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Title: The Forest Beyond the Woodlands - A Fairy Tale
Author: Kennedy, Mildred
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 "The Forest Beyond the Woodlands - A Fairy Tale" ***

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Libraries.)



                              THE FOREST
                                BEYOND
                             THE WOODLANDS



_BORZOI BOOKS FOR CHILDREN_


                  A LITTLE BOY LOST      _by W. H. Hudson_

     “In its sense of reality and in the unity of childhood with wild
     nature, I know of no book with which to compare it.... I believe
     that its appeal will be to children of different ages and to every
     grown person who has any love of beauty or remembrance of
     childhood. It is a wonderful book to read aloud to
     children.”--Annie Carroll Moore in _The Bookman_.

     “Miss Lathrop’s illustrations for ‘A Little Boy Lost’ and for ‘The
     Three Mulla-Mulgars’ have placed her, at a bound, in the first rank
     of American imaginative illustrators.”--_Chicago Evening Post._

_Beautifully illustrated in full color and black and white by Dorothy P.
Lathrop._


             THE THREE MULLA-MULGARS      _by Walter de la Mare_

     “The story concerns the adventures of three monkeys of royal blood
     who have left their hut in the African jungle to seek the wonderful
     kingdom of their Uncle.... A tale of strange creatures and strange
     landscapes, of adventures and misadventures in faery forests. One
     of those rare books that everyone will love.”--_Chicago Evening
     Post._

_Illustrated in full color and black and white by Dorothy P. Lathrop._


          THE FOREST BEYOND THE WOODLANDS      _by Mildred Kennedy_

     “A fairy story made up of the ideally right and reliable magic--the
     bird-song guiding like a silver thread, through a quest that
     carries us through all manner of portents and crouching perils to
     rare delights beyond far horizons.... Made doubly delightful by the
     inclusion of fifteen really extraordinary silhouettes done for the
     book by Miss Vianna Knowlton.”--_Helen Thomas Follett._

         THE WONDER WORLD WE LIVE IN _by Adam Gowans Whyte_

     A book that makes the foundations of real science more thrilling,
     more romantic, and more simply comprehensible than the usual
     pseudo-scientific books for children, and that will delight any
     child whose eyes are opening to the wonders of the
     world.--_Profusely illustrated._


        PRINCE MELODY IN MUSIC LAND      _by Elizabeth Simpson_

     “A very delightful book for children. The author has translated
     much of the dry technique of music lore into a series of connected
     fairy stories. Children will enjoy while learning.”--_Philadelphia
     Ledger._

             _Illustrations by Mary Virginia Martin._

                            [Illustration:

                              THE FOREST
                                BEYOND
                             THE WOODLANDS

                            A Fairy Tale By
                            Mildred Kennedy

                          With silhouettes by
                            Vianna Knowlton

                     New York ALFRED·A·KNOPF 1921
                                   ]

                          COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY
                         ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC.


                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


                                  TO

                          FLORENCE A. BROWNE

                             THE MOTHER OF

                             KEN AND DICK

                    FOR WHOM THIS TALE WAS WRITTEN



[Illustration]

CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

   I DAVID                                                            13

  II THE BLUE BIRD’S TRAIL                                            25

 III THE LITTLE DOOR IN THE TREE TRUNK                                33

  IV AT THE COBBLER’S COTTAGE                                         41

   V THE MANSION OF HAPPINESS                                         57

  VI THE PALACE OF THE BRONZE KING                                    71

 VII IN THE PALACE                                                    81

VIII A MESSAGE FROM RUTH                                              87

  IX THE HUT IN THE FOREST                                           101

   X THE WINGED HORSE                                                111

  XI THE DAY BEFORE THE WEDDING                                      118

 XII THE RESCUE                                                      129

XIII THE BURNING MOUNTAIN                                            138

 XIV THE GARDEN                                                      145



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                  FACING
                                                                    PAGE

“HERE,” SAID DAVID, “TAKE THIS BIRCH CUP--”                           22

DAVID RAN TO THE FOOT OF THE TREE, FASTENED THE
HEAD OF HIS AX IN THE HOLE                                            30

“FOLLOW YOUR NOSE TILL YOU GET THERE,” DAVID
LOOKED UP AT HIM IN SURPRISE                                          38

THE MONTHS PASSED BY AND DAVID AND RUTH WORKED
AND WORKED FOR THE COBBLER                                            46

THE NEXT NIGHT THE MOON SHONE BRIGHTLY. DAVID
HAD JUST CRAWLED INTO BED                                             70

SHE ROSE TO HER FEET, STRETCHED HER HANDS TOWARD
THE GREAT BRIGHT SUN AND PRAYED                                       74

THE LARGE ROSE-GARDEN ENCLOSED BY THE HIGH BRICK
WALL WAS THE ONLY SPOT OUTSIDE THE PALACE
ITSELF, WHERE RUTH WAS PERMITTED TO WANDER                            82

FAR AWAY IN THE DISTANCE HE SAW THE PALACE OF
THE GREAT BRONZE KING                                                 88

KNEELING BESIDE A LOW OAK CHEST HE TOOK A RUSTY
KEY AND FITTED THIS INTO THE WORN KEYHOLE                            106

“YOU MUST TAKE ME TO THE BRONZE KING’S DOMAIN”                       116

SO SHE SANG ONE AFTER ANOTHER THE SONGS THAT SHE
AND DAVID HAD LOVED                                                  122

“THIS WAY, RUTH, THIS WAY,” WHISPERED DAVID                          128

THEY TOLD ONE ANOTHER OF ALL THAT HAD TAKEN
PLACE                                                                138

“WELCOME, CHILDREN,” SHE SAID, “WELCOME TO YOUR
COTTAGE”                                                             150



THE FOREST
BEYOND
THE WOODLANDS



CHAPTER I

DAVID


David was the son of an honest wood-cutter. He lived with his father in
a little cottage on the border of the woodlands. Away, away as far as
the eye could see stretched great tree-covered hills and mountains. This
vast area was called, by the people of the country, the Dark Forest.

Some feared the mysteries of this unknown and unexplored region, for
there were many stories and superstitions concerning giants, gnomes, and
elves who dwelt within its shaded wilderness. But David, ever since he
could remember, had always had a friendly feeling for the rough, hard
bark of a pine or oak tree; and the fringed softness of the paper birch
had been a delight to him ever since the day he first noticed its ragged
beauty--a late summer afternoon on which, as he returned to his father’s
cottage, the setting sun touched the whiteness of the tree-trunk beneath
the cool green of its shining leaves.

“Some day I shall go far into the Forest,” he would say to himself. “Who
knows what treasures I may find?”

David grew fast and was strong, for his life in the woodlands was one to
make any boy well and happy. He learned his father’s trade, and in a
short time, although he was not nearly full grown, he could wield an axe
as well as many a grown man; in fact, he could put some men to shame,
for his skill was far greater than that of the average boy of his age.

One day, while walking along a narrow path used by the wood-cutters, he
met an old, old woman. Her dress was brown and made of a coarse
homespun. A large basket strapped to her back was filled with pieces of
firewood which she had been gathering. When she saw David she called to
him. And as he approached her he noticed how beautiful she was; for,
although her clothes were ragged, that mattered little--her face seemed
more kind and beautiful than any he had ever seen. Her hair--one lock
had fallen from beneath the brown cap that she wore--was white as driven
snow. Her eyes were the soft colour of oak leaves in winter, and so
filled with gentleness that David could only stand and look at her.

“Can you tell me,” she asked in a voice that sounded like a breath of
wind stirring through the pine needles, “can you tell me where I can
find a bit of water? I have been all day in the woods and have found no
spring or brook; and I am thirsty, so thirsty! for a drink of pure, cool
mountain water.”

“Yes!” cried David. “There is a beautiful spring not far from here. I
will get some of the water for you. Rest here in the shade till I
return: it will take me but a few moments.”

As he spoke he lifted her basket, that she might the more easily slip
her arms through the leathern straps that served to hold it in place
upon her back. She swung her clumsy burden to the ground and thanked
him; and as soon as he saw her comfortably seated on a bed of moss
beneath a sheltering tree, he hastened on his way towards the spring.

As he walked along he took out his hunting knife. For first he must find
a birch tree: he wanted some of its white bark to make a cup in which
to carry the water. Soon he came to a beautiful great tree. Cutting a
clean wide strip of bark, he shaped it into a bowl-like receptacle. Next
he pinned the edges together with twigs, so whittled to a point that
they would pierce the bark and hold it in place. Then, hastening to the
spring, he filled the birchen cup to overflowing with the clear, cool
crystal water. In a few moments he stood before the old woman again and
handed her the dripping cup. She took it, drank deeply, and was
refreshed.

David gazed upon her. There was something about her that he could not
explain; nor could he explain to himself his strange longing to talk to
her. She looked up at him and smiled; then she motioned to him to sit
down on the moss beside her. David did so.

“Do you live in these woods?” he asked timidly. “I do not remember ever
having seen you before.”

“No,” answered the old woman. “My house is a long, long way from
here--yet not so very far away, either, if only one is wise enough to
follow the trail and not seek any short cuts.”

“Does the trail we are on lead to your home?” asked David, pointing to
the woodpath that stretched away before them, seeming to lose itself far
in the distance.

“Yes and no,” answered the old woman. “It leads you there if you know
how to follow it--but there are many turnings, and some of them will
lead you right and some of them will lead you wrong. It is not always
easy to know which one to take, and if you choose the wrong one it will
lead you far astray.”

“Dear me!” said David, “it is too bad the way is not more clearly
marked.”

“It never is,” said the old woman, “and it never can be, for each year
the new leaves grow up to cover the old trail, and each year a new trail
has to be found. In fact, each one has to make his own trail, even when
he seems to be following another’s and deceives himself into thinking
that he is doing so. It is the law of the Forest, for any trail other
than the one we make ourselves may lead us where we do not desire to go,
and all at once we find ourselves deep in the woods, the path lost and
we ourselves lost. No: we have to know where we are going and why we are
going there. Then, when we know thus much for sure, there is always some
sign to follow that will prevent us from losing the way. So you see,
although I may start out on this path, that does not mean I shall
follow it all the way; it depends upon the way the bird flies.”

“What bird?” asked David.

“The Blue Bird,” answered the old Woman.

“There are no blue birds in these woodlands,” said David. “I have lived
here all my life and have never seen one. There are yellow birds and red
birds, brown birds and green birds, white birds and black birds; but I
have never seen a _blue_ bird--I did not know there was one of that
colour.”

“Well,” said the old Woman, “perhaps some day you will see a Blue Bird.
When you do--let me give you just this word of advice--follow it, no
matter where you are walking, no matter how smooth and beautiful your
path may be, no matter through what regions the Bird may lead you.
Follow it, follow it, little boy, for it will guide you there.”

“Where?” asked David.

“To the Tree,” answered the old Woman.

“What tree?” asked David.

“To the Tree in the midst of the Garden.”

“What Garden?”

“The Garden in the depths of the Forest.”

“What Forest?”

“The Forest beyond the Woodlands.”

“Is your home there?” asked David.

“Not a very great way from it,” said the old Woman. “You will see a Blue
Bird some day, little boy; I am sure of that. I am glad that I met you.
Thank you for bringing me the cool, refreshing water. Now I must go on
my way, since I have told you about the Blue Bird. Remember, David: seek
for it and follow it. You will know what it really means only when you
have reached the end of the trail.--Help me lift the basket to my back
again.--Thank you.--Now I must be off.”

“Here,” said David, “take this birch cup: you may grow thirsty again
before you reach home, and if you come to a brook or spring, you will be
glad to have this with you.”

“Thank you, boy.--I am sure you will see the Blue Bird some day, for you
have the seeing light in your eye. But don’t forget to _look_ for it!”

She turned and walked slowly down the wooded path.

David returned to his father’s home. For many, many days the memory of
the old woman remained with him. Indeed, he never really forgot her,
though a very long time passed and strange things happened,

[Illustration: “HERE,” SAID DAVID, “TAKE THIS BIRCH CUP--”]

before he saw her again, that sometimes made his memory grow dim.

One day--it must have been several months after this meeting in the
woods--David had been felling trees and gathering faggots of wood; for
this was his daily task. Suddenly a bird’s clear, glad song broke upon
the calm of the noontime air. It was unusual to hear any bird’s song at
that hour; but to this fact David gave no thought, for the clear, rich
sweetness of the notes held him spellbound. He paused, resting his axe
upon the ground, his head thrown back, listening. He closed his eyes,
for the beauty of the music was such that he desired to think only of it
and to shut out all other thoughts from his mind.

A deep silence fell upon the woodlands. Then, suddenly, but as gently as
a breeze stirring the petals of a rose, the song came again--clear,
sweet notes that thrilled through David’s heart. All at once, as the
music faded again, a bird darted from the topmost branch of a
neighbouring birch tree. The sunlight played upon its wings and breast,
and the heavenly beauty of the little creature dazzled David’s eyes, as
he caught a glimpse of it before it was lost in the deep shadows of the
pine-clad hillside. But in that fleeting moment, he saw the colour of
the bird.

It was blue--the deep celestial blue of the cloudless sky.



CHAPTER II

THE BLUE BIRD’S TRAIL


In an instant there appeared to David, as if in a vision, the
moss-covered seat and the beautiful little old woman of so many months
ago. Again he seemed to hear the words, “When you see the Bird, little
boy, follow it.”

Quick as thought David said to himself, “That is the Blue Bird--I _will_
follow it!”

He stooped, picked up his woodsman’s axe and the sharp hunting knife in
its leathern case, strapped the belt around his waist, swung the axe
over his shoulder, and started off in the direction in which the bird
had flown. He ran to the dark cedar grove toward which the Blue Bird had
disappeared. There he hurried from tree to tree, seeking, in the thick
foliage, the brightly iridescent gleam of the beautiful little
creature’s feathers. But no sign of it could David find. After searching
and searching, he sat down quite discouraged.

Suddenly he heard again the clear liquid notes of the song. Springing to
his feet, he looked in the direction of the bird’s music. And, sure
enough, there was the exquisite creature, resting on a twig just above
his head.

This time he had a fine chance to study it carefully, to note the
markings on its wings, head, and breast; and after this he never forgot
how the Blue Bird looked--no, he remembered every detail through all the
long years to come.

Its back and wings were of the colour that we sometimes see reflected in
the surface of the ocean or of a lake or river--the wonderful deep blue
of a serene sky. Its breast was like the shade of the sky on a soft
summer day when great white clouds are floating about and a faint haze
rests over all the earth. Its head was of the same rich, deep tone as
the wings and back, and its throat was of that softer blue of the
breast. When the Bird flew, it seemed as if a line of gold encircled it,
for the wings and tail were tipped and outlined with a golden yellow
band. When one saw it darting through the sunlight, one could not but
think of a bit of the sky itself, outlined by a golden sunbeam. Its song
was like the music of a rushing mountain brook in early springtime.
Having once seen and heard this little songster, David had no other
desire than to follow it wherever its flight might lead.

The Bird flew and David followed. It took no long flights, but went
from tree to tree. It was as if it understood that David wished to
follow, for always, before flying further, it waited till the boy had
come to the foot of the tree on which it rested. Such a journey as he
made! for in a short time the Bird had left the woodland trail and was
flying cross-country, where there was no path to make David’s progress
less difficult. Soon he was climbing a steep mountainside; then he
descended a deep valley over steep and slippery cliffs; once he became
so entangled in briers that he was almost on the point of crying. But he
pushed bravely on; and in a little while he stood free from the vexing
briers, in an open meadow by the edge of a sparkling lake upon the
surface of which bloomed white water lilies. Behind him rose the
mountain over which he had journeyed and the steep, high ridges down
which he had slipped and fallen; their sheer damp walls shone now, as
the sunlight played upon them. It was no easy path that he had walked,
and as he looked back upon it he half wondered how he had been able to
accomplish it all in safety.

Now his way was very different. He found himself on a well-marked trail,
following the edge of the lake through a beautiful pine forest. The
trees had scattered their brown leaves upon the ground, and it was very
soft under his sore and tired feet. The Bird flew before him, leading
him on step by step till at last he came out of the pine forest at the
head of the lake. He paused for a moment to look across the smooth
surface of the water that stretched away before him. There, beyond its
furthest boundary, rose the mountain; and beyond that, he knew, lay his
home.

Suddenly the Bird sang. David listened. Again there filled his heart
that same mysterious desire to follow wherever the Bird might lead him.
Nothing else in the world seemed to him to matter half so much. The Bird
flew on. Now they were in a region of white birch trees and low-growing
bushes, and the ground all about was covered with a carpet of tiny
purple flowers with bright yellow centres.

In the distance David saw a large tree. It was greater than any other
tree which grew thereabout, and its broad-spreading branches cast a cool
shade. Its huge trunk, roughened and scarred by time, looked as old as
the mountain itself. The Bird flew toward it, David still following; and
all at once it darted into a hole in the tree-trunk, more than a tall
man’s height from the ground, and disappeared from sight. David ran to
the

[Illustration:

DAVID RAN TO THE FOOT OF THE
TREE, FASTENED THE HEAD OF HIS
AX IN THE HOLE]

foot of the tree and fastened the head of his axe in the hole, which he
could just reach by standing on tiptoe. Then, using the handle of his
axe to help him, he pulled himself up till he was able to look in.

Such a sight as met his eyes! Instead of being dark and black, as were
most holes of its kind into which David had ever looked, this opening
seemed filled with light. It gave him the same feeling of wonder that
comes over one when first one looks at the moon through a telescope. He
saw a blaze of golden light; and within the light lay a world that
seemed to him like Fairyland itself. He gazed and gazed, clinging to the
axe handle, digging his toes into the rough bark, lest he fall to the
ground and so see no more.

At last, unable to hold on any longer, he was obliged to let go and drop
to the ground. Somehow his axe became dislodged from the hole, and try
as he might, he could not fasten it in again. He sat down at the foot of
the tree, for he was very tired; and in a few moments he had fallen fast
asleep.



CHAPTER III

THE LITTLE DOOR IN THE TREE TRUNK


He had no idea how long he had slept or what awakened him; but when he
finally opened his eyes, the sun was low in the western sky. His first
thought was of the Blue Bird: what had happened to it? Had it flown away
and left David there? Had he really lost the Bird after all this long
adventure of following it faithfully? Perhaps it was waiting for him
somewhere near; perhaps if he listened he should hear the song again. He
waited. The sun sank lower and lower. But no bird’s song came to his
listening ear. At last the sun almost touched the horizon.

“I must look for the Bird!” cried David. “Perhaps it is waiting for me
to find it.” He jumped up and searched all about in the branches of the
great tree, but no trace could he find of his little wingèd guide.

Suddenly he noticed what he had never seen before: the bark on one side
of the tree was rolled back, baring the smooth wood underneath. However
this had happened, it must have happened a long, long time ago, for the
surface was weathered and stained the colour of the rough bark itself.
In the middle of this smooth gray surface he noticed a curious little
knob, not unlike the handle on a door. Looking more closely, he then
discovered a tiny crack running around the smooth portion of the wood,
about two inches from the edge of the bark. To his astonishment, he
discovered that this _was_ a little door, just large enough for him to
crawl through. He opened it, got down on his hands and knees, and
crawled in. The door closed behind him with a sharp _click-clack_, and
he found himself standing in a flood of light and at the edge of the
same country upon which he had gazed a few moments before, when he had
peered into the hole through which the Blue Bird had flown.

He looked about him and rubbed his eyes, for he could not believe that
he was really there. The first thing that he noticed was that the sun,
instead of being in the western sky as it had been on the other side of
the tree, appeared in the east, so that it was now morning in this land,
instead of evening. He gazed about him. Everything was marvellously
bright and fresh and beautiful. Then he noticed how clearly he could
see. All things were more distinct, more clearly outlined, than he had
ever known them to be before. “Where am I?” he thought to himself.

Then a voice within him seemed to ask: “Why did you come through the
door? Let us go back.”

“Go back!” cried David. “Well, I guess not! This is the most beautiful
place I have ever seen: I’m going on.”

“No!” said the Voice. “Come back; I want to go back.”

“Why do you want to go back?” asked David.

“Because I’m afraid,” answered the Voice.

“Afraid! afraid of what?” said David.

“I do not know of what,” answered the Voice. “I’m just afraid--afraid of
everything here. The light, for instance--I’m afraid of that. It is too
bright, and it hurts.”

David knew that this Voice which he had heard was nothing but the voice
of the coward within himself, although he talked aloud to it just as if
it were a real person.

“Well,” said David, “walk behind me, then; I will shield you from the
light as much as I can. But, for my part, that is the very thing that I
most love. Only think how the Blue Bird will look in this light, when we
see him again! It is worth staying here just for that alone.”

Some one must have heard the sound of his voice, for when he looked up
he saw a young man approaching.

“How did you get in?” asked the stranger.

“Through the little door in the Tree,” answered David.

“How did you find the door?”

“I was seeking for the Blue Bird that I have followed a long, long way,
and he flew into a hole in the tree, and I lost him. After I had
awakened from a sleep--for I was very tired and so fell fast asleep--I
tried to find the Bird again, and in my searching I found the little
door.”

“Oh!” said the stranger, “you followed the Blue Bird here, did you? Then
you are welcome; you may stay here as long as you wish.”

“That is very nice,” said David. “But do you mind telling me where I
am?”

“No,” said the stranger, smiling. “You are on the edge of the Forest.”

“What Forest?” asked David.

“The Forest beyond the Woodlands,” answered the stranger.

“Oh!” said David. “Thank you. I have heard of that Forest before. There
is a beautiful Garden in it, is there not? I think I should like to find
the Garden: can you tell me how to get to it?”

[Illustration:

“FOLLOW YOUR NOSE TILL YOU GET
THERE.” DAVID LOOKED UP AT
HIM IN SURPRISE]

“There is but one way,” said the stranger. “Follow your nose till you
get there.”

David looked up at him in surprise, for he could not quite tell whether
the stranger were making fun of him or not.

“I mean it!” said the young man earnestly. “The fragrance from the
Garden is so wonderfully sweet that it fills all the air round about. If
you take a deep breath now, you will notice what I mean.” He sniffed at
the air as he spoke. David did the same; and as he did so he noticed a
quality of sweetness that he had never imagined could be in any
atmosphere save where hosts of flowers were shedding their gentle
fragrance.

“I do see what you mean,” said David.

“Good!” cried the stranger. “I thought you would understand me. It truly
is the only way to find the Garden: just to follow your nose till you
get there. It sounds queer, doesn’t it? But there is lots of sense in
that advice, and it is good to follow. I am sure you will get there.
Good luck to you. I must go on my way now.”



CHAPTER IV

AT THE COBBLER’S COTTAGE


“I don’t like it here!” wailed the voice of the coward within him.
“There are too many things that I don’t understand. I’d like to run away
from it all.”

“My Grandmother used to tell me never to run away from what I can’t
understand,” said David. “Try to understand it--face it, anyway--and if
you can’t overcome it, go round it. But always keep your face toward it,
because if you run from it, it may run after you, and then there is no
telling what may happen. I’m going to face everything in this land! I
feel so strong and so happy that you can’t make me afraid--no, not even
you, you Doubting Voice--for I’m off to find the Garden, and I want you
just to keep still.”

He had walked only a little way when he came to a small cottage. An
elderly man was seated on the step, mending a pair of shoes. He called
to David as the boy approached.

“What is your name?” asked the man.

“David,” the boy answered.

“Well, well, David,” said the Cobbler, “you are just the little boy I
have been looking for. I want you to come into my cottage, and I will
show you something.”

Now, the Cobbler was really a witch, and all he wanted to do was to get
David into his cottage. Once he had the lad within its doors, he would
cast a spell over him that would prevent him from wishing to leave. Then
the old Cobbler could do with him as he pleased. But David knew nothing
of all this. He entered the cottage; and as he entered, the witch’s
spell began to take effect. He forgot the Garden for which he was
seeking; he forgot the old woman to whom he had given the cup, and what
she had told him; and, saddest of all, he forgot the Blue Bird. This
meant that he could neither see nor hear it again till he thought of it
himself and sought it of his own free will.

On the table was a tempting supper of cereal and milk, and a large slice
of mocha pie stood enticingly before him. The Cobbler motioned to him to
be seated and told him that the supper was spread there for him. David
was really very hungry, and he sat down and ate a good meal.

Just as he finished the last mouthful of the pie, a little girl entered
the room. David, looking at her, thought that he had never in his life
seen so beautiful a child. She was about eight years of age. Her hair
was golden brown, fine as spun gold, and she wore it pushed back from
her face and held in place by a narrow shell band. Her forehead was high
and well rounded. And her eyes were so kind and beautiful that David
just stood and looked into them, as she in turn was looking into his. It
seemed to them both as if they had known one another long, long ago; no,
it was as if they had _always_ known one another--as if their meeting
now were the most natural thing in the world.

The little girl held out her hand to David.

“What is your name?” he asked her as he took it.

“Ruth,” said the child. “And yours?”

“David,” he answered.

They became friends at once and for ever and ever and ever.

The months passed by, and David and Ruth worked and worked for the
Cobbler--for both he and his wife knew how to keep the children busy.
But as time went on, the two children grew older and wiser, till at last
they grew so wise that they saw right through the old Cobbler and his
wife. They knew that the pair pretended a great deal that was not true,
simply in order to keep the children in ignorance so that they would
fear their elders. For there is nothing that keeps one so filled with
fear as ignorance. Many persons who want power just for themselves alone
know this, and therefore try to keep others bound in the heavy chains of
ignorance.

Many months passed, then. Yet to Ruth and David they seemed but weeks;
for the two were held under a certain spell which kept them always in
the same state of blindness to past and future. Therefore time, as we
know it, had hardly any existence for them; for, in the land where they
now dwelt, this was the Law.

So the children grew and grew. And as they grew physically, they also
grew mentally. Soon they were approaching the very borderland of
womanhood and manhood. The old Cobbler and his wife were really kind
enough to them: the only thing that one could find fault with was their
extreme selfishness--for selfish they certainly were. Their selfishness
showed in their wish that David and Ruth should never hear or know
anything that might make the boy and girl restless or desire something
other than what the old couple saw fit to give them; for they

[Illustration:

THE MONTHS PASSED BY AND DAVID
AND RUTH WORKED AND WORKED
FOR THE COBBLER]

wanted the children to remain with them always, and in their old age to
care for them and make them comfortable. But this state of things was
not to last for ever.

David and Ruth both had their daily tasks and duties to perform. They
were kept busy most of the time, and for that reason were sound and
strong in body. In their leisure hours they would play and sing
together. As Ruth grew older, David found that she had a sweet, clear
voice. Together the two would sing songs of their own making, many of
them very beautiful.

One day they wandered through the meadow hand in hand, singing,
laughing, and playing, for they were both very happy. Presently they
came to a clear brook-side. Growing on either bank, hidden in the soft
grass, they found the tiny blue flowers called forget-me-nots. They
gathered a quantity of these; then, seeking a cool spot on a dry knoll
beneath the shade of a pine tree, they wove the flowers into chains,
making a fairy-like crown with which David decked Ruth. The sunlight
danced about them as the shadows of the pine branches waved to and fro.
Ruth’s soft hair fell about her face in a shower of golden beauty, her
cheeks were flushed with the joy and zest of youth, and her eyes were
soft and as deep as the cloudless sky at noonday. As David gazed upon
her it seemed to him that he had never seen anything so filled with
beauty and joy in all his life.

“Ruth!” he cried, “how beautiful you are! You remind me of
something--something that I have half forgotten--something of long, long
ago.”

“What is it?” asked the girl.

“I do not know,” answered David. “But you are so beautiful, you fill my
heart with longing--a longing to _do_ and to _be_.”

“What do you mean?” asked Ruth. “I cannot understand you.”

“I do not know how to tell you,” said the boy, laughing, “but--you are
so beautiful, Ruth, I would like to do something to prove to you,
yourself, how beautiful you are! I am some day going to prove it to you,
Ruth; for you truly seem to grow more beautiful every day.”

A tiny olive-green bird hopped about from twig to twig near them. The
two watched it in silence.

“Yes, Ruth, I will prove it to you some day. Something has stirred in my
heart that has never wakened before. It is like a great, deep
longing--not for anything that I can really put into words, but--it
seems as if sometime, somewhere, I must have seen something, and my
longing is to see and to find it again, whatever it was, so that I may
show it to you.”

The little olive-green bird chirped upon the pine twig. There was one
note in his song that seemed to stir David’s memory.

“Listen, Ruth!” he cried; “catch that bird’s note. Listen!”

They both waited, and the bird sang again.

David’s eyes shone. “Oh, Ruth,” he cried, “there is one note in that
song that seems almost divine!” Ruth sang the bird’s song, in a voice
sweet and clear, but very soft.

“Good!” cried David. “Now hold that note.”

Ruth held the note that had especially caught the boy’s ear. David
looked at her as she sang. Then, all at once, a wave of memory swept
over him.

“I have it, Ruth! It is the note in the Blue Bird’s song. Oh, how could
I forget it all this time?”

Then, as if in answer to his cry, far up in the topmost branches of the
pine tree came the song of the Blue Bird, clear, sweet, unmistakable.
David sprang to his feet.

“My Bird! My beautiful Bird!” he cried, “where are you?” He sought
eagerly among the branches above him. The song came almost
uninterruptedly, and David followed each note. At last his eye caught
the sunlight on the iridescent wings; he fell on his knees, eager face
upturned to the tiny woodland creature.

Yes, it was the Blue Bird, the same wondrous and exquisite being that he
had known and followed so faithfully, and then forgotten. A vision
drifted before his eyes ... the little cottage in which he had been
born ... the woodlands ... the beautiful little old lady to whom he had
brought the water, and then ... the Blue Bird. Yes, there it was again.
He lifted his hands and stretched them upwards, up toward the clear blue
sky and the great sun above.

“I must follow the Bird!” he cried. “Now I know and understand the
longing in my heart.”

He rose from his knees and returned to Ruth. He found her sitting upon
the ground, the chain of forget-me-nots looped round her, the crown
which they had made still lending its beauty to her golden hair. Her
head rested against the rough bark of the pine tree. Her hands lay
folded in her lap; her eyes were closed, and tears had left their trail
unheeded upon her cheeks.

“Ruth!” he whispered, “you have been weeping.”

She opened her eyes at the sound of his voice. The lashes, he saw, were
still heavy with tears.

“Yes,” she answered simply. “The song is so beautiful--! I never knew
before that one _could_ weep because a thing is beautiful, but the tears
seem to come from deep down--deeper down than any tears that I have ever
known. I have no wish to sob as one does in sorrow, but I could not help
weeping. It is the strangest experience I have ever had.”

“Come,” said David, taking her hand. “I want to show you the Blue Bird.”

Together they sought the Bird. When they had found it they gazed and
gazed. David told her of the old woman, of her beauty and sweetness, of
the long, long trail that he had followed before reaching the Cobbler’s
Cottage.

She listened to his story. “Yes, David,” she said--and she tried not to
let a shadow of sadness enter her voice--“you must follow the Blue Bird.
I will help you in any way I can.”

“Stay here, then, Ruth, just for a moment, while I run to the cottage
and get my axe and hunting knife. Watch the Bird till my return, so that
I may not lose it again; I will come back in a minute.” And David
started off in the direction of the cottage.

“How I should love to go with him,” thought Ruth, “to aid and cheer him!
But I must say nothing about it unless he asks me, for I might only be
in his way.”

In a few minutes David returned, his hunting knife strapped about his
waist and his axe swung over his shoulder. “Ruth,” he said, “I will
follow the Blue Bird; and when I get to the end of the trail, I will
come back again for you. I would take you with me now, but I fear the
way will be too rough and hard for you. It will be better for me to
return for you, and that I will surely do.”

Ruth longed to accompany him, and David longed to have her; but because
each wished to consider the other and to be unselfish in regard to that
which they both most desired, they remained apart--as very often happens
in other lives, too.

A flash of brilliant colour streaked the woods: the Blue Bird had flown.
David waved his hand, called “Goodbye!” and was off once more upon the
unknown trail.

Ruth watched him cross the meadow and enter the woods on the further
side. Just at this point he turned to wave once more to her; and as he
did so he took the spray of forget-me-nots that she had tucked into his
cap and put it into the little pocket in the side of the leathern case
that held his hunting knife.

Ruth returned to the cottage alone. As the day drew to a close and David
did not return, the old Cobbler and his wife asked her where he was.

“I do not know,” answered Ruth simply. “He followed the Blue Bird, and I
saw him disappear in the woods. He did not come back to me after that.”

“Followed the Blue Bird!” cried the old couple in one voice. “We never
dreamed that he could see _that_!”



CHAPTER V

THE MANSION OF HAPPINESS


David had not gone far on his way when the Voice spoke to him again. He
had quite forgotten it during the time he worked at the Cobbler’s
cottage, for the old couple had kept him so busy that he had had no time
to think of anything but his work.

“What is up now?” asked the Voice. “Where are we going?”

“_There_,” answered David, “after the Blue Bird. Did I not tell you the
colour on its wings would be more beautiful in this light than ever
before? Is it not so? Were they ever more brilliant or more iridescent?”

With David’s renewed ability to see the Blue Bird, all the memory of
the past returned to him so clearly that it seemed but yesterday that he
had entered the little door in the tree trunk.

“Why leave the cobbler and his wife and Ruth?” asked the Voice. “I liked
it there and found myself very comfortable and well cared for, even if
they did work us rather hard at times. I should have liked to remain
there all the days of my life.--I don’t care for this business of
chasing the Blue Bird,” he added sulkily.

“That is because you do not understand,” said David. “Your duty is to
obey and do as I tell you, not to grumble and find fault with every
little hardship! There is a goal that I am aiming for, and the Blue Bird
is leading me there; so I must and will follow it.”

The Voice grumbled a bit more, but David paid no attention to it, for
his mind was filled with more interesting thoughts. He had rested under
a tree as night approached, and the Blue Bird had sought shelter in the
thick foliage of the same tree. The Voice had taken this opportunity to
speak to him again.

David was now in the Forest Beyond the Woodlands, you perceive, for he
had stepped into this country when he passed through the little door
that led from the other side of the great tree. In this land things
happen otherwise than in our land; or, if they do not actually happen
otherwise, it _seems_ so to those who live there, for everyone there is
able to understand the inside of a thing as well as the outside. If you
are able to understand only the outside of a thing, you will, more times
than a few, entirely misunderstand the whole thing; but if you can
understand the inside, it is not in the least necessary to bother much
about the outside, for that will take care of itself. Everything that
has an outside has been made for the sake of the inside that it
contains; and as everything has two sides, of course, you understand
that there must be an _in_side as well as an _out_side. It is a very
good thing to be able to see the inside of a thing and to look for it
more carefully than you look for the outside; and if you learn really to
see it, you will have more than a few surprises in your life, through
finding that you are able to see both sides at once.

David now found himself able to understand the song of the Blue Bird as
he had never understood it before; for he could now perceive the inside
of things as well as the outside. He was much surprised when he realized
that, instead of its being just a bird’s song as he had always
supposed, each note meant certain definite ideas and thoughts which the
Blue Bird was expressing. For this reason the song was never twice
exactly alike. David had never noticed this before: the song had always
seemed to him just the same clear, sweet musical ripple, repeating
itself over and over. Now he began to detect the several notes and how
varied they were in accent and arrangement; and he learned that it was
within this variety of accent and arrangement that the sense of the song
was to be found. Then, little by little, David caught the inner meanings
of the different symbols of sound; so that, from now on, every time the
Blue Bird sang, its song conveyed a special message to David’s heart and
mind.

He had followed the Bird for some time--just how long, he did not
know--when presently he came upon a tiny green rose-covered cottage.
The Bird flew to the vine over the doorway and began to sing as if its
tiny throat would burst.

    “Knock on the door, knock on the door!
     Here lives the good woman you once met before.”

David walked up to the door and knocked fearlessly. In a moment it
opened; and there before him stood the dear little white-haired old
woman whom he had met in the woods.

“David!” she cried in delight. “David! why, is it really you? Have you
come at last? I have been looking for you this long time. So you did see
the Blue Bird after all, and you did follow it. I know that you followed
it; else you never could have found your way here. One never reaches
this house in any other way, for this, you know, is the Mansion of
Happiness. Come in,” she added. “You are welcome!”

“Is this really the Mansion of Happiness?” asked David. “I have heard of
it before: we used to play a game called ‘The Mansion of Happiness.’ But
I never knew there was a real place of that name.”

“Yes, there is a real place of that name, David, and this is it.”

“Well,” said David, “then I should like to spend the rest of my life
right here.”

“No, you wouldn’t, either,” said the old woman. She spoke so abruptly
that she almost startled David.

“Why not?” said he.

“Because you would tire of it.”

“Why?”

“Because you are a living Soul,” said the old woman, “and a living Soul
always tires of a thing in time.”

“Why?” asked David.

“Because if it didn’t, and were perfectly satisfied, it would know no
progress. It is dissatisfaction caused by growing tired of a thing, or
the growing tired of a thing causing dissatisfaction, that makes one
desire and seek something else. It is this desire and seeking that is
the root of all progress.” David found it hard to understand her very
well; her words seemed strange to him. So he just said, “Why?”

“Because you are a living Soul, David; never forget that. It is worth
remembering, and it will help you to understand many strange things.”

David looked at her in silent wonder. It seemed to him as if there were
a beautiful golden light about her, and he felt a gentle peace that
reminded him of his own Mother.

“I should like to stay here with you,” he said.

“You may,” she answered, “until you are tired of it.”

So David remained.

If we tried to measure in days and nights as we count them, it would
take very many before we had enough to cover the time that David
remained there; but he was in such a happy state of mind that there
seemed to him to be no time at all. This is the way it is with us all
when we are truly very happy.

One day David began to grow restless. He had strapped about his waist
the case that contained his hunting-knife, and had taken out the knife
and was feeling of the blade. He stooped over to sharpen it on the sole
of his shoe. As he did so, the little leathern pocket of the case flew
open. Something fell from it. He leaned down and picked it up--a spray
of tiny forget-me-nots, dried and almost colourless.

“Ruth!” he cried, almost as if he expected her really to hear him.
“Ruth, where are you? I have been away from you so long! How have you
been all this long time? Where are you? Are you still at the Cobbler’s
cottage?”

There was no answer save the song of a distant bird, which broke on the
peaceful air unheeded, for David was deep in thought. From this time on,
he grew more and more restless. The old Woman noticed it and smiled
quietly to herself, but she said nothing, for she wished David to speak
first.

“Mother,” he said one day--for he had learned to call her that--“Mother,
I can’t stay here any longer: I must go on! I want to find the Tree in
the midst of the Garden. That is what I started out to find. I thought
the Blue Bird would have taken me there, but he has not, after all.”

“Did you follow him?” asked the old Woman gently.

“Yes,” said David.

“How long did you follow him?” she asked.

“Till he led me here.”

“Then what happened?”

“Why, then--I--forgot--about him,” said David thoughtfully.

“Yes,” said the old Woman, “it is just so. But you should never forget
about him, David; else how can he guide you?”

“True,” said David. “I am truly sorry!”

“Don’t be sorry, since you have remembered him again. David, many older
men than you have forgotten to follow the Blue Bird; many have never
even followed him long enough to see as much as the outside of my
dwelling house, let alone ever daring to knock on the door.”

“What has happened to them?” asked David.

“Some of them are wandering about in the Forest, lost; some have
returned to their own homes and forgotten the Tree, the Garden, and the
Blue Bird. Others have fallen into a deep sleep and are merely existing,
not really _living_ at all. These last will only waken when Sister
Experience comes upon them and gives them a good shaking to wake them
up; she is always looking for those who are asleep and need to be
wakened. Why do you wish to find the Tree?” she added questioningly.

“Because I know that it must be very beautiful and its fruit very
delicious,” said David. “I want to find the way so that I can guide Ruth
there; I want her to see it and to have some of its fruit. For I want
her to have the very best that there is.”

“Well,” said the old Woman, “you are on the right path, and as long as
you remember Ruth and seek for her sake, you need not fear
forgetfulness. But you must remember to follow the Blue Bird on past the
Red Castle where the Bronze King dwells and the brown Lions guard the
way. Then you must go on over the Burning Mountain, for it is on the
other side of it that the Garden lies. If you can capture the
Pale-Coloured Wingèd Horse, he will help you--but it is almost
impossible to capture _him_.”

David’s eyes shone with a new light as the old Woman spoke.

“I will go!” he cried earnestly. “The next time I hear the Blue Bird
sing, I will find and follow him!”

The next night the moon shone brightly. David had just crawled into bed.
He was tired, and the clean white sheets looked and felt very good to
him. But just as he was about to close his eyes he heard the Blue Bird’s
song. He sprang up, dressed hurriedly, strapped on his hunting-knife,
and swung his axe over his shoulder.

Before he left the room, though, he wrote a few words on a bit of paper.
This he pinned on his pillow. In the morning the old Woman found this
message:

“The Blue Bird has called me; I am off to follow its trail. I can never
forget your kindness or your home. Thank you always.

                                                               “David.”

[Illustration:

THE NEXT NIGHT THE MOON SHONE
BRIGHTLY. DAVID HAD JUST
CRAWLED INTO BED]



CHAPTER VI

THE PALACE OF THE BRONZE KING


And what, during all this time, was happening to Ruth? We have left her
a long time, and our thoughts naturally wander back to her, for we can
no more forget her than David can.

The old Cobbler and his wife treated her very harshly after David left.
They made her work twice as hard, for in a way they held her responsible
for his disappearance. She grew very, very unhappy; for she was very
lonely, and she longed to know what had become of her dear friend and
playmate. One day--it must have been at least a year from the time David
left her, and it may have been several years; it seemed so to her,
anyway--she knew that the same _season_ had come round again, for the
forget-me-nots in the meadow were in bloom, and the air was filled with
the soft light and gentle fragrance that she had always remembered as
belonging to that last sad, beautiful day that they had spent together.
She had left her work unfinished and had wandered through the fields and
meadows to the hillside where they had rested and David had shown her
the Blue Bird.

She sat down on the soft grass. A bunch of forget-me-nots that she had
gathered in the meadow drooped and faded in the heat of her hand. But
even as they faded and their frail breath went from them, their odour
filled the air; and as Ruth closed her eyes in thought, it seemed to her
that David must be near.

This happened, as it chanced, at the very moment when David found the
faded forget-me-nots in his hunting-case, and their thoughts really were
together, though at the time neither realized or knew it to be so.

All at once a great, deep, pure desire came over Ruth. She opened her
eyes and listened. There was no Blue Bird singing for her. She lifted
the drooping flowers to her lips. “Dear Flowers,” she whispered, “can
you not help me? I will leave this spot where all is sadness; I will go
in the direction David went; perhaps I can find and help him. Anyway, I
will seek and strive.”

She rose, stretched her hands toward the great bright sun, and prayed
that her footsteps might be guided aright. She stooped to lift the tiny
blossoms that lay beside her and, searching among them for the largest
flowers, tucked a spray into her dress. Then she started down the
hillside in the direction David had taken so long ago. She followed his
trail faithfully as far as she could recall it. But when she reached the
point where he had disappeared, her mind became confused and bewildered.

Her trail was to be a hard one indeed, for she was following only a
vague memory, whereas David had followed an ideal so clear and vivid
that it had expressed itself in living song. She pushed bravely on,
though, for she was not one to turn back after starting out. She longed
to find David, or at least to know of his welfare; and she had no desire
to return to the Cobbler’s cottage again.

The sun set, and it grew dark save for the stars overhead, which gave
little light in the depth of the forest. At last, exhausted, she

[Illustration:

SHE ROSE TO HER FEET, STRETCHED
HER HANDS TOWARD THE GREAT
BRIGHT SUN AND PRAYED]

sat down under a large tree and fell fast asleep. She slept all night
long and far into the morning. The night was warm and dry, with no chill
in the air, and she awakened much refreshed. The sun was almost in the
zenith when finally she rose and started on her way. Soon, coming to a
sparkling mountain brook, she stopped to drink of its cool waters.

She had just risen from a large rock by the water’s edge and stood
shaking the clear drops from her finger-tips, when the sound of voices
startled her. She turned; and there through the trees behind her rode on
prancing horses a party of huntsmen, their spears and knives glittering
in the sunlight.

She attempted to hide in a neighbouring thicket. But it was too late:
one of the party had spied her.

“Yeho!” he called gaily to his comrades. “What have we here?” And he
pointed to where poor Ruth stood. In a moment he had ridden up beside
her.

“What do you here?” he asked in a harsh, gruff voice. “Drinking from the
King’s own stream and eating berries and other fruits in the King’s own
woods! Who gave you permission to wander here?”

“No one gave me permission,” answered the frightened girl. “I did not
know that I was in any King’s land. I am a poor Seeker, seeking for the
Blue Bird and David. Have you seen either? Surely, if you have met them,
you will tell me in which direction they were going? I did not know that
I was taking that which belongs to another, and I am sorry with all my
heart. Ask the King to pardon me. I will go on my way and will eat no
more fruit nor drink more water till I am sure that I am beyond the
great King’s border lands.”

“Ask the King to pardon you, yourself,” answered the huntsman roughly.
“For here he comes.”

As he spoke he pointed toward an open meadow, across the smooth surface
of which a man came riding on a great black horse. As he drew near, Ruth
saw what a strange looking person he was. His face was round and full,
and its colour was that of burnished bronze. His hair was of the colour
of flame, and it grew in shaggy locks that hung about his neck like
tongues of fire hanging upside down. His eyes were like burning live
coals under thick, bushy eyebrows of a dull gray, like ashes after the
fire has gone out of them. His voice when he spoke sounded like the roar
of a blacksmith’s bellows.

“Who is this girl?” he asked.

Poor Ruth was frightened, but, summoning all her courage, she answered
by telling him for whom she sought.

“A Blue Bird, indeed!” said the King. “If my huntsmen come across any
such, you may be very sure they will make quick work of it! It would
make a dainty dish to set before their King. As for that young David, he
had best keep off my land. All who are found trespassing upon my kingdom
are put to death at once. It is only because you are a girl, and a very
fair one at that, that your life has been spared; these men of mine
would have killed you long before I came upon them, had you been that
young David of whom you speak, instead of the pretty lass that you are!
As it is,” he added with a rough, coarse laugh, looking toward his
huntsmen, “we will spare her and take her to the Palace. She will make a
merry plaything for us all; and, if the fancy takes me, she shall
become my wife and the Queen of my vast kingdom.”

Ruth shuddered at these words, and looked hurriedly about her to see if
there were not some way by which she could escape. The man who had first
spoken took her roughly by the arm and led her up beside the King’s
great black horse.

“You shall ride behind me on my black charger,” said the King. As he
spoke he drew off his gauntlet and offered her his hand to help her as
she sprang from the ground to the great broad back of the powerful
beast. She noticed that his hand was bronze-coloured like his face; and
as she put her own cool, soft little hand into it, its fierce and almost
burning heat made her feel faint. But she knew that she must not lose
consciousness, for then she could not know what was happening to her or
whither she was being taken. Once more she mustered all her courage; and
as this strange procession journeyed through the forest toward the
Palace, her lips moved in prayer.

Within a few minutes she found herself a prisoner within the Red Palace
of the great Bronze King.



CHAPTER VII

IN THE PALACE


Ruth awoke the next morning to find herself in very comfortable
quarters; for the Bronze King had taken quite a fancy to the pretty
golden-haired little girl. He had told the women of the Palace that,
after she had been properly instructed and educated in all the customs
and laws of the land which it was necessary for her to know, he intended
to marry her and make her the Queen of his Kingdom. She was not treated
cruelly in any way, for she had all the luxuries that any little girl
could wish--a warm comfortable bed in a pretty sunny room, dainty
clothes to wear, and all the delicious food that she could possibly eat.
The women in attendance at the Palace took care of her, and they were
all kind and thoughtful. But they never permitted her to go outside the
Palace grounds, for they feared that she might try to escape, and that,
if she did, the King would lose his bride-to-be. He was utterly selfish
and unjust, and sometimes he was terribly cruel; so that everyone feared
to disobey his orders. The large rose-garden, enclosed by a high brick
wall, was the only spot outside the Palace in which Ruth was permitted
to wander.

Day after day she had her stupid lessons; day after day they made her
repeat the dull, senseless rules of the Kingdom’s Constitution. These
she could neither understand nor remember, and for this reason she made
very little progress. Her teachers, who found themselves growing fond of
the gentle blue-eyed child, felt sorry for her, and wished

[Illustration:

THE LARGE ROSE-GARDEN ENCLOSED
BY THE HIGH BRICK WALL WAS THE
ONLY SPOT OUTSIDE THE PALACE
ITSELF, WHERE RUTH WAS PERMITTED
TO WANDER]

that she might escape her hard tasks. Often and often Ruth herself
thought of the Cobbler’s cottage, and felt that her life would have been
far happier had she remained there. Then she thought of David. And when
her thoughts turned in this direction, her poor heart beat so fast and
ached so sorely that it seemed like a wild bird held within a cruel wire
cage from which there was no escape. What could she do? How could she
ever hope to find David now, since she had lost the trail, lost the Blue
Bird, and was held a captive within the high walls of the Bronze King’s
Palace?

Ruth’s voice was clearer and sweeter than ever, and the King found one
of his chief delights in hearing her sing. Often he would call for
music, bidding her bring her harp that she might play. Then she would
sing, while all within the royal Palace listened. The girl loved her
music above all things else. Often she composed songs that filled her
own heart with delight, for they captured and contained memories of her
old life of the days when David had worked and played with her--those
days that seemed now so long, long ago.

Her voice had an almost magical effect upon those who listened. Sleep
would creep over them one by one till many had closed their eyes and
were wrapped in deep and peaceful slumbers, while her song still filled
the room with music. One after another would drop off to sleep in this
way. Sometimes the first to be affected would be one, sometimes another.
Sometimes the King himself would be the first to sleep; then again he
would remain awake during all the music, according to how weary he might
feel when the song began. So it was with all who listened to her clear
girlish voice.

Once the King said to her: “You will put us all to sleep some day; yes,
every one in the Palace, if you but sing long enough.”

“What a funny sight that would be!” cried Ruth, laughing. “Some day
perhaps I will try it.”

There was one song that she loved particularly. She had written it
herself, and it meant a great deal to her. The words were:

    “The forget-me-nots in the meadow
     Reflect the sky’s own blue.
     As they lift their tiny blossoms
     To catch the falling dew.

     The Blue Bird flies o’er the meadow;
     Through the calm his note is heard.
     Lo, the throbbing heart of Nature
     Is in tune with the song of a bird.”

Day by day she longed to escape. But that was impossible: she was
watched and guarded. A prisoner! She knew it all too well. The thought
of ever marrying the Bronze King grew more and more terrible to her. “I
can’t do it! I can’t do it!” she would say to herself. “What shall I do?
Oh, David, what shall I do?”

At such times she took up the little forget-me-nots, the poor faded,
dried, dead little things, only the shell of the lovely and fragrant
blue blossoms that she had gathered in the meadow that ill-fated day
when she left the Cobbler’s cottage. She loved them--even these dry
little shells--and she always kept them near her, for they seemed to
contain the memory of all that was most precious to her.

“David!” she cried, “I _won’t_--_I won’t do it_! I WILL NOT MARRY THE
BRONZE KING! _NEVER!_”



CHAPTER VIII

A MESSAGE FROM RUTH


The moon was shining clear and bright as David stepped out of the door
of the Mansion of Happiness. The clear song of the Bird broke again upon
the peaceful evening air. David ran to the foot of the tree whence the
notes came. Seeking eagerly among the branches, he caught a shimmer of
iridescent blue in the soft moonlight.

“My Bird, my Bird!” he cried, “I have found you again at last. Lead
on--guide me there--guide me! Do not let me lose sight of you again! My
Bird, I need you, I need to follow you, for _her_ dear sake. For I must
guide Ruth to the Tree when I have found the way.”

The Bird flew before him, and all night he trudged on and on through the
deep, dark forest, over rough unmarked trails filled with briers and
treacherous pitfalls where his steps were all too apt to falter.

“Ruth--where can Ruth be?” he said to himself.

    “In a palace dark and deep
     Ruth is lying fast asleep,”

sang the Blue Bird.

“What do you mean?” cried David. “Guide me there, my Blue Bird; guide me
there where she is. I must find her!”

    “In the Bronze Kings’s dark domain,
     There the poor girl must remain,”

sang the Bird.

“Where?” asked David. “Why?”

    “She is a maiden sorely tried--
     The King will have her for his bride,”

came the song in reply.

[Illustration:

FAR AWAY IN THE DISTANCE HE SAW
THE PALACE OF THE GREAT BRONZE
KING]

“What!” David cried in a wild frenzy of fear and anger. “NEVER! Blue
Bird, Blue Bird, lead me to her! I must save my Ruth! She must be saved
from this terrible and cruel fate!”

    “I can guide you to the door,
     But I, alas! can do no more.”

“Guide me there, then--that is all I ask!” cried David.

So, after following the Blue Bird over another long, long trail, he saw
at last, far away in the distance, the Palace of the great Bronze King.
Its tower and parapets rose in a huge mass of ugly red above the green
foliage and gray rocks of the hillside.

In a few minutes he stood without the massive walls. It was very early
in the morning, and all within seemed as still and quiet as though it
were midnight.

“Is Ruth really there?” he thought to himself. “How can I be sure of
this? and, being sure, how can I ever free her?”

    “Wait in patience, doubt no more;
     And never try to force the door,”

came the song again.

“That’s all right,” said David, “but how can a man be patient for ever?
I must and will rescue Ruth!”

As he spoke there appeared, in the window above him, the Bronze King
himself. David hid in the leaves of a neighbouring thicket so that the
King could not see him, though he himself could gaze with safety upon
the unearthly and monstrous visage of the King. The thought of Ruth’s
being a captive in that monster’s Palace was almost more than he could
endure.

The sun shone through the window right into the King’s face. It was a
curious fact, and one which had been noticed by Ruth as well as by
others in the Palace, that in the bright sunlight the King’s face always
seemed to grow a still darker bronze. The more light shone upon him, the
darker he seemed to grow. Now, in this brilliant morning light, his face
was darker than the moon when, in eclipse, it takes on a strange and
terrifying cast which no one can look at without a shudder.

A surge of repulsion swept over David as he gazed; he thought he had
never seen any being so thoroughly ugly and so altogether awful. Then
the thought of sweet, gentle Ruth filled his heart, and in a moment he
grew strong and fearless. He resolved to rescue her, no matter what the
cost might be.

“I must wait in patience,” thought David to himself. “Wait and watch. I
will learn something of the manners and customs of this strange
monarch.”

So he hid himself in the thicket to watch and see what might develop in
and around the Palace. He could hear the servants moving about, and now
and then he caught a glimpse of someone inside the Castle. Soon he
judged that breakfast was being served. Not long after this, great
preparations were made for something--some kind of expedition. David
watched and waited in curiosity to know what was going to happen. Soon
the King, with a number of his followers, appeared at the great gateway.
All of them were armed with spears and hunting-knives. The grooms
brought horses from the royal stables, which the great men mounted; and
soon they rode away into the distant forest that covered the hillsides
on either hand.

“Now,” thought David, “if the King and his followers have left the
Palace, it is time for me to try to prove in some way whether or not
Ruth really is here.”

Just as the thought passed through his mind, someone moved at one of the
upper windows. He looked more closely. The next instant, to his wonder
and delight, he recognized his dearly loved Ruth! She opened the
casement window and leaned far out, gazing up into the clear sky above.
The bright sunlight touched her hair so that it seemed like a crown of
gold upon her head. Her eyes, upturned, held the wondrous beauty of the
sky in their depths.

“Ruth!” he called. She heeded not. He dared not call louder, lest others
within the Palace might hear. He watched her, spellbound. Suddenly she
moved and turned as if to leave the window. Without even giving a
thought to what he was doing, David shaped his lips to give a low,
clear, sweet whistle--the call they had used together at the Cobbler’s
cottage.

The girl turned toward the window, her face very white and her breath
coming in short, quick gasps. He knew that she had heard, for her eyes
searched the garden below, her delicate hand resting on her throat, her
whole expression one of fear and wonder.

    “Here wings to serve you true--
     Try what written words will do.”

Yes, it was the song of the ever faithful Blue Bird. David saw the
little creature hopping on a twig close by.

“Good!” cried the boy. Then, searching in his pocket, he found a pencil
and a bit of paper and wrote hastily:

“Ruth, it is I, David, come to rescue you. We must flee together. Come
to me!”

He folded the bit of paper carefully, and the Bird took it in its beak
and flew over the casement window, dropping it on the sill just in front
of Ruth. She opened it, read the message. Tears of joy filled her eyes.
Then, eagerly, she wrote this answer:

     “I am watched and guarded constantly. I cannot possibly come to
     you, David. You must capture the Pale-Coloured Wingèd Horse. He
     only can save my life. Capture him, come to the Palace some dark
     starless night riding upon his back, and fly to the garden at the
     eastern side of the Palace. There I can meet you, but I cannot go
     outside the garden wall. Help me, David dear--no one else can ever
     save me.

                                                                “Ruth.”



She had just time to finish the message, fold it, and drop it from the
casement window, when one of the women of the Palace came to her. It
was time to begin her daily tasks and lessons. But the faithful Blue
Bird was still keeping watch, and the bit of white paper had no sooner
touched the ground than he flew to it, seized it in his beak, and bore
it safely to David.

“The Pale-Coloured Wingèd Horse?” said David. “Where can I find him? He
must be the same of which _she_ spoke in the Mansion of Happiness. _She_
told me I must go on past the Bronze King’s Palace, where the Lions are!
I wonder where the Lions are, and why I have not seen them? I will go
on, for I must capture the horse: I know that is the only way to rescue
Ruth.--Blue Bird, guide me!” he cried aloud.

A flash of azure darted before his eyes and disappeared round the corner
of the Palace wall. He followed, almost running in his eagerness not to
lose sight of his trusted guide.

Turning the corner of the great brick wall, he came suddenly into the
very midst of the Lions. There were a dozen or more of them, some
standing, some lying down dozing in the warm, bright sunshine. David was
thoroughly frightened when he realized where he was, and he hesitated,
not knowing what was best to do; for he had come upon them so suddenly
that he had run right into their midst before realizing where he was. He
drew his hunting-knife from its sheath, for he was not one to turn back.
He had learned long ago that more is gained by keeping bravely on than
by wasting time trying to retrace one’s footsteps.

Soon he noticed that each Lion was chained and that the beasts, great,
fierce, and powerful as they were, could only move as far as their
chains would allow. Beyond this point they were as powerless and
harmless as tethered watch dogs. But as David advanced, the Lions walked
toward him, closing in on either side, and the boy’s heart sank within
him lest, after all, one of the terrible creatures reach him. He noticed
a narrow pathway running through the grass, and this he followed slowly,
deliberately, and carefully, for he felt that it must have been worn by
those who knew the safe and sure way through the domain of these fierce
creatures. He proved his wisdom thereby; for although, as he advanced,
each Lion pulled its chain taut, none could quite reach him. Yet several
times he felt their hot, burning breath upon his cheek as he passed them
by.

At last he reached a point beyond and away from them. “There!” he said
to himself, “that is over. How truly terrible it seemed while I was
doing it! If I had run blindly forward when I wakened to a realization
of where I was, I should probably have run right into the jaws of the
first Lion; but I went slowly and picked my way, and here I am, safe.
Now I can look back over the trail and see how the path winds in and
out. Yes, indeed, it does pay to be careful and keep one’s eyes open,
after all!”

As he thought about it he began to wonder why the Lions had made no
noise. Not one of them had roared or even growled. The reason was really
this, though David did not know it: the Lions were all trained to guard
that little path over which David had walked so wisely and cautiously.
They had been taught that one who walked on the path was not to be
disturbed; for only those who had self-possession and wisdom could see
to choose the way of safety. But any who, coming that way, diverged from
the pathway, were not wise; and these could and should suffer for their
folly. Many a one had already become food for the ravenous beasts, who
were at all times half starved. Had David taken one misstep, had he left
the little narrow winding path by so much as a hair’s breadth, the Lions
would have roared furiously, alarmed all within the Palace, and
frightened poor David so terribly that he would have run blindly on, and
so have been caught and devoured. He little realized how narrow an
escape he had had.



CHAPTER IX

THE HUT IN THE FOREST


Now that he was safe and away from the Lions, David looked about for the
Blue Bird. He looked and looked in vain.

“Must I lose you again?” he said to himself. “Well, I will not forget
you again, my Blue Bird! I will keep you in my memory. And sometime,
somewhere, I know that I shall hear your song again. But I cannot delay
longer now: I must push on, for I am bound to find and capture the
Pale-Coloured Wingèd Horse.”

He had gone some distance through the forest when he met an old, old
wood-cutter carrying a bundle of wood upon his back.

“What do you here, my son?” questioned the old man the minute he caught
sight of David. “What are you seeking, pray?”

“Why think that I am seeking anything, Father?” asked David, smiling.

“You must be,” replied the old man, “or else you could not be here. This
is the Land of the Seeker, you know, and all who are here have some
definite purpose. What is yours? I should like to know, for you are an
earnest, interesting looking lad, and your quest must be well worth
while.”

“I am seeking the Pale-Coloured Wingèd Horse,” said David.

“Indeed!” answered the old man. There was a note of real surprise in his
voice. “_Indeed!_ And do you know where to find it?”

“No,” David answered earnestly, “but I mean to find it. I am going to
seek and inquire and question till I get some clew to the creature’s
whereabouts; for it is that, and that alone, which I seek. Can you tell
me something about the wonderful Horse? Perhaps you have seen it, or
perhaps you can tell me where it is apt to roam?”

“You have come to just the right person,” said the old man, resting his
weight upon the great bundle of sticks, which he had lowered to the
ground beside him. “I can tell you much about the Pale-Coloured Horse,
for I know the crystal spring where he comes to drink every third night,
and the great green meadow where he comes to feed when the spring nights
grow warm and the tender grass begins to send forth its delicate
stalks.”

“Tell me, tell me!” cried David eagerly. “Direct me to the path that
leads to the spring and to the meadow.”

“Why are you so anxious to capture the Wingèd Horse?”

“Because I must save Ruth! She is held a prisoner in the Bronze King’s
Palace. There is no telling what may happen to her! I am no powerful
prince with an army of foot-soldiers and horsemen, else I would invade
the Bronze King’s country with a mighty host. I am a poor wood-cutter’s
son. If I can capture this wonderful Horse, I can save Ruth. It is the
only means I have, so you see I _must_ capture him!”

“How will the Wingèd Horse help you?”

“How?” repeated David. “I can sit upon its back, tame and subdue it, so
that it will know me for its master; then ride upon it to the Palace and
fly down into the Garden where Ruth is permitted to walk--the royal
Garden surrounded by the high red wall with the iron pickets on the top.
There Ruth can spring upon the Horse beside me, and the splendid
creature can carry us up into the air, up, away, safe from the Bronze
King, his terrible Palace, and his great chained Lions.”

“Has he Lions, too?” asked the wood-cutter.

“Yes,” said David, “a dozen of them, chained outside the Palace.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I have seen them and walked through their midst.”

“Walked through their midst! What do you mean?”

So David told him of his adventure with the Lions; of how he had
followed the little winding path and had seen that the fierce creatures
were chained and unable to reach him, so long as he walked wisely and
fearlessly.

“Well, well, well!” said the old man. “You certainly are a brave lad,
David! You deserve help, indeed, and I stand ready to help you. Come
with me.”

David followed wherever the old man led till they came to a tiny log
cabin. Here his guide pushed open the door and stepped back, waiting for
David to enter first. The interior of the cottage was modestly
furnished, but it seemed very homelike and comfortable.

“We will have supper together, and you shall spend the night here with
me; in the meantime I can tell you how best to capture the Wingèd
Horse.”

So David remained with the kind old man and listened eagerly to all he
had to say.

“How did you happen to come here, anyway, David? It must be a long way
from your home?”

“Yes,” said David thoughtfully, “it is. But, you see, I had to follow
the Blue Bird,

[Illustration:

KNEELING BESIDE A LOW OAK CHEST
HE TOOK A RUSTY KEY AND FITTED
THIS INTO THE WORN KEYHOLE]

and he led me here. First to the tree with the little door; then to the
Cobbler’s cottage where I met Ruth; then through the forest to the
Mansion of Happiness (I stayed too long a time there--I seemed to
forget); then on till I came to the Bronze King’s Palace and saw Ruth
again.” Here he related to his new-found friend how he had seen Ruth,
sent a message to her, and received a message from her; then how he had
started on his way again. “But tell me more about the Wingèd Horse,” he
added hastily.

The old wood-cutter rose from his chair and crossed the room. Kneeling
beside a low oak chest mounted with silver trimmings, he took a rusty
key that hung on a chain about his neck and fitted it into the worn
keyhole. David could hear the old lock scrape as the key turned. Then
the old man lifted the heavy lid. David sprang forward to help him, for
the solid wood and silver made it very heavy. After seeking among its
contents for a few minutes the old man nodded his head with
satisfaction. What he lifted out was a beautiful silver bridle, set with
blue and amber-coloured stones. The bit was a bar of pure yellow
gold--the only gold about it--and the reins were of silken thread
interwoven with silver.

“David,” said the old man, “I will lend you this. It contains a
wonderful power. It is the only bridle with which the Pale-Coloured
Horse can be captured. The moment one slips the golden bit between his
teeth, that moment the beautiful great powerful Horse is tamed, and he
who fits the bit to his mouth becomes his master. Take the bridle,
David, and wait patiently at the spring, to which the Horse will surely
come to drink. Seize him fearlessly by the forelock and slip this over
his head and the bit into his mouth. He will obey you then, and carry
you wheresoever you may wish. When the creature has served your need,
tell him to return to my cottage and to me. I will take the bridle from
him, and then the Pale-Coloured Horse will be free once more.”

“Who are you?” asked David. “To whom shall I tell the Horse to return?
What is your name?”

“Men call me Wisdom’s Brother,” answered the old man. “Tell the Wingèd
Horse to return to me; he will understand and obey you. I will direct
you to the spring--for the Blue Bird cannot lead you now. I will start
you on the trail at sunrise to-morrow.”

“Why can the Blue Bird not guide me?” asked David.

“Do you know for what the Blue Bird stands?”

David thought for a moment. Then the word “happiness” came into his
mind. He spoke it softly.

“Exactly!” said the old man. “Happiness born of Truth; that is, the
Happiness contained in the Love of Truth. For a Bird is but a symbol of
thought; and Happiness is an expression of thought; the colour
represents its quality. You have left the region of the Blue Bird for a
while, for it cannot journey a great way from the Mansion of Happiness.
You are about to enter another country. At the end of your journey you
will find the Blue Bird again--yes, you will hear it singing.”



CHAPTER X

THE WINGED HORSE


The next morning at sunrise David started on his journey. The kind
wood-cutter, true to his word, pointed out the trail and even walked
some little distance along it with the boy, instructing him in many
things that would be of value to him later. David held the precious
bridle in his hand. His axe he had wished to leave with the wood-cutter
that he might in some way express his gratitude for all that the old man
had done to help and encourage him.

About mid-morning, after giving him his blessing and wishing him
God-speed, his good friend parted from him. So the lad journeyed on
alone, and it was nightfall before he reached the edge of the clear
crystal pool. But when he saw the spot, there could be no doubt in his
mind that he had found the object of his quest, for the beauty of it
seemed to surpass anything that he had imagined.

A clear, transparent pool lay before him, about one hundred feet wide,
almost circular in shape. White pebbles made a narrow beach on the side
from which he approached. On either hand grew large paper birch trees,
beautiful, soaring, and gentle in their stateliness. On the further
shore the bank rose abruptly to a height of five or six feet, and there
the dark hemlock trees lent colour, depth, and coolness to the water
below. The sand in the bed of the spring looked like grains of silver.
As the rays of the setting sun touched the tree tops and caught the
shadow of the sky’s deep blue upon the surface of the water, it seemed
to David that he had never seen so beautiful a spot. He wished with all
his heart that Ruth were there to share it with him.

Seating himself upon a great moss-covered boulder, he watched the sand
stirred by the water that bubbled up from the very heart of the spring.
The sun set. One by one, tiny stars appeared; and he sought their image
on the surface of the now darkened pool by which he watched and waited.
One after another the stars sank below the western horizon, as still
others rose out of the east to lend their beauty to the night.

A dark shadow fell across a portion of the sky. David thought he heard
the rustle of great wings; but it was too dark for him to see, and the
thing, whatever it may have been, went away, not to return again that
night. At last the dawn came. He watched its glory spread over the
mountain tops--for far, far in the east rose huge snow-covered peaks,
and the air stirred cool with the coming of morn.

So the first night passed beside the crystal spring, and David had not
yet had a glimpse of the great and wonderful creature which he longed so
much to see. Through the day he waited, and the next night, and the next
day, and the next night, with no glimpse of the Wingèd Horse.

On the third day, just as the coolness of the coming dawn stirred the
air, he was startled by a whinny very near at hand. He knelt cautiously
and looked all about him, but could see nothing. There he rested,
sitting back upon his heels, the precious bridle over his arm and his
hands folded. Then, slowly, fearlessly, and calmly, from the depths of
the birchen woodlands before David came the most exquisite creature one
could ever wish to see--a beautiful Pale-Coloured Horse, slender in
build, its neck curved in an arch of spirited pride, its head beautiful
in every detail of proportion and alight with intelligence. Two great
feathered wings lay folded against its sides. Its tail was long and
flowing. David, holding his breath, gazed and gazed.

The Horse walked to the water’s edge and drank. Then, lifting its head
and facing the golden sunrise with ears forward, it raised and folded
its great wings like a bird preparing to fly. Again the sound of its
whinny broke forth, and a wild woodland bird rose close at hand, sending
its answering call as it, the lesser wingèd creature, sailed away. The
Horse dropped its head to drink, closing its eyes as if more thoroughly
to enjoy the cool, refreshing draught.

Quick as thought David rose, sprang forward, grasped the forelock and
mane of the startled creature, the bridle hanging over his arm ready to
be fitted when the right instant should come. The struggle was intense.
The Horse reared, plunged, reared again, but David held firmly to the
forelock and mane. The Horse stirred its wings as if about to fly. At
the same instant it uttered again its whinnying call, which sounded,
this time, petulant, terrified, and wild. This was David’s opportunity.
The impatient sound was checked as the golden bit slipped into the
creature’s open mouth, David holding firmly to the forelock while with
his other hand he adjusted the bridle and fitted it to the trembling,
quivering head.

“I have you! My beautiful Horse, I have you!” he cried. “Ruth shall be
saved!”

[Illustration:

“YOU MUST TAKE ME TO THE BRONZE
KING’S DOMAIN”]

The Horse turned and rubbed its soft velvet nose against David’s cheek.
Yes, David was his master, to be recognized as such. The wonderful
bridle had given them both the power to understand and trust each other.

“You must take me to the Bronze King’s domain, dear Wingèd Horse,” said
David. “We are to rescue Ruth, the sweetest and most beautiful little
girl in all the world. It is for this I have sought and captured you;
for the Bronze King is keeping her a prisoner in his great Palace. I
fear what may happen to her. Come, we must go to the Palace and hide in
the woodlands and watch and wait. Perhaps this very night we can rescue
Ruth.”

Thus David became the master of the Pale-Coloured Wingèd Horse, whose
only desire now was to obey and serve him.



CHAPTER XI

THE DAY BEFORE THE WEDDING


When Ruth realized that it was David whom she had seen, that the little
written message which she treasured so carefully and always carried
tucked away in a safe place near her heart, was truly written by him,
her joy and fear knew no bounds.

Yes, it was true: David knew where she was. And he would do all in his
power to rescue her, to save her from the horrible fate that hung over
her. For had not the Bronze King already set the date for their
marriage? Had she not seen the wedding invitations and been forced to
fold and address many of the great heavy envelopes that contained the
announcement of the dreaded event?

It was to take place soon--all too soon, alas! There was little time to
be lost. Could David succeed in rescuing her? Could he, in so short a
time, devise any method of saving her from the terrible life that seemed
so surely about to become hers? What if anything happened to David? What
if he met any of the King’s men in or about the woods that adjoined the
Palace? She recalled what the King had said to her on that first day,
the day when she was captured; and she shuddered as she repeated the
words to herself--“As for that young David of whom you speak, he had
best keep off my land! All who are found trespassing upon my kingdom are
put to death at once.” “David, oh, David! be careful!” she cried.

Then the thought of the terrible Lions filled her with dread. She was
sure that he could know nothing of them. She had feared for him on that
memorable morning and had listened all that long, dreary day, dreading
to hear the sound of their deafening roar, which would surely be the
signal that some poor wanderer had fallen their victim. But the Lions
had been quiet all day, so she knew he had escaped and had doubtless
left the Castle in another direction, knowing nothing of their
whereabouts or the dangers that they embodied. But might he not, if he
knew nothing of the danger, come upon them in returning? He would return
in the darkness, for she herself had counselled him to come on a dark,
starless night. “Oh, David, David, if I should be the cause of your
death--!”

Nearer and nearer drew the date set for the wedding. The Palace was to
be decked in gala fashion, and already preparations were under way; the
decorators and landscape gardeners were in full possession, and there
was everywhere an atmosphere of eagerness and proud competition.

It had pleased the fancy of the King to make the night preceding the
wedding one of little merriment, “For,” he said, “I wish my bride to be
fair and beautiful on my wedding day.”

Poor Ruth had grown pale and thin during her days of captivity. She
could neither eat nor sleep, and the women in attendance had been
obliged to use all their arts to keep her looking even presentable, for
the King would permit no pale faces or dull, tear-stained eyes.

So the evening preceding the wedding was to be spent quietly. The
household was to assemble after the evening meal, and Ruth was to sing
while the others drank and smoked.

The evening was clear and calm, and the lingering twilight revealed a
tiny crescent moon that sank below the horizon as the last glow of
sunset faded from the sky. Later the wind rose, and dark, threatening
storm-clouds obscured the light of the watching stars.

Ruth tuned her harp, but there was little music in her heart. The dark,
cloud-swept night seemed a fitting emblem of her future life.

She sang. “Let me forget,” she thought to herself, “let me forget the
present and the future; let me live in the past.” So she sang one after
another the songs that she and David had loved and sung together. And as
she sang, there crept over the listeners that strange, deep drowsiness
that so often seemed to follow as a result of her sweet, pure music.

[Illustration:

SO SHE SANG ONE AFTER ANOTHER
THE SONGS THAT SHE AND DAVID
HAD LOVED]

One by one the men and women yawned, their heads began to nod, the fires
in the pipes smouldered and finally burned out, the glasses of wine on
the tables were left untasted. Eyes closed, heads drooped at all sorts
of strange and uncomfortable-looking angles; and soon sounds of heavy
breathing, that rose to the volume of deep snores, filled the room.
Still Ruth sang, for still not all were sleeping. The King would rouse
himself every now and then as if striving to shake off the stupor that
sought to gain possession of him.

A strange, strange sound floated in through the open window--a sound as
of the rushing of mighty wings. Ruth paused a moment to listen--then she
heard the clear, high note of David’s whistle! As the last note rang its
welcome message through her throbbing heart, she sang the answering
notes which, she knew, would convey to David the message he longed to
hear.

A huge moth flew in through the open window, bumped about among the
candles for a while, then alighted upon the bald spot on the King’s head
and walked across the smooth surface, dragging its wings as it moved.

Ruth almost laughed aloud--but no, it was too serious a moment to yield
to such an impulse.

The moth tickled the King. He awoke--opened his eyes--brushed his hand
impatiently across his forehead--rose from his chair.

Ruth’s heart sank. Was failure to meet them after all, when victory had
seemed so near?

“You have sung well to-night, little Queen,” the King said--“and
to-morrow is our wedding day.”

“I have failed, Sire,” she said, “in that which I most wished to do.”

“What is that?” he asked.

“I had thought to put you _all_ asleep to-night--all here in the Palace.
I had almost succeeded, when a great moth flew through the open window
and awakened your Majesty. Could I but have reached your side in time, I
would have driven the thing away: then you too would have slept, and
then I should have been happy indeed!”

“Well, Child,” said the King indulgently, “if you desire that so much,
sing on. It will take but a few moments to lull me into as deep a sleep
as any here in the Hall!”

He settled himself comfortably in a high armchair, stretched out, and
rested his feet on a footstool made in such a shape as to fit the
chair, making it almost like a couch. Ruth sang again, this time the
song she loved most dearly.--

    “The forget-me-nots in the meadow
     Reflect the sky’s own blue,
     As they lift their tiny blossoms
     To catch the falling dew.

     The Blue Bird flies o’er the meadow;
     Through the calm his note is heard.
     Lo, the throbbing heart of Nature
     Is in tune with the song of a bird.”

The deep, heavy snores rose in a chorus around her as the song ceased,
and this time the Bronze King slept even more soundly than Ruth had
dared to hope possible.

She rose cautiously, tiptoed her way across the great hall, and slowly
pushed the heavy folding doors apart, then as silently closed them
behind her. Like the wind she sped along the narrow passageway that led
to her own apartments, opened the door, and flew to the long casement
window that gave access to the Palace Garden, where she knew David
awaited her. She stepped out into the night.

A gust of wind blew the window to behind her with a crash that shattered
the glass into a thousand fragments. Her heart sank. “David, David!” she
called softly. There was no answer. It was dark--so dark that she could
see nothing--and she feared lest the sound of the crashing glass had
awakened the sleepers.

She gave a low, clear whistle. In an instant, before there was time for
an answer, David was at her side. “Come!” she said. “There is no time to
be lost: the sleepers are waking.” As she spoke, they heard the sound
of hurrying feet in the passageway. The door of the apartment was pushed
open, and her name was eagerly called.

“She is not here, Sire,” said a trembling voice. “And the window is
shattered. She must have tried to escape. Spread the alarm throughout
the Palace!”

David and Ruth fled hand in hand through the darkness, out into the
Palace Garden, surrounded by its high, solid brick walls.

[Illustration:

“THIS WAY, RUTH, THIS WAY,”
WHISPERED DAVID]



CHAPTER XII

THE RESCUE


“This way, Ruth, this way!” whispered David. “My faithful Horse is
waiting for us.”

It was so dark that Ruth could only stumble blindly on. Once she almost
fell; had it not been for David’s strong arm she surely would have
fallen. He called in a low voice, hoping for response from the Wingèd
Horse. But no sound could they hear, nor, in the black darkness that
surrounded them, could they tell in which direction they were going.
They groped onward, blindly but cautiously, feeling their way.

A sound of much confusion rose within the Palace behind them. Every now
and then the King’s voice could be distinctly heard above the turmoil.
When he spoke in authority his voice sounded like the angry roar of a
great fire.

Suddenly a streak of light fell across the path in front of them, as
someone opened a heavy door giving access to the Garden from another
quarter of the Palace than that through which Ruth had entered. The
Bronze King himself, alone and unattended, stepped out into the gravel
path. He carried a large torch that flamed above his head. The lurid
light fell upon his hard bronze face, showing it distorted and drawn
with rage.

“She shall never escape me,” he muttered to himself, but loudly enough
for both David and Ruth to hear distinctly the words, “I will kill her
first.”

What followed happened far more quickly than it takes to tell it. As he
spoke he lifted the torch high and rushed furiously forward. Before
there was a chance to retreat, he came face to face with Ruth! The King
was so thoroughly surprised at this unexpected meeting that he failed to
notice David. The full glare of the burning torch fell blindingly upon
Ruth’s pale and frightened face.

“So!” cried the King, “here you are, are you? I have found you myself,
have I? Well, come with me.”

He caught Ruth’s wrist in his great rough burning hand. They could both
feel his hot breath as he spoke, and it seemed to fill the air with
fumes like those of sulphur.

“Take your hands off her!” commanded David--and his voice was that of a
man.

The Bronze King turned upon him in a fury of astonishment.

“What!” he cried. “Who are you, to be commanding the King within his own
Palace? The girl is mine; to-morrow she is to be my bride. She shall do
as I command her or die instantly.”

“_You_ shall do as _I_ command you or die instantly,” said David. “Take
your hand from her wrist and let her go free, or you shall repent of
your folly.”

Never in all his royal existence had the Bronze King been addressed so.
He grew so angry that his face looked more coppery than ever in the
flickering light of the torch; Ruth thought she had never looked upon
any one more terrible in all her life. A sound came from him that seemed
to start somewhere in the vicinity of his heart. It was like the roar of
a raging forest fire.

He turned the torch so that its light fell on David’s face. And when he
saw the boy standing there before him, he laughed in scorn and turned,
dragging Ruth toward the doorway.

David drew his hunting-knife and rushed upon the King with such fury
that the torch fell to the ground, setting fire to the grass and bushes
as it rolled over and over; for the force with which it had been hurled
from his hand when David made his onset was great enough to send it some
distance.

The King was a terribly powerful and heavy man, but he had no weapon
save his own strength. David was slender and frail, but he held within
his grasp a power that made him fearless and wise to act. The King,
infuriated by David’s boldness, relaxed his grasp on Ruth’s arm; and
she, finding herself free, ran a few steps from him so that she might be
beyond his reach should he attempt to seize her again. In a moment
David and the Bronze King were rolling over and over in an angry
struggle, that same strange sound belching from the King’s huge body
with increasing volume. Ruth trembled, for she feared lest David be hurt
if not killed outright. In the growing light of the fire that had
started from the blazing torch these two struggled and struggled, while
poor Ruth looked on helplessly, her heart throbbing with fear and
anguish.

The whinny of a horse sounded not far away, and the light from the
spreading fire illuminated a grove of dark cedar trees, within which
Ruth could distinguish the outline of the Pale-Coloured Horse as it
gazed with clear, intelligent eyes upon its master.

A quick and clever turn on David’s part threw the Bronze King so that he
fell violently to the ground. David stood over him; then, lifting his
knife, he plunged it deep into his enemy’s side below the heart, just
as the defeated King was about to call for help. The mighty monarch
roared with pain. As David drew forth the knife there gushed from the
wound a fluid, the colour of molten copper, that burst into flame the
instant it came in contact with the air. In a moment the whole body of
the great Bronze King was enveloped in vivid flame.

David caught Ruth by the hand, and together they fled toward the Wingèd
Horse. In an instant they were on its back. David held the reins of the
magic bridle in one hand while with the other he supported Ruth, who sat
before him on the wonderful steed which was now so miraculously to save
their lives. Looking toward the Palace, they saw that armed men were
rushing into the Garden from all directions. News that the King was
slain had already spread, and his soldiers and men-at-arms had vowed
vengeance upon the slayer.

“Come, my faithful Horse,” cried David. “Save us! the hour has come.”

Slowly the creature moved, walked forward a few steps; then, carrying
its precious burden, it spread its great pale-coloured wings and rose up
into the air; up, over the tree tops, over the roof of the great Castle,
over the capstone of the high, high wall that enclosed the garden; then
on over the iron pickets that made the place seem impregnable. Ruth’s
hair had fallen loose, and its silk-like strands blew across David’s
face and blinded his eyes as they moved forward through the vastness of
the night.

Below them raged the fire, which had spread with incredible fury and
speed. All at once there was a terrific noise, louder than the explosion
of the largest bomb. David and Ruth looked below them toward the spot
where the Bronze King’s Palace had stood. They saw fiery broken
fragments falling to the earth like rain; and where the mighty Palace
had once stood, there was nothing to be seen save burning desolation and
wreckage. The Bronze King, his Palace, his chained Lions and prancing
horses had all been annihilated in one huge explosion. The terrific heat
had caused such pressure within the Bronze King’s body, whose blood was
but fuel and whose flesh but gas, that at last it exploded with a
tremendous detonation; and the spot where he had lived in such mighty
glory knew him no more.



CHAPTER XIII

THE BURNING MOUNTAIN


On, on through the night they rode, and one by one the stars appeared as
the great storm clouds drifted away, borne on the current of friendly
winds.

“Where are we going?” asked Ruth.

“We will let the Horse take us where he will,” said David. “He deserves
to have his own way now, having served us so faithfully and so well.”

On they flew; and as morning stole into the sky and the stars began to
grow pale, the great wingèd creature dropped down nearer to the earth,
so that they just skimmed over the tree tops. In a few moments they came
to the wonderful crystal pool where David

[Illustration:

THEY TOLD ONE ANOTHER OF ALL
THAT HAD TAKEN PLACE]

had waited and watched so patiently a short time before.

“Ruth,” he cried in delight, “here we are at the beautiful pool again!
We will linger here till noontime and refresh ourselves. It is the most
beautiful spot imaginable, and I longed to have you see it.”

The Horse settled down on the soft sward, and David and Ruth sprang from
its back, glad to feel once more the firm earth under them. They
refreshed themselves, drinking of the clear cool water; they rested in
the soft moss; they gathered fruit and berries in the woods near at
hand. They told one another of all that had taken place; and there was
much to relate, much to rejoice over, much to remember, and much to
regret. They were so happy that time passed by unheeded, and the great
sun touched the horizon before they noticed that the day was spent.

“David,” cried Ruth, “the day is gone! and we have done nothing to bring
us nearer to the Garden.”

“Nothing, save to free you from the Bronze King’s Palace,” answered
David laughing. “To-day you were to be his bride.”

Ruth shuddered. “It all seems so long ago--I forgot it happened but
to-day,” she said.

They called their faithful Horse to them and mounted upon his back.

“Up!” said David, “up into the sky above, till through the darkness from
some great height we can see the Burning Mountain.” The Horse obeyed,
and they rose into the night as the twilight deepened. Up, up, till the
stars overhead seemed so near that they fancied they could almost touch
them. Far, far away in the distance they saw the Burning Mountain.

“There!” cried David. “We must go over _that_, for beyond that lies the
Garden.”

“Let us go round it,” said Ruth. “It will not be so hard for us to do
that.”

“No,” said David, “we must go _over_ it. Only so can we be sure of
reaching our goal.”

“The air in the high regions is so hard to breathe,” said Ruth.

“Yes,” answered David, “but I will do all that I can to help you endure
it.”

Soon they came nearer and nearer to the Burning Mountain. The flames
rose high, so high that they seemed almost to burn the stars, and the
heat was terrific. It was necessary to fly far up, and the air was so
thin that it was almost impossible for them to breathe. It was very,
very hard for the poor Horse. Sometimes he would drop down nearer the
mountainside, hoping to be able to breathe more easily there; but the
heat at that altitude was so fierce that it was impossible to endure it,
and he rose upward again.

Ruth said nothing, but the blood ran from her ears and nose and mouth.
Twice she fainted, losing all consciousness, so that David had to hold
her poor limp body to keep her from falling. David himself fought the
supreme battle of his life. Nothing that he had ever attempted could
compare with this, as a test of courage and endurance.

But at last the great Burning Mountain lay behind them, and they could
with safety sink down to the plain, where the air was less thin and
breathing would be normal. They came out into a country where they could
rest, for the great, terrible Mountain towered far in the distance.
Here they wished to descend, to rest upon the ground and gain strength
before pursuing their journey. In accord with David’s wishes, the Horse
descended, and they found themselves in a country filled with little
trees and shrubs. They rested for some time, refreshing themselves with
water from a beautiful stream near which they had alighted. The country
seemed to abound in berries and fruits.

David knew that there would be no further need of the Horse; and even
Ruth was quite ready to let the creature go, for this last flight had
been most perilous and fraught with fears. So David called the good
Horse to him and said: “My faithful One, you shall have your liberty.
Only, first, you must fly to the little cabin in the woods. Return to
Wisdom’s Brother, and he will take the bridle and the golden bit from
your mouth. Then you will be free once more.”

David stroked the silken coat as he spoke, and the Horse rubbed against
his master’s sleeve and nibbled it in affectionate play. Then,
stretching his great wings, he rose from the ground and was soon lost in
the vastness of the deep sky above.



CHAPTER XIV

THE GARDEN


David and Ruth journeyed onward hand in hand. The Burning Mountain was
now almost invisibly remote, and they knew that they must be near the
Garden for which they sought. Soon they met a company of young people,
who immediately recognized the two as strangers.

One, who seemed to be the leader, spoke to them, saying: “You are
welcome, strangers. Will you not join us? for we are on our way to the
Temple of Wisdom, and shall be glad to have you accompany us.”

“That is indeed kind,” said David, and they joined the little company
and became one with them.

“How came you here?” asked their new-found friend.

“I will tell you gladly,” said David, “if you will tell me first where
we are.”

“Where?” repeated the other. “Why, you are on the borders of the
Garden.”

“The Garden in the midst of the Forest?” said David questioningly.

“Yes,” replied the other.

“There is a tree in its midst, is there not?” asked David.

“A more beautiful Tree than the mind of man can imagine,” answered their
guide.

“So we have understood,” said David, “and we wish to find it.”

“How came you here?” repeated their companion. “Did you come by
yourselves, alone?”

David smiled. “We came alone,” he answered, “but not by ourselves, for
we were guided and led here. Years ago I saw a Blue Bird and heard it
sing. Once seeing and hearing it, I had to follow it. It led me to Ruth.
Then, one day, it sang for us again. Its message was very clear, and
again I had to follow it. I left Ruth; it led me to her a second time,
for she was in trouble and needed me. We had thought that I could cut
the trail here to the Garden and then return for her. But it could not
be: we found that we must seek it together.”

“But the Blue Bird never comes to the borders of the Garden: he only
remains within it,” said the stranger. “You must have come to this point
alone.”

“No, no!” said David and Ruth in one voice. “The Wingèd Horse brought us
here!”

As they conversed, the country through which they journeyed grew more
and more beautiful. Its wonders unfolded before their eyes as they
talked together.

“One never does anything alone,” said David. “I mean, of one’s own
power. One is always guided, led, or helped. Only when one cannot
clearly see or understand does one make the mistake of thinking of one’s
power as coming from one’s self.”

As he spoke they passed through a series of lovely groves--first, trees
of heavy wood such as cedar, oak, pine, and chestnut; then fruit trees,
apple, orange, pear; then nut trees of varied kinds. As they walked on
they noticed that the series of groves grew in such a pattern as to form
a spiral of huge dimensions, toward the center of which they were now
journeying. Soon they beheld such scenes as neither David nor Ruth had
ever imagined or pictured. Here and there were charming and lovely
little houses built in the midst of beautiful groves, each house
surrounded by a garden filled with sweet-scented flowers. The delicious
fragrance reminded David of the odours he had caught that first day when
he had entered the Country that lay just the other side of the little
door in the tree trunk, only now it was much stronger, sweeter, and
nearer. Here were also olive trees, sweet-scented shrubs, and rose
trees.

“You will find your house in time,” said the stranger. “For it is in the
Garden somewhere.”

“Our house!” said Ruth. “How beautiful that will be.”

They journeyed on. The light grew more and more brilliant. It was not
the kind of light that dazzles the eye and pains: it gave an effect more
like that which one feels in watching the sun rise, when the first
streaks of dawn come in the sky and every moment brings more light,
makes all objects more distinct and vivid. It seemed as if each step
took them nearer and nearer to the serene splendour of noontime.

At last they came to a Temple surrounded by trees, flowers, and shrubs
of every sort, built within this wonderful and beautiful Garden.

“This is the Temple of Wisdom,” said their guide.

“The Tree--?” questioned David.

“The Tree stands within the courtyard of the Temple,” answered the
stranger, “for the Temple has been built around it.”

“May we enter?” asked David.

“All who desire to enter are welcome,” said the stranger.

A sound broke forth through the sweetness of the fragrant air. It was
the joyous song of the Blue Bird!

[Illustration:

“WELCOME, CHILDREN,” SHE SAID.
“WELCOME TO YOUR COTTAGE”]

David and Ruth looked into one another’s eyes. The song re-echoed in
their hearts. The stranger and his friends had left them, and they were
quite alone.

They looked about. The Bird sang again. The music drew them forward in
the direction whence it came. Before them they saw a rose-covered
cottage. The door opened, and the beautiful little old woman of the
Mansion of Happiness stood before them, smiling.

“Welcome, children,” she said. “Welcome to your cottage.”

       *       *       *       *       *

David and Ruth had reached the end of their long, long journey. Through
it all they had been learning to love one another, so that they were
worthy to become husband and wife.

They live in the little rose-covered cottage, within the shadow of the
Temple of Wisdom. Many, many times they have entered the Temple and
seen the wonderful Tree; and many, many times to come, they shall enter
it again.

So we must think of them as living in their rose-covered home built
within the Garden that lies in the midst of the Forest Beyond the
Woodlands.

[Illustration]





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