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Title: Fairy Circles - Tales and Legends of Giants, Dwarfs, Fairies, Water-Sprites - and Hobgoblins
Author: Unknown
Language: English
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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 "Fairy Circles - Tales and Legends of Giants, Dwarfs, Fairies, Water-Sprites - and Hobgoblins" ***

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[Illustration: HELGA IN THE FAIRY KING'S PARADISE. p. 154.]



    Fairy Circles

    TALES AND LEGENDS
    OF
    Giants, Dwarfs, Fairies, Water-Sprites, and Hobgoblins


    FROM THE GERMAN OF VILLAMARIA

    WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS

    London:
    MARCUS WARD & CO., 67 & 68, CHANDOS STREET
    AND ROYAL ULSTER WORKS, BELFAST
    1877



    CONTENTS.


                                             PAGE
    BARBAROSSA'S YOUTHFUL DREAM                 7
    KING LAURIN                                32
    THE DWARF OF VENICE                        54
    RHINE GOLD                                100
    THE FRIENDSHIP OF THE DWARFS--
         PART I. THE DYING DWARF-QUEEN        115
        PART II. THE FRIENDS IN THE ROCK      124
    THE FLOWER OF ICELAND                     142
    THE SEA-FAIRY                             172
    THE FAITHFUL GOBLIN                       201
    THE FALLEN BELL                           223
    THE LAST HOME OF THE GIANTS               249



    Illustrations.


                                                                    PAGE
    HELGA IN THE FAIRY KING'S PARADISE (p. 155)          _Frontispiece._
    FREDERICK TAKES LEAVE OF GELA                                      7
    BARBAROSSA IN THE HOLY LAND                                       21
    BARBAROSSA AND GELA IN THE KYFFHÄUSER                             27
    VRENELI IN KING LAURIN'S ROSE-GARDEN                              32
    KING LAURIN IN VRENELI'S COTTAGE                                  43
    THE DWARF OF VENICE TAKES HIS DEPARTURE FOR HIS NATIVE LAND       54
    HANS SEES KING LAURIN'S KINGDOM IN THE MAGIC MIRROR               63
    HANS RECEIVES A HEARTY WELCOME FROM AN OLD FRIEND                 92
    HACO THROWS THE TREASURE OF THE NIBELUNGEN INTO THE RHINE        100
    CHARLEMAGNE MEETS WITH KRIEMHILD                                 109
    THE COUNTESS MATILDA RESTORES THE DWARF-QUEEN TO HEALTH          115
    ECKBERT'S WILD RIDE ON KUNO'S HORSE                              124
    KUNO LISTENS TO THE WISE MAN'S TALK                              134
    HELGA AT HER MOTHER'S FEET                                       142
    "IN HELGA'S HEART MEMORY CEASED TO THRILL"                       155
    THE OLD MAN BESIDE THE CORPSE OF ANTONIO                         172
    ANTONIO IN THE CRYSTAL CASTLE                                    178
    ANTONIO LAYS THE DEAD MAIDEN IN HER LAST RESTING-PLACE           189
    FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH PUCK                                     201
    "GERO CAUGHT PUCK SUDDENLY AND SET HIM BEFORE HIM ON HIS
      SADDLE"                                                        212
    THE STORM HURLS THE BELL INTO THE STREAM                         223
    THE WATER-ELF AND THE LITTLE SOUL ON THE RAFT OF WATER-LILIES    238
    ASLOG RETURNS TO HER FATHER                                      249
    GURU AWAKES THE ROCK TO LIFE                                     269



FAIRY CIRCLES.



Barbarossa's Youthful Dream.

[Illustration: FREDERICK TAKES LEAVE OF GELA.]


More than a thousand years have rolled away since a castle looked down
cheerfully from a height amid the Franconian plains into the
well-watered Kinzig Valley, with its pleasant villages and towns.

It belonged to the powerful Swabian duke Frederick of Hohenstaufen,
whose young and valiant son loved this the best of all his father's
proud castles, and often left his uncle's splendid palace to hunt in
its forests, or to look down from its lofty oriel window on the
blooming plain below.

His father and uncle indeed missed him sadly. His clear blue eye, and
the cheerful expression of his noble countenance, seemed to the two
grave and war-weary men so gladdening to look upon, that they were
always unwilling to let him leave them.

But the young Frederick used to beg them so earnestly to grant him the
freedom of the forest for just this once, that father and uncle
smilingly granted him permission, though "this once" was often
repeated.

So it happened the autumn of that year when Bernard of Clairvaux
passed through Germany, calling prince and people in words of burning
eloquence to aid in the deliverance of the Holy Sepulchre.

"Just this once!" said young Frederick again; and King Conrad and Duke
Frederick granted him permission.

As he bent in courteous farewell to take his uncle's hand, the king
whispered, "Be ready, my Frederick, to return as soon as my messenger
calls thee. Great things are before us, and I can ill spare thy strong
right arm!" And young Frederick smiled his own cheery smile, and
answered, "I come when my king and lord calls!"

Then he galloped away as if he were bound that day to ride round the
world. His Barbary steed bore him as on wings through the dark
forests of the Spessart, and as the latest sunbeams sank in the waters
of the Kinzig, he mounted the steep path towards the castle, and rode
over the lowered drawbridge into the court.

Was it really the stags and boars in the vast forests, or the treasure
of rare old manuscripts of the castle archives, which drew the young
prince again and again to the small and lonely fortress?

So his father and uncle thought, but they knew not of his deep
unconquerable love for the beautiful Gela, the daughter of a humble
retainer. He had seen her while resting from the chase in the forest
of the Kinzig Valley, and so great had his love for her become that he
was willing to renounce all dreams of future power and greatness to
live in blissful retirement with the beloved one whom he could not
raise to his own rank.

But the lovers had to guard their secret carefully; they dared trust
no confidant, lest their paradise should be laid waste before its
gates had been fully opened to admit them. So they breathed their love
to none but each other.

The prince passed Gela with cold indifference if he met her in the
castle court or at her work about the house, and Gela made lowly
reverence, as if she were the meanest of his maids, to him who counted
it his greatest honour to do her service.

But at evening, when Frederick had roamed the forest since early
morning, his bow on his shoulder and his faithful hounds by his side,
the fair Gela might be seen walking along the high-road with a basket
on her arm, or with a stock of newly-spun yarn, as if she were going
to seek purchasers in the nearest town. But in the forest she would
leave the broad path, and make her way through briars and underwood to
a height on which her young prince awaited her beneath the shelter of
a giant oak.

There they would talk happily and innocently till the last sunbeam was
quenched in the Kinzig stream, and the convent bell resounded through
the arches of the forest; then they would fold their hands in prayer
before saying farewell, in hope of a meeting on the morrow.

So had it been for many a year. Their love remained unbetrayed, their
hope unquenched, their faith unshaken. In the splendid halls of the
palace, amid the proud and lovely ladies who surrounded the young
prince with flattering marks of favour, the longing after the lonely
forest in the Kinzig Valley and the fair and gentle loved one never
died from his heart.

They had met thus one evening with the old, yet ever new tenderness.
Frederick drew Gela's fair head to his breast, and spoke to her of the
near and blissful future, which would be theirs in a few weeks, when
he would be of age, and would be able to lead her openly as his wife
to his castle in the fair land of Bavaria, to the inheritance of his
dead mother. And the oak tree overhead rustled gently, scattering
golden leaves on Gela's beautiful hair, for it was far on in autumn.

When the vesper bell of the forest cloister began to sound, it was
already dark; the moonlight gleamed on the path, and Gela walked with
her lover as far as the high-road, supported by his arm. But there
the moon shone so brightly that they had to part, lest some prying eye
should see them. "Meet me to-morrow, dearest!" said the young prince,
once more kissing her blooming cheek; then Gela tripped lightly down
the high-road towards the valley, while Frederick gazed after her till
she vanished from his sight, when he called his dogs, and turned
towards the castle.

But there the usual stillness and loneliness had given place to bustle
and confusion. The young prince's aged tutor, who was the
father-confessor and confidential friend alike of his father and of
his uncle, had arrived a few hours before, accompanied by a troop of
horsemen. Inquiries after the young prince passed impatiently from
mouth to mouth, for the message was one which called for haste. At
last he came riding over the drawbridge, his handsome face glowing as
in a transformation, for his vision of the forest still hovered before
his mind.

The old chaplain of the brothers of Hohenstaufen had been long and
anxiously awaiting his pupil; now he hastened to meet him as quickly
as his infirmities permitted, and greeted his dear one, who had left
him but a few days before, as if he had not seen him for years.

Then they went together to the room with the oriel window, for there
the young prince liked best to sit, as it afforded a view of Gela's
lattice. They sat long in confidential conversation, and the light
that fell on the pavement for hours after all others in the castle
were asleep told Gela, who stood at the window opposite, that
important and serious matters were being discussed by her dear one and
his aged tutor.

Next morning the people flocked out of the castle chapel, where the
old priest who had arrived the evening before had spoken to them in
eloquent words, and claimed the arm and heart of young and old for the
approaching crusade to the Holy Land. And not in vain. Men and youths
were ready to venture wealth and life, and the aged were with
difficulty persuaded to remain at home to till the ground and protect
the women and the little ones.

All returned home to arrange their business hastily, and make needful
preparations. One alone remained in the sacred place. It was Gela,
who, when all had left the chapel, rose from her seat and threw
herself prostrate before the altar, there to pour forth all the
anguish of broken hopes, of parting, and of lonely sorrow that
oppressed her heart.

She lay thus, her hands clasped, and her face uplifted in an agony of
grief. There were light footsteps behind her, but Gela, lost in sorrow
and prayer, heeded them not. A hand was laid on her shoulder; she
looked up and saw the face of him on whose account she suffered.

"Gela," said the young prince tenderly and low, as if in reverence to
the holy place--"Gela, we must part! We must wait a while for the
fulfilment of yesterday's beautiful dream! I can scarcely bear it, and
yet I cannot refuse, either as prince and knight, or as son and
subject."

"No," said Gela calmly; "thou must obey, my Frederick, even though our
hearts will bleed."

"And thou wilt be true to me, Gela, and wait patiently till I come
back, and not give thy heart to another?" asked the prince, and his
voice was full of pain.

"Frederick," said Gela, laying her hand on his shoulder, "bid me give
my life; if it were necessary to thy happiness, I would give it
gladly. Thine will I be through all the sorrow of separation; and if I
die, my soul will leave heaven at thy call."

Frederick drew her to his heart. "I go content, my Gela; danger and
death cannot harm me, for I am sheltered by thy love! Farewell till we
meet again in joy!"

He hastened away to hide the tears that started to his eyes, and Gela
sank again on the altar steps and bent her head in silent prayer.

She did not perceive the footsteps that once more broke the stillness
of the place, and she only looked up when a second time a hand was
laid on her shoulder. It was not into Frederick's youthful face that
she looked this time, but into the grave countenance of the aged
priest who had come to call her darling and the people of the
surrounding country to the Holy War.

She shuddered as she thought that he had perhaps been a listener to
their conversation, and had thus discovered the carefully guarded
secret.

"Be not afraid, my daughter," said the old man gently; "I have been an
unwilling witness of your meeting, but your words have fallen into the
ear and heart of a man whose calling makes him the guardian of many a
secret."

Gela breathed more freely.

"Thou art of pure heart, my daughter," continued the old man mildly;
"who could chide thee for giving thy love to a youth to whom God has
given a power to charm that wins the affection of almost every heart?
But, my daughter, if thou love him thou must renounce him."

Gela looked up in terror at the priest.

"Yes, renounce him!" he repeated gravely, nodding his white head as he
spoke.

"I cannot, reverend father!" faltered the maiden with trembling lips.

"Canst thou not?" asked the old man still more earnestly; "canst thou
not give up thine own happiness for his sake, and yet thou art ready
to give thy life if his happiness should demand it?"

"Oh, reverend father," Gela faltered, raising her hands to him
entreatingly, "look not so stern! You know not what it is to renounce
him, and with him all that I call happiness. But if his welfare
demands it, my heart shall break without a murmur."

A gentle radiance beamed from the old priest's eyes.

"Thou hast well spoken, my daughter," he said gently. "Frederick loves
thee now with the force of his unestranged affection, and is ready to
sacrifice rank and worldly prospects for thy sake; but he is a man and
a prince, and, above all, of the house of Hohenstaufen, in whose soul
lies a longing after great and praiseworthy deeds, though these
aspirations are lulled to slumber by his love for thee. But when he
comes to years of manhood, he will be unhappy that thou hast kept him
from the tasks incumbent on one of his noble race. And then, my
daughter, not he alone, but all Germany will blame thee, for every
far-seeing eye recognises already in this heroic youth the future
leader who is destined to bring this divided realm to unity and
greatness. Canst thou think of the future of thy lover, and of us all,
and yet act but for thine own happiness?"

Gela raised herself as out of a dream.

"No, my father," she said in a firm voice, though the light of her
eyes seemed quenched as she gazed at the priest; "no, I renounce him.
But if he should ever think with bitterness of Gela, I ask of you that
you will tell him of this hour, and why I have renounced him; because
I loved his happiness more than myself. May this sacrifice not be in
vain!"

The priest laid his hand, trembling with emotion, on her beautiful
head. "Peace be with thee, my daughter!"

       *       *       *       *       *

On a dewy May morning, two years after that farewell scene in the
castle chapel, young Frederick rode over the drawbridge of the
fortress on the height beside the Kinzig Valley.

The sun of Syria had dyed his white skin with a deeper hue, the toils
of war and grief at dispelled illusions had drawn a slight furrow in
the smooth brow, but on his flowing beard and hair lay the same golden
splendour, and his blue eyes beamed brightly as of yore.

The castle servants flocked to greet their beloved young master, who
had meantime, through his father's death, become Duke of Swabia and
their feudal lord. His princely mouth spoke many a gracious word, and
his winning smile hovered among them like a sunbeam. His eye passed
quickly from line to line, till it rested inquiringly on the features
of an old bent man. It was Gela's father. Then he sprang from his
horse, and ascended the stair to his favourite room.

The butler placed a goblet of the richest wine on the table, a drink
of honour which he kept carefully in the driest corner of the cellar
for the greatest occasions; and Dame Barbara, the housekeeper, brought
in proudly the delicious pastry which she had prepared for this
festive day; but the young duke gave no heed to these attentions. He
stood in the oriel window, and looked down at a little lattice in the
buildings that surrounded the castle court. There, in a green
window-box, gillyflower and rosemary used to bloom, and behind them he
often had watched a face bent over the spinning-wheel--a face that he
had not found surpassed by any even among the Flowers of the East.

But now all was changed. No blossom sent forth fragrance; the green
box hung empty and half-broken; the clear lattice panes were blinded,
and no dear face looked through to him in love.

A pang of dread presentiment pierced his heart.

"Who dwells in that room with the blinded window?" he asked as calmly
as he could of Dame Barbara, who was rattling her keys to call her
young lord's attention to herself and her masterpiece of culinary
skill.

The old woman drew near, and looked at the desolate window to which
the duke's finger pointed.

"Alas! my lord duke," said the loquacious old woman, "Gela used to
live there, the good child; but she became a nun two years ago last
autumn, and entered the convent of St. Clarissa, in the heart of the
forest."

Frederick stood for a moment motionless, then he beckoned silently to
the door, for his first sound must have been a cry of pain.

Barbara went, but her master sank into the window-seat, his gaze fixed
on the deserted lattice.

There was a gentle knocking at the door, but the duke heard it not for
the painful beating of his heart. Then the door opened, and on the
threshold stood the old man on whom the prince's inquiring glance had
rested on his arrival. He approached the window with a low reverence,
and waited patiently till his young master raised his head. When at
last he looked up, the old man started to see the beloved face that
used to beam like the sunlight now covered as with the shadow of
death.

"My lord duke," said the old man, when Frederick signed to him to
speak, "I had an only child. I know not if your grace has ever noticed
her. When the men went from the country round to the Holy War, she
entered the forest cloister, because she thought she could there pray
undisturbed for the safety and victory of our soldiers. Before she
went she made me promise to give this letter into your hands as soon
as you returned."

Then he drew from his doublet a strip of parchment carefully sewed in
purple silk, and handed it to the duke.

And again Frederick spoke not, but silently took the missive, for his
heart was full to overflowing.

The old man withdrew in silence. When Frederick found himself alone,
he cut the silken covering with his hunting-knife, and drew out a
piece of parchment; and when it was unfolded, he saw the childish
handwriting which he himself had taught Gela in their happy hours in
the forest, and with which she now bade him the last farewell, for she
could not break her promise to the aged monk.

While Frederick, two years before, hastened to his uncle's palace, the
holy man had gone on to other parts of the country to call on the
people to join the Holy War, and from this errand death had called
him.

The sun was already far past the meridian, but yet no sound had broken
the stillness of the room where Frederick sat. The butler's drink of
honour was untasted; Dame Barbara's masterpiece remained untouched.

At last the young duke rose, left the room, and descended the winding
stair into the court; but when his steed was brought, the attendant
esquire thought that this could scarcely be the same young and joyous
prince who, a few hours before, had ridden across the bridge. He
sprang into the saddle, cast a last glance on the desolate window, and
then turned without a word of farewell to take the road which, but a
short time before, he had galloped over with hopeful heart. It was the
same road which Gela had so often followed with him to the little hill
in the forest, and when he came to the narrow path, he led his
obedient horse to one side, fastened the bridle round the trunk of a
tree, and then walked slowly along the mossy path.

Now he stood beneath the oak. Its leafy roof and the moss at its foot
were green and fresh as ever. Once he was like it in his love and
hope, but all was changed! He sat down at the foot of the tree, and
its rustling brought back to his soul the dream of his now vanished
youth.

Suddenly bells sounded from the forest depths. But he could not, as in
days gone by, fold his hands in pious awe, and pour forth every grief
in a believing prayer. No; at the sound of these bells which now
called Gela, his Gela, to devotion, it seemed to him as if he must
rush to the cloister gate, knock with his sword hilt, and cry, "Come
back, Gela, come back; for thy sacrifice will be in vain!"

He hastened down the hill to his horse, and sprang into the saddle.

"Away, my faithful steed!" he cried aloud. "Show me the way, for love
and grief have bewildered my clear brain. Bear me where knightly duty
and princely honour claim my presence--for I know not where."

And the good beast, as if it understood his master's words, rushed
with him away farther and still farther south through the dim
twilight, and beneath the bright beams of the full moon. Without
weariness, though without rest, it bore him on, and when the morrow's
sun stood in noonday splendour they had reached the goal, and the
young duke stood before the gate of his own Staufenburg.

Gela's sacrifice was not offered in vain. The words the old monk
uttered that morning in the castle chapel were fulfilled. After his
uncle's death, young Frederick of Swabia was raised to the throne of
Germany, and all that the realm and people of Germany had hoped from
him was more than fulfilled.

His strong hand gave unity, strength, and majesty to the divided land,
such as no ruler after him was ever able to bestow; and when the
imperial crown of Rome was also placed upon his head, the proud people
of Italy bowed before Frederick Barbarossa, did him homage, and
acknowledged his power.

The laurels of many a victory rested on the Emperor's brow; his house
was happy, his race flourished, his name lay like a word of blessing
on every lip; and when Gela, still in the bloom of youth, closed her
eyes in death, she knew that she had not in vain renounced Frederick
and happiness.

Beneath the shelter of his favourite castle the Emperor founded a
town, and named it after the unforgotten loved one of his youth,
"Gelashausen;" and when on his travels he came to the forest of the
Kinzig Valley, he led his horse silently aside, fastened the bridle to
a tree stem, and ascended the hill to the majestic oak. There leaning
his head, amid whose gold full many a thread of silver gleamed,
against the trunk, he closed his eyes, and dreamed once more the old
delightful dream.

And the people called that tree ever after "the Emperor's oak."

The sun of Asia Minor once more sent its glowing rays on the head of
the heroic Emperor, though they gleamed back now with a silvery
radiance.

[Illustration: BARBAROSSA IN THE HOLY LAND.]

The cry of distress had risen once again from the Land of Promise, and
drawn the aged monarch from his German home; he placed himself at the
head of his army, and led it with prudence, courage, and military
skill safely through the heat of the Eastern sun, in spite of the
treachery and malice of the foe, in spite of the pangs of hunger and
consuming thirst.

On a warm summer evening the army reached the steep bank of a foaming
mountain torrent. There on the farthest side lay the road that they
must take.

Barbarossa's son Frederick, that "Flower of Chivalry," sprang with a
chosen band from the high rocky bank into the stream and reached the
other side in safety.

The Emperor now prepared to follow. Without heeding the advice of his
attendants, the aged hero, who had never known what fear meant, put
spurs to his steed and plunged with him into the waters of the Seleph.
For a few seconds the golden armour gleamed amid the waves, once or
twice the reverend, hoary head rose above the stream, then the deadly
waters carried horse and rider into their raging depths, and the
beloved hero vanished from the eyes of his sorrowing army. His most
valiant knights indeed and chosen friends plunged after him into the
flood to save their honoured prince or die with him, but the wild
mountain torrent bore them all to death. With bitter lamentations the
army wandered up and down the stream, if perchance they might at least
win the precious corpse from the waters. But night came and threw its
dark veil over the sorrow and mourning of the day.

       *       *       *       *       *

All around were wrapped in slumber, even deeper than was their wont.
The moon stood high in heaven, and beneath its beams the waters of the
Seleph flowed more gently like molten silver. Once more they roused
their angry strength, and from their midst a white head rose, golden
armour gleamed above the waves, and Barbarossa and his faithful steed
slowly emerged from the waters. With noiseless hoof they wandered up
and down the stream, and out from the depths mounted the troops of
faithful ones who had followed their Emperor to danger and death. The
drops gleamed like diamonds as they fell from head and armour with a
gentle splash into the shining stream.

Silently the band of warriors rode along the waves; not a sound, not a
footstep broke the stillness; thus they turned to the shore, and the
horses clambered up the rocky bank.

There Barbarossa and his silent warriors halted on the height. For a
moment the Emperor's glance rested on the slumbering army, he held out
his hand as if blessing them in a last farewell, then he shook the
reins, and horse and rider, freed from the laws of earthly gravity,
swept onwards to the beloved Fatherland.

They passed over the Bosphorus. Far below them gleamed the towers of
Constantinople with the golden cross on their summits, but Barbarossa
heeded them not. His head was bent forward, so that his white locks
fluttered in the night wind, and his eyes were directed solely to the
land towards which the horses moved with the swiftness of the
storm-wind on their cloudy path.

Soon German forests rustled beneath them, and round the Emperor's lips
played something like the reflection of the old sunny smile.

To the south lay the Italian plains which had claimed the best years
of his life and his youthful energy, but the Emperor turned his head
from these. Perhaps he saw already the destiny of his proud race,
which must some day be fulfilled in those fragrant fields.

Now their native air surrounds them. The fir trees of the Black Forest
scent the air, the waves of the Neckar gleam below them, and, bathed
in the full moon's silvery splendour, there lies at their feet the
Staufenburg, the cradle of the lofty imperial race.

Barbarossa raised his hand to bless its battlements and pinnacles, but
still he held on his way northwards.

The Spessart forests rustled beneath him in the darkness of the night,
not a moonbeam pierced their thickly-leaved summits. But there gleamed
the waters of the Kinzig, the walls of Gelashausen in its gently
flowing stream, and over on the mountain's brow shone the aged
Emperor's favourite castle, with the high oriel window, and Gela's
deserted lattice.

Barbarossa bent over his horse's neck, and cast a look of recognition
on the scene of his early happiness.

Soon they hovered above the high-road, and then over the familiar
forest with its spreading "Emperor's oak." The old man's head was
still bent forward, as if his eye would pierce the whispering
tree-tops. A sound of clear bells greeted his ear. Below in the
convent they called to midnight prayer, and these tones, which had
once well-nigh broken his heart, acted now as a spell to bring back
the old loved images. His breast heaved as of yore in mingled joy and
grief, and "Gela, my Gela!" was the cry that started from his lips
and reached the convent in whose vaults the loved one slumbered.

But still the steeds held on their unhalting course over Thuringia's
golden plain to the Kyffhäuser Mountain, within which Frederick
Barbarossa must hold council to-night with his faithful ones about the
people of Germany and their future.

The castle, which in bygone days had so often opened its hospitable
gates to him and his court, within whose halls many a gladsome feast
had been held, of whose magnificence and splendour old chronicles tell
us--this castle still kept watch over the land with unbroken
pinnacles, but Barbarossa knocked not at its gate.

Gently the horses sank to the earth, and halted at a hidden door in
the mountain side.

The Emperor struck the stone with his sword, so that a loud echo
answered from the hollow interior. Then the rocky door opened, and
Barbarossa and his faithful warriors entered the spacious hall of the
Kyffhäuser Mountain. The rock had not long closed behind them when a
gentle tapping was heard, the magic gate swung open, and the lovely
Gela entered, arrayed in bridal attire as she had been laid in the
tomb.

The hand of death had touched her heart, but had not quenched her
love. When Frederick's cry reached her ear, she had opened her eyes as
out of a deep sleep, and had left the vault to seek her beloved with
the swiftness of a spirit's tread. Now she stands before him in
unchanged grace and beauty.

Barbarossa's youthful dream was fulfilled. Gela, his first love, was
now at his side to tend him and bless him for ever as she could never
have done on earth. It was she, the faithful one, who ruled henceforth
in the magic kingdom of the Kyffhäuser, and cared for the beloved hero
and his trusty band. It was she who knew when Barbarossa's heart
yearned over the memories of his glorious past. Then she would lead
the knights--his faithful comrades in the Holy War--into his room.
They would range themselves round the marble table at which Barbarossa
sat, with his long white beard flowing round him like imperial ermine,
and over the golden goblets, filled from the exhaustless stores of the
mountain cellars, they talked with the hero about the glorious days
that they had spent together, about "the golden age" of the Holy
German Empire. And the minstrels, who had been wont to go with him to
the Holy Land, and had entered with him the enchanted mountain of the
"Golden Meadow," would strike their harps, and the song of the future,
which still slumbered in their souls, rose to their lips and echoed
loudly through the enchanted arches of the Kyffhäuser Mountain.

When Barbarossa's heart longed for news of the fatherland, Gela would
pass at midnight out through the door in the rock, down through the
"Golden Meadow," and listen at many a door, and look through many a
window. Then all that she heard there of sad lamentation or joyous
hope she would faithfully pour into the Emperor's ear on her return.
And what Gela failed to find out was seen by other eyes and heard by
other ears. Just as once Odin's ravens flew down from the dwelling
of the gods to the home of men to tell the heavenly Ruler of all
that happened on the earth, so did the ravens that built their nests
in the clefts of Kyffhäuser hover through the plains to hear of joy
and sorrow, and bear the tidings back in silence to their rocky home.

[Illustration: BARBAROSSA AND GELA IN THE KYFFHÄUSER. F. C., p. 26.]

But at the still hour of midnight, when the mountain opened, and the
little dwarfs who dwelt secretly among Barbarossa's vaulted halls
slipped out into the moonlight, then the wise birds opened their
mouths, and the little friends--like Solomon, learned in the languages
of birds--heard all that the ravens told. The dwarfs in their turn
brought the news to the old Emperor, before whom they appeared from
time to time to fill his treasury with newly-coined gold.

With liberal hand Barbarossa gave of these hoards to pious and honest
mortals, whom Gela led into the magic kingdom of the Kyffhäuser, that
the beloved prince might be gladdened by the sight of the new
generation, which, different though it was from that of his day, still
held in loving remembrance the noble Barbarossa, and cherished a firm
hope of his return to earth.

The fortress on the mountain mouldered to decay. Herds grazed where
once the tread of armed men was heard, but once every century the
walls stood at midnight in their ancient splendour; the drawbridge
rattled, the watchman's horn sounded shrill and clear, and over the
castle court, through the gates with their carved coat of arms, on to
the brightly illumined halls of revelry, passed a brilliant
procession. It was Barbarossa leading by the hand the lovely Gela, and
followed by his knights and vassals, all eager to breathe the air of
the upper world.

But while the knights were spending the few short hours with music and
feasting amid the pleasures of the past, the Emperor and Gela mounted
to the highest battlement of the castle, and looked down longingly on
the plains of their beloved Germany.

All around lay wrapped in slumber. Night and peace had conquered all
the cares that gnaw in daylight at the heart of man, but they had also
stilled its hopes.

"They are all asleep and dreaming," said the old Emperor, "but the
morrow will come, and my people will awake and find the strife that
now divides their hearts laid at rest for ever. Brave men will draw
the sword and wield it victoriously. Then the minstrels will seize
their harps, and the fame of our great and united Germany shall sound
from the North Sea to the fair gardens of Italy. Then will our watch
be over, and we shall go to our eternal rest."

So spake the aged monarch, as he leant across the battlement to
stretch his hands in blessing over his former kingdom. But when the
first streak of dawn showed faintly in the east, Barbarossa and his
Gela descended, the revelry ceased, the knights grasped their swords,
and the glittering throng passed over court and bridge back to the
heart of the mountain, while behind them the magic castle melted into
mist.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great morning has dawned; the nation has awaked; their strife is
stilled. The imperial jewels, "Unity and Strength," lie no longer
buried in the waves of the Seleph, the German people henceforth have
them in their midst.

Barbarossa may now cease his watch and enter on his rest, for from the
North Sea to the plains of Italy is sounded the fame of the great
united Fatherland.

Thus has the aged Emperor's prophecy been fulfilled, though it was but
the nation's youthful dream.



KING LAURIN.

[Illustration: VRENELI IN KING LAURIN'S ROSE-GARDEN]


In the Tyrol, that true home of the good little dwarf-folk, is a
lovely valley where in olden days a substantial farm-house stood,
whose owner had come from the other side of the mountain enticed by
the beauty and fertility of this favoured spot.

In those days it was still possible to find good servants capable of
forming a faithful attachment to their master and his household. But
the farmer thought they were still better in his old home, and for
this reason he generally brought his servants from the other side of
the high mountain ridge.

Spring had returned; the mountain pastures were green once more, and
it was time for the herds to leave the valley; but the old herdswoman
who for years had had the charge of the mountain farm, and in whose
capability and conscientiousness the farmer had the fullest
confidence, now took ill and died.

This was a matter of some anxiety to the farmer and his household, for
everything was ready for the removal of the cattle.

"Go over, Tony, to our native valley," said the old farmer to his only
son and heir. "An aged cousin of mine lives there; they say her
daughter is a fine girl; it might be a good thing if you could
persuade her to come to us as herdswoman."

Early next morning the young man set out on his errand.

The shades of night still lurked among the rocks like giants in
disguise, but the peaks of the glacier were already aglow with the
light of morning. The youth, accustomed to the beauties of his native
mountains, gave scarcely a glance to the splendour of the Alps, but
hastened onwards with head and heart full of anxiety about his cattle.
Soon he reached the narrow mountain ridge between the two lofty
glaciers, from which the way led downwards to his native valley.

At this spot stood a tall cross, with dark arms outstretched over both
the glaciers, as if it would tell of the dangers which had threatened
the traveller who, out of gratitude for his deliverance, had caused a
cross to be erected on this lonely height.

Tony knelt to pray, as was the custom in those times and in that
country. His head was bent low, so that he did not see the grave face
which looked down on him from one of the glaciers.

Surely it must have been carried thither on eagles' wings, for there,
to that glassy height which seemed almost nearer the sky than the
earth, no human foot could ever climb. Yet that figure stood there
calm, strong, and erect. Long silvery hair flowed over the shoulders;
round the head flashed something like sunbeams, or like a mysterious
diadem of carbuncles; and the dark eyes pierced the distance, and
rested on the kneeling one with an earnestness that went deep down
into his heart.

The young man rose and descended the winding path to the valley. The
apparition on the lofty glacier stood long looking after his receding
figure, and then, with the sunbeams playing among his silvery locks,
walked with sure footsteps that never slipped down over the gleaming
field of ice.

       *       *       *       *       *

Late in the afternoon Tony sat once more at the foot of the cross,
with a lovely maiden by his side. She had placed her little bundle on
the ground at her feet, her hands lay folded on her lap, and with an
expression of mingled grief and newly-awakened hope she looked into
the face of her companion.

Her mother had died a few days before, and poverty was even in those
good old days a bitter thing, as the poor orphan learned to her cost.
For the warden of the village told her bluntly that the cottage in
which she had lived with her mother, being public property, was
claimed now by another widow, and that Vreneli must make her own way
in the world.

Many a farmer's wife would have been glad to hire the good Vreneli as
servant, but the rough words of the warden had so frightened her that
she determined not to stay in this inhospitable valley; and just as
she had tied up her little bundle, Tony came to offer her a home in
his rich father's house.

Joyfully she agreed, for the farmer was a relation, though a distant
one, and she had a dread of going among strangers. So Tony and she set
out together on the mountain path, and now they were resting under the
old cross and chatting pleasantly.

Vreneli's beauty and innocence had taken Tony's heart by storm, and
now he told her that he loved her, and that she, none but she, should
be his wife. Vreneli clasped her hands and listened with her whole
soul to these words so new to her. Ah! how sweet they sounded after
the harsh tones that had made her so unhappy a few hours ago! Her
heart went out in gratitude and love to the manly youth who had so
generously offered his heart and his home to the poor desolate orphan.

"But I am poor, Tony, and I have learned to-day how evil a thing
poverty is," said she at last.

"What does that matter, Vreneli?" answered Tony, cheerfully; "I have
enough for both. And I do not like the rich bride that my father has
chosen for me, she is ugly and empty-headed. When they see you at
home, Vreneli, they must love you, you are so good and beautiful! And
when you have tended the herds on the mountain with faithful diligence
for the summer months, and when you bring back the well cared-for
cattle at the end of the season, you shall be my wife--I will soon
bring my parents round to my mind."

"Ah, how delightful that will be!" said Vreneli, smiling. "How I will
love you, and what good care I will take of your old parents! Are you
sure you are not making fun of me, Tony?"

The young man put his arm around her graceful form. "How can you talk
so, Vreneli? Do I not love you better than any one in the whole world?
and if it makes your mind easier, I will swear love and faithfulness
to you under this cross--I will swear that none but you shall be my
wife."

He put his right hand in hers and took the oath. Perfect stillness
reigned around them; the spirits of the mountain listened in silence;
noiselessly the beams of the evening sun hovered above the cross, and
then sank, as if in blessing, on Vreneli's braided hair; while far
overhead at the summit of the glacier stood the dark figure that had
watched Tony on his journey that morning. The poor orphan and her
lover did not see the grave countenance that looked down on them from
the lofty peak, but Tony's words of solemn promise floated upwards on
the evening breeze to the lonely old man's ear.

Again he cast a searching glance on the kneeling youth, but when his
eyes rested on the sweet maiden that listened to those earnest words,
the stern expression of his countenance melted, and the wrinkled
features bore traces of some sad memories that seemed to be awakened
by the sight of her beauty and grace. He leant gently forward, so that
his shining locks flowed down like a silver stream, and his eyes
followed the two young people with an expression almost of longing, as
they walked cheerfully on. But soon the twilight laid its dim veil
over hill and valley, and the receding figures faded altogether from
his view.

The rich farmer owned the pasture of a whole mountain, and Vreneli was
to have the sole charge of the herds that grazed on it, while on
another mountain the herds of the other villagers wandered, watched
over by several herdsmen.

"Now, Vreneli," said the old farmer next morning, when the cows had
been let out of the stalls, and were already climbing the well-known
mountain path to the music of their jingling bells--"now, Vreneli, do
your duty faithfully, and take good care of my herds, and if the
produce of the mountain farm be richer than that yielded in the days
of my former herdswomen, I will not be stingy about a reward."

Vreneli blushed, and cast a stolen glance at Tony, who stood behind
his father; she could not but think of the reward which he had
promised her. She assured the farmer that she would do her duty,
shook hands with the whole household, and then turned to follow the
herds.

Tony went with her; he wanted to show her everything in the senner's
cottage, and to point out the richest pastures on which the herds were
to graze, taking a different place each day, till at last they
returned to the first, which by that time would be covered with a
fresh growth of grass.

It was a lovely spring morning. The distant glacier was radiant with
sunlight, the bells tinkled softly on the necks of the cattle, and
wild flowers bloomed at the edge of the torrent which rushed foaming
over the moss-grown rocks. But what was all this external beauty in
comparison with the blooming world in their own hearts?

They exchanged looks, and words, and happy smiles. Not till the herds
had been milked and led to rest on the night pasture did Tony say
good-bye. Vreneli stood at the door of the cottage, her hands clasped,
and her eyes brimming with happy tears, and watched him till a turn of
the road hid him from her view.

Inside, in the cosy cottage, it seemed to her, all the time that she
was filling the milk vessels and putting everything in order, as if
she still heard his caressing words, and as if his brown eyes looked
out on her from every corner. Love and hope quickened her hands, so
that her work seemed mere child's play. Then when everything was done,
and the fire had died out on the hearth, she stepped out again to the
door.

Like a faithful senner she looked first at the night pasture where
the herds were resting peacefully. Now and then one of the beautiful
animals would lift its head, and the bell at its throat would tinkle
softly; the night-wind moved gently among the lofty trees, making the
long moss of their stems wave to and fro like dark soft veils. Then
Vreneli's eyes sought the valley, and to the moonbeams which hastened,
in their glittering robes, down the rocky path to the village she
entrusted tender messages of love. And when she turned back into the
cottage she knelt at her mossy couch beside the hearth, and mingled
with her evening prayer words of joyful thanksgiving. Her last thought
before she fell asleep was this, that she was the happiest herdswoman
and her Tony the handsomest and truest fellow in the whole land of the
Tyrol.

Sunny days succeeded to nights filled with golden dreams. When the
first sunbeams flashed from the summit of the glacier, the goat-bells
sounded below in the valley, and the goat-herd led his flock to seek
the juicy plants that grew on heights inaccessible to less sure-footed
herds.

Then Vreneli ran joyfully to meet him, for he always brought some
message from Tony, or some other token of his love. With joy-quickened
energy she went then about her daily toil. The cows left their nightly
resting-place, and came to Vreneli to be milked, and then she led them
to some new pasture.

And while the cattle grazed there, she leant against a rock and
carefully watched each step of the animals entrusted to her care, lest
any one of them should go too near a precipice, or, enticed by the
plants that grew most richly beside the torrent, be hurried away in
its mad whirl. And when evening sank on the mountain, and clothed the
ice-columns in a splendour of red and purple, the goat-herd led his
flock back to the valley, and received every evening from Vreneli's
hand a bunch of mountain violets for her beloved Tony.

Then she drove the cows again to the milking-place, and repeated the
task of the morning. But this did not end her day's work. She was busy
for hours in the cottage, and moon and stars had long looked down on
the slumbering mountain before Vreneli had finished arranging her milk
vessels in the dairy, or placed the newly-made cheese to dry, or
rolled out her golden butter-pats.

Then after a simple prayer she lay down on her lowly couch, and when
the distant thunder of avalanches broke the silence of the night, and
the mountain torrent roared close behind her tiny cottage, Vreneli
slept as sweetly as a child, and round her head dreams of love and
home hovered on golden wing.

       *       *       *       *       *

So the weeks flew by, and the day arrived when the butter and cheese
which the mountain farm had hitherto produced was to be taken home to
the farm-house. The farmer and Tony were to come to bring it, as the
goat-herd had told Vreneli yesterday, and her usually dexterous
fingers trembled with glad excitement just when it was most needful to
show the farmer that he had entrusted his property to capable hands.

At last--how often she had looked impatiently along the path--at last
the old farmer came toiling up, and behind him, not Tony, as she
expected, but two servants with tall baskets on their backs.

Vreneli was bitterly disappointed, but she controlled herself and
walked out calmly to meet her master. In spite of the sunny morning
dark clouds lay upon his brow, and it did not clear even when Vreneli
took him into the faultless dairy and showed him the rows of large
rich cheese and the golden butter. Silently they were laid in the
basket, and the servants returned homewards with heavy burdens.

Then Vreneli led the farmer to the meadow where the herds were
grazing, and his keen eye told him that the beasts were well fed and
cared for. It was a faithful hand to which he had entrusted his
property--_that_ he must acknowledge, however unwillingly. "You have
done well, Vreneli; see that you go on as you have begun!" he said
bluntly. How harsh the words sounded compared with those with which he
had sent her to the mountain! Then when he turned to go home, and she
politely begged him to taste the fritter that she had prepared for him
according to the custom of the country, he refused it, looking all the
time so gloomy that Vreneli did not dare to ask for Tony, though her
heart throbbed in anxiety and longing. So he left her, and Vreneli
stood watching him with a heart full of sadness and disappointment.

It was evening, and the firelight fell as brightly as ever on
Vreneli's lovely face, but it did not show the joyous expression of
other evenings. Her movements were languid, and now and then a tear
stole down her cheek.

Why did not Tony come, as he had said he would? Why was the old farmer
so gloomy? Why did the goat-herd refuse to take the daily bunch of
violets, in return for which she might have hoped for some message
from Tony? These were questions on which her life's happiness
depended, and yet there was no one there to answer them.

She sighed deeply. There had been a gentle knocking at the door, which
Vreneli, lost in her sad thoughts, had not noticed; but at her loud
sigh the door opened, and a figure of mysterious aspect stood on the
threshold. Long silvery hair flowed down over the shoulders, and from
the serious yet kindly eyes spoke a majesty which diadem and purple
robes would not have been enough to give. Vreneli let fall the milk
bowl in her astonishment, and she bowed low as to a mighty prince;
then she wiped the low bench before the fire, the only seat which the
simple cottage offered, and asked her strange guest to be seated.

The old man nodded pleasantly, and sat down at the fire, leant his
head on both hands, so that his silvery locks flowed almost to the
ground, and directed his earnest gaze so searchingly on Vreneli that
it seemed to her as if he could see into her very soul.

"Why art thou so sad to-day, Vreneli?" he said at last very gently.

Vreneli started. How did this stranger, who seemed to come from some
distant land--how could he know her name? She looked at him, half in
reverence and half in fear. "Come, Vreneli, wilt thou not tell me?"
said the old man, and his eye rested almost with love upon her face.

[Illustration: KING LAURIN IN VRENELI'S COTTAGE.]

"I am an orphan," she faltered out at last, "and sometimes a painful
feeling of loneliness comes over me."

"And is that all, Vreneli?" asked the old man; "canst thou not
confide in one who means well towards thee, and who has both the power
and the desire to help thee? Dost thou think thyself unknown to me?
Did I not see thee on the mountain side beneath the cross? Did I not
hear the young man's oath, and see how love and hope had driven sorrow
from thy heart? From that hour I have been thy friend. Dost thou think
that thy care and watchfulness could have kept the dangers of the
mountains far from thy roof and from thy herds? When thou wast asleep
on thy couch of moss, and fair dreams led thy soul to golden meadows,
I kept watch up there upon the rock, and warned the elements to leave
thee and thy charge unhurt; I directed the course of the avalanches,
and the flight of the snow-storm, so that they turned aside, and only
softest breezes and the gentle starlight ever touched thy brow. Dost
thou still mistrust me, Vreneli?"

Vreneli had clasped her hands and drawn nearer to her venerable
friend.

"I thank you for your protection," said she, bowing once more in lowly
reverence; "whoever you may be, to me you have been a benefactor, and
such a one has a right to my confidence. But tell me how you read my
heart and learned my love for Tony? For you know already what its
burden is. I am troubled about what has happened to-day; I cannot
understand it. Above all, I am disappointed at not having seen Tony,
after I had looked forward so joyfully to meeting him."

The old man cast a searching glance on her lovely face, as she stood
there with the firelight falling brightly on her, and her blue eyes
turned towards him in sorrow and touching confidence.

"And wouldst thou like to see him now?" he asked gravely.

Vreneli's eyes shone with delight.

"But, Vreneli, the fulfilment of our wishes often brings something
quite different from our hopes; we go to seek faithfulness, and we
find treachery."

"Ah!" said she, with the smile of unshaken trust, "that will not be
the case with me. Tony is good and truer than gold, and did he not
swear to me beneath the cross?"

"Thou dear child!" answered the old man, while painful memories
troubled his grave features; "if every broken oath could make a step,
we would soon be able to reach the moon."

"Stranger," said Vreneli, confidently, "you may have met with
faithlessness enough in your long life to make you lose your
confidence in human nature, but you do not know my Tony!"

"Come then, Vreneli, since thou wishest it," said the old man, rising,
"though I would fain have spared thee this pain." And they stepped out
together into the night.

Led by the old man's hand, Vreneli climbed up to the point of rock
from which he had kept nightly watch over her and her herds. They went
forward to the edge of the precipice. Far below, veiled by the
darkness, lay Tony's home. High walls of rock and wide pasture-lands
separated them from the farm-house, so that no human eye could pierce
the distance.

But the old man pulled down a branch of the lofty pine above them, and
told Vreneli to look through a tiny knot-hole. She did so; the laws of
space yielded, and her anxious glance flew to the distant farm-house.
She looked through the lighted windows into the well-furnished rooms.
All the costly vessels and ornaments, which were usually carefully
laid past in chests and cupboards, were to-day displayed on the
festive board, round which the most distinguished residents of the
village were chatting and laughing merrily. Next his parents sat Tony,
and at his side a richly dressed maiden. His eyes shone, and his mouth
smiled and whispered, just as on that evening when he had sworn love
and faithfulness to Vreneli beneath the cross on the mountain. His
father's threatening words and the wealth of the bride so long chosen
for him had quickly shaken Tony's purpose, and while the gentle
Vreneli was thinking anxiously about his non-appearance, the fickle
youth broke his solemn oath, and betrothed himself to the unloved but
wealthy bride.

Vreneli looked at the scene in tearless silence, then, when she could
no longer doubt her lover's faithlessness, she let go the branch and
turned her eyes away, so that once more night and distance covered the
scene that had ruined her hopes. Vreneli silently descended the rock,
but she did not seek the shelter of her cottage. She hurried past it,
and wandered on aimlessly over the wilds of the mountain. It seemed
almost as if she wished to reach the icy glacier heights.

"Vreneli," said the voice at her side; "Vreneli, whither wilt thou
go?" She turned her head as in a dream. Stony sorrow had fallen on her
gentle features, and her once bright eyes were cold and fixed.
"Whither?" she said quietly, "whither? I would like to go to the
grave, but, since that may not be, I will go at least away, away as
far as my feet will bear me."

"Wilt thou come with me, Vreneli?" said the old man. "My home shall be
thine, and the love and faithfulness which thou hast lost here thou
shalt find there a thousand-fold."

Vreneli looked into his mild eyes.

"And who art thou, kind old man?" she asked with faltering voice.

"I am King Laurin, the ruler of the powerful nation of the dwarfs, who
for centuries were bound to men in faithful love. The impress of
divinity which we spirits recognised in you, and before which we
humbly bow, attracted us to your race. But in every generation we
traced it less easily, and at last, despised and deceived in return
for our kindness and help, we retired to the recesses of our
mountains. There in the heart of the rock whose brow is crowned by the
shining glacier, there stands my palace, adorned by my people with all
the splendour of the precious stones which, hidden to mortal eyes,
shine deep down in the heart of the earth.

"There I live, but I have led for centuries a lonely life, for my only
daughter, the last flower of a blooming garland, died long, long ago.
Her rose-garden, to tend which was her greatest delight, still blooms
in unfading beauty, but as often as my eyes fall on its wondrous
flowers, I think with grief of my long-lost child. Thou, Vreneli, art
a pure-hearted maiden like her, and since I first saw thee and looked
into thine eyes, it has seemed to me as if I had found my child. I
have watched over thee with a father's care, and I am ready now to
love thee as my daughter."

"Poor lonely king!" said Vreneli, in a tone of gentle pity, while the
tears ran down her cheeks, "I will go with you to your mountain
palace; I will love and honour you as your child once did, and I will
tend the rose-garden that she loved; for I have no home and no heart
to love me. But grant me one thing before I leave the sunlight."

"Thou hast but to ask and it is granted!"

"Ah, King Laurin!" said Vreneli, and her tears flowed faster, "I am
still young, and this is the first disappointment that my heart has
felt, and though it is almost broken, yet I have still a faint hope
left. I cannot quite let go my faith in Tony."

King Laurin looked even more gravely than before on the weeping
maiden.

"No, do not be angry!" she begged, raising her hands entreatingly to
him; "call it not foolish weakness; remember that it needed hundreds
of years before your noble heart would close against our deceitful
race. I know that Tony has been persuaded by his friends to take this
step; but he still loves me, and it would grieve him if I were to go
without farewell. When he brings his bride up the mountain to-morrow,
on their way to the wedding in the next valley, let me go out to meet
him as he is passing my cottage--let me say farewell and part from him
in peace."

"Do as thou wilt, my child," answered King Laurin with gentle sadness,
"though thou wilt find but a new sorrow. And now, Vreneli, it is late.
Go to thy cottage, and lie down on thy couch, there to forget thy
griefs for a few short hours at least."

"Ah no!" said Vreneli, entreatingly; "let me stay here with you
beneath the stars, for I dread the loneliness of the cottage. Wherever
I may be I cannot sleep, and the shadows of past happiness would there
trouble my soul. No; let me stay here and share your watch."

They climbed the rock, and sat down side by side beneath the lofty
pines. Vreneli folded her hands and looked up to the stars, while her
prayer for peace and comfort arose to Him who sits enthroned above the
sky.

Not a word was spoken. King Laurin gazed in silence on the moonlit
glacier, while his mind wandered back to the memories of a thousand
years, and on Vreneli's brow lay the deep shadow of her young grief.

Gradually her eyelids closed, and her head sank gently to the old
king's shoulder. He placed his arm tenderly round the slumbering girl,
and stretched out his right hand towards the lofty glacier.

Then the storm-song in its icy clefts grew suddenly still, but the
moonbeams still played around its jagged peaks; like glistening
serpents they moved across the glassy sea, and then flowed slowly in a
broad shining stream down on the crystal road. The mountain torrent
meanwhile checked its thunder, and moved more gently on its rocky way.

The night that hung above the mountain seemed but a pleasant twilight,
and through the mild, soft air a bell tinkled gently now and then from
the night pasture where the cattle lay at rest. All was peace. Nothing
stirred save the summer breeze and the golden starlight, which
ventured near to kiss the tear-stained cheek of the maiden who lay in
sweet forgetfulness of sorrow on the old king's arm.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now it was once more morning, and Vreneli's cheek grew pale as she
thought of the sorrowful parting with him whom she had once called her
Tony. But she was determined to do her duty to the very last, so she
led her herds to the pasture, by the side of which the road ran, that
she might be at hand to tend them while waiting by the wayside for
Tony and his bride.

The sun rose higher and higher, and the minutes of painful waiting
seemed hours to the poor girl. Suddenly voices and loud laughter
sounded in her ear, and soon two figures appeared from round the rock.
For the first time since the morning when she brought the herds up the
mountain Tony stood face to face with the poor orphan whose life's
happiness he had ruined, and he started as he looked into the face so
beautiful, but deadly pale. For one moment he remembered his oath.
Then the rich bride at his side cried mockingly--"I suppose this is
the servant girl of whom your father spoke, who had the presumption to
dream of becoming a rich farmer's wife? Fancy the little beggar
entertaining such an idea!"

The scornful words cut deep into Vreneli's crushed heart.

"I should never have thought of it myself," she said, sadly; "it was
Tony who wished it, because he loved me so that my poverty seemed no
obstacle."

"Oh! indeed, Tony," said the bride, haughtily, "that is rather
different from what you told me yesterday evening. Did you not tell me
that you had never troubled your head about her, and that you had
always wished to marry me? Tell this girl that she lies, or if you
cannot do that, then you are free to choose this beggar still. I have
plenty of suitors left!"

Tony grew red with shame and vexation, but he did not vent his anger
on the haughty bride, but on poor innocent Vreneli. "You lie, girl,"
he cried; "I never made you any promise; I never loved you!"

"Tony," answered Vreneli gently, "do not bring needless guilt on your
head. Have you forgotten your oath beneath the lonely cross on the
mountain? But I am not angry with you for forsaking me. Perhaps your
parents persuaded you to do it; but I could not refrain from coming to
say farewell, and to wish you happiness and prosperity."

"Keep your farewell and your wishes to yourself!" cried Tony, white
with anger and shame; "you were a fool, if you took my words in
earnest. I and a beggar like you!"

With a loud mocking laugh he turned away, gave his arm to his bride,
and passed on without a word of farewell.

Vreneli looked after him in speechless amazement. The wise king was
right, then; she had met but a new blow, and this one more crushing
than the first. She turned, and saw behind her King Laurin, who had
been an unseen witness of Tony's shameful treachery. His eyes glowed,
but he uttered not a word. Vreneli stooped again to raise his hands to
her trembling lips. "I am ready to follow you!" she said in a low
voice.

Then the rock opened before them; Vreneli gave a farewell look at the
midday sun, then, led by King Laurin's hand, she entered the magic
kingdom of the dwarfs.

That very moment an avalanche was set free from the snow-clad slopes
of the glacier, rolled down with angry thunder, and at the cross where
once Tony had sworn faithful love to Vreneli it overtook him and his
heartless bride, and buried them so deep that their bodies were never
found. Thus King Laurin avenged his adopted daughter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Vreneli had found a home, and, instead of the one worthless heart that
she had lost, a thousand hearts beat true to her in unchanging love.

King Laurin loved her as he had once loved his own lost child, and she
returned his affection with all the warmth of her young heart, while
the little dwarfs obeyed her every wish with that cheerful eagerness
with which they had once served their lost princess.

She tended the rose-garden beside the king's crystal palace with such
loving care that it bloomed once more as in the days in which the
magic-mighty hand of the princess had moved among its fairy blossoms,
and the sweet fragrance that the roses breathed into her very soul
healed every wound of disappointed love.

She did not miss the sunlight in this fairy kingdom, for the mild
radiance of unseen stars lit it day and night; she never longed for
earth, for here was unchanging spring; warm breezes kissed her brow,
and the wild chamois, shy dwellers of the mountain solitudes, came up
in friendly confidence, and let her stroke them with her snow-white
hand.

Many a time on starry nights she went by King Laurin's side out to the
glacier peaks, to look around upon the slumbering land. Her eye, made
keen by the light of the fairy world, pierced the distance and the
darkness of night, and she gazed, even unaided by any "magic ring,"
far beyond the boundaries which limit human vision. And what had once
driven her from the region of sunlight she saw always and
everywhere--sorrow, injustice, and untruth.

And when she looked into many a joyless cottage and many a sorrowful
heart, she would turn to the old king by her side, kiss his hand with
loving reverence, and say, smiling--"Come, King Laurin, let us go back
to our home, to our peaceful kingdom, where tears and guilt and
fickleness are all unknown."



The Dwarf of Venice.

[Illustration: The Dwarf of Venice takes his Departure for his Native
Land.]


Evening was falling with the mild beauty of spring on the mountains
and pasture-lands of the Tyrol. The latest sunbeams which streamed
down from the lofty glacier bore the tones of the vesper bell through
the quiet village street, and floated over the brook and in at the
open windows of a substantial farm-house which stood at the end of
the little valley. A neatly carved balcony surrounded the house, the
window-panes gleamed like mirrors, and the orderly arrangements of the
farm-yard showed the owner to be a man of some wealth.

At the table in the oak-panelled sitting-room sat the rich farmer
himself, but in spite of his possessions he seemed discontented and
unhappy, for between his brows was a deep frown, and his eyes were
dark and lowering. Opposite him sat his beautiful young wife, whose
soft eyes looked anxiously into her husband's face. On her lap she
held her only child, a lovely little girl, with eyes as blue as the
flax blossom, and hair that shone like gold: she folded her little
hands, as her mother did, as long as the vesper bell continued to call
to prayer; but her eyes looked longingly, now on the pancakes that lay
piled on the bright pewter plate, now casting a friendly glance on the
boy that sat at the furthest end of the table, with his hands folded
in devout reverence.

It was Hans, the son of a poor relation, to whom the rich farmer, with
unwonted generosity, had granted a place in his house and at his
table, and who in return had to drive the goats every day up to the
highest pastures on the mountain, to places inaccessible to other
herds. He had just returned with his nimble charge, and had brought to
little Anneli on her mother's knee a bunch of alproses, for he dearly
loved the child.

The bell had ceased ringing, the hands were unclasped, and the mother
began to help the delicate pancakes. There was a gentle knocking at
the door, and in walked a little man in a sombre and threadbare
garment. His back was bent, either with the weight of years or by the
wallet which hung from his shoulder; his hair was silver grey; but the
dark shining eyes told that in this decrepit body lived a strong
unconquered spirit.

"Good evening, sir," said the little man humbly; "might I beg you for
a bit of supper, for I am starving, and for a night's rest on your
haystack, for I am tired to death."

"Indeed," said the farmer angrily; "do you take my house for a
beggar's tavern? if so, I am sorry your sight is so bad. You may seek
elsewhere, for you will not find what you want here!"

The dwarf looked in astonishment on the master of the house, who,
regardless of the hospitable customs of the country, could thus turn a
poor man away from his door; but the farmer took no notice of his
surprise, nor of his wife's looks of entreaty.

"No, wife," he said harshly, "this time you shall not have your own
way. I will not keep open house for all the beggars in the land. Did I
not give in to you about that boy over there? You might be content
with that."

Poor Hans blushed crimson at this allusion to his poverty, but when
the little man turned away with a sigh and left the inhospitable
threshold, sympathy with the poor old man overcame his fear of his
employer; he seized the plate with the pancakes, and the great piece
of bread which the farmer's wife had just given him, and ran out of
the room.

"What's the boy after?" asked the farmer angrily.

"He is just doing what we ought to have done," answered the wife, with
gentle reproach in her fair face; "he is sharing his meal with the
poor man."

"Yes, yes," growled the man, "birds of a feather flock together."

Meantime the old man was creeping with weary steps across the yard,
and had just reached the gate when Hans seized him by the arm.

"Here, good little man," said he in mingled pity and fear--"here is my
supper; come, sit down there on the well and eat."

The old man's dark eyes rested with a pleased look on the boy. "And
what hast thou for thyself, child, if thou givest away thine own
share?"

"Oh! that does not matter," said Hans unconcernedly, while he led the
dwarf to the stone wall which surrounded the well. "I am not very
hungry, and the farmer's good wife would give me more if I asked her."

The old man sat down and began to eat, while Hans watched with delight
how his aged friend enjoyed it. Soon the plate was empty, and the
little man rose with thanks to set out on further wanderings, and to
seek a night's shelter under a more hospitable roof.

Hans went with him to the gate, and whispered hastily, "Do not think
ill of the farmer for having refused you; he is not always so
churlish, but to-day something has occurred to vex him--he was not
re-elected as burgomaster of the village, but his bitterest foe was
successful; that has soured him, and so every one who comes in his way
must suffer for it. But listen, little man; to the right there, on
the rock over which the path leads to the mountain, stands the
hay-loft with its roof touching the stone. That's where I sleep, and
if you climb a little way up the rock, and wait there till I go to
bed, I will open the trap-door, and you can creep in to me among the
hay."

"Thou art a good boy," said the old man; "I will do as thou sayest,
and wait for thee there upon the rock."

It was night when Hans was at last allowed to seek his couch. More
nimbly than usual he sprang up the slender ladder to the hay-loft, and
then he quickly unfastened the trap-door which opened on the roof.

The full moon stood large and bright above the mountain, and its pale
beams played round the jagged brow of the glacier, and wove a veil of
silver round the beech woods that adorned the mountain landscape.

The old man was sitting silently on a ledge of rock; his hands lay
folded on his lap, his head was bare, and the night wind moved lightly
through his grey tresses. But the old man heeded it not. His eyes
gazed fixedly on the night sky, as if they could, like the seers of
olden time, decipher the records of the stars, and his features were
ennobled by such a look of majesty that the boy gazed at him in
astonishment, not daring to disturb him. At last he said softly, "Do
not be angry, sir, at my troubling you, but the night is growing cold,
and the dew is beginning to fall. Would you not be better in a warm
bed?"

The old man sighed, as if his thoughts returned unwillingly from their
flight. Then he nodded pleasantly to the boy, went up to the
trap-door, and let himself down upon the floor of the loft. He lay
down silently on the fragrant hay, and was just about to close his
weary eyes when he felt the boy's warm hand passing over him.

The little fellow had taken off his jacket, and was now carefully
spreading it over the old man that the night wind might not hurt him.
With a silent smile the dwarf accepted the service of love, and soon
their deep breathing told that slumber had fallen on the eyes of both.
Several hours had passed by, when something like a flash of lightning
woke the boy. He rose quickly; the trap-door was open, and the old man
was rummaging busily in his wallet; he had just taken out of it a very
bright hand-mirror, and the light of the moon, reflected with a flash
from the crystal, had awakened the boy.

The dwarf now threw his sack over his shoulder, took the mirror in his
hand, and began to go through the trap-door to the rock.

Hans could bear it no longer. "Oh, sir," he begged, "take me with you
into the mountains, for that you are bound thither the mirror in your
hand tells me. My dear mother has often told me about the mountain
mirror, by means of which one can see into the depths of the earth,
and watch the metal gleaming and glittering in its veins. And although
you have not said so, yet I know that you are one of the mysterious
strangers who come from far-off lands to seek the gold of our
mountains, which is hidden from our dim eyes. Oh, take me with you!"

The old man turned his face to the boy. "That is idle curiosity, my
son," he said gravely, and his eyes shone almost as brightly as the
mirror had a few minutes before; "stay at home and tend thy herds, as
a good boy should."

"Oh no, sir," begged Hans earnestly; "I have always longed to see the
wonders of the mountains, and I will be quiet and silent as is
befitting in presence of such marvels, and I will help you and serve
you to the best of my power. Take me with you!"

The old man thought a minute, glanced searchingly into the boy's eyes,
who had come nearer to him in his earnestness, and then he
said--"Come, then, and remember thy promise."

They stepped out together, shut the trap-door behind them, and
clambered up to the top of the rock, from which the broad footpath led
up to the heights and abysses of the mountain. The moon poured its
mystic radiance down from the deep blue sky of night, and the young
foliage of the beech wood gleamed like silver as it fluttered in the
breeze. Not a footstep was heard on the mossy ground, only their
shadows glided in company with the lonely wanderers, who in silent
haste pressed on deeper into the recesses of the mountains. The wood
lay behind them, and the path led to a ravine, at the bottom of which
a raging torrent rushed; they stood now at its edge.

None save Tyrol's boldest mountain climbers know this path, and even
they, though provided with ice-shoes and alpenstocks, tread its steep
ascent with trembling hearts. But the little man seemed to heed no
danger; fearlessly he set his foot upon the highest point, and
securely, as if on level ground, he went down the side of the
precipice, where one false step would have been certain death. The boy
followed him with beating heart. The moonlight broke through the
overhanging bushes and the lofty rocks overhead, and made its way down
into the ravine.

The wanderers stood now at the edge of the raging torrent, and walked
along it to the high rock over which the glacier stream fell into its
rocky bed, and which seemed to them, as it stood veiled in night, like
one of the giants of old who, the old legends tell us, were turned to
stone. Even in the distance they had seen the moving cloud of vapour
above its head, which hovered in the light of the full moon, like a
giant eagle, above the rushing waters. The milk-white billows of the
torrent that rushed down from this height rolled in the moonlight like
silvery tresses down from the rock's giant head. The old man walked
quietly through the noise and foam round the foot of the rock and into
a narrow cleft, which was the opening into the heart of the mountain;
here he laid down his wallet.

Now, now the boy's heart beat even more loudly than it had done amid
the dangers of the abyss, when the old man silently beckoned to him.
He held the mountain mirror in his hand: Hans stepped timidly to his
side, and looked into the magic glass. Mists impenetrable as the
curtain which parts the present from the future rolled over its
crystal surface, but they became lighter and lighter, and soon the
interior of the mountain lay open before the eyes of the delighted
child. Through the wide rocky gates his eye pierced into a land of
wonders such as are never seen on earth. Through the blue air rose the
pinnacles of a crystal palace; the golden roof and the windows of
precious stone shone in the splendour of another sun; and in the lofty
star-spangled hall sat King Laurin, the hoary king of the dwarfs, on
his emerald throne. Round him stood his subjects, the wise and aged
dwarfs, who had long since forsaken the wicked world to lead an active
but peaceful life here in their magic kingdom, where the malice and
inquisitiveness of mortals could not come to disturb them. They
listened with heads bent in reverent attention to the words of their
king, and then went in different directions to obey his commands; but
Laurin descended from his throne, laid aside crown and sceptre, and
went down the golden steps to the rose-garden, which his beloved
daughter, the only one left to him of all his circle of blooming
children, tended with skilful hand. The lovely maiden was walking
among the garden paths, tying up the young roses and moistening their
roots with water from the golden vessel in her hand, when she saw her
royal father coming. She hastened to meet him, took his strong hand
with respectful tenderness, and led him joyfully through the blooming
beds. Meantime, the little dwarfs had set busily to work: some were
leading their herds of chamois through a secret gate out to the
mountains of the upper world, that they might there enjoy earthly air
and light; others hastened to the clear silvery springs which watered
this realm, to guide their waters of blessing up to the meadows
and woods of the children of men, that they might yield a more
abundant increase; others, again, took pickaxes, mallets, and dark
lanterns, all made of precious metal, and went into the heart of the
surrounding mountains to bring their hidden wealth to light, and to
increase still more the royal treasure, countless though their king's
hoards already were.

[Illustration: HANS SEES KING LAURIN'S KINGDOM IN THE MAGIC MIRROR. F.
C., p. 62.]

Glittering veins of gold streaked the stone, and out of the dark rock
bubbled springs, whose clear waters flashed and sparkled, as if they
bore onward with them grains of the precious and much longed-for
metal. In a dark grotto lay something white and motionless like a
slumbering eagle; but at the flash of the lanterns it roused itself,
and the white serpent queen lifted her gem-crowned head. The drops
that trickled down the walls of the grotto gleamed like jewels in the
light of her diadem; but the serpent bent her head again, and coiled
herself up for further sleep, for she knew well that the little
dwarfs, unlike the robber sons of men, would never stretch forth their
hands to seize the jewel on her brow. And there, at yonder spring,
knelt a dark form busily engaged in gathering the gold sand from the
bottom of the water, and putting it into the wallet beside him; but
the figure could not be recognised in the shadow which lay deep at
that spot. But when some of the industrious little men drew near with
their flickering lanterns, the man at the spring turned his head and
nodded to them a friendly greeting, which they returned as if he was
an old and dear acquaintance.

Then the boy recognised by his grey locks and his dark eyes full of
gravity and wisdom the old man who had been showing him the mountain
mirror. He raised his eyes in astonishment from the magic glass, and
now for the first time he perceived that he held the mirror in his own
hand, and that the old man was no longer by his side.

"Ah! how thoughtless I am; I promised to help him, and now the kind
old man is tiring himself, unaided, with his heavy work," said Hans in
self-reproach. Then he hid the magic mirror in his bosom and turned
towards the hole which formed the entrance to the treasures of the
mountains. But just as he was stooping to creep in, the old man
himself came out, bearing on his shoulder the shabby wallet with its
priceless contents. "Forgive me, sir," begged Hans in a tone of true
sorrow, "for having kept my promise so ill, but my mind was
spell-bound by the wonders I beheld."

"It matters not, my son," replied the old man mildly; "I have always
had to work alone and without help, and I will continue to do so. All
I ask of thee is a night's rest on the hay and a bite of bread when
thou canst spare it. But come now! Seest thou how the cloud above the
waterfall is gleaming rosy red? It is the reflection of the dawn. I
would not that thy herds should wait for thee, and thy harsh master
find thee behindhand with thy work. So let us hasten!"

And back they hurried on the dangerous path by which they had come;
the beech leaves gleamed in the first light of the new day as they
passed through the wood, and the thrushes were just beginning their
morning song.

Soon they stood on the ledge of rock, and a few minutes brought them
to the trap-door. The old man slipped in to snatch a little slumber
before he began another day's wanderings, but the boy could not think
of lying in his dark loft after all the splendour he had left behind,
so he went to let out his goats and take them to the mountain. But
to-day he could not bear to stay as usual in the tiny cottage where he
performed the light duties of the mountain herdsman, while the goats
clambered alone up the steep walls of rock in search of juicy plants,
and came back uncalled at the sound of the evening bell. To-day he
climbed with them up to the highest peaks, for he hoped to find some
opening through which he might see into the magic kingdom which the
mountain mirror had held before his view.

It was, indeed, a wondrous land which stretched far and wide before
him in fresh and fragrant beauty. It was his native land shining in
unimagined splendour. Crystal lakes gleamed in the distance, and the
snow-crowned mountain peaks glowed in the morning sunlight like the
roses in King Laurin's magic garden. But there was no palace here, no
lovely maiden among her flowers, and no old and yet nimble dwarfs. But
there, far away, scarcely visible even to the sharpest eye, a little
black dot moved along the winding mountain path, and the flashes which
now and then darted from it over to the rock where Hans was standing
amid his goats told him that it was the old man with the magic mirror.

"Oh! how I wish it was evening," sighed the boy, looking longingly at
the sun, which had scarcely run a quarter of its appointed course. At
last it was evening, and herd-boy and herds hastened homewards. The
boy did not stay long in the house. With a great piece of bread and
meat in his hand he climbed the steep ladder to the hay-loft, and
found to his joy the old man there already, waiting to receive the
food with humble thanks. Hans lost no time in going to sleep, that the
longed-for hour of the night journey might come the more quickly; and
when again a sudden light flashed across his eyes, he opened them in
delight and rose. But it was not the brilliance of the magic mirror
that had awakened him, but the beam of the morning sun. He looked
round in astonishment; he had slept so soundly that he had lost his
expected journey. It was now clear daylight, and the goats were loudly
calling their young master to his duty. He gave a hasty glance at his
companion, who still lay in deep slumber. Whether he had slept thus
since yesterday evening, or whether he was resting after his nightly
labours, Hans had no time to ask. Quickly he ran down the ladder into
the farm-yard, where all was life; then he took his shepherd's bag,
which hung behind the door, already filled with the daily portion of
food, and hurried with his impatient flock up towards the mountain.

Again he looked wistfully from his high rocky seat down on the
blooming meadows, and recognised the little man with the magic mirror
in the remote distance, and determined to keep his eyes open the whole
night. But when evening came, and he sought his couch, scarcely had he
lain down by the side of his aged friend, when deep sleep fell on his
eyelids, and left them only at the glance of the morning sun. Haste
and timidity always prevented him from disturbing the old man in his
sleep, and telling him once more the fervent wishes of his heart; and
so every morning he bore his unfulfilled desires up with him to the
mountain. Thus summer passed, and when one morning the first rough
breath of autumn chilled the boy's brow, there was a rustling behind
the rock on which he sat, and the old man, who had been his companion
for so many months, stood before him. The wallet on his shoulder was
full, and in his hand he held a staff as if he was ready to return to
his distant home, for so indeed he was.

"I come, my son," said the little man with his old grave kindliness,
"to thank thee for shelter and food, and to ask thee if thou hast any
wish which I can gratify."

Hans shouted with joy; but the old man raised his finger gravely--he
seemed to read into the boy's very soul.

"Neglect not sacred duties for the sake of idle curiosity," said he in
a tone of warning, and the boy blushed and was silent. Then Hans
thought of his good mother down in the valley, whose cottage he passed
every morning and evening, and found the poor woman always at the
window waiting to whisper a loving word, a motherly blessing to her
only child. But this morning her eyes had been dim with trouble, and
when he asked what was wrong she had answered with a sigh--

"Nothing, my good child, that thou canst alter; I am only thinking of
the approach of winter, and how the cold wind will whistle through my
battered cottage, and how I have no warm clothing to protect me from
the cold."

All this flashed like lightning through the boy's mind; tremblingly he
clasped his hands, and a prayer for help fell from his lips.

"That is right, my son," said the old man kindly, handing the boy a
little coin. "Despise this not for its mean appearance, and never use
it foolishly; and when I return next year, let me find thy hand as
open and thy heart as pure as I have found them now. Farewell."

He nodded kindly to the boy, took the cloak from his shoulder, spread
it on the rock, and placed himself on it, staff in hand, and with the
burden on his shoulders. Immediately the mantle rose, and hovered
before the boy's astonished eyes, bearing the little man up into the
air. The old man waved farewell from his airy height; then he pointed
southwards with his staff, and swift as an arrow flew the magic mantle
towards his far-off home. The boy watched the wonderful journey with
devoutly folded hands. Like the beat of eagle's wings was the motion
of the dark garment through the white clouds, and the little man kept
his balance perfectly, he guiding his flight with the staff in his
left hand, while the magic mirror in his right gleamed in the beams of
the morning sun like the diadem of carbuncles on the head of the
serpent queen. The last flash died away at last, and the boy sat once
more alone on his rocky seat, dreamily gazing on the gold coin in his
hand. It had evidently passed through many a hand before, for it
needed a sharp eye to trace the impression on its surface; on one side
the lion of San Marco stretched his royal limbs, and with raised head
kept guard over Venice, the Queen of the Sea, whose foot the Adriatic
kisses with its caressing waves, wedded to her anew each year by the
Doge's ring. The other side bore the name of one of the rulers of that
proud Republic. It was scarcely legible, and it had been long eclipsed
by a younger glory.

The boy, indeed, had no key to the understanding of the image and
inscription, but he felt confident the gift out of such a hand must
bring blessing in spite of its mean appearance, and so he kept the
coin carefully in his pocket. To-day he started joyfully at the tone
of the evening bell, said his prayer with more than usual fervour, and
hastened with winged feet after his thriving flock.

"Just look, dear mother, what I have brought you," he cried joyfully
through the window of the cottage, showing the old man's gift. "Do not
despise it," he begged earnestly, as he saw his mother's doubting
smile; "he told me not to despise it, the kind, powerful man who gave
it to me. Put it with your savings, and let us see what will happen."
As he spoke, his eyes shone so brightly with joy and confidence that
his good mother could not bear to vex him by her doubts; she promised
to lay the gold piece in the drawer, and bade her boy good night with
a loving smile.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ten springs had passed over Tyrol's mountains and valleys, and there
had been many changes in the time. The young trees had grown tall and
leafy; the children had become men and women. Hans was no longer a
goat-herd, but a clever senner, as they call the mountain shepherds in
the Tyrol, and now the farmer's herds had been entrusted to his sole
care during the rest of their stay on the higher pastures, to which he
had led them early in spring. The setting sun glowed on the lofty
glacier before him, and its reflection flowed down to the night
pasture, and hung like a golden veil over the pine trees, beneath
whose wide branches the herds had lain down for their nightly rest.
But Hans stood before his cottage, which he had entered to-day for the
first time as senner, and gazed joyfully on his new charge.

The valleys were already slumbering in the evening shadows, but the
peaks of the glacier were aglow with purple, and reminded the young
man of an image that he had long borne in his soul with secret
longing; he thought now, as he had not done for months, of the
rose-garden before the crystal palace, and of the little man who had
been his yearly companion in the farmer's hay-loft, and who, every
autumn, had climbed the mountain side to say farewell to him, and then
with his wallet full of gold had returned on his magic mantle to his
distant home. He had never asked the old man for a glance into the
mountain mirror since he had received that grave warning about idle
curiosity, and these memories of King Laurin's realm had gradually
faded. But his reverence for the strange old man had remained
unchanged, and every day he had shared his supper with him out of
gratitude for the parting gift which Hans had long ago taken home to
his mother. He had not hoped or promised too much. With the little
man's dim old coin blessing had come into the hut of poverty, and the
money in the drawer had never grown less. There was always some left,
even when they erected on the site of the tumble-down cottage a firmly
built and comfortable house, and though after that they bought many a
much needed piece of furniture and warm clothing for the winter. There
was no need now to creep in secretly at even to receive the gifts of
the kind-hearted farmer's wife without her miserly husband's
knowledge. They were able first to keep one cow, and then two, and
then--Hans looked joyfully round on the slumbering herds--four fine
cows now rested there, his mother's property, which he had been
allowed to lead up to the mountain pastures to graze with his master's
cattle. The churlish farmer, indeed, had never granted him this
favour, but his unkindly eyes had closed for the last sleep the autumn
before, and the eyes which now shone in the farm-house were so mild
and lovely that it was a pleasure to obey their glance. What were
these eyes like? Hans tried to remember as he gazed at the glacier,
whose purple had changed to a pale rosy hue. Yes, yes, now he knows.
The eyes of Anneli, whom he had loved from childhood as his own dear
little sister, were just like the eyes of that fair maiden who used to
walk in the rose-garden by the dwarf king's side, and this brought him
back to the beginning of his reverie.

And now he began to wonder if the little man, if he returned, would
rest at night in the farmer's hay-loft, or, according to his old
custom, climb up the mountain to seek him here. Then he heard, not far
off, something like the sigh of a weary wanderer. The youth's sharp
ear was directed attentively towards the path which led from the
village to the senner's cottage, and which was now veiled in the
double shadow of the trees and of the falling night. Yes, it was
coming from that direction, and immediately Hans was ready to offer
help. He took his lantern in his hand, seized his alpenstock, and ran
down the path between the rocks and the dew-covered bushes. He had not
far to seek, for there, on a stone by the wayside, sat a dwarf in a
dark and shabby garment, and a well-remembered wallet hung from his
bent shoulders. The young man cast a hasty glance at the figure, and
then shouted aloud with delight. It was the old man of whom he had
just been thinking, and it was with grateful emotion that he found
that his old friend had not forgotten him, but that, in spite of the
darkness and his increasing infirmities, he had toiled up the path to
the mountains.

"Good evening, sir," said he joyfully, bending as reverently to kiss
the dwarf's withered hand as if he had been a lord of the land. "You
must be tired; take my arm, and let me carry your sack; that's the
way. And now, courage for a hundred steps or so, and we are at the end
of our journey." And with such care and reverence as are shown rather
to great princes than to such a poor little dwarf, Hans led the old
man over the last difficulties of the mountain path, and over the
threshold of his hut. Then he hastened to take the covering off his
couch of moss and spread it over the wooden bench before the hearth,
that the old man might rest his tired limbs on a softer seat. Next he
kindled a fire, and made a fritter which the senner who had preceded
him had taught him how to make. He had no drink to offer but good,
sweet, new milk; but Anneli's hand had provided richly for the wants
of the new senner, and the little wooden cupboard in the corner was
stocked with good things from the farm-house. The young man searched
in it joyfully for something dainty for his guest, and felt proud and
happy in his unwonted work. A white cloth was spread over the coarse
oaken table, and on it was placed the delicate fritter, with a plate
of eggs and bacon sending forth fragrance by its side. Proudly the
young man brought his guest to the well-set table, and both enjoyed
its good things in silent comfort. Then Hans led the old man, tenderly
as a child his beloved father, to his own couch of moss, and when the
little dwarf sank on it with a look of love and gratitude, the young
man spread the covering over him as he used to spread his jacket years
ago in the hay-loft. Then he sat down before the fire that the
flickering flame might not disturb the old man, and when at last his
deep breathing told that he was asleep, the youth rose and went out
into the open air. The moss-couch in the senner's cottage was not
broad, and Hans must not spoil the old man's comfort, so he went to
the night pasture, where the herds lay sleeping, and sank to rest in
the soft moss beneath the aged pines. They let their evergreen
branches fall over him protectingly, and the long moss that hung from
them served as covering to the youthful sleeper, while the glacier
torrents in the distant ravines sang his lullaby.

The days passed by in keener enjoyment than even his boyish dreams had
pictured. The hours were bright with happy sunshine, in spite of the
double burden of work which he, contrary to the custom of his
predecessors, had undertaken in the consciousness of his own powers
and fidelity. And when the day had flown by with its quick succession
of pleasure and toil, the evening hour would come when the beloved
guest sat at the fire and at the oaken table, and sometimes the
hitherto so silent lips would let fall words of grave wisdom.

Then came the hour of rest, calling the old man to the moss-bed under
the senner's roof; but Hans slipped out when the fire was dead to the
shelter of the old pine trees, and slept in their protection, lulled
to slumber by the song of the glacier stream.

One warm spring evening, when the jagged ice-crown of the glacier
gleamed with a bluish light beneath the full moon's beams, he did not
turn towards his soft couch beneath the trees, but hastened to the
grove of pines which rose above him on a steep wall of rock. With a
sharp axe on his shoulder, gleaming brightly in the moonlight, he
stepped along the well-known path across the green meadows to the dark
ravine which separated him from the wood on the rocky height. Was the
dream of his childhood now really fulfilled--was he going to look
through the magic mirror into the heart of the mountains? Oh no. The
spirit world had lost its power over his soul. His thoughts and
desires belonged now more than ever to real life.

A few days ago Anneli had come up with her mother to the senner's
cottage to see about the produce of the mountain farm, as the farmers
are in the habit of doing when the herds have been some time on the
high pastures; and while the mother inspected the dairy, tried the
cheese, and tasted the balls of butter, Anneli stood outside with Hans
and the grazing herds, and chatted with him pleasantly as in days gone
by.

"And do you remember, good Hans, what day to-morrow is?" she asked
with an arch look in her eyes, when Hans, after thinking in vain,
shook his head.

"Do you not know?" she said, laughing. "Why, Hans, to-morrow is the
first of May, and I am curious to know if I shall have a May-pole
raised for me."

"You, Anneli!" cried Hans, looking in astonishment on her beautiful
face--"you will have many a tree; they call you already 'the pearl of
the valley,' and the rich farmers' sons will fight for the honour," he
added in a low sorrowful tone.

This tone thrilled Anneli's heart; she leant towards him with innocent
confidence, and said with emotion--"Let them, Hans; but you know that
I shall take pleasure in no May-pole but _one_."

It was these words which were driving Hans now in the silence of night
through the dangerous ravine and the foaming torrent, and up the steep
precipice to the pine wood. Here he felled the chosen tree skilfully,
tore the bark from the smooth stem, and bore the trunk carefully on
his shoulder through shrubs and narrow mountain ways down into the
valley. His path was dark and difficult, and jutting rocks often
hemmed his footsteps; but his love for Anneli kept him from feeling
weary, and the thought of her joy always gave him new strength. Thus,
after hours of toil, he arrived at last in the village, and stood
before Anneli's door. Then he took a packet carefully out of his
shepherd's bag, and with the prettiest ribbons which his mother had
been able to find in the nearest town he adorned the tree; and that
Anneli's heart might make no mistake, he tied at the top a bunch of
alproses, such as he used to bring every evening when he was the
goat-herd and she a lovely little child. Then he planted the pole
firmly in the ground right before Anneli's window, and with a glance
at the bright ribbons fluttering gaily in the wind like the streamers
from a ship, he turned joyfully towards the mountain and his
slumbering herds.

It was evening, and the farewell sunbeams shed their gold on the
mountain meadows and the senner's dark flowing hair, as he went with
pail and stool to milk the herds just returning from the pasture. Well
he loved the mountain, the herds, and the evenings full of sunset
splendour and of peace. But to-day he had no eye for the glory around
him; he thought of the valley and of Anneli, who was to join to-day
for the first time in the village dance, and who would be led by some
richer hand. Hitherto, he had thought himself passing rich; to-day,
for the first time, he sighed over his poverty. He sat down beside his
favourite, Brownie, and began to milk; but in the middle of his work
his hands dropped on his lap, and he began to wonder who besides
himself had set up trees for Anneli, and whether she had known his
among them all. Surely she must have. The bunch of alproses at the top
would tell her, and he smiled to himself, and began again to milk.

Then a well-known voice called to him from the cottage, "Hallo, Hans!
where are you hiding? I have been searching the whole place for you."

Hans shouted back an answer, and there appeared above the hedge the
face of Seppi, the only one of the farm-servants who did not grudge
Hans his place in Anneli's favour, and who had always remained his
firm and faithful friend.

"Well, Seppi, what good news do you bring?" asked Hans, with a feeling
of presentiment. "What brings you so late to the mountain?"

"It is Anneli, self-willed girl," answered Seppi, laughing. "She will
not go to the dance without you. Quick, quick, put on your best
clothes. The fiddlers are ready, and the maidens waiting to be
fetched. I will stay here in your place to-night." Hans darted up like
an arrow and flew into the cottage, while Seppi took his seat beside
the cows, and went on with the unfinished work.

In a few minutes Hans appeared in holiday clothes, and in his hat a
garland and a ribbon like those on Anneli's May-pole. "Now, Seppi,
take good care of the cattle," said he, coming back to the hedge. "You
have known the beasts for years--ever since you were here for a while
as under-senner. Good-bye." And he hurried off.

But suddenly he remembered the little man, and that he had not told
Seppi about the expected guest. Notwithstanding his eagerness about
Anneli and the evening's merry-making, he ran back and commended the
dwarf to the care of his astonished friend. But now nothing kept him
back. Swift as the chamois before the hunter he flew down the steep
path, and reached the gate of the farm just as the festal procession
was moving along the village street to escort the "pearl of the
valley" to the dance.

She was waiting for him at the gate, and watching impatiently for his
coming. "I am so glad you are here at last," she said, stretching out
both her hands towards him. "You shall be my partner; I have chosen
you out of all the lads who have set up May-poles for me. Just look
how yours looks down on the other contemptible little things. Seppi,
the good fellow, went up to bring me the bunch of alproses and the
ribbon, that I might wear them for your sake."

She pointed smilingly to her fair head, which was gay with a sky-blue
ribbon, and to the bouquet at her breast. Hans looked at her in a
rapture of delight, and grasped her dear hand more firmly, for the
procession had now reached the farm-house, and the youths who had set
up May-poles in Anneli's honour came out from the rest and stood
before her, that she might choose one as her partner in the dance. But
great were the astonishment and envy of them all when they saw that
the former goat-herd had been preferred to them, and although they had
to consent to this arrangement, yet poor Hans owned from this moment
a number more of bitter foes. But he neither thought of this nor
feared it; he led the "pearl" which had fallen to his lot out through
the gate, and his face shone with happy excitement as he joined the
procession, and led his fair partner to the linden-trees where the
dance was to be.

[Illustration: ANNELI SEES THE MAY-POLE ERECTED BY HANS.]

Hans had always counted himself a happy fellow, but as he now led the
lovely Anneli in the merry dance beneath the green linden-trees, it
seemed as if he had never known before what happiness meant, and his
whole past life he counted now as nothing. But this life offers no
lasting happiness, and the purer it is the shorter is its reign.
Anneli looked up at him with unconscious tenderness, and whispered
that she would not dance that night with any one but him. The maiden's
softly spoken words reached the ear of Nazerl, the son of a rich
neighbour; and anger and envy blazed forth in his soul.

"Anneli, you must dance once with me," he said, stepping up to her;
but his petition sounded more like an imperious command.

"You know, Nazerl," answered the girl, "that Hans is my partner; you
must ask his consent." Now Hans was just bringing a glass to offer
Anneli some refreshment.

"Listen, goat-boy," said the rich farmer's son haughtily to the poor
senner, "I will let you know that I mean to dance now with Anneli."
And he seized her hand.

Hans was of a peaceable disposition, and his new happiness had not
made him proud, but this taunt was too much for him.

"Let go her hand, Nazerl," he said quietly, though his voice trembled.
"She may not dance with you."

"May she not, indeed, you beggar?" cried Nazerl; "then take this," and
he struck Hans in the face with clenched fist.

Anneli screamed, and poor Hans lost all control over himself; without
thinking, he hurled the glass in his tormentor's face, and with a loud
groan Nazerl fell pale and bloody to the ground. Again a cry of terror
escaped Anneli's lips, but it was not for the sake of the fallen
Nazerl, but for Hans, whose thoughtless deed must bring him into
trouble.

The music ceased, and all hastened to the motionless form that lay
stretched on the grass to offer help, while Hans stood by in
speechless astonishment at his own mad act.

Then he felt his hand seized, and Anneli's gentle voice whispered in
his ear, "Flee, oh flee, dear Hans, at once, for a minute's delay may
make flight hopeless."

But when Hans still hesitated, she caught his arm and, unnoticed by
the others, drew him away till they stood at some distance from the
lindens, and were hidden from their companions by the trees. Hans
still looked stunned and paralysed.

"Hans," she said more earnestly than before, laying her little hand
upon his arm--"Hans, listen to me and follow me. Flee as quickly as
you can, for all, all are against you, because I chose you in
preference to them. Flee, and hide yourself somewhere till the noise
of this is over and Nazerl is recovered."

"Ah, Anneli," answered Hans shuddering, "he is dead! Did you not see
how pale and motionless he lay?"

"Then there is all the more need for you to flee," said the maiden
decidedly; "listen, they are coming; go, go," she urged anxiously.

"Farewell, Anneli. Do not be angry with me, and never forget poor
Hans," and he looked down at her with sorrowful eyes.

"Never, never, Hans," she said in a firm voice, for the experience of
the last few minutes had ripened her self-knowledge and her will. "But
you will come back some day, guiltless and happy; I know you will. But
now go. They are coming to look for you."

He stooped, and, overcome with the sorrow of the moment, pressed a
kiss on her sweet lips.

"Farewell, farewell, my Anneli," he whispered once more, and then he
turned and fled like a hunted chamois. It was dark on the path along
which he hastened, but darker in his soul. The short-lived happiness
to which he had so joyfully opened his heart was gone, perhaps never
to return; even the thought of Anneli's love, which she had so frankly
revealed to him, could not scatter the dark shadows.

If Nazerl was dead, then he was a murderer, and must remain so all his
life, no matter what might be his punishment and his repentance. He
shuddered, and hastened trembling up the very path which his joyful
footsteps had pressed a few hours before, when his heart was full of
vague but sweetest hopes.

How all, all had changed in so short a time!

The moon, which before had beamed almost with the golden light of day,
seemed now as pale as Nazerl's face; the night wind moaned through the
trees like the sighs of a dying man, and the harp-like music of the
glacier stream sounded like avenging thunder. Hans flew onwards,
despair in his heart, great drops of anguish on the brow so lately
crowned with calm content. There lay the night pasture. The moonbeams
fell across it, and showed him the slumbering animals. He pressed his
lips closer at the thought that he must say farewell to the herd that
had grown so dear to him.

Soon he stood at the senner's cottage. He looked through the window.
All was peaceful as usual. The bed was still unoccupied, and the old
man was not at the table; but Seppi was merrily turning the fritters
and whistling a cheerful tune.

"Seppi, Seppi!" cried poor Hans outside, as he knocked with trembling
finger against the panes.

Seppi turned his head in surprise, and when he saw Hans standing out
in the moonlight, he came to the window and drew back the bolt.

"What's the matter, Hans? Is anything wrong?" he said hastily.

"Alas! yes," sighed Hans, and he told his friend in hurried words the
misfortune that had befallen him.

"The impudent fellow," cried Seppi angrily. "You may be sure your
reminder will not do him any harm; and as for his being dead, you
know, Hans, 'weeds wont die.' So don't be vexing yourself beyond
measure. And are you going away? Where will you go?"

"I do not know, Seppi," answered Hans sadly--"as far as my feet will
carry me; away from my beloved country, perhaps for ever;" and he
wiped a tear from his cheek. "But you must do me one kindness, that I
may go content. As soon as you can get down to the valley, go to my
good old mother, and tell her not to grieve too much. Tell her that I
will try to do right, though I must leave the mountains of the Tyrol;
and beg Anneli never, never to forget me. And one thing more, Seppi.
Take good care of the little man, and let him want for nothing.
Promise me this."

Seppi nodded, and his good, honest face had a cheery smile on it as he
gave his hand to his friend, who hurried away on his restless
wandering. He gave a hasty glance at the night pastures, which he now
reached; the long mossy veil of the old pine-trees, beneath which he
had so often slept, fluttered in the wind like mourning banners. His
favourite brown cow raised her head slowly, and the bell round her
neck sounded like a sad farewell. Hot tears flowed from his eyes, but
he had no time for long leave-taking, he must hurry on. Yonder rose
the rugged brow of the glacier, with its furrows lighted by the weird
moonbeams. He passed it by winding paths through the gloom of the
fir-trees, now climbing steep ascents, now descending into a ravine
with its foaming torrent--paths known to no eye and foot save those of
the boldest mountaineer.

At last he stood on the lofty ridge from which the road led downwards
into an unknown valley and unfamiliar fields. He threw a last glance
back towards his own loved mountain, then he hastened without further
delay on his sorrowful journey.

       *       *       *       *       *

The golden sunlight of evening lay once more on mountain and valley,
and floated on the waves of the lovely river Inn, which flowed as
peacefully as if it had never tried to foam and rage like its brothers
in the mountains. A youth was descending the mountain with tottering
footsteps. It was the last of the hills that had lain between him and
the great and populous town that stood in the valley below. His blue
eyes looked dim and sunken, his long hair hung tangled round his head,
and his once respectable clothing bore traces of hasty and toilsome
journeying.

The son of the quiet mountains looked down in amazement at the bustle
in the town below, and a deep sigh escaped his lips. But he collected
himself, and descended the last declivity to the bank of the stream,
across which a bridge led to the town. At one end of this bridge stood
a watch-house, for it was a needful thing in those unsettled times to
keep a sharp look-out on friend and foe. Two soldiers sat at the oaken
table before the door. The young man went up to the building, and
stood timidly a few steps from the men. At last the elder of the two
raised his head.

"Look, Franzerl," said he, after a hasty glance at the young wanderer;
"there comes a lad from your mountains, but he does not look so
cheerful as you did when you came."

Franzerl looked up, but scarcely had he met the wanderer's eye than he
sprang up and with a cry of joy caught his arm.

"Hans, dear Hans, where have you come from?" he cried. "Do not you
remember me? Do you not know Franzerl, with whom you and Anneli used
so often to play, and with whom you so often shared your bread and
cheese, when my poor mother had nothing to give to her hungry little
Franzerl?"

Hans--for it was he--looked with joyful surprise at the cheerful
young face, and recognised at once his old playfellow, who years ago
had left his native valley to push his fortune in the great world, and
whose friends had long believed him to be dead. He had become a
soldier; but in spite of his stern employment his heart had remained
as warm and true as ever. He drew his old friend to the table where
the other man sat, and offered him some of the fiery drink in the
glass before him.

"Drink, my good fellow," he said pressingly, "drink--you seem to be in
need of refreshment--and then tell me what brings you hither."

The rough kindness touched the poor wanderer's heart, and acted like
magic on his weary spirit. It was the first familiar face that he had
seen for many days--the first pleasant reminder of days gone by, and
he found it sweet to open his heart to this friend of his childhood,
and tell him of the folly that had driven him from home, and how he
had wandered since from mountain to mountain begging a bite of bread
and a drink of milk from kind-hearted herdsmen; for he had not
ventured to go down to the villages, where the news of what had
happened might have arrived before him. "And now," he said, "I am
going away--away to some far-off country, where they know nothing of
Nazerl or of Hans, or even of the beautiful land of the Tyrol."

"You are very foolish," laughed Franzerl. "Are you quite sure that
Nazerl is dead? He had always a thick skull, as I know full well.
Don't be a fool, but stay here and become a brave soldier like us.
Believe me, it is a merry life, and it is possible to be a good man
even under this coat."

Hans hesitated a moment; he had never thought of this, but Franzerl
overwhelmed him with persuasive eloquence.

"Look here, Hans; to-morrow or next day we are going to Italy, a
country that, they say, is even more lovely than our own. Ours is a
cheerful life, and when you come back in two or three years grass will
have grown over the whole affair, and they will not dare to say a word
to you after you have worn the Emperor's uniform."

"But Anneli?" sighed Hans.

"You cannot see Anneli for a time at any rate, and if she is really
worthy of you, she will be true to you."

Yes, Franzerl was right, Hans saw that; so he agreed to his proposal,
and went with his friend to the recruiting sergeant, who was glad to
receive the fine fellow into his ranks.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was autumn. The morning wind swept over the Adriatic, rippling its
deep blue waves, and played with the dark hair of a youth who leant in
deep reverie against the archway of the Piazza di San Marco, gazing
dreamily at the flow of the Grand Canal, which, after cutting Venice
with its great curve, mingles its waters with the waves of the
Adriatic.

It was Hans. The mountains and valleys of his native land lay far
away. It was long since he had left the last mountain-pass of the
Tyrol far behind, but he could not leave his love for home there at
the boundary--it filled him with secret longings in this beautiful,
but foreign land. What good did all the splendour of this strange
country do him--all the lofty palaces and art-trophies of the queenly
city--all the sweet melody of this unknown tongue? Could one of those
musical sounds be compared with Anneli's voice when she said, "I am so
glad you have come, dear Hans"? Could one of these marble towers
attempt to rival the jagged glacier peaks when they shone with the
purple of the evening sky? And when the horn sounded at sunset through
the mountains, echoed a hundred-fold from clefts and deep ravines, and
dying softly amid the shades of the valley, who would compare with
that the tones of the music which day and night hovered on the waters
through the streets of Venice?

Hans raised his tearful eyes: the sky, at least, must be the same
which spans the valleys of the Tyrol. Then he noticed a figure on a
slender pillar--a figure which he must have seen long years before. A
brazen lion with a proudly flowing mane raised its kingly head, as if
keeping watch over the city below, and over the sea that kissed its
feet. The young man dashed the rising tear from his eye, and looked
thoughtfully up at the kingly beast. Yes, indeed, that was the same
lion which was marked on the coin that the little man gave him long
ago, and which in the secret drawer had kept watch and guard over his
mother's treasure. A smile passed like a sunbeam over his troubled
face as he thought of that sunny autumn morning when the old man said
good-bye to him, and when he watched him from the rock as he sailed
through the air on his magic mantle.

"Oh! I wish I had such a ship," he said with a sigh. Then, in the
familiar accents of his native tongue, the words sounded in his ear,
"Good morning, Hans."

Hans started--there was no one near. Had a dream mocked him? But no,
there it was again--"Look up, Hans, up here." And Hans looked up.

Above him, out of the high bow-window of one of those proud palaces,
leant a familiar head with snowy locks and dark earnest eyes that
smiled kindly down on poor Hans.

He uttered a cry of joy, his first since he came to this foreign land,
and quick as an arrow he darted into the archway, and entered the
portal of the palace. His foot flew over marble steps and velvet
carpets; but he had no eye for that. On he went, up to where, leaning
over the golden banister of the landing-place, a noble and
well-remembered face awaited him. Full of emotion, he stood before the
old man, who gave him his hand in loving greeting. No longer a shabby
coat, but a garment of black velvet covered his form, and his withered
but wonder-working hand gleamed with costly diamonds. But the youth's
affection broke the barriers of this marvellous change, and tenderly,
as on that spring evening on the mountain when he had brought the old
man into his cottage, he pressed his lips against the kind hand, and
said from the fulness of his heart, "God bless you, sir. I bless Him
for letting me find you here in this foreign land."

[Illustration: HANS RECEIVES A HEARTY WELCOME FROM AN OLD FRIEND.]

"Not a foreign land, Hans; I am in my own country," answered the noble
Venetian, as he led the young man through the splendid halls, whose
stately walls were adorned with the masterpieces of those immortal
artists who called Italy their home. Then they sat down together in
the wide bow-window, and Hans looked joyfully into the old man's
venerable countenance.

"So you did not forget the poor herdsman in your splendid home?" said
he.

"Forget thee, Hans!" replied the noble Venetian--"forget thee, who
didst think of me in the midst of love and pleasure, and even in thy
flight, when thy heart was filled with deadly anguish! No, indeed. I
long to reward those years of faithful love, and perhaps the
opportunity has come at last."

"Oh, sir," cried Hans with shining eyes, "will you tell me how things
go at home, where you have been more lately than I? Tell me if Nazerl
recovered, if my mother has ceased to grieve about me, and if Anneli
still remembers me."

"Nazerl is dead--but through no fault of thine," said the old man
soothingly, for Hans had looked terror-stricken at his opening words.
"He soon recovered from the trifling wound caused by thy hand; but his
own foolhardiness drove him up to the highest points of rock after a
chamois, and a rash step hurled him into the ravine. It was not till
long afterwards that they found his mangled corpse. As for thy mother
and Anneli, thou mayest see for thyself."

So saying he rose, stepped up to a richly carved cabinet, and took
from a secret compartment a flashing jewel. The young man recognised
it well; it was the wondrous mountain mirror; and now he held it once
more in his hand, and looked searchingly on its shining surface. Light
mists rolled over it; they grew gradually thinner and thinner, till at
last there lay before him in the splendour of the morning sunlight his
own beloved valley, and the substantial farm-house, Anneli's home. He
gave no heed to the cheerful stir in barn and stable, nor to the busy
preparation for the returning herds. No, his eye pressed through the
clear window-panes to a well-remembered room. It was quiet and cosy,
as in days gone by. At the window sat Anneli, fair and lovable as
ever, but her countenance bore traces of gentle melancholy. The
snow-white thread rested in her hands, and her lips moved in earnest
talk with the two women at the other window--the farmer's widow and
the old mother that Hans was longing to comfort. It seemed to Hans
that the conversation concerned him, and as if now and then his name
fell from Anneli's rosy lips. And every time she raised her eyes
towards the opposite wall, Hans followed the direction of her gaze,
and saw, carefully preserved by glass and frame, a well-remembered
blue ribbon and bunch of withered mountain flowers. At this sign of
faithful memory tears started to the young man's eyes, and when he had
dried them, and looked again on the magic mirror, the dear vision had
vanished, and the glass flashed once more in the light of the Italian
sun.

"Listen, my son; I will tell thee the wish that my heart cherishes for
thee," said the old man, as he laid the magic mirror carefully back in
the cabinet. "I am alone and lonely, the last representative of a name
of ancient renown. When I was young and strong, I was filled with a
desire after secret knowledge. I sought the gold of the mountains far
and near--thou knowest this well--heaping treasures on treasures, and
all the while I never noticed that I was growing old, and was still
alone in life. Stay now with me. I will enrich thy mind with the
treasures of my knowledge, and thy heart shall remain pure. Thou shalt
be my son, the heir of my wealth; and thy name shall be inscribed
among the noblest names in the golden book of Venice."

The young man clasped his hands, and leant towards his aged friend.
"Forgive me, noble sir," he begged humbly, "if I cannot gratify your
wishes; but what can riches and honour do for a heart that is pining
with longings after home? The scene which I have just witnessed--the
vision of Anneli and my home--has shown me where alone my happiness
must be sought. But if you wish to grant me a favour, then loose the
fetters that bind me here, and let me go as quickly as possible back
to my loved mountains."

The old man sat a moment in silent thought. "I would fain have kept
thee with me," he said at last, "for thy heart is true and pure; but
my wishes must yield to thy happiness."

So saying, he rose and once more opened the cupboard which hid his
magic hoards. From its most secret recess he brought a dark object,
and when he unrolled it, it proved to be the magic mantle, the
air-ship of which Hans had thought so longingly a short time before.
The old man spread it on the balcony, embraced the astonished youth
with the tenderness of a father, and led him towards the mantle.

"Now stand on it," he said; "take this staff to guide thy flight; and
think of me with love."

Hans obeyed as in a dream. The old Venetian waved his hand, and the
mantle rose and bore the young man up into the air.

Not till his eyes met the full light of the open air, and the fresh
wind played with the folds of the mantle, did Hans awake to the
reality of his situation. He looked sorrowfully back at his noble
friend, who still stood in the bow-window looking after him, with a
smile on his aged features, and waving a farewell with his withered
hand. Hans stretched out his arms towards him, and cried in a voice of
deep emotion, "Farewell, farewell, noble sir," and the mantle bore him
onwards with the swiftness of the storm-wind.

For a moment the Queen of the Sea gleamed far below, in the splendour
of her towers and palaces; the sunlight flashed from the high windows
of her churches, and the black gondolas glided noiselessly over the
winding canals. But soon this scene grew faint in the distance, and
nothing was left of it all but the sea stretching in a blue line along
the horizon. Hans turned his face homewards, and directed his course
towards the north. Swift as an arrow he flew onwards; the air rustled
around him like the sound of eagles' wings; in the dim distance lay
the mountain peaks of his native land, but they began to shine out
more and more clearly from the blue mists. Soon he was floating above
that rocky pass which long months before he had trodden with deadly
sorrow in his heart; and now he breathes the air of his native land.

With beaming eyes he looked down over the side of the magic eagle
whose dark pinions were bearing him onwards to his home. Far below
him lay the mountains with the grazing herds; from his cloudy height
they seemed no larger than the lady-birds with which he used to play
when a boy, and the senners' cottages like the round pebbles in the
village brook. He almost felt as if he could touch the glacier peaks
with his hand, so near did they seem in the splendour of the midday
sun. He looked down into their icy clefts, and saw the glacier torrent
rolling far below in milk-white waves; but the magic boat sped further
and further, still bearing Hans swiftly onwards to his home.

The young man now began to view the country more carefully, and soon
he directed his course westwards. Then he uttered a cry of joy, for
they were sailing towards a well-known mountain, and the mantle, as if
it knew exactly its appointed task, sank gently downwards, till Hans
found himself on a projecting rock. It was the same spot from which he
had often, when a goat-herd, looked down longingly on the smiling
meadows, searching for the entrance to the dwarf king's magic
realm--the same spot where the old man bade him farewell that autumn
morning long ago, before taking his airy journey to his distant home.
Hans sprang joyously from his magic boat, laid the staff on it with
whispered words of thanks, and immediately the mantle rose, and flew
swift as an arrow up into the clouds. Hans stood watching it for a few
moments, then he hurried down the old familiar path. A little below
herds were grazing--his herds--and Seppi was leaning against a rock
watching them, and singing the while in his own cheery way. Hans
glanced joyfully at the distant scene, and hurried on. There was the
night pasture, and now he arrived at the senner's cottage; he did not
wait, however, even to peep in at the window, so eager was he to reach
the village. With flying footsteps he hurried down the rocky path
which he had climbed a few months before with deadly anguish in his
heart.

But to-day--to-day all was changed. With joy throbbing in every
pulse-beat Hans felt the stony path softer than the grass of the
pasture-lands, and the sound of the stream seemed sweeter than the
melody of harps. At last he reached the valley, and just as he entered
it the evening bell began to ring. At the sound he stopped, bared his
head, and knelt by the wayside; but when the last tone died away he
rose and hastened up the village street, then with a bound he crossed
the brook and reached the farm-yard gate. There was no one to be seen,
for the servants were at supper in the house. Quickly, but
noiselessly, Hans slipped through the yard, and stood with beating
heart at the door of the sitting-room. There was no sound of life
within. Hans put his ear to the key-hole and listened. Then he heard
Anneli's sweet voice saying, "Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and
bless Thy gifts. Amen." And when the Amen was said, Hans opened the
door and stepped over the threshold.

"Have you any of God's gifts to spare for a poor wanderer?" he said
softly.

"Hans, dear Hans!" was Anneli's glad cry, for in spite of the twilight
and his unfamiliar dress she recognised him at a glance, and soon she
lay weeping with joy in the tall soldier's arms.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next May-day a stately May-pole stood, as before, at Anneli's window,
richly adorned with fluttering blue ribbons and with the bunch of
alproses at the top, and Anneli once more walked on the arm of her
Hans to the dance beneath the lindens. But this time the rich farmers'
sons could not say a word of protest, for Anneli was now a fair and
happy bride.

Meantime, the brave Franzerl had tired of the merry soldier's life,
for it had grown dull to him since the return home of his dear friend
Hans. So he had laid aside the Emperor's uniform, and come back to his
native valley.



RHINE GOLD: A Tale of the Nibelungen

[Illustration: HACO THROWS THE TREASURE OF THE NIBELUNGEN INTO THE
RHINE.]


Evening's dim shadows had ceased to hover in vague mystery around the
walls of Worms. They had, hours before, gathered in dark masses in
every nook of the royal city, hiding like traitors from the light of
the clear full moon that flooded with silvery splendour the Rhine
river and the Wonnegau on its banks, where, transformed by the soft
touch of the moonbeams, stood the proud seat of Burgundy's mighty
kings.

Slumber and silence reigned in the palace which, but the morning
before, had resounded with the clash of weapons and a cheerful
bustling life; for King Gunther, accompanied by his brothers and his
bravest men-at-arms, had that day set out on a warlike expedition,
leaving the town and the castle and his fair queen Brunhild to the
care of the truest of the true, bold Haco, in whose courage and wisdom
he placed the fullest confidence.

With a loose velvet mantle half hiding his gold-gleaming armour, Haco
paced the streets of the lonely city, and listened attentively for
some sound to break the stillness of the night. A distant noise like
the rumbling of many wheels reached his ear, and an eager look came
into his eyes. He glanced over at the palace, in the safest room of
which lay Brunhild, his honoured queen. Out of love to her he had
murderously slain the noble Siegfried, the immortal hero of the
Nibelungen; and the shame of the deed will last to the remotest ages,
dimming with rust the splendid escutcheon of his fame.

When he had convinced himself of the undisturbed repose of the royal
household, he turned and walked towards the minster, in whose shadow
lay another palace. There dwelt the beautiful Kriemhild, King
Gunther's sister, and widow of the noble Siegfried, whose death she
mourned with inconsolable grief. The stillness of repose hovered also
round these walls. The windows were dark, the doors barred, and amidst
her maids lay the royal widow in her first deep sleep.

The moonbeams glided over the roof of the palace, and glanced
suspiciously at the dark figure of the man who stood gazing anxiously
up at the windows. When he saw that there was no movement, he went
towards the tower built of huge blocks which guarded the entrance to
the castle, took a bunch of rusty keys from under his mantle, and
opened the locks and bolts of the ironbound door which led into the
vaults. The last bolt was loosed, the heavy gate opened, and the
moonlight streamed in freely over the treasures which were here
displayed in splendid piles. Crowns of gold richly adorned with
diamonds, bracelets and chains gleaming with jewels, lay there in rich
profusion. Wrought by the skilful hands of the dwarfs, they had been
kept hid by the little folk in secret mountain recesses until
Siegfried came, and Alberich, the dwarf-king, had been obliged,
notwithstanding his magic power and cunning, to yield to the might of
the hero's arm, and give him the precious hoards of jewels. And beside
these, heaped up to the very roof, were bars upon bars of uncoined
gold, only waiting the impress of the mint to change them into an
exhaustless hoard. This was the treasure of the Nibelungen, the widow
Kriemhild's rightful possession, which the heroes had brought her a
few weeks before from the land of the Nibelungen. With full hands she
had scattered gold among these heroes, and had also given rich gifts
to the vassals of her brother, the king of Burgundy, for she had now
come to live in his land that she might be near the corpse of her
beloved husband. And what Kriemhild's beauty and misfortune had failed
to do, her bounteous gifts accomplished. The hearts of the Burgundians
were turned towards her, so that Haco, the watchful hero, began to be
anxious about his own influence and her probable revenge. So he
determined to rob her of the Nibelungen treasure, that she might be
deprived of the means of working his ruin.

At a place not far from the royal city, where the Rhine flows in a
still deeper channel, stood Haco a few hours later in a boat on the
river, and watched the high-piled waggons, the first of which now
passed over the shaking bridge, rolled on with threatening rumble, and
stopped close to the low parapet. Haco stretched forth his stalwart
arm and removed the back of the waggon, so that its precious burden
slid into the depths below.

The stream gleamed brightly in the radiance of gold and precious
stones, the jewels whirled round and round in the rapid waters, then
sank down flashing from wave to wave, till they had reached the still,
deep bed of the river. Waggon after waggon was silently emptied by
Haco's powerful hand, and each time the costly load made the Rhine
river flash with borrowed splendour. So hour after hour went by in
silent and restless haste. When the last gold bar had disappeared
beneath the water, the drivers swore an oath of eternal secrecy,
received rich rewards of gold, and led their waggons away in endless
line. Haco stood alone in the boat, and watched them till the last man
had vanished in the shades of night; then he stooped to gaze down into
the stream.

There far down lay the treasure of the Nibelungen, and the Rhine
flowed on in silence over the golden secret that it hid. No tongue
would ever tell the tale, no arm would ever reach the hoards. Why,
then, did Haco still stand lost in thought?--why did he gaze down
gloomily into the river depths? Was it that the shadows of the past,
or visions of a bloody future, rose from the gleaming waves? Was he
thinking of Kriemhild's beauty and the passionate love which his now
hard heart had once felt for the beautiful princess, and which, when
rejected, changed into anger and hatred that moved his arm to the
murder of Siegfried and the robbery of the Nibelungen treasure? Or did
he see with prophetic eye that time in which the now helpless one
should take revenge on all who had injured her--a revenge which should
exterminate the heroes of Burgundy to the last man.

       *       *       *       *       *

Many hundred years had passed over the world since that night robbery;
blood and tears had been shed, dried, and forgotten; new nations had
arisen and the old ones fallen, so that there was scarcely a page of
the world's chronicle to tell of their struggles, hopes, and tears.
All things had changed. The new had taken the place of the old, only
to yield in its turn to a newer order still. Nothing was the same but
ever young, ever beautiful, ever innocent nature, and the human heart
with its love and hate. The Rhine still flowed and the Wonnegau on its
banks still bloomed as of old, but its name was changed; the Cathedral
of Worms still pointed to the sky, but it was not the same building in
the shadow of which Kriemhild's palace used to stand. The generation
that now trod the same soil knew nothing of the Nibelungen--the
tradition of those heroes lived only in some half-forgotten songs. The
sunken treasure had long since been thought a myth, and with an
incredulous smile the wise men of those days pointed to the stream
which was said to hide such a "golden secret."

Nevertheless, it was no myth; the treasure still lay beneath the
waters. Not a crown, not a bracelet was lost; not a diamond had fallen
from the brilliant setting; for, as if held together by magic hand,
the jewels had remained firmly united; but wave after wave had rolled
on unceasingly, day and night, from year's end to year's end, and
softly and gradually the treasure had been pressed on further into the
bed of the river. The Wonnegau lay behind it; there the waves foamed,
whirling over the hidden reefs beneath, and further on towards the sea
they roared loudly against the walls of the Pfalzburg, then flowed
caressingly past the blooming vines which wound their clustered
garlands round the white cottages of the vine-dressers.

The treasure of the Nibelungen had been carried in safety, though
without any guiding hand, past all these different scenes, and the
waves had borne it further and further into the shadow of the bank,
bit by bit, until, after many years, it lay at the foot of a rock that
rose high and bold above the waves. The moonbeams wove a silver
garland round its granite brow, and for centuries tradition echoed
round its jagged peak; but a row of crags surrounded the foot of the
rock, and the foaming rage of the waves kept away even the boldest.
There into that deep rocky bed the waves bore the treasure, and now
it rested safely hidden at the foot of the Loreley rock.

But treasures which have once gleamed in the sunlight, and been
grasped by human hands, can never rest in darkness; they strive to
reach again the light of day and the warm living hand of man. Slowly
they rise from year to year, till at last they glow in the light of
the sun, and await a pure hand to set them free, to do good with their
riches, and so to expiate the guilt which was attached to them. It was
thus that the treasure of the Nibelungen pressed upwards. It rose
slowly, slowly, for sighs and blood and tears hung more heavily on it
than on other sunken hoards. But at last, about a thousand years after
that night when Haco threw the treasure into the stream, it had made
its way up through the water.

It was just such a delightful spring night as that memorable one long
ago; work had long since ended in the blooming vineyards, rest and
peace lay all around. The night-wind came softly from the mountains
and bore the fragrance of the vines across the Rhine; the moon stood
high in heaven, its light glided trembling down on the ledges of the
Loreley and kissed the feet of the rock, which until now had lain in
deep shadow. There in magic radiance floated the jewels of the
Nibelungen treasure, so that the Rhine shone brightly as its waves
played round the golden hoard. The night-wind blew more strongly,
bearing on its wings something like a spirit, which sank in a veil of
mist round the point of the rock, and then stood in that majestic
beauty which had in days long past touched Haco's proud heart and won
the love of the hero Siegfried. It was Kriemhild, once Siegfried's
sorrowing widow, and afterwards King Etzel's queen in the distant land
of the Huns. As Queen of Hungary, she invited the Burgundian heroes to
her kingdom, that she might demand the stolen treasure from Haco, or
take revenge on him for Siegfried's murder and the robbery of her
gold. But the vengeance which should only have overtaken one fell upon
all, even on her own little son. Kriemhild's proud heart was softened
by the blow, and with a pang of keen repentance she thought of those
other mothers whom her mad revenge had rendered childless. One way
only was left her of giving happiness instead of sorrow. With a desire
that rose to heaven like a prayer, she thought of her lost treasure.
If she could but get it now, what troubled hearts would be soothed by
her who had heretofore brought misery to happy ones! But the swift
sword sent her to the grave with her longings unsatisfied. The same
slaughter that had freed her from her enemies had robbed her of her
child and of her life.

Her spirit hovered often round the scenes of her youthful happiness,
seeking the hidden treasure in the river-bed. That night, when it rose
to the surface, and its golden radiance was seen bright and clear,
Kriemhild came, thinking to set it free. Her eyes gazed longingly on
the floating gold, and her arms, light and transparent as the
moonbeams, were outstretched over the rock as if she would fain grasp
the moving treasure. Then she glided with spirit tread down over the
jagged moonlit rock by paths which no human foot could follow, and
soon she stood on the narrow ledge over which the Rhine river flowed
in gleaming ripples. Her white foot was covered by the water, but she
heeded it not; her eye gazed fixedly on the treasure for which she had
longed unceasingly in life, and which now hovered close to her feet in
the dancing waves. Her lips moved softly, her hands were clasped as if
in earnest desire, and she stooped to reach the golden crown which now
knocked with a metallic sound against the rock and almost touched her
foot; but when she stretched out her transparent hand, and thought she
had touched the point of the diamond cross, the crown shrank from her
fingers, sank into the stream, and was borne away out of her reach by
the mighty waters. Kriemhild sank on her knees; the waves wet her long
flowing locks, and the hem of her purple robe--but she felt them not.
Only one thought, one feeling, lived in her heart--the longing to
recover the treasure. She bent forward once more; her white hands
clutched again and again at the jewels which shone around her in
tempting nearness, and yet always shrank from her touch. Other
treasures floated towards her, the bars of gold came close to her
feet, then started back when the white hands grasped at them, and
gradually all disappeared in the middle of the stream.

Kriemhild's cold lips trembled, her transparent hands ceased their
useless toil, and were clasped again in prayer. Then there was a
louder rushing in the river, and a majestic shadow floated down the
stream. Kriemhild's eye watched its onward movement; nearer and nearer
it came, till it passed through the foaming gold stream, and
approached the rock where the Queen now stood erect and majestic.

[Illustration: CHARLEMAGNE MEETS WITH KRIEMHILD. F. C., p. 108.]

It was Charlemagne, once Germany's beloved and mighty ruler, who every
year leaves his tomb at Aachen, glides along the Rhine to bless the
vineyards on its banks, and then lies down again in the golden coffin
until the fragrance of a new spring awakes him to another beneficent
progress. Now he stood before her on the river, clad in his purple
mantle and his golden crown, with the sword which formerly decided the
fate of nations in his cold right hand. His foot rested on the shield
of Roland, his beloved nephew, which they had laid beside him in the
tomb, and which now bore him like a trusty boat. The water rippled
over the golden edge, and washed the grave-dust from the flashing
emerald which the hero of Ronceval once won from the giant and
fastened as an ornament on his shield.

"Who art thou?" asked the dead Emperor, when his gaze had rested long
on Kriemhild's face. "Thou art no mortal woman; I know that by the
glance of thine eye, which speaks to me of bygone ages. It was thus
that Fastrada's eyes shone; her golden hair was soft and silken as
thine. I have not forgotten it, though I have slept for more than
half-a-thousand years in the dark vault--yet thou art not Fastrada,
the Emperor's beloved wife."

"No, great Emperor," said the Queen; "I was once Kriemhild, the wife
of Siegfried, the hero of the Nibelungen, who ruled over the land
which was also subject to thy sway. The present generation know almost
nothing of his glory, but in thy times, O Emperor, his renown was
still bright."

"I know him well, that model of all knightly virtues," said the
Emperor thoughtfully, "and his fate and thine are familiar to me. It
was but the old and yet ever new song that sounds through all
time--the song of the victory of evil over good--which made my life
also one of pain and trouble. But what brings thee hither, O Queen?"

"If thou knowest my fate, noble Emperor," answered Kriemhild, "thou
knowest also what I seek for here. Thou knowest the misery I caused in
life. When repentance came it was at the last moment, and my time was
gone for earthly works of love. But now, perhaps, my spirit may be
permitted to grasp this treasure, cause of so much sin, and use it
well and wisely, till as many tears are dried as have been shed, and
as much sorrow healed as was once caused by me.

"See yonder, noble Emperor! there gleams the Nibelungen hoard, the
bequest left me by my husband, but of which Haco robbed me. It has
risen, and awaits only the delivering hand; but no one comes. So I
would fain grasp the treasures and seize the moving bars of gold. Then
in the stillness of the night I would take them into the abodes of
poverty and misfortune, so that when the inmates awake Kriemhild's
treasure might dry the tears of need and despair. But it is not
permitted me."

The Emperor turned his face and gazed searchingly down at the jewels,
which floated in bright clear radiance on the waters of the Rhine.

"Thou askest a thing impossible, O Queen," he said at length; "knowest
thou not the limits which debar spirits from the deeds of mortals? It
is only a guiltless, living, human hand which may change the sentence
that hangs over them. But the Nibelungen treasure has long since been
forgotten. Yet look! Thou no longer seest the jewels in the full size
of olden days. Wave after wave has gnawed at them; the waters have
worked unceasingly through long centuries at this tedious task. See
how the ornaments on the bracelets and crowns have shrunk, and how
slender the links of the chains have become. The Rhine has taken the
gold of thy treasure, and with it fertilised the blooming meadows on
its banks. Nightly the gold set free rises in light mists above the
stream and sinks in blessing on mountain and valley, and when autumn
comes thy gold gleams in every cluster, ripens in every ear of corn.
Freer, stronger, more joyous are the people of these meadows--and that
is the blessing of the Nibelungen treasure, which rests unseen in
earth and air and water--thus will the guilt and tears be done away
with which once lay heavy on this hoard. Then have patience, O Queen,
for a few short years--then thou wilt search in vain for thy treasure.
Meantime other ministries are thine."

The Emperor bowed his head in courteous farewell, and sailed on his
magic boat up the moonlit stream.

Kriemhild gazed after him. The emerald in the point of the shield
flashed brightly in the moonlight, and the wide purple mantle
fluttered above the gleaming waves. The Emperor blessed the vineyards
as he passed; and when the last glimmer of his crown grew pale and
the veil of night concealed him, the Queen once more looked at the
gold hoard at her feet. The dead Emperor had spoken truly; her eyes
now perceived it too; so she could wait in patience till the last
crown, the last gold bar, had melted in the sparkling river.

The treasure's time of freedom was passed; no delivering hand had
come. The jewels slowly shrank together round the foot of the Loreley
and fell into their watery bed. Their splendour was extinguished;
still and dark the river flowed. Then Kriemhild turned and ascended
the rock. She gave one long farewell look at the meadows of her former
home, and then vanished like a mist in the distance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Again centuries have passed. Kriemhild no longer hovers round the
Loreley, for the Nibelungen treasure has melted in the waves; only its
diamonds rest uninjured in the river bed, and any one gazing into its
depths on starry nights may see them flash and sparkle far below. But
the gold runs freely through the Rhine, so that its waters flow in
bright, clear waves; and on summer nights the precious substance rises
to the clouds, and then falls in fertilising dew on the meadows and
vineyards all around. Gold shines in the ripening berries and gleams
in the waving corn; with the clear ring of gold sound the songs of the
Rhenish people; pure as gold is their honesty--that surest safeguard
against every foe.

That is the German Nibelungenhort--that is the Rhine gold.



The Friendship of the Dwarfs.

[Illustration: THE COUNTESS MATILDA RESTORES THE DWARF-QUEEN TO
HEALTH.]



PART I.

The DYING DWARF-QUEEN.


A stately and strongly-built fortress stood many hundred years ago on
a high rock of the Thuringian Mountains. The lord of this castle was
descended from one of the noblest families in the land, and had chosen
this place from all his numerous estates as a home for himself, his
wife, and his little son, because its cheerful situation and mild
climate were best suited to the Countess Matilda's delicate health.

They had come home to it, after a long journey, on the evening which
preceded the night on which my story begins, and the Countess, wearied
with all the ceremonies of the reception, had just fallen into a
gentle and refreshing sleep. Crimson curtains hung in heavy silken
folds round the lady's couch; through them the lamps shed a softened
light on the sleeper, lending to her cheeks a rosy glow which was,
alas! but seldom seen there.

It was midnight. Every one in the castle was asleep, resting from the
exertions of the past day, when the lofty door was noiselessly opened,
and a little tiny man with a long grey beard approached the couch of
the slumbering Countess, and let the light of a lantern fall on her
delicate features. He was scarcely three feet high, and his figure was
of ungraceful build. But in the rather large head gleamed a pair of
bright and intelligent eyes, and in the aged features shone an
expression of benevolence and truth. The little man's clothes were of
a plain dark colour; his little smock-frock was bound by a girdle with
a silver buckle; under his arm he carried an invisible cap, a little
black head-dress with a long point, and ornamented with silver bells.
Very gently he drew near the couch, raised his lantern, and softly
touched the arm of the Countess, which was carelessly thrown over the
silken coverlet. The Countess awoke, looked in amazement on the queer
little figure, and asked at length, "Who are you, little man?"

The dwarf bowed low and answered politely, "I am one of the race of
dwarfs, gracious lady, who live in great numbers in the rock below
your castle. Our Queen lies at the point of death; her only hope of
recovery is in the touch of a human hand. The King, therefore, sent
me, when he heard of your arrival, to beg you to show this kindness to
our beloved Queen."

"Alas!" answered the Countess sadly, "I am so ill myself, can I be of
any use to another?"

"It will be all right, gracious lady, and will cost you no fatigue,"
answered the little man, "if you will only trust yourself to my care."

The Countess turned to waken her husband, and to ask his advice, but
the dwarf begged earnestly, "Let him sleep, noble Countess. Long
before he wakes you will be back again. No evil will befall you. We
have always honoured your race--have lived in peace and friendship
with them through long centuries, and have secretly done them many a
good turn."

The Countess was of a kind and obliging disposition; so,
notwithstanding her delicate health and present weariness, she agreed
to follow the dwarf. She was also afraid of making the powerful little
people angry by a refusal, and thus bringing evil on her family. She
threw her cloak quickly about her, and prepared to go with the dwarf.
With noiseless tread he led her through hall after hall, room after
room, till they came to a little round bow-windowed chamber in the
tower on the western side of the castle, whence they descended by a
narrow winding stair into the castle garden.

It was a lovely summer night. The little guide darkened his lantern,
for moon and stars threw a clear light on their path, and thus they
went on in silence along the foot of the castle rock, beneath
overhanging trees, which showered down their fragrant blossoms on the
lady's dark hair. At last they came to a rock which projected somewhat
into the road, and the foot of which was thickly covered with ferns.
The dwarf parted them asunder, and the Countess saw a narrow passage
which led away into the heart of the mountain. They entered. The dwarf
opened his lantern again, and its light showed the walls of a vaulted
cave, which, at first low and narrow, became wider and higher as they
went on, till at last they walked through a beautifully arched
corridor. Soon they arrived at a door, and when it opened they entered
a room with crystal walls, which shone as with the radiance of a
thousand lights. Among the points of the crystal darted countless
little lizards, whose bodies seemed made of transparent emerald; on
their heads were little golden crowns set with rubies; and when the
pretty little creatures with their shining diadems slipped so nimbly
and lightly through the crystal points, the walls gleamed and flashed
so strangely that the Countess was filled with astonishment. But the
roof of this room seemed an ever-changing picture of living wonders.
Great white and blue snakes with diamond eyes, and slender bodies
transparent as the air of heaven, wound in endless circles the one
through the other; and as they moved in gleaming coils, sweet music
and refreshing fragrance filled the crystal hall. Here in this
subterranean kingdom sin and enmity seemed unknown. Creatures which on
earth fight and oppress one another lived here in friendly intimacy.
So fair and lovable seemed these little animals to the Countess, and
they looked down on her with such soft intelligent eyes, that she
wished one of them would come near enough for her to stroke and caress
it. Absorbed by these wonders, she had not noticed that her little
guide was already at the further end of the room, and was holding the
second door open and beckoning to her to enter. At last she saw him
and followed.

The walls of the second hall gleamed with brightly polished silver
ore, out of which bloomed flowers of such beauty as are never found in
earthly gardens. They were carved out of precious stones so skilfully
as to deceive the eye and to tempt one to bend over their cups to
breathe their fragrance. Bright silver ore formed the pavement, and
the light that streamed from a huge diamond in the centre of the
ceiling trembled in thousand-fold reflection on the silver walls and
the jewel-flowers.

In this hall were many of the dwarfs assembled. All were simply clad,
like the dwarf that had acted as guide to the Countess; all had grave,
wise countenances and beaming eyes, dimmed now with anxiety and grief.
As the Countess entered they bowed low, holding in their hands the
little caps with the silver bells, which, by making them invisible,
enable them to play many tricks on the human race. Now they arrived at
the third room, which was the Queen's bed-chamber. At the ceiling of
this room hovered a golden eagle with its wings outspread, and
holding in its beak four diamond chains, on which the Queen's bed
swung gently to and fro. The bed was a single gigantic ruby, skilfully
cut, and on it rested on pillows of white satin the dying Queen of
this enchanted realm.

The stillness of death reigned in the place. Goldemar, the mighty
dwarf-king, stood by the ruby couch, sunk in silent grief. His hair
and beard, gleaming like silver, flowed down over his mantle of royal
purple; he had taken the shining crown from his head and laid it at
the feet of the dying Queen. His nobles stood in a wide circle round
the King, and seemed to share his grief.

The Countess went up to the couch. There, on pillows of white satin,
rested the loveliest being that her eyes had ever beheld; she was
smaller than her subjects, while her husband, on the contrary,
exceeded them in stature; but her form was exquisitely symmetrical,
and her tender limbs seemed formed of wax. Round her closed eyes and
blanched lips the smile of youthfulness and kindliness still hovered,
while her wondrous hair flowed round her whole form like liquid gold.
The Countess bent silently over the dying Queen, listening for a
breath, but in vain. Not a sound disturbed the solemn stillness. Only
the golden eagle flapped his mighty wings, making a current of cool
air through the lofty apartment, so that the rosy flames flickered in
the crystal vessels, and threw a quivering reflection on the gilding
of the walls and on the diamond crown at the dying Queen's feet.

"It is too late!" thought the Countess; but she did as her little
guide directed, laying one hand on the brow, the other on the breast
of the dying Queen, and then awaited the result in anxious silence.

Slowly and sorrowfully the moments passed by. The Countess was about
to remove her hands, when she saw Goldemar's eye fixed on her in
earnest entreaty, and she had not the courage to rob the sorrowing
King of his last hope; so she let her warm hand remain a little longer
on the rigid form. Suddenly, whether it was a reality or only her own
fancy, a slight tremor seemed to move the delicate frame, then a
second and a third time, and gently, very gently, the heart began to
throb once more.

The Countess bent again over the Queen, and listened to her breathing.
Gentle and sweet like the fragrance of flowers the breath passed in
and out over the beautiful, half-parted lips, and life once more
tinged the sweet face with a faint bloom. It was not the gleam of the
candles or the ruby lights that caused the rosy hue that now
overspread her face; it was life, true life. At last she opened her
eyes, raised herself, and looked round in astonishment.

"Am I still with thee?" she said to her husband, whose glance rested
on her in delight, as she held out her soft white hand. "How did it
happen? Tell me."

Goldemar pointed to the Countess.

"Oh, my deliverer!" she exclaimed, turning in surprise to the noble
lady; "how shall I thank you?"

The news of their beloved Queen's recovery soon spread to the rest of
the dwarfs, and they came flocking in, their grave faces lit with a
serene content. They crowded round the royal pair with affectionate
congratulations, and poured forth their thanks to the Countess. Then a
band of servants drew near, carrying vessels of precious metal,
wherein lay fruits and flowers carved in precious stones of
incalculable value, and so cunningly and wonderfully wrought that the
treasuries of earthly princes have not their like to show.

"Pray, accept these," begged the King, on whose brow the crown once
more shone.

"Pray, accept them," said the Queen, her beautiful eyes fixed in
entreaty on the face of the Countess.

The Countess shook her head gently. "Let me have the pleasure of
having served you without reward," said she. "I have wealth enough;
and now take me home again."

"Thou despisest our gifts," said the beautiful Queen in a tone of
disappointment, "and our laws do not permit us to leave any benefit
unreturned. Thou hast surely some wish; name it, then, that we may
fulfil it."

The Countess shook her head, then all at once she thought of her
child. The celebrated physician, to consult whom she had undertaken
the long journey from which she had returned the evening before, had
not concealed the truth. The span of life that remained to her was
very short, and soon her beloved child Kuno would be left motherless.
Perhaps he might some day need the help of the friendly dwarfs.

"One petition, indeed, I have," she said with a faltering voice. "My
child will soon perhaps be motherless, and if he should ever need
protection, will you befriend him?"

"From this moment," replied King Goldemar, "he is under our care, and
we will hasten to his assistance as soon as he needs it."

Then the dwarf who had acted as guide to the Countess before conducted
her back through the castle garden; and soon she rested, tired, but
with a peaceful and happy heart, once more on her couch.



PART II.

THE FRIENDS IN THE ROCK.

[Illustration: ECKBERT'S WILD RIDE ON KUNO'S HORSE.]


A sunny terrace of the castle hill became the last resting-place of
the Countess Matilda. It had been her favourite spot both in her days
of health and of sickness. Here she had spent part of every day with
her Kuno, and with him looked down on the fruitful plains of
Thuringia; and here she had taken a sad farewell of the blooming life
around. She did not wish to rest in the dark and gloomy vault, but
here on the lonely height, with flowers around her and sunshine above
her head.

It was an autumn afternoon. There were no longer any flowers in field
or garden, but around the grave of the Countess was a freshness and
fragrance as of spring, and the sun in which she had so delighted let
no day pass without looking kindly down on the lonely grave, if only
for a few minutes.

The wind was shaking the lofty trees of the castle garden, and
playfully driving the yellow leaves along the paths, when a little
figure with a pale sad face came up the broad gravel walk, climbed the
rock, and threw himself on the grave. It was Kuno, Countess Matilda's
only child.

How one year had changed everything!--his dear mother dead, his father
gone to distant scenes of war along with many noble knights, and he
left alone with heartless and ill-natured strangers! A distant
relation, the Lady Von Allenstein, had been asked by the Earl to
preside over his household, and to act the part of a mother to the
little Kuno. She was a woman as heartless as she was clever, and so
successfully did she ingratiate herself into the favour of the
unsuspicious Earl, that before he left he gave her full control over
his vassals and his estate. Her son Eckbert, a lad of about fifteen
years of age, had the reputation of being well brought up, because in
the presence of strangers he could assume fine courtly manners; but
he had a mischievous and malicious disposition, and was both feared
and hated by the castle servants.

That Kuno, this child, this dreamer, who in Eckbert's opinion
possessed no knightly qualities whatsoever, should be some day lord
and possessor of so many noble castles and estates with their numerous
dependants, while to his lot had fallen nothing but one small and
half-ruined castle, to which not even a single village was
attached--this vexed him, and in his heart burned envious hatred
towards the orphan child. Hitherto Kuno had borne all Eckbert's malice
with the gentleness which he had inherited from his mother; but when
the news came that the Earl had been dangerously wounded, and when the
messenger spoke of his master's death as probable, Eckbert counted
himself freed from restraint, and tormented the little Earl with
greater spitefulness than ever.

To-day he had cut him to the heart. Kuno's little horse, which had
borne him when he was scarcely more than a baby, and which had never
felt either whip or spur, had been mounted to-day by the cruel
Eckbert. For the first time Kuno ventured a decided protest, and
Eckbert, seeing by this unusual courage how dear the animal was to its
young master, struck the spurs with all his might into the horse's
sides, so that it reared suddenly and then dashed with bleeding flanks
out by the castle gate. When Kuno, after Eckbert's return, ran to the
stable to see how his favourite had borne the dreadful ride, the horse
did not turn his head as usual to greet him with a joyous neigh; he
lay panting on the straw, covered with foam and blood, his feet
stretched out, his head drooping, and his breast heaving with a loud
rattling sound. Kuno threw himself down beside him, put his arms round
his neck, and called him by the tenderest names. Then the creature
opened his eyes, fixed his last look on his young master, and with a
feeble attempt at a neigh, that sounded like a death-sigh, he died.

Kuno's tears were dried; he remained speechless before his dead
favourite, and gazed with tearless eyes upon the body. Thus Margaret,
the castellan's wife, Kuno's old nurse, found him. She had seen
Eckbert mount the horse, and heard Kuno's words. When she saw the dead
animal and the child's grief, her anger at Eckbert's malice knew no
bounds. She went at once to Lady Von Allenstein, and said what she
thought of Eckbert's shameful deed with vehemence such as the proud
lady had never before witnessed in an inferior.

"Do you know," said the lady, with flashing eyes, "what you
deserve?--a place in the dungeon among frogs and toads. But I will be
merciful. In one hour you and your family leave this castle; that will
serve as a warning to your fellow-servants, and will make Master Kuno
more submissive to me and my son, as he will no longer have you to
encourage him in his obstinacy."

So they left. In one short hour the last true friends of the poor
orphan left the castle, although he clung to Margaret and besought her
with passionate weeping not to leave him quite alone. He watched them
as long as he could, and then crept back through the garden to his
mother's grave.

Here dreams of bygone days passed before his mind. He thought of the
happy hours which he had spent here on the solitary height with his
beloved mother; when he had looked down with her over the blooming
country, and listened to her tales of the wonders of foreign lands, of
our lost Paradise, and of the heavenly home which she soon hoped to
reach. Then when, at the thought of the coming parting, his little
heart shrank, his mother would take him in her arms and try to comfort
him by telling him about the friendly feelings that the good dwarfs
cherish towards poor defenceless children, and about the splendour and
beauty of the enchanted realm below the ground.

And now? He knelt down beside the grave, laid his head on the grass,
and sobbed, till at last, tired out with grief and weeping, he fell
asleep. The sun set, but he did not know it; the stars rose, and the
child slept on, with his head pillowed on his mother's grave. A gentle
touch on his shoulder woke him. He started up in surprise. Before him
stood a tiny little man of insignificant appearance, and with a
lantern in his hand. It was the same dwarf that had once led the boy's
mother to King Goldemar's dying Queen.

"Who are you?" asked the child in astonishment, as he rubbed his
sleepy eyes.

"One of your mother's friends," answered the little man kindly; "dost
thou not remember what she told thee about us? Wilt thou come with
me?"

Kuno rose at once, took the dwarf's hand, and walked away by his side.
They soon reached the clump of ferns that covered the secret
entrance, and stepped into the vaulted corridor. The first door
opened, and the child found himself suddenly in the enchanted realm of
his mother's stories. Yes, this was the crystal hall with the emerald
lizards and the sky-blue snakes. The place still glimmered and shone
as when the Countess trod its floor; the snakes looked down kindly on
the boy with their diamond eyes, and the transparent lizards bowed
their crowned heads in friendly greeting.

"I know what the other hall is like," said Kuno in delight to his
little guide. "Do not flowers made of precious stones gleam along the
silver walls; and in the third hall is there not the Queen's ruby bed
swinging from the golden ceiling, and the eagle flapping his golden
wings?"

The dwarf smiled. "See for yourself," he said. Then he led him through
the halls. Yes, it was all as Kuno's mother had described it;
everything was wonderful, and yet he knew it all so well. Last of all,
he was led into the throne-room.

The walls and ceiling were of blue crystal, so that it looked like the
vault of heaven, and in the high dome shone stars cut out of rubies.
There were no lamps in the hall, but from without a hidden artificial
light streamed through the crimson stars, and filled the whole room
with rosy radiance. At the far end of the room stood a throne made of
large and costly pearls, which glowed in the light like rosebuds, and
on it sat in her brilliant beauty the Queen of this enchanted palace,
with her golden hair flowing to the pearl-built steps of the throne.
Beside her sat King Goldemar in a purple mantle, his noble brow
adorned once more with the diamond crown.

With a low obeisance the dwarf introduced the boy to the royal pair.

The lovely Queen was much smaller than Kuno, and yet she looked so
dignified that the child knelt and reverently kissed the little hand
which she graciously extended to him.

"Thy noble mother was my friend," she said with a gentle voice, "and
thou art dear to us as one of our own. Every night, if thou wilt, thou
mayest come to us to forget thy little troubles in our hall. Look thou
around; all are ready to love thee and give thee pleasure."

As she spoke she raised her white hand and pointed to the lovely
children at the foot of the throne, and to the troops of little dwarfs
that were assembled in the hall. Then the royal children came up to
greet him, and after them the little dwarfs with their grave wise
countenances; they gave him their hands, and met his wondering gaze
with friendly looks. And the poor friendless boy, who hitherto had
felt himself alone and forsaken, felt happy, now that he found such
unexpected kindness and love such as he had never felt since his
mother's death. All his troubles vanished from his memory in this
enchanted kingdom. Hour after hour flew by, and to the child they
seemed but minutes. Then the dwarf who had brought him took his hand
and drew him away. Kuno was sorry to go, but he followed his little
guide.

"Do not weep," said the latter kindly. "Thou mayest come back every
night; but take care that thou tell no one of thy visits, or some
great calamity may be the consequence."

When they reached the garden the stars had already grown pale, and the
first streaks of dawn were showing in the east.

"Let us make haste," said the dwarf anxiously, "for we dwellers below
ground can only live under the light of the stars--the sun's rays kill
us."

Soon they arrived at the winding staircase at the foot of the tower.
The gate was locked, but the dwarf brought out a strangely-formed key,
put it into the lock, and immediately the heavy iron-barred door
turned noiselessly on its hinges. It was the same with all the other
doors as soon as the wonderful key touched them, and softly the
wanderers slipped through the rooms and passed the sleeping servants.
Kuno reached unseen the room that he shared with Eckbert, and then the
dwarf hastened home.

Eckbert had tried to keep awake to receive Kuno with scolding and
reproaches, for the child had been missed at supper and sought for, of
course in vain. But he had fallen asleep over his generous plan.

Kuno was still slumbering sweetly when Eckbert woke, sprang out of
bed, and shook the boy roughly.

"Where were you yesterday? Speak!" he shouted; but Kuno, mindful of
the dwarf's warning, kept silence. But when Eckbert raised his arm to
strike the child, an invisible hand gave him such a powerful blow on
the ear that he staggered half unconscious against the wall. He felt
uncomfortable at the thought of the unseen avenger, and he left Kuno
in peace, but told the whole story to his mother, wickedly distorting
it as he went on. At breakfast she ordered the boy to tell where he
had been; but though his heart beat fast with terror, he closed his
lips tightly and remained silent.

"I will conquer your obstinacy," said the lady angrily; "you shall
sleep in the room in the tower, and go earlier to bed."

In the evening she took him herself to the lonely chamber, from which
the winding stair led to the garden; for she thought that fear of the
uninhabited and lonely room would force the boy to tell his secret.
But when he went without a word, and lay down uncomplainingly on his
bed, anger rose high in the proud lady's heart. "Eckbert is right,"
she thought; "his obstinacy must be conquered."

With a prayer to God, and a fervent wish that his little friends would
not forget him, Kuno fell asleep. And they did not forget him. About
midnight the little dwarf stood once more at his side, wakened him,
and led him into the enchanted palace.

The little folk greeted him joyfully, the royal pair reached him their
hands, and amid splendour and pleasure the hours flew by. His friends
showed him the rooms that he had not seen the day before--the crystal
chambers full of golden ornaments, which every family possessed, and
which far outshone the most splendid palaces of earthly kings. They
showed him wonderful things which they knew how to make--birds made of
precious stones, from whose transparent throats sweet songs poured
forth; fruits and flowers, shaped out of jewels, whose beauty and
fragrance was like that of the flowers of Eden. Kuno's astonishment
and delight knew no bounds; the hours went by too quickly, and when
the stars began to pale the dwarf led him back to his room in the
tower. And every night at midnight the same dwarf brought him back to
the enchanted kingdom. There he forgot all the trials of the day--all
Eckbert's spiteful tricks, and Lady Von Allenstein's injustice. But it
was not alone to please and amuse him that the little people brought
the boy to visit them--they cared also for his mind and heart.

In this magic kingdom lived an aged dwarf with long snow-white hair
and beard; a supernatural light shone in his eyes. All the dwarfs,
even the King and Queen, treated him with the greatest reverence, for
he was the oldest man of their nation, and also the wisest. He could
look back through thousands of years; he knew everything in the whole
earth--all plants and stones; he knew about their origin, and had
watched their growth. Often, when the King and Queen were sitting on
the throne, the wise man would come into the hall and seat himself on
the pearl steps; then the lovely royal children, Kuno in their midst,
would gather round and listen as he told with beaming eyes about the
wonders of creation, and the mysterious forces of nature. Words of
kindness and wisdom flowed from his lips, and it seemed to the boy as
if he were sitting in church or at the feet of his dead mother.

[Illustration: KUNO LISTENS TO THE WISE MAN'S TALK.]

But even happier hours than these he spent playing with the children
in the crystal hall, letting the beautiful lizards dart down on his
outstretched hand, or the sky-blue snakes glide down and wind
playfully round his feet. Once, when he was preparing to go home after
one of his visits, King Goldemar held the hand that he had extended in
farewell, and spoke to him in a low and confidential tone. Kuno nodded
with a happy smile. Next morning joy shone from his soft eyes and
betrayed itself in his cheerful mood, which made so strange a contrast
to the silent gravity of his usual demeanour. The change did not
escape the quick eye of the Countess; but she took care not to ask the
reason, for she thought she could guess it already.

Earlier than usual Kuno said "Good night," and went to his room, but
not to bed. He worked about, fastening wax candles, which he had got
beforehand from the steward, on the walls, and trying to give the room
a festive appearance; then he put on his best clothes, sat down on his
bed, and waited.

At last the castle clock struck twelve, and immediately soft music
sounded in the distance; it came nearer and nearer, and soon floated
up the winding stair. In a few moments the door opened of itself, and
in came Kuno's dwarf friends, marching two and two, and all arrayed in
festive garments. They held their invisible caps in their hands,
swinging them in measured time, so that the silver bells that
ornamented them rang in magic melody. Then followed, escorted by
Goldemar and the Queen, a bridal pair, whose wedding feast was to be
held in a human dwelling for the blessing and well-being of its
occupant. Kuno advanced to meet his guests, and greeted them joyfully;
then to the sound of wondrous music the dance began. This was led by
the King and his lovely consort, their crowns flashing lightning at
every quick graceful movement; then followed the bridal pair in
garments gleaming with gold. Kuno had taken the hand of a pretty
dwarf-maiden, and now mingled merrily in the splendid throng. All was
mirth and gaiety.

Suddenly the music stopped, the dancers stood still, and all eyes
turned in indignation towards an opening in the ceiling where the face
of Lady Von Allenstein was visible.

Goldemar's eyes flashed angrily.

"Blow out the lights!" he cried to one of his train; and in a
twinkling the little fellow had climbed up the wall, and before the
lady had time to suspect that this command had anything to do with
her, the dwarf reached the opening, and blew into her face.

A fearful scream followed; then the King turned to Kuno and said--

"Accept our thanks, my dear child, for thy hospitality; it is not thy
fault that we cannot stay longer. Farewell!"

Then the little people turned quickly towards the door, and soon the
boy was alone.

Faint moans were now heard from above, and a sound as of suppressed
weeping.

Kuno also had seen the face of the lady, and knew that these doleful
sounds were uttered by her. Deep compassion filled his heart; he
forgot all the unhappiness that this woman had caused him, and, filled
only with the thought of helping her, he took a candle in his hand and
hastened to clamber up to her.

He found her crouching on the ground, her hands pressed before her
eyes.

"What is wrong, gracious lady?" asked Kuno timidly.

"Oh, I am blind! I am blind!" she groaned piteously. "The dwarf blew
into my eyes, and my sight left me."

Kuno, full of pity, seized her hand and led her tenderly step by step
down the winding stair, and on to her own apartment.

After calling a maid to her assistance, he returned to say good-night
to the poor lady. What he had never done in her days of health he did
now--he drew her hand to his lips and kissed it fervently. The lady
felt a hot tear drop on her hand; silently, but with scarce-concealed
emotion, she drew it away. This tear burned like unquenchable fire,
not only on her hand, but on her soul.

She spent a long and sleepless night; this unexpected calamity had
crushed her hard heart. But though the light was taken from her eyes,
a new day dawned within her. Her dislike of Kuno, her hardness and
injustice towards the orphan child, all passed through her mind in
fiery procession; and when she thought of Kuno's noble conduct, a
flood of penitent tears streamed from her sightless eyes.

Eckbert, on hearing of his mother's misfortune, showed himself as
heartless as ever. He railed at the dwarf and at Kuno as the real
cause of it. But he had not any idea of sitting through the long
tedious hours with his poor blind mother--that was Kuno's business, he
thought, for he had been the cause of it all. On the contrary, freed
from all restraint, Eckbert amused himself more than ever with the
chase and with drinking bouts, and tyrannised worse than before over
all around him.

Kuno behaved towards the unhappy lady like a loving son. He sat with
her and cared for her wants as if she had been his own beloved mother.
When the summer came he led her out every day into the garden or to
the rock where his mother lay, and tried to amuse her with his
childish talk.

Lady Von Allenstein was often deeply moved when she felt Kuno's
tenderness and thought of her own heartlessness. Once her emotion
overcame her, and she drew Kuno to her side, and said with tears--"You
are so good to me, who was so unkind to you; can you forgive me for
all the wrong I have done you? Oh! if I could only get back my sight,
I would take every opportunity of making up to you for my injustice."

Kuno was still on the most friendly terms with the dwarf nation, and
regarded the enchanted palace as his second home.

Exactly a year had passed since that wedding in the tower-chamber,
when King Goldemar again expressed a wish to hold a similar feast in
the same room.

Kuno's heart beat high with joy at these words; perhaps--but he would
cherish no presumptuous hopes.

Again the room was festively decorated; but no one in the castle got
the least hint of what was to take place in the isolated room. The
little guests appeared, and this time the merriment went on
undisturbed.

But dawn, the time of separation, was drawing near, and Goldemar held
out his hand to his protégé to say good-bye. Then Kuno held it fast,
and looked entreatingly into the good King's face.

"What dost thou want, Kuno?" asked Goldemar.

"I have one petition, the fulfilment of which will make me happy,"
answered the boy.

"Name it," said the King graciously; "it is granted."

Then Kuno led the King to the bed and drew back the curtains. There
sat a pale lady in deep mourning, her dark sightless eyes fixed
vacantly before her.

"Give her back her sight," begged Kuno, pointing to Lady Von
Allenstein.

Goldemar's eyes shone as he looked approvingly on the boy; then he
bent towards the lady and said, "I light the lamps again!" at the same
time breathing into her eyes, so that the sight came back immediately.

The newly-opened eyes shone with joy and gratitude, and in a burst of
weeping she sank into Kuno's arms, while the royal pair and their
train looked on in deep emotion.

"Farewell then, Kuno," said King Goldemar. "Thou hast found what was
needed to make thee happy--a mother's heart. We have kept our word.
Shouldst thou ever in thy life again need our help, thou wilt find us
ready."

With a loving look the King held out his hand, and the Queen and the
other dwarfs likewise took an affectionate leave of the boy before
returning to their kingdom under ground. Just as they were going
through the castle garden towards the entrance in the side of the
rock, Eckbert returned from a drinking bout.

"I have come upon these dull fellows unexpectedly," he said, grinding
his teeth, when he noticed the procession of dwarfs. "Now they shall
suffer for that box on the ear, and for my mother's blindness. I will
cut off the last clown's head and throw it in at that stupid Kuno's
window."

He slipped softly behind the procession. When they reached the door in
the rock, Eckbert waited till the last had put his foot on the
threshold, then he sprang forward and raised his sword. The same
instant the heavy rock door, which so artfully closed the opening,
shut to and crushed Eckbert's head to atoms. Without uttering a sound
he fell back, and his blood stained the snow.

The next morning offered a sad spectacle to Lady Von Allenstein's
newly-restored sight. It is true, Eckbert had been an undutiful son,
but still it was her child, her own flesh and blood, that now lay
before her a mangled corpse. The place where he had been found with
his sword unsheathed made Kuno suspect whose hand had caused his
death; but he was silent on this as on all that concerned his dwarf
friends.

Eckbert was buried with great pomp, but no eyes shed tears at the
ceremony save those of his mother and of the good forgiving Kuno. From
this time Lady Von Allenstein turned the whole affection of her
ennobled heart towards Kuno, who repaid her love with the most
heartfelt gratitude; and no one who did not know their relationship
would have thought, to see them together, that they were anything but
mother and son.

Winter and spring were past, and the warm summer weather had come.

On a bright summer evening the horn of the watchman on the tower
announced a troop of horsemen, and as they drew near with the sound of
trumpets Kuno's sharp eye recognised in their floating banner his
father's colours.

He had long since recovered, but instead of returning to his castle he
had once more offered his strong arm and brave heart in service to his
imperial lord. The war was now ended, and the Earl, whom they had long
counted dead, had returned, covered with scars and with honours, to
clasp his beloved son in his arms.

Lady Von Allenstein still lived in the castle, and presided over it as
before, but she was served now from love and not from fear. When she
died in a good old age, Kuno knelt at her side; her cold hand rested
on his head, and her dying lips spoke words of love and blessing over
her adopted son.



The Flower of Iceland.

[Illustration: HELGA AT HER MOTHER'S FEET.]


A substantial farm-house stood many, many years ago on the slope of a
hill in bleak and frozen Iceland. The owner, who had spent his youth
as a sailor in distant climes, had at last obeyed his dying father's
summons, and exchanged the palms and orange groves of southern lands
for the feeble sunlight and cold lava-fields of his native island. But
as a living souvenir of those happy regions he brought home a young
and beautiful wife, whose dark and eloquent eyes still shone in the
memory of all who had beheld them, long after they had been closed in
the last sleep.

"Marietta," her husband had said before the priest had joined their
hands in marriage, "have you considered well what you are renouncing
when you promise to follow me as my wife? Here in your country an
eternal spring reigns, sweet with the fragrance of flowers and musical
with the warbling of birds, while the Italian sky shines in
never-fading blue. On my island you will find none of these things. A
pale sun, a grey sky overhead, and all around barren heaths and
ice--ice and snow wherever you look; none but the Icelander can think
this island beautiful."

"But you will be there," answered Marietta; "and could I wish for any
home but yours?"

So she had gone with him to the far north.

They had one child, a lovely little girl, who bore the name of Helga;
she must be a true daughter of Iceland, and to this even her name must
witness. But her foreign descent was not to be hid; true, she had the
fair skin and beautiful flaxen hair of a northern girl, but her eyes
were as dark and mysterious as her mother's.

The Icelanders have no flowers; they know of their beauty only by the
tales of their countrymen who have seen them on their travels; but
every one who looked into little Helga's beautiful face thought that
flowers must look like that, and thus she was called "the Flower of
Iceland."

Fair Helga loved her grave father, but she loved still more her
beautiful and gentle mother, by whose side she spent most of her time.

Every spring the father set out for the coast with a few servants to
get fish for the year's household provisions; for though he dearly
loved Marietta and his home, the sea still exercised the old spell on
his heart. In summer and autumn he was accustomed to go to the distant
trading places along the coast, there to exchange the wool of his
large and well-conditioned flocks for the valuable products of foreign
lands, with which he loved to please and adorn his dear ones.

At such times Helga would sit at her mother's feet, listening as she
told in the soft, sweet sounds of her native tongue about the blue sky
and the warm golden sunlight of Italy, of the beautiful flowers and
evergreen woods, and of the fine mild nights when the young girls
would dance in the moonlight to the sound of the mandoline, and
pleasure and melody reigned over land and sea.

Ah! how beautiful that country must be; and here everything was so
different. No dance, no song, either from human lips or from the
throat of a bird. Helga had never even heard the sheep give a cheerful
bleat; everything was stupid and grave; the silence of death was
Nature's language here.

Then Helga's dark eye would wander away over Iceland's wide and desert
heaths, over the lava-fields that stretched for miles, and which had
buried the freshness of nature under their stiff mantle of mourning.
She gazed on those giant ice-mountains, untrod by human foot, which
rise like monuments of death, with thick mist-veils about their brow.
Even when a sunbeam happens to pierce the cloudy covering, the
colossal piles of ice shine in the pale light like sarcophagi in a
vault. Then Helga would shudder and think with ardent longing on her
dear mother's native land.

And she? Ah, her husband had been right. In spite of her love for him,
she pined for the sunny valleys of her childhood, all the more as she
never told her husband of the grief that gnawed at her heart, for he
placed his Iceland before all the paradises of the world. Ten years
had scarcely gone by till Marietta's warm heart lay still beneath the
sod.

Helga thought her heart would break when they carried her loved mother
out towards the hill, whence she had so often looked longingly out
over the sea, watching the blue waves as they hastened towards the
beautiful but distant south.

"When you bury me," said the dying woman to her husband, "lay me so
that my face may look towards Italy." And they did as she wished.

Helga often sat now on the grave, herself the only flower that
brightened it; and along with her dear mother's image those distant
countries came vividly before her mind, as she had heard them
described as long as she could remember.

A distant relation now came to take charge of the housekeeping. She
had willingly left her home, bringing with her her only son, in
compliance with her rich cousin's request. The stern old woman had no
sympathy with Helga's longings, and counted her descriptions of
distant lands as fairy tales; nothing, she thought, could be more
beautiful than Iceland. But Olaffson, her boy, who was only a few
years older than the little orphan, became Helga's eager listener.
With equal delight he looked on her beautiful face and listened to her
stories; the grave blue eyes, which were usually as cold as the
glaciers of his native island, would kindle as she went on, and when
Helga stopped he would say, "I will be a sailor, and travel to those
countries to see if they are really so beautiful!"

"But you will take me with you?"

"Oh yes, of course."

Thus the years went by, and the time drew quickly on when the tree,
the seed of which had been sown by Helga's hand, bore fruit. Olaffson
was no longer a boy, and he decided on going to sea. The head of the
house willingly gave his consent, and the time of parting came.

Fair Helga's cheek was pale. Olaffson fancied that it was the
separation that troubled her so deeply, and that thought sweetened the
bitter hour to him. But ah! it was only her grief at having to stay at
home on the cold and barren island, and at not being allowed to see
the countries to which, as she thought, she had a much better right
than Olaffson.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another year had gone. Olaffson had come home and given an account of
all that he had seen. The hour of parting again drew near. Early next
morning he was to set out on a second and longer journey, and in
spite of Helga's tears and entreaties to be allowed to go, her father
and Olaffson had only shaken their heads and laughed at her
childishness.

It was evening. She went with Olaffson to the grave on the hill, there
to hear once more about the wonders of foreign lands. Hour after hour
flew by; she could not tire of the delightful theme.

"Well, Helga," Olaffson at last concluded, "it is indeed as beautiful
in those countries as your mother used to tell you; almost more
beautiful--yes, much more beautiful; still, it is not Iceland. There
is no place so beautiful as our native land--no place."

Helga looked at him incredulously.

"You may believe me, Helga," he said. "Look; it is now midnight. In
those countries there has been night, deep night for hours; the sun
has long ago forsaken them, but it loves our island better, for it
lingers longer with us. Just look over yonder. It has just sunk into
the sea, and on the rosy western sky it paints in silvery outline the
beautiful leafy forests which are denied to our soil. Only look how
they nod their gleaming heads; does it not seem as if you could hear a
mysterious rustling among their branches? And are not the white clouds
above like eagles circling over their summits? And now look at the
clear light around you! The nights there are as dark as the
consciences of criminals; our nights are like the heart of a pious
child--light, clear, and still."

"But it is so cold here--so cold that my very heart freezes within
me," said Helga complainingly.

"But the cold is bracing," said Olaffson. "There, I found men weak,
cowardly, and effeminate. I could tell you many a sad story to show
this. Now look at your own land, Flower of Iceland, for you belong to
us; we are honest, brave, and strong as our fathers were, and our sons
will be after us, and that we owe to Iceland and its glaciers, its
cold but strengthening climate. I tell you, fair Helga, there is but
one Iceland, as there is but one flower in it."

Early next morning Olaffson was to set out. Helga's father said he
would go down to the coast also with his servants, for it was the time
of the yearly fishing, so that they might as well travel together so
far.

The farewell was short and silent. Helga struggled to keep back her
tears when she saw how merrily they all sprang into the saddle, and
when she thought of Olaffson's words about Iceland's brave people; for
she must show herself worthy of her race. But her dark eyes rested so
longingly on her father's face that he knew what was passing in her
heart.

"Come, Helga," said he, stooping down from his horse, "you may go with
us as far as the hill where the lava-fields begin." Then he took her
up before him on the saddle, and soon the horses were off at a canter.
Soon they reached the hill at the foot of which the lava-fields began,
whose dark lines stretched for miles along the horizon.

Helga could no longer restrain her tears. She threw her arms sobbing
round her father's neck and said, "Don't stay long away, dear father;
it is so dreary at home when you are both away."

"I will come back in a few weeks, my Helga," said her father,
soothingly; "meantime be a good girl, and help your cousin with the
housekeeping."

He kissed her snow-white brow silently, but tenderly, lifted her down
from the horse, and after one more pressure of the hand the little
band set out again.

Helga watched them till a sinking of the road hid them from view; then
she went back towards the hill, leant against the side of a rock, and
looked into the distance, shading her eyes with her hand. Then they
came into sight again, but so far away that Helga's farewell could not
reach their ear. A fleeting sunbeam rested on them a moment, making
horses and riders shine out clearly from the desert plain over which
they were moving. Then a mist, such as only Iceland's mountains could
send forth, fell around them, and Helga saw them no more.

She leaned her head sobbing against the rock, closed her eyes, and
wept hot tears of grief and loneliness. Then a voice of wondrous
sweetness sounded suddenly in her ear, "Why does fair Helga weep?"

Helga opened her eyes in astonishment. No one was there; she could see
nothing but the mist in the distance and the bare lava-fields at her
feet. She closed her eyes again.

"Helga, fair Helga, why are you so sad?" said the voice again; it
seemed as if it came from the sky.

A slight shudder passed through Helga's frame; she did not venture to
stir, but she timidly opened her eyes and looked up. But what did she
see? Was the azure Italian sky, of which she had so often dreamt,
coming here to meet her? Right before her, on the summit of the hill,
stood a form of majestic beauty, which must surely belong to some
happier clime. Eyes of deep and mysterious blue shone down on Helga
from the kingly countenance, and hair lovelier than her own, golden as
the stars of the summer night, flowed down over the robe of purple
velvet in which the stranger was clad.

"Why does fair Helga weep?" he asked tenderly.

Helga tried to regain her composure. "How do you know me, O stranger?"
she asked shyly.

"Who does not know the Flower of Iceland?" answered he with a smile.
"Shall I tell you some things about yourself that will prove to you
how long I have known you, and how well I am acquainted with your
history? Shall I tell you how often I have seen you sitting on your
mother's grave, and what images there passed before your mind? Shall I
say what longing a moment ago stirred your soul--how you wished to be
permitted to travel with Olaffson, that you might see those rich and
wondrously beautiful lands? But no such journey is necessary to the
fulfilment of your wish. Your mother's paradise is here--here close
beside you."

Helga's eyes shone, half in doubt, half in delight.

"Here, here?" she asked, incredulously. "How can that be?"

"Just come a few steps with me to the other side of the hill, and then
you will see that I speak the truth."

Helga took his proffered hand. The stranger who had known her so long
and so well was no longer a stranger to her, and he could not be an
enemy who was about to fulfil her heart's dearest wish. So she went
fearlessly with him to the other side of the hill.

The stranger placed his hand against the rock, which immediately
opened, and allowed Helga and her guide to enter. She stood
spell-bound with astonishment. Then she passed her hand over her brow,
and tried to think if this could be a dream. But no, it was reality.
There lay before her a wondrous region, more beautiful than her
mother's native land or than all her childish dreams.

Through the crystal dome that stretched above this paradise the sun
sent beams bright and warm such as the children of Iceland never see
or feel. Their golden light trembled among the green foliage of the
majestic trees, played with the flashing fountain jet, and flamed in
the cups of the transparent flowers.

In the distance the ocean rolled its deep blue waves round wooded
islands, and amid the fragrance of the flowers and the brilliant
colours of the lovely scene hovered sweet and magic music, which
floated to the shore of the sea, whose waves bore it in soft echo to
the happy isles.

Helga looked round with delight such as she had never felt before. Had
earth really such beauties, and was she permitted to gaze on them?

She stooped to examine the wonderful flowers, gently stroked the
velvet of their leaves with her white hand, and pressed her lips into
their fragrant cups. Then her delighted eye watched the fountain, as
its waters rose in a line of light almost to the crystal dome, then
fell in a graceful curve far beyond its basin, so that the shrubs and
flowers bent beneath its shining dew.

Then she turned towards the lofty trees, pressed her face gently
against their smooth stems, and looked up at their shining foliage,
which rustled softly in the breeze. Snow-white birds hopped from
branch to branch, and threw friendly glances at Helga as at an old
acquaintance. Was it these feathered songsters that made the sweet
music which floated with the sunbeams and the soft spring air all
through this lovely place? Or did the tall trees or the distant sea
give forth the sweet sounds that soothed with soft caress Helga's
heart and mind, bearing away on their melodious waves the past and its
memories?

Hours had flown by in this fairy kingdom, and to Helga they seemed but
as one moment. At last she turned to the stranger, who had followed
her every movement with loving eyes, and had noticed her delight.

"Oh, how shall I thank you," she said, grasping his hand, "for
bringing me here and satisfying the longing of years? But tell me
where I am; for Iceland's cold hills hide no such paradise."

"You are in my kingdom, fair Helga," answered the stranger in a gentle
voice; "and I am the fairy king of Iceland."

Helga looked at him in astonishment. No lips save her mother's had
ever told her of such things, and _she_ knew nothing of Iceland's
spirit kingdom. Therefore Helga felt neither terror nor anxiety.

"Ah! if I could only stay here always," she cried earnestly.

"I wish for nothing better," said the king; "and why should you not?"

"Ah! my dear, good father--he has no one but me," said Helga, thinking
for a moment of her home.

"But he is now far away," said the fairy king persuasively; "and you
can stay at least till he comes back."

"So I can," cried Helga in delight. So she stayed with the fairy king.

One day in this paradise was just like the next, as it will perhaps be
in heaven, where there is nothing to remind the blessed of the flight
of time, where it is all one gloriously happy present, because they
have no past to look back on with sad memory, and the future has
nothing more beautiful to excite their longings.

Helga moved with happy heart by the side of the fairy king through
this paradise. The white birds flitted around her, now and then
settling on her hand or shoulder. The sea with the blue waves gave a
sound of pleasant greeting when Helga and the fairy king drew near its
shores. Then when he seized her hand and they stepped together on one
of the little waves, this fairy boat carried them gently and swiftly
over to the happy islands.

At midnight, when Iceland's sun spread its crimson mantle along the
horizon, its reflection streamed through the crystal dome, glowed like
roses in the fountain and on the birds' white feathers, while the sea
rolled to the shore in violet waves.

Then Helga knew that she must close her eyes, in order to strengthen
herself for a new day of happiness. She lay down on the soft moss,
while the fairy king sat near her and took his harp. From its strings
streamed forth magic music which banished memory from Helga's soul.
The sweet sounds lulled her to sleep, and carefully guarded the gates
of her heart, permitting no dream to knock there which could remind
her of the past and its claims. But, once, the chord which nature has
placed between the hearts of parent and child, and which never breaks
even though seas lie between, sounded with a startling thrill.

Helga's father had come home, and his grief and lamentation at the
loss of his beloved child were so violent that Helga's slumbering
heart awoke.

"My father!" she said suddenly one day as she stood beside the sea,
and drew back the foot which she was just on the point of placing on
the wave that stood bowing its blue head before her. "My father! I
think I hear you lamenting my loss. Is it not my duty to leave all
these beautiful things here and return to him?"

A shadow fell on the fairy king's face. He silently seized his harp
and drew from it strains more beautiful, more heart-enthralling than
Helga had ever heard before. They floated away over the sea till the
waves sank into silence, unwilling to disturb the sweet melodies. And
in Helga's heart memory ceased to thrill, and the visions of the past
faded from her mind.

Then the fairy king told her how he had chosen her years ago as the
queen of this kingdom, and had watched over her since her childhood;
that he had prepared all these beautiful things only for her, with the
hope that she would some day be his wife, and thus gain for him
that for which his soul had yearned during long centuries--an immortal
soul, a boon which is denied to the poor fairies in every land.

[Illustration: HELGA IN THE FAIRY KING'S PALACE. F. C., p. 154.]

"Will you be my wife now, fair Helga?" he asked in conclusion. "I will
love you with a faithful love such as you would seek in vain among
your degenerate race. You shall never regret having given to the poor
fairy king the desire of his heart."

"I will, I will!" said she, seizing his hands with childish frankness.
"I will always stay with you."

The king's eyes shone with joy.

"But, fair Helga, the laws of our kingdom are strict; we hold the vows
of faithfulness more sacred than you do, although we look for no
eternal reward. If you become my wife, and by uniting your soul to
mine impart to me your immortality, then you belong henceforth to me,
and to me alone. Your father and your home have no longer any claim on
you, and if you ever return to them, then I must hold you guilty of
robbing me of my soul, and our kingdom will demand your life as the
penalty. Canst thou keep such faith as this with me, O Flower of
Iceland?"

Fair Helga leaned forward. "Look into my eyes," she said; "do you
think me so ungrateful? I will be your wife, and you shall gain
through me a never-dying soul. Do you think I could disappoint your
hopes of immortality?"

So fair Helga, the Flower of Iceland, was married to the fairy king.

A year had gone by. The sun shone once more through the crystal dome,
and fair Helga's fairy kingdom still bloomed in unfaded beauty; but
the Flower of Iceland was pale and sorrowful, and a tear trembled on
her lowered eyelashes.

Was the fairy king's wife not happy? Oh yes, she was happy, almost too
happy. Beauty and love surrounded her on every side; but undisturbed
blessedness never lasts long on earth.

Her husband was far away. The laws of the fairy kingdom compelled him
to go every year across the sea to give account of his government to
the supreme lord of the fairy race, whose throne stood in the rocky
mountains of Norway. He had promised to return in a week, and now
three weeks had gone by, and he had not come home. This thought gnawed
at fair Helga's heart, and made her blind to all the beauty around
her. In vain did the white birds flit around her head, stroking her
cheeks with their soft wings. Helga's soul was sunk in sorrow, and the
magic music with its soothing power lay asleep in the harp. At last
she rose.

"Ah! I must be disobedient, my husband; forgive me, forgive me! But
anxiety will kill me, if I do not go out to look if I can see you in
the distance."

She sprang up and went to the door in the rock. The birds fluttered
anxiously around her, but she frightened them away with her hand, and
touched the wall through which she had entered a year ago. The rock,
not daring to refuse obedience to its mistress, opened, and fair Helga
stepped out on the barren soil of Iceland. But after being so long
accustomed to the warm summer air, she shuddered as she felt the icy
breath of her old home, and with hurried steps she went to the point
of the rock. Here she stopped, turned her beautiful face, and looked
over her left shoulder towards the south-east.

Before the power of this magic glance the veil of the distance
vanished. Her look pierced through Iceland's fogs, flew over the
eastern mountains, and swam on the Atlantic waves to the steep
rock-bound coast of Norway. She saw the mysterious inhabitants of the
mountains, and the mighty fairy king seated on his diamond throne,
over which thousands of years had passed, leaving it still unshaken.
Around him stood his people in their unfading youth and beauty, bowing
in lowly reverence. But her husband's noble form was not among them;
she could not meet the glance of his deep blue eye, though she
anxiously examined every countenance. At last she looked sadly away,
and turned to go back to her lonely kingdom.

But when she went round the corner of the rock she saw a tall, manly
form standing in the very place whence she had once watched her father
and Olaffson as they rode away over the lava-fields. With a cry of joy
she ran to the spot. Could it be that her husband had been so near,
while she believed him far away? But the man, hearing her light
footstep, turned his head, and she looked not on her husband's
youthful beauty, but on the careworn face of her long-forgotten
father.

"Helga, Helga!" The words fell on her ear with a strange thrill. "My
child, you are still alive, you are still on earth?" and he stretched
out his arms towards her, and pressed her to his breast, while the hot
tears fell on her brow.

The long-silenced chords now sounded loudly in Helga's heart, memory
awoke, and the fairy king's harp was not near to lull it to sleep
again.

"My dear, good father," she said, thinking now of none but him, "weep
not. Your Helga lives and is happy; but how old you have grown, and
how white your hair is!"

"Yes, Helga, I had lost you, my only child; but now that I have found
you my youthful vigour will return. Come home quickly, my daughter.
How glad Olaffson will be."

At these words Helga's heart trembled. "My dear, dear father," she
said, gently stroking the furrowed cheeks, "I cannot go with you; I
belong now to another world." Then she told her astonished father all
that had happened to her since the hour when she said good-bye to him
at the edge of the lava-field.

"I have given my word," she concluded, "and, hard as it seems not to
go with you, I dare not, I dare not."

"Alas, my child, my poor unhappy child!" said the father sorrowfully;
"into what hands have you fallen?"

"Into the best and tenderest, my father," said Helga, soothingly.
"Would that my husband were at home, that you might see him; but I
will show you my kingdom, that your mind may be set at rest."

She took her father's hand and led him towards the side of the rock
which concealed the entrance into the fairy land. She touched it, but
the door remained closed; again and again she passed her hand over the
hard stone, but there was no movement.

Helga's heart throbbed as though it would break, and she sank down on
the hard ground, begging with bitter tears for admission to her
kingdom; but all was still, dead, and motionless.

Poor Helga! Without knowing it, she had transgressed the laws of the
fairies by speaking to a mortal of the mysteries of the spirit-world,
and now its gates were barred against her. With bitter regret she now
remembered her husband's parting command--not to return to the outer
world, to which she had no longer any right. Soon, she thought, will
the other awful threat be fulfilled, and she sank unconscious into her
father's arms.

He was rejoiced to see the fairy kingdom closed against his daughter,
and with a lightened heart he bore the precious burden back to her
childhood's home.

       *       *       *       *       *

After long hours and days of darkness, Helga's youthful strength
triumphed, and she opened her eyes in full consciousness. Her first
glance fell on her father, who sat at her bedside.

"You here, my dear father? Then my meeting with you was not a dream?
But now let me get up and go to my husband; he must have come home
long before this, and he will believe me when I tell him that I did
not intend to leave him."

"My child, look round you," said the father, soothingly. "Let those
feverish fancies die. See, you are where you have always been, at
home with your old father. All through your long illness you have
raved about a fairy king and his paradise, of your marriage and your
promises. But these were only fancies, my Helga, such as fever often
causes."

Helga looked at him in trembling astonishment.

"That is impossible," she said at last in a faltering voice. "Bring
out my clothes, and see whether Iceland has such splendid garments as
those."

"Splendid garments?" repeated her father as if in surprise. Then he
rose and brought Helga's dress, a garment such as she had always been
accustomed to wear.

Helga examined it doubtfully, then she passed her hand over her brow,
looked up at her father, and said in a low voice, "I cannot understand
it. Can one then dream such things as those?"

"Certainly, my child; it is always so in fever. When I went to the
coast a few weeks ago, taking you with me as far as the lava-field,
you must have climbed the rock to watch us and fallen asleep there.
Then the cold mountain mist crept round you, and almost prevented you
from ever awaking. When your cousin thought you were staying too long,
she set out with the servants to look for you; there they found you
lying on the rock in a state of unconsciousness, and brought you home.
A messenger was sent after us, and we returned as quickly as possible.
I left my fishing, and Olaffson gave up thoughts of his voyage, that
we might be near at hand to watch and care for you."

Helga sighed. Her father had never told her an untruth, so she felt
compelled to believe him, though her heart rebelled against his words
with bitter grief.

Ah! she little suspected that her father, in the hope of keeping his
dear child beside him and hindering her return to fairyland, had
invented this story, and carefully taught it to every one about the
house.

Helga's bodily strength increased day by day, but over her spirit
rested a cloud of melancholy, and she pined in secret for the paradise
of her "feverish dreams."

She was at last almost convinced that such they had indeed been, for
when she spoke to any of the servants about her lost fairy kingdom,
they always smiled and said, "Those were mere fancies; we were about
you all the time and heard you rave about them."

As for the voyage round the world which Olaffson had completed since
she went away, of that she heard nothing, nor was she aware that the
world's history had advanced a year while she tarried in fairyland.
The farm-houses in Iceland are separated from each other by long
distances, so that it was but seldom that Helga came in contact with
any of the neighbours; and if a chance stranger came to claim the
rights of hospitality, the father or Olaffson took care to warn him
beforehand not to disturb Helga's delusion.

But the precaution was almost unnecessary; for the Flower of Iceland,
once so cheerful and talkative, who used to greet the arrival of a
stranger as a joyous event, and was never tired of asking questions
about the wonders of foreign lands, the same Helga sat silent and
listless, and left the room as soon as the conversation turned on
beautiful scenery. For the visions of her lost paradise came back to
her mind, and it needed a conflict of hours to still her restless
heart. "Ah! it was only a dream."

Olaffson had given up his seafaring life, and now busied himself about
the farm. Helga's father loved him as a son, and intended making him
the heir of his valuable property. But he had hopes of giving him
something better still. He was only waiting till Helga should be once
more the joyous Helga, till the Flower of Iceland should raise its
drooping head. But this time seemed far distant.

"Perhaps she will be better when she is married," said the father to
himself, as he looked anxiously at Helga. She was leaning against the
grassy ditch that enclosed the farm, and gazing into the glow of the
evening sky. He stepped softly up to her.

"What is my Helga thinking of?" he asked tenderly.

"Of the evening rays that are now falling through the crystal dome, of
the little waves crowned with the roses of the sunset sky, and of the
sweet music of the harp," she answered dreamily.

"Helga," said the old man reproachfully, "will you never shake off
these delusions. You have heard from every tongue that they were fever
fancies; but you want to vex my heart."

"Oh, no, no, dear father. Do not think so ill of your Helga," she said
quickly, as she turned and stroked his cheeks caressingly. "I know
very well that they were only dreams, but you cannot believe how
deeply they are burnt into my heart. It seems like faithlessness to
tear them away."

"That is a remnant of the fever," said the old man. "Ah, Helga, how
happy should I be if you were yourself again!"

"And I too, dear father," said Helga, with a gentle sigh.

"I know one way of curing you, and if you love me you will try it."

"That I will, father."

"Do you promise it, my Helga?"

"Yes, dear father," she answered unhesitatingly.

"Then listen: Olaffson is good and brave, is he not?" Helga nodded.
"He loves you dearly, and my most cherished wish is that you should
become his wife, and that you should live under my roof, brightening
my old age with the sight of your happiness."

Helga grew deadly pale.

"Ah, father, dear father, I cannot."

"Why not, Helga? Have you anything against him? Is he not young,
handsome, and strong? Is he not brave and good? Could you find me a
better son, or yourself a more loving husband? Tell me, are you
influenced in this matter by those foolish dreams, the wild images of
your brain? Tell the truth, Helga."

She looked at him in trembling entreaty.

"Ah, my father, forgive me."

"If you want to make your old father happy, say Yes, and become
Olaffson's wife; if you wish to poison my last days with sorrow, then
leave my wish unfulfilled."

With these words the old man turned away in anxious grief, and moved
towards the house.

Helga hastened after him.

"Do not be angry, my father," she begged; "I will fulfil your wish,
come what will."

"I thank you, my good child; but what do you fear? What could come of
it but a father's blessing, with its fruits of happiness and peace?"

So Helga became Olaffson's wife.

Did the Flower of Iceland now regain its freshness and bloom? Alas!
no. In spite of her father's tenderness and her husband's love, she
still remained sorrowful and pale; deeper, if anything, was the shadow
that oppressed her soul. To longing was now added remorse, the
bitterest feeling that can disturb a human heart, for it is the only
one for which time has no balm.

"How could I ever rob you of your claim to immortality?" she had once
said to the poor fairy king; and even though the words had been only
spoken in a dream, yet they burned into her soul, and when she
consented to be Olaffson's wife, it seemed to her as if she had really
shut out that poor spirit from the heavenly paradise.

The short summer passed, and Helga shuddered more than ever under the
icy breath of the northern winter; but it too went by, and spring came
at last across the ocean to Iceland's snowy plains. The roads were
once more passable, and the first sacrament of the year was to be
solemnised in the church of the parish to which the farm held by
Helga's father belonged. Olaffson asked his wife to partake with him
of the sacred symbols, and she gladly consented. Perhaps she thought
this feast of reconciliation might bring back her long-lost peace.

She went about her work with more energy than she had shown for many
months, so anxious was she to have everything in readiness for the
morrow, for they would have to set out early in order to reach the
distant church in time for the service. She was just laying the table
for supper when she saw her husband passing the window, and by his
side a stranger of tall and manly form.

"See, Helga," said Olaffson as they entered, "I bring an honoured
guest; set out your best provisions, for he has travelled far, and is
in need of refreshment."

Helga looked at the stranger. His face was handsome, but over his
youthful features sorrow had passed with heavy hand. But when he
raised his deep blue eyes to Helga, and asked in soft and melodious
tones--"Will the Flower of Iceland permit a stranger to rest beneath
her roof?" a shudder passed through her frame, and the old conflict
began in her soul more wildly and perplexingly than ever.

These eyes, this voice, could they have spoken to her only in a
feverish dream? And if she had been deceived--what then? The thought
threatened to rob her of reason; but Olaffson stepped up to her and
said--

"Our guest must be tired and hungry, my Helga; will you not grant him
the welcome which the stranger has always met beneath this roof?"

Helga recovered herself by a great effort, and went out to prepare a
room for the mysterious guest, while the latter sat down at table with
the others. Then she slipped softly back, took a seat in a dark
corner, and gazed with mingled anxiety and longing on the stranger's
face.

"Look here, sir," said Helga's father, pointing to the sky, "do you
ever see anything like that in your native land? Do you not
acknowledge Iceland to be the most beautiful country in the world?"

"Yes," said the stranger, "your land is indeed beautiful; but your
home and mine are not so very far distant from one another."

He glanced at Helga--of whose presence the others were not aware--then
he described the land in which he lived, the same land that Helga was
said to have seen only in the delirium of fever.

She listened with breathless attention. It seemed to her as if the
splendour of fairyland once more surrounded her. She saw the blue
waves rolling at her feet, and felt herself, as in days gone by,
rocking on their gleaming crests. She ran merrily to the side of the
fountain and caught at the water, that she might sprinkle it in sport
on the birds; and she saw the transparent flowers bending their
fragrant cups in friendly greeting. Every moment she expected to see
the stranger throw aside his disguise, and, standing before her in
royal purple, touch the long-disused strings of his golden harp.

Alas! her father had then deceived her that he might keep her at home;
her heart had told her the truth, and she, instead of listening to its
entreaties, had weakly yielded to persuasion, and broken her sacred
promise. And now? Too late, too late--all was over. Full of grief and
despair, she hastened out of the house to pour out her heart in bitter
weeping amid the stillness of the night.

Next morning, when all was ready for the journey, when the horses were
stamping impatiently before the door, the family all assembled to
conform to an old Icelandic custom. In that island, before any family
partake of the sacrament, each member asks forgiveness of all the rest
for wrongs consciously or unconsciously committed. Helga took her
father's hand and her husband's. "Forgive me for all the anxiety I
have caused you," she begged in a low voice; then she added the
mysterious words, "and also for the sorrow that I am about to bring
upon you."

"You must also ask forgiveness of our guest, Helga, in case you have
offended him," said Olaffson. "You were not to be found yesterday when
he wanted to bid you good-night."

She shuddered, cast a farewell glance on her father's face, and moved
towards the stranger's room.

Yes, it was as she felt and knew. The dark garment of yesterday had
disappeared; before her stood the fairy king in radiant beauty, with
his golden hair flowing down over his purple robe.

She clasped her hands in silent entreaty, and her beautiful eyes
looked up with love and humility to the face of her beloved but
deeply-wronged husband.

"Helga, Helga," said he gravely, "is this how you have been faithful
to your love and your promise?"

"Oh, do not be angry with me," begged Helga; "to your spirit-eye
nothing has been hidden; you know how it all came about--how my
anxiety for you drove me to seek you--how my father found me, and how
I was going to show him our kingdom in order to set his mind at rest.
You know that the gates were closed against me, and that I was borne
back unconscious to my old home--that they kept me there by
cleverly-invented stories, and that at last my father's entreaties
forced me to the last and hardest step. But you know also that I have
loved only you, that my heart is yours alone."

"Be judged by thine own words, O Flower of Iceland!" replied the fairy
king quietly. "Why didst thou not listen to the voice of thy heart? We
fairies know nothing of human weakness, therefore we cannot forgive
it. Dost thou know the fate that now awaits thee, Helga?"

"I know it well," answered Helga firmly, "and if my mouth has been
unfaithful, my heart has been true. I welcome death, for it will
reunite me to you!"

Then a happy smile passed over the fairy king's noble countenance; he
stretched out his arms, and pressed Helga dying to his heart.

Finding that his wife did not come back, Olaffson hastened with his
father-in-law to the stranger's room. They found fair Helga in the
fairy king's arms. Both were cold and dead; in the same moment both
hearts had broken. Olaffson tried to take Helga away from the
stranger's arms, but in vain. What life had robbed him of, he held in
death with a grasp that could not be loosed.

"Leave them, my son," said the old grief-stricken father; "she is his
by right. What has all our prudence done for us? Worse than nothing!
The fairy king has reclaimed his own in spite of us."

They laid them in the same coffin, and next morning the soil of
Iceland was to receive them into its cold lap. But in the night that
followed this eventful day, sleep fell more heavily than usual on the
eyes of the mourners. They did not hear the whispering of gentle
voices or the hasty tread of many feet. They did not see the multitude
of fairies who had assembled from all parts of the island to show the
last honour to their beloved king. Noiselessly the spirits lifted the
coffin, carried it out of the house, and away to the rock where fair
Helga had begged in vain for admission.

To-day it was not denied her. The magic gates sprang open as the
coffin approached. With drooping wings the white birds hovered round,
and mourned the royal pair in notes of soft lamentation.

At the shore of the beautiful blue sea the faithful spirits lowered
their burden. There Helga and her fairy husband rest beneath the
flowers of this paradise, and beside the gentle murmur of the waves.
On the branches of the cypress that grows on their grave hangs the
fairy king's harp. The hand is cold that once touched its chords; but
when the morning breeze sweeps through them, they sound as of old in
magic melody. The sweet notes float on the sunbeams through the
evergreen paradise, pierce the hard rock, and hover as beautiful and
undying legends over Iceland's heaths and snow-clad hills.



THE SEA-FAIRY.

[Illustration: THE OLD MAN BESIDE THE CORPSE OF ANTONIO.]


The evening sun was sinking in a glow of colour on the waters of the
North Atlantic and on the rocky coast of Norway as a youth wandered
alone by the edge of one of its numerous fiords.

He was alone in the world; father and mother, brothers and sisters,
were all dead, and he strove to still the longings of his heart by the
wonders of foreign lands.

He had seen the midnight sun from the cliffs of the North Cape, and
his eye now rested in astonished admiration on the firmament and the
ocean, which shone in a splendour unknown to other zones. He stepped
close up to the edge of the sea, and looked down at the waves, which
here broke in gold-sparkling foam. But from yon rock but a few yards
distant he would be better able to enjoy the ever-changing play of the
waves; so he went up to it, and laid his hand on one of its jagged
projections to aid him in climbing. Then he saw something white and
golden gleaming at his feet, and when he leant forward to observe it
more closely he saw that it was the form of a young woman who was
sitting in solitude on this uninhabited strand. Over her garment,
white as spring blossoms, down to the purple hem, fell hair golden as
the waves at her feet, and her tender hands lay clasped upon her knee,
while she, dreamy and motionless, looked out upon the sea.

The young man scarcely ventured to breathe lest he should frighten
her; but a stone loosened beneath his hand and rolled rattling to the
ground. She looked up and turned her head, and now his glance met a
face of unimagined beauty.

"Who art thou?" she asked, in gentle astonishment; "and what seekest
thou here on this world-forsaken shore?"

"I wished to see the beauties of Norway," he gathered courage to
answer, "and I found them greater than I expected. But who art thou,
wondrous being, who venturest to stay alone in this solitude, with
none save the ocean and yon stern rocks to bear thee company?"

"I am the sea-fairy," she answered gravely. "The golden evening
sunshine, which streamed down into my castle, enticed me to the
strand, as it has done many a time before. But thou art the first
mortal that I have seen here for thousands of years."

He did not answer, but gazed dreamily on her lovely form. In his soul
the fairy tales of childhood shone dimly forth--tales of the crystal
castle under the sea, and of the fascinating beauty of the sea-fairy;
and now, could these have been no fables, but reality--sweet tangible
reality?

For a moment he covered his eyes with his hand, and looked again. No,
she had not vanished. The rosy light of the evening sun lay now on her
white garment, and her beautiful form seemed still more lovely in this
radiance. She rose slowly, and apparently with the intention of going
away to the waves, when such burning pain came in the young man's soul
that he took his hand from the point of the rock and stepped
respectfully, but with firm tread, up to the beautiful lady.

"No, do not go," he begged, raising his hand in earnest entreaty; "do
not go, thou vision of my childhood. But if thou canst not tarry
longer here, then take me down into thy ocean kingdom. There is no one
on earth to miss me; and now that I know that thou really dwellest
beneath these waves, I shall feel an unappeasable longing after thee,
as in the days of my childhood, when I lay for hours on the shore of
my native land hoping to catch a glimpse of the pinnacles of thy
castle."

The fairy stood still, and her eye, blue and fathomless as the ocean
at the horizon, looked in the young man's face as if to read his soul.

"Knowest thou what thou askest?" she said earnestly. "If I grant thy
petition and take thee with me, it is for no short amusement, which
thou canst leave when tired, and wander further at thy will. No; if
thou go with me it is to stay in my kingdom, and only with thy life
wilt thou be permitted to release thyself from thy vow. Consider it
well. In thy veins flows the blood of a faithless race; but we are of
a different nature. Ingratitude and faithlessness we punish severely,
and our heart knows no weak pity for those who incur our wrath."

"Try me, lady," said the youth, with firm determination. "Take me with
thee, and let me serve thee and surround thee with love and obedience;
and if thou find me faithless, spare not thine anger."

"Come then," said the sea-fairy, "and forget not that it is thine own
choice." And Antonio, for that was the young man's name, walked
joyfully beside the wondrous woman towards the waves. She loosed the
star-set girdle from her dress, and gave it to the youth. "Put it on,"
she said, "that those beneath the waves may recognise thee as one of
mine;" and he did as she bade him. Then she gave him her hand, and
stepped out upon the sea, which grew smooth beneath her foot as a path
of crystal. Antonio followed joyfully; the magic girdle prevented him
from sinking, and when the shore lay a few steps behind them, the
glittering plain opened and disclosed a glassy stair that led down
into the depths of the ocean kingdom. Did he step down on them, or
did they, rising upwards, offer themselves to his foot? He could not
make out how it was, for, now that he was led by the fairy's hand and
girt with her girdle, earthly laws had no longer power over him. He
only knew that they were descending into the water with marvellous
swiftness, and that the waves of the Gulf Stream, which flows with the
warmth of spring around these coasts, played softly round his head and
shoulders, while he breathed among them as freely as on the air above.
And when he looked upwards he saw the crystal steps break and form
again into waves as soon as the foot left them, and above his head the
sea heaved as was its wont, the great waves following one after the
other with a glorious play of ever-changing colours.

Soon he stood at the bottom of the sea; and here there was nothing
dark or gloomy, as we are apt to think, but all around the reflection
of the evening sky lit the clear depths with golden light.

"Now thou art in my kingdom," said the sea-fairy; "forget not that it
is the home of thine own choice."

His eyes shone as he gave a joyful assent. "His home!" And he would
never long for another; of that he was quite sure.

They walked together over the soft, shining, golden sand. Not far off
purple trees rose on their slender stems, and sent their wide branches
out on every side.

"That is my coral park," said the sea-fairy; "it stands in wide
circles round the ocean castle, and keeps the wild waves far from this
retreat."

Soon they stood at the gate of the magic hedge, and the fairy laid
her hand upon the rock. Suddenly an electric current seemed to stir
the whole line of trees. Thousands of little slumbering creatures
awoke, and stretched their tiny heads out of the openings between the
branches to greet their lady. She, meantime, walked with Antonio
through the intricate paths of the coral grove, till they reached the
shining plain where the castle of the sea-fairy stood. Its lofty walls
were crowned by a glittering roof, over which the waves glided to and
fro with softest music.

Antonio gazed in happy astonishment on the radiant edifice, which
excelled in beauty all the childish dreams of which it reminded him.

"And may I stay here? and shall I never be obliged to leave this
splendour?" he asked in a gentle whisper; but before the fairy could
answer there was a trembling in the waves around. Over the transparent
roof, and out of the shadows of the coral grove, came myriads of
little star-fishes of violet and rosy hues, and played round the head
of Antonio and among the sea-fairy's locks like butterflies on a
summer day. Then they fluttered away again, and lost themselves in the
trembling dance of the waves.

The beautiful lady, still carefully keeping hold of Antonio's hand,
walked now over the watery meadow which surrounded the castle with its
gentle waves; and when she reached the high-arched portal the
transparent gates opened of themselves, and the empress of the ocean
entered her enchanted palace.

Antonio's eye was dazzled by the splendour all around. Hall after
hall followed in brilliant succession, and over all stretched the high
arches of the crystal roof, through which the evening sky shed its
undiminished splendour. Warm and soft as the breath of spring, the
little waves glided through these enchanted rooms and fell back with
gentle splashing from the crystal walls--now shining like a flood of
crimson, now azure blue, and now like liquid amber; thus they mirrored
the changing play of colours in the fleeting clouds overhead.

The sea-fairy looked into Antonio's joyous face. "Thinkest thou that
thou canst forget thine earthly home here in my kingdom?" she asked
graciously.

"Forget it?" he replied. "If home is the fairest spot on earth, then I
have only found mine now. Henceforth all other places lie eternally
forgotten. But what is that yonder?" he asked, pointing to tall green
pillars whose tops reached nearly to the crystal roof.

"See for thyself," said the sea-fairy, and he moved by her side
towards the last hall in which the graceful columns stood. And now he
glides between their slender shafts, and utters a joyous cry as he
looks up at the transparent dome, beneath which leafy tree-crowns
waved, while little star-fishes gleamed brightly as they glided among
the leaves.

"Palm trees!" cried Antonio, breathless with astonishment--"palm
trees, such as I have heard rustling by the banks of the Ganges! This
must be some delusion, some golden dream, out of which I must sooner
or later wake. No, no, there are the tender lianas winding round the
kingly stems, and there in the shadow lurks my lotos flower, the
most beautiful of all the gorgeous blossoms of India!"

[Illustration: ANTONIO IN THE CRYSTAL CASTLE. F. C., p. 178.]

He dropped the fairy's hand, hastened forward, and looked into the
shining cup, whose purple streamers trembled in the waves.

"Yes, indeed, it is the lotos, gleaming in snowy purity like its
sisters in the holy stream, in whose cup the goddess slumbers. But oh!
how camest thou hither, beloved flower? But what do I ask? The holy
river of thy favoured home has caught thy falling seed and borne it
onwards to the sea, and there on its protecting wave thou hast been
rolled on and on, further and further, towards the south-west, till
the warm Gulf Stream received thee. Carried northwards by this current
of blessing which careful Nature sends to these icy realms, thou
camest with broken palm branches and liana sprays into this northern
fairyland, where the hand of the beauteous sea-fairy gave thee a
second home--one beautiful enough to make thee forget even the sunny
plains of India."

Did the lotos flower think so? Its trembling cup gave no reply, but
Antonio thought it did. Henceforth the kingdom of the sea-fairy should
be his home, and she herself be dear to him as his father and mother
used to be in the old half-forgotten days. His happiness seemed full
as he moved by her side through the wide watery realm from one wonder
to another, while her grave but beautiful mouth explained to him with
easy eloquence the mysteries of the deep, problems in the solution of
which curious men spend their lives in vain. Round them played the
gay star-fishes; beside them, on the gleaming sand, thorny ray-fishes
rolled like silver balls; behind them followed, in many-coloured
throng, the fishes large and small, their fins and scales sparkling in
the sunlight like silver and precious stones. They glided fearlessly
around Antonio, let him catch and stroke them, and looked up at him
with intelligent eyes when he spoke to them in human words. They did
not indeed comprehend what he said, but they all understood the star
pattern on the girdle, which still surrounded his waist with its
radiant circle, and made him known as the friend of their beloved
mistress.

Yes, it was pleasant to glide through the waves, with beauty, peace,
and harmony all around; but Antonio thought it more delightful still
to wander with the majestic fairy through the halls of the crystal
castle, to be lifted by gentle waves up to the lofty dome, and to look
up through its clear vault to the bright sky far overhead.

But Antonio's happiest moments were spent in the hall of palms, as he
rested in the shady corner where the lotos bloomed. The flower would
bend its white cup over his dreamy eyes, and the waves moved the
purple stamens over his brow as gently as his mother's hand. The water
flowed about him soft and warm, high overhead the palm trees waved
their leafy tufts, and the sea-fairy glided through the brilliant
halls, singing to her golden harp songs sweeter and more enthralling
than anything Antonio had ever heard on earth. Is it any wonder then
that he forgot his bleak, unmusical home--that he never gave it one
longing thought?

The summer sun had often sent its golden light, unbroken by night's
darkness, into the sea-fairy's kingdom; the stars of the winter sky
had often twinkled through the crystal roof of the ocean palace; but
Antonio had taken no heed to the flight of time. The years passed over
him in pleasant but monotonous repose; the little waves rippled and
sang with unchanging cheerfulness; and Antonio hastened from pleasure
to pleasure, without remembrance, without longing, feeling only the
present delight.

The sunlight of a new summer was making its way into the ocean realm
when Antonio came out of the palace and walked through the gleaming
water-meadows. The fairy had been called to a distance by some
business in a remote part of her extensive kingdom, and Antonio had
thus been left alone in the castle. But the splendid halls seemed to
him only half as beautiful without their lovely queen, and he
determined to seek the society of the merry fishes without. They came
swimming to meet him, slipped through his fingers, splashed the water
merrily with their fins and tails, and formed themselves into a wide
and brilliant procession behind him as he walked.

Soon the oddly-jagged branches of the coral grove arched above his
head. He intended to-day to explore every corner of this lovely park,
of which he had hitherto seen but one spot. He went further and
further into the maze of trees, and the fishes followed him at every
step and glided like silver stars through the deep red branches.

Antonio looked back; the bright sunny plain and the gleaming palace
had disappeared, hidden by the dense grove of coral; but to the side
at the outer edge of the forest he heard a sullen, ceaseless roaring,
for the ocean billows rolled high and dark beyond the magic circle.

He went further; everything became strange and awful. There was not a
glimpse of the bright familiar regions he knew so well. Purple
twilight lay around him, and to the side the darkly rolling ocean; but
there before him was a faint glimmering of light which became
gradually brighter. Could it be the crystal castle which he thought he
had left far behind?

At last he reached the light, and looked down on the scene at his
feet. Before him lay an open space, over which the sunlight streamed,
unhindered, in golden radiance, and under this flood of sunshine
rested rows of pale, silent sleepers, heart to heart and arm in arm,
as the rage of the ocean or the anger of the sea-fairy had torn them
away from their full, warm, joyous life. They had sailed fearlessly in
their trusty ships over the sea, perhaps even rejoicing in their
nearness to the haven, and in the prospect of happy meetings, when
they were suddenly shattered by a hidden reef, or dragged downward by
the treacherous whirlpool.

Antonio walked with loudly-beating heart among the sleepers. Here lay
an old man with long and silvery hair, and his withered hand rested
tenderly on the head of a beautiful boy; beside him lay a man, whose
youthful wife, even in the death-struggle, had not loosed her hold on
her tender infant; there slept two stalwart youths, their hands
clasped as in strong affection--they were brothers, as the likeness
of the features showed. And there--and there--and there, wherever
Antonio's glance fell, lay forms once beautiful in their youthful
strength, now cold and stiff in death. And yet they only seemed to be
asleep, for, however long they might have rested there, time had made
no ravages among them. Their features were unchanged, save for a
deeper peace; and when the coral branches overhead rocked in the
waves, sending their purple shadows over the lonely ocean graveyard,
there fell on the faces of the dead something like the reflection of
their former life.

Antonio bent over them, as if to read the last sad thought of the pale
lips--to learn the last unspoken wish, that he might take it with him
as a solemn vow, and fulfil it as soon as he could reach the upper
world. For the spell of the ocean kingdom was broken at the sight of
these white faces, and he longed now for his home, bleak and unmusical
though it was. With a deep sigh he took his eyes from this sad scene,
and advanced to the outer edge of the coral grove, where the lofty
branches bent and formed a low network, which divided the
resting-place of the dead from the raging ocean. He leant with folded
arms against the fence, and looked out on the billowy sea. The huge
waves rose black as thunder-clouds, hurled their white froth toward
heaven, and sank with sullen roar back into the deep. It was a scene
of fascinating horror, and Antonio could not tear his eyes away.

Then suddenly northwards through the surging waves came something
strange, dreadful, horrible. Its long outstretched serpent neck was
of changing green, and its wide gaping throat was full of sharp
destructive teeth; its gigantic body wound dark through the flood--now
drawn together, now stretched out in its immeasurable length, so that
even the lifeless waves shrank back, and Antonio's heart almost ceased
to beat with dread amazement. Thus the monster of the deep rose in
slow but ceaseless movements, and its threatening head was raised
above the foaming heaps of water beside the coral fence just as
Antonio caught the first glimpse of its poisonous tail.

"It is the sea serpent," he faltered at last, as soon as he recovered
his power of speech--"the monster of which the fairy told me that
death and destruction follow in its wake. The poor sailors up above on
the surface of the water, who have perhaps laughed and mocked at it as
an exploded fable, will now see and feel it in the last terror of the
death-struggle." And he clasped his hands tightly as he gazed upwards
in an agony of fear.

Suddenly a wide shadow darkened the waters, covering with its gloomy
wing the purple fence and the golden waves that flowed above the dead.
Antonio sought for the cause of this phenomenon, and saw far above in
the surging sea a low rock which he had not noticed before. Whether
the wild waves had torn it from the coast and driven it hither, or
whether the storm had forced it up from the bed of the ocean, he knew
not; but there it stood, dark and immovable, with the waves dashing
over it, and the sea serpent gliding round it in foaming coils.

Now he knew for what end the ocean was preparing all its horrors.
There, from the south, came a ship with well-filled sails, of firm,
substantial build, and guided by a skilful hand; it seemed to mock at
the terrors of the deep, for the deadly rock and the lurking serpent
were hidden beneath the water; the huge waves surged above both, and
covered them with their foam.

The captain of the stately vessel saw the heaving waves, but he knew
the powers of his noble ship. With flashing eye he stood on the deck,
calming the passengers with cheerful words, and shouting his orders to
the nimble sailors. He steered his ship confidently right over the
familiar track, in the midst of which the treacherous rock lay waiting
his approach.

Antonio watched the ship's advance. His terror-sharpened eye
distinguished every mast, every plank. It seemed to him as if he saw
smiling, happy, unsuspecting faces bending over the side and nodding
friendly greetings to him in his calm, safe depths below. He wrung his
hands in despair, and cried in his loudest voice, "Steer to the left;
oh! steer to the left, for to the right lurks double death." But the
next wave drowned the cry, and granted him not even the faintest echo.

Now, now must the end come--unavoidable and dread. Antonio covered his
eyes in trembling anguish. A sudden crash, one single piercing scream,
which with awful clearness rose above the roar of the ocean and the
hissing of the serpent, trembled through the waves, and thrilled
through Antonio's loudly-beating heart. His hands fell from his
blanched face, and he looked up through the sea.

The waves still rolled, the rock still stood in dreadful gloom, the
serpent still wound its frightful coils, but the scattered planks of
the broken vessel were driven round and round by the mad whirlpool,
and those who a moment before had smiled in the fulness of life and
happiness now wrestled with the waves. Strong men among them, who
would not part from life without a struggle, grasped after floating
planks, raised themselves above the waves, and looked round for their
dear ones. But the sea serpent came darting over the white-crested
billows, struck with its tail the floating timbers, and sent their
trembling burden down to the hungry depths.

Happy were those who, already choked by the water, had sunk down
unconscious to the bed of the ocean, there to slumber undisturbed. The
survivors were the prey of the monster. With its tail curled in horrid
rage, its green eyes flashing, and its vast jaws gaping wide, it
darted on every man whose powerful arm and stout heart would not give
up the struggle with the waves, and in a moment his death-cry was lost
in the sea serpent's horrid throat. With insatiable rage it glided
from one to another till all had perished, and not one was left to
carry home the dreadful tale. None would ever know the fate of the
goodly vessel and its precious freight.

Antonio had sunk on his knees, and his eyes had followed every motion
of the sea serpent till the dreadful work was done.

When all was over, the sea serpent rocked itself in horrid
satisfaction on the waves, and let them drive it at their will. But
the dark rock retained the power of motion, and sank slowly down into
the deep, making the waves foam and toss as they parted right and left
to let it pass. Then Antonio perceived that what at a distance he had
taken for a rock was a gigantic kraken, one of those sea monsters
which often lie quietly for years at the bottom of the ocean, then
rise to the surface and lurk with deadly purpose in the path of
unsuspecting men. He saw the supple, far-reaching polypus-arms, which,
grasping at the masts, had cracked them like reeds, and torn the
planks asunder with swifter and more complete destruction than the
mere force of the waves could have accomplished. The snaky limbs were
feeling aimlessly about the flood, groping down towards the soft
sea-bed where the monster would now fasten itself for a long period of
repose.

Antonio involuntarily shrank back, although the ocean, with its
billows and its still more dreadful monsters, could not break through
the coral fence or disturb the sparkling waters of the Gulf Stream. He
watched the kraken reach the bottom, settle down in its soft bed, and
draw in its long arms as for sleep. Then all became peaceful as
before.

The wild waves sank to rest, and the ocean flowed still and clear; a
deep blue sky arched overhead, the sun shot golden glances through the
billows, piercing to the lowest depths, and dyeing with amber light
the waves that flowed above the kraken, which lay like a long dark
hill not far from the coral fence, and parted from it by a narrow
current.

Antonio stepped back hesitatingly to the fence, and looked through. On
the sea-monster's back waved a forest of tall grass wrack, which had
taken root there during its long years of inaction. Through the waving
blades little fishes and sea-urchins glided fearlessly, and lazy
turtles crept along in the shade. But in the midst, as in a nest of
brown moss, lay something like a swan of dazzling whiteness, with
lifeless outstretched wings. Antonio was gazing fixedly on this
object, when a gleaming wave swept through the grass wrack, and raised
the dead swan's limbs. The next loosed it from its dreadful
resting-place, and bore it into the current which flowed towards the
place of the dead.

Nearer and nearer floated the bird, till it struck against the coral
network, and Antonio stretched out his arms to grasp it. Then he saw
that it was no swan, but a lovely maiden in a wide flowing garment,
whom the waves had hurled down from the ship to the sea monster's
back, and who had thus been borne to her grave. With a sorrowful heart
he caught her in his arms, lifted her through the coral fence, and
carried her to where the dead lay in their peaceful resting-place.
There he laid her by the old man's side, knelt beside the dead maiden,
and arranged the long fair hair, tossed by the waves, around the pale
but lovely face, and folded her marble hands as if in prayer.

The last duty was fulfilled, and he would now have been free to return
to the crystal castle, there to revel in new joy and splendour, but he
still knelt beside the maiden's corpse, looking dreamily into the
still, white face as one looks into a dim, far distance. He knew that
from her sleep there was no awaking; for in these deep waters no
living thing could breathe save one that wore, like him, the
sea-fairy's girdle; she was dead, and must slumber on till the
resurrection morn. The eyes remained closed, and the mouth could never
smile again, yet Antonio gazed at it as if it were about to tell him
some dear familiar tale--perhaps the story of his own life. Antonio
knew the sweet, innocent, tender face, but the flood of fear and
horror which had raged for hours in his soul had confused his
memories, and he only felt that the eyes and mouth now so firmly
closed in death had once smiled at him in love and friendship.

[Illustration: ANTONIO LAYS THE DEAD MAIDEN IN HER LAST
RESTING-PLACE.]

At last he rose, cast a last look on the lines of sleepers, stepped
back into the coral grove, and made his way through the shadowy paths
back to the sea-fairy's castle.

His ocean vision had lost its charm, the paradise of his childish
dreams was laid in ruins; the sunny waves, which so short a time
before had played around him with the soft warmth of summer breezes,
felt now so cold that he shuddered, and his breathing became laboured
and painful.

Again he rested in the hall of palms, and the stamens of the
lotos-blossom floated caressingly over his temples, in which the blood
now flowed more quickly, for the death-cry of the sinking crew still
rang in his ears, and before his eyes hovered the pale, beautiful
image of the dead maiden.

Where, ah! where had he seen those features? He looked up into the
waving summits of the palms. Could it have been on the banks of the
Ganges that such a mouth had smiled at him, from the band of Hindu
girls who passed him every evening with pitchers on their heads on
their way to fetch water from the sacred stream? No, no, it was not
there, nor in any of the favoured countries of the new world, that he
had seen that face, for there the maidens' hair was of a darker hue.
No; no foreign land had ever shown him those sweet features, and his
thoughts turned to his old, half-forgotten home.

The palm-trees beneath the crystal dome changed as he gazed into the
old wide-spreading lime-tree in his father's garden, and the song of
the waves in the fairy halls sounded in his ear like the tones of the
little organ which his father played at evening when the day's work
was done.

Antonio closed his eyes. Was it to call up more easily the old
long-forgotten scenes, or to hide the hot tears which started to his
eyes? It seemed to him as if he lay once more on the round bench below
the lime-tree, with his head on his tender mother's lap, and her soft
hand upon his brow; above him rustled the lime leaves, and through the
open windows floated the soft notes of his father's evening song.
Antonio lay there listening in silence. His mother sat with a happy
smile on her loved face, and by her side Antonio's old teacher, on
whose lips he and his wild companions hung in rapt attention, as he
told them of the strange lands which he had visited in his youth.

Oh, what a flood of memories rushed over Antonio's heart!--music and
fragrance, his mother's gentle hand, and the old man's wonderful
descriptions; and in the midst of all a tender, fairy-like child, in a
soft white dress and golden hair, who flitted like a sunbeam through
the garden paths! When she had gathered enough flowers, she came
softly up, sat down at her father's feet, and wove a garland; Antonio
kept his eyes closed, not to sleep, but to listen undisturbed. The
little one, thinking him asleep, rose softly and placed the garland on
his brow. Then he caught her hands, and playfully held her fast; but
she bent over him till her fair locks touched his cheeks and
whispered, "Be quiet, Tony; thy father is telling a story, and does
not like to be interrupted;" and she looked down at him and smiled.

The riddle was solved at last. It was she. It was the sweet child to
whom his wild boyish heart had gone out in tender love, and whose
image had gone with him into distant lands till it faded before the
brilliant, ever-changing scenes through which he passed. But now it
stood before him in its old beauty, and he loved her as though they
had parted yesterday--now, when she lay cold and stiff among the dead.

He rose, clasped his hands in anguish, and looked up at the crystal
roof, through which the evening sky sent all the bright hues of a
northern sunset. But all that he had loved to look on here had no
beauty for him now. Within was melody and song and unearthly
splendour; without, death, horror, and unutterable grief. He sprang
up, ran as if hunted through the glittering halls, and out to the
plain before the castle; but the floods which were wont to send
fragrance and song and radiance to hail his coming seemed to him now
filled with deadly darkness, and the sound of their waves was like
suppressed sobbing.

He turned away shuddering, and, for the first time since he came to
the fairy's kingdom, he directed his steps to the coral gate which
parted the Gulf Stream from the darker billows of the ocean. He passed
out, and walked in gloomy silence over the sand, which to-day seemed
to have lost its golden glitter. Soon he stood at the spot where the
crystal steps ended, and he looked up longingly through the heaving
flood.

"Oh that I could return just once to the free fresh air," he
sighed--"to my old forsaken home!" And his wish was fulfilled, for he
still wore the starry girdle which made the elements obedient to his
will. The waves parted like the petals of a lily, and formed
themselves into glassy steps. With a shout of joy Antonio placed his
foot on the lowest one, and he scarcely knew whether he moved himself
or whether the water lifted him from step to step. He saw the blue
waters become clearer and clearer, until he stood on the last step,
his head rose above the waves, and he drew deep breaths of his native
air.

With flashing eye and heaving breast Antonio looked westwards, where
the sun's radiant ball rested on a bed of purple clouds, while the
reflection fell in roseate and amber shadows over the whole heaven,
and the distant billows flowed like a mantle of royal purple.

But the waves which bore Antonio to the strand dashed up golden spray
just as on that summer evening when he descended to the fairy-land
below the sea. There lay also the red rock at which he had first seen
the fairy, and with a sigh he bent his steps in that direction. Was
there not some one sitting there now? Antonio shaded his eyes with his
hand, for he was still dazzled by the unaccustomed light. It was no
illusion. There, where the fairy once sat, was to-day a bent and aged
figure, and instead of the golden locks flowed silvery hair about the
temples.

"A human being!" was Antonio's first ecstatic thought as he ran across
the strand.

"Good evening, sir," he cried joyfully.

The old man raised his weary head, and his sad eyes rested with
indifference upon the youth. But the last few hours had changed
Antonio. The veil had fallen from his eyes and heart, and he saw now
with the keen true eye of childhood. The hair on the old man's head
had indeed grown whiter since he saw it last, and sorrow had graven
its deep lines on the high forehead; but it was the same clear-cut
mouth to whose words Antonio had once listened with burning eagerness,
and in the dark eyes still flashed something of the old fire. It was
his aged teacher, the father of the pale, beautiful maiden among the
dead in the ocean depths.

"Do you not know me, revered sir?" asked Antonio, with faltering
voice, as he bowed in courteous greeting.

The old man looked at him again.

"No," he said slowly, "I did not notice you among the crew; but though
you are a stranger, I am glad that you are saved. I thought I was the
only survivor from the shipwreck."

"Look at me once more, sir," said Antonio, trying to steady his
faltering voice, "and turn back a few pages in your life's history.
Think of a little garden, and of an old lime-tree beneath whose leafy
roof you often sat, while the sweet tones of an organ thrilled through
the summer air."

The old man's eyes shone more brightly, and his lips trembled.

"Antonio!" he stammered out, "Antonio!" and his white head sank on the
shoulder of his favourite pupil, who knelt before him with his arm
wound in filial tenderness round the childless man.

"Oh, Antonio! I have lost my child to-day, only to-day. She would not
let me go alone to the distant north, to which some luckless impulse
drove me in my old age, and so she came with me on my toilsome
journey. Today we struck on a hidden reef, and the same wave which
dashed her against the dark rock drove me, despite my struggling, on
this barren strand, though I would fain lie with my darling child
below the waves."

The old man covered his face with his hands, and Antonio did not
venture on any words of consolation.

"If I could even find her corpse," said the poor old man at last, "I
could bury her at home; but even the sad consolation of visiting her
grave is denied me."

"She has found a better resting-place than you could give her," said
Antonio--"she sleeps on a golden bed; a coral grove surrounds the
spot; corruption has no power over her fair features, and no worm can
touch her. Amid noble companions she slumbers, while the sunbeams kiss
her snowy eyelids, and the warm waters of the Gulf Stream flow gently
over her."

"How do you know all this, Antonio?" asked the old man in
astonishment.

And Antonio told him about that evening when he met the beautiful
sea-fairy at this very rock, and descended with her into her ocean
kingdom, there to live in forgetfulness of home and friends, until,
awakened by what he had seen and felt to-day, the old memories
acquired new power over him, and throbbed more strongly than ever in
his soul.

"What will you do now, my son?" asked the old man.

"I will go home with you," Antonio answered promptly. "I will be to
you a devoted and obedient son, if you will but let me."

The old man gazed at him with beaming eyes.

"Then let us go," he said, rising, "for I long to leave this place of
horror. In a few hours we shall reach the little harbour in which we
cast anchor yesterday evening, and there we can embark in a
homeward-bound ship."

"Let it be as you will, my father," replied Antonio. "But one duty
remains yet unfulfilled. If the sea-fairy had led me by deceit or
violence into her kingdom, flight would be but right; but I went of my
own free will, bound myself to obedience and unchanging fidelity, and
enjoyed her kindness and hospitality. It seems to me cowardly and
ungrateful to go away secretly, without a word of thanks or of
farewell, and the thought of this would destroy my happiness at home.
To-day she is to return. I will go to meet her, tell her what broke
the spell of her kingdom, and beg her to let me go in peace, and with
her blessing. Wait for me here. The air of this zone is soft, and its
night skies clear. Before the bright night changes to the brighter
day, I will come back to leave you no more."

He kissed the old man's hand, and went towards the sea. Meantime the
fairy had returned. The open coral gate and the empty halls of her
palace told her that Antonio was gone. Her soul was filled with grief
and rage. He was one, indeed, of that faithless race whom she already
knew and hated; but his eye and heart had still that divine image
which she sought in vain among the cold, dumb creatures of the ocean,
and in comparison with which the beauty and harmony of her fairy realm
seemed poor and unsatisfying. He had become very dear to her. She had
begun to believe in his fidelity only to find herself once more
deceived. But, as she had told him, the weak pity of mortals found no
room in her heart. She did not complain, and no word of anger escaped
her firm-set lips. She would go up to punish the faithless one, if he
was still within her reach, according to her former threatenings.

She passed through the coral gate to the place where the heaving steps
led to the world above. She beckoned, and the rocking staircase grew
firm beneath her tread. Just as she set her foot on the first step,
Antonio began to descend. They met half-way in the midst of the sea.
Antonio trembled, as she stood before him in the full splendour of her
magic beauty and her overwhelming majesty and might, and his soul
shrank from her, and turned with ardent longing to his own loved home.

"Whence comest thou?" she asked sternly, although her keen ear heard
the story of the last few hours in the louder beating of his heart.
"Whence comest thou?" Then he gathered courage to tell her all, and
begged her to let him go in peace.

"Rememberest thou not that summer evening when thou insistedst on
coming with me, notwithstanding my warning?" she asked in the same
severe tone.

"Yes," Antonio faltered.

"And dost thou not remember my threat, and thy demand that I should
punish thee if thou shouldst break thy faith?"

"I remember it all," Antonio said, with trembling lips.

"And in the face of all this dread and certain future dost thou still
dream of leaving me?"

"I cannot do otherwise," he cried passionately; "the ocean kingdom has
lost its charm since I have seen the gulf of irreconcilable enmity
which divides it from my race--since it has robbed me of what was once
my heart's dearest treasure. No, proud lady, let me go; I should be
henceforth but a dismal guest."

Her eyes grew dark and fathomless as the deep sea beneath them.

"Go," she said slowly, "but first loose thy girdle."

He drew a deep breath of hope and delight, took the starry girdle from
his waist, and gave it to the fairy. She took it, looked once more
into his face, and glided down over the breaking steps.

Antonio turned to seek the upper world, but the stair above him had
vanished, the step on which his foot rested melted from beneath him,
and he found himself floating through the dark, deep waters. But the
waves flowed no longer soft and free as spring breezes over his head
and breast. With his girdle he had given up his power over them, and
now he was but a weak mortal struggling with the raging elements. The
waves roared round him, and tossed him hither and thither like a
ball, while he strove in vain to breathe. He looked up to measure the
distance, then he struggled with all the strength of despair against
the waves. His young strong arm bore him upwards; once more he raised
his head above the flood and breathed the air of heaven. His eye
sought the red rock on which his old teacher sat, with his arms
stretched out helplessly towards his adopted son, whose desperate
struggles he had no power to help.

"I am coming, I am coming, my father," he cried confidently, but a
giant billow swept over the youth and hurled him down into the boiling
deep.

The evening hues were fading from the ocean, and the old man still
stood beside the rock, his hands clasped, and his eyes gazing fixedly
on the now tranquil deep. A dark object came floating from the west,
and the waves left it on the beach almost at the old man's feet. He
raised his dark eyes and looked at the motionless form, then he rose
and walked with tottering footsteps to the spot. There lay Antonio,
pale, cold, and dead. He had kept his word; before the bright night
had passed into the brighter morning he had come back, but not as he
had dreamed and hoped. The old man's trembling hands dug his grave at
the foot of the red rock where Antonio had first seen the fairy. Then
he turned his footsteps towards his distant, lonely home.

As soon as evening came again to visit earth and ocean, the sea-fairy
rose through the waves, went up to the rock, and sat down beside the
rock beneath which Antonio lay. There she sat, silent and motionless,
her white hands lying idly in her lap, and her dreamy eyes looking
out on the heaving billows; but down her beautiful face ran great
tears, that shone in the light of the setting sun, and told the pain
that throbbed in her proud and lonely heart.

Not till the hues of evening gave place to the rosy tints of dawn did
the sea-fairy go back to her ocean kingdom, never to return to earth.

No mortal eye has since beheld her, and the old saga of the sea-fairy
is no longer heard along the coast of Norway.

Antonio's resting-place is desolate, as of old. It is known only to
the Norwegian sky, which looks down brightily and sunnily upon it, and
the little waves sometimes dash over it, sparkling like the
sea-fairy's tears.



The Faithful Goblin.

[Illustration: FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH PUCK.]


A Castle stood long years ago on a lofty hill in the old land of
Hesse. Not a stone of its proud walls is now standing, and even its
site is well-nigh forgotten by tradition; but in those days its high
pinnacles were seen for miles over the country, and a haughty and
noble race ruled in its halls.

The beams of the setting sun were falling through the little
lead-framed window-panes into a round turret chamber, and rested on
the fair hair of a lovely little girl. She was kneeling on an
arm-chair beside the window, leaning her head on her little rounded
arms, and weeping silent but bitter tears.

"Oh, Margaret, Margaret, why are you so long?" she cried at length,
sobbing aloud, as she slipped down from her seat and ran to the door;
but the massive door of the castle chamber was too high for the little
hand to reach to open it, and the thick oaken panels kept any sound of
her crying from reaching friendly ears.

Everybody was far away--everybody, even Margaret her nurse, who,
forgetful of her duty, had left the child alone while she was watching
what was going on at the splendid banquet which was being given to
celebrate the betrothal of the eldest daughter of the noble house.

"Oh, Margaret, dear Margaret, come to your little Maude!" cried the
child again, as she rose on tiptoe and tried to open the lofty door.
But her efforts were in vain, her entreaties all unheard; and at last
she went back to the window, for it was beginning to grow gradually
dusk in the high-ceiled turret chamber. She climbed up again to the
arm-chair, leaned her arm against the window-sill, and looked with
silent weeping into the glowing red of the evening sky, where little
white clouds were swimming like swans in a sea of crimson.

"Maude, Maude!" said a clear voice suddenly at the other side of the
room.

The child turned her head in astonishment; at the fireplace there
stood a little boy, not any bigger than herself, and with just the
same lovely golden hair and rosy face. His coat was of red velvet, and
his feet were encased in little buckskin boots, richly embroidered
with costly pearls.

Maude's tears forgot to flow. Half terrified, half delighted, she kept
her eyes fixed on the form of the beautiful little stranger, and at
last she asked shyly, "Who are you, little boy, and how did you get
in? The door is still shut!"

The little fellow laughed merrily, and came towards Maude's chair.

"Ah, Maude! you have known me this long time. Just think now; doesn't
Margaret always threaten to call me when you won't go to sleep at once
at night?"

"You don't mean to say you are Puck, our castle goblin, who has played
so many tricks on people that everybody is afraid of him?" asked the
little girl quite fearlessly; "but they always speak of him as old and
wrinkled."

"Yes, I am he," nodded the little boy; "but I only tease wicked people
who tease me, and I am old and ugly only in their eyes. But I will not
tease you, but serve you whenever I can, and play with you when
Margaret leaves you alone, so that you need not be afraid of me. Would
you like that, Maude?"

"Indeed I should," said the child, with beaming eyes, "I am so often
alone, now that dear mother is dead. Father is always out hunting. I
am too little for my sisters, and Margaret so often goes to gossip
with the other servants, and shuts me up here. She has been so long
away now that I am hungry, and it is getting dark, and she is not
coming with candles and supper."

"You shall have both immediately, Maude; just wait a minute!" cried
the little boy eagerly, as he hastened back to the fire, swung himself
up by the iron bars, and climbed nimbly and easily up the chimney.

Maude had got down from her chair, and was standing in astonishment
looking up after him.

"Oh! you will spoil your lovely coat, dear Puck!" she cried anxiously;
but the only answer was a merry laugh from the goblin. Then all was
still, and the little fellow had vanished.

She stood with clasped hands, looking expectantly up the dark, strange
road which little Puck had chosen. She felt that it was all so
mysterious, and yet so delightful; it was just like waiting on
Christmas Eve for the presents. Then there was a rustling and
clattering away high up, and quick as a squirrel the little fellow
clambered down the sooty wall, and in a twinkling he laid his burden
down before the astonished child.

"Just wait a minute," he cried merrily, "and you will see how light it
will be!"

As he spoke he climbed up the wall, and in a moment the silver sconces
were radiant with lighted wax candles.

The little girl clapped her hands in delight.

"That is not all," said the goblin with an air of importance; "just
look here."

He opened the basket which he had brought with him. With magic
quickness, the table was covered and set with the daintiest dishes.

Maude needed no pressing to taste them.

"Oh you good Puck," she said gratefully, "how kind you are to me! Did
Margaret give you all that?"

"Margaret, indeed!" answered the goblin, growling; "she has no time to
think of you. She is too busy staring at what's going on, and tasting
stolen bits."

"But who gave you all this--this delicious cake and this splendid pie?
This must surely be the dish that Margaret says cook is so proud of!"

"Yes, that it is!" said the little fellow, nodding; "and the guests
made such faces when it suddenly vanished from before their eyes that
I nearly died with laughing at them--ha, ha, ha!"

"Vanished?" asked the child in astonishment.

"Yes, vanished!" laughed Puck; "do you think they would have given it
of their own accord; I put on my cap, so that they did not see me, and
then I packed up everything that I thought you would like."

Maude dropped the bit that she was just putting to her mouth, and
gazed incredulously at her little friend.

"What do you mean?" she asked anxiously.

The little fellow laughed heartily.

"Look," said he, as soon as he was able to control himself; "do you
see this little red cap? I have had it under my arm all the time I
have been talking to you; now I am going to put it on!"

In a moment he had vanished from the child's sight--though she peered
anxiously about the room, she could see nothing. Not a gleam of his
red coat nor of his golden hair was to be seen at all, yet his clear
laugh close beside her told her that he was there and as near as ever.

"Oh, Puck, dear Puck, don't play such tricks, please," she begged; "I
am afraid when you do that."

That instant he stood again before her, handsome and merry, shaking
his golden locks and smiling.

"You must not be frightened," he said soothingly; "I will always be
visible for you, and my cap will only be used in your service. Now
give me something to eat. No, not that cake! Break me some white bread
into this dish, and pour some nice white milk over it; that's what I
have been accustomed to for generations. In your great-grandfather's
time the good maid used to leave me some every evening, and in return
I used to help with all sorts of work about the house. Now, men are
not so good-natured, and won't give me my dues, and so I don't care to
be friendly with them."

"My good Puck," said the little girl, handing him his bowl, "you shall
want for nothing now! I get white bread and milk every evening for
supper, and I will always go shares with you."

Then the friends ate their supper with keen appetites, chatting all
the while like old acquaintances. At last sleep overcame the tired
child. Then Puck sat at the foot of her couch, and sang a strange,
soft, sweet lullaby. As soon as Maude was asleep, the goblin busied
himself in removing all the traces of their feast; and when Margaret
returned late at night, with many misgivings about her neglected duty,
she found the child in a quiet sleep, instead of being, as she feared,
ready to receive her with bitter reproaches.

Margaret breathed more freely, and resolved to be more mindful of her
charge in future. For a few days she kept her resolution faithfully,
but she soon began to slip out in the twilight to chat with a friend,
only for a few minutes, as she assured Maude. It was not long till the
minutes became a half-hour, and in a week or two she had forgotten all
her repentance and good resolutions, and poor little Maude would have
had cause again for bitter tears if it had not been for her little
friend.

Scarcely had the door closed after Margaret, when the goblin popped
his fair head out of the chimney, and sprang into the room with a
merry greeting. Then Maude would clap her hands with delight, for now
began the pleasantest hour of the day. There was no end to the stories
that Puck could tell for her entertainment. For hours together, while
her nurse was away, the child sat motionless, with clasped hands,
listening with bated breath to tales about days long gone by. For
hundreds of years the little goblin had lived in the castle as an
honoured member of the household, and his memory preserved more
faithfully than the family chronicle the history of every individual
of the long ancestral line. And before the astonished child the grave
seemed opened, and the forefathers who had long since mingled with the
dust all passed in the bloom of youth before her eyes. Then she would
go to the ancestral hall, and standing before the pictures gaze at
them, now in love, now in horror, for she knew the story connected
with each one of the old portraits.

No one in the whole castle knew of the child's friendship with Puck.
She was afraid that the servants might tease him if they knew of his
presence, or perhaps drive him away, so she kept her secret
carefully.

It was winter. The snow lay deep, the storm howled at night and
whistled in the wide chimney, and the windows were covered with thick
frost.

"Poor Puck," said Maude one evening, as the goblin came down the
chimney, his teeth chattering with cold, "I cannot allow you to stay
any longer up there. See, your hair is white with frost and snow, and
you are trembling all over."

"Yes, yes," said the little fellow; "it is very cold."

"Look here, then," said the child, going to her dolls' corner, and
drawing aside the curtain; "I have turned out the dollies. You shall
have the big four-post bed, and in the day-time you can stay here too.
I have set a little table and chair for you, so that you may have
something like a little room till the summer comes."

So all winter long Puck crept at night into the warm, soft little bed,
instead of springing back at Margaret's return up the cold dark
chimney.

Spring came with its primroses and fleecy clouds, and then followed
summer with its splendour of flowers in field and grove.

And now Maude and her nurse used to go out into the woods, to the
child's intense delight. But one day Margaret found the sun too warm
and the way too long for her lazy mood, and was easily persuaded to
sit down and rest while Maude ran to gather wild strawberries.

Scarcely was she out of sight of her nurse when Puck, who had
invisibly accompanied her, took off his cap, threw it into the air
with a shout, and stood before his little friend laughing his own
merry laugh. What delightful hours those were! What rich beds of
strawberries Puck knew--what choice flowers he could find! Then, when
the child was tired, she threw herself down on the moss, with Puck at
her side, and they both gazed up into the green tree-tops.

The goblin understood the language of Nature. He heard what the trees
whispered to each other about the trees of Paradise, with the golden
stems and the flowers of precious stones; he understood the song of
the nightingale as he sang to his mate about the beauty of the bird
Phoenix and its undying youth; he saw the beetles gleaming in the
grass, and heard even their soft sounds as they talked about their
brothers in the distant Indies, whose wings gleam so like emeralds
that the dark-eyed Hindoo women use them to deck their raven hair; and
even the silent, lifeless stone had an intelligible language for
Puck--it told him of the diamonds far away beyond the seas, which the
poor slave seeks with eager eyes, trying to find one large enough to
purchase his freedom. All this he understood, and told the child about
it as she listened in silent rapture, and gazed up into the whispering
trees.

Thus, in pleasant alternation, the seasons rolled by, and Maude
blossomed into maidenly grace and loveliness. She had become her
father's darling. Many an hour that he had formerly spent at the chase
or at the wine-cup he now passed with his daughter, amused with her
astonishing tales out of the family history. But she never would tell
him how she got all her knowledge, for she shrank from bringing
trouble on the faithful goblin, who still continued to be her friend,
and the companion of her hours of solitude.

Maude's only unmarried sister, Gertrude, was about to be united to a
brave young knight, whom she had chosen in preference to a powerful
but universally dreaded Earl, whose castle stood at no great distance.

At the marriage, Maude appeared for the first time among the grown-up
people, and, as befitted the occasion, she received as attendant page
the son of a neighbouring nobleman, who, being an old friend of her
father's, had allowed his son to come and learn knightly service in
the household of Maude's father, preparatory to his filling an office
in the Imperial Court. He was a handsome youth, a little older than
his young mistress, with brown hair and dark, dreamy eyes, and Maude
took an innocent pleasure in the beauty of her future attendant; but
Puck looked not well pleased when she told him about her new page.

"I will send him away if I don't like him," said he angrily.

"Oh no, dear, dear Puck, you must not do that!" said Maude coaxingly.
"If you love me, be kind to him; he is motherless, as I am."

But the little goblin was offended for the first time since the
beginning of their friendship, and when Maude went to rest he refused
the soft little doll's bed that had grown so dear to him, and sprang
instead up the chimney to the top of the tower. There he sat looking
gloomily up at the stars, and many were the sad thoughts that chased
each other through his ancient breast.

Next morning, when Gero came to the turret chamber with a bouquet of
flowers for his young mistress, he found Puck seated beside her in the
window-sill watching her at her spinning. The goblin had put on his
invisible cap at Gero's entrance, but it was of no avail, for the page
had been born during the ember weeks, and could see the little fellow
in spite of the charm.

"Why, Lady Maude," he cried in angry astonishment, "who is this that
you have in your company? It cannot surely be one of the goblins who
do so much mischief."

"Puck has been my friend and companion from my childhood up," said
Maude, a little hotly; "and I have to thank him for many a pleasant
hour."

"That may be," answered Gero, "but he must not take my place with my
mistress. And now your palfrey is ready, and I will escort you on your
ride."

Then the goblin's wrath broke loose. He called Gero a proud fool, and
said he would not let him interfere with him. Then he followed Maude,
who descended the winding turret stair, her mind full of distress at
the discord between her companions. When she sprang to her saddle at
the castle gate, Puck jumped up behind her, as was his wont, and went
trotting merrily off with her down the mountain. But his pleasure was
not to last long, for scarcely had they reached the broad, even road,
when Gero rode up to the side of his lady's horse, caught little Puck
suddenly, and set him before himself on his saddle.

The goblin would have been able easily to free himself from the hand
of the youth, if it had not been that Gero had wisely taken possession
of the invisible cap, and all the little fellow's efforts to release
himself only increased his tormentor's mockery. At last, when Gero set
him down again at the castle gate, Puck clenched his little fist, and
growled, "I will pay you back for this."

[Illustration: "GERO CAUGHT PUCK SUDDENLY AND SET HIM BEFORE HIM ON
HIS SADDLE."]

From this time on the page had little peace. At night Puck would slip
into his room, and disturb his sleep with all sorts of malicious
tricks; and once he even lifted Gero from his bed, and laid him down
close to the edge of the great well, hoping that, waking with a start,
he might fall into the cold, deep water. Gero escaped the danger, but
the adventure taught him to keep on terms of at least outward peace
with his little foe.

Maude did her part towards preserving this show of harmony by
allowing Gero alone to accompany her when she went to walk or ride,
and by granting the little goblin the old cosy morning and twilight
hours.

Puck accepted this arrangement with some grumbling. When the hour came
for the ride, he would mount to the top of the tower, and look after
the riders, as they trotted along so cheerfully, with a sad look in
his eyes.

"But he can't tell her stories like mine," he said exultingly; "no, he
can't take my place there."

No indeed; the young page had never listened to the language of
Nature, but he had delightful things to tell about tournaments and
noble deeds, and the soft voice of the forest trees began to die
gradually from the girl's soul, overpowered by the noise and bustle of
life.

Very pleasantly the maiden's days went by. The morning hours in the
turret chamber grew more and more dear to her; the rides in the green
wood and the tales of the unknown world had every day new charms; and
in the warm evenings her wise goblin friend used to tell her wonderful
things about the stars, as the two stood on the top of the old tower
watching the far-off lights peep out one by one.

One night, as she lay dreaming sweet dreams, woven out of memories of
the day's delights, she was awakened by Puck's sudden call.

"Quick, quick! do you not hear anything?" cried the little fellow
anxiously; "rise and flee for your freedom and your life."

Maude started up in terror.

"What is wrong?" she cried.

"The powerful Earl, whom your sister refused, has heard that your
father is absent, and has come to take a mean revenge by robbing your
father of his wealth and of his child."

"What am I to do, good Puck?" cried Maude in bitter anguish, clasping
her trembling hands.

"Dress quickly, and let us go."

"Through the midst of the enemy?" asked the maiden, trembling, for she
heard the oaken stairs creaking with the tramp of many feet.

"Yes, right through the midst of the enemy," said Puck, "but not
without my cap. Cover me with your cloak, and put this on your head.
Now, no one can see us."

So they passed unseen through the midst of the rough soldiers. Once
Maude nearly betrayed herself when she saw Gero fighting single-handed
against a multitude of foes. The winding stair that led to his lady's
turret chamber was narrow enough to be defended by one, and with the
courage of a lion he guarded the way to the place where he believed
his precious charge to be.

How hard it was for Maude to keep from telling him that his efforts
were needless! But Puck laid his little hand against her lips, and
forced her to silence.

"Puck, dear Puck, can you not save him?" cried the maiden, in
distress, when they were once outside the castle walls.

"Not till your safety is beyond a doubt," said the little goblin
resolutely; "not till you are away in the depth of the forest, where
they will never be able to find you."

With trembling haste Maude ran towards the wood, but the way was long,
and her eager feet tottered under her. Turning to look towards the
castle, she saw flames bursting from door and window. Still more
anxiously she pressed on till the tall forest trees hid the castle
from her sight. Even then Puck refused to leave her.

"Would Gero, who has, I confess, done his duty by you--would he, since
he seems to love you, wish me to go back to save him a little trouble,
and leave you unsheltered?"

Further and further they went through the very scenes where Puck had
spent so many pleasant hours with his child-friend. But now, the trees
that used to whisper so softly looked down like grim giants, and the
night-wind in the branches howled "Flee!"

Suddenly a gleam of light broke on their path with a mild silvery
radiance. A gentle murmur of water fell on the wanderer's ear, and in
a few minutes they stood by the side of a valley, which here,
forgotten by the world, lay like a home of peace in the heart of the
forest.

There, in the shelter of a mossy rock, stood the cosy cottage of the
old forest-warden. The moonbeams flashed back from the single window,
and trembled on the stone bench before the door. The cottage was
uninhabited, for the good old man whose home it had once been had
years since passed away, and his office had never been filled. Yet
nothing bore traces of decay. There was even a bright fire on the
hearth, and a boiling kettle hung upon the hook above it. For the old
forest-warden had been a good friend to Puck, and the little fellow
loved to keep the little cottage as neat and homelike as it used to
be.

Maude smiled gratefully as she looked around. "Thanks, dear Puck," she
said; "now hasten back to Gero. I will lie down on this nice bed of
fragrant moss, and I will not be afraid, I promise you."

When Puck returned, he found that the maiden's weariness had overcome
her anxiety, but he knew by the tears that trembled on her eyelashes
that she was thinking, even in dreams, of her brave page, and he
dreaded to tell her when she awoke that he had not been able to find
any trace of the faithful Gero. A great portion of the turret stair
had fallen in, and among the bodies that lay piled beneath its ruins
it was impossible to distinguish any one.

When the maiden woke, she almost for a moment fancied herself in her
own turret chamber, for there, at the open window, stood the
richly-carved arm-chair, the one carefully-preserved souvenir of her
sainted mother, where Maude had so often sat and chatted with her
little friend, and there in the corner stood her harp and the silver
spindle, with its snowy thread.

But alas! she soon remembered the terrors of the night, and when, in
answer to her questioning look, Puck told her, with faltering voice,
his fears for Gero, the maiden's grief found vent in bitter weeping.

But Puck would not allow her to dwell on these sad thoughts. Drawing
aside a curtain that hung against the wall, he disclosed to her
astonished eyes the portraits of her dear parents, which had hung
just so in her own room at home. And while she stood gazing on the
beloved faces, her hands clasped in silent emotion, the flame was
crackling on the hearth beneath the bubbling kettle, and Puck was
rummaging in cupboards and chests, rattling with plates and cups, and
preparing a meal for himself and his dear charge.

Maude, with the happy buoyancy of youth, half forgot her trouble of
the night, while her colour came back with the needed food, and her
heart was cheered by Puck's pleasant chatter, so willing was she to
believe his prophecies of better days.

"You must stay here, Maude," he said, "until your father returns, and
till he has punished the wicked Earl for his malice. For you would not
be as safe, even in your father's protection, as here in this forest
retreat. So be patient, and I will give you back in time to your
friends, even to Gero, if he still lives, though that will be the
hardest thing of all. But I know now that he was worthy of you, or he
could not have fought as he did last night. It was nobly done!"

And the little fellow rubbed his hands with delight, which he felt, in
spite of himself, in thinking of that valiant defence.

"You would have been friends yet if he had lived," said Maude
tearfully. "Two such dear, good people could not have been enemies all
their lives."

Days and weeks passed by, and still Maude was kept in her place of
concealment. From time to time Puck went out to see what was going on
between the hostile noblemen. The report brought back was always the
same--"The Earl is sending out spies--I see them lurking in all
directions--to find out your retreat, for they seem to know that you
escaped the fire, or to suspect it from not finding your body among
the dead. He wants to take you now as a hostage against your father's
vengeance." Then, when Maude's cheek would pale at the words, he would
add, "But they cannot find you in the midst of this thicket."

So the maiden still stayed in the forest cottage, and if her grief
about Gero and her longing for her beloved father had not gnawed at
her heart, she could have been nearly as happy in the lovely valley as
she was once in her old home.

Puck was at work every morning by break of day, as if he wanted to
make up for a century of idleness, nor would he ever allow Maude to
share his household toil. But she sat spinning on the stone bench at
the door, while he bustled cheerily about the little cottage. Then,
when all the work was done, they would go into the wood, and it seemed
as if the old days had come back again. For they still lay on the soft
moss gazing into the shady trees while Puck told his marvellous
stories.

Autumn and winter came, and the leisure hours were spent now by the
cheery fire that burned on the clean-swept hearth. Never was there
such a servant or such a merry companion as the little faithful
goblin.

At last spring came. And now Puck went away every day to see what was
going on at the wicked Earl's castle, for Maude's father had laid
siege to his enemy's stronghold, hoping to force him to give up the
dear one whom he believed to be imprisoned within those walls. Puck
never let the sorrowing father know of his child's safety, for he did
not wish her to be removed from his protection till her powerful enemy
had been reduced by war, or even slain.

As the wood grew greener, the hopes of the besiegers waxed daily
brighter. The fall of the castle was sure, and its defence could last
but a few days longer.

This was the news which Puck brought home one day as he came to the
noonday meal, and when he again went out to get further information,
or, if possible, lend, unseen, a helping hand to the besiegers, Maude
sat on the stone bench before the cottage, and tried to busy her
trembling fingers with her spinning. But Puck was longer absent than
usual, and she asked herself anxiously should she regard it as a good
sign or the contrary.

At last she could stand it no longer. She rose and went along the
narrow path by which she had come to her place of refuge. She had
never before ventured alone through those forest shades; but the birds
sang sweetly as she passed along, and she thought their cheerful
voices bid her hope.

Soon she came to the scenes familiar to her from her childhood. Here
was the place where Margaret used to sit and rest, and there--what
memories filled her soul with sad emotion!--there was the old
oak-stump on which she had sat by Gero's side, as he told her of the
great world of which she knew so little. And now the eloquent mouth
was silent, and her faithful page had fallen in her defence, for
Puck, in all his journeys to the castle, had never seen Gero among the
besiegers.

She leant her head against a tree-stem, and wept long and bitterly.
Then she raised her head to take one more look at the sacred spot. But
were her tear-filled eyes deceiving her? There sat, as if lost in
painful memories, a tall, manly form in gleaming armour, with a
well-remembered sash of silver and blue across his breast.

Maude uttered a cry. The knight raised his head, and she looked into a
familiar, but now pale and grief-marked face.

"Gero, Gero!" she cried, forgetting every other feeling in her wild
delight, and rushing with outstretched arms to where he stood.

The young knight's brain swam. At first he thought the sweet
apparition must be his dear one's spirit; but no, he clasped in his
arms the trembling form of the lost maiden.

For one moment she lay sobbing on his breast; then, recollecting
herself, she tore herself blushing from his arms.

"Forgive me, Gero, my surprise overcame me. So you are alive, and I
had mourned for you as dead."

"Did you mourn for me, lady?" asked the young knight. "Thanks for the
sweet assurance. I too sorrowed--oh! how deeply--for your loss; and
to-day I rose from what I thought would be my death-bed, and came to
visit the spot where we had spent so many happy hours together, here
to indulge my grief undisturbed. The wicked Earl who caused our
trouble fell to-day in the storming of his own castle, but great was
our disappointment not to find you anywhere within its walls. And now
you are here, and I am not deceived by a blessed dream!"

"No, it is no dream," said Maude joyfully; "but now let us hasten to
relieve my father's grief."

As they went together through the wood, Maude told the knight how Puck
had saved her, and how he had cared for her in the lonely valley.

"The brave little goblin!" cried Gero, as she finished. "Let bygones
be bygones; we will be friends henceforth."

They had now reached the blackened ruins of Maude's former home, but,
in the joy of dispelling the grief from the dear face of her father,
who stood gazing, in deep sadness, on the scene of desolation, the
maiden forgot to mourn at the wreck before her.

Ere the sun set, Gero and Maude were formally betrothed, and the work
was at once begun of repairing the ruined castle. Meantime, Maude
found a home with her future father-in-law, who was delighted to
welcome as a daughter the child of his trusted friend; and Puck found
no lack of employment among the busy builders, who wondered sometimes
what made the work progress so quickly.

Before another spring the castle stood in more than its old strength
and greatness, and no part had received such careful attention as the
turret where Puck had made the lonely child his friend.

No guest at Gero's wedding received such marked deference and
attention from the bridegroom as his former enemy, and the servants
of the new household, catching their tone from their master, treated
little Puck with kindness such as he had experienced at the hands of
former generations.

The turret chamber was his home henceforth, and all through the long
winter Maude's children loved to gather there at twilight, and coax
the merry goblin to join them in their games, or tell them tales of
the old days of the castle. But perhaps their mother's story was the
one that they loved best--the story about the old enmity that changed
to such firm friendship between the Lady Maude's page and her faithful
goblin.



THE FALLEN BELL.

[Illustration: THE STORM HURLS THE BELL INTO THE STREAM.]


Ere the light of the Gospel had shone on the benighted land of Saxony,
there stood on the green banks of the Saale a stately temple, within
whose walls a throng of ignorant worshippers presented the offering of
praise and of sacrifice to the gods who had been honoured, as they
believed, by their remotest ancestors. Then came Charlemagne, who cast
out the heathen gods of Saxony, threw down their altars, and
introduced Christianity. Among the rest fell the temple on the banks
of the Saale. The Christian priest with pious zeal seized the idol
which had there been worshipped, and hurled it into the river. From
that time on, the rejected god lived as a water-sprite down in the
waters of the Saale, cherishing a deadly hatred against the new
religion, which had robbed him of his old-established rights. On the
site of his former shrine rose now a cloister, and the bell, whose
deep rich voice reached even the dwelling of the water-elf, stirring
up afresh his bitter wrath and jealousy, called the inhabitants of the
surrounding district to the new God and His sanctuary.

But the old honoured faith did not so easily die out from the hearts
of the Saxons, and though they were obliged to join in the
newly-enforced worship, they clung long to their ancient divinities,
and secretly brought them the usual sacrifices.

At last the power of the Gospel triumphed, and the innocent child who
had yearly been offered to the water-spirit on St. John's day was now
withheld.

Wild was the rage of the mortified elf. All day long he watched among
the willows on the bank, whence he could look unseen far over the
fields, to see if they had really forgotten him. No sacrifice was
brought. He felt that the last vestige of his power was gone. In
gloomy anger against the thankless race, he resolved to take by force
the victim of which he had been cheated.

A lovely child approached the bank, heedless of danger, holding in its
tiny hand a bunch of forget-me-nots. Close by the water's edge were
more of the blue flowers, and he ran forward to pluck the tempting
blossoms. Then the waters of the Saale suddenly rose, swept over the
place where the child was standing, and carried him down in their cold
embrace. From that time people were careful to avoid the river on St.
John's day, fearing a similar fate.

As Christianity became more powerful, the cloister, formerly a centre
of holy influence, became the seat of arrogance and idle luxury, and
the water-elf, who knew that the God whom he hated was a righteous
judge, who would punish evil, often sat on moonlight nights among the
willows gazing at the cloister, from whose lighted windows came the
noise of clinking glasses and wild revelry. Then he murmured between
his teeth--

"I shall live to see you brought to shame! Your God cannot suffer such
doings, and I shall have my revenge."

And he did live to see it.

One night, when, instead of pious hymns, drinking-songs were ascending
from the cloister cells, a dark storm-cloud spread across the sky.
Thunder growled and lightning flashed, making all nature tremble. Men
fell on their knees; the monks alone heeded not the voice of the
Almighty. At every peal of thunder they raised their voices in the
vain attempt to drown with their wild chorus the tumult without.

Then came an awful flash, which gleamed like a coronet of fire on the
summit of the tower, and darted through the roof to the refectory,
where in one moment its deadly shaft sent all the profane and godless
scoffers before the throne of the eternal. The flame next seized the
furniture of the hall, and it was not long till the fire burst from
the shattered windows, for every hand was still that might have been
raised to check its progress.

The water-sprite sat on a stone at the river's edge, contentedly
watching the awful spectacle.

Every moment the flames gained greater force. Their fiery tooth gnawed
beam and pillar till they burst asunder with a crash, and at last the
devouring element rose from the ruined pile below to the belfry tower.
Then the bell, swayed by the heat, began to stir. Faster and faster
came the strokes, like a cry of anguish or a mournful knell sounding
in wild and awful tones through the uproar of the storm. The beams
from which it hung gave way, and with a great swing it fell into the
Saale, making the water foam and hiss as it felt the glowing metal.
The tower fell in, and the stately building was changed into a mass of
smoking ruins.

Gradually the rage of the elements was stilled, and nature sank again
to peaceful repose. The clouds were parted, and from the once more
azure sky the moon looked down on the heaps of rubbish with the same
mild and gentle glance as it used formerly to cast on the proud
cloister.

And what of the water-fairy. The downfall of his foes almost
reconciled him with his lot. The hated chimes no longer reached his
ear, reminding him of what he so wished to forget, his lost dominion.
The bell had found a resting-place on a beautiful green meadow which
lay at the bottom of the Saale. The sprite planted water-lilies all
round it, just as human beings adorn graves with the fairest of
flowers. Then he built a crystal castle right in front of it, and
brought home as his bride a beautiful water-fairy from the
neighbouring river, Elbe.

After a time children played in the shell-adorned halls of the crystal
castle, two beautiful boys with bright eyes and little red caps, and
their sister, a gentle little water-elf, as sweet and beautiful as her
relations of the land, the fairies of mountains and trees.

The sons were like their father; they hated the human race, of whom
the old fairy had told them nothing but evil, and they helped him
every St. John's day to entice some heedless mortal down into the
stream.

Their lovely little sister was of a very different stamp. A secret
longing drew her heart towards the land and its inhabitants, and it
was only by the sternest prohibition that her father could induce her
to remain at home. But at night, when sleep reigned in the crystal
castle, she would rise to the surface of the water, take her stand on
the great white water-lilies, which willingly joined to do her
service, and thus on this slender raft she would float up and down the
stream. Her long fair hair flowed down till it touched the water; in
her white arms she held a golden harp; and when she touched the
strings and sang her sweet songs that told of her longing after the
beautiful sunlight, after the blue sky and the unknown human race, the
trees bowed their tall heads to the water's edge, the birds hushed
their song, and even the night-wind held his breath while he listened
to the music of the little water-sprite.

It was once more St. John's day, and the old water-elf was in one of
his tempers.

The sun was shining on the river, and its rays flashed back in rainbow
hues from the crystal pillars of the water-castle. The meadows in the
cool bed of the Saale showed their freshest green, and the long grass
waved to and fro among the water, while fishes and water-beetles
darted between its stalks like golden stars.

The two boys sharpened their scythes and began to mow the grass, for
it was haymaking time. Their sister stood among the lilies beside the
great bell, holding one of the white flowers in her hand, and striking
the metal with its slender stem, so that it answered her in strange
and mellow tones. But she did it softly, very softly, for she knew how
hateful the sound of the old bell was to her father, especially on
this day. The sound was deep and musical, reminding the little fairy
of the chimes which she sometimes heard on quiet nights, as she
floated up and down the river on her raft of water-lilies.

Pleased with the dear, familiar tones, she forgot that her father was
near, and she struck the bell so loudly that the sound, borne on the
waves, thrilled through the castle, where the old fairy was leaning,
lost in thought, against a pillar, passing his fingers through his
grey-green beard, and dreamily watching his sons at their work.

When the hated sound struck on his ear, he started up with a cry of
anger, and looked fiercely at his trembling daughter. But before he
had time to give vent to his wrath a shadow fell over the palace and
meadow, followed by a crash, as if something had been broken in the
castle.

And such was indeed the case.

A boat was passing slowly through the waves above; the steersman had
happened to let the rudder fall, and its iron point struck with such
force against one of the crystal panes of the water-sprite's palace
that it fell, shattered into a thousand pieces.

This was too much for the enraged fairy. He rose foaming through the
water, and stood with flaming eyes before the boatman. "Insolent man,"
he growled, "what hast thou done? Repair the injury at once. If the
pane is not replaced within half-an-hour, thou shalt pay for it with
thy life."

The boatman laughed. "I don't understand glazier's work," said he,
"and I shall hardly be able to find any one who could work down there
in the water; so I cannot satisfy your demand. But as for your
threats, my good fellow, the time of your authority is long gone by.
There is not even a child now who fears you; and, besides, I have a
cargo of steel bars, and you know, my dear waterman, that they would
prevent you from coming into my boat to do me any harm."

At the mention of steel, a metal very hurtful to water-elves, the
fairy unwillingly retired. He cast one more look of anger on the bold
boatman, and on the little girl, who, on seeing the wrathful
apparition, had clung terrified to her father's arm; then he slowly
sank into the water. He sat down in his crystal hall, leaned his head
on his hand, and tried to devise some plan by which he could entice
the little girl from the boat into his kingdom, and, by choosing her
as the victim of the day, avenge himself on the boatman.

"I have it!" he cried at length; "the trick with the green ribbon that
I learned the other day from my cousin the water-prince in Bohemia
will be of use to me now. To-day there is some great ceremony in the
next village, and I am sure the father will send his child there to
have her out of my way, and then I may find an opportunity of trying
my skill."

So saying, he put on his hat of plaited rushes, drew on his green
coat, and rose to the surface to place himself not far from the boat
among the willows by the river's brink.

He had guessed rightly. Though the boatman had seemed courageous when
speaking to the water-sprite, a secret uneasiness rankled in his
heart. It was not for himself he feared, but for his only child; for
he had seen the wicked glance that the waterman had cast on the girl
as he disappeared beneath the stream. He consulted his wife about what
they ought to do for their child's safety; for they knew well the
dangers of St. John's day, which the mischance with the rudder had
unhappily doubled.

In the next village lived a distant relation, and the fair gave an
excellent excuse for paying her a visit. The little girl dressed
herself in her best, said good-bye to her parents, and received
injunctions to stay all night with her friends, and not return to the
boat before morning. Joyfully she hastened along the high-road, which
lay for some distance by the river-side, till she came to the place
where the water-sprite sat so quietly in his summer clothes, that no
one would have recognised in him the angry and revengeful spirit of
the morning.

"Where are you going so briskly, fair maiden?" he asked pleasantly.

"To the village, to the dance!" answered the little one merrily;
"don't you hear the music?"

"My dear child," said the water-sprite artfully, "the girls there are
all so finely dressed that you in your plain clothes will look very
shabby among them, and perhaps you will not even be able to get a
partner. But look at this lovely ribbon, of which I have such a
quantity. If you had that twined in among your golden hair, or wound
as a sash round your slender waist, you would outshine all the girls
at the fair."

The little one, who had thought until the old man spoke to her that
she would never get soon enough to the dance, now stopped, and looked
with a critical eye, first on herself, and then on the bright green
ribbon, which the water-sprite was pulling in endless lengths from the
river which flowed on the other side of the willows.

"Look how pretty it is!" said he, and she let him wind it, as if to
try the effect, around her slender form.

But immediately she was in the old fairy's power. With a mocking
laugh, he said--

"Now, my little one, thou art mine! We shall see whether thy father
will say to-morrow that my authority is overthrown, and that I have no
longer power to frighten a child. Come!"

As he spoke he seized the ribbon, and walked towards the river.

The terrified child began to scream, but father and mother were far
away. She tried to escape, but the ribbon forced her to follow the
water-sprite. Her feet would bear her in no other direction, no matter
how she tried. Nearer and nearer to the rushing stream was she drawn
by the dreadful ribbon. Soon the water touched her feet.

"Father, mother, farewell!" she cried in a voice of anguish. Then the
old water-elf caught her in his arms, and, with a horrid laugh,
plunged with her into the stream. The waters did their deadly work on
the poor child's body, but the water-sprite kept the soul of the
drowned girl prisoner at the bottom of the Saale. She could not mount
to heaven; she could not even rejoice in the sunlight which pressed in
softened radiance through the water to the meadow on the river's bed,
nor might she play like the little water-elf with the silvery fishes.
Heedless of her entreaties, the water-man put her under the heavy bell
among the lilies, and said, as he went back to his castle, "Here thou
shalt stay in punishment for thy father's insolence; and my watchful
eye and the weight of the bell will prevent any one from setting thee
free."

He went away, and left the soul of the poor little girl alone in her
prison. Her sighs and lamentations could not pierce through the thick
metal walls, but they were only sent back to her in dismal echo.

Meantime the little water-elf stood outside the bell in sympathetic
grief. She wound a garland of the fairest lilies round the little
girl's corpse, carried it gently up through the water, and left it
near the boat. The parents would never again see their dear child
alive, but she had laid the little body in a soft bed of flowers, to
make the sad sight less startling to their loving hearts.

Next morning, when the sun began to gild the waters of the Saale, the
boatman left his cabin to make preparations for departure, while the
mother, shading her eyes with her hand, stood looking along the
high-road, where she expected every moment to see the child appear.

"Look there, wife!" said the boatman, pointing to an object in the
water, which slowly approached the boat. "Look there! What is that?"

The woman turned to see. The waters of the Saale were gently bringing
a great garland of blooming lilies, and in their midst lay, with
closed eyes and folded hands, their loved and only child.

       *       *       *       *       *

The little girl's soul sat beneath the bell. She could not leave her
prison. Not a chink was visible, and the heavy bell would not move one
hairsbreadth, notwithstanding all her efforts.

"What will my father and mother say if I do not come home?" sighed the
child's soul. "Oh, my poor dear parents! Never to see the pleasant
sunlight or the blue sky! To stay down here for ever in this narrow,
dark coffin--oh, how dreadful!" And if a soul could have died with
terror, grief, and longing, that would certainly have been the fate of
the little girl's spirit The hours passed silently over her and her
prison. The hours became days. How many had gone by? The little soul
did not know. At last she sank into a kind of stupor, and almost
ceased to feel.

But one day something approached her prison, the edge of the bell was
raised, and the water-sprite's rough voice said, "Come out."

The opening through which the light was peeping was small, but souls,
with their light transparent forms, do not need much space, and in a
moment the little spirit slipped out, and now stood trembling before
the wicked water-man.

"Thou mayest play here for a little," he said; "but in an hour thou
must return to the bell."

The soul looked up. She had been so long in that dismal tomb, and now
she found herself all at once in God's gloriously beautiful creation,
though only for a short time, and as a prisoner! She forgot her past
sorrow, and thought not of the future; she rejoiced in the delightful
present, and looked up at the sun, which in noontide splendour stood
in the blue canopy of heaven, sending its rays down on the green
meadow, their brilliance softened by the crystal flood.

Then she looked around. Before her stood the splendid palace, with its
glittering walls and transparent pillars, and round her swam the
prettiest little fishes as fearlessly as if the little soul had been
an acquaintance for years.

A lovely young girl came out of the shining building, and asked her to
play with her.

The old water-sprite frowned in displeasure at his daughter's
friendliness, but the little elf did not look at him, and the child's
soul thought, "I must go back to prison at any rate, and he cannot do
anything worse to me!" So she took the friendly fairy's hand, and rose
with her through the silvery flood, chasing the fishes and trying to
grasp the sunbeams with her little transparent hand. Then she wound
garlands of reeds, and let them rise to the top of the water, after
she had pressed sweet kisses on them, and laden them with loving
messages for her dear ones up above.

As she stood watching them with tearful longing as they rose nearer
and nearer to her home, she heard herself called once more. The
water-sprite stood behind her, seized her hand, and led her back to
the bell. She turned for a last look at the clear blue sky; the next
moment she was back in her dark and narrow prison.

Hours and days passed slowly by. The time seemed endless to the poor
little soul. Her only amusement and her only pleasure was to go over
again and again that one hour of freedom and happiness.

One day, just as she was doing this, there was a noise outside the
bell; the ray of light pierced her prison again, and before the old
water-sprite had time to give her permission the little prisoner
slipped through, spread out her delicate transparent arms towards the
light of heaven, and with a cry of joy greeted the fair, free world.
Her playfellow was standing waiting for her, and together they left
the bell with joyous haste, slipped through the waving grass, and
danced on the sunbeams with the dragon-flies and fishes.

"Oh!" said the little soul sadly, "why does this delightful hour come
so seldom. Why may I not get out every day?"

"I do not know," answered the water-fairy; "but it is only on
Saturday, between twelve and one o'clock, that the spirits are allowed
to leave their prison down here and play in the sunlight."

"But it is so lonely and dark in the bell," said the child's soul
dolefully.

The little nymph looked at her compassionately. Both had lost all
pleasure in their joyous play, and arm-in-arm they looked up through
the water at the clouds which were slowly sailing past.

"There comes your father to fetch me," said the little girl's soul,
shuddering. "Oh! do come once, just once, every day to my prison;
knock against the bell, and when the sound pierces through my metal
walls I shall know that I am not quite alone in the world. Will you?"

A thought struck the young water-sprite; she opened her mouth to tell
it to her playmate, but just then her father came up, and she had to
be silent. She could only nod kindly at the poor little prisoner, whom
the old water-sprite led roughly away to the dismal prison, whose
narrow walls soon shut her out from the cheerful daylight.

It was night. Souls cannot sleep, but they may have waking dreams.

Thus the child's spirit was led back in imagination to her home. She
saw herself once more in the ship on which she had been born, and
fancied herself sitting beside her mother, listening to pleasant
stories told by the dear gentle voice, and as she dreamed she forgot
the impassable gulf which separated her from the living ones above the
stream.

Then the sound of a bell fell gently on her ear. She had been so
absorbed in her dreams that she started in alarm at the unexpected
sound, and it was a moment or two before she could collect her
thoughts to think. Then she remembered her request, of which this was
evidently the fulfilment, so she struck softly against the inside of
the bell as a sign that she had heard her friend's greeting.

Then the edge of her prison was gently lifted, and with a cry of joy
she slipped out into the water. There stood the little water-sprite.

"Will you go up with me to the surface of the stream?" asked she.
"Would you like to float up and down on my lily-raft?"

"Indeed I should," answered the little soul. "What do I want but
freedom, air, and light? Oh yes, take me with you!"

The lovely nymph took the child's hand, and a little shining wave bore
them upwards as on the wings of a swan.

Now they are standing on the surface of the water. The little
water-sprite beckoned, and from far and near swam the water-lilies and
anemones to make a boat of flowers for their young mistress and her
dear little pale companion.

They glided down the stream. Oh, how beautiful it was!

[Illustration: THE WATER-ELF AND THE LITTLE SOUL ON THE RAFT OF
WATER-LILIES.]

On they moved past lofty mountains crowned by stately castles--past
villages lying in peaceful slumber, whose churches mirrored their
graceful spires in the clear flood below--past the willows on the
banks, that nodded their drowsy heads as the night-wind played
through their branches. And over all these lovely scenes the moon
shed her magic light, and the waves sang softly their everlasting
song.

Then the little water-elf took her golden harp, and sent her clear
voice floating through the stillness of the night. She sang of what
was stirring her own heart and filling the child's soul with
sorrow--of their longing for happiness on earth or in heaven, which
was so far, so far from them both. The sweet sounds floated through
the silent night, till the waves checked their song, and the
slumbering trees awoke to listen to the enthralling strains.

"Oh!" said the child's soul at length, "why cannot I rise into the
kingdom of light? why must I linger far away from my heavenly home,
and pine down below in that dark dungeon?"

"Because," answered the lovely water-elf kindly, "my father has
sentenced you to the bell, and this spell holds you bound, and always
forces you to return to darkness and captivity."

"Can this sentence, this spell never be broken?" asked the little
soul.

"Yes, if a human being descends and overthrows the bell the charm will
be broken, and you may rise to heaven."

"Ah! would that that time would come!" said the little one
sorrowfully. "The only ones whose love would be strong enough to make
them take the risk are far away." And she looked sadly into the
distance.

When the moonlight began to pale, and the stars were dying out one by
one, the friends left their lily-raft, plunged into the flood, and the
little soul went back reluctantly to her dark prison.

So the days went by. Alone, alone in the dark bell, and once a-week
one short hour of freedom and sunlight--that was the lot of the little
soul, with now and then a sail on the lily-raft by the side of the
water-elf. Unspeakably delightful were these hours, but the longing
for their return made the dark days seem all the longer to the poor
little prisoner.

And this pleasure was but rare. The little water-sprite had to be very
prudent, for her cruel father might have made her pay for her nightly
journeys with her life, so displeasing to him was her hankering after
the human world, and her mild and friendly disposition.

Many a night the old water-fairy rose himself to the surface, many a
time did his sons sit among the willows; and often the water-man could
not sleep, and went restlessly through the rooms of his palace to see
that everything was right.

It was only on nights when all in the crystal castle were fast asleep,
and no discovery was to be feared, that the young nymph hastened to
the little soul, opened her prison, by raising the edge of the bell,
and rose with her for a sail in the lily-boat.

Years passed by, and with them hope died out from the little girl's
soul; nothing remained to her but memory and longing. In the world
above the water, what she had last seen young and fresh had grown
gradually old. The playmates of her childhood had been married long
ago, and some of them had entered on their eternal rest. Her father
had never recovered the shock of that unhappy day, and the secret
thought that he had excited the water-fairy's wrath by his defiant
words, and had thus caused his dear child's death, gnawed at his life,
and brought him to an untimely grave. Her mother alone was left. Her
hair had grown white, not so much through age as through sorrow. Once,
when in her solitude a deep longing seized her to see once more the
place where her child had died, she entrusted the guidance of the boat
to her brother's son, who was one day to fall heir to all her little
possessions, and told him to take her to her darling's grave.

The boat reached its destination the night before Easter. Here,
opposite the clump of willows, which had grown even denser than when
she saw them last, and above which the spire of the village church
raised its graceful form, the boat had stopped on that unhappy day so
many years ago. Here, therefore, was the anchor lowered, and the
boatman went to rest. But the mother, when she found herself so near
the fatal spot, could not sleep. The most dreadful hour of her life,
when she stood watching for the coming of her merry child, and saw
instead but her pale, cold corpse, came again before her soul, and she
passed the night in bitter weeping.

When the first gleam of daylight played on the stream, she rose and
went on deck. All the stars had gone to rest except the morning star,
and even its radiance grew gradually fainter; for the young day began
to don his golden festive robe. The poor mother leaned over the edge
of the boat, and looked down into the water. The sky was one glow of
purple, and on the stream lay the roses of the dawn. The Easter sun
rose slowly above the horizon, and as its first beam struck the river
a sound of solemn melancholy came upwards from its depths.

"What was that?" said the woman, leaning forward to listen.

A second chime broke the stillness of the morning, and soon the bell
began to ring in tones of wondrous richness from the bed of the river.
With the chimes, and borne on the sunbeams, which cheerfully plunged
into the stream, and rose again radiant from the crystal flood, came a
sweet, familiar voice to thrill the heart of the listening mother.

    "Jesus lives, and I in Him:
    Where is thy victory, O grave?
    Jesus lives to set me free,
    My captive soul His love will save;
    Jesus will lead me to the light,
    This the sure hope that cheers my night."

So sang her child's clear voice in the words of the hymn which she
herself had once taught her, and which the little one used to sing on
Easter morning. The child's soul was still imprisoned, but now, on the
day of Christ's resurrection, when the bell began to ring as the first
sunbeam touched it, she felt a strange, sweet joy, that made her feel
inclined to join her voice with its mellow chimes.

On the great Christian festivals all bells that have sunk in rivers
or lakes awake to join in the hymn of all creation, and when, among
the rest, the little girl's bell began to sound, her grief and longing
generally awoke afresh. But to-day with the first note her sadness
suddenly vanished, and a strange joy sprang up in her heart. She
folded her delicate hands, and sang the verse of her childhood. But
the metal did not send the sound back to her as on other days; it
pierced through the walls, and floated through the waves up to the ear
and heart of her sorrowing mother.

Yes, it was her child's voice; every drop of blood, every pulse-beat
of her trembling body told her that. She had indeed found her little
daughter's corpse; but her soul must have remained in the power of the
cruel water-sprite, and had been pining all these years down in the
stream, shut out from light and liberty and love. All the stories that
she had heard of the imprisonment of souls, and which she had always
laughed at as childish tales, came into her mind, and filled her with
unspeakable anguish. Her captivity must be somehow connected with the
bells, or else the chimes would not have mingled as they did with the
hymn. She leaned over the edge of the boat, and looked down into the
water.

There was a sudden splashing and foaming in the river, and the old
water-sprite slowly rose, parted the waves, and stood before the
terrified woman. It was the same powerful form, the erect carriage,
the long grey-green beard, for the hand of time passes more gently
over spirits than over men. The woman recognised him at the first
glance, for she had seen him from her cabin window as he vented his
wrath on her husband, though she herself was out of sight. She knew
that the murderer of her child stood before her, but the water-sprite
did not suspect that this was the mother of his little prisoner.

"My wife is ill," he said gloomily. "The chimes in the water always
make her ill, but there must have been some special power in them
to-day, for she is writhing in agony, and she begged me to bring her a
woman of the human race, to lay her warm hand on her aching head, and
restore her to health. Come with me," he concluded sullenly; "it is
not for nothing that I ask this."

The woman could have shouted with joy. Her enemy himself was about to
lead her to the place where all her affections were centered; it
seemed to her a sign from heaven, and she went fearlessly to the edge
of the boat, and prepared to plunge into the stream.

"Not so," growled the water-sprite: "thou couldst not reach the bottom
alive--a thing which would have pleased me well enough at any other
time, but to-day it would not suit my purpose. Take this ring!"

She placed the glittering circle on her finger, and followed the
water-elf into the river. Thus protected, she could walk through the
water as on dry land, and breathe in the river as freely as in the
air.

They came to the beautiful green meadow, passed the clump of
water-lilies, in the midst of which the woman's quick eye had already
noted the bell, and entered the crystal castle. There, in a spacious
and glittering hall, lay, on a glass bed with shining pillows of
fish-scales, the wife of the water-elf. She was tossing in restless
pain, and as the woman entered she stretched out her hands
entreatingly. The little nymph knelt sobbing by her sick mother's
side, and even the rough sons looked on with grave faces.

The boatman's widow went up to the bed, and laid her warm hand on the
sick fairy's cold, white forehead. Almost instantaneously the pain
vanished, and she fell into a gentle sleep.

The little nymph grasped the woman's hand, and said, while her eyes
shone with grateful tears, "Come, I will get you some of our beautiful
lilies."

The old water-sprite, in his anxiety about his wife, had quite
forgotten the little prisoner below the bell, and, besides, he had no
reason to suspect that this strange woman knew anything about the
little soul. So, though he did not like to see his daughter so
friendly with the human race, he did not try to hinder her from
getting the flowers, but sat down quietly to watch his sick wife's
slumber.

How the mother's heart beat as she arrived at the lilies, pressed
through their intertwining stems, and stood at last close to the bell.
With trembling hand she knocked, and the sound thrilled through the
child's spirit.

The little water-elf stood in amazement as she watched her visitor
making her way so eagerly among the lilies, and great was her alarm
when she heard the bell sound, for she thought of her sick mother and
her father's wrath. But before she had time to remonstrate, the
little soul said, "Who knocks?" She knew it could not be her friend
the young nymph, for she came only at night, and this was early in the
morning. "Who knocks?" she asked again with trembling voice.

The mother thought her heart would break with joy; her breath left
her, and she could not answer just at once; yet the greatest haste was
needful, for the old water-sprite might be beside her every moment.

"It is your mother, my dear child," she said at last with trembling
lips; "tell me, oh! tell me quickly how I can set you free."

"Mother, mother!" cried the little prisoner; "mother, is it you?"

"It is indeed, my darling," said the mother anxiously; "but we must
not lose any time, for the water-sprite may come any moment, and then
I shall not be able to help you."

The words brought the little soul back to reality.

"Mother, dear mother, throw the bell down, and your child's soul will
thank you for ever in the heavenly world," begged the girlish voice.

The mother put forth all her strength, but the bell, which the spirits
moved so easily, would not yield an inch before the woman's efforts.

When the old water-sprite heard it sound, he went to one of the
high-arched windows, and saw the widow struggling to overturn her poor
child's prison. He beckoned to his sons, and quickly but noiselessly
the three left the palace. Once outside, they screamed with furious
rage.

The little captive heard the wild cry, and trembled. The mother heard
it, and the thought that on one moment hung her own life and her dear
child's future happiness gave her gigantic strength; one desperate
effort, and the heavy bell gave way, and lay on its side.

It was almost too late; for the angry water-sprites had reached the
spot, and stretched out their hands to seize the woman.

But the little soul had left her prison, snatched up her mother in her
arms, and darted quick as lightning up through the waves. When they
reached the land the mother felt her child's arms taken from around
her, while a light, cold kiss was pressed upon her cheek. Then the
slight, transparent form of her loved one soared like a cloud towards
heaven, till it was lost to her sight. With mingled joy and grief she
watched the vanishing soul.

"Oh! leave me not behind, my child; take me also up to heaven!" she
cried, amid streaming tears.

Night came once more, and with his starry mantle covered joy and
sorrow, life and death. The poor mother lay on a narrow couch in the
cabin of her boat. She was wearied out with the day's lamentations,
and a gentle sleep had kindly blotted from her mind her bitter sorrow.
It seemed to the sleeping one as if heavenly radiance filled the
little room, and an angel with shining wings approached her bed. But
when she looked on the face it was that of her dear child, whom she
had yesterday freed from the power of the water-sprite.

"Mother, dear mother, come!" said the loved voice; "I am sent to
fetch thee, that thou mayest keep the Easter feast in heaven with
father and me."

And she took her mother in her arms, soared out into the night, high
above land and sea, higher and higher, past the glittering stars, till
they arrived at last in the glorious heavenly temple, and met the
loved father and the beautiful angels.

Next morning, when the nephew found the woman was not rising, he went
into the cabin and stepped up to the bed. There she lay, cold and
dead, but her hands were folded in prayer, and round her mouth and her
closed eyes was a smile of peace and happiness.



The Last Home of the Giants.

[Illustration: ASLOG RETURNS TO HER FATHER.]


Vale and mountain alternated in beautiful succession beneath the blue
sky of Norway thousands of years ago just as they do to-day, and the
Gulf Stream flowed then as now past its rugged coasts; yet it was a
far different land. In the thick forests no axe had yet been heard
felling the strong timbers that the Norwegian rivers would bear down
to the sea, to float hereafter as noble ships upon the breast of the
ocean; in the sheltered bays no cosy houses nestled with their
neatly-kept surroundings of garden and field; no boat yet flew over
the sea with nets and fishing tackle. Man had not yet sought out as a
home this beautiful northern land.

A race of giants, of tall and powerful build, dwelt there. Their
lifetime was measured by centuries as ours by years. They tore rocks
asunder with their hands, and left the great streams a free channel.
They bore huge blocks on their shoulders to the shore, and built them
into castles whose turrets towered into the clouds. Their voice
drowned the roar of the ocean, and scared the eagle from its nest. But
this powerful race, beneath whose tread the ground trembled, were of
peaceful, harmless disposition. No quarrel divided, nor envy
embittered, their hearts. They lived together like the children of one
great family.

Their chief was Hrungnir. His companions voluntarily submitted to his
control; for he excelled them all in years, wisdom, and strength, as a
father his children.

Hrungnir lived in a splendid castle by the sea. The mountains of
Norway had had to yield their most precious metals to adorn the walls
of his giant dwelling within and without. The chief's numerous flocks
and herds roamed over miles of land, the bears of the thick forests
were slain in hundreds by his hands that their skins might cover
pillows for his guests, and the tables and drinking-horns gleamed with
precious stones. But Hrungnir's most cherished possession was Guru,
his only daughter. Her hair shone golden as the stars of the northern
night, her eyes were blue as the sky of her native land, and her skin
was of dazzling whiteness.

The most powerful giants of the whole country were suitors for Guru's
hand, and Hrungnir promised his daughter to him who should excel in
swiftness in the race, or whose arm should be strongest to hurl huge
boulders. Then the mighty men came down from their castles in the
mountains, where the snowstorm sweeps round the hoary peaks, and from
sea-side fortresses, till Hrungnir's roof could scarcely give shelter
to the host of powerful suitors. The tables smoked with countless
dishes, the horns of mead were filled and filled again, and from the
windows the songs of the giants sounded forth so loudly that the waves
fled back in terror towards the sea.

After the feast, the giants went out to the strand, broke huge masses
from the rocks, and hurled them out in the sea as children would throw
pebbles. Far out into the ocean flew the masses of stones, but none so
far as those thrown by the hand of Andfind, the valiant youth whose
castle stood amid the rocks of the storm-swept Doverfjeld, whose
wealth almost equalled Hrungnir's, whose beauty bore comparison with
that of Guru herself. Then when the suitors arranged themselves on the
strand for the race, and the shingle resounded with their golden
sandals, Andfind left all his rivals far behind, and his long fair
locks floated like golden pennons on the rock that was the goal of the
race, while his fellow-suitors were still toiling along the course.

Andfind was victor, and Guru's heart sang for joy, for she had long
loved him in secret, though she was prepared to submit to her father's
wish, even if he had chosen some other for his son-in-law.

Far from grudging envy, the giants loudly applauded the conqueror,
bore him on their shoulders to Hrungnir's castle, where the chief bade
him welcome, and called his daughter to meet her chosen bridegroom.

The lovely Guru came dressed in a sky-blue robe with a
silver-embroidered hem, which she and her maids had woven and wrought
in the retirement of the women's room. Round her white neck and
rounded arms lay gleaming jewels, and her locks were bound with a
golden fillet. Thus she came to meet the guests. Hrungnir took his
daughter's hand, laid it in Andfind's right, and then, as priest of
the household, the chief united them in the indissoluble ties of
marriage.

Night fell round the Castle of Hrungnir. The chief and his guests lay
wrapped in deep slumbers, preparing for the enjoyment of a new day.
But destruction approached them, as they slept, with stealthy steps;
for Odin, that crafty king, of whose origin no man could tell, came
with his trusty warriors down from the mountains. They had heard of
the beauty of Norway, and wished to win it for their home. They had
heard that the bravest in the land were feasting in Hrungnir's castle,
and they had waited till the hours of slumber that they might strike
unawares the foes with whom they could not have dared to cope on equal
terms.

The moonlight glided through the open windows and fell on the forms of
the defenceless sleepers: the deep breathing of the warriors and the
murmur of the waves were the only sounds that the ear could
distinguish. But dark shadows fell in the moonlit hall, tall forms
climbed in at the windows, and noiselessly, holding their weapons
carefully to prevent them from clashing, they stole into the rooms.
With sure aim they bathed their swords in the heart's blood of the
sleepers, so that, with one last groan, each warrior yielded up his
brave spirit. The pavement swam in blood, but Odin's band passed from
hall to hall and never slipped on their gory path.

The death-groan, though short, reached Guru's ear. She rose and
listened. No, it was no dream; there came that sound again with
dreadful distinctness. She threw on her garments and sprang to the
window, and when she drew aside the curtain she saw strange forms in
the courtyard, bearing with difficulty a heavy burden. She looked more
closely, and recognised in the clear moonlight the bloody corpse of
her noble father. She stole up to Andfind's couch, and whispered,
"Awake, awake, my husband, and let us fly, for treachery and death
have entered our house!"

The bloody work seemed finished in the other rooms, and now the
dreaded footsteps were drawing near.

Guru raised a stone from the pavement and disclosed a secret stair.
She bade Andfind descend, and then quickly following him, she
carefully closed the opening behind her.

By a narrow passage which led beneath the castle and the rocks to the
strand they reached the sea unseen. There a boat lay rocking, which
Guru and her maids had often used for pleasant sails. They stepped
in. Andfind spread the sail and seized the helm, and the boat flew out
into the open sea.

Odin had conquered. The noblest of the land were killed in the
inglorious victory of that night, and the weak remnant of the giant
race were obliged to leave their old home and seek a refuge in unknown
lands. Notwithstanding this ignoble beginning, Odin's reign was one of
wisdom, power, and beneficence.

Of Guru and her husband nothing more was ever heard. Whether the sea
had swallowed the boat in its hungry depths, or whether the waves had
borne them to happier coasts, none had ever brought back the tidings
to their old home. But in the winter evenings, when the maidens sat
around the blazing pine-log, and talked at their spinning about the
days of the Norwegian giants, some aged dame would tell her shuddering
listeners of that night of death, and of the mysterious fate of Guru
and her noble bridegroom.

       *       *       *       *       *

Odin's reign was long since ended. His wisdom and his crimes were both
alike well-nigh forgotten. Olaf had many years ago brought in the
knowledge of the Christian religion, and reared churches on the sites
of the old altars; and to the ancient honesty and strength of the
nation was added the mild spirit of the religion of the cross.

On the spot where Hrungnir's castle once stood rose now a fortress as
proud, and well-nigh as strong, as that of the giant chief; the flocks
that grazed around it were as great as his; and the present
possessor, Sämund, like him, counted as his dearest treasure an only
daughter.

It seemed almost as if the days of Guru were come back again, for
Aslog's golden hair and snowy skin, Aslog's blue eyes and graceful
form, attracted the wealthiest and most powerful nobles of the land to
woo her.

As each noble suitor was rejected, the father's heart swelled high
with pride and hope. "She will only take the best and greatest," he
thought. But when the most powerful prince in the land came, and the
fair one's lips said "No" to him also, Sämund no longer praised his
daughter's prudence. With bitter words he reproached her for her
folly, and commanded her to choose before Christmas Eve some one on
whom he might bestow her hand.

Days came and went, and Aslog's cheek grew paler and her father's eye
more gloomy, for her heart was given to Orm, the poor but beautiful
youth whom her father had given her as page. Orm's strong arm had on
lovely summer evenings rowed the boat out into the gold-flooded sea;
Orm's hand had guided her over the vast snow-fields, as in snow-shoes,
with points thin and supple as a beech-leaf, they glided swiftly
through the bracing air; and in long winter evenings, while the guests
were drinking and singing in her father's halls, Orm used to sit and
tell her beautiful stories as she sat by the cheerful fire.

Sämund loved the brave youth, but had any one spoken of him as his
daughter's choice he would have challenged the informant to single
combat.

The lovers knew this, and it was with trembling that they awaited the
decisive day.

"If she has not chosen before the time I have named," said Sämund to
Orm, "I will choose her a bridegroom myself, and you shall have the
honour of bearing her bridal train."

Orm gave no answer, but with trembling hand he arranged the table for
the guests, and pressed his lips close together to restrain the eager
words that his love prompted.

It was the night before Christmas Eve--starry and cold. A secret door
opened in the side of the mountain, and two muffled figures slipped
out. They were Orm and Aslog. They had brought nothing with them but a
little bundle of necessary clothing, a warm skin rug, and a bow and
arrows which Orm had slung across his shoulder.

On they hurried over the icy plain, swiftly and terror-stricken, like
a pair of hunted doves. They reached the edge of the wide plain. Their
snow-shoes were no longer of use, for their road led now towards the
defiles and rocky heights of the highlands. It was bitterly cold, the
wind whistled through the clefts of the mountain, and its icy breath
made Aslog's frail form tremble. Long their path wound among the
snow-clad mountains; then they reached a thick fir wood, in the midst
of which stood a little hermit's cottage.

"It is I, Father Jerome," said Orm to the old man who came to greet
them at the door.

"Welcome, my son!" said the old man, as the youth stooped to press a
reverent kiss on his withered hand; "and the maiden at thy side is
welcome too to the poor hospitality of the hermit's cell."

The offered rest and refreshment were eagerly accepted by the weary
maiden. With pitying eyes the hermit gazed on her grief-marked
features, and when Orm begged him to unite them in marriage, the old
man, after short consideration, granted their request.

How different was this hour from Aslog's dreams! Not that she gave
many thoughts to the splendour and festivity that should have done
honour to her bridal, but she felt bitterly the want of her father's
blessing.

The ceremony over, there could be no further delay. On the wanderers
pressed on their weary way, till Aslog would have sunk exhausted but
for Orm's supporting arm. Through the thick fir woods, over rough
mountain paths, they hastened on till the first streak of dawn gleamed
in the eastern sky. Then Orm pointed to a cluster of dark rocks that
lay before them.

"There," said he cheerfully--"there, my Aslog, is rest and safety."

Aslog's courage rose; with renewed energy she pressed over the
intervening ground, till they reached a tall jagged rock and entered a
cleft in its side. They now found themselves in a cave, which, though
narrow at the entrance, became higher and wider as they went on, till
it formed a spacious chamber. Out of this gloomy abode Orm's care and
thoughtfulness made a home for his loved one that was not wholly
lacking in comfort or happiness, and here they lived in secure
retirement as long as the winter blocked the mountain roads. But when
spring came, and the ways became accessible, Sämund's spies were able
to explore more thoroughly, and Orm could no longer go out and in
freely among the mountains. But when provisions ran short, he was
obliged to tear himself from Aslog's weeping embrace, and sally forth
with his bow and arrows. At last, when, after weeks of mild weather,
no living soul had been seen near their retreat, their fears subsided,
and Orm began to lay aside caution and to venture further from the
cave. Perhaps Aslog's father had grown tired of the fruitless search,
or perhaps he was even cherishing thoughts of forgiveness. Aslog's
heart was quick to believe what she so ardently wished, and Orm began
to believe it too. One night, while his wife was sleeping, he took the
path towards the valley where the hermit's cell nestled amid the
woods. His breast beat high with hope that the old man might be able
to give him some good tidings to take back to his loved Aslog, who,
although she bore her privations even cheerfully, was yet paler and
feebler every day. He drew near a jutting rock, behind which lay the
path to the hermit's cottage. In his glad excitement he had forgotten
all fear. His bow hung with loose string behind him, and his hand
grasped his staff but carelessly. Suddenly he heard a rustling in the
thick bushes beside him, and two heavy hands were laid on his
shoulder. With a strong effort he shook himself free, stepped back a
few paces, and swung his stick menacingly.

"It is he whom we seek," cried his assailants; "remember the reward."

Then it seemed to Orm as if all the bushes and even the brown rock
behind him became alive, so great a rustling was heard on every side.
Quick as thought he brought his stick down on the heads of the two who
had first attacked him, and before the others could leave their
hiding-places he had turned and fled.

At first there was wild shouting and a sound of eager feet behind, but
he never stopped to look back, and he soon passed out of sight of his
pursuers. The way was long and rough, but Orm was strong and fleet of
foot, and before him lay his home and Aslog. At last he was at the
cave.

How different was this home-coming from his former hopes! Aslog lay in
sweet sleep, with a happy smile on her lips, as if she dreamt of love
and forgiveness; and Orm must soon waken her, and tell her that she
must go forth once more a homeless wanderer.

"Awake, awake, beloved one," he whispered, seizing her hand, "and let
us flee, for your father's men are on our track, and we must be far
from this before to-morrow dawns."

Aslog opened her eyes, and gazed in speechless astonishment at her
husband's lips, but when she could no longer doubt, she sprang quickly
up and arranged her clothing and the soft skins which had formed her
covering in a neat bundle. Without delay they crept out of the cave by
its narrow entrance, and went forth, not, as they had hoped, to
Sämund's castle, but to a dark and unknown future. Westward, where
Aslog's home lay, danger and treachery threatened them, so they turned
their steps northwards, on untried mountain paths. The air was mild,
the moon shone brightly on their way, and the soft moss kept no trace
of their footsteps that might betray them to their watchful enemies.
Thus they wandered northwards for hours. The cave in the rock lay
miles behind them, and they were far from the place where Orm had been
seen by his father-in-law's men. Then at last he ventured to turn
westwards, towards the sea. Their way led down towards the lowlands.
The wintry mists were still hanging over the plain. Orm's keen eye
could scarcely pierce their grey veil, and Aslog shuddered as she felt
their cold embrace. They could no longer tell in what direction they
were going, but they went on and on, hoping to come ere long to the
friendly ocean. At last Aslog's pale face caught a flush of joy as she
heard its distant murmur. Nearer and nearer sounded the familiar
music, and soon the wanderers came to a narrow valley, at the further
edge of which rose a cluster of dark rocks.

"It is the coast!" said Aslog joyously, as she almost flew along the
ground.

In a little bay at the foot of the rocks lay a fishing-boat. Orm bore
his wife in his arms along the sand, for on this open strand the
greatest haste was necessary, lest some hostile eye might see them. He
placed Aslog gently in the boat, sprang in after her, and with
trembling hands spread the sail.

The wind seemed to wish the fugitives well. It swept down from the
mountains and filled the white sail, so that the little boat shot out
into the sea like a swan with spreading wings. The sun rose higher and
higher, the cliffs of their native coast seemed now but a line of low
hills; proud ships glided not far from them, and on the farthest
horizon appeared a group of islands gleaming in the golden mist. As
the sun sank slowly to the horizon, the great ships passed by without
noticing the wanderers, and the little islands were still in the far
distance. Aslog's face, that had before glowed with hope, grew pale
and wan.

"What is wrong, my darling?" asked Orm anxiously.

"I am hungry," answered Aslog faintly.

Orm sighed deeply. They had had to flee without waiting to get
provisions, and now they had been twenty-four hours without food, and
the islands lay far, far away. The sun sank into the sea.

"Sleep, my Aslog, sleep!" begged Orm at length; "you will not feel
your hunger while you are asleep, and by the time you awake, perhaps
we shall have reached one of the little islands before us."

And Aslog smiled submissively, and loosing the skins from the bundle,
lay down beneath their protecting warmth at the bottom of the boat.
The waves rocked the little vessel gently, the oar splashed in
measured monotony, and at last Aslog's eyes closed, and she fell
asleep.

Orm now kept watch alone on the wide ocean. Night had come, but a warm
breath of spring was still hovering over the sea. The moon rose slowly
above the distant mountains of Norway, and flooded the ocean with its
silvery light. The waves danced sparkling round the boat, sails and
masts shone brightly, and the hair of the slumbering fair one gleamed
like waves of gold.

Full of love and grief, Orm's eyes rested on Aslog's pale face.
Allowing himself but short rest, and that at long intervals, he rowed
on all night, and when morning dawned, a large island with blossoming
trees lay before his eyes bathed in the purple light. His cry of joy
woke Aslog, who rose and looked at this lovely haven of refuge, which
seemed offered to the homeless wanderers. Like a guardian of their
future safety a tall grey rock stood upon the shore, in form not
unlike a gigantic human figure.

Orm tried to steer between the small islands that lay round this
tempting spot; but the waves, which had heretofore played so gently
round the shores, now foamed and roared about the boat, and drove it
back into the open sea. Nevertheless Orm undauntedly plied helm and
oar, only to be driven back irresistibly again and again.

Noon came, and the fruitless struggle still continued; and now the sun
was inclining towards the west. Orm's strength and heroic perseverance
began at length to fail. His hands bled, his arms trembled, hunger and
exhaustion almost overpowered him; while Aslog, who had sunk from a
state of the most eager hope into the deepest despondency, clung,
well-nigh unconscious, to the mast. Orm thought her dying. Then
despair gave him fresh strength. "Almighty God, pity us!" he cried
aloud to heaven. Immediately the waves submitted to the holy name;
the foaming billows glided gently beneath the boat; the vessel shot
like an arrow through the midst of the islands, and drew near the
haven where the giant rock with its dark countenance looked down on
the little boat that glided past it to the smooth strand. Orm sprang
out, took the exhausted Aslog in his arms, and carried her across to
the dry, soft sand. He looked round for something to eat. Fruit-trees
waved their blossoming crowns at no great distance, but the time for
fruit was not come. Orm looked still more anxiously about the beach.
Then he saw a mussel right at his feet, then another and another. He
lifted them, and offered them to his half-fainting wife; and so much
refreshed did she feel by the slight nourishment, that she was able to
walk towards the centre of the island, supported by Orm's arm, in
search of some place of shelter.

The blossoming fruit-trees bore evidence of some careful hand, but no
path, no footprint told of the cheering nearness of human beings. They
went on further through the green island, over which the sun was
shedding its last golden beams. There before them they saw a clear
space amid the foliage, and with hearts beating with hope and fear
they approached it. Soon they stood before a house of very ancient
architecture. Its walls sank deep into the earth, and towered so high
into the air that the firs could scarcely stretch their dark branches
over the hide-covered roof. The windows were small, and their panes
made of fishes' skins. The door was made of strong planks, and firmly
bound with iron. The whole house looked as if it bade defiance to the
storms, and had done so for centuries.

But where were now its builders? Did they lie sleeping in the depths
of the ocean? Did the tall grass of the little islands wave above
their last resting-place, or did they still sit, spell-bound, behind
the iron-bound door and the grey walls of the dreary dwelling?
Checking the slight shudder that shook his frame at these thoughts,
Orm knocked at the door of the mysterious house. No sound, no footstep
told him that he had been heard within. He knocked again, then a third
time, but there was still no movement. Then he laid his hand on the
heavy latch; the door opened, and they entered a stone-paved hall.
There was no one to bid them welcome or refuse them entrance. At one
side of this hall was another door. Orm knocked, and when again there
was no answer he opened it, and stepped with Aslog by his side into a
large and lofty apartment. There was no one to be seen, yet everything
bore traces of an orderly hand. A bright fire burned on the hearth,
and above it hung a cauldron with fish, the smell of which greeted the
hungry fugitives with pleasant invitation.

"Forgive us, noble master of this house!" said Orm in a loud voice,
yet in a respectful tone; "it is necessity, not forwardness, which
makes us intruders."

They both listened breathlessly; but there was still no answer. Then
Orm poured some of the contents of the cauldron into two plates, and
placed them on the table. With trembling at first, but afterwards with
growing comfort and courage, the wanderers enjoyed the much-needed
food.

When their hunger was satisfied, and their spirits revived, they
looked around them. At the farther side of the room stood two beds of
gigantic size, and of an ancient, long-forgotten form. The fire below
the cauldron was getting low, the evening light had ceased to fall
through the windows, and the darkness was only broken by the faint
glimmer of the dying embers.

Nature at last claimed her rights. The wanderers' eyes were almost
closing, and, laying aside all fear, they took possession of the
couches where surely giant forms had once reposed.

When they awoke the sun was shining brightly outside, but its beams
could fall but dimly through the rude window-panes. The doors were
firmly fastened, and there was no trace of human footsteps, yet the
fire burned once more on the hearth, from the bubbling cauldron rose a
tempting fragrance, and the table was laid as for a meal.

"See, dear Orm," cried Aslog joyfully, pointing to the fire and the
table, "this language is easy to understand, though it be a silent
one. The unseen owners of this dwelling know our need, and bid us
welcome to their hospitable roof."

When they had again partaken of the contents of the boiling cauldron,
Orm and Aslog went into the hall, and found there a stair which led up
to a room just below the hide-covered roof. This and the room in which
they had passed the night were the only apartments of the house, but
they contained all that was necessary for a life of retirement. There
was no sign of any inhabitant, yet it seemed as if some one had lately
been there, whose hand had lovingly arranged everything for the poor
homeless ones. They understood the silent language, and they remained
henceforth contentedly in the house, enjoying the sweet feeling that
they had at last a home.

Orm never cast his net into the sea without drawing out a rich supply
of delicious fish; the snares he set in the morning for the birds were
never empty at evening. The fruit-trees bore abundantly, and Aslog
found plenty of employment in gathering and storing the rich harvest.

Summer passed away, and the short autumn was drawing towards its
close, when a lovely baby boy came to cheer the hearts of Orm and
Aslog through the dreary winter. The child was called Sämund, and
seemed to his parents a pledge of future reconciliation.

One day Orm was holding his little son in his arms, and watching with
delight his baby smiles, and Aslog stood at the fire preparing the
midday meal, when a tall shadow passed the window, the heavy house
door swung open, and a loud knocking was heard at the door of the
room. Aslog let the spoon fall in terror, and even brave Orm pressed
his boy closer to his heart as the visitor entered.

A gigantic woman stepped into the room. Her stature was greater than
Orm and Aslog had ever seen among their own powerful nation. She wore
a sky-blue robe with a silver-embroidered hem; a golden fillet bound
her long snow-white hair, and on her once beautiful features centuries
of joy and grief seemed to have left their traces.

"Do not be afraid," said the majestic visitor, with gentle gravity;
"this is my island and my house, but I gladly gave them up to you when
I knew of your distress. Only one thing I ask of you. Christmas Eve is
drawing near. For that one night let me have the room for a few hours,
while we hold our yearly festivity. But you must promise me two
things--not to speak a word while our feast lasts, and not to make any
attempt to see what is going on in the room below. If you grant this
request you may live here undisturbed, and enjoy my protection until
you wish to leave the island."

With lightened hearts Orm and Aslog gave the promise, then the
majestic lady bowed her silvery head in gracious farewell, and passed
out through the door.

It was Christmas Eve; Aslog had cleaned and tidied the room with even
more than her ordinary care. The boards were snow-white, and Orm
strewed them with finely-cloven fir-twigs. The fire burned brightly on
the neatly-swept hearth, and above it hung the shining cauldron. Aslog
rolled her baby in the softest of the skins that served to cover her
bed, and went with Orm to the upper room, where they sat down beside
the warm chimney of the apartment below, which passed of necessity
through this second storey.

For a long time all was silent. Suddenly a sweet, soft sound was
heard; others followed, and soon the music swelled in waves of melody
through the night air. Aslog listened entranced, while Orm went to
the gable end of the roof, and, since this was not forbidden, opened
the shutter which in the daytime served to let in air and light.

There was motion over the whole island. Little shrivelled forms, with
grave and aged faces, were bustling about with blazing torches in
their hands. They ran dry-shod over the waves, and made their way to
the rock that guarded the entrance to the bay. When they reached it
they placed themselves in a circle round it, and sat down on the
ground in respectful humility. Then a tall form approached from the
centre of the island. The dwarfs opened their circle to admit her, and
Orm recognised by the flickering light the noble lady who had a few
days before paid them so unlooked-for a visit. Her sky-blue robe and
the gold in her hair gleamed with even more than their former
brilliance. She stepped up to the rock, threw her arms round the cold
stone, and remained so for a moment in a silent embrace. Suddenly the
stone acquired life and motion. The gigantic limbs were freed from
their petrifaction, the hair rolled down over the shoulders, the eyes
began to glow once more with life. As if awaking from the sleep of
death, the giant rose, seized the hand of the stately lady whose
loving embrace had called him back to life, and they both turned
towards the house, whither the dwarfs accompanied them with flaming
torches and heart-enthralling melody. The ground seemed to tremble
beneath the tread of the giants. Soon they reached the house-door.
Then Orm shut the shutter, and groped his way back to where his wife
sat beside the chimney.

[Illustration: GURU AWAKES THE ROCK TO LIFE.]

Below there was rattling of dishes and the patter of many feet; the
young couple heard every sound through the wide chimney. The strong
voice of the rock giant sounded like thunder to human ears, and the
voice of the lady, which Orm and Aslog had heard once before, was like
the powerful notes of some musical instrument. Tables and chairs were
moved, drinking-horns were knocked together; the feast was beginning,
and now was heard once more that music which had before so overwhelmed
Aslog with delight. Then an irresistible longing seized her to see the
wondrous company which Orm had described to her. She rose and groped
for a crack in the floor through which it was possible to see into the
room below. Orm in silence held out his hand to check her fatal
rashness, but the movement woke the sleeping babe, who, terrified by
the unwonted sounds below, raised a cry that went to the mother's
heart. Forgetting everything now but her child's distress, she began,
as was her wont, to soothe him with caressing words. Then suddenly an
awful cry and a wild tumult arose below, the music ceased, and through
the door rushed the dwarfs in wild commotion. Their torches went out,
the noise of their flight sounded but a few moments, then night and
silence reigned over the place which a minute before had resounded
with festive merriment.

In deadly terror Aslog had sunk back on her seat, tremblingly awaiting
the fate that her rashness had called down on her dear ones. They were
anxious hours that they spent now in the dark upper room, almost more
anxious than those of their flight and of that hard struggle with the
waves. At last the morning dawned. A clear sunbeam shot through a hole
in the shutter and awoke the boy, who began to cry with cold and
hunger. Then her love for her child overcame her fear, and Aslog
persuaded her husband to go down with her and learn their fate. They
descended the stairs, trembling at every step. Now they stood at the
door of the room and listened. There was no sound--all was still as
death. At last they lifted the latch; Aslog pressed her child to her
heart and entered the room. A loud cry escaped her lips. At the far
end of the room, at the seat of honour at the table, sat the mighty
giant whose awakening Orm had witnessed; but life had again left his
veins, and he sat there a cold, grey mass of rock. It seemed to Aslog
that the stony hand which still grasped the drinking-horn might yet be
raised to hurl destruction at her and her dear ones. She gazed in
speechless terror at the rock-giant, her eyes passing slowly from the
motionless head to the massive folds of the stone garment. Then she
perceived another form, sunk motionless, as in deepest anguish, on the
floor. The face was pressed against the cold stone, but the blue robe
with the silver-embroidered hem and the flowing white hair told the
terrified Aslog who it was.

"Andfind, my Andfind!" moaned the giant lady, raising her face at
last, "thou wilt never again smile on thy faithful Guru, and rejoice
with her at thy short space of life and freedom."

Aslog uttered a cry, but not, as before, of terror for her own fate,
but of anguish and remorse. Her bitter sobbing caused even the
grief-stricken giantess to raise her head.

"Do not weep so," she said gently, "and do not be afraid; I could
indeed easily kill you, and break this house, which I gave you as your
home, like a child's toy. It is true that your forgetfulness has
caused untold anguish to me, but the revenge of the powerful must
be--forgiveness! Then do not weep, for there is nothing to fear."

"Oh, that is not all!" sobbed Aslog. "The names which you named, noble
lady, cut me to the heart. They remind me of a legend which I often
heard when a child about Guru, the beautiful giant-maiden, who was
obliged to flee from cruel Odin with her beloved Andfind. The story of
their fate always touched me deeply, and I thought when I heard these
names that you might perhaps be that Guru, and this thought added
fresh bitterness to my remorse."

The giantess appeared sunk in dreamy meditation.

"And do they remember us still in the old Fatherland?" she said at
length; "and are there yet any halls remaining of Hrungnir's castle?"

"No, noble lady," answered Aslog, "they have all long since crumbled
to dust, for many centuries have passed over Norway since those days.
It is true a proud castle still looks down on the foaming waves, but
it is owned by Sämund, whose only child I am."

"Our fate, O daughter of my former home, is wondrously alike," said
Guru; "but your life will end more joyfully than mine. We lived here
in undisturbed happiness for many centuries, for it was to this island
that our trusty bark bore us after that night of death. This house,
which my husband's strong arm built for our home, is small and poor
compared with my father's halls, but we did not miss the lost
splendour. The days went by in quiet happiness, and we felt no
longings after the land which drove out us and our friends. The dwarfs
also, who like us had turned their backs on an inhospitable country,
settled round about on the little islands, and lived there in the
heart of the earth in peace and contentment. Every Christmas Eve we
met in this room, and held festival as our forefathers did even before
your religion had spread to these northern lands. Centuries passed
away, and one evening I was standing with Andfind at the shore of our
island looking out over the sea. On the northern horizon appeared a
stately ship, and Andfind, whose eye was sharper than the eagle's, and
had power to see into the future, recognised in the man at the prow a
powerful foe of the freedom of Norway and of our authority. It was
Olaf, whom you call a saint, who, not long afterwards, overcame the
princes of Norway in one night, and destroyed the last vestiges of the
old customs. All this my husband's prudent foresight saw, and with a
mighty effort he blew the waves to fury with his breath, so that they
threatened to break Olaf's proud ship to pieces. But the invader spoke
some prayer such as you uttered when you approached our shores, and
the raging sea grew calm. Then Andfind put forth his hand to push back
the vessel as it drew near the shore, but Olaf, raising his hands
towards heaven, said, in a tone of stern reproof--'Stand thou there a
stone henceforth!' Immediately the eyes in which I had been wont to
read my husband's every wish were closed, the hand that had grasped
mine lovingly grew cold and hard, the form so full of life and beauty
turned to unfeeling stone, and my beloved Andfind stood a grey,
lifeless rock upon the shore. The invaders sailed on towards the coast
of Norway, and I remained in dreary desolation on the now lonely
island. Only once a year, on Christmas Eve, petrified giants are
allowed a few hours of life if one of their own race embraces them,
and thus sacrifices centuries of his own lifetime. I loved my husband
too dearly not to offer this sacrifice willingly, that he and I might
enjoy yearly a few hours of intercourse. I never counted how many
times he woke to life at my embrace, how many centuries of my life I
yielded for his sake; I did not wish to know the day when I, as I
embraced him, should likewise turn to stone, and stand henceforth on
the shore one for ever with my Andfind. Now all is over," Guru
concluded; "I may never more awake my beloved one, for a human eye, a
human voice has disturbed the sacred festival of our spirit-race.
Stone must my Andfind remain till that day when all the rocks and
mountains of old Norway will perish in the ruin of the world."

She threw her arms once more round the cold stone, lifted her golden
harp from the floor, and then turned to Orm and Aslog, who had
listened in silent grief.

"Farewell!" she said; "I leave you my protection and my blessing.
Yours are henceforth the costly vessels that adorned our festive
board; I need them no more. Live still in peace and happiness in this
house until you return to receive Sämund's forgiveness, and live a
life of gladness on the site of my old home."

She passed out, and her sorrowing guests followed her to the door.
Without once looking back, she glided away through the leafless trees;
her blue robe gleamed far away over the snow-covered plain. Orm and
Aslog watched her crossing the waves to the little islands; then they
saw her no more.

Had she descended to the music of her golden harp into the cold
billows? or did she go to rule as queen in the kingdom of dwarfs? Orm
and Aslog never knew her fate, but her prophecies of good were richly
fulfilled.

Sickness and misfortune kept far aloof from their island home. They
were happy in their mutual love, strong in body, cheerful in spirit,
contented even in their isolation. Their boy grew daily in beauty,
strength, and obedience; the trees bore double fruit, the sea yielded
its tribute more freely than ever, and the bird-snares were never
empty. Sunshine and the fragrance of flowers filled the air, and they
drank in life and happiness at every breath. And when winter came, the
storm raged round the house, and the thick snowflakes whirled through
the cracking fir branches against the window, then the little family
sat cosily in their sheltered home; the dry wood blazed brightly on
the hearth, and at the cheerful fireside sat Aslog making nets, while
Orm carved away at a new oar, and the child listened eagerly to the
tales of Old Norway.

Year after year rolled away, and left no traces of care on the faces
of the lonely exiles, save that when Aslog thought of her father a
shadow crossed her white brow, and the old longing awoke for his love
and forgiveness.

It was the beginning of spring. The fruit-trees wore their wreaths of
blossoms, and the sunbeams played through the dark fir branches on the
roof of the lonely house. The door opened, and Orm, accompanied by
Aslog and the boy, stepped out, bearing one of the precious vessels
which Guru had left as a parting gift to her guests. The utensils
which her motherly hand had provided had become worn out in the course
of years, and Orm was going to the coast of Norway to sell the golden
goblet, and buy the needed utensils with its price. He had long
postponed this step, for he still feared the sharp eye of treachery
and revenge; but their need was pressing, and there could be no longer
delay.

The parting was a bitter one. Aslog embraced him again and again, and
even Guru's prophetic words had lost their power to comfort. But Orm,
although his heart was far from light, soothed her with a promise of a
quick return; then he tore himself away, sprang into a boat, and
pushed from the shore.

The boat flew like a sea-mew over the waves, through the circle of
little islands, and out into the open sea. A wind as fresh as that
which had favoured their flight came now from the north to swell the
white sail. Orm drew in the oars and watched how his boat darted over
the gleaming waves. He directed his course towards the south-east. As
it was drawing towards noon the coasts of his native land appeared
above the horizon; and long before the set of sun the boat sailed up
the narrow waters of the Trondheim Fiord, and landed at the quay of
the old royal city. Orm passed the streets with hurried steps, and
with the precious vessel under his arm he entered the shop of a
goldsmith.

The man seemed amazed at the rich metal and the rare and elaborate
workmanship, paid without demur the price asked, and Orm hastened
gladly to another building to choose his purchases. There was a great
crowd of buyers, and fearing lest some old acquaintance should be
among them, he turned aside, and examined the wares in silence.

"Welcome, friend! What's the news in your mountains?" said the
merchant to a countryman who had just entered.

"Thanks, sir, not much good," replied the newcomer.

"What is wrong?" asked the merchant. "Is your master, rich Sämund, not
well? Has he not yet submitted to his fate?"

Orm listened eagerly.

"It will soon be all over with him," replied the countryman; "his
grief about his daughter is breaking his heart. He is ill, lonely, and
sad. He has had it proclaimed through the whole land that he will
forgive the fugitives everything if they will only return; and he has
promised a great reward to any one who will bring him the smallest
tidings of them. But they seem to have vanished from the earth, and it
is most likely the old man will die without one of his kin to close
his eyes in the last sleep."

Orm thought no more about his purchases; he thought only of Aslog and
her dying father. Without being noticed in the crowd he left the shop.
Scarcely had he turned the first corner when he ran at full speed to
the quay, sprang down the steps, loosed his boat, and by the last rays
of the setting sun he steered skilfully along the narrow fiord among
all the larger vessels, and rowed towards the ocean. His heart beat
with eager longing and delight. Had not a reconciliation with the
father of his loved Aslog long been the most cherished wish of his
heart as well as of hers, though he had been silent on the subject for
Aslog's sake?

It was night when his boat glided out of the fiord and sailed out to
sea. The wind, which had blown towards land all day, had turned, and,
sweeping now from the Norwegian mountains, drove Orm's boat with the
swiftness of an arrow over the waters. The moon rose clear and full
above his native land, and the waves dashed their silver spray against
the keel. Orm could not but think of that night when Aslog lay hungry
and exhausted at his feet--behind him terror and treachery--before, an
unknown future. The moon's clear radiance and the sparkling waves were
the same then as now, but in all else how blessed was the change!

Thus the night passed, and when the east began to glow with red his
boat glided between the little islands, and when the first full beam
fell on the fir-tree tops he landed on the shore of his island home.

He scarcely took time to fasten the boat. Then he hastened under the
blossoming fruit-trees--with empty hand, indeed, yet with a richer
gift than Aslog would have dared to hope for.

And now he stood beside her couch. "Awake, awake, beloved one!" he
whispered as he bent over her; "I bring news of your father, the best
news that your heart could wish for--love and forgiveness!"

Then Aslog awoke, and her beaming eyes, the silent tears that fell
over her clasped hands, told of even deeper joy than Orm had pictured
to himself as he hastened home.

Soon all was bustle in the quiet room. Once more Aslog lit the fire,
once more the breakfast bubbled in the cauldron, while she adorned
herself and her boy in festive garments, and Orm carried Guru's gifts
of gold and precious stones down to the boat. Once more they sat
together at the table enjoying the provisions of Guru's hospitable
home. They gazed at the lofty walls which had afforded them shelter,
and sadly looked on the stony form of Andfind, who had for years been
a silent member of the little household. Then Orm seized his wife's
hand; and they left the house, carefully closing the door behind them,
and followed the boy, who had run on before in his eagerness, towards
the strand.

"Farewell, thou lovely island!" cried Orm, as he loosed the rope; "and
if ever again hunted fugitives land on thy shore, be to them as sweet
a home as thou hast been to us."

The child was already seated in the boat, playing with the beautiful
vessels of gold and precious stones, and Aslog sat down beside him to
tell him about his new home and his dear grandfather, while Orm dipped
the oars, and the boat left the strand of the "Last Home of the
Giants."

The sun was just about to sink into the sea; its rays cast a parting
glance on the windows of the lonely castle, on the rock which had once
resounded with mirth and revelry. And now the splendid halls were
desolate. The servants, serving not out of love but out of fear,
obeyed in sullen silence the commands of their gloomy master. The
daughter, the only one whom his cold heart had ever loved, was lost to
him. His old age was lonely and desolate. Then his pride yielded.
"What if she has disgraced my house by choosing the servant instead of
the prince?--still she is my child, my only one, and dear and loving
she has always been to me! Oh, bring back my daughter, my Aslog, that
I may look upon her face before I die!"

Rich were the rewards offered by the sorrowing father for the least
tidings of his child, but he waited days and weeks in vain. She seemed
lost to him for ever.

"Take me out, that I may see the sun as long as I have sight!" said he
to his servants as the evening sun looked in at the castle windows.

The servants supported his tottering steps to the edge of the rock.
Then he beckoned to them to go, and leave him with his sorrow.

The sun sank like a ball of fire into the ocean, and the sea rolled in
purple waves from the farthest horizon, and broke them into golden
spray at the foot of the castle rock.

"Would that my old age could be calm and clear, like this sweet
evening, and would that my life might sink in brightness as the sun
into the sea!"

Then he heard in the distance the splashing of oars, and his eye, keen
as of old, looked eagerly towards the horizon. A boat, gently urged on
by the wind, was sailing from the north-west. Nearer and nearer it
came, and seemed to be directing its course to the rock where the old
man sat. At the helm sat a manly form, and at the prow stood a
graceful woman with a boy pressed closely to her side. Her hair
gleamed golden, as his daughter's used to do; and now she raised her
hand, and fluttered a white kerchief as in eager greeting. Sämund's
heart beat with glad presentiment, he felt his weakness no longer, but
raised himself, unaided, from the stone breastwork, and fixed his gaze
on the approaching boat. Now the little vessel came up to the very
foot of the rock, he heard the chain rattling round the post, and the
sound of familiar voices was borne up to him on the evening air. It
was no dream. There were light footsteps beside him, and when he
turned to look, Aslog, his lost Aslog, knelt before him, her eyes full
of humble penitence, and by her side knelt a fair-haired boy, who
stretched out his hands to the old man, and echoed his mother's words
in childish accents--"Oh, grandfather, forgive and love us!"

The old man opened his arms, and pressed the welcome suppliants to his
heart, and as he kissed his lovely grandson, he said in a voice more
mild and soft than was his wont--"Thank God, I shall not die in my
loneliness after all!"

And he did not die. From day to day he felt more and more of his old
vigour, and when he saw how tenderly Aslog loved her husband, what a
faithful husband and father Orm was, and what a dutiful son to
himself, he forgot all his disappointed hopes--even the royal diadem
that Aslog had rejected. The love of his children and grandchildren
made his last days his brightest, and thus the wish of that spring
evening was fulfilled, his old age was calm and clear, and his life
sank in brightness as the sun into the sea.


Marcus Ward & Co., Royal Ulster Works, Belfast.


       *       *       *       *       *


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     "A charming book."--_Daily News._

_=The Markhams of Ollerton: a Tale of the Civil War=, 1642-1647._ By E.
GLAISTER. Small octavo, cloth, gold and black. _New Edition._

     "Abounds with thrilling incidents of that eventful
     period."--_Morning Post._

     "A well-written story of the civil war, from 1642 to
     1647."--_Scotsman._

     "The story of Charles I. is one that never loses its charm, and
     when so pleasantly and colloquially told, and embellished by
     such pretty and characteristic pictures as we have here, it
     will be sure to find a large and appreciative
     audience."--_Daily News._

_=Eldergowan; or, Twelve Months of my Life, and Other= Tales._ By ROSA
MULHOLLAND, Author of "Puck and Blossom," "The Little Flower-Seekers,"
&c. Small octavo, cloth, gold and black. _New Edition._

     "One of the pleasantest little books we have met for some time;
     charmingly illustrated."--_Illustrated Review._

     "A perfect little gem in its way."--_Civil Service Gazette._

     "A fine volume for girls."--_Edinburgh Courant._

_=Christmas at Annesley; or, how the Grahams spent their= Holidays._ By
M. E. SHIPLEY. Small octavo, cloth, gold and black. _New Edition._

     "A delightful book for children."--_Sunday Times._

     "Will be read with delight by young folks."--_Lloyd's Weekly
     London News._

_=Turnaside Cottage.=_ By MARY SENIOR CLARK, Author of "Lost Legends of
the Nursery Rhymes." Small octavo, cloth, gold and black. _New
Edition._

     "An interesting story, well told."--_Birmingham Morning News._

     "Charmingly written, impressing good and useful lessons."--_Art
     Journal._

_=The Fairy Spinner.=_ By MIRANDA HILL. Small octavo, cloth, gold and
black. _New Edition._

     "Really enchanting, and will enthral the young
     reader."--_Edinburgh Courant._

     "Well illustrated."--_Daily News._

_=Pollie and Jack: a Small Story for Small People.=_ By ALICE HEPBURN,
Author of "Two Little Cousins." Small octavo, cloth, gold and black.
_New Edition._

     "Capitally written down to the level of little
     folks."--_Morning Advertiser._

     "Will be much enjoyed by young folks."--_Figaro._


NEW SERIES OF TWO-AND-SIXPENNY GIFT-BOOKS.

_=Nanny's Treasure.=_ From the French of Madame DE STOLZ. Nineteen
Full-page Illustrations and Coloured Frontispiece. Small octavo, cloth
extra.

_=The Little Head of the Family.=_ From the French of Mdlle. FLEURIOT.
Fourteen Full-page Illustrations and Coloured Frontispiece. Small
octavo, cloth extra.

_=Where the Rail Runs Now: a Story of the Coaching Days.=_ By F.
FRANKFORT MOORE. With Illustrations. Small octavo, cloth extra.

_=Animals of the Farm: their Structure and Physiology.=_ A Handbook for
Agricultural Students and Farmers. By JOHN F. HODGES, M.D., F.C.S.,
&c. Second Edition, revised by the Author. Numerous Illustrations.
Small octavo, cloth, 2/6.


BOOKS AT TWO SHILLINGS.

_=Two Little Cousins.=_ By ALICE HEPBURN, Author of "Pollie and Jack."
Five Coloured Illustrations, Cloth, Illuminated.

     "Adorned with bright chromographs, and printed in large, clear
     type to suit beginners."--_Standard._

_=Percy's First Friends.=_ By M. D. Five Coloured Illustrations, Cloth,
Illuminated.

     "An agreeable account of the early adventures of a motherless
     boy."--_Lloyd's Weekly London News._

=Five Little Farmers.= By ROSA MULHOLLAND, Author of "Puck and Blossom,"
"The Little Flower-Seekers," "Eldergowan," &c. Five Coloured
Illustrations, Cloth, Illuminated.

     "Contains a number of cunningly worked-out chromo lithographs,
     in which children and their domestic pets are grouped in a most
     artistic and effective manner."--_Figaro._

_=Maggie's Pictures; or, the Great Life told to a Child.=_ By FANNY
LEVIEN, Author of "Mildred's Mistake, "Little Ada's Jewels." Five
Coloured Illustrations, and Illuminated Title-page. Cloth,
Illuminated.

     "Will be welcome for the simplicity of its early
     lessons."--_Lloyd's Newspaper._

_=The Twin Brothers of Elfvedale: a Story of Norwegian= Peasant Life._
By CHARLES H. EDEN, Author of "Ralph Somerville," "India, Historical
and Descriptive," &c. Coloured Illustrations, Cloth, Illuminated. _New
Edition._

     "Full of adventure.... Schoolboys will welcome the
     book."--_Guardian._

     "A tale of Norwegian peasant life fifty years ago, cleverly put
     together, told in a bright, hearty view, and telling the young
     reader a great deal about the rough, simple lives of Northern
     folk, their customs, superstitions, and amusements."--_Times._

_=Our Games: a Story for Children.=_ By MARY HAMILTON. Five Coloured
Illustrations, Cloth, Illuminated. _New Edition._

     "A pleasant little book.... Attractive
     illustrations."--_Standard._

     "Adventures of children, drawn in a charmingly natural
     manner."--_Guardian._

_=Ella's Locket, and what it brought her.=_ By G. E. DARTNELL. Five
Coloured Illustrations, Cloth, Illuminated. _New Edition._

     "Pleasantly conceived, and prettily told."--_Hour._


BOOKS AT EIGHTEEN PENCE.

_=My Dolly.=_ By H. RUTHERFURD RUSSELL, Author of "Tom Seven Years Old."
Numerous Illustrations, small 8vo, Cloth extra.

_=Wildflower Win: the Journal of a Little Girl.=_ By KATHLEEN KNOX.
Numerous Illustrations, small 8vo, Cloth extra.

_=Elsie's Victory.=_ By ELEANOR P. GEARY. Coloured Illustrations, Cloth,
Illuminated.

     "Sure to delight children."--_Guardian._

_=Lily of the Valley: a Story for Little Boys and Girls.=_ By KATHLEEN
KNOX. Coloured Illustrations, Cloth, Illuminated.

     "A pretty little gift-book, the value of which will be
     appreciated by the very youngest of readers."--_Leeds Mercury._

_=Meadowleigh: a Holiday History.=_ By KATHLEEN KNOX. Coloured
Illustrations, Cloth, Illuminated.

     "Another of those irresistible little books for children in
     which Messrs. Marcus Ward & Co. so cunningly combine frolicsome
     narrative with some of the best executed and most satisfactory
     coloured illustrations that have ever come under our
     notice."--_Figaro._

_=Katie Summers: a Little Tale for Little Readers.=_ By Mrs. C. HALL.
Coloured Illustrations, Cloth, Illuminated.

     "We hardly know whether most to praise binding, printing, or
     literary merit."--_Morning Advertiser._

     "Another tempting story of and for little people."--_Lloyd's
     Weekly London News._

_=Roses With and Without Thorns.=_ By ESTHER FAITHFULL FLEET. Coloured
Illustrations, Cloth, Illuminated.

     "Suited to children of the tenderest years, interesting and
     edifying.... The pictures are a perfect treat."--_Edinburgh
     Courant._

     "Daintily decorated with delicate coloured
     illustrations."--_Scotsman._

_=Little Ada's Jewels.=_ By FANNY LEVIEN, Author of "Maggie's Pictures,"
"Mildred's Mistake." Coloured Illustrations, Cloth, Illuminated.

     "An exquisite little book for children.... No better little
     book than this could be put into the hands of a good little boy
     or girl."--_Scotsman._

     "Nicely written, and beautifully illustrated."--_Morning
     Advertiser._


ELEGANT GIFT-BOOKS.

_=The Garland of the Year; or, the Months, their Poetry= and Flowers._
Giving an account of each Month, with Poetical Selections, descriptive
of the Seasons and their Flowers; with red lines, and Floral Designs
in Gold and Colours. Small octavo, cloth elegant, 2/6; gilt edges,
3/-.

     "Creditable to the compiler's taste, and comprises many
     gems."--_Athenæum._

_=Language and Poetry of Flowers.=_ A New Edition, carefully Revised and
Amplified. With Six Illuminated Pages in Gold and Colours. Cloth,
black and gold, 2/6; Gilt Edges, 3/-.

LANGUAGE AND POETRY OF FLOWERS. Pocket Edition, Illustrated in Gold
and Colours. Cloth extra, 1/-; gilt edges, 1/3.

_=The Birthday Register.=_ With Sentiments from Shakspere (a New
Selection of suitable Quotations), printed on writing paper. With
Illuminated Title-page. Cloth extra, 2/-; gilt edges, 2/6; and in Limp
French Morocco, Morocco and Russia, from 3/6 to 10/6.

     "The association is a happy one, and in this form is neatly
     carried out."--_Liverpool Weekly Albion._


CHILDREN'S COLOURED PICTURE VOLUMES.

_=Struwwelpeter.=_ Funny Picture Stories in the Struwwelpeter Manner,
"In merry mood for children good; with moral sad for children bad."
Twenty-four pages in Colours, enamelled boards. Price 2/-. _Also, in
Two Books, Paper Covers, 1/- each._

     "Much genuine humour, along with healthy, moral
     lessons."--_Leeds Mercury._

_=The Shaksperean Calendar.=_ A Novel Almanac and Daily Date Calendar,
for the Library or Boudoir. Beautifully printed in Colours. Price 1/-.
The Information comprises Sunrise and Sunset, Moon's Changes,
Festivals, Holidays, &c., with an appropriate Quotation from Shakspere
for each Day in the Year.


MARCUS WARD'S CONCISE DIARIES.

_For the Pocket--Published Annually--Lightest, Cheapest, Handiest,
Best._

THE CONCISE DIARIES meet the universal objection to all other Pocket
Diaries--their cumbrousness and unnecessary weight in the pocket. They
are beautifully printed in Blue and Gold, on a light, hard, Metallic
paper, and combine the following advantages:--

    1. Maximum of Writing Space.
    2. Minimum of Weight.
    3. Useless Matter Omitted.
    4. Equal Space for Sundays.
    5. Daily Engagement Record.
    6. The Writing is Indelible.

THE CONCISE DIARIES are made both in "Upright" and "Oblong" form, and
in Three sizes of each form.

Only one part (Three Months) need be carried in the pocket at once.

All so-called "Useful Information," which few ever read, is excluded.

     "By a capital arrangement, the maximum amount of writing space
     is secured with the minimum amount of weight."--_Daily
     Telegraph._

     "The Diary pages are furnished _separately_ in quarterly parts,
      ... and are much smaller and handier than they otherwise would
     be. It is a very good plan."--_Pall Mall Gazette._

_=Season's Calendar for 1877.=_ Size, 4 × 2-3/4 inches, containing four
highly-finished pictures, representing "Spring," "Summer," "Autumn,"
"Winter," and four pages consisting of Calendar and other Useful
Information. Price 6d.

_=Pocket-Book Calendar.=_ A Bijou Almanac, size, 1-3/4 × 1-1/4 inches,
with gilt edges, suitable for purse, pocket book, or waistcoat pocket.
Price 1d.


POPULAR SERIES OF SUNDAY-SCHOOL CARDS.

=SACRED SELECTIONS.= A set of Twelve Illuminated Cards, set in Floral
Borders and Gold Grounds, with Sacred Texts and Poetry. Price 6d.

=MEMORABLE WORDS= from Scripture. Twelve Mediæval Illuminated Cards.
Price 6d.

=PROVERBS AND PROMISES= from Holy Scripture. Three packets, each
containing Twelve Floral, Decorated Cards, with Texts. Price 6d. each.

    No. 1.--PROVERBS OF SOLOMON.
    No. 2.--PROMISES (Old Testament).
    No. 3.--PROMISES (New Testament).

=FLORAL REWARD CARDS.=--Two packets, each containing Twenty-four Cards,
with Floral Borders in Gold and Colours. Price 6d. each.

    Packet A.--Sacred Verses.
    Packet B.--Texts of Scripture.

=CHRIST THE FIRST FRUITS.= A set of Twelve Floral Cards, with Gold
Backgrounds, Texts, and appropriate sacred poetry. Price 1/-.

=WORDS OF COUNSEL=, from the Sacred Scriptures, Illuminated on Twelve
Floral Cards. Price 1/-.

=SAYINGS AND BLESSINGS OF OUR LORD.= Two Packets, each containing Twelve
Floral Cards, printed in Colours on Black Backgrounds, with Verses
from Holy Scripture. Price 1/-each.

=SACRED TEXTS.= Two Packets, each containing a set of Twelve Cards, with
Floral Illuminated Borders, printed in Gold and Colours. Price 1/-.

    No. 1.--SACRED TEXTS FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT.
    No. 2.--SACRED TEXTS FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT.

=FLOWERS OF THE MONTHS.= A set of Twelve Cards, printed in Gold and
Colours, with appropriate Poetry and Descriptive Notes. In Wrapper.
Price 1/-.

=THE HISTORY OF OUR LORD.= Twelve Scenes from the Life of Our Lord,
printed in Gold and Colours, with appropriate Selections from
Scripture. Price 1/-.

=BIBLE PICTURES.= Twelve Scenes from Old Testament History, printed in
Colours, with appropriate Selections from Scripture. Price 1/-.

=SACRED THOUGHTS=, in Verse. Twelve Floral Cards, with Black
Backgrounds. In handsome Wrapper. Price 1/-.

=A PACKET OF POESY.= Twelve Floral Cards, printed in Colours on Black
Backgrounds. Price 1/-.

=HYMNS FOR THE LAMBS OF CHRIST'S FLOCK.= Twelve Cards of Birds and
Flowers for Children. In handsome Wrapper. Price 1/-.

=THE APOSTLES' CREED.= A Packet of Twelve Highly-decorated Cards. In
handsome Wrapper. Price 1/-.

=THE LORD'S PRAYER.= A Packet of Twelve Highly-decorated Cards. In
handsome Wrapper. Price 1/-.


POPULAR SERIES OF TEMPERANCE CARDS.

=THE WATER PACKET.= A set of Twelve Cards, with Borders of Water Plants,
& c., and Original Verses by S. C. Hall, F.S.A. Price 1/-.

=THE TEXT PACKET.= Twelve Selections from Scripture, chosen for their
bearing on the subject. Beautifully Illuminated in Gold and Colours.
Price 6d.


=POPULAR SERIES OF WALL TEXTS=,

Suitable for Decorating Schoolrooms, Bedrooms, &c.

=GOLDEN PRECEPTS.= A Series of Nine Floral Illuminated Texts. Size,
6-1/4 × 8 inches. In Three Packets, price 1/6 each; or in Mounts, Gilt
Bevelled Edges, 3/-each Packet.

=ECHOES FROM THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM.= A Series of Floral Illuminated
Texts. Size, 8-1/4 × 6-1/2 inches. In One Packet, containing Three
Texts, price 1/6; or in Mounts, Gilt Bevelled Edges, 3/-the set.

=CHEERING WORDS FOR PILGRIMS TO THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM.= A Series of Six
Floral Illuminated Texts. Size, 6-1/2 × 8-1/4 inches. In Two Packets,
each containing Three Texts, price 1/6; and in Mounts, Gilt Bevelled
Edges, 3/-.

=LIGHTS FOR LIFE'S JOURNEY.= A Series of Texts, Designed in Colours.
Size, 19 × 6 inches. Four in a Packet, price 2/-.


MARCUS WARD & CO.'S

=Newspaper Cuttings Scrap-Book.= A Ready Reference Receptacle for
Scraps, from our daily sources of knowledge, the Newspapers; with an
Alphabetical Index, and Spaces for Marginal Notes.

    "When found, make a note of."--_Captain Cuttle._

THE NEWSPAPER CUTTINGS SCRAP-BOOK has been introduced by MARCUS WARD &
CO. to supply a want equally felt in household, office, or
counting-house, as well as in the library of the literary man, or in
the chambers of the lawyer.

There are few readers of Newspapers who do not daily meet with
paragraphs, notices, or advertisements, which they would gladly cut
out and retain, but, not having any convenient means of preserving
them, they are passed over and lost; or, even if cut out, are so
carefully put away that they cannot be found when wanted for
reference.

By the use of the NEWSPAPER CUTTINGS SCRAP-BOOK all such
inconveniences are prevented, as the cuttings can be readily fixed in
order, and, by means of the Index, may be referred to in a moment;
thus forming a volume of permanent interest and usefulness.

LIST OF SIZES, BINDINGS, AND PRICES.

    +-----+----------------------------------------------+------+
    | No. |        DESCRIPTION. |Pages | Size, in Inches |Price |
    |-----+---------------------+------+-----------------+------+
    |6020 | Fancy Cloth,        |      |                 |      |
    |     | Lettered on Side    |  72  | 7-3/4 by 9-1/2  | 1/6  |
    |6021 |    Do. do. do.      | 100  | 7-3/4 by 9-1/2  | 2/-  |
    |6031 |    Do. do. do.      | 100  | 9-3/4 by 11-1/2 | 3/-  |
    |6043 | Do. Extra Gilt,     |      |                 |      |
    |     | Lettered on Side    | 120  | 7-1/2 by 9-1/2  | 2/6  |
    |6044 |    Do. do. do.      | 120  | 8-1/2 by 10-1/2 | 3/6  |
    |6015 |    Do. do. do.      | 120  | 9-1/2 by 11-3/4 | 4/-  |
    |6017 |    Do. do. do.      |      |                 |      |
    |     |  and in Colors,     |      |                 |      |
    |     |  Inlaid             | 150  | 9-1/2 by 11-3/4 | 4/6  |
    |6011 | Half Roan,          |      |                 |      |
    |     | Lettered on Back,   | 200  | 9-1/2 by 11-3/4 | 5/-  |
    |6008 | Half French Morocco,|      |                 |      |
    |     | Lettered on Back,   |      |                 |      |
    |     | Superior Quality    |      |                 |      |
    |     | Paper               | 150  | 9-1/2 by 11-3/4 | 7/-  |
    |6013 | Half Roan,          |      |                 |      |
    |     | Lettered on Back,   |      |                 |      |
    |     | Superior Quality    |      |                 |      |
    |     | Paper               | 200  | 10 by 15        | 9/-  |
    |-----+---------------------+------+-----------------+------+


EDUCATIONAL WORKS.

ATLASES.

_Adopted by the Board of National Education in Ireland._

EDITED BY J. HARRIS STONE, B.A.


MARCUS WARD'S SIXPENNY ATLAS.

LIST OF MAPS--Fully Coloured.

    Eastern Hemisphere
    Western Hemisphere
    Europe
    Asia
    Africa and Arabia
    United States & Canada
    Canaan or Palestine
    North America
    South America
    England and Wales
    Scotland
    Ireland
    Australia & Tasmania
    France
    German Empire
    Austrian Empire and Hungary
    India or Hindustan
    New Zealand

_The largest Sixpenny Atlas ever offered._


MARCUS WARD'S SHILLING ATLAS.

Twenty-four Maps, printed in Colours, in the best style.

WITH GEOGRAPHICAL DEFINITIONS, DIAGRAMS OF THE GLOBES, &c.

This Atlas contains extra Maps and information, suitable for more
advanced pupils, is printed on strong paper, and bound in durable
cloth cover.

LIST OF MAPS.

    Eastern Hemisphere
    Western Hemisphere
    Europe
    England and Wales
    Scotland
    Ireland
    France
    German Empire
    Austrian Empire and Hungary
    Kingdom of Italy
    Sweden, Norway, and Denmark
    Switzerland
    Spain and Portugal
    Netherlands and Belgium
    Russia in Europe
    Turkey in Europe & Greece
    Asia
    India or Hindustan
    Africa and Arabia
    North America
    South America
    United States of America
    Dominion of Canada
    Australia and Tasmania
    New Zealand
    Canaan or Palestine

_The largest Shilling Atlas ever offered to the Public._


MARCUS WARD'S HOME ATLAS.

Thirty Maps, printed in Colours,

From New Plates, specially engraved, with all the latest information
from the best authorities, and Index to upwards of 4000 places. Crown
4to, Cloth, 2/-; Cloth Extra, 2/6.

LIST OF MAPS.

    Explanatory Map
    Eastern Hemisphere
    Western Hemisphere
    Europe
    Asia
    Africa
    North America
    South America
    Oceania
    The British Islands
    England and Wales
    Scotland
    Ireland
    France
    German Empire
    Austrian Empire and Kingdom of Hungary
    Kingdom of Italy
    The Netherlands & Belgium
    Sweden, Norway, and Denmark
    Turkey in Europe & Greece
    Russia in Europe
    Switzerland
    Spain and Portugal
    Turkey in Asia, Syria, Persia, Afghanistan, &c.
    India or Hindustan
    The Dominion of Canada
    United States of America
    Australia and Tasmania
    Central America and West Indies
    New Zealand
    Canaan or Palestine
    Bible Maps


MARCUS WARD'S PORTABLE ATLAS.

Thirty Maps, printed in Colours, on one side only of Superfine Drawing
Paper, with full Index.

Demy Octavo, handsomely bound in Cloth--India Rubber binding, to open
perfectly flat. 3/6.

Advantages of this Atlas over others at similar or higher prices:--

1. Pictorial Illustrations of Geographical Terms.

2. Diagrams to illustrate the use of the Globes.

3. In the Maps of England, Scotland, and Ireland, the Sizes of the
Towns by their Populations are distinguished by varied letterings.

4. The Countries where French is spoken are shewn in one Map.

5. The Countries where German or kindred languages are spoken are
shewn in one Map.

6. The whole of the Russian Empire depicted on one Plate.

7. The whole of the Turkish Empire depicted on one Plate.

8. Map of Overland Route--Mediterranean to the Indus--Asiatic Russia
--Khiva--Kokand--Syria--Euphrates Valley--Koweyt Republic--
Persia--Afghanistan--Biluchistan, &c. Illustrating the advance of the
Russian Empire towards India.

9. The British Isles in one Map.

10. Several enlarged Maps of British Colonies.

11. Special Biblical Maps, for Sunday Lessons.


OPINIONS OF THE PRESS (MARCUS WARD'S ATLASES).

"The Sixpenny and Shilling Atlases are _marvels of cheapness_, and the
Home and Portable Atlases, each containing thirty maps, with indexes
to upwards of 4,000 places, are _very complete for ordinary
use_."--_Guardian, March 15th, 1876._

"These Maps are cheap, well engraved, and apparently on a level with
the most recent and accurate geographical information."--_Standard,
March 22nd, 1876._

"The series of Atlases issued by the Messrs Marcus Ward & Co., of
London and Belfast, merit attention. The maps are beautifully printed
and neatly coloured; the coast-lines, rivers, and mountains are
clearly shown, and the names are not too crowded."--_Public Opinion,
April 1st, 1876._

" ... Marvels of cheapness, and at the same time of comparative
excellence. They are all 'got up' with that artistic taste and
neatness which generally characterise the publications of this
firm."--_Manchester Courier, March 22nd, 1876._

"Quite unique.... Admirably printed."--_Leeds Mercury._


WORKS ON DRAWING AND DESIGN.

_=Plants: their Natural Growth and Ornamental= Treatment_. By F. E.
HULME, F.L.S., F.S.A., of Marlborough College, Author of "Plant Form."
Containing 44 plates, printed in Colours from Drawings made by the
Author, accompanied by a careful Treatise on the subject. Large
imperial 4to, cloth extra, bevelled boards. Price 21/-.

     "The object of this very excellent work is to show the close
     relationship that exists between botanical science and
     ornamental art."--_Morning Post._

_=Hulme's Freehand Ornament.=_ Sixty Examples, for the use of Drawing
Classes. By F. E. HULME, F.L.S., F.S.A., Marlborough College. Imperial
8vo. Price 5/-, or mounted millboard, cloth-bound edges, 10/-.

     "To the Student of Drawing this book is a mine of well-drawn
     examples.... Cannot fail to be useful to the decorative
     sculptor, the bookbinder, the manufacturer of textile fabrics
     of every description...."--_Art Journal._

     _Both these Works have been adopted by H. M. Department of
     Science and Art, for Copies and Prizes._

_=Illuminating: a Practical Treatise on the Art.=_ By MARCUS WARD,
Illuminator to the Queen. With 26 examples of the styles prevailing at
different periods, from the sixth century to the present time;
Chromographed in facsimile and in outline. Foolscap 4to, cloth extra,
bevelled boards, gilt edges, 5/-, or, in Morocco extra, 10/6.

     "A very creditable and remarkably cheap little
     book."--_Architect._

Aunt Charlotte's Histories for Young Children.

Profusely Illustrated, Square Octavo, Cloth Extra, Bevelled Boards,
Gilt Edges. Price 6/-each.

_=Stories of English History for the Little Ones.=_ By CHARLOTTE M.
YONGE, Author of "The Heir of Redclyffe," &c. In Fifty easy Chapters,
with a Frontispiece in Colours by H. S. Marks, A.R.A.; 50
Illustrations, and an Illuminated Title-page. New Edition, with
Questions.

     "So simple that a child of the tenderest years will be
     perfectly able to comprehend all that the writer wishes to
     convey ... adorned with numerous illustrations ... the
     title-page is a lovely piece of art in illuminated
     printing."--_Edinburgh Courant._

     "An excellent and useful little gift-book."--_Scotsman._

     "Any boy or girl who fails to admire Miss Yonge's 'Stories of
     English History' must, indeed, be hard to
     please."--_Bookseller._

_A Cheap Edition of MISS YONGE'S HISTORY OF ENGLAND, for Schools, is
now ready; with 41 Engravings, and Questions, neatly bound in cloth.
Price 1/6._

_=Stories of French History for the Little Ones.=_ In Forty-eight easy
Chapters, with a Frontispiece in Colours by H. STACY MARKS, A.R.A.
Twelve Full-page Illustrations, and an Illuminated Title-page. New
Edition, with Questions.

     "The stories are well and clearly written."--_Saturday Review._

     "Charmingly bound, printed, and illustrated."--_Manchester
     Guardian._

_=Stories of Bible History for the Little Ones.=_ Three Readings and One
Picture for each Sunday in the Year, with an Illuminated Title-page
and Frontispiece in Colours.

     "Illustrations numerous and well executed."--_Daily Telegraph._

     "Embraces the whole story from the creation to the ascension;
     told as Miss Yonge knows so well how to tell it."--_Guardian._

     "Nicely illustrated, and got up in an attractive
     style."--_Birmingham Gazette._

_A Cheap Edition of STORIES OF BIBLE HISTORY, price 2/-, just
published._

_=Stories of Greek History for the Little Ones.=_ In Forty-five easy
Chapters, with Frontispiece in Colours by WALTER CRANE, Illuminated
Title-page, and numerous Illustrations.

_=Stories of Roman History for the Little Ones.=_ By CHARLOTTE M. YONGE.
In Forty-six easy Chapters, with Frontispiece in Colours, Illuminated
Title-page, and numerous Illustrations. _Just Published._

_=Stories of German History for the Little Ones.=_ By C. M. YONGE. With
Frontispiece in Colours, Illuminated Title-page, and numerous
Illustrations. _In the Press._


CLASS-BOOK FOR CLASSICAL AND ART SCHOOLS.

=The Mythology of Greece and Rome, with special reference to its use in
Art.= From the German of O. Seemann. Edited by G. H. BIANCHI, B.A.,
late Scholar of S. Peter's College, Cambridge. 64 Illustrations, Crown
Octavo, Cloth, 3/6.


HANDBOOK FOR AGRICULTURAL STUDENTS AND FARMERS.

=Animals of the Farm: their Structure and Physiology.= By JOHN F.
HODGES, M.D., F.C.S., &c. Second Edition, revised by the Author.
Numerous Illustrations. Small Octavo, Cloth, 2/6.


VERE FOSTER'S DRAWING COPY-BOOKS.

_With Instructions and Paper to Draw on._

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Samples will be forwarded on receipt of Six Penny Stamps.



Transcriber's Note:


Inconsistent and archaic spelling, punctuation, and syntax retained.





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