Jarl, buffeted speechless to earth.
And old Jarl, letting go a breath, settled himself back to slumber.

Far up overhead, at the darkening-in of night, the besiegers saw the
eyes of the castle flash red for an instant, and shut again; then they
heard the castle-rock bray out like a great trumpet, and they trembled,
crying, "That is old Jarl's warhorn; he is awake out of slumber!"

They had reason enough to fear; for suddenly upon their ships-of-war
there crashed, as though out of the bowels of the earth, wind and a
black sandblast; and coming, it took the reefed sails and rigging, and
snapped the masts and broke every vessel from its moorings, and drove
all to wreck and ruin against the great mole that had been built to
shelter them.

And away inland, beyond the palisades and under the entrenched camp of
the besiegers, the ground pitched and rocked, so that every tent fell
grovelling; and whenever the ground gaped, captains and men-at-arms were
swallowed down in detachments.

Hardly had the call of old Jarl's warhorn ceased, before the Constable
commanded the castle gates to be thrown open, and out he came leading a
gaunt and hungry band of Jarl-folk warriors; for over in the enemy's
camp they had scent of a hot supper which must be cooked and eaten
before dawn. And in a little while, when the cooking was at its height,
young Duke Jarl stuck his red head out over the battlements, and
laughed.

So this has told how old Duke Jarl once turned and talked in his sleep;
but to tell of the real awakening of old Jarl would be quite another
story.



A CAPFUL OF MOONSHINE


ON the top of Drundle Head, away to the right, where the foot-track
crossed, it was known that the fairies still came and danced by night.
But though Toonie went that way every evening on his road home from
work, never once had he been able to spy them.

So one day he said to the old faggot-maker, "How is it that one gets to
see a fairy?" The old man answered, "There are some to whom it comes by
nature; but for others three things are needed--a handful of courage, a
mouthful of silence, and a capful of moonshine. But if you would be
trying it, take care that you don't go wrong once too often; for with
the third time you will fall into the hands of the fairies and be their
bondsman. But if you manage to see the fairies, you may ask whatever you
like of them."

Toonie believed in himself so much that the very next night he took his
courage in both hands, filled his cap with moonshine, shut his mouth,
and set out.

Just after he had started he passed, as he thought, a priest riding by
on a mule. "Good evening to you, Toonie," called the priest.

"Good evening, your reverence," cried Toonie, and flourished off his
cap, so that out fell his capful of moonshine. And though he went on all
the way up over the top of Drundle Head, never a fairy did he spy; for
he forgot that, in passing what he supposed to be the priest, he had let
go both his mouthful of silence and his capful of moonshine.

The next night, when he was coming to the ascent of the hill, he saw a
little elderly man wandering uncertainly over the ground ahead of him;
and he too seemed to have his hands full of courage and his cap full of
moonshine. As Toonie drew near, the other turned about and said to him,
"Can you tell me, neighbour, if this be the way to the fairies?"

"Why, you fool," cried Toonie, "a moment ago it was! But now you have
gone and let go your mouthful of silence!"

"To be sure, to be sure--so I have!" answered the old man sadly; and
turning about, he disappeared among the bushes.

As for Toonie, he went on right over the top of Drundle Head, keeping
his eyes well to the right; but never a fairy did he see. For he too had
on the way let go his mouthful of silence.

Toonie, when his second failure came home to him, was quite vexed with
himself for his folly and mismanagement. So that it should not happen
again, he got his wife to tie on his cap of moonshine so firmly that it
could not come off, and to gag up his mouth so that no word could come
out of it. And once more taking his courage in both hands, he set out.

For a long way he went and nothing happened, so he was in good hopes of
getting the desire of his eyes before the night was over; and, clenching
his fists tight upon his courage, he pressed on.

He had nearly reached to the top of Drundle Head, when up from the
ground sprang the same little elderly man of the evening before, and
began beating him across the face with a hazel wand. And at that Toonie
threw up both hands and let go his courage, and turned and tried to run
down the hill.

When her husband did not return, Toonie's wife became a kind of a widow.
People were very kind to her, and told her that Toonie was not
dead--that he had only fallen into the hands of the good-folk; but all
day long she sat and cried, "I fastened on his cap of moonshine, and I
tied up his tongue; and for all that he has gone away and left me!" And
so she cried until her child was born and named little Toonie in memory
of his lost father.

After a while people, looking at him, began to shake their heads; for as
he grew older it became apparent that his tongue was tied, seeing that
he remained quite dumb in spite of all that was done to teach him; and
his head was full of moonshine, so that he could understand nothing
clearly by day--only as night came on his wits gathered, and he seemed
to find a meaning for things. And some said it was his mother's fault,
and some that it was his father's, and some that he was a changeling
sent by the fairies, and that the real child had been taken to share his
father's bondage. But which of these things was true Little Toonie
himself had no idea.

After a time Little Toonie began to grow big, as is the way with
children, and at last he became bigger than ever old Toonie had been.
But folk still called him Little Toonie, because his head was so full of
moonshine; and his mother, finding he was no good to her, sold him to
the farmer, by whom, since he had no wits for anything better, he was
set to pull at waggon and plough just as if he were a cart-horse; and,
indeed, he was almost as strong as one. To make him work, carter and
ploughman used to crack their whips over his back; and Little Toonie
took it as the most natural thing in the world, because his brain was
full of moonshine, so that he understood nothing clearly by day.

But at night he would lie in his stable among the horses, and wonder
about the moonlight that stretched wide over all the world and lay free
on the bare tops of the hills; and he thought--would it not be good to
be there all alone, with the moonbeams laying their white hands down on
his head? And so it came that one night, finding the door of his stable
unlocked, he ran out into the open world a free man.

A soft wind breathed at large, and swung slowly in the black-silver
treetops. Over them Little Toonie could see the quiet slopes of Drundle
Head, asleep in the moonlight.

Before long, following the lead of his eyes, he had come to the bottom
of the ascent. There before him went walking a little shrivelled elderly
man, looking to right and left as if uncertain of the road.

As Little Toonie drew near, the other one turned and spoke. "Can you
tell me," said he, "if this be the way to the fairies?"

Little Toonie had no tongue to give an answer; so, looking at his
questioner, he wagged his head and went on.

Quickening his pace, the old man came alongside and began peering; then
he smiled to himself, and after a bit spoke out. "So you have lost your
cap, neighbour? Then you will never be able to find the fairies." For he
did not know that Little Toonie, who wore no cap on his head, carried
his capful of moonshine safe underneath his skull, where it had been
since the hour of his birth.

The little elderly man slipped from his side, disappearing suddenly
among the bushes, and Toonie went on alone. So presently he was more
than half way up the ascent, and could see along the foot-track of the
thicket the silver moonlight lying out over the open ahead.

He had nearly reached to the top of the hill, when up from the ground
sprang the little elderly man, and began beating him across the face
with a hazel wand. Toonie thought surely this must be some carter or
ploughman beating him to make him go faster; so he made haste to get on
and be rid of the blows.

Then, all of a sudden, the little elderly man threw away his hazel
stick, and fell down, clutching at Little Toonie's ankles, whining and
praying him not to go on.

"Now that I have failed to keep you from coming," he cried, "my masters
will put me to death for it! I am a dead man, I tell you, if you go
another step!"

Toonie could not understand what the old fellow meant, and he could not
speak to him. But the poor creature clung to his feet, holding them to
prevent him from taking another step; so Toonie just stooped down, and
(for he was so little and light) picked him up by the scruff, and by the
slack of his breeches, so that his arms and legs trailed together along
the ground.

In the open moonlight ahead little people were all agog; bright dewdrops
were shivering down like rain, where flying feet alighted--shot from
bent grass-blades like arrows from a drawn bow. Tight, panting little
bodies, of which one could count the ribs, and faces flushed with fiery
green blood, sprang everywhere. But at Toonie's coming one cried up
shriller than a bat; and at once rippling burrows went this way and that
in the long grass, and stillness followed after.

The poor, dangling old man, whom Toonie was still carrying, wriggled and
whined miserably, crying, "Come back, masters, for it is no use--this
one sees you! He has got past me and all my poor skill to stop him. Set
me free, for you see I am too old to keep the door for you any longer!"

Out buzzed the fairies, hot and angry as a swarm of bees. They came and
fastened upon the unhappy old man, and began pulling him. "To the
ant-hills!" they cried; "off with him to the ant-hills!" But when they
found that Toonie still held him, quickly they all let go.

One fairy, standing out from the rest, pulled off his cap and bowed low.
"What is your will, master mortal?" he inquired; "for until you have
taken your wish and gone, we are all slaves at your bidding."

[Illustration]

They all cringed round him, the cruel little people; but he answered
nothing. The moonbeams came thick, laying their slender white palms
graciously upon Toonie's head; and he, looking up, opened his mouth for
a laugh that gave no sound.

"Ah, so! That is why--he is a mute!" cried the fairies.

Quickly one dipped his cap along the grass and brought it filled with
dew. He sprang up, and poured it upon Toonie's tongue; and as the fairy
dew touched it, "Now speak!" they all cried in chorus, and fawned and
cringed, waiting for him to give them the word.

Cudgelling his brain for what it all meant, he said, "Tell me first what
wish I may have."

"Whatever you like to ask," said they, "for you have become one of our
free men. Tell us your name?"

"I am called Little Toonie," said he, "the son of old Toonie that was
lost."

"Why, as I live and remember," cried the little elderly man, "old Toonie
was me!" Then he threw himself grovelling at his son's feet, and began
crying: "Oh, be quick and take me away! Make them give me up to you: ask
to have me! I am your poor, loving old father whom you never saw; all
these years have I been looking and longing for you! Now take me away,
for they are a proud, cruel people, as spiteful as they are small; and
my back has been broken twenty years in their bondage."

The fairies began to look blue, for they hate nothing so much as to give
up one whom they have once held captive. "We can give you gold," said
they, "or precious stones, or the root of long living, or the waters of
happiness, or the sap of youth, or the seed of plenty, or the blossom
of beauty. Choose any of these, and we can give it you."

The old man again caught hold of his son's feet. "Don't choose these,"
he whimpered, "choose me!"

So because he had a capful of moonshine in his head, and because the
moonbeams were laying their white hands on his hair, he chose the weak,
shrivelled old man, who crouched and clung to him, imploring not to be
let go.

The fairies, for spite and anger, bestowed every one a parting pinch on
their tumbledown old bondsman; then they handed him to his son, and
swung back with careless light hearts to their revels.

As father and son went down the hill together, the old man whistled and
piped like a bird. "Why, why!" he said, "you are a lad of strength and
inches: with you to work and look after me, I can keep on to a merry old
age! Ay, ay, I have had long to wait for it; but wisdom is justified in
her children."



THE STORY OF THE HERONS


A LONG time ago there lived a King and a Queen who loved each other
dearly. They had both fallen in love at first sight; and as their love
began so it went on through all their life. Yet this, which was the
cause of all their happiness, was the cause also of all their
misfortunes.

In his youth, when he was a beautiful young bachelor, the King had had
the ill-luck to attract the heart of a jealous and powerful Fairy; and
though he never gave her the least hope or encouragement, when she heard
that his love had been won at first sight by a mere mortal, her rage and
resentment knew no bounds. She said nothing, however, but bided her
time.

After they had been married a year the Queen presented her husband with
a little daughter; before she was yet a day old she was the most
beautiful object in the world, and life seemed to promise her nothing
but fortune and happiness.

The family Fairy came to the blessing of the new-born; and she, looking
at it as it lay beautifully asleep in its cradle, and seeing that it had
already as much beauty and health as the heart could desire, promised it
love as the next best gift it was within her power to offer. The Queen,
who knew how much happiness her own love had brought her, was kissing
the good Fairy with all the warmth of gratitude, when a black kite came
and perched upon the window-sill crying: "And I will give her love at
first sight! The first living thing that she sets eyes on she shall love
to distraction, whether it be man or monster, prince or pauper, bird,
beast or reptile." And as the wicked Fairy spoke she clapped her wings,
and up through the boards of the floor, and out from under the bed, and
in through the window, came a crowd of all the ugliest shapes in the
world. Thick and fast they came, gathering about the cradle and lifting
their heads over the edge of it, waiting for the poor little Princess to
wake up and fall in love at first sight with one of them.

Luckily the child was asleep; and the good Fairy, after driving away the
black kite and the crowd of beasts it had called to its aid, wrapped the
Princess up in a shawl and carried her away to a dark room where no
glimmer of light could get in.

She said to the Queen: "Till I can devise a better way, you must keep
her in the dark; and when you take her into the open air you must
blindfold her eyes. Some day, when she is of a fit age, I will bring a
handsome Prince for her; and only to him shall you unblindfold her at
last, and make love safe for her."

She went, leaving the King and Queen deeply stricken with grief over the
harm which had befallen their daughter. They did not dare to present
even themselves before her eyes lest love for them, fatal and consuming,
should drive her to distraction. In utter darkness the Queen would sit
and cherish her daughter, clasping her to her breast, and calling her by
all sweet names; but the little face, except by stealth when it was
sound asleep, she never dared to see, nor did the baby-Princess know the
face of the mother who loved her.

By and by, however, the family Fairy came again, saying: "Now, I have a
plan by which your child may enjoy the delights of seeing, and no ill
come of it." And she caused to be made a large chamber, the whole of one
side of which was a mirror. High up in the opposite wall were windows so
screened that from below no one could look out of them, but across on to
the mirror came all the sweet sights of the world, glimpses of wood and
field, and the sun and the moon and the stars, and of every bird as it
flew by. So the little Princess was brought and set in a screened place
looking towards the mirror, and there her eyes learned gradually all the
beautiful things of the world. Over the screen, in the glass before her,
she learned to know her mother's face, and to love it dearly in a gentle
child-like fashion; and when she could talk she became very wise,
understanding all that was told her about the danger of looking at
anything alive, except by its reflection in the glass.

When she went out into the open air for her health, she always wore a
bandage over her eyes, lest she should look, and love something too
well: but in the chamber of the mirror her eyes were free to see
whatever they could. The good Fairy, making herself invisible, came and
taught her to read and make music, and draw; so that before she was
fifteen she was the most charming and accomplished, as well as the most
beautiful Princess of her day.

At last the Fairy said that the time was come for her world of
reflections to be made real, and she went away to fetch the ideal Prince
that the Princess might at first sight fall in love with him.

The very day after she was gone, as the morning was fine, the Princess
went out with one of her maids for a wait through the woods. Over her
patient eyes she wore a bandage of green silk, through which she felt
the sunlight fall pleasantly.

Out of doors the Princess knew most things by their sounds. She passed
under rustling leaves, and along by the side of running water; and at
last she heard the silence of the water, and knew that she was standing
by the great fish-pond in the middle of the wood. Then she said to her
waiting-woman, "Is there not some great bird fishing out there, for I
hear the dipping of his bill, and the water falling off it as he draws
out the fish?"

And just as she was saying that, the wicked Fairy, who had long bided
her time, coming softly up from behind, pushed the waiting-woman off the
bank into the deep water of the pond. Then she snatched away the silk
bandage, and before the Princess had time to think or close her eyes,
she had lost her heart to a great heron that was standing half-way up to
his feathers fishing among the reeds.

The Princess, with her eyes set free, laughed for joy at the sight of
him. She stretched out her arms from the bank and cried most musically
for the bird to come to her; and he came in grave, stately fashion, with
trailing legs, and slow sobbing creak of his wings, and settled down on
the bank beside her. She drew his slender neck against her white
throat, and laughed and cried with her arms round him, loving him so
that she forgot all in the world beside. And the heron looked gravely at
her with kind eyes, and, bird-like, gave her all the love he could, but
not more; and so, presently, casting his grey wings abroad, lifted
himself and sailed slowly back to his fishing among the reeds.

The waiting-woman had got herself out of the water, and stood wringing
her clothes and her hands beside the Princess. "O, sweet mistress," she
cried, with lamentation, "now is all the evil come about which it was
our whole aim to avoid! And what, and what will the Queen your mother
say?"

But the Princess answered, smiling, "Foolish girl, I had no thought of
what happiness meant till now! See you where my love is gone? and did
you notice the bend of his neck, and the exceeding length of his legs,
and the stretch of his grey wings as he flew? This pond is his hall of
mirrors, wherein he sees the reflection of all his world. Surely I, from
my hall of mirrors, am the true mate for him!"

Her maid, seeing how far the evil had gone, and that no worse could now
happen, ran back to the palace and curdled all the court's blood with
her news. The King and the Queen and all their nobility rushed down, and
there they found the Princess with the heron once more in her arms,
kissing and fondling it with all the marks of a sweet and maidenly
passion. "Dear mother," she said, as soon as she saw the Queen, "the
happiness, which you feared would be sorrow, has come; and it is such
happiness I have no name for it! And the evil that you so dreaded, see
how sweet it is! And how sweet it is to see all the world with my own
eyes and you also at last!" And for the first time in her life she
kissed her mother's face in the full light of day.

But her mother hung sobbing upon her neck, "O, my darling, my
beautiful," she wept, "does your heart belong for ever to this grey
bird?"

Her daughter answered, "He is more than all the world to me! Is he not
goodly to look upon? Have you considered the bend of his neck, the
length of his legs, and the waving of his wings; his skill also when he
fishes: what imagination, what presence of mind!"

"Alas, alas," sorrowed the Queen, "dear daughter, is this all true to
you?"

"Mother," cried the Princess, clinging to her with entreaty, "is all the
world blind but me?"

The heron had become quite fond of the Princess; wherever she went it
followed her, and, indeed, without it nowhere would she go. Whenever it
was near her, the Princess laughed and sang, and when it was out of her
sight she became sad as night. All the courtiers wept to see her in such
bondage. "Ah," said she, "your eyes have been worn out with looking at
things so long; mine have been kept for me in a mirror."

When the good family Fairy came (for she was at once sent for by the
Queen, and told of all that had happened), she said, "Dear Madam, there
are but two things you can do: either you can wring the heron's neck,
and leave the Princess to die of grief; or you can make the Princess
happy in her own way, by----" Her voice dropped, and she looked from
the King to the Queen before she went on. "At her birth I gave your
daughter love for my gift; now it is hers, will you let her keep it?"

The King and the Queen looked softly at each other. "Do not take love
from her," said they, "let her keep it!"

"There is but one way," answered the Fairy.

"Do not tell me the way," said the Queen weeping, "only let the way be!"

So they went with the Fairy down to the great pond, and there sat the
Princess, with the grey heron against her heart. She smiled as she saw
them come. "I see good in your hearts towards me!" she cried. "Dear
godmother, give me the thing that I want, that my love may be happy!"

Then the Fairy stroked her but once with her wand, and two grey herons
suddenly rose up from the bank, and sailed away to a hiding-place in the
reeds.

The Fairy said to the Queen, "You have made your daughter happy; and
still she will have her voice and her human heart, and will remember you
with love and gratitude; but her greatest love will be to the grey
heron, and her home among the reeds."

So the changed life of the Princess began; every day her mother went
down to the pool and called, and the Princess came rising up out of the
reeds, and folded her grey wings over her mother's heart. Every day her
mother said, "Daughter of mine, are you happy?"

And the Princess answered her, "Yes, for I love and am loved."

Yet each time the mother heard more and more of a note of sadness come
into her daughter's voice; and at last one day she said, "Answer me
truly, as the mother who brought you into the world, whether you be
happy in your heart of hearts or no?"

Then the heron-Princess laid her head on the Queen's heart, and said,
"Mother, my heart is breaking with love!"

"For whom, then?" asked the Queen astonished.

"For my grey heron, whom I love, and who loves me so much. And yet it is
love that divides us, for I am still troubled with a human heart, and
often it aches with sorrow because all the love in it can never be fully
understood or shared by my heron; and I have my human voice left, and
that gives me a hundred things to say all day, for which there is no
word in heron's language, and so he cannot understand them. Therefore
these things only make a gulf between him and me. For all the other grey
herons in the pools there is happiness, but not for me who have too big
a heart between my wings."

Her mother said softly, "Wait, wait, little heron-daughter, and it shall
be well with you!" Then she went to the Fairy and said, "My daughter's
heart is lonely among the reeds, for the grey heron's love covers but
half of it. Give her some companions of her own kind that her hours may
become merry again!"

So the Fairy took and turned five of the Princess's ladies'-maids into
herons, and sent them down to the pool.

The five herons stood each on one leg in the shallows of the pool, and
cried all day long; and their tears fell down into the water and
frightened away the fish that came their way. For they had human hearts
that cried out to be let go. "O, cruel, cruel," they wept, whenever the
heron-Princess approached, "see what we suffer because of you, and what
they have made of us for your sake!"

The Princess came to her mother and said, "Dear mother, take them away,
for their cry wearies me, and the pool is bitter with their tears! They
only awake the human part of my heart that wants to sleep; presently,
maybe, if it is let alone, it will forget itself."

Her mother said, "It is my coming every day also that keeps it awake."
The Princess answered, "This sorrow belongs to my birthright; you must
still come; but for the others, let the Fairy take them away."

So the Fairy came and released the five ladies'-maids whom she had
changed into herons. And they came up out of the water, stripping
themselves of their grey feather-skins and throwing them back into the
pool. The Fairy said, "You foolish maids, you have thrown away a gift
that you should have valued; these skins you could have kept and held as
heirlooms in your family."

The five maids answered, "We want to forget that there are such things
as herons in the world!"

After much thought the Queen said to the Fairy, "You have changed a
Princess into a heron, and five maids into herons and back again; cannot
you change one heron into a Prince?" But the Fairy answered sadly, "Our
power has limits; we can bring down, but we cannot bring up, if there be
no heart to answer our call. The five maids only followed their hearts,
that were human, when I called them back; but a heron has only a
heron's heart, and unless his heart become too great for a bird and he
earn a human one, I cannot change him to a higher form." "How can he
earn a human one?" asked the Queen. "Only if he love the Princess so
well that his love for her becomes stronger than his life," answered the
Fairy. "Then he will have earned a human body, and then I can give him
the form that his heart suits best. There may be a chance, if we wait
for it and are patient, for the Princess's love is great and may work
miracles."

A little while after this, the Queen watching, saw that the two herons
were making a nest among the reeds. "What have you there?" said the
mother to her daughter. "A little hollow place," answered the
heron-Princess, "and in it the moon lies." A little while after she said
again, "What have you there, now, little daughter?" And her daughter
answered, "Only a small hollow space; but in it two moons lie."

The Queen told the family Fairy how in a hollow of the reeds lay two
moons. "Now," said the Fairy, "we will wait no longer. If your
daughter's love has touched the heron's heart and made it grow larger
than a bird's, I can help them both to happiness; but if not, then birds
they must still remain."

Among the reeds the heron said in bird language to his wife, "Go and
stretch your wings for a little while over the water; it is weary work
to wait here so long in the reeds." The heron-Princess looked at him
with her bird's eyes, and all the human love in her heart strove, like a
fountain that could not get free, to make itself known through them;
also her tongue was full of the longing to utter sweet words, but she
kept them back, knowing they were beyond the heron's power to
understand. So she answered merely in heron's language, "Come with me,
and I will come!"

They rose, wing beating beside wing; and the reflection of their grey
breasts slid out under them over the face of the water.

Higher they went and higher, passing over the tree tops, and keeping
time together as they flew. All at once the wings of the grey heron
flagged, then took a deep beat; he cried to the heron-Princess, "Turn,
and come home, yonder there is danger flying to meet us!" Before them
hung a brown blot in the air, that winged and grew large. The two herons
turned and flew back. "Rise," cried the grey heron, "we must rise!" and
the Princess knew what was behind, and struggled with the whole strength
of her wings for escape.

The grey heron was bearing ahead on stronger wing. "With me, with me!"
he cried. "If it gets above us, one of us is dead!" But the falcon had
fixed his eye on the Princess for his quarry, and flew she fast, or flew
she slow, there was little chance for her now. Up and up she strained,
but still she was behind her mate, and still the falcon gained.

The heron swung back to her side; she saw the anguish and fear of his
downward glance as his head ranged by hers. Past her the falcon went,
towering for the final swoop.

The Princess cried in heron's language, "Farewell, dear mate, and
farewell, two little moons among the reeds!" But the grey heron only
kept closer to her side.

Overhead the falcon closed in its wings and fell like a dead weight out
of the clouds. "Drop!" cried the grey heron to his mate.

At his word she dropped; but he stayed, stretching up his wings, and,
passing between the descending falcon and its prey, caught in his own
body the death-blow from its beak. Drops of his blood fell upon the
heron-Princess.

He stricken in body, she in soul, together they fell down to the margin
of the pool. The falcon still clung fleshing its beak in the neck of its
prey. The heron-Princess threw back her head, and, darting furiously,
struck her own sharp bill deep into the falcon's breast. The bird threw
out its wings with a hoarse cry and fell back dead, with a little tuft
of the grey heron's feathers still upon its beak.

The heron-Princess crouched down, and covered with her wings the dying
form of her mate; in her sorrow she spoke to him in her own tongue,
forgetting her bird's language. The grey heron lifted his head, and,
gazing tenderly, answered her with a human voice:

"Dear wife," he said, "at last I have the happiness so long denied to me
of giving utterance in the speech that is your own to the love that you
have put into my heart. Often I have heard you speak and have not
understood; now something has touched my heart, and changed it, so that
I can both speak and understand."

"O, beloved!" She laid her head down by his. "The ends of the world
belong to us now. Lie down, and die gently by my side, and I will die
with you, breaking my heart with happiness."

"No," said the grey heron, "do not die yet! Remember the two little
moons that lie in the hollow among the reeds." Then he laid his head
down by hers, being too weak to say more.

They folded their wings over each other, and closed their eyes; nor did
they know that the Fairy was standing by them, till she stroked them
both softly with her wand, saying to each of them the same words:

"Human heart, and human form, come out of the grey heron!"

And out of the grey heron-skins came two human forms; the one was the
Princess restored again to her own shape, but the other was a beautiful
youth, with a bird-like look about the eyes, and long slender limbs. The
Princess, as she gazed on him, found hardly any change, for love
remained the same, binding him close to her heart; and, grey heron or
beautiful youth, he was all one to her now.

Then came the Queen, weeping for joy, and embracing them both, and after
them, the Fairy. "O, how good an ending," she cried, "has come to that
terrible dream! Let it never be remembered or mentioned between us
more!" And she began to lead the way back to the palace.

But the youth, to whom the Fairy gave the name of Prince Heron, turned
and took up the two heron-skins which he and his wife had let fall, and
followed, carrying them upon his arm. And as they came past the bed of
reeds, the Princess went aside, and, stooping down in a certain place
drew out from thence something which she came carrying, softly wrapped
in the folds of her gown.

With what rejoicing the Princess and her husband were welcomed by the
King and all the Court needs not to be told. For a whole month the
festivities continued; and whenever she showed herself, there was the
Princess sitting with two eggs in her lap, and her hands over them to
keep them warm. The King was impatient. "Why cannot you send them down
to the poultry yard to be hatched?" he said.

But the Princess replied smiling, "My moons are my own, and I will keep
them to myself."

"Do you hear?" she said one day, at last; and everybody who listened
could hear something going "tap, tap," inside the shells. Presently the
eggs cracked, and out of each, at the same moment, came a little grey
heron.

When she saw that they were herons, the Queen wrung her hands. "O
Fairy," she cried, "what a disappointment is this! I had hoped two
beautiful babies would have come out of those shells."

But the Fairy said, "It is no matter. Half of their hearts are human
already; birds' hearts do not beat so. If you wish it, I can change
them." So she stroked them softly with her wand, saying to each, "Human
heart, and human form, come out of the grey heron!"

Yet she had to stroke them three times before they would turn; and she
said to the Princess, "My dear, you were too satisfied with your lot
when you laid your moon-children. I doubt if more than a quarter of them
is human."

"I was very satisfied," said the Princess, and she laughed across to her
husband.

At last, however, on the third stroke of the wand, the heron's skins
dropped off, and they changed into a pair of very small babies, a boy
and a girl. But the difference between them and other children was, that
instead of hair, their heads were covered with a fluff of downy grey
feathers; also they had queer, round, bird-like eyes, and were able to
sleep standing.

Now, after this the happiness of the Princess was great; but the Fairy
said to her, "Do not let your husband see the heron-skins again for some
while, lest with the memory a longing for his old life should return to
him and take him away from you. Only by exchange with another can he
ever get back his human form again, if he surrenders it of his own free
will. And who is there so poor that he would willingly give up his human
form to become a bird?"

So the Princess took the four coats of feathers--her own and her
husband's and her two children's--and hid them away in a closet of which
she alone kept the key. It was a little gold key, and to make it safe
she hung it about her neck, and wore it night and day.

The Prince said to her, "What is that little key that you wear always
hung round your neck?"

She answered him, "It is the key to your happiness and mine. Do not ask
more than that!" At that there was a look in his face that made her
say, "You _are_ happy, are you not?"

He kissed her, saying, "Happy, indeed! Have I not you to make me so?"
Yet though, indeed, he told no untruth, and was happy whenever she was
with him, there were times when a restlessness and a longing for wings
took hold of him; for, as yet, the life of a man was new and half
strange to him, and a taint of his old life still mixed itself with his
blood. But to her he was ashamed to say what might seem a complaint
against his great fortune; so when she said "happiness," he thought, "Is
it just the turning of that key that I want before my happiness can be
perfect?"

Therefore, one night when the early season of spring made his longing
strong in him, he took the key from the Princess while she slept, and
opened the little closet in which hung the four feather coats. And when
he saw his own, all at once he remembered the great pools of water, and
how they lay in the shine and shadow of the moonlight, while the fish
rose in rings upon their surface. And at that so great a longing came
into him to revisit his old haunts that he reached out his hand and took
down the heron-skin from its nail and put it over himself; so that
immediately his old life took hold of him, and he flew out of the window
in the form of a grey heron.

In the morning the Princess found the key gone from her neck, and her
husband's place empty. She went in haste to the closet, and there stood
the door wide with the key in it, and only three heron-skins hanging
where four had used to be.

Then she came crying to the family Fairy, "My husband has taken his
heron-skin and is gone! Tell me what I can do!"

The Fairy pitied her with all her heart, but could do nothing. "Only by
exchange," said she, "can he get back his human shape; and who is there
so poor that he would willingly lose his own form to become a bird? Only
your children, who are but half human, can put their heron-skins on and
off as they like and when they like."

In deep grief the Princess went to look for her husband down by the
pools in the wood. But now his shame and sorrow at having deceived her
were so great that as soon as he heard her voice he hid himself among
the reeds, for he knew now that, having put on his heron-skin again, he
could not take it off unless some one gave him a human form in exchange.

At last, however, so pitiful was the cry of the Princess for him, that
he could bear to hear it no more; but rising up from the reeds came
trailing to her sadly over the water. "Ah, dear love!" she said when he
was come to her, "if I had not distrusted you, you would not have
deceived me: thus, for my fault we are punished." So she sorrowed, and
he answered her:

"Nay, dear love, for if I had not deceived you, you would not have
distrusted me. I thought I was not happy, yet I feared to tell it you."
Thus they sorrowed together, both laying on themselves the blame and the
burden.

Then she said to him: "Be here for me to-night, for now I must go; but
then I shall return."

She went back to the palace, and told her mother of all that had
happened. "And now," she said, "you who know where my happiness lies
will not forbid me from following it; for my heart is again with the
grey heron." And the Queen wept, but would not say her no.

So that night the Princess went and kissed her children as they slept
standing up in their beds, with their funny feather-pates to one side;
and then she took down her skin of feathers and put it on, and became
changed once more into a grey heron. And again she went up to the two in
their cots, and kissed their birdish heads saying: "They who can change
at will, being but half human, they will come and visit us in the great
pool by the wood, and bring back word of us here."

In the morning the Princess was gone, and the two children when they
woke looked at each other and said: "Did we dream last night?"

They both answered each other, "Yes, first we dreamed that our mother
came and kissed us; and we liked that. And then we dreamed that a grey
heron came and kissed us, and we liked that better still!" They waved
their arms up and down. "Why have we not wings?" they kept asking. All
day long they did this, playing that they were birds. If a window were
opened, it was with the greatest difficulty that they were kept from
trying to fly through.

In the Court they were known as the "Feather-pates"; nothing could they
be taught at all. When they were rebuked they would stand on one leg and
sigh with their heads on one side; but no one ever saw tears come out
of their birdish eyes.

Now at night they would dream that two grey herons came and stood by
their bedsides, kissing them; "And where in the world," they said when
they woke, "_are_ our wings?"

One day, wandering about in the palace, they came upon the closet in
which hung the two little feather coats. "O!!!" they cried, and opened
hard bright eyes at each other, nodding, for now they knew what they
would do. "If we told, they would be taken from us," they said; and they
waited till it was night. Then they crept back and took the two little
coats from their pegs, and, putting them on, were turned into two young
herons.

Through the window they flew, away down to the great fish-pond in the
wood. Their father and mother saw them coming, and clapped their wings
for joy. "See," they said, "our children come to visit us, and our
hearts are left to us to love with. What further happiness can we want?"
But when they were not looking at each other they sighed.

All night long the two young herons stayed with their parents; they
bathed, and fished, and flew, till they were weary. Then the Princess
showed them the nest among the reeds, and told them all the story of
their lives.

"But it is much nicer to be herons than to be real people," said the
young ones, sadly, and became very sorrowful when dawn drew on, and
their mother told them to go back to the palace and hang up the feather
coats again, and be as they had been the day before.

Long, long the day now seemed to them; they hardly waited till it was
night before they took down their feather-skins, and, putting them on,
flew out and away to the fish-pond in the wood.

So every night they went, when all in the palace were asleep; and in the
morning came back before anyone was astir, and were found by their
nurses lying demurely between the sheets, just as they had been left the
night before.

One day the Queen when she went to see her daughter said to her, "My
child, your two children are growing less like human beings and more
like birds every day. Nothing will they learn or do, but stand all day
flapping their arms up and down, and saying, 'Where are our wings, where
are our wings?' The idea of one of them ever coming to the throne makes
your father's hair stand on end under his crown."

"Oh, mother," said the heron-Princess, "I have made a sad bed for you
and my father to lie on!"

One day the two children said to each other, "Our father and mother are
sad, because they want to be real persons again, instead of having wings
and catching fish the way we like to do. Let us give up being real
persons, which is all so much trouble, and such a want of exercise, and
make them exchange with us!" But when the two young herons went down to
the pond and proposed it to them, their parents said, "You are young;
you do not know what you would be giving up." Nor would they consent to
it at all.

Now one morning it happened that the Feather-pates were so late in
returning to the palace that the Queen, coming into their chamber,
found the two beds empty; and just as she had turned away to search for
them elsewhere, she heard a noise of wings and saw the two young herons
come flying in through the window. Then she saw them take off their
feather-skins and hang them up in the closet, and after that go and lie
down in their beds so as to look as if they had been there all night.

The Queen struck her hands together with horror at the sight, but she
crept away softly, so that they did not know they had been found out.
But as soon as they were out of their beds and at play in another part
of the palace, the Queen went to the closet, and setting fire to the two
heron-skins where they hung, burnt them till not a feather of them was
left, and only a heap of grey ashes remained to tell what had become of
them.

At night, when the Feather-pates went to the closet and found their
skins gone, and saw what had become of them, their grief knew no bounds.
They trembled with fear and rage, and tears rained out of their eyes as
they beheld themselves deprived of their bird bodies and made into real
persons for good and all.

"We won't be real persons!" they cried. But for all their crying they
knew no way out of it. They made themselves quite ill with grief; and
that night, for the first time since they had found their way to the
closet, they stayed where their nurses had put them, and did not even
stand up in their beds to go to sleep. There they lay with gasping
mouth, and big bird-like eyes all languid with grief, and hollow grey
cheeks.

Presently their father and mother came seeking for them, wondering why
they had not come down to the fish-pond as they were wont. "Where are
you, my children?" cried the heron-Princess, putting her head in through
the window.

"Here we are, both at death's door!" they cried. "Come and see us die!
Our wicked grandam has burnt our feather-skins and made us into real
persons for ever and ever, Amen. But we will die rather!"

The parent herons, when they heard that, flew in through the window and
bent down over the little ones' beds.

The two children reached up their arms. "Give us your feathers!" they
cried. "We shall die if you don't! We _will_ die if you don't! O, do!"
But still the parent birds hesitated, nor knew what to do.

"Bend down, and let me whisper something!" said the boy to his father:
and "Bend down, and whisper!" cried the girl to her mother. And father
and mother bent down over the faces of their sick children. Then these,
both together, caught hold of them, and crying, "Human heart, and human
form, exchange with the grey heron!" pulled off their parents'
feather-skins, and put them upon themselves.

And there once more stood Prince Heron and the Princess in human shape,
while the two children had turned into herons in their place.

The young herons laughed and shouted and clapped their wings for joy.
"Are you not happy now?" cried they. And when their parents saw the joy,
not only in their children's eyes, but in each other's, and felt their
hearts growing glad in the bodies they had regained, then they owned
that the Feather-pates had been wise in their generation, and done well
according to their lights.

So it came about that the Prince and the Princess lived happily ever
after, and the two young herons lived happily also, and were the
best-hearted birds the world ever saw.

In course of time the Prince and Princess had other children, who
pleased the old King better than the first had done. But the parents
loved none better than the two who lived as herons by the great
fish-pond in the wood; nor could there be greater love than was found
between these and their younger brothers and sisters, whose nature it
was to be real persons.



THE CROWN'S WARRANTY


FIVE hundred years ago or more, a king died, leaving two sons: one was
the child of his first wife, and the other of his second, who surviving
him became his widow. When the king was dying he took off the royal
crown which he wore, and set it upon the head of the elder born, the son
of his first wife, and said to him: "God is the lord of the air, and of
the water, and of the dry land: this gift cometh to thee from God. Be
merciful, over whatsoever thou holdest power, as God is!" And saying
these words he laid his hands upon the heads of his two sons and died.

Now this crown was no ordinary crown, for it was made of the gold
brought by the Wise Men of the East when they came to worship at
Bethlehem. Every king that had worn it since then had reigned well and
uprightly, and had been loved by all his people; but only to himself was
it known what virtue lay in his crown; and every king at dying gave it
to his son with the same words of blessing.

So, now, the king's eldest son wore the crown; and his step-mother knew
that her own son could not wear it while he lived, therefore she looked
on and said nothing. Now he was known to all the people of his country,
because of his right to the throne, as the king's son; and his brother,
the child of the second wife, was called the queen's son. But as yet
they were both young, and cared little enough for crowns.

After the king's death the queen was made regent till the king's son
should be come to a full age; but already the little king wore the royal
crown his father had left him, and the queen looked on and said nothing.

More than three years went by, and everybody said how good the queen was
to the little king who was not her own son; and the king's son, for his
part, was good to her and to his step-brother, loving them both; and all
by himself he kept thinking, having his thoughts guarded and circled by
his golden crown, "How shall I learn to be a wise king, and to be
merciful when I have power, as God is?"

So to everything that came his way, to his playthings and his pets, to
his ministers and his servants, he played the king as though already his
word made life and death. People watching him said, "Everything that has
touch with the king's son loves him." They told strange tales of him:
only in fairy books could they be believed, because they were so
beautiful; and all the time the queen, getting a good name for herself,
looked on and said nothing.

One night the king's son was lying half-asleep upon his bed, with wise
dreams coming and going under the circle of his gold crown, when a mouse
ran out of the wainscot and came and jumped up upon the couch. The poor
mouse had turned quite white with fear and horror, and was trembling in
every limb as it cried its news into the king's ear. "O king's son," it
said, "get up and run for your life! I was behind the wainscot in the
queen's closet, and this is what I heard: if you stay here, when you
wake up to-morrow you will be dead!"

The king's son got up, and all alone in the dark night stole out of the
palace, seeking safety for his dear life. He sighed to himself, "There
was a pain in my crown ever since I wore it. Alas, mother, I thought you
were too kind a step-mother to do this!"

Outside it was still winter: there was no warmth in the world, and not a
leaf upon the trees. He wandered away and away, wondering where he
should hide.

The queen, when her villains came and told her the king's son was not to
be found, went and looked in her magic crystal to find trace of him. As
soon as it grew light, for in the darkness the crystal could show her
nothing, she saw many miles away the king's son running to hide himself
in the forest. So she sent out her villains to search until they should
find him.

As they went the sun grew hot in the sky, and birds began singing. "It
is spring!" cried the messengers. "How suddenly it has come!" They rode
on till they came to the forest.

The king's son, stumbling along through the forest under the bare
boughs, thought, "Even here where shall I hide? Nowhere is there a leaf
to cover me." But when the sun grew warm he looked up; and there were
all the trees breaking into bud and leaf, making a green heaven above
his head. So when he was too weary to go farther, he climbed into the
largest tree he could find; and the leaves covered him.

[Illustration]

The queen's messengers searched through all the forest but could not
find him; so they went back to her empty handed, not having either
the king's crown or his heart to show. "Fools!" she cried, looking in
her magic crystal, "he was in the big sycamore under which you stopped
to give your horses provender!"

The sycamore said to the king's son, "The queen's eye is on you; get
down and run for your life till you get to the hollow tarn-stones among
the hills! But if you stay here, when you wake to-morrow you will be
dead."

When the queen's messengers came once more to the forest they found it
all wintry again, and without leaf; only the sycamore was in full green,
clapping its hands for joy in the keen and bitter air.

The messengers searched, and beat down the leaves, but the king's son
was not there. They went back to the queen. She looked long in her magic
crystal, but little could she see; for the king's son had hidden himself
in a small cave beside the tarn-stones, and into the darkness the
crystal could not pry.

Presently she saw a flight of birds crossing the blue, and every bird
carried a few crumbs of bread in its beak. Then she ran and called to
her villains, "Follow the birds, and they will take you to where the
little wizard is; for they are carrying bread to feed him, and they are
all heading for the tarn-stones up on the hills."

The birds said to the king's son, "Now you are rested; we have fed you,
and you are not hungry. The queen's eye is on you. Up, and run for your
life! If you stay here, when you wake up to-morrow you will be dead."

"Where shall I go?" said the king's son. "Go," answered the birds, "and
hide in the rushes on the island of the pool of sweet waters!"

When the queen's messengers came to the tarn-stones, it was as though
five thousand people had been feeding: they found crumbs enough to fill
twelve baskets full, lying in the cave; but no king's son could they lay
their hands on.

The king's son was lying hidden among the rushes on the island of the
great pool of sweet waters; and thick and fast came silver-scaled
fishes, feeding him.

It took the queen three days of hard gazing in her crystal, before she
found how the fishes all swam to a point among the rushes of the island
in the pool of sweet waters, and away again. Then she knew: and running
to her messengers she cried: "He is among the rushes on the island in
the pool of sweet waters; and all the fishes are feeding him!"

The fishes said to the king's son: "The queen's eye is on you; up, and
swim to shore, and away for your life! For if they come and find you
here, when you wake to-morrow you will certainly be dead."

"Where shall I go?" asked the king's son. "Wherever I go, she finds me."
"Go to the old fox who gets his poultry from the palace, and ask him to
hide you in his burrow!"

When the queen's messengers came to the pool they found the fishes
playing at _alibis_ all about in the water; but nothing of the king's
son could they see.

The king's son came to the fox, and the fox hid him in his burrow, and
brought him butter and eggs from the royal dairy. This was better fare
than the king's son had had since the beginning of his wanderings, and
he thanked the fox warmly for his friendship. "On the contrary," said
the fox, "I am under an obligation to you; for ever since you came to be
my guest I have felt like an honest man." "If I live to be king," said
the king's son, "you shall always have butter and eggs from the royal
dairy, and be as honest as you like."

The queen hugged her magic crystal for a whole week, but could make
nothing out of it: for her crystal showed her nothing of the king's
son's hiding-place, nor of the fox at his nightly thefts of butter and
eggs from the royal dairy. But it so happened that this same fox was a
sort of half-brother of the queen's; and so guilty did he feel with his
brand-new good conscience that he quite left off going to see her. So in
a little while the queen, with her suspicions and her magic crystal, had
nosed out the young king's hiding-place.

The fox said to the king's son: "The queen's eye is on you! Get out and
run for your life, for if you stay here till to-morrow, you will wake up
and find yourself a dead goose!"

"But where else can I go to?" asked the king's son. "Is there any place
left for me?" The fox laughed, and winked, and whispered a word; and all
at once the king's son got up and went.

The queen had said to her messengers, "Go and look in the fox's hole;
and you shall find him!" But the messengers came and dug up the burrow,
and found butter and eggs from the royal dairy, but of the king's son
never a sign.

The king's son came to the palace, and as he crept through the gardens
he found there his little brother alone at play,--playing sadly because
now he was all alone. Then the king's son stopped and said, "Little
brother, do you so much wish to be king?" And taking off the crown, he
put it upon his brother's head. Then he went on through underground ways
and corridors, till he came to the palace dungeons.

Now a dungeon is a hard thing to get out of, but it is easy enough to
get into. He came to the deepest and darkest dungeon of all, and there
he opened the door, and went in and hid himself.

The queen's son came running to his mother, wearing the king's crown.
"Oh, mother," he said, "I am frightened! while I was playing, my brother
came looking all dead and white, and put this crown on my head. Take it
off for me, it hurts!"

When the queen saw the crown on her son's head, she was horribly afraid;
for that it should have so come there was the most unlikely thing of
all. She fetched her crystal ball, and looked in, asking where the
king's son might be, and, for answer, the crystal became black as night.

Then said the queen to herself, "He is dead at last!"

But, now that the king's crown was on the wrong head, the air, and the
water, and the dry land, over which God is lord, heard of it. And the
trees said, "Until the king's son returns, we will not put forth bud or
leaf!"

And the birds said, "We will not sing in the land, or breed or build
nests until the king's son returns!"

And the fishes said, "We will not stay in the ponds or rivers to get
caught, unless the king's son, to whom we belong, returns!"

And the foxes said, "Unless the king's son returns, we will increase and
multiply exceedingly and be like locusts in the land!"

So all through that land the trees, though it was spring, stayed as if
it were mid-winter; and all the fishes swam down to the sea; and all the
birds flew over the sea, away into other countries; and all the foxes
increased and multiplied, and became like locusts in the land.

Now when the trees, and the birds, and the beasts, and the fishes led
the way the good folk of the country discovered that the queen was a
criminal. So, after the way of the flesh, they took the queen and her
little son, and bound them, and threw them into the deepest and darkest
dungeon they could find; and said they: "Until you tell us where the
king's son is, there you stay and starve!"

The king's son was playing all alone in his dungeon with the mice who
brought him food from the palace larder, when the queen and her son were
thrown down to him fast bound, as though he were as dangerous as a den
of lions. At first he was terribly afraid when he found himself pursued
into his last hiding-place; but presently he gathered from the queen's
remarks that she was quite powerless to do him harm.

"Oh, what a wicked woman I am!" she moaned; and began crying lamentably,
as if she hoped to melt the stone walls which formed her prison.

Presently her little son cried, "Mother, take off my brother's crown; it
pricks me!" And the king's son sat in his corner, and cried to himself
with grief over the harm that his step-mother's wickedness had brought
about.

"Mother," cried the queen's son again, "night and day since I have worn
it, it pricks me; I cannot sleep!"

But the queen's heart was still hard; not if she could help, would she
yet take off from her son the crown.

Hours went by, and the queen and her son grew hungry. "We shall be
starved to death!" she cried. "Now I see what a wicked woman I am!"

"Mother," cried the queen's son, "someone is putting food into my
mouth!" "No one," said the queen, "is putting any into mine. Now I know
what a wicked woman I am!"

Presently the king's son came to the queen also, and began feeding her.
"Someone is putting food into _my_ mouth, now!" cried the queen. "If it
is poisoned I shall die in agony! I wish," she said, "I wish I knew your
brother were not dead; if I have killed him what a wicked woman I am!"

"Dear step-mother," said the king's son, "I am not dead, I am here."

"Here?" cried the queen, shaking with fright. "Here? not dead! How long
have you been here?"

"Days, and days, and days," said the king's son, sadly.

"Ah! if I had only known _that_!" cried the queen. "_Now_ I know what a
wicked woman I am!"

Just then, the trap-door in the roof of the dungeon opened, and a voice
called down, "Tell us where is the king's son! If you do not tell us,
you shall stay here and starve."

"The king's son is here!" cried the queen.

"A likely story!" answered the gaolers. "Do you think we are going to
believe that?" And they shut-to the trap.

The queen's son cried, "Dear brother, come and take back your crown, it
pricks so!" But the king's son only undid the queen's bonds and his
brother's. "Now," said he, "you are free: you can kill me now."

"Oh!" cried the queen, "what a wicked woman I must be! Do you think I
could do it now?" Then she cried, "O little son, bring your poor head to
me, and I will take off the crown!" and she took off the crown and gave
it back to the king's son. "When I am dead," she said, "remember, and be
kind to him!"

The king's son put the crown upon his own head.

Suddenly, outside the palace, all the land broke into leaf; there was a
rushing sound in the river of fishes swimming up from the sea, and all
the air was loud and dark with flights of returning birds. Almost at the
same moment the foxes began to disappear and diminish, and cease to be
like locusts in the land.

People came running to open the door of the deepest and darkest dungeon
in the palace: "For either," they cried, "the queen is dead, or the
king's son has been found!"

"Where is the king's son, then?" they called out, as they threw wide the
door. "He is here!" cried the king; and out he came, to the astonishment
of all, wearing his crown, and leading his step-mother and half-brother
by the hand.

He looked at his step-mother, and she was quite white; as white as the
mouse that had jumped upon the king's bed at midnight bidding him fly
for his life. Not only her face, but her hair, her lips, and her very
eyes were white and colourless, for she had gone blind from gazing too
hard into her crystal ball, and hunting the king's son to death.

So she remained blind to the end of her days; but the king was more good
to her than gold, and as for his brother, never did half-brothers love
each other better than these. Therefore they all lived very happily
together, and after a long time, the queen learned to forget what a
wicked woman she had been.



ROCKING-HORSE LAND


LITTLE Prince Freedling woke up with a jump, and sprang out of bed into
the sunshine. He was five years old that morning, by all the clocks and
calendars in the kingdom; and the day was going to be beautiful. Every
golden minute was precious. He was dressed and out of his room before
the attendants knew that he was awake.

In the ante-chamber stood piles on piles of glittering presents; when he
walked among them they came up to the measure of his waist. His fairy
godmother had sent him a toy with the most humorous effect. It was
labelled, "Break me and I shall turn into something else." So every time
he broke it he got a new toy more beautiful than the last. It began by
being a hoop, and from that it ran on, while the Prince broke it
incessantly for the space of one hour, during which it became by turn--a
top, a Noah's ark, a skipping-rope, a man-of-war, a box of bricks, a
picture puzzle, a pair of stilts, a drum, a trumpet, a kaleidoscope, a
steam-engine, and nine hundred and fifty other things exactly. Then he
began to grow discontented, because it would never turn into the same
thing again; and after having broken the man-of-war he wanted to get it
back again. Also he wanted to see if the steam-engine would go inside
the Noah's ark; but the toy would never be two things at the same time
either. This was very unsatisfactory. He thought his fairy godmother
ought to have sent him two toys, out of which he could make
combinations.

At last he broke it once more, and it turned into a kite; and while he
was flying the kite he broke the string, and the kite went sailing away
up into nasty blue sky, and was never heard of again.

Then Prince Freedling sat down and howled at his fairy-godmother; what a
dissembling lot fairy-godmothers were, to be sure! They were always
setting traps to make their god-children unhappy. Nevertheless, when
told to, he took up his pen and wrote her a nice little note, full of
bad spelling and tarradiddles, to say what a happy birthday he was
spending in breaking up the beautiful toy she had sent him.

Then he went to look at the rest of the presents, and found it quite
refreshing to break a few that did not send him giddy by turning into
anything else.

Suddenly his eyes became fixed with delight; alone, right at the end of
the room, stood a great black rocking-horse. The saddle and bridle were
hung with tiny gold bells and balls of coral; and the horse's tail and
mane flowed till they almost touched the ground.

The Prince scampered across the room, and threw his arms around the
beautiful creature's neck. All its bells jangled as the head swayed
gracefully down; and the prince kissed it between the eyes. Great eyes
they were, the colour of fire, so wonderfully bright, it seemed they
must be really alive, only they did not move, but gazed continually
with a set stare at the tapestry-hung wall, on which were figures of
armed knights riding to battle.

So Prince Freedling mounted to the back of his rocking-horse; and all
day long he rode and shouted to the figures of the armed knights,
challenging them to fight, or leading them against the enemy.

At length, when it came to be bedtime, weary of so much glory, he was
lifted down from the saddle and carried away to bed.

In his sleep Freedling still felt his black rocking-horse swinging to
and fro under him, and heard the melodious chime of its bells, and, in
the land of dreams, saw a great country open before him, full of the
sound of the battle-cry and the hunting-horn calling him to strange
perils and triumphs.

In the middle of the night he grew softly awake, and his heart was full
of love for his black rocking-horse. He crept gently out of bed: he
would go and look at it where it was standing so grand and still in the
next room, to make sure that it was all safe and not afraid of being by
itself in the dark night. Parting the door-hangings he passed through
into the wide hollow chamber beyond, all littered about with toys.

The moon was shining in through the window, making a square cistern of
light upon the floor. And then, all at once, he saw that the
rocking-horse had moved from the place where he had left it! It had
crossed the room, and was standing close to the window, with its head
toward the night, as though watching the movement of the clouds and the
trees swaying in the wind.

The Prince could not understand how it had been moved so; he was a
little bit afraid, and stealing timidly across, he took hold of the
bridle to comfort himself with the jangle of its bells. As he came
close, and looked up into the dark solemn face he saw that the eyes were
full of tears, and reaching up felt one fall warm against his hand.

"Why do you weep, my Beautiful?" said the Prince.

The rocking-horse answered, "I weep because I am a prisoner, and not
free. Open the window, Master, and let me go!"

"But if I let you go I shall lose you," said the Prince. "Cannot you be
happy here with me?"

"Let me go," said the horse, "for my brothers call me out of
Rocking-Horse Land; I hear my mare whinnying to her foals; and they all
cry, seeking me through the ups and hollows of my native fastnesses!
Sweet Master, let me go this night, and I will return to you when it is
day!"

Then Freedling said, "How shall I know that you will return: and what
name shall I call you by?"

And the rocking-horse answered, "My name is Rollonde. Search my mane
till you find in it a white hair; draw it out and wind it upon one of
your fingers; and so long as you have it so wound you are my master;
and wherever I am I must return at your bidding."

So the Prince drew down the rocking-horse's head, and searching the
mane, he found the white hair, and wound it upon his finger and tied it.
Then he kissed Rollonde between the eyes, saying, "Go, Rollonde, since I
love you, and wish you to be happy; only return to me when it is day!"
And so saying, he threw open the window to the stir of the night.

Then the rocking-horse lifted his dark head and neighed aloud for joy,
and swaying forward with a mighty circling motion rose full into the
air, and sprang out into the free world before him.

Freedling watched how with plunge and curve he went over the bowed
trees; and again he neighed into the darkness of the night, then swifter
than wind disappeared in the distance. And faintly from far away came a
sound of the neighing of many horses answering him.

Then the Prince closed the window and crept back to bed; and all night
long he dreamed strange dreams of Rocking-Horse Land. There he saw
smooth hills and valleys that rose and sank without a stone or a tree to
disturb the steel-like polish of their surface, slippery as glass, and
driven over by a strong wind; and over them, with a sound like the
humming of bees, flew the rocking-horses. Up and down, up and down, with
bright manes streaming like coloured fires, and feet motionless behind
and before, went the swift pendulum of their flight. Their long bodies
bowed and rose; their heads worked to give impetus to their going; they
cried, neighing to each other over hill and valley, "Which of us shall
be first? which of us shall be first?" After them the mares with their
tall foals came spinning to watch, crying also among themselves, "Ah!
which shall be first?"

"Rollonde, Rollonde is first!" shouted the Prince, clapping his hands as
they reached the goal; and at that, all at once, he woke and saw it was
broad day. Then he ran and threw open the window, and holding out the
finger that carried the white hair, cried, "Rollonde, Rollonde, come
back, Rollonde!"

Far away he heard an answering sound; and in another moment there came
the great rocking-horse himself, dipping and dancing over the hills. He
crossed the woods and cleared the palace-wall at a bound, and floating
in through the window, dropped to rest at Prince Freedling's side,
rocking gently to and fro as though panting from the strain of his long
flight.

"Now are you happy?" asked the Prince as he caressed him.

"Ah! sweet Prince," said Rollonde, "ah, kind Master!" And then he said
no more, but became the still stock staring rocking-horse of the day
before, with fixed eyes and rigid limbs, which could do nothing but rock
up and down with a jangling of sweet bells so long as the Prince rode
him.

[Illustration]

That night Freedling came again when all was still in the palace; and
now as before Rollonde had moved from his place and was standing with
his head against the window waiting to be let out. "Ah, dear Master,"
he said, so soon as he saw the Prince coming, "let me go this night
also, and surely I will return with day."

So again the Prince opened the window, and watched him disappear, and
heard from far away the neighing of the horses in Rocking-Horse Land
calling to him. And in the morning with the white hair round his finger
he called "Rollonde, Rollonde!" and Rollonde neighed and came back to
him, dipping and dancing over the hills.

Now this same thing happened every night; and every morning the horse
kissed Freedling, saying, "Ah! dear Prince and kind Master," and became
stock still once more.

So a year went by, till one morning Freedling woke up to find it was his
sixth birthday. And as six is to five, so were the presents he received
on his sixth birthday for magnificence and multitude to the presents he
had received the year before. His fairy godmother had sent him a bird, a
real live bird; but when he pulled its tail it became a lizard, and when
he pulled the lizard's tail it became a mouse, and when he pulled the
mouse's tail it became a cat. Then he did very much want to see if the
cat would eat the mouse, and not being able to have them both he got
rather vexed with his fairy godmother. However, he pulled the cat's tail
and the cat became a dog, and when he pulled the dog's the dog became a
goat; and so it went on till he got to a cow. And he pulled the cow's
tail and it became a camel, and he pulled the camel's tail and it became
an elephant, and still not being contented, he pulled the elephant's
tail and it became a guinea-pig. Now a guinea-pig has no tail to pull,
so it remained a guinea-pig, while Prince Freedling sat down and howled
at his fairy godmother.

But the best of all his presents was the one given to him by the King
his father. It was a most beautiful horse, for, said the King, "You are
now old enough to learn to ride."

So Freedling was put upon the horse's back, and from having ridden so
long upon his rocking-horse he learned to ride perfectly in a single
day, and was declared by all the courtiers to be the most perfect
equestrian that was ever seen.

Now these praises and the pleasure of riding a real horse so occupied
his thoughts that that night he forgot all about Rollonde, and falling
fast asleep dreamed of nothing but real horses and horsemen going to
battle. And so it was the next night too.

But the night after that, just as he was falling asleep, he heard
someone sobbing by his bed, and a voice saying, "Ah! dear Prince and
kind Master, let me go, for my heart breaks for a sight of my native
land." And there stood his poor rocking-horse Rollonde, with tears
falling out of his beautiful eyes on to the white coverlet.

Then the Prince, full of shame at having forgotten his friend, sprang up
and threw his arms round his neck saying, "Be of good cheer, Rollonde,
for now surely I will let thee go!" and he ran to the window and opened
it for the horse to go through. "Ah, dear Prince and kind Master!" said
Rollonde. Then he lifted his head and neighed so that the whole palace
shook, and swaying forward till his head almost touched the ground he
sprang out into the night and away towards Rocking-Horse Land.

Then Prince Freedling, standing by the window, thoughtfully unloosed the
white hair from his finger, and let it float away into the darkness, out
of sight of his eye or reach of his hand.

"Good-bye, Rollonde," he murmured softly, "brave Rollonde, my own good
Rollonde! Go and be happy in your own land, since I, your Master, was
forgetting to be kind to you." And far away he heard the neighing of
horses in Rocking-Horse Land.

Many years after, when Freedling had become King in his father's stead,
the fifth birthday of the Prince his son came to be celebrated; and
there on the morning of the day, among all the presents that covered the
floor of the chamber, stood a beautiful foal rocking-horse, black, with
deep-burning eyes.

No one knew how it had come there, or whose present it was, till the
King himself came to look at it. And when he saw it so like the old
Rollonde he had loved as a boy, he smiled, and, stroking its dark mane,
said softly in its ear, "Art thou, then, the son of Rollonde?" And the
foal answered him, "Ah, dear Prince and kind Master!" but never a word
more.

Then the King took the little Prince his son, and told him the story of
Rollonde as I have told it here; and at the end he went and searched in
the foal's mane till he found one white hair, and, drawing it out, he
wound it about the little Prince's finger, bidding him guard it well and
be ever a kind master to Rollonde's son.

So here is my story of Rollonde come to a good ending.



JAPONEL


THERE was once upon a time a young girl named Japonel, the daughter of a
wood-cutter, and of all things that lived by the woodside, she was the
most fair.

Her hair in its net was like a snared sunbeam, and her face like a
spring over which roses leaned down and birds hung fluttering to
drink--such being the in-dwelling presence of her eyes and her laughing
lips and her cheeks.

Whenever she crossed the threshold of her home, the birds and the
flowers began calling to her, "Look up, Japonel! Look down, Japonel!"
for the sight of the sweet face they loved so much. The squirrel called
over its bough, "Look up, Japonel!" and the rabbit from between the
roots, "Japonel, look down!" And Japonel, as she went, looked up and
looked down, and laughed, thinking what a sweet-sounding place the world
was.

Her mother, looking at her from day to day, became afraid: she said to
the wood-cutter, "Our child is too fair; she will get no good of it."

But her husband answered, "Good wife, why should it trouble you? What is
there in these quiet parts that can harm her? Keep her only from the
pond in the wood, lest the pond-witch see her and become envious."

"Do not go near water, or you may fall in!" said her mother one day as
she saw Japonel bending down to look at her face in a rain-puddle by
the road.

Japonel laughed softly. "O silly little mother, how can I fall into a
puddle that is not large enough for my two feet to stand in?"

But the mother thought to herself, when Japonel grows older and finds
the pond in the wood, she will go there to look at her face, unless she
has something better to see it in at home. So from the next pedlar who
came that way she bought a little mirror and gave it to Japonel, that in
it she might see her face with its spring-like beauty, and so have no
cause to go near the pond in the wood. The lovely girl, who had never
seen a mirror in her life, took the rounded glass in her hand and gazed
for a long time without speaking, wondering more and more at her own
loveliness. Then she went softly away with it into her own chamber, and
wishing to find a name for a thing she loved so much, she called it,
"Stream's eye," and hung it on the wall beside her bed.

In the days that followed, the door of her chamber would be often shut,
and her face seldom seen save of herself alone. And "Look up, Japonel!
Look down, Japonel!" was a sound she no longer cared to hear as she went
through the woods; for the memory of "Stream's eye" was like a dream
that clung to her, and floated in soft ripples on her face.

She grew tall like an aspen, and more fair, but pale. Her mother said,
"Woe is me, for now I have made her vain through showing her her great
beauty." And to Japonel herself she said, "Oh, my beautiful, my bright
darling, though I have made thee vain, I pray thee to punish me not. Do
not go near the pond in the wood to look in it, or an evil thing will
happen to thee." And Japonel smiled dreamily amid half-thoughts, and
kissing her mother, "Dear mother," she said, "does 'Stream's eye' tell
me everything of my beauty, or am I in other eyes still fairer?" Then
her mother answered sadly, "Nay, but I trust the open Eye of God finds
in thee a better beauty than thy mirror can tell thee of."

Japonel, when she heard that answer, went away till she came to the pond
in the wood. It lay down in a deep hollow, and drank light out of a
clear sky, which, through a circle of dark boughs, ever looked down on
it. "Perhaps," she said to herself, "it is here that God will open His
Eye and show me how much fairer I am than even 'Stream's eye' can tell
me." But she thought once of her mother's words, and went by.

Then she turned again, "It is only that my mother fears lest I become
vain. What harm can come if I do look once? it will be in my way home."
So she crept nearer and nearer to the pond, saying to herself, "To see
myself once as fair as God sees me cannot be wrong. Surely that will not
make me more vain." And when she came through the last trees, and stood
near the brink, she saw before her a little old woman, dressed in green,
kneeling by the water and looking in.

"There at least," she said to herself, "is one who looks in without any
harm happening to her. I wonder what it is she sees that she stays there
so still." And coming a little nearer, "Good dame," called Japonel,
"what is it you have found there, that you gaze at so hard?" And the
old woman, without moving or looking up, answered, "My own face; but a
hundred times younger and fairer, as it was in my youth."

Then thought Japonel, "How should I look now, who am fair and in the
full bloom of my youth? It is because my mother fears lest I shall
become vain that she warned me." So she came quickly and knelt down by
the old woman and looked in. And even as she caught sight of her face
gazing up, pale and tremulous ("Quick, go away!" its lips seemed to be
saying), the old woman slid down from the bank and caught hold of her
reflection with green, weed-like arms, and drew it away into the pool's
still depths below. Beneath Japonel's face lay nothing now but blank
dark water, and far away in, a faint face gazed back beseeching, and its
lips moved with an imprisoned prayer that might not make itself heard.
Only three bubbles rose to the surface, and broke into three separate
sighs like the shadow of her own name. Then the pond-witch stirred the
mud, and all trace of that lost image went out, and Japonel was left
alone.

She rose, expecting to see nothing, to be blind; but the woods were
there, night shadows were gathering to their tryst under the boughs, and
brighter stars had begun blotting the semi-brightness of the sky. All
the way home she went feebly, not yet resolved of the evil that had come
upon her. She stole quietly to her own little room in the fading light,
and took down "Stream's eye" from the wall. Then she fell forward upon
the bed, for all the surface of her glass was grown blank: never could
she hope to look upon her own face again.

The next morning she hung her head low, for she feared all her beauty
was flown from her, till she heard her father say, "Wife, each day it
seems to me our Japonel grows more fair." And her mother answered,
sighing, "She is too fair, I know."

Then Japonel set out once more for the pond in the wood. As she went the
birds and the flowers sang to her, "Look up, Japonel; look down,
Japonel!" but Japonel went on, giving them no heed. She came to the
water's side, and leaning over, saw far down in a tangle of green weeds
a face that looked back to hers, faint and blurred by the shimmering
movement of the water. Then, weeping, she wrung her hands and cried:

          "Ah! sweet face of Japonel,
           Beauty and grace of Japonel,
           Image and eyes of Japonel,
           'Come back!' sighs Japonel."

And bubble by bubble a faint answer was returned that broke like a sob
on the water's surface:

          "I am the face of Japonel,
           The beauty and grace of Japonel;
           Here under a spell, Japonel,
           I dwell, Japonel."

All day Japonel cried so, and was so answered. Now and again, green
weeds would come skimming to the surface, and seem to listen to her
reproach, and then once more sink down to their bed in the pond's
depths, and lie almost still, waving long slimy fingers through the mud.

The next day Japonel came again, and cried as before:

          "Ah! sweet face of Japonel,
           Beauty and grace of Japonel,
           Image and eyes of Japonel,
           'Come back!' cries Japonel."

And her shadow in the water made answer:

          "I am the face of Japonel,
           The beauty and grace of Japonel;
           Here under a spell, Japonel,
           I dwell, Japonel."

Now as she sat and sorrowed she noticed that whenever a bird flew over
the pond it dropped something out of its mouth into the water, and
looking she saw millet-seeds lying everywhere among the weeds of its
surface; one by one they were being sucked under by the pond-witch.

Japonel stayed so long by the side of the pond, that on her way home it
had fallen quite dark while she was still in the middle of the wood.
Then all at once she heard a bird with loud voice cry out of the
darkness, "Look up, Japonel!" The cry was so sudden and so strange,
coming at that place and that hour, that all through her grief she heard
it, and stopped to look up. Again in the darkness she heard the bird
cry, "Why do you weep, Japonel?" Japonel said, "Because the pond-witch
has carried away my beautiful reflection in the water, so that I can see
my own face no more."

Then the bird said, "Why have you not done as the birds do? She is
greedy; so they throw in millet-seeds, and then she does not steal the
reflection of their wings when they pass over." And Japonel answered,
"Because I did not know that, therefore I am to-day the most miserable
of things living." Then said the bird, "Come to-morrow, and you shall be
the happiest."

So the next day Japonel went and sat by the pond in the wood, waiting to
be made the happiest, as the bird had promised her. All day long great
flocks of birds went to and fro, and the pond became covered with seeds.
Japonel looked; "Why, they are poppy-seeds!" she cried. (Now poppy-seeds
when they are eaten make people sleep.) Just as the sun was setting all
the birds began suddenly to cry in chorus, "Look down, Japonel! Japonel,
look down!" And there, on the pond's surface, lay an old woman dressed
in green, fast asleep, with all the folds of her dress and the wrinkles
of her face full of poppy-seeds.

Then Japonel ran fast to the pond's edge and looked down. Slowly from
the depth rose the pale beautiful reflection of herself, untying itself
from the thin green weeds, and drifting towards the bank. It looked up
with tremulous greeting, half sadness, half pleasure, seeming so glad
after that long separation to return to its sweet mistress. So as it
came and settled below her own face in the water, Japonel stooped down
over it and kissed it.

Then she sprang back from the brink and ran home, fast, fast in the
fading light. And there, when she looked in her mirror, was once more
the beautiful face she loved, a little blue and wan from its long
imprisonment under water. And so it ever remained, beautiful, but wan,
to remind her of the sorrow that had come upon her when, loving this too
well, she had not loved enough to listen to the cry of the birds: "Look
up, Japonel!" and, "Japonel, look down!"



GAMMELYN, THE DRESSMAKER


THERE was once upon a time a King's daughter who was about to be given
in marriage to a great prince; and when the wedding-day was yet a long
way off, the whole court began to concern itself as to how the bride was
to be dressed. What she should wear, and how she should wear it, was the
question debated by the King and his Court day and night, almost without
interruption. Whatever it was to be, it must be splendid, without peer.
Must it be silk, or velvet, or satin; should it be enriched with
brocade, or with gems, or sewn thick with pearls?

But when they came to ask the Princess, she said, "I will have only a
dress of beaten gold, light as gossamer, thin as bee's-wing, soft as
swan's-down."

Then the King, calling his chief goldsmith, told him to make for the
Princess the dress of beaten gold. But the goldsmith knew no way how
such a dress was to be made, and his answer to the King was, "Sire, the
thing is not to be done."

Then the King grew very angry, for he said, "What a Princess can find it
in her head to wish, some man must find it in his wits to accomplish."
So he put the chief goldsmith in prison to think about it, and summoning
all the goldsmiths in the kingdom, told them of the Princess's wish,
that a dress should be made for her of beaten gold. But every one of the
goldsmiths went down on his knees to the King, saying, "Sire, the thing
is not to be done." Thereupon the King clapped them all into prison,
promising to cut off all their heads if in three weeks' time they had
not put them together to some purpose and devised a plan for making such
a dress as the Princess desired.

Now just then Gammelyn was passing through the country, and when he
heard of all this, he felt very sorry for the goldsmiths, who had done
nothing wrong, but had told honest truth about themselves to the King.
So he set his bright wits to work, and at last said, "I think I can save
the goldsmiths their heads, for I have found a way of making such a
dress as this fine Princess desires."

Then he went to the King and said, "I have a way for making a dress of
beaten gold."

"But," said the King, "have a care, for if you fail I shall assuredly
cut off your head."

All the same Gammelyn took that risk willingly and set to work. And
first he asked that the Princess would tell him what style of dress it
should be; and the Princess said, "Beaten gold, light as gossamer, thin
as bee's-wing, soft as swan's-down, and it must be made thus." So she
showed him of what fashion sleeve, and bodice, and train should be. Then
Gammelyn caused to be made (for he had a palace full of workers put
under him) a most lovely dress, in the fashion the Princess had named,
of white cambric closely woven; and the Princess came wondering at him,
saying that it was to be only of beaten gold.

"You wait a while!" said Gammelyn, for he had no liking for the
Princess. Then he asked the King for gold out of his treasury; but the
King supplied him instead with gold from the stores of the imprisoned
goldsmiths. So he put it in a sack, and carried it to a mill, and said
to the miller, "Grind me this sack full of gold into flour." At first
the miller stared at him for a madman, but when he saw the letter in
Gammelyn's hands which the King had written, and which said, "I'll cut
off your head if you don't!" then he set to with a will, and ground the
gold into fine golden flour. So Gammelyn shouldered his sack and jogged
back to the palace. The next thing he did was to summon all the
gold-beaters in the kingdom, which he did easily enough with the King's
letter; for directly they saw the words "I'll cut off your head if you
don't!" and the King's signature beneath, they came running as fast as
their legs could carry them, till all the streets which led up to the
palace were full of them.

Then Gammelyn chose a hundred of the strongest, and took them into the
chamber where the wedding-dress was in making. And the dress he took and
spread out on iron tables, and, sprinkling the golden flour all over it,
set the men to beat day and night for a whole week. And at the end of
the week there was a splendid dress, that looked as if it were of pure
gold only. But the Princess said, "My dress must be _all_ gold, and no
part cambric--this will not do." "You wait!" said Gammelyn, "it is not
finished yet."

Then he made a fire of sweet spices and sandalwood, jasmine, and
mignonette; and into the fire he put the wonderful dress.

The Princess screamed with grief and rage; for she was in love with the
dress, though she was so nice in holding him to the conditions of the
decree. But Gammelyn persevered, and what happened was this: the fire
burnt away all the threads of the cambric, but was not hot enough to
melt the gold; and when all the cambric was burnt, then he drew out of
the fire a dress of beaten gold, light as gossamer, thin as bee's-wing,
soft as swan's-down, and fragrant as a wind when it blows through a
Sultan's garden.

So all the goldsmiths were set free from prison; and the King appointed
Gammelyn his chief goldsmith.

But when the Princess saw the dress, she was so beside herself with
pride and pleasure that she must have also a dress made of pearl, light
as gossamer, thin as bee's-wing, soft as swan's-down. And the King sent
for all his jewellers, and told them that such a dress was to be made;
but they all went down on their bended knees, crying with one voice,
"Sire, the thing is not to be done." And all the good they got for that
was that they were clapped into prison till a way for doing it should be
found.

Then the King said to Gammelyn, "Since my jewellers cannot make this
dress, you must do it!" But Gammelyn said, "Sire, that is not in our
bargain." And the only answer the King had to that was, "I'll cut off
your head if you don't."

Gammelyn sighed like a sea-shell; but determining to make the best of a
bad business, he set to work.

And, as before, he made a dress in the fashion the Princess chose, of
the finest weaving. He made each part separate; the two sleeves
separate, the body separate, the skirt and train separate. Then, at his
desire, the King commanded that all the oysters which were dredged out
of the sea should be brought to him. Out of these he selected the five
finest oysters of all; each one was the size of a tea-tray. Then he put
them into a large tank and inside each shell he put one part of the
dress--the weaving of which was so fine that there was plenty of room
for it, as well as for the oysters. And in course of time he drew out
from each shell--from one the body, from one the skirt, from one the
train, from one a sleeve, from another the other sleeve. Next he
fastened each part together with thread, and put the whole dress back
into the tank; and into the mouth of one oyster he put the joinery of
body and skirt, and into the mouth of another the joinery of skirt and
train, and into the mouth of two others the joinery of the two sleeves,
and the fifth oyster he ate. So the oysters did their work, laying their
soft inlay over the gown, just as they laid it over the inside of their
shells; and after a time Gammelyn drew forth a dress bright and
gleaming, and pure mother-o'-pearl. But "No," said the Princess, "it
must be all pure pearl, with nothing of thread in it." But, "Wait a
while!" said Gammelyn, "I have not finished yet."

So by a decree of the King he caused to be gathered together all the
moths in the kingdom--millions of moths; and he put them all into a bare
iron room along with the dress, and sealed the doors and windows with
red sealing-wax. The Princess wept and sighed for the dress: "It will be
all eaten," said she. "Then I shall cut off his head," said the King.
But for all that, Gammelyn persevered.

[Illustration]

And when he opened the door they found that every thread had been eaten
away by the moths, while the mother-o'-pearl had been left uninjured. So
the dress was a perfect pearl, light as gossamer, thin as bee's-wing,
soft as swan's-down; and the King made Gammelyn his chief jeweller, and
set all the other jewellers free.

Then the Princess was so delighted that she wished to have one more
dress also, made all of butterflies' wings. "That were easily done,"
said Gammelyn, "but it were cruel to ask for such a dress to be made."

Nevertheless the Princess would have it so, and _he_ should make it.
"I'll cut off your head if you don't," said the King.

Gammelyn bumbled like a bee; but all he said was, "Many million
butterflies will be wanted for such a work: you must let me have again
the two dresses--the pearl, and the gold--for butterflies love bright
colours that gleam and shine; and with these alone can I gather them all
to one place."

So the Princess gave him the two dresses; and he went to the highest
part of the palace, out on to the battlements of the great tower. There
he faced towards the west, where lay a new moon, louting towards the
setting sun; and he laid the two robes, one on either arm, spreading
them abroad, till they looked like two wings--a gold and a pearl. And
a beam of the sun came and kissed the gold wing, and a pale quivering
thread of moonlight touched the pearl wing; and Gammelyn sang:

          "Light of the moon,
           Light of the sun,
           Pearl of the sky,
           Gold from on high,
               Hearken to me!

          "Light of the moon,
           Pearl of the sea,
           Gold of the land
           Here in my hand,
               I render to thee.

          "Butterflies come!
           Carry us home,
           Gold of the gnome,
               Pearl of the sea."

And as he sang, out of the east came a soft muttering of wings and a
deep moving mass like a bright storm-cloud. And out of the sun ran a
long gold finger, and out of the moon a pale shivering finger of pearl,
and touching the gold and the pearl, these became verily wings and not
millinery. Then before the Princess could scream more than once, or the
King say anything about cutting off heads, the bright cloud in the east
became a myriad myriad of butterflies. And drawn by the falling flashing
sun, and by the faint falling moon, and fanned by the million wings of
his fellow-creatures, Gammelyn sprang out from the palace wall on the
crest of the butterfly-wind, and flew away brighter and farther each
moment; and followed by his myriad train of butterflies, he passed out
of sight, and in that country was never heard of again.



THE FEEDING OF THE EMIGRANTS


OVER the sea went the birds, flying southward to their other home where
the sun was. The rustle of their wings, high overhead, could be heard
down on the water; and their soft, shrill twitterings, and the thirsty
nibbling of their beaks; for the seas were hushed, and the winds hung
away in cloud-land.

Far away from any shore, and beginning to be weary, their eyes caught
sight of a white form resting between sky and sea. Nearer they came,
till it seemed to be a great white bird, brooding on the calmed water;
and its wings were stretched high and wide, yet it stirred not. And the
wings had in themselves no motion, but stood rigidly poised over their
own reflection in the water.

Then the birds came curiously, dropping from their straight course, to
wonder at the white wings that went not on. And they came and settled
about this great, bird-like thing, so still and so grand.

On to the deck crept a small child, for the noise of the birds had come
down to him in the hold. "There is nobody at home but me," he said; for
he thought the birds must have come to call, and he wished to be polite.
"They are all gone but me," he went on; "all gone. I am left alone."

The birds, none of them understood him; but they put their heads on one
side and looked down on him in a friendly way, seeming to consider.

He ran down below and fetched up a pannikin of water and some biscuit.
He set the water down, and breaking the biscuit sprinkled it over the
white deck. Then he clapped his hands to see them all flutter and crowd
round him, dipping their bright heads to the food and drink he gave
them.

They might not stay long, for the water-logged ship could not help them
on the way they wished to go; and by sunset they must touch land again.
Away they went, on a sudden, the whole crew of them, and the sound of
their voices became faint in the bright sea-air.

"I am left alone!" said the child.

Many days ago, while he was asleep in a snug corner he had found for
himself, the captain and crew had taken to the boats, leaving the great
ship to its fate. And forgetting him because he was so small, or
thinking that he was safe in some one of the other boats, the rough
sailors had gone off without him, and he was left alone. So for a whole
week he had stayed with the ship, like a whisper of its vanished life
amid the blues of a deep calm. And the birds came to the ship only to
desert it again quickly, because it stood so still upon the sea.

[Illustration]

But that night the mermen came round the vessel's side, and sang; and
the wind rose to their singing, and the sea grew rough. Yet the child
slept with his head in dreams. The dreams came from the mermen's
songs, and he held his breath, and his heart stayed burdened by the deep
sweetness of what he saw.

Dark and strange and cold the sea-valleys opened before him; blue
sea-beasts ranged there, guarded by strong-finned shepherds, and fishes
like birds darted to and fro, but made no sound. And that was what
burdened his heart,--that for all the beauty he saw, there was no sound,
no song of a single bird to comfort him.

The mermen reached out their blue arms to him, and sang; on the top of
the waves they sang, striving to make him forget the silence of the land
below. They offered him the sea-life: why should he be drowned and die?

And now over him in the dark night the great wings crashed, and beat
abroad in the wind, and the ship made great way. And the mermen swam
fast to be with her, and ceased from their own song, for the wind
overhead sang loud in the rigging and the sails. But the child lifted
his head in his sleep and smiled, for his soul was eased of the mermen's
song, and it seemed to him that instead he heard birds singing in a
far-off land, singing of a child whose loving hand had fed them, faint
and weary, in their way over the wide ocean.

In that far southern land the dawn had begun, and the birds, waking one
by one, were singing their story of him to the soft-breathing tamarisk
boughs. And none of them knew how they had been sent as a salvage crew
to save the child's spirit from the spell of the sea-dream, and to
carry it safely back to the land that loved him.

       *       *       *       *       *

But with the child's body the white wings had flown down into the
wave-buried valleys, and to a cleft of the sea-hills to rest.



WHITE BIRCH


ONCE upon a time there lived in a wood a brother and sister who had been
forgotten by all the world. But this thing did not greatly grieve their
hearts, because they themselves were all the world to each other:
meeting or parting, they never forgot that. Nobody remained to tell them
who they were; but she was "Little Sister," and he was "Fair Brother,"
and those were the only names they ever went by.

In their little wattled hut they would have been perfectly happy but for
one thing which now and then they remembered and grieved over. Fair
Brother was lame--not a foot could he put to the ground, nor take one
step into the outside world. But he lay quiet on his bed of leaves,
while Little Sister went out and in, bringing him food and drink, and
the scent of flowers, and tales of the joy of earth and of the songs of
birds.

One day she brought him a litter of withered birch-leaves to soften his
bed and make it warmer for the approaching season of cold; and all the
winter he lay on it, and sighed. Little Sister had never seen him so sad
before.

In the spring, when the songs of the pairing birds began, his sorrow
only grew greater. "Let me go out, let me go out," he cried; "only a
little way into the bright world before I die!" She kissed his feet, and
took him up in her arms and carried him. But she could only go a very
little way with her burden; presently she had to return and lay him
down again on his bed of leaves.

"Have I seen all the bright world?" he asked. "Is it such a little
place?"

To hide her sorrow from him, Little Sister ran out into the woods, and
as she went, wondering how to comfort his grief, she could not help
weeping.

All at once at the foot of a tree she saw the figure of a woman seated.
It was strange, for she had never before seen anybody else in the wood
but themselves. The woman said to her, "Why is it that you weep so?"

"The heart of Fair Brother is breaking," replied Little Sister. "It is
because of that that I am weeping."

"Why is his heart breaking?" inquired the other.

"I do not know," answered Little Sister. "Ever since last autumn fell it
has been so. Always, before, he has been happy; he has no reason not to
be, only he is lame."

She had come close to the seated figure; and looking, she saw a woman
with a very white skin, in a robe and hood of deep grey. Grey eyes
looked back at her with just a soft touch in them of the green that
comes with the young leaves of spring.

"You are beautiful," said Little Sister, drawing in her breath.

"Yes, I am beautiful," answered the other. "Why is Fair Brother lame?
Has he no feet?"

"Oh, beautiful feet!" said Little Sister. "But they are like still
water; they cannot run."

"If you want him to run," said the other, "I can tell you what to do.
What will you give me in exchange?"

"Whatever you like to ask," answered Little Sister; "but I am poor."

"You have beautiful hair," said the woman; "will you let that go?"

Little Sister stooped down her head, and let the other cut off her hair.
The wind went out of it with a sigh as it fell into the grey woman's
lap. She hid it away under her robe, and said, "Listen, Little Sister,
and I will tell you! To-night is the new moon. If you can hold your
tongue till the moon is full, the feet of Fair Brother shall run like a
stream from the hills, dancing from rock to rock."

"Only tell me what I must do!" said Little Sister.

"You see this birch-tree, with its silver skin?" said the woman. "Cut
off two strips of it and weave them into shoes for Fair Brother. And
when they are finished by the full moon, if you have not spoken, you
have but to put them upon Fair Brother's feet, and they will outrun
yours."

So Little Sister, as the other had told her, cut off two strips from the
bark of the birch-tree, and ran home as fast as she could to tell her
brother of the happiness which, with only a little waiting, was in store
for them.

But as she came near home, over the low roof she saw the new moon
hanging like a white feather in the air; and, closing her lips, she went
in and kissed Fair Brother silently.

He said, "Little Sister, loose out your hair over me, and let me feel
the sweet airs; and tell me how the earth sounds, for my heart is sick
with sorrow and longing." She took his hand and laid it upon her heart
that he might feel its happy beating, but said no word. Then she sat
down at his feet and began to work at the shoes. All the birch-bark she
cut into long strips fit for weaving, doing everything as the grey woman
had told her.

Fair Brother fretted at her silence, and cried, calling her cruel; but
she only kissed his feet, and went on working the faster. And the white
birch shoes grew under her hands; and every night she watched and saw
the moon growing round.

Fair Brother said, "Little Sister, what have you done with your hair in
which you used to fetch home the wind? And why do you never go and bring
me flowers or sing me the song of the birds?" And Little Sister looked
up and nodded, but never answered or moved from her task, for her
fingers were slow, and the moon was quick in its growing.

One night Fair Brother was lying asleep, and his head was filled with
dreams of the outer world into which he longed to go. The full moon
looked in through the open door, and Little Sister laughed in her heart
as she slipped the birch shoes on to his feet. "Now run, dear feet," she
whispered; "but do not outrun mine."

Up in his sleep leapt Fair Brother, for the dream of the white birch had
hold of him. A lady with a dark hood and grey eyes full of the laughter
of leaves beckoned him. Out he ran into the moonlight, and Little Sister
laughed as she ran with him.

In a little while she called, "Do not outrun me, Fair Brother!" But he
seemed not to hear her, for not a bit did he slacken the speed of his
running.

Presently she cried again, "Rest with me a while, Fair Brother! Do not
outrun me!" But Fair Brother's feet were fleet after their long
idleness, and they only ran the faster. "Ah, ah!" she cried, all out of
breath. "Come back to me when you have done running, Fair Brother." And
as he disappeared among the trees, she cried after him, "How will you
know the way, since you were never here before? Do not get lost in the
wood, Fair Brother!"

She lay on the ground and listened, and could hear the white birch shoes
carrying him away till all sound of them died.

When, next morning, he had not returned, she searched all day through
the wood, calling his name.

"Where are you, Fair Brother? Where have you lost yourself?" she cried,
but no voice answered her.

For a while she comforted her heart, saying, "He has not run all these
years--no wonder he is still running. When he is tired he will return."

But days and weeks went by, and Fair Brother never came back to her.
Every day she wandered searching for him, or sat at the door of the
little wattled hut and cried.

One day she cried so much that the ground became quite wet with her
tears. That night was the night of the full moon, but weary with grief
she lay down and slept soundly, though outside the woods were bright.

In the middle of the night she started up, for she thought she heard
somebody go by; and, surely, feet were running away in the distance. And
when she looked out, there across the doorway was the print of the birch
shoes on the ground she had made wet with her tears.

"Alas, alas!" cried Little Sister. "What have I done that he comes to
the very door of our home and passes by, though the moon shines in and
shows it him?"

After that she searched everywhere through the forest to discover the
print of the birch shoes upon the ground. Here and there after rain she
thought she could see traces, but never was she able to track them far.

Once more came the night of the full moon, and once more in the middle
of the night Little Sister started up and heard feet running away in the
distance. She called, but no answer came back to her.

So on the third full moon she waited, sitting in the door of the hut,
and would not sleep.

"If he has been twice," she said to herself, "he will come again, and I
shall see him. Ah, Fair Brother, Fair Brother, I have given you feet;
why have you so used me?"

Presently she heard a sound of footsteps, and there came Fair Brother
running towards her. She saw his face pale and ghostlike, yet he never
looked at her, but ran past and on without stopping.

"Fair Brother, Fair Brother, wait for me; do not outrun me!" cried
Little Sister; and was up in haste to be after him.

He ran fast, and would not stop; but she ran fast too, for her love
would not let him go. Once she nearly had him by the hair, and once she
caught him by the cloak; but in her hand it shredded and crumbled like a
dry leaf; and still, though there was no breath left in her, she ran on.

And now she began to wonder, for Fair Brother was running the way that
she knew well--towards the tree from which she had cut the two strips of
bark. Her feet were failing her; she knew that she could run no more.
Just as they came together in sight of the birch-tree Little Sister
stumbled and fell.

She saw Fair Brother run on and strike with his hands and feet against
the tree, and cry, "Oh, White Birch, White Birch, lift the latch up, or
she will catch me!" And at once the tree opened its rind, and Fair
Brother ran in.

"So," said Little Sister, "you are there, are you, Brother? I know,
then, what I have done to you."

She went and laid her ear to the tree, and inside she could hear Fair
Brother sobbing and crying. It sounded to her as if White Birch were
beating him.

"Well, well, Fair Brother, she shall not beat you for long!" said Little
Sister.

She went home and waited till the next full moon had come. Then, as soon
as it was dark, she went along through the wood until she came to the
place, and there she crept close to the white birch-tree and waited.

Presently she heard Fair Brother's voice come faintly out of the heart
of the tree: "White Birch, it is the full moon and the hour in which
Little Sister gave life to my feet. For one hour give me leave to go,
that I may run home and look at her while she sleeps. I will not stop or
speak, and I promise you that I will return."

Then she heard the voice of White Birch answer grudgingly: "It is her
hour and I cannot hold you, therefore you may go. Only when you come
again I will beat you."

Then the tree opened a little way, and Fair Brother ran out. He ran so
quickly in his eager haste that Little Sister had not time to catch him,
and she did not dare to call aloud. "I must make sure," she said to
herself, "before he comes back. To-night White Birch will have to let
him go."

So she gathered as many dry pieces of wood as she could find, and made
them into a pile near at hand; and setting them alight, she soon had a
brisk fire burning.

Before long she heard the sound of feet in the brushwood, and there came
Fair Brother, running as hard as he could go, with the breath sobbing in
and out of his body.

Little Sister sprang out to meet him, but as soon as he saw her he beat
with his hands and feet against the tree, crying, "White Birch, White
Birch, lift the latch up, or she will catch me!"

But before the tree could open Little Sister had caught hold of the
birch shoes, and pulled them off his feet, and running towards the fire
she thrust them into the red heart of the embers.

The white birch shivered from head to foot, and broke into lamentable
shrieks. The witch thrust her head out of the tree, crying, "Don't,
don't! You are burning my skin! Oh, cruel! how you are burning me!"

"I have not burned you enough yet," cried Little Sister; and raking the
burning sticks and faggots over the ground, she heaped them round the
foot of the white birch-tree, whipping the flames to make them leap
high.

The witch drew in her head, but inside she could be heard screaming. As
the flames licked the white bark she cried, "Oh, my skin! You are
burning my skin. My beautiful white skin will be covered with nothing
but blisters. Do you know that you are ruining my complexion?"

But Little Sister said, "If I make you ugly you will not be able to show
your face again to deceive the innocent, and to ruin hearts that were
happy."

So she piled on sticks and faggots till the outside of the birch-tree
was all black and scarred and covered with blisters, the marks of which
have remained to this day. And inside, the witch could be heard dancing
time to the music of the flames, and crying because of her ruined
complexion.

Then Little Sister stooped and took up Fair Brother in her arms. "You
cannot walk now," she whispered, "I have taken away your feet; so I will
carry you."

He was so starved and thin that he was not very heavy, and all the long
way home Little Sister carried him in her arms. How happy they were,
looking in each other's eyes by the clear light of the moon!

"Can you ever be happy again in the old way?" asked Little Sister.
"Shall you not want to run?"

"No," answered Fair Brother; "I shall never wish to run again. And as
for the rest"--he stroked her head softly--"why, I can feel that your
hair is growing--it is ever so long, and I can see the wind lifting it.
White Birch has no hair of her own, but she has some that she wears,
just the same colour as yours."



THE LUCK OF THE ROSES


NOT far from a great town, in the midst of a well-wooded valley, lived a
rose-gardener and his wife. All round the old home green sleepy hollows
lay girdled by silver streams, long grasses bent softly in the wind, and
the half fabulous murmur of woods filled the air.

Up in their rose-garden, on the valley's side facing the sun, the
gardener and his wife lived contentedly sharing toil and ease. They had
been young, they were not yet old; and though they had to be frugal they
did not call themselves poor. A strange fortune had belonged always to
the plot of ground over which they laboured; whether because the soil
was so rich, or the place so sheltered from cold, or the gardener so
skilled in the craft, which had come down in his family from father to
son, could not be known; but certainly it was true that his rose-trees
gave forth better bloom and bore earlier and later through the season
than any others that were to be found in those parts.

The good couple accepted what came to them, simply and gladly, thanking
God. Perhaps it was from the kindness of fortune, or perhaps because the
sweet perfume of the roses had mixed itself in their blood, that her man
and his wife were so sweet-tempered and gentle in their ways. The colour
of the rose was in their faces, and the colour of the rose was in their
hearts; to her man she was the most beautiful and dearest of
sweethearts, to his wife he was the best and kindest of lovers.

Every morning, before it was light, her man and his wife would go into
the garden and gather all the roses that were ripe for sale; then with
full baskets on their backs they would set out, and get to the market
just as the level sunbeams from the east were striking all the vanes and
spires of the city into gold. There they would dispose of their flowers
to the florists and salesmen of the town, and after that trudge home
again to hoe, and dig, and weed, and water, and prune, and plant for the
rest of the day. No man ever saw them the one without the other, and the
thought that such a thing might some day happen was the only fear and
sorrow of their lives.

That they had no children of their own was scarcely a sorrow to them.
"It seems to me," said her man after they had been married for some
years, "that God means that our roses are to be our children since He
has made us love them so much. They will last when we are grown grey,
and will support and comfort us in our old age."

All the roses they had were red, and varied little in kind, yet her man
and his wife had a name for each of them; to every tree they had given a
name, until it almost seemed that the trees knew, and tried to answer
when they heard the voices which spoke to them.

"Jane Janet, and you ought to blossom more freely at your age!" his wife
might say to one some evening as she went round and watered the flowers;
and the next day, when the two came to their dark morning's gathering,
Jane Janet would show ten or twelve great blooms under the light of the
lantern, every one of them the birth of a single night.

"Mary Maudlin," the gardener would say, as he washed the blight off a
favourite rose, "to be sure, you are very beautiful, but did I not love
you so, you were more trouble than all your sisters put together." And
then all at once great dew-drops would come tumbling down out of Mary
Maudlin's eyes at the tender words of his reproach. So day by day the
companionable feet of the happy couple moved to and fro, always intent
on the nurture and care of their children.

In their garden they had bees too, who by strange art, unlike other
bees, drew all their honey from the roses, and lived in a cone-thatched
hive close to the porch; and that honey was famous through all the
country-side, for its flavour was like no other honey made in the world.

Sometimes his wife said to her man, "I think our garden is looked after
for us by some good Spirit; perhaps it is the Saints after whom we have
named our rose-children."

Her man made answer, "It is rich in years, which, like an old wine, have
made it gain in flavour; it has been with us from father to son for
three hundred years, and that is a great while."

"A full fairy's lifetime!" said his wife. "'Tis a pity we shall not hand
it on, being childless."

"When we two die," said her man, "the roses will make us a grave and
watch over us." As he spoke a whole shower of petals fell from the
trees.

"Did no one pass, just then?" said his wife.

Now one morning, soon after this, in the late season of roses, her man
had gone before his wife into the garden, gathering for the market in
the grey dusk before dawn; and wherever he went moths and beetles came
flocking to the light of his lantern, beating against its horn shutters
and crying to get in. Out of each rose, as the light fell on it, winged
things sprang up into the darkness; but all the roses were bowed and
heavy as if with grief. As he picked them from the stem great showers of
dew fell out of them, making pools in the hollow of his palm.

There was such a sound of tears that he stopped to listen; and, surely,
from all round the garden came the "drip, drip" of falling dew. Yet the
pathways under foot were all dry; there had been no rain and but little
dew. Whence was it, then, that the roses so shook and sobbed? For under
the stems, surely, there was something that sobbed; and suddenly the
light of the lantern took hold of a beautiful small figure, about three
feet high, dressed in old rose and green, that went languidly from
flower to flower. She lifted up such tired hands to draw their heads
down to hers; and to each one she kissed she made a weary little sound
of farewell, her beautiful face broken up with grief; and now and then
out of her lips ran soft chuckling laughter, as if she still meant to be
glad, but could not.

The gardener broke into tears to behold a sight so pitiful; and his wife
had stolen out silently to his side, and was weeping too.

[Illustration]

"Drip, drip," went the roses: wherever she came and kissed, they all
began weeping. The gardener and his wife knelt down and watched her; in
and out, in and out, not a rose blossom did she miss. She came nearer
and nearer, and at last was standing before them. She seemed hardly able
to draw limb after limb, so weak was she; and her filmy garments hung
heavy as chains.

A little voice said in their ears, "Kiss me, I am dying!"

They tasted her breath of rose.

"Do not die!" they said simply.

"I have lived three hundred years," she answered. "Now I must die. I am
the Luck of the Roses, but I must leave them and die."

"When must you die?" said her man and his wife.

The little lady said: "Before the last roses are over; the chills of
night take me, the first frost will kill me. Soon I must die. Now I must
dwindle and dwindle, for little life is left to me, and only so can I
keep warm. As life and heat grow less, so must I, till presently I am no
more."

She was a little thing already--not old, she did not seem old, but
delicate as a snowflake, and so weary. She laid her head in the hand of
the gardener's wife, and sobbed hard.

"You dear people, who belong so much to me too, I have watched over
you."

"Let us watch over you!" said they. They lifted her like a
feather-weight, and carried her into the house. There, in the
ingle-nook, she sat and shivered, while they brought rose-leaves and
piled round her; but every hour she grew less and less.

Presently the sun shone full upon her from the doorway: its light went
through her as through coloured glass; and her man and his wife saw,
over the ingle behind her, shadows fluttering as of falling rose-petals:
it was the dying rose of her life, falling without end.

All day long she dwindled and grew more weak and frail. Before sunset
she was smaller than a small child when it first comes into the world.
They set honey before her to taste, but she was too weary to uncurl her
tiny hands: they lay like two white petals in the green lap of her gown.
The half-filled panniers of roses stood where they had been set down in
the porch: the good couple had taken nothing to the market that day. The
luck of the house lay dying, for all their care; they could but sit and
watch.

When the sun had set, she faded away fast: now she was as small as a
young wren. The gardener's wife took her and held her for warmth in the
hollow of her hand. Presently she seemed no more than a grasshopper: the
tiny chirrup of her voice was heard, about the middle of the night,
asking them to take her and lay her among the roses, in the heart of one
of the red roses, that there she and death might meet sweetly at the
last.

They went together into the dark night, and felt their way among the
roses; presently they quite lost her tiny form: she had slipped away
into the heart of a Jane Janet rose.

The gardener and his wife went back into the house and sat waiting: they
did not know for what, but they were too sad at heart to think just then
of sleep.

Soon the first greys of morning began to steal over the world; pale
shivers ran across the sky, and one bird chirped in its sleep among the
trees.

All at once there rang a soft sound of lamentation among the roses in
the rose-garden; again and again, like the cry of many gentle wounded
things in pain. The gardener and his wife went and opened the door: they
had to tell the bees of the fairy's death. They looked out under the
twilight, into the garden they loved. "Drip," "drip," "drip" came the
sound of steady weeping under the leaves. Peering out through the
shadows they saw all the rose-trees rocking softly for grief.

"Snow?" said his wife to her man.

But it was not snow.

Under the dawn all the roses in the garden had turned white; for they
knew that the fairy was dead.

The gardener and his wife woke the bees, and told them of the fairy's
death; then they looked in each other's faces, and saw that they, too,
had become white and grey.

With gentle eyes the old couple took hands, and went down into the
garden to gather white roses for the market.



THE WHITE DOE


ONE day, as the king's huntsman was riding in the forest, he came to a
small pool. Fallen leaves covering its surface had given it the colour
of blood, and knee-deep in their midst stood a milk-white doe drinking.

The beauty of the doe set fire to the huntsman's soul; he took an arrow
and aimed well at the wild heart of the creature. But as he was loosing
the string the branch of a tree overhanging the pool struck him across
the face, and caught hold of him by the hair; and arrow and doe vanished
away together into the depths of the forest.

Never until now, since he entered the king's service, had the huntsman
missed his aim. The thought of the white doe living after he had willed
its death inflamed him with rage; he could not rest till he had brought
hounds to the trail, determined to follow until it had surrendered to
him its life.

All day, while he hunted, the woods stayed breathless, as if to watch;
not a blade moved, not a leaf fell. About noon a red deer crossed his
path; but he paid no heed, keeping his hounds only to the white doe's
trail.

At sunset a fallow deer came to disturb the scent, and through the
twilight, as it deepened, a grey wolf ran in and out of the underwood.
When night came down, his hounds fled from his call, following through
tangled thickets a huge black boar with crescent tusks. So he found
himself alone, with his horse so weary that it could scarcely move.

But still, though the moon was slow in its rising, the fever of the
chase burned in the huntsman's veins, and caused him to press on. For
now he found himself at the rocky entrance of a ravine whence no way
led; and the white doe being still before him, he made sure that he
would get her at last. So when his horse fell, too tired to rise again,
he dismounted and forced his way on; and soon he saw before him the
white doe, labouring up an ascent of sharp crags, while closer and
higher the rocks rose and narrowed on every side. Presently she had
leapt high upon a boulder that shook and swayed as her feet rested, and
ahead the wall of rocks had joined so that there was nowhere farther
that she might go.

Then the huntsman notched an arrow, and drew with full strength, and let
it go. Fast and straight it went, and the wind screamed in the red
feathers as they flew; but faster the doe overleapt his aim, and,
spurning the stone beneath, down the rough-bouldered gully sent it
thundering, shivering to fragments as it fell. Scarcely might the
huntsman escape death as the great mass swept past: but when the danger
was over he looked ahead, and saw plainly, where the stone had once
stood, a narrow opening in the rock, and a clear gleam of moonlight
beyond.

That way he went, and passing through, came upon a green field, as full
of flowers as a garden, duskily shining now, and with dark shadows in
all its folds. Round it in a great circle the rocks made a high wall, so
high that along their crest forest-trees as they clung to look over
seemed but as low-growing thickets against the sky.

The huntsman's feet stumbled in shadow and trod through thick grass into
a quick-flowing streamlet that ran through the narrow way by which he
had entered. He threw himself down into its cool bed, and drank till he
could drink no more. When he rose he saw, a little way off, a small
dwelling-house of rough stone, moss-covered and cosy, with a roof of
wattles which had taken root and pushed small shoots and clusters of
grey leaves through their weaving. Nature, and not man, seemed there to
have been building herself an abode.

Before the doorway ran the stream, a track of white mist showing where
it wound over the meadow; and by its edge a beautiful maiden sat, and
was washing her milk-white feet and arms in the wrinkling eddies.

To the huntsman she became all at once the most beautiful thing that the
world contained; all the spirit of the chase seemed to be in her blood,
and each little movement of her feet made his heart jump for joy. "I
have looked for you all my life!" thought he, as he halted and gazed,
not daring to speak lest the lovely vision should vanish, and the memory
of it mock him for ever.

The beautiful maiden looked up from her washing. "Why have you come
here?" said she.

The huntsman answered her as he believed to be the truth, "I have come
because I love you!"

"No," she said, "you came because you wanted to kill the white doe. If
you wish to kill her, it is not likely that you can love me."

"I do not wish to kill the white doe!" cried the huntsman; "I had not
seen you when I wished that. If you do not believe that I love you, take
my bow and shoot me to the heart; for I will never go away from you
now."

At his word she took one of the arrows, looking curiously at the red
feathers, and to test the sharp point she pressed it against her breast.
"Have a care!" cried the hunter, snatching it back. He drew his breath
sharply and stared. "It is strange," he declared; "a moment ago I almost
thought that I saw the white doe."

"If you stay here to-night," said the maiden, "about midnight you will
see the white doe go by. Take this arrow, and have your bow ready, and
watch! And if to-morrow, when I return, the arrow is still unused in
your hand, I will believe you when you say that you love me. And you
have only to ask, and I will do all that you desire."

Then she gave the huntsman food and drink and a bed of ferns upon which
to rest. "Sleep or wake," said she as she parted from him; "if truly you
have no wish to kill the white doe, why should you wake? Sleep!"

"I do not wish to kill the white doe," said the huntsman. Yet he could
not sleep: the memory of the one wild creature which had escaped him
stung his blood. He looked at the arrow which he held ready, and grew
thirsty at the sight of it. "If I see, I must shoot!" cried his hunter's
heart. "If I see, I must not shoot!" cried his soul, smitten with love
for the beautiful maiden, and remembering her word. "Yet, if I see, I
know I must shoot--so shall I lose all!" he cried as midnight
approached, and the fever of long waiting remained unassuaged.

Then with a sudden will he drew out his hunting-knife, and scored the
palms of his two hands so deeply that he could no longer hold his bow or
draw the arrow upon the string. "Oh, fair one, I have kept my word to
you!" he cried as midnight came. "The bow and the arrow are both ready."

Looking forth from the threshold by which he lay, he saw pale moonlight
and mist making a white haze together on the outer air. The white doe
ran by, a body of silver; like quicksilver she ran. And the huntsman,
the passion to slay rousing his blood, caught up arrow and bow, and
tried in vain with his maimed hands to notch the shaft upon the string.

The beautiful creature leapt lightly by, between the curtains of
moonbeam and mist; and as she went she sprang this way and that across
the narrow streamlet, till the pale shadows hid her altogether from his
sight. "Ah! ah!" cried the huntsman, "I would have given all my life to
be able to shoot then! I am the most miserable man alive; but to-morrow
I will be the happiest. What a thing is love, that it has known how to
conquer in me even my hunter's blood!"

In the morning the beautiful maiden returned; she came sadly. "I gave
you my word," said she: "here I am. If you have the arrow still with you
as it was last night, I will be your wife, because you have done what
never huntsman before was able to do--not to shoot at the white doe when
it went by."

The huntsman showed her the unused arrow; her beauty made him altogether
happy. He caught her in his arms, and kissed her till the sun grew high.
Then she brought food and set it before him; and taking his hand, "I am
your wife," said she, "and with all my heart my will is to serve you
faithfully. Only, if you value your happiness, do not shoot ever at the
white doe." Then she saw that there was blood on his hand, and her face
grew troubled. She saw how the other hand also was wounded. "How came
this?" she asked; "dear husband, you were not so hurt yesterday."

And the huntsman answered, "I did it for fear lest in the night I should
fail, and shoot at the white doe when it came."

Hearing that, his wife trembled and grew white. "You have tricked us
both," she said, "and have not truly mastered your desire. Now, if you
do not promise me on your life and your soul, or whatever is dearer,
never to shoot at a white doe, sorrow will surely come of it. Promise
me, and you shall certainly be happy!"

So the huntsman promised faithfully, saying, "On your life, which is
dearer to me than my own, I give you my word to keep that it shall be
so." Then she kissed him, and bound up his wounds with healing herbs;
and to look at her all that day, and for many days after, was better to
him than all the hunting the king's forest could provide.

For a whole year they lived together in perfect happiness, and two
children came to bless their union--a boy and a girl born at the same
hour. When they were but a month old they could run; and to see them
leaping and playing before the door of their home made the huntsman's
heart jump for joy. "They are forest-born, and they come of a hunter's
blood; that is why they run so early, and have such limbs," said he.

"Yes," answered his wife, "that is partly why. When they grow older they
will run so fast--do not mistake them for deer if ever you go hunting."

No sooner had she said the word than the memory of it, which had slept
for a whole year, stirred his blood. The scent of the forest blew up
through the rocky ravine, which he had never repassed since the day when
he entered, and he laid his hands thoughtfully on the weapons he no
longer used.

Such restlessness took hold of him all that day that at night he slept
ill, and, waking, found himself alone with no wife at his side. Gazing
about the room, he saw that the cradle also was empty. "Why," he
wondered, "have they gone out together in the middle of the night?"

Yet he gave it little more thought, and turning over, fell into a
troubled sleep, and dreamed of hunting and of the white doe that he had
seen a year before stooping to drink among the red leaves that covered
the forest pool.

In the morning his wife was by his side, and the little ones lay asleep
upon their crib. "Where were you," he asked, "last night? I woke, and
you were not here."

His wife looked at him tenderly, and sighed. "You should shut your eyes
better," said she. "I went out to see the white doe, and the little ones
came also. Once a year I see her; it is a thing I must not miss."

The beauty of the white doe was like strong drink to his memory: the
beautiful limbs that had leapt so fast and escaped--they alone, of all
the wild life in the world, had conquered him. "Ah!" he cried, "let me
see her, too; let her come tame to my hand, and I will not hurt her!"

His wife answered: "The heart of the white doe is too wild a thing; she
cannot come tame to the hand of any hunter under heaven. Sleep again,
dear husband, and wake well! For a whole year you have been sufficiently
happy; the white doe would only wound you again in your two hands."

When his wife was not by, the hunter took the two children upon his
knee, and said, "Tell me, what was the white doe like? what did she do?
and what way did she go?"

The children sprang off his knee, and leapt to and fro over the stream.
"She was like this," they cried, "and she did this, and this was the
way she went!" At that the hunter drew his hand over his brow. "Ah," he
said, "I seemed then almost to see the white doe."

Little peace had he from that day. Whenever his wife was not there he
would call the little ones to him, and cry, "Show me the white doe and
what she did." And the children would leap and spring this way and that
over the little stream before the door, crying, "She was like this, and
she did this, and this was the way she went!"

The huntsman loved his wife and children with a deep affection, yet he
began to have a dread that there was something hidden from his eyes
which he wished yet feared to know. "Tell me," he cried one day, half in
wrath, when the fever of the white doe burned more than ever in his
blood, "tell me where the white doe lives, and why she comes, and when
next. For this time I must see her, or I shall die of the longing that
has hold of me!" Then, when his wife would give no answer, he seized his
bow and arrows and rushed out into the forest, which for a whole year
had not known him, slaying all the red deer he could find.

Many he slew in his passion, but he brought none of them home, for
before the end a strange discovery came to him, and he stood amazed,
dropping the haunch which he had cut from his last victim. "It is a
whole year," he said to himself, "that I have not tasted meat; I, a
hunter, who love only the meat that I kill!"

Returning home late, he found his wife troubling her heart over his long
absence. "Where have you been?" she asked him, and the question inflamed
him into a fresh passion.

"I have been out hunting for the white doe," he cried; "and she carries
a spot in her side where some day my arrow must enter. If I do not find
her I shall die!"

His wife looked at him long and sorrowfully; then she said: "On your
life and soul be it, and on mine also, that your anger makes me tell
what I would have kept hidden. It is to-night that she comes. Now it
remains for you to remember your word once given to me!"

"Give it back to me!" he cried; "it is my fate to finish the quest of
the white doe."

"If I give it," said she, "your happiness goes with it, and mine, and
that of our children."

"Give it back to me!" he said again; "I cannot live unless I may master
the white doe! If she will come tame to my hand, no harm shall happen to
her."

And when she denied him again, he gave her his bow and arrows, and bade
her shoot him to the heart, since without his word rendered back to him
he could not live.

Then his wife took both his hands and kissed them tenderly, and with
loud weeping quickly set him free of his promise. "As well," said she,
"ask the hunter to go bound to the lion's den as the white doe to come
tame into your keeping; though she loved you with all her heart, you
could not look at her and not be her enemy." She gazed on him with full
affection, and sighed deeply. "Lie down for a little," she said, "and
rest; it is not till midnight that she comes. When she comes I will wake
you."

She took his head in her hands and set it upon her knee, making him lie
down. "If she will come and stand tame to my hand," he said again, "then
I will do her no harm."

After a while he fell asleep; and, dreaming of the white doe, started
awake to find it was already midnight, and the white doe standing there
before him. But as soon as his eyes lighted on her they kindled with
such fierce ardour that she trembled and sprang away out of the door and
across the stream. "Ah, ah, white doe, white doe!" cried the wind in the
feathers of the shaft that flew after her.

Just at her leaping of the stream the arrow touched her; and all her
body seemed to become a mist that dissolved and floated away, broken
into thin fragments over the fast-flowing stream.

By the hunter's side his wife lay dead, with an arrow struck into her
heart. The door of the house was shut; it seemed to be only an evil
dream from which he had suddenly awakened. But the arrow gave real
substance to his hand: when he drew it out a few true drops of blood
flowed after. Suddenly the hunter knew all he had done. "Oh, white doe,
white doe!" he cried, and fell down with his face to hers.

[Illustration]

At the first light of dawn he covered her with dry ferns, that the
children might not see how she lay there dead. "Run out," he cried to
them, "run out and play! Play as the white doe used to do!" And the
children ran out and leapt this way and that across the stream, crying,
"She was like this, and she did this, and this was the way she went!"

So while they played along the banks of the stream, the hunter took up
his beautiful dead wife and buried her. And to the children he said,
"Your mother has gone away; when the white doe comes she will return
also."

"She was like this," they cried, laughing and playing, "and she did
this, and this was the way she went!" And all the time as they played he
seemed to see the white doe leaping before him in the sunlight.

That night the hunter lay sleepless on his bed, wishing for the world to
end; but in the crib by his side the two children lay in a sound
slumber. Then he saw plainly in the moonlight, the white doe with a red
mark in her side, standing still by the doorway. Soon she went to where
the young ones were lying, and, as she touched the coverlet softly with
her right fore-foot, all at once two young fawns rose up from the ground
and sprang away into the open, following where the white doe beckoned
them.

Nor did they ever return. For the rest of his life the huntsman stayed
where they left him, a sorrowful and lonely man. In the grave where lay
the woman's form he had slain he buried his bow and arrows far from the
sight of the sun or the reach of his own hand; and coming to the place
night by night, he would watch the mists and the moonrise, and cry,
"White doe, white doe, will you not some day forgive me?" and did not
know that she had forgiven him then when, before she died, she kissed
his two hands and made him sleep for the last time with his head on her
knee.



THE MOON-STROKE


IN the hollow heart of an old tree a Jackdaw and his wife had made
themselves a nest. As soon as the mother of his eggs had finished
laying, she sat waiting patiently for something to come of it. One by
one five mouths poked out of the shells, demanding to be fed; so for
weeks the happy couple had to be continually in two places at once
searching for food to satisfy them.

Presently the wings of the young ones grew strong; they could begin to
fly about; and the parents found time for a return to pleasuring and
curiosity-hunting. They began gathering in a wise assortment of broken
glass and chips of platter to grace the corners of their dwelling. All
but the youngest Jackdaw were enchanted with their unutterable beauty
and value; they were never tired of quarrelling over the possession and
arrangement of them.

"But what are they for?" asked the youngest, a perverse bird who kept
himself apart from the rest, and took no share in their daily
squabblings.

The mother-bird said: "They are beautiful, and what God intended for us:
therefore they must be true. We may not see the use of them yet, but no
doubt some day they will come true."

The little Jackdaw said: "Their corners scratch me when I want to go to
sleep; they are far worse than crumbs in the bed. All the other birds do
without them--why should not we?"

"That is what distinguishes us from the other birds!" replied the
Janedaw, and thanked her stars that it was so.

"I wish we could sing!" sighed the littlest young Jackdaw.

"Babble, babble!" replied his mother angrily.

And then, as it was dinner-time, he forgot his grief, as they all said
grace and fell-to.

One evening the old Jackdaw came home very late, carrying something that
burned bright and green, like an evening star; all the nest shone where
he set it down.

"What do you think of that for a discovery?" he said to the Janedaw.

"Think?" she said; "I can't. Some of it looks good to eat; but that
fire-patch at the end would burn one's inside out."

Presently the Jackdaw family settled itself down to sleep; only the
youngest one sat up and watched. Now he had seen something beautiful.
Was it going to come true? Its light was like the song of the
nightingale in the leaves overhead: it glowed, and throbbed, and grew
strong, flooding the whole place where it lay.

Soon, in the silence, he heard a little wail of grief: "Why have they
carried me away here," sighed the glow-worm, "out of the tender grass
that loves the ground?"

The littlest Jackdaw listened with all his heart. Now something at last
was going to become true, without scratching his legs and making him
feel as though crumbs were in his bed.

A little winged thing came flying down to the green light, and two
voices began crying together--the glow-worm and its mate.

"They have carried you away?"

"They have carried me away; up here I shall die!"

"I am too weak to lift you," said the one with wings; "you will stay
here, and you will die!" Then they cried yet more.

"It seems to me," thought the Jackdaw, "that as soon as the beautiful
becomes true, God does not intend it to be for us." He got up softly
from among his brothers. "I will carry you down," he said. And without
more ado, he picked it up and carried it down out of the nest, and laid
it in the long grass at the foot of the tree.

Overhead the nightingale sang, and the full moon shone; its rays struck
down on the little Jackdaw's head.

For a bird that is not a nightingale to wake up and find its head
unprotected under the rays of a full moon is serious: there and then he
became moon-struck. He went back into bed; but he was no longer the same
little Jackdaw. "Oh, I wish I could sing!" he thought; and not for hours
could he get to sleep.

In the morning, when the family woke up, the beautiful and the true was
gone. The father Jackdaw thought he must have swallowed it in his sleep.

"If you did," said his wife, "there'll be a smell of burnt feathers
before long!"

But the littlest Jackdaw said, "It came true, and went away, because it
was never intended for us."

Now some days after this the old Jackdaw again came carrying something
that shone like an evening star--a little spike of gold with a burning
emerald set in the end of it. "And what do you think of that?" said he
to his wife.

"I daren't come near it," she answered, "for fear it should burn me!"

That night the little Jackdaw lay awake, while all the others slept,
waiting to hear the green stone break out into sorrow, and to see if its
winged mate would come seeking it. But after hours had gone, and nothing
stirred or spoke, he slipped softly out of the nest, and went down to
search for the poor little winged mate who must surely be about
somewhere.

And now, truly, among the grasses and flowers he heard something sobbing
and sighing; a little winged thing darted into sight and out again,
searching the ground like a dragon-fly at quest. And all the time, amid
the darting and humming of its wings, came sobbing and wringing of
hands.

The young Jackdaw called: "Little wings, what have you lost? Is it not a
spike with a green light at the end of it?"

"My wand, my wand!" cried the fairy, beside herself with grief. "Just
about sunset I was asleep in an empty wren's nest, and when I woke up my
wand was gone!"

Then the little Jackdaw, being moon-struck, and not knowing the value of
things, flew up to the nest and brought back the fairy her wand.

"Oh!" she cried, "you have saved my life!" And she thanked the Jackdaw
till he grew quite modest and shy.

[Illustration]

"What is it for? What can you do with it?" he asked.

"With this," she answered, "I can make anything beautiful come true! I
can give you whatever you ask; you have but to ask, and you shall have."

Then the little Jackdaw, being moon-struck, and not knowing the value of
things, said, "Oh, if I could only sing like a nightingale!"

"You can!" said the fairy, waving her wand but once; and immediately
something like a melodious sneeze flew into his head and set it shaking.

"Chiou! chiou! True-true-true-true! Jug! jug! Oh, beautiful! beautiful!"
His beak went dabbling in the sweet sound, rippling it this way and
that, spraying it abroad out of his blissful heart as a jewel throws out
its fires.

The fairy was gone; but the little Jackdaw sprang up into the high elm,
and sang on endlessly through the whole night.

At dawn he stopped, and looking down, there he saw the family getting
ready for breakfast, and wondering what had become of him.

Just as they were saying grace he flew in, his little heart beating with
joy over his new-found treasure. What a jewel of a voice he had: better
than all the pieces of glass and chips of platter lying down there in
the nest! As soon as the parent-birds had finished grace, he lifted his
voice and thanked God that the thing he had wished for had become true.

None of them understood what he said, but they paid him plenty of
attention. All his brothers and sisters put up their heads and giggled,
as the young do when one of their number misbehaves.

"Don't make that noise!" said his mother; "it's not decent!"

"It's low!" said the father-bird.

The littlest young Jackdaw was overwhelmed with astonishment. When he
tried to explain, his unseemly melodies led to his immediate expulsion
from the family circle. Such noises, he was told, could only be made in
private; when he had quite got over them he might come back,--but not
until.

He never got over them; so he never came back. For a few days he hid
himself in different trees of the garden, and sang the praises of
sorrow; but his family, though they comprehended him not, recognised his
note, and came searching him with beak and claw, and drove him out so as
not to have him near them committing such scandalous noises to the ears
of the public.

"He lies in his throat!" said the old Jackdaw. "Everything he says he
garbles. If he is our son he must have been hatched on the wrong side of
the nest!"

After that, wherever he went, all the birds jeered at and persecuted
him. Even the nightingales would not listen to his brotherly voice. They
made fun of his black coat, and called him a Nonconformist without a
conscience. "All this has come about," thought he, "because God never
meant anything beautiful to come true."

One day a man who saw him and heard him singing, caught him, and took
him round the world in a cage for show. The value of him was
discovered. Great crowds came to see the little Jackdaw, and to hear him
sing. He was described now as the "Amphabulous Philomel, or the
Mongrel-Minstrel"; but it gave him no joy.

Before long he had become what we call tame--that is to say, his wings
had been clipped; he was allowed out of his cage, because he could no
longer fly away, and he sang when he was told, because he was whipped if
he did not.

One day there was a great crowd round the travelling booth where he was
on view: the showman had a new wonder which he was about to show to the
people. He took the little Jackdaw out of his cage, and set him to perch
upon his shoulder, while he busied himself over something which he was
taking carefully out of ever so many boxes and coverings.

The Jackdaw's sad eye became attracted by a splendid scarf-pin that the
showman wore--a gold pin set with a tiny emerald that burned like fire.
The bird thought, "Now if only the beautiful could become true!"

And now the showman began holding up a small glass bottle for the crowd
to stare into. The people were pushing this way and that to see what
might be there.

At the bottom sat the little fairy, without her wand, weeping and
beating her hands on the glass.

The showman was so proud he grew red in the face, and ran shouting up
and down the plank, shaking and turning the bottle upside down now and
then, so as to make the cabined fairy use her wings, and buzz like a fly
against the glass.

The Jackdaw waggled unsteadily at his perch on the man's shoulder. "Look
at him!" laughed someone in the crowd, "he's going to steal his master's
scarf-pin."

"Ho, ho, ho!" shouted the showman. "See this bird now! See the
marvellous mongrel nature of the beast! Who tells me he's only a
nightingale painted black?"

The people laughed the more at that, for there was a fellow in the crowd
looking sheepish. The Jackdaw had drawn out the scarf-pin, and held it
gravely in its beak, looking sideways with cunning eyes. He was wishing
hard. All the crowd laughed again.

Suddenly the showman's hand gave a jerk, the bottle slipped from his
hold and fell, shivering itself upon the ground.

There was a buzz of wings--the fairy had escaped.

"The beautiful is coming true," thought the Jackdaw, as he yielded to
the fairy her wand, and found, suddenly, that his wings were not clipped
after all.

"What more can I do for you?" asked the fairy, as they flew away
together. "You gave me back my wand; I have given you back your wings."

"I will not ask anything," said the little Jackdaw; "what God intends
will come true."

"Let me take you up to the moon," said the fairy. "All the Jackdaws up
there sing like nightingales."

"Why is that?" asked the little Jackdaw.

"Because they are all moon-struck," she answered.

"And what is it to be moon-struck?" he asked.

"Surely you should know, if anyone!" laughed the fairy. "To see things
beautifully, and not as they are. On the moon you will be able to do
that without any difficulty."

"Ah," said the little Jackdaw, "now I know at last that the beautiful is
going to come true!"



THE GENTLE COCKATRICE


FAR above the terraces of vine, where the goat pastures ended and the
rocks began, the eye could take a clear view over the whole plain. From
that point the world below spread itself out like a green map, and the
only walls one could see were the white flanks and tower of the
cathedral rising up from the grey roofs of the city; as for the streets,
they seemed to be but narrow foot-tracks on which people appeared like
ants walking.

This was the view of the town which Beppo, the son of the common
hangman, loved best. It was little pleasure to him to be down there,
where all the other lads drove him from their play: for the hangman had
had too much to do with the fathers and brothers of some of them, and
his son was not popular. When there was a hanging they would rush off to
the public square to see it; afterwards they made it their sport to play
at hanging Beppo, if by chance they could catch him; and that play had a
way at times of coming uncomfortably near to reality.

Beppo did not himself go to the square when his father's trade was on;
the near view did not please him. Perched on the rocky hillside, he
would look down upon a gathering of black specks, where two others stood
detached upon a space in their midst, and would know that there his
father was hanging a man.

Sometimes it was more than one, and that made Beppo afraid. For he knew
that for every man that he hanged his father took a dram to give him
courage for the work; and if there were several poor fellows to be cast
off from life, the hangman was not pleasant company afterwards for those
very near and dear to him.

It happened one day that the hangman was to give the rope to five
fellows, the most popular and devil-may-care rakes and roysterers in the
whole town. Beppo was up very early that morning, and at the first
streak of light had dropped himself over the wall into the town ditch,
and was away for the open country and the free air of the hills; for he
knew that neither at home nor in the streets would life be worth living
for a week after, because of all the vengeances that would fall on him.

Therefore he had taken from the home larder a loaf of bread and a clump
of dried figs; and with these hoped to stand the siege of a week's
solitude rather than fall in with the hard dealings of his own kind. He
knew a cave, above where the goats found pasture, out of which a little
red, rusty water trickled; there he thought to make himself a castle and
dream dreams, and was sure he would be happy enough, if only he did not
grow afraid.

Beppo had discovered the cave one day from seeing a goat push out
through a thicket of creepers on the side of the hill; and, hidden under
their leaves, he had found it a wonderful, cool refuge from the heat of
summer noons. Now, as he entered, the place struck very cold; for it was
early spring, and the earth was not yet warmed through with the sun. So
he set himself to gather dead grass, and briers, and tufts of goat's
hair and from farther down the hillside the wood of a ruined
goat-paddock, till he had a great store of fuel at hand. He worked all
day like a squirrel for its winter hoard; and as his pile mounted he
grew less and less afraid of the cave where he meant to live.

Seeing so large a heap of stuff ready for the feeding of his fire, he
began to rise to great heights in his own imagination. First he had been
a poor outlaw, a mere sheep-stealer hiding from men's clutches; then he
became a robber-chief; and at last he was no less than the king of the
mountains.

"This mountain is all caves," he said to himself, "and all the caves are
full of gold; and I am the king to whom it all belongs."

In the evening Beppo lighted his fire, in the far back of his cave,
where its light would not be seen, and sat down by its warmth to eat
dried figs and bread and drink brackish water. To-morrow he meant to
catch a kid and roast it and eat it. Why should he ever go home again?
Kid was good--he did not get that to eat when he was at home; and now in
the streets the boys must be looking for him to play at their cruel game
of hanging. Why should he go back at all?

The fire licked its way up the long walls of the cavern; slowly the
warmth crept round on all sides. The rock where Beppo laid his hand was
no longer damp and cold; he made himself a bed of the dried litter in a
niche close to the fire, laid his head on a smooth knob of stone, and
slept. But even in his sleep he remembered his fire, dreading to awake
and find himself in darkness. Every time the warmth of it diminished he
raised himself and put on more fuel.

[Illustration]

In the morning--for faint blue edges of light marking the ridged throat
of the cavern told that outside the day had begun--he woke fully, and
the fire still burned. As he lay, his pillow of rock felt warm and
almost soft; and, strangely enough, through it there went a beating
sound as of blood. This must be his own brain that he heard; but he
lifted his head, and where he laid his hand could feel a slow movement
of life going on under it. Then he stared hard at the overhanging rock,
and surely it heaved softly up and down, like some great thing breathing
slowly in its sleep.

Yet he could make out no shape at all till, having run to the other side
of the cave, he turned to see the whole face of the rock which seemed to
be taking on life. Then he realised very gradually what looked to be the
throat and jaws of a great monster lying along the ground, while all the
rest passed away into shadow or lay buried under masses of rock, which
closed round it like a mould. Below the nether-jaw bone the flames
licked and caressed the throat; and the tough, mud-coloured hide ruffled
and smoothed again as if grateful for the heat that tickled its way in.

Very slowly indeed the great Cockatrice, which had lain buried for
thousands of years, out of reach of the light or heat of the sun, was
coming round again to life. That was Beppo's own doing, and for some
very curious reason he was not afraid.

His heart was uplifted. "This is my cave," thought he, "so this must be
my Cockatrice! Now I will ride out on him and conquer the world. I shall
be really a king then!"

He guessed that it must have been the warmth which had waked the
Cockatrice, so he made fires all down the side of the cave; wherever the
great flank of the Cockatrice seemed to show, there he lighted a fire to
put heat into the slumbering body of the beast.

"Warm up, old fellow," he cried; "thaw out, I tell you! I want you to
talk to me."

Presently the mouth of the Cockatrice unsealed itself, and began to
babble of green fields. "Hay--I want hay!" said the Cockatrice; "or
grass. Does the world contain any grass?"

Beppo went out, and presently returned with an armful. Very slowly the
Cockatrice began munching the fresh fodder, and Beppo, intent on feeding
him back to life, ran to and fro between the hillside and the cavern
till he was exhausted and could go no more. He sat down and watched the
Cockatrice finish his meal.

Presently, when the monster found that his fodder was at an end, he
puckered a great lid, and far up aloft in the wall of the cave flashed
out a green eye.

If all the emeralds in the world were gathered together, they might
shine like that; if all the glow-worms came up out of the fields and put
their tails together, they might make as great an orb of fire. All the
cave looked as green as grass when the eye of the Cockatrice lighted on
it; and Beppo, seeing so mighty an optic turning its rays on him, felt
all at once shrivelled and small, and very weak at the knees.

"Oh, Cockatrice," he said, in a monstrous sad voice, "I hope I haven't
hurt you!"

"On the contrary," said the Cockatrice, "you have done me much good.
What are you going to do with me now?"

"_I_ do with _you_?" cried Beppo, astonished at so wild a possibility
offering to come true. "I would like to get you out, of course--but can
I?"

"I would like that dearly also!" said the Cockatrice.

"But how can I?" inquired Beppo.

"Keep me warm and feed me," returned the monster. "Presently I shall be
able to find out where my tail is. When I can move that I shall be able
to get out."

Beppo undertook whatever the Cockatrice told him--it was so grand to
have a Cockatrice of his own. But it was a hard life, stoking up fires
day and night, and bringing the Cockatrice the fodder necessary to
replenish his drowsy being. When Beppo was quite tired out he would come
and lay his head against the monster's snout: and the Cockatrice would
open a benevolent eye and look at him affectionately.

"Dear Cockatrice," said the boy one day, "tell me about yourself, and
how you lived and what the world was like when you were free!"

"Do you see any green in my eye?" said the Cockatrice.

"I do, indeed!" said Beppo. "I never saw anything so green in all the
world."

"That's all right, then!" said the Cockatrice. "Climb up and look in,
and you will see what the world was like when I was young."

So Beppo climbed and scrambled, and slipped and clung, till he found
himself on the margin of a wonderful green lake, which was but the
opening into the whole eye of the Cockatrice.

And as soon as Beppo looked, he had lost his heart for ever to the world
he saw there. It was there, quite real before him: a whole world full of
living and moving things--the world before the trouble of man came to
it.

"I see green hills, and fields, and rocks, and trees," cried Beppo, "and
among them a lot of little Cockatrices are playing!"

"They were my brothers and sisters; I remember them," said the
Cockatrice. "I have them all in my mind's eye. Call them--perhaps they
will come and talk to you; you will find them very nice and friendly."

"They are too far off," said Beppo, "they cannot hear me."

"Ah, yes," murmured the Cockatrice, "memory is a wonderful thing!"

When Beppo came down again he was quite giddy, and lost in wonder and
joy over the beautiful green world the Cockatrice had shown him. "I like
that better than this!" said he.

"So do I," said the Cockatrice. "But perhaps, when my tail gets free, I
shall feel better."

One morning he said to Beppo: "I do really begin to feel my tail. It is
somewhere away down the hill yonder. Go and look out for me, and tell me
if you can see it moving."

So Beppo went to the mouth of the cave, and looked out towards the city,
over all the rocks and ridges and goat-pastures and slopes of vine that
lay between.

Suddenly, as he looked, the steeple of the cathedral tottered, and down
fell its weathercock and two of its pinnacles, and half the chimneys of
the town snapped off their tops. All that distance away Beppo could hear
the terrified screams of the inhabitants as they ran out of their houses
in terror.

"I've done it!" cried the Cockatrice, from within the cave.

"But you mustn't do that!" exclaimed Beppo in horror.

"Mustn't do what?" inquired the Cockatrice.

"You mustn't wag your tail! You don't know what you are doing!"

"Oh, master!" wailed the Cockatrice; "mayn't I? For the first time this
thousand years I have felt young again."

Beppo was pale and trembling with agitation over the fearful effects of
that first tail-wagging. "You mustn't feel young!" said he.

"Why not?" asked the Cockatrice, with a piteous wail.

"There isn't room in the world for a Cockatrice to feel young nowadays,"
answered Beppo gravely.

"But, dear little master and benefactor," cried the Cockatrice, "what
did you wake me up for?"

"I don't know," replied Beppo, terribly perplexed. "I wouldn't have done
it had I known where your tail was."

"Where is it?" inquired the Cockatrice, with great interest.

"It's right underneath the city where I mean to be king," said Beppo;
"and if you move it the city will come down; and then I shall have
nothing to be king of."

"Very well," said the Cockatrice sadly; "I will wait!"

"Wait for what?" thought Beppo. "Waiting won't do any good." And he
began to think what he must do. "You lie quite still!" said he to the
Cockatrice. "Go to sleep, and I will still look after you."

"Oh, little master," said the Cockatrice, "but it is difficult to go to
sleep when the delicious trouble of spring is in one's tail! How long
does this city of yours mean to stay there? I am so alive that I find it
hard to shut an eye!"

"I will let the fires that keep you warm go down for a bit," said Beppo,
"and you mustn't eat so much grass; then you will feel better, and your
tail will be less of an anxiety."

And presently, when Beppo had let the fires which warmed him get low,
and had let time go by without bringing him any fresh fodder, the
Cockatrice dozed off into an uneasy, prehistoric slumber.

Then Beppo, weeping bitterly over his treachery to the poor beast which
had trusted him, raked open the fires and stamped out the embers; and,
leaving the poor Cockatrice to get cold, ran down the hill as fast as he
could to the city he had saved--the city of which he meant to be king.

He had been away a good many days, but the boys in the street were still
on the watch for him. He told them how he had saved the city from the
earthquake; and they beat him from the city gate to his father's door.
He told his own father how he had saved the city; and his father beat
him from his own door to the city gate. Nobody believed him.

He lay outside the town walls till it was dark, all smarting with his
aches and pains; then, when nobody could see him, he got up and very
miserably made his way back to the cave on the hill. And all the way he
said to himself, "Shall I put fire under the Cockatrice once more, and
make him shake the town into ruins? Would not that be fine?"

Inside, the cave was quite still and cold, and when he laid his hand on
the Cockatrice he could not feel any stir or warmth in its bones. Yet
when he called, the Cockatrice just opened a slit of his green eye and
looked at him with trust and affection.

"Dear Cockatrice," cried Beppo, "forgive me for all the wrong I have
done you!" And as he clambered his way towards the green light, a great
tear rolled from under the heavy lid and flowed past him like a
cataract.

"Dear Cockatrice," cried Beppo again when he stood on the margin of the
green lake, "take me to sleep with you in the land where the Cockatrices
are at play, and keep quite still with your tail!"

Slowly and painfully the Cockatrice opened his eye enough to let Beppo
slip through; and Beppo saw the green world with its playful cockatrices
waiting to welcome him. Then the great eyelid shut down fast, and the
waking days of the Cockatrice were over. And Beppo's native town lay
safe, because he had learned from the Cockatrice to be patient and
gentle, and had gone to be king of a green world where everything was
harmless.



THE GREEN BIRD


THERE was once a Prince whose palace lay in the midst of a wonderful
garden. From gate to gate was a day's journey, where spring, summer, and
autumn stayed captive; for warm streams flowed, bordering its ways,
through marble conduits, and warm winds, driven by brazen fans, blew
over it out of great furnaces that were kept alive through the cold of
winter. And day by day, when no sun shone in heaven, a ball of golden
fire rose from the palace roof and passed down to the west, sustained
invisibly in mid-air, and giving light and warmth to the flowers below.
And after it by night went a lamp of silver flame, that changed its
quarters as the moon changes hers in heaven, and threw a silver light
over the lawns and the flowered avenues.

All these things were that the Prince might have delight and beauty ever
around him. To his eyes summer was perpetual, without end, and nothing
died save to give out new life on the morrow. So through many morrows he
lived, and trod the beautiful soft ways devised for him by cunning
hands, and did not know that there was winter, or cold, or hunger to be
borne in the world, for he never crossed the threshold of his enchanted
garden, but stayed lapped in the luxury of its bright colours and soft
airs.

One day he was standing by a bed of large white bell-lilies. Their great
bowls were full of water, and inside among the yellow stamens gold fish
went darting to and fro. While he watched he saw, mirrored in the water,
the breast of a green bird flying towards the trees of the garden.

It had come from a far country surely, for its shape and colour were
strange to him; and the most curious thing of all was that it carried
its nest in its beak.

Its flight came keen as a sword's edge through those bowery spaces, till
its wings closed with a shock that sent the golden fruit tumbling from
the branches where it had lodged: and through the whole garden went a
crashing sound as of soft thunder.

The Prince waited long, hoping to hear the bird sing, but it hid itself
silently among the thickest of the leaves, and never moved or uttered a
sound. He went back to the palace a little sorry not to have heard the
green bird sing; "But, at least," he said to himself, "I shall hear it
to-morrow."

That night he dreamed that something came and tapped at his heart; and
that his heart tapped back saying, "Go away, for if I let you in there
will be sorrow!"

In the morning on the window-sill he saw a green feather lying; but as
he opened the window a puff of wind lifted it, and carried it high up
into the air and out of sight.

[Illustration]

All that day the Prince saw nothing of the Green Bird, nor heard a note
of its singing. "Strange," thought he to himself, "I have never heard
its song; yet I know quite well somehow that it sings most beautifully."
At dusk, when the lilies began to close their globes around the gold
fish and the yellow stamens, he went back to the palace, and before long
to bed, and slept.

Once more he heard in dreams someone come tapping at his heart, and this
time his heart said, "Who is there?" Then a voice answered back, "The
Green Bird"; but his heart said, "Go away, for if I let you in there
will be sorrow!"

Now it had been foretold of the Prince at his birth that if he ever knew
sorrow, his wealth, and his estate, and his power would all go from him.
Therefore from his childhood he had been shut up in a beautiful palace
with miles and miles of enchanted gardens, so that sorrow might not get
near him; and it was said that if ever sorrow came to him the palace and
the enchanted gardens would suddenly fall into ruin and disappear, and
he would be left standing alone to beg his way through the world.
Therefore it was for this that his heart said in his dream, "Go away,
for if I let you in there will be sorrow!"

In the morning a green feather lay on the window-sill; but as he opened
the window the wind took it up and carried it away.

So the next night, as soon as his attendants were gone, the Prince got
up softly and opening the window called "Green Bird!"

Then all at once he felt something warm against his heart, and suddenly
his heart began to ache: and there was the green bird with its wings
spread gently about him, keeping time ever so softly to the beating of
his heart.

Then the Prince said, "Beautiful Green Bird, what have you brought me?"
and the Green Bird answered, "I have brought you dreams out of a
far-off country of things you never saw; if you will come and sleep in
my nest you shall dream them."

So the Prince went out by the window and along the balcony, and so away
into the garden and up into the heart of the great tree where the Green
Bird had its nest. There he lay down, and the Green Bird spread its
wings over him, and he fell fast asleep.

Now as he slept he dreamed that the Green Bird put in his hand three
grains of seed saying, "Take these and keep them till you come to the
right place to sow them in. And so soon as one is sown, go on till you
come to the place where the next must be sown, following the signs which
I shall tell you of. Now the first you must not sow till you find
yourself in a white country, where the trees and the grass are white."
(And the Prince said in his heart, "Where can I find that?") "And the
second one you must not sow till you see a thing like a tortoise put out
a small white hand." ("And where," said the Prince, "can I meet with
that wonder?") "And when you have seen the second sprout up through the
ground, go on till you come again to a land you had lost and the place
where you first knew sorrow." ("And what is sorrow?" said the Prince to
his heart.) "Then when you have sown the third seed and watched it
sprout you will know perfect happiness, and will be able to hear the
song which I sing."

Then the Green Bird lifted its wings and flew away through the night;
and out of the darkness came three notes that filled the Prince with
wonderful delight.

But afterwards, when they ceased, came sorrow.

Now, when the Prince woke he was in his own bed; and he rose much
puzzled by the dream which had seemed so true. Then there came to him
one of his pages who said, "There was a strange bird flying over the
palace about dawn, and a watchman on the high tower shot it; so I have
brought it for you to see." And as he spoke, the page showed him the
Green Bird lying dead between his hands.

The Prince took it without a word, and kissed it before them all,
afterwards burying it where the white lilies full of gold fishes grew,
wherein he had first seen the image of its green breast fly. And as he
stood sorrowing, the garden faded before his eyes, and a cold wind blew;
and the palace which had its foundations on happiness crumbled away into
ruin; and heaven came down kissing the earth and making it white.

He opened his hand and found in it three grains of seed, and then he
knew that some of his dream was really coming to pass. For he saw the
whole world was turning white before his eyes, all the trees and the
grass; therefore he sowed the first grain of seed over the little grave
that he had made, and set out over hill and dale to fulfil the dream
that the Green Bird had given him. "But the Green Bird I shall see no
more!" he said, and wept.

For a year he went on through a waste and desolate country, meeting no
man, nor discovering any sign. Till one day as he was coming down a
mountain he saw at the bottom a hut with a round roof like a great
tortoise; and when he got quite near, out of the door came a small white
hand, palm upward, feeling to know if it rained. All at once he
remembered the word of the Green Bird, and as he dropped the second seed
into the ground it seemed to him that he heard again the three notes of
its song.

A young girl looked out of the hut; "What do you want?" she said when
she saw the Prince. He saw her eyes, how blue and smiling they were, and
it seemed as if he had dreamed of them once. "Let me stay here for a
little," he said, "and rest." "If you will rest one day and work the
next, you may," she answered. So he rested that day, and the next he
worked at her bidding in a small patch of ground that was before the
hut.

When the day was over and he had returned to the hut for the night, he
looked again at the young girl, and seeing how beautiful she was, said,
"Why are you here all alone, with no one to protect you?" And she
answered, "I have come from my own country, which is very far away, in
search of a beautiful Green Bird which while it was mine I loved
greatly, and which one day flew away promising to return. When you came,
something made me think the bird was with you, but perhaps to-morrow it
will return." At that the Prince sighed in his heart, for he knew that
the bird was dead. Then also she told him how in her own country she had
been a Princess; so now she from whom the Green Bird had flown, and he
to whom it had come, were living there together like beggars in a hut.

For a whole year he toiled and waited, hoping for the second seed to
sprout; and at last one day, just where he had planted it, he saw a
little spring rising out of the ground. When the Princess saw it, she
clapped her hands, "Oh," she cried, "it is the sign I have waited for!
If we follow it, it will take us to the Green Bird." But the Prince
sighed, for in his heart he knew that the Green Bird was dead.

Yet he let her take his hand, and they two went on following the course
of the spring till they came to a wild desolate place full of ruins; and
as soon as they came to it the spring disappeared into the ground.

Then the Prince began to look about him, and saw that he was standing
once more in the land that he had lost, above the very spot in the
enchanted garden where he had buried the Green Bird and sorrowed over
it. Then he stooped down, and set the last grain of seed into the
ground; and as he did so, surely from below the soil came the three
sweet notes of a song! Then all at once the earth opened and out of it
grew a tree, tall and green and waving, and out of the midst of the tree
flew the Green Bird with its nest in its beak.

The sun was setting; in the east rose a full red moon: grey mists
climbed out of the grass. The Bird sang and sang and sang; every note
had the splendour of palace-walls and towers, and gardens, and falling
fountains. The Princess ran fast and let herself be caught in the
Prince's arms while she listened.

Many times they hung together and kissed, and all the time the Bird sang
on.

"I see the palace walls grow," said the Princess. "They are high as the
hills, and the garden covers the valleys: and the sun and the moon
lighten it." And, in truth, round them a new palace had grown, and the
Green Bird was building his nest in the roof.



THE MAN WHO KILLED THE CUCKOO


ONCE upon a time there was a man who lived in a small house with a large
garden. He made his living by gardening, while his wife looked after the
house. They were better off than most of their neighbours, but they were
an envious couple who looked sourly over the hedge at all who passed by,
and took no man's advice about anything.

At the end of the garden stood a large pear-tree: and one day the man
was working in the shade beneath it, when a cuckoo came and perched
itself on the topmost branch, crying "Cuckoo, cuckoo!"

The man looked up with a frown on his face, and cried, "Get out of my
tree, you noisy thing!" But the cuckoo only sat and stared at the
landscape, going up and down on its two notes like a musical see-saw.

The man stooped down, and took up a clod of earth and cast it at the
cuckoo, which immediately flew away.

A neighbour who was passing at the time saw him, and said, "It's
ill-luck to drive away cuckoos: you would be better not to do it again."
"Do it again?" cried the man. "If it comes into my tree again I'll kill
it!" "Nobody dares kill a cuckoo;" replied the neighbour, "it's against
Providence." "I'll not only kill it, if it returns," exclaimed the man
in a fury, "but I'll eat it too!" "No, no," cried his neighbour, "you
will think better of it. Even the parson daren't kill a cuckoo." "Wait
and see if I don't better the parson, then!" growled the man, as he
turned to go on with his work; "just wait and see!"

All the day he heard the cuckoo crying about in the field, now here, now
there, but always somewhere close at hand. It seemed to be making a mock
of him, for it always kept within sound, but never returned to the tree.
When he left off work for the day, he went into the house and grumbled
to his wife about that everlasting cuckoo. "Did you see what a big one
it was?" said his wife. "I saw it as it sat in our tree this morning."
"It will make all the bigger pie then," said the man, "if it comes
again."

The next morning he had hardly begun to work, when the bird came and
settled on the pear-tree over his head, and shouted "Cuckoo!"

Then the man took up a great stone, which he had by him ready, and aimed
with all his might; his aim was so true, that the stone hit the bird on
the side of the head, so that it fell down out of the tree into the
grass in front of his feet.

"Wife," he shouted, "I've killed the cuckoo! Come and carry it in, and
cook it for my dinner." "Oh, what a great fat one!" cried his wife, as
she ran and picked it up by the neck; "and heavy! It feels as heavy as a
turkey!"

She laid it in her apron, and went and sat in the doorway, and began
plucking it, while her husband went on with his work. Presently she
called to him, "Just look here at all these feathers! I never saw
anything like it; there are enough to stuff a feather-bed!" He looked
round, and saw the ground all covered with a great heap of feathers that
had been plucked from the bird: enough, as she said, for a feather-bed.

"This is a new discovery," cried he, "that a cuckoo holds so many
feathers. We can make our fortunes in this way, wife--I going about
killing cuckoos, and you plucking them into feather-beds."

Then his wife carried the cuckoo indoors, and set it down to roast. But
directly the spit began to turn, the cat jumped up from before the front
of the fire, and ran away screaming.

The smell of the roast came out to the man as he worked in his garden.
"How good it smells!" said he. "Don't _you_ touch it, wife! You mustn't
have a bit!" "I don't care if I don't," she replied: for she had watched
it as it went turning on the spit; and up and down, up and down, it kept
moving its wings!

When dinner-time came the man sat down, and his wife dished up the bird,
and set it upon the table before him. He ate it so greedily that he ate
it all--the bones, and the back, and the head, and the wings, and the
legs down to the last claw.

Then he pushed back his plate, and cried, "So there's an end of him!"
But just as he was about saying that, a voice from inside of him called,
"Cuckoo! cuckoo! cuckoo!"

"Oh my heart and liver!" cried the man. "What's that!"

Then his wife began laughing and jiggering at him. "It's because you
were so greedy. If you had given me half of that cuckoo this wouldn't
have happened. Now you see you are paid."

"Cuckoo! cuckoo! cuckoo!" cried the voice again from within.

"What have I done to myself?" cried the man, in an agony of terror.
"What a poisonous noise to come from a man's belly! I shall die of it, I
know I shall!"

His wife only said, "See, then, what comes of being greedy."

He got up on to his feet, and looked down at his empty plate: there was
not a scrap left on it. Then he put his hands to his sides, and
shrieked, "I feel as if a windmill were turning round inside me! And I'm
so light! Wife, hold me down--I'm going off my feet!" And as he spoke,
he swung sideway, and began rising with a wobbling motion into the air.
His wife caught him by the head, while his feet swung like the pendulum
of a clock, and all the time a voice inside him kept calling, "Cuckoo!
cuckoo! cuckoo! cuckoo!"

Presently it seemed to the unfortunate man as if the windmill had
stopped, and he was able to strike the ground with his feet once more.
"Oh, blessed Mother Earth!" he cried, and began rubbing it up and down
with his feet, and caressing it as if it had been a pet animal. But his
face had grown very white.

"Put me to bed," he said to his wife; and she put him to bed on the top
of the great feather-mattress which she had made only that morning from
the cuckoo-pluckings.

The cuckoo kept him awake far into the night, and his wife herself could
get no sleep; but towards morning he dozed off into a disturbed sort of
slumber, and began to dream.

He felt his eyes turning inwards, so that he could see into the middle
of his body. And there sat the cuckoo, like an unpleasant nestling, with
great red eyes staring at him, and the wound on its head burning a blue
flame. It seemed to grow and grow and grow, dislocating his bones, and
thrusting aside his heart to make room for itself. Its wings seemed to
be sawing out his ribs, and its head was pushed far up into his throat,
where with its angry beak it seemed reaching to peck out his eyes. "I
will torment you for ever," said the bird. "You shall have no peace
until you let me go. I am the King of the Cuckoos; I will give you no
rest. You will be surprised at what I can do to you; even in your
despair you will be surprised." Then it drew down its head and pecked
his heart, so that he woke in great pain. And as his eyes turned
outwards he saw that it was morning.

"Wife," he said, before going out, "I feel as though, if I went out, I
might be carried away, like a worm in a bird's beak. Fasten a chain
round me, and drive it with a stake into the ground, and let me see if
so I be able to work safely in my garden."

So his wife did as he told her; but whenever he caught hold of a spade
the bird lifted him off his feet, so that he could not drive it into the
ground. He wrung his hands and wailed, "Alas, alas! now my occupation is
gone, and my wife and I shall become beggars!"

The villagers came and looked over the hedge, wagging their heads. "Ah,
you are the man who killed the cuckoo yesterday! and already you are
come to this!"

Every day things got worse and worse. His wife used to have to hold him
down and feed him with a spoon, for if he took up a knife to eat with,
the bird hurled him upon it so violently as to put him in danger of his
life. Also it kept him ceaselessly awake with its cry, so that he was
worn to a shadow.

One day in the end of the month of June he heard a change come in its
horrible singing; instead of crying "Cuckoo" as before, it now broke its
note as is the cuckoo's habit to do before it goes abroad for the
winter, and cried "Cuck-cuck-Cuckoo, cuck-cuck-Cuckoo!" Some sort of a
hope came into the man's heart at that. "Presently it will be winter,"
he thought to himself, "and the cuckoo must die then, even if I have to
eat ice and snow to make him! if only I do not die first," he added, and
groaned, for he was now indeed but a shadow.

Soon after this the cuckoo left off its crying altogether. "Is he dead
already?" thought the man. All the other cuckoos had gone out of the
country: he grew quite happy with this new idea and began to put on
flesh.

[Illustration]

But one night, at the dead of night, the cuckoo felt a longing to be in
lands oversea come into its wings. The man woke with a loud cry, and
found himself sailing along through the air with only the stars
overhead, and the feeling of a great windmill inside him. And the cuckoo
was crying with a new note into the darkness: the cry it makes in far
lands oversea which is never heard in this country at all: a cry so
strange and terrible and wonderful that we have no word that will give
the sound of it. This man heard it, and at the sound his hair went quite
white with fright.

When his wife woke up in the morning, her husband was nowhere to be
seen. "So!" she said to herself, "the cuckoo has picked him up and
thrown him away somewhere; and I suppose he is dead. Well, he was an
uncomfortable husband to have; and it all came of being greedy."

She drew down the front blinds, and dressed herself in widow's mourning
all through the winter; and the next spring told another man he might
marry her if he liked. The other man happened to like the idea well
enough, for there was a house and a nice garden for anyone who would
have her. So the first fine day they went off to the Parson and got
married.

It was a very fine day, and well on in spring: and just as they were
coming back from the church they heard the note of a cuckoo.

The widow-bride felt a cold shiver go down her marrow. "It does make one
feel queer," she said; "that sound gave me quite a turn." "Hullo! look
at him up there!" cried the man. She stared up, and there was her
husband sailing through the air, looking more of a shadow than ever, and
very miserable with the voice of the cuckoo calling across the land from
the inside of him.

The cuckoo deposited him at his own doorstep in front of the bridal
couple.

"O you miserable scare-crow!" said his wife, "whatever brought you
back?" The unhappy man pointed below the surface, and the shut-up cuckoo
spoke for him.

"And here I find you marrying yourself to another!" cried her returned
spouse: but the other man had shrunk away in disgust and disappeared, so
there was no more trouble with him.

But the old trouble was as bad as ever, the cuckoo was just as
industrious in his cuckooings, and just as untimely: and the man went on
wearing himself to a shadow with vexation and grief.

So all the summer went by, till again the cuckoo was heard to break its
note into a double sound. But this time, no glimmer of hope came to the
man's mind. "Tie me fast to the bed," he said sorrowfully to his wife,
"and keep me there, lest this demon of a bird carry me away again as he
did last year; a thing which I could never survive a second time. Nay,
give me a sheath-knife to keep always with me, for if he carry me away
again I am resolved that he or I shall die."

So his wife gave him the sheath-knife, and by-and-by the bird became
very quiet, so that they almost hoped he was dead from old age.

But one night, at the dead of night, into the birds wings came the
longing to be once more in lands oversea. He stretched out his wings,
and the man woke with a loud cry. And behold, there were he and his
wife, sailing along under the stars tied into the feather-bed together,
all complete and compact; and inside him was the feeling of a great
windmill going round and round and round.

Then in despair he drew out his sheath-knife and cut himself open like
a haggis. And on a sudden out flew the cuckoo, all plucked and bald and
ready to roast. At the very same moment the bed-ticking burst, and away
went the cuckoo with his feathers trailing after him, uttering through
the darkness that strange terrible cry of the lands oversea.

But the man and his wife and the empty bed-ticking, they fell and they
fell and they fell right down, till they got to the bottom of the deep
blue sea; and there was an end of them.



A CHINESE FAIRY TALE


TIKI-PU was a small grub of a thing; but he had a true love of Art deep
down in his soul. There it hung mewing and complaining, struggling to
work its way out through the raw exterior that bound it.

Tiki-pu's master professed to be an artist: he had apprentices and
students, who came daily to work under him, and a large studio littered
about with the performances of himself and his pupils. On the walls hung
also a few real works by the older men, all long since dead.

This studio Tiki-pu swept; for those who worked in it he ground colours,
washed brushes, and ran errands, bringing them their dog chops and
bird's nest soup from the nearest eating-house whenever they were too
busy to go out to it themselves. He himself had to feed mainly on the
breadcrumbs which the students screwed into pellets for their drawings
and then threw about upon the floor. It was on the floor, also, that he
had to sleep at night.

Tiki-pu looked after the blinds, and mended the paper window-panes,
which were often broken when the apprentices threw their brushes and
mahl-sticks at him. Also he strained rice-paper over the
linen-stretchers, ready for the painters to work on; and for a treat,
now and then, a lazy one would allow him to mix a colour for him. Then
it was that Tiki-pu's soul came down into his finger-tips, and his heart
beat so that he gasped for joy. Oh, the yellows and the greens, and the
lakes and the cobalts, and the purples which sprang from the blending of
them! Sometimes it was all he could do to keep himself from crying out.

Tiki-pu, while he squatted and ground at the colour-powders, would
listen to his master lecturing to the students. He knew by heart the
names of all the painters and their schools, and the name of the great
leader of them all who had lived and passed from their midst more than
three hundred years ago; he knew that too, a name like the sound of the
wind, Wio-wani: the big picture at the end of the studio was by him.

That picture! To Tiki-pu it seemed worth all the rest of the world put
together. He knew, too, the story which was told of it, making it as
holy to his eyes as the tombs of his own ancestors. The apprentices
joked over it, calling it "Wio-wani's back-door," "Wio-wani's
night-cap," and many other nicknames; but Tiki-pu was quite sure, since
the picture was so beautiful, that the story must be true.

Wio-wani, at the end of a long life, had painted it; a garden full of
trees and sunlight, with high-standing flowers and green paths, and in
their midst a palace. "The place where I would like to rest," said
Wio-wani, when it was finished.

So beautiful was it then, that the Emperor himself had come to see it;
and gazing enviously at those peaceful walks, and the palace nestling
among the trees, had sighed and owned that he too would be glad of such
a resting-place. Then Wio-wani stepped into the picture, and walked away
along a path till he came, looking quite small and far-off, to a low
door in the palace wall. Opening it, he turned and beckoned to the
Emperor; but the Emperor did not follow; so Wio-wani went in by himself,
and shut the door between himself and the world for ever.

That happened three hundred years ago; but for Tiki-pu the story was as
fresh and true as if it had happened yesterday. When he was left to
himself in the studio, all alone and locked up for the night, Tiki-pu
used to go and stare at the picture till it was too dark to see, and at
the little palace with the door in its wall by which Wio-wani had
disappeared out of life. Then his soul would go down into his
finger-tips, and he would knock softly and fearfully at the beautifully
painted door, saying, "Wio-wani, are you there?"

Little by little in the long-thinking nights, and the slow early
mornings when light began to creep back through the papered windows of
the studio, Tiki-pu's soul became too much for him. He who could strain
paper, and grind colours, and wash brushes, had everything within reach
for becoming an artist, if it was the will of Fate that he should be
one.

He began timidly at first, but in a little while he grew bold. With the
first wash of light he was up from his couch on the hard floor and was
daubing his soul out on scraps, and odds-and-ends, and stolen pieces of
rice-paper.

Before long the short spell of daylight which lay between dawn and the
arrival of the apprentices to their work did not suffice him. It took
him so long to hide all traces of his doings, to wash out the brushes,
and rinse clean the paint-pots he had used, and on the top of that to
get the studio swept and dusted, that there was hardly time left him in
which to indulge the itching of his fingers.

Driven by necessity, he became a pilferer of candle-ends, picking them
from their sockets in the lanterns which the students carried on dark
nights. Now and then one of these would remember that, when last used,
his lantern had had a candle in it, and would accuse Tiki-pu of having
stolen it. "It is true," he would confess; "I was hungry--I have eaten
it." The lie was so probable, he was believed easily, and was well
beaten accordingly. Down in the ragged linings of his coat Tiki-pu could
hear the candle-ends rattling as the buffeting and chastisement fell
upon him, and often he trembled lest his hoard should be discovered. But
the truth of the matter never leaked out; and at night, as soon as he
guessed that all the world outside was in bed, Tiki-pu would mount one
of his candles on a wooden stand and paint by the light of it, blinding
himself over his task, till the dawn came and gave him a better and
cheaper light to work by.

Tiki-pu quite hugged himself over the results; he believed he was doing
very well. "If only Wio-wani were here to teach me," thought he, "I
would be in the way to becoming a great painter!"

The resolution came to him one night that Wio-wani _should_ teach him.
So he took a large piece of rice-paper and strained it, and sitting down
opposite "Wio-wani's back-door," began painting. He had never set
himself so big a task as this; by the dim stumbling light of his candle
he strained his eyes nearly blind over the difficulties of it; and at
last was almost driven to despair. How the trees stood row behind row,
with air and sunlight between, and how the path went in and out, winding
its way up to the little door in the palace-wall were mysteries he could
not fathom. He peered and peered and dropped tears into his paint-pots;
but the secret of the mystery of such painting was far beyond him.

The door in the palace-wall opened; out came a little old man and began
walking down the pathway towards him.

The soul of Tiki-pu gave a sharp leap in his grubby little body. "That
must be Wio-wani himself and no other!" cried his soul.

Tiki-pu pulled off his cap and threw himself down on the floor with
reverent grovellings. When he dared to look up again Wio-wani stood over
him big and fine; just within the edge of his canvas he stood and
reached out a hand.

"Come along with me, Tiki-pu!" said the great one. "If you want to know
how to paint I will teach you."

"Oh, Wio-wani, were you there all the while?" cried Tiki-pu
ecstatically, leaping up and clutching with his smeary little puds the
hand which the old man extended to him.

"I was there," said Wio-wani, "looking at you out of my little window.
Come along in!"

Tiki-pu took a heave and swung himself into the picture, and fairly
capered when he found his feet among the flowers of Wio-wani's beautiful
garden. Wio-wani had turned, and was ambling gently back to the door of
his palace, beckoning to the small one to follow him; and there stood
Tiki-pu, opening his mouth like a fish to all the wonders that
surrounded him. "Celestiality, may I speak?" he said suddenly.

"Speak," replied Wio-wani; "what is it?"

"The Emperor, was he not the very flower of fools not to follow when you
told him?"

"I cannot say," answered Wio-wani, "but he certainly was no artist."

Then he opened the door, that door which he had so beautifully painted,
and led Tiki-pu in. And outside the little candle-end sat and guttered
by itself, till the wick fell overboard, and the flame kicked itself
out, leaving the studio in darkness and solitude to wait for the
growings of another dawn.

It was full day before Tiki-pu reappeared; he came running down the
green path in great haste, jumped out of the frame on to the studio
floor, and began tidying up his own messes of the night, and the
apprentices' of the previous day. Only just in time did he have things
ready by the hour when his master and the others returned to their work.

All that day they kept scratching their left ears, and could not think
why; but Tiki-pu knew, for he was saying over to himself all the things
that Wio-wani, the great painter, had been saying about them and their
precious productions. And as he ground their colours for them and washed
their brushes, and filled his famished little body with the breadcrumbs
they threw away, little they guessed from what an immeasurable distance
he looked down upon them all, and had Wio-wani's word for it tickling
his right ear all the day long.

Now before long Tiki-pu's master noticed a change in him; and though he
bullied him, and thrashed him, and did all that a careful master should
do, he could not get the change out of him. So in a short while he grew
suspicious. "What is the boy up to?" he wondered. "I have my eye on him
all day: it must be at night that he gets into mischief."

It did not take Tiki-pu's master a night's watching to find that
something surreptitious was certainly going on. When it was dark he took
up his post outside the studio, to see whether by any chance Tiki-pu had
some way of getting out; and before long he saw a faint light showing
through the window. So he came and thrust his finger softly through one
of the panes, and put his eye to the hole.

There inside was a candle burning on a stand, and Tiki-pu squatting with
paint-pots and brush in front of Wio-wani's last masterpiece.

"What fine piece of burglary is this?" thought he; "what serpent have I
been harbouring in my bosom? Is this beast of a grub of a boy thinking
to make himself a painter and cut me out of my reputation and
prosperity?" For even at that distance he could perceive plainly that
the work of this boy went head and shoulders beyond his, or that of any
painter then living.

Presently Wio-wani opened his door and came down the path, as was his
habit now each night, to call Tiki-pu to his lesson. He advanced to the
front of his picture and beckoned for Tiki-pu to come in with him; and
Tiki-pu's master grew clammy at the knees as he beheld Tiki-pu catch
hold of Wio-wani's hand and jump into the picture, and skip up the
green path by Wio-wani's side, and in through the little door that
Wio-wani had painted so beautifully in the end wall of his palace!

For a time Tiki-pu's master stood glued to the spot with grief and
horror. "Oh, you deadly little underling! Oh, you poisonous little
caretaker, you parasite, you vampire, you fly in amber!" cried he, "is
that where you get your training? Is it there that you dare to go
trespassing; into a picture that I purchased for my own pleasure and
profit, and not at all for yours? Very soon we will see whom it really
belongs to!"

He ripped out the paper of the largest window-pane and pushed his way
through into the studio. Then in great haste he took up paint-pot and
brush, and sacrilegiously set himself to work upon Wio-wani's last
masterpiece. In the place of the doorway by which Tiki-pu had entered he
painted a solid brick wall; twice over he painted it, making it two
bricks thick; brick by brick he painted it, and mortared every brick to
its place. And when he had quite finished he laughed, and called
"Good-night, Tiki-pu!" and went home to be quite happy.

The next day all the apprentices were wondering what had become of
Tiki-pu; but as the master himself said nothing, and as another boy came
to act as colour-grinder and brush-washer to the establishment, they
very soon forgot all about him.

In the studio the master used to sit at work with his students all about
him, and a mind full of ease and contentment. Now and then he would
throw a glance across to the bricked-up doorway of Wio-wani's palace,
and laugh to himself, thinking how well he had served out Tiki-pu for
his treachery and presumption.

One day--it was five years after the disappearance of Tiki-pu--he was
giving his apprentices a lecture on the glories and the beauties and the
wonders of Wio-wani's painting--how nothing for colour could excel, or
for mystery could equal it. To add point to his eloquence, he stood
waving his hands before Wio-wani's last masterpiece, and all his
students and apprentices sat round him and looked.

Suddenly he stopped at mid-word, and broke off in the full flight of his
eloquence, as he saw something like a hand come and take down the top
brick from the face of paint which he had laid over the little door in
the palace-wall which Wio-wani had so beautifully painted. In another
moment there was no doubt about it; brick by brick the wall was being
pulled down, in spite of its double thickness.

The lecturer was altogether too dumbfounded and terrified to utter a
word. He and all his apprentices stood round and stared while the
demolition of the wall proceeded. Before long he recognised Wio-wani
with his flowing white beard; it was his handiwork, this pulling down of
the wall! He still had a brick in his hand when he stepped through the
opening that he had made, and close after him stepped Tiki-pu!

[Illustration]

Tiki-pu was grown tall and strong--he was even handsome; but for all
that his old master recognised him, and saw with an envious foreboding
that under his arms he carried many rolls and stretchers and portfolios,
and other belongings of his craft. Clearly Tiki-pu was coming back
into the world, and was going to be a great painter.

Down the garden path came Wio-wani, and Tiki-pu walked after him;
Tiki-pu was so tall that his head stood well over Wio-wani's
shoulders--old man and young man together made a handsome pair.

How big Wio-wani grew as he walked down the avenues of his garden and
into the foreground of his picture! and how big the brick in his hand!
and ah, how angry he seemed!

Wio-wani came right down to the edge of the picture-frame and held up
the brick. "What did you do that for?" he asked.

"I ... didn't!" Tiki-pu's old master was beginning to reply; and the lie
was still rolling on his tongue when the weight of the brick-bat, hurled
by the stout arm of Wio-wani, felled him. After that he never spoke
again. That brick-bat, which he himself had reared, became his own
tombstone.

Just inside the picture-frame stood Tiki-pu, kissing the wonderful hands
of Wio-wani, which had taught him all their skill. "Good-bye, Tiki-pu!"
said Wio-wani, embracing him tenderly. "Now I am sending my second self
into the world. When you are tired and want rest come back to me: old
Wio-wani will take you in."

Tiki-pu was sobbing and the tears were running down his cheeks as he
stepped out of Wio-wani's wonderfully painted garden and stood once more
upon earth. Turning, he saw the old man walking away along the path
towards the little door under the palace-wall. At the door Wio-wani
turned back and waved his hand for the last time. Tiki-pu still stood
watching him. Then the door opened and shut, and Wio-wani was gone.
Softly as a flower the picture seemed to have folded its leaves over
him.

Tiki-pu leaned a wet face against the picture and kissed the door in the
palace-wall which Wio-wani had painted so beautifully. "O Wio-wani, dear
master," he cried, "are you there?"

He waited, and called again, but no voice answered him.



HAPPY RETURNS


BY the side of a great river, whose stream formed the boundary to two
countries, lived an old ferryman and his wife. All the day, while she
minded the house, he sat in his boat by the ferry, waiting to carry
travellers across; or, when no travellers came, and he had his boat
free, he would cast drag-nets along the bed of the river for fish. But
for the food which he was able thus to procure at times, he and his wife
might well have starved, for travellers were often few and far between,
and often they grudged him the few pence he asked for ferrying them; and
now he had grown so old and feeble that when the river was in flood he
could scarcely ferry the boat across; and continually he feared lest a
younger and stronger man should come and take his place, and the bread
from his mouth.

But he had trust in Providence. "Will not God," he said, "who has given
us no happiness in this life, save in each other's help and
companionship, allow us to end our days in peace?"

And his wife answered, "Yes, surely, if we trust Him enough He will."

One morning, it being the first day of the year, the ferryman going down
to his boat, found that during the night it had been loosed from its
moorings and taken across the river, where it now lay fastened to the
further bank.

"Wife," said he "I can remember this same thing happening a year ago,
and the year before also. Who is this traveller who comes once a year,
like a thief in the night, and crosses without asking me to ferry him
over?"

"Perhaps it is the good folk," said his wife. "Go over and see if they
have left no coin behind them in the boat."

The old man got on to a log and poled himself across, and found, down in
the keel of the boat, the mark of a man's bare foot driven deep into the
wood; but there was no coin or other trace to show who it might be.

Time went on; the old ferryman was all bowed down with age, and his body
was racked with pains. So slow was he now in making the passage of the
stream, that all travellers who knew those parts took a road higher up
the bank, where a stronger ferryman plied.

Winter came; and hunger and want pressed hard at the old man's door. One
day while he drew his net along the stream, he felt the shock of a great
fish striking against the meshes down below, and presently, as the net
came in, he saw a shape like living silver, leaping and darting to and
fro to find some way of escape. Up to the bank he landed it, a great
gasping fish.

When he was about to kill it, he saw, to his astonishment, tears running
out of its eyes, that gazed at him and seemed to reproach him for his
cruelty. As he drew back, the Fish said: "Why should you kill me, who
wish to live?"

The old man, altogether bewildered at hearing himself thus addressed,
answered: "Since I and my wife are hungry, and God gave you to be
eaten, I have good reason for killing you."

"I could give you something worth far more than a meal," said the Fish,
"if you would spare my life."

"We are old," said the ferryman, "and want only to end our days in
peace. To-day we are hungry; what can be more good for us than a meal
which will give us strength for the morrow, which is the new year?"

The Fish said: "To-night someone will come and unfasten your boat, and
ferry himself over, and you know nothing of it till the morning, when
you see the craft moored out yonder by the further bank."

The old man remembered how the thing had happened in previous years,
directly the Fish spoke. "Ah, you know that then! How is it?" he asked.

"When you go back to your hut at night to sleep, I am here in the
water," said the Fish. "I see what goes on."

"What goes on, then?" asked the old man, very curious to know who the
strange traveller might be.

"Ah," said the Fish, "if you could only catch him in your boat, he could
give you something you might wish for! I tell you this: do you and your
wife keep watch in the boat all night, and when he comes, and you have
ferried him into mid-stream, where he cannot escape, then throw your net
over him and hold him till he pays you for all your ferryings."

"How shall he pay me? All my ferryings of a lifetime!"

"Make him take you to the land of Returning Time. There, at least, you
can end your days in peace."

The old man said: "You have told me a strange thing; and since I mean to
act on it, I suppose I must let you go. If you have deceived me, I trust
you may yet die a cruel death."

The Fish answered: "Do as I tell you, and you shall die a happy one."
And, saying this he slipped down into the water and disappeared.

The ferryman went back to his wife supperless, and said to her: "Wife,
bring a net, and come down into the boat!" And he told her the story of
the Fish and of the yearly traveller.

They sat long together under the dark bank, looking out over the quiet
and cold moonlit waters, till the midnight hour. The air was chill, and
to keep themselves warm they covered themselves over with the net and
lay down in the bottom of the boat. It was the very hour when the old
year dies and the new year is born.

Before they well knew that they had been asleep, they started to feel
the rocking of the boat, and found themselves out upon the broad waters
of the river. And there in the fore-part of the boat, clear and
sparkling in the moonlight, stood a naked man of shining silver. He was
bending upon the pole of the boat, and his long hair fell over it right
down into the water.

The old couple rose up quietly, and unwinding themselves from the net,
threw it over the Silver Man, over his head and hands and feet, and
dragged him down into the bottom of the boat.

[Illustration]

The old man caught the ferry pole, and heaved the boat still into the
middle of the stream. As he did so a gentle shock came to the heart of
each; feebly it fluttered and sank low. "Oh, wife!" sighed the old man,
and reached out his hand for hers.

The Silver Man lay still in the folds of the net, and looked at them
with a wise and quiet gaze. "What would you have of me?" he said, and
his voice was far off and low.

They said, "Bring us into the land of Returning Time."

The Silver Man said: "Only once can you go there, and once return."

They both answered "We wish once to go there, and once return."

So he promised them that they should have the whole of their request;
and they unloosed him from the net, and landed altogether on the further
bank.

Up the hill they went, following the track of the Silver Man. Presently
they reached its crest; and there before them lay all the howling winter
of the world.

The Silver Man turned his face and looked back; and looking back it
became all young, and ruddy, and bright. The ferryman and his wife gazed
at him, both speechless at the wonderful change. He took their hands,
making them turn the way by which they had come; below their feet was a
deep black gulf, and beyond and away lay nothing but a dark starless
hollow of air.

"Now," said their guide, "you have but to step forward one step, and you
shall be in the land of Returning Time."

They loosed hold of his hands, joined clasp, husband with wife, and at
one step upon what seemed gulf beneath their feet, found themselves in a
green and flowery land. There were perfumed valleys and grassy hills,
whose crops stretched down before the breeze; thick fleecy clouds
crossed their tops, and overhead amid a blue air rang the shrill
trilling of birds. Behind lay, fading mistily as a dream, the bare world
they had left; and fast on his forward road, growing small to them from
a distance, went the Silver Man, a shining point on the horizon.

The ferryman and his wife looked, and saw youth in each other's faces
beginning to peep out through the furrows of age; each step they took
made them grow younger and stronger; years fell from them like worn-out
rags as they went down into the valleys of the land of Returning Time.

How fast Time returned! Each step made the change of a day, and every
mile brought them five years back towards youth. When they came down to
the streams that ran in the bed of each valley, the ferryman and his
wife felt their prime return to them. He saw the gold come back into her
locks, and she the brown into his. Their lips became open to laughter
and song. "Oh, how good," they cried, "to have lived all our lives poor,
to come at last to this!"

They drank water out of the streams, and tasted the fruit from the trees
that grew over them; till presently, being tired for mere joy, they lay
down in the grass to rest. They slept hand within hand and cheek against
cheek, and, when they woke, found themselves quite young again, just at
the age when they were first married in the years gone by.

The ferryman started up and felt the desire of life strong in his blood.
"Come!" he said to his wife, "or we shall become too young with
lingering here. Now we have regained our youth, let us go back into the
world once more!"

His wife hung upon his hand, "Are we not happy enough," she asked, "as
it is? Why should we return?"

"But," he cried, "we shall grow too young; now we have youth and life at
its best let us return! Time goes too fast with us; we are in danger of
it carrying us away."

She said no further word, but followed up towards the way by which they
had entered. And yet, in spite of her wish to remain, as she went her
young blood frisked. Presently coming to the top of a hill, they set off
running and racing; at the bottom they looked at each other, and saw
themselves boy and girl once more.

"We have stayed here too long!" said the ferryman, and pressed on.

"Oh, the birds," sighed she, "and the flowers, and the grassy hills to
run on, we are leaving behind!" But still the boy had the wish for a
man's life again, and urged her on; and still with every step they grew
younger and younger. At length, two small children, they came to the
border of that enchanted land, and saw beyond the world bleak and wintry
and without leaf. Only a further step was wanted to bring them face to
face once more with the hard battle of life.

Tears rose in the child-wife's eyes: "If we go," she said, "we can never
return!" Her husband looked long at her wistful face; he, too, was more
of a child now, and was forgetting his wish to be a man again.

He took hold of her hand and turned round with her, and together they
faced once more the flowery orchards, and the happy watered valleys.

Away down there light streams tinkled, and birds called. Downwards they
went, slowly at first, then with dancing feet, as with shoutings and
laughter they ran.

Down into the level fields they ran; their running was turned to a
toddling; their toddling to a tumbling; their tumbling to a slow crawl
upon hands and feet among the high grass and flowers; till at last they
were lying side by side, curled up into a cuddly ball, chuckling and
dimpling and crowing to the insects and birds that passed over them.

Then they heard the sweet laughter of Father Time; and over the hill he
came, young, ruddy, and shining, and gathered them up sound asleep on
the old boat by the ferry.


  _Printed in Great Britain by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld.,
  London and Aylesbury._

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 35, "ful" changed to "full" (struck him full)

Page 61, "you" changed to "your" (laid your moon-children)

Page 83, "thing sat" changed to "things at (two things at the)





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