The Fairy Tales of Weir
By Anna McClure Sholl
THE FAERY TALES OF WEIR
THE TALE OF THE BLUE GLOVE
THE INVISIBLE WALL
THE TREE IN THE DARK WOOD
THE CAT THAT WINKED
THE MAGIC TEARS
THE GOLDEN ARCHER
THE FAERY TALES OF WEIR
Only in far-away towns are the real faery tales told in shadowy nurseries
whose windows in summer open upon shimmering gardens and on whose walls
in winter the fire-goblins dance. Weir is one of these towns—a sweet,
hushed place, lying where the hills spread broadly to the south sun, and
the trees are thick as in a painting.
There are shops, too, with bulging windows through which you can scarcely
see the toys or the flowers or the sweetmeats, because Time has
finger-marked the glass with violet and crimson stains that shift and
merge so that the contents of the windows are seen as through wavering
sea-water. Beyond the shops are the houses asleep beneath great trees,
their warm red bricks showing where the ivy has thinned. Their stacked
chimneys send out faint blue spirals of smoke, to let you know that the
fires are on the hearths and about the hearths the children are gathered.
The little old churches placed where Weir drowses out into the country,
have hoarse, sweet bells like the voices of old women who whisper of the
Christ Child at Christmas time; and in the churches are windows as full
of color as the gardens of Weir.
The sleepy, forgotten town was famous for nothing but its faery tales
told long ago to children whose bright eyes have looked by now on wider
scenes, and whose voices have died away on that wind upon which all
voices sink from hearing at last. I sometimes wonder whether in
imagination they all troop back at the twilight hour: Hubert to cuddle up
in the wing-chair; James to stretch out on the hearth-rug; Veronica and
little Eve to nurse their dolls and gaze through the nursery window half
fearfully at the striding dusk, or to listen to the tap upon the panes of
flying leaves when the great winds rise. Where is Richard who always
wanted "a tale never told before," and small Spencer with his dreaming
eyes and baby mouth? Where is quaint Matilda with her plaid dress and her
straight black hair; where is Ruth?
Wherever they are, I like to think that to them Weir is always their true
home; and their hearts really live in that broad shadowy house where the
steps of the staircase were so wide and shallow that each was a little
landing in itself; and where the candles flamed at night in high sconces;
and in the halls was a rustling of silk; and in the air the smell of
flowers and burning wood. The nursery was high up under the eaves, so
that the rest of the house seemed far-away—a wonderful region where
music might sound, or where, by stealing down, one might see fair ladies
like the princesses of the tales smiling at gallant gentlemen. One's own
mother might turn, indeed, into a princess just before it was time to go
to bed, with white arms and jewels upon her neck.
Then one fell asleep knowing that no day in Weir could be without its
enchantment, whether the clouds seemed caught in the tree-tops, or the
snow flew and made the red roofs white; or whether the sun danced on the
green lawns, for each day ended with a faery tale, and these are the
tales of Weir.
THE TALE OF THE BLUE GLOVE
The King of the South country was not as happy as a king ought to be
whose subjects are both peaceful and industrious. Every night when the
moths were flying and the tall candles were lit in the hall, when the
soft air was musical with the strumming of harps, and the sweet
complaint of violins, he would walk out on the great parapet with one
hand under his chin and his head drooping; then the courtiers would say,
"The King is sad."
If he looked out he could see town after town, like strings of pearls and
corals, with blue smoke coming from the chimneys of red-roofed houses,
and beyond the towns the sea like a green bowl. If he looked straight
down he could see a rush of color, as if the flowers were coming up to
him in billowy waves.
But the King was not happy, for the reason that he wanted to marry his
three sons, and he didn't know of any princesses who would, so to speak,
fill the bill. He had journeyed over the mountains to inspect several
little ladies who were brought to him, in their stiff satin gowns to
make their curtsey and smile their prettiest, but none of them seemed
desirable for a daughter. The King knew, indeed, very much what he
wanted. She mustn't chatter and she mustn't be too fond of chocolates in
gold and enameled boxes; and she mustn't have likes and dislikes; and
she must be patient, for all really royal people know how to wait; and
she must possess the beautiful art of smiling. The King had seen her in
the frames of old paintings, still and sweet and jeweled, but never
alive and lovely.
On the evening when this tale begins the King was watching the three
princes play at ball. The ball was of scented Spanish leather covered
with crimson silk on which was stamped the sporting dolphin of the royal
house. Sometimes it would drop to the green turf where the parrots would
peck at it, thinking it a gorgeous apple. The hooded falcon on the
jester's arm knew better, for the jester fed him real apples.
Prince Hugh, Prince Merlin, and Prince Richard were as supple as willows,
as straight as pines, as graceful as silver birches. Their blond hair
hung thick and straight against their necks and was cut square above
their level brows. Their manners were so good that their father didn't
quite know their characters; and that made the problem of their marriages
All at once, as on a stage, they stopped playing ball and began to look
at something or someone. The King followed their eyes, and saw a strange
sight. A young girl with a great dog at her side was coming slowly over
the grass, her hands clasped above her breast, her long golden hair
hanging nearly to the hem of her gown which was of coarse brown wool. She
had no stockings, and on her feet she wore wooden shoes.
That a peasant girl should walk across the royal gardens was enough to
make the princes stare. Then the King saw that they were looking at
the girl's hands, of which one was bare. On the other was a glove of
blue cut-velvet, heavily embroidered with a design of flowers which
circled themselves about a tiny mirror set exactly on the wrist; no
glove for a peasant!
She came slowly up the great stairs of the terrace as if she were
expected. By this time the court-lackeys had rushed out, full of
officiousness, to stop the outrage; but the King, at the end of a puzzled
day, was in no mood to hinder the least diversion. He advanced to meet
the visitor, who raised to him a pair of beautiful blue eyes and smiled.
"Where did she learn to smile?" thought the King, conscious that the gaze
of the three princes was still upon the girl.
She held out the gloved hand. "King Cuthbert, I am sent to your court by
King Luke. Will you be pleased to look in my mirror?"
Her wrist was raised to the level of his eyes. "What do you see?" she
asked in a soft, solicitous voice.
"Myself, maiden," he replied.
She sighed, and the tears came in her eyes.
"Who else could I see?" he exclaimed.
She smiled and shook her head, then she nodded towards the three straight
boys on the lawn. "Those are your sons?"
"Mine, indeed, maiden."
"I am sent to make their acquaintance. I am the niece of King Luke, the
King Cuthbert could not believe his ears, nor trust his eyes, for the
Princess Myrtle had great vaults of gold under the thousand-year-old
turrets of her castle; and pearls like pigeon eggs in the renowned
diadem with which the generations of her royal race were crowned kings
"My uncle sends me as a beggar-maid so that I can make a true marriage. I
desire to be loved for myself alone. Speak not of me to the court, but
deal with me as I appear to be."
King Cuthbert gazed in admiration at her, for she had the voice of one
who thinks more than she speaks and feels more than she thinks, which is
the proper order for great and little ladies. "Here," thought he, "is the
child I have been seeking. I will not tell the three straight-limbed lads
so beautifully mannered who or what she is, but I will say that a friend
hath sent an orphaned girl to be protected by me; then I will watch how
they treat her, and learn at last what my sons are."
"Princess Myrtle," he said, "I will henceforth treat you as an orphaned
and poor girl. Is that to your liking?"
"It is my wish, Sir," she answered, and suddenly a rising wind blew all
the strands of her hair into a cloud of gold, so that her coarse wool
dress appeared brocaded; and while she was thus sumptuously clothed a
great peacock in iridescent array strutted by her, and she placed her
gloved hand for a moment on his shining feathers, looking, indeed, a
princess. Back of her the courtiers stared and rubbed their eyes. The
three slim boys on the lawn were smiling.
Prince Hugh tossed the scarlet ball to her and she caught it lightly as
if she were making a curtsey.
"Take the ball back to him," said the King, "and tell him I sent you."
As she went down through the parterres of flowers she was as straight
as a delphinium and fresh-colored as a rose. Where the great trees
clouded into the sky she looked as little as a floating petal; but when
she stepped upon the sward, she seemed to grow tall like an upward
Though she walked with such courage towards the three slim lads her heart
was beating fast, because she was afraid they would not be as noble as
they looked. For at court nearly everyone looks noble, and the Princess
Myrtle had learned how easy it is to keep your eyes level, and your head
high, and your bearing proud; and how hard it is to preserve a sweet
heart like a rose, within the shadow of this grandeur.
So she went to meet the princes with a shy, hopeful manner, the scarlet
ball in her hand, and her blue eyes addressed to theirs.
"I am commanded by your royal father to return to you this ball," she
"I pray you tell me," said Prince Hugh, "how you, being a beggar-maid,
walk as if possessed of wealth?"
She smiled. "All people are rich. Some know it. Some do not."
The princeling gave a royal whistle, and smiled at his brother Richard,
who picked a white carnation and began to pull its petals. "Tell me,
maid, why you wear the blue glove?" he asked.
"To cover a hand still my own," she returned proudly.
Merlin said nothing at all. He took the scarlet ball, bowed, and turned
from her. She raised her eyes to the heights where the turrets cut the
sky, black against gold, and the whirling sea-birds beat down the seaward
rushing wind. Then stepping softly, she followed Merlin, who walked on to
a place where the arching trees made a green cave, and in the depths of
the cave was a fountain of marble sunk into a round of ferns. At the edge
the prince paused, then he dropped the ball into the water, and it sank,
for it was solid and heavy.
[Illustration: MERLIN DROPS THE BALL INTO THE FOUNTAIN]
"Why did you do that?" cried the Princess.
He wheeled about, and looked upon her coldly. "Why have you followed
me?" he asked.
"To pick up the ball, should you drop it."
"The ball is drowned," he said.
"Why did you put it in the water?" she asked.
"Because you touched it," he replied.
She was very sad then. "You scorn to touch what a beggar-maid has
handled?" she asked.
To this he made no reply, but strolled away into the green wood, while
wearily she turned back. The stag-hounds, with their collars of jade,
came to meet her, and the three enormous Persian cats whose tails were
like long plumes. She stooped to caress them, and to hide her tears, for
Prince Hugh and Prince Richard were coming towards her, and she did not
wish them to know she was sad.
They stood like twin trees regarding her, then Prince Richard spoke.
"Will you sell your glove, beggar-maid?" and he drew a piece of gold from
She replied: "I have more need of my glove than of your gold."
"If you were a court lady," said Prince Hugh, "you would know that one
glove is of no use to anyone."
"If you were a beggar, Sir," she replied, "you would be glad to have one
"I shall never be a beggar," returned the Prince proudly.
"Yet you begged your father for a cloth-of-silver falcon hood this
Prince Richard laughed and his brother stared. "Are you a witch?" asked
"No, I am not a witch. I lost my way in the gardens before I found the
right path. You were talking in the arbor by the edge of the lake, and
you implored your father, the King, like a beggar on the street corner."
Prince Hugh's cheeks were red as peonies. "Your words are too bold,
beggar-maid. If you will not sell your glove, I will take it."
She stretched out her arm. "You will not be able to take what is
"Will I not!" and he rushed at her and began to tug at the glove. His
face grew redder and redder, but he could not strip off the glove, which
seemed to have grown to the maid's arm. Suddenly he caught sight of his
fiery countenance in the little round mirror, and he left off pulling at
the glove, but his failure aroused emulation in the heart of Prince
Richard, who now began to tug at the glove as if it were heavy armor.
The Princess Myrtle grew as white as a snow-drop in pale wintry sunshine,
for it seemed to her that all three of the princes were of base metal
beneath their noble bearing. "Look in the mirror," she said pitifully,
"and tell me what you see!"
"His own red face, I warrant, as I saw mine," cried Prince Hugh; then
Prince Richard seeing how flushed his face was, drew away sulkily; and
the Princess walked from them up and up through the parterres of flowers
to the terrace where the King stood in the evening light, his cloak blown
out, so that the satin lining showed like a great magnolia petal. His
long fingers rested on the marble balustrade, and the royal rings winked
wickedly at the Princess.
The King said to her, "What did my sons say and do to you?"
Then she related everything.
The King frowned. "But how do I know whether you are really the Princess
Myrtle? You may for all that be but a goose-girl or a beggar-maid."
She replied, "Let me remain in your court three days as a beggar-maid. If
at the end of that time you are not sure, turn me out. I, too, will be
sure of something at the end of three days."
"Of what will you be sure?" asked the King.
"Which of you is the real king here."
Then King Cuthbert grew red like old leather, and laughed and sighed and
frowned. "God knows, I should myself like that knowledge." Then he
signed to a court lady, who was looking on with proud eyes. "Come, Dame
Caecilia, take this beggar-maid to one of the suites in the palace, and
put fair clothes on her, and conduct her to the dining-hall when the
The court lady smiled to hide her anger, for she dared not disobey, and
she beckoned the Princess Myrtle to follow her. They went through a vast
door into a corridor that ran beneath heavy arches, and the walls of this
passage moved as if alive, but it was only the draught swaying the
tapestries with their gray trees and knights who rode among the trees
like heavy shadows, and long-haired women who watched the knights ride
while they wove flower-wreaths.
Then the proud court lady took the Princess up a winding stair, like the
twisted ways of life, down more corridors, then into a room, through
whose windows high cypresses looked, and upon whose ceiling little cupids
"Now, beggar," she said angrily, throwing open the door of a wardrobe
where hung silken things, "make the most of your luck. What will you
wear? Here is mallow satin sewn with pearls, and with a running border of
jasmine flowers done in sweet embroidery silks. Will it please you? Here
is a silver cloth, studded with little coral beads over a petticoat of
ancient lace. Here is black velvet softly lined with apricot brocade!"
"Nay, none of these will I wear, but my gown of good wool, and in my
bundle are changes of linen, for I want no lace on my limbs. Send me
fresh flowers for my hair, I entreat you, and I will bathe and so prepare
myself for the court dinner."
Dame Caecilia stared at her, and moved the golden combs and mirrors
about angrily on the dressing-table. "You will lose me my place at
court," she cried.
"Perhaps it is already lost," answered the Princess.
"You speak not at all like a beggar."
"You never took the trouble to learn what a beggar really says," the
Princess replied as she stripped the blue glove from her hand.
Curiosity got the better of the court lady's anger. "What person gave you
that glove in place of alms?" she asked.
"My godmother out of faery land!"
"Nonsense!" cried the Dame, and she departed for the flowers with a face
like a withered leaf.
The little Princess leaned against the sill of the window and sighed, and
looked into the blue sphere of the night and wondered on what altar the
high stars were lit. She thought of Merlin who had drowned his ball
because her touch was on it, and her heart throbbed as if a hand were
drawing it from her breast to place it out of her reach. She had seen
little maids among the golden shadows of her own court with their white
hands outstretched towards a heart someone had taken. Now the thrilling
touch of that theft was upon her own spirit. Her thoughts followed Merlin
as if her substance had been changed into his shadow.
All the court had assembled for dinner, when she entered the banquet
hall behind the shame-faced Dame Caecilia, who made a curtsey to the
floor as she explained to the King that the beggar-maid, being lacking
in art, refused the silken clothes. "She would wear only this crown of
Then the Princess curtsied, and all the courtiers laughed, but the King
gravely bowed to her; and called, "Prince Hugh."
Prince Hugh came forward, looking noble as was his wont in the presence
of his father. "What is your will, Sire?"
"I desire you to lead this maiden to the banquet."
"Sire, I have already asked the Lady Diana," he said and blushed a
little, for he was lying.
The King then asked a lackey to summon Prince Richard, who came looking
noble as was his custom, also, in the presence of his father.
"I desire you to lead this maiden to the banquet."
Prince Richard still endeavored to look noble. "Sire," he replied, "I am
not dining to-night. I have a headache."
Then King Cuthbert sent for Prince Merlin. Now when the Princess Myrtle
heard his name, it seemed to her as if musicians had begun to play in a
far-off room. She drooped her head a little lest she should show tears in
her eyes when he, too, refused her. He came up white and grave with a
look that was not patient. When his father made the request of him that
he made of his other sons, Prince Merlin bowed and extended his arm to
the beggar-girl, but he was as silent as a wood before a storm. Only the
Princess quivered like a leaf that expects a great wind to pass.
"Did you obey your father because you are sorry for me?" she whispered.
"No, I obeyed him because he is the King, not I. I am sorry for myself
rather than you."
Then the Princess felt her soul sink into a gulf, but she smiled and
ate the food that was offered her, and made no attempt to speak to
All the next day she wandered in the rose-alleys, through marvelous
terraces, and under the great trees, but no one spoke to her, nor could
she see anything but vanishing forms; and so it was until evening, when
wearied, she sat down on a bench and gazed into her mirror and gave a cry
of joy. "Now," said she, "I love truly. By this sign I know I love truly,
for I see Merlin's face in the mirror and not my own."
Then she went alone to her rooms through the vast corridors, and stood
before the long mirrors which were not magic, but only meant to
reflect earthly vanities; and from the shining marble floor came up a
kind of radiance about her. She opened the cedar doors of the
wardrobes, and there issued a scent as of costly silk that has been
perfumed with iris root.
The temptation was heavy upon her to clothe herself delicately that she
might please Merlin; and never before had beautiful clothes seemed so
wonderful to her. She ran her long white fingers through the folds of
silk, and let the laces cascade over her arms; but in the end she changed
only her wooden shoes for little dancing slippers of violet velvet, and
again she put fresh violets in her hair.
When she entered the banquet hall, she found the King on the dais, and on
one side of him stood Prince Hugh in a rose-satin dancing dress; and on
the other Prince Richard in a garb of yellow velvet. Both wore jeweled
girdles to which were attached little shining swords with opals in the
hilts. About the throne were grouped the courtiers; and beyond the
courtiers were the knights and ladies of the frescoed walls which bore
the history of King Cuthbert's ancestors; girls like drifting blossoms,
matrons like sweet fruit, and knights like strong trees.
The white velvet curtains before the tall casements shut out the stars,
but all the heavens seemed recorded by the glowing wax-candles. Down the
center of the room ran the banquet-table with dishes of gold; and plumage
of rare birds nesting strange viands; and the sweet cheeks of summer
fruits showing through the heaped blossoms of rose, gardenia, and
honeysuckle. There were sweetmeats on dishes of pierced silver and
between these played into broad glass bowls jets of scented water, making
a lake where tiny swans swam.
But all this beauty was nothing to Princess Myrtle, because she did not
see Prince Merlin in the room; nor at the banquet did he appear. So she
could eat but a little fruit, and that was without taste to her.
After the banquet the court repaired to the dancing-hall, where already
the musicians were strumming upon their instruments, so that everyone's
feet began to move rhythmically. Then King Cuthbert beckoned the Princess
Myrtle to him and said: "I see that you have put on dancing-slippers.
With whom will you dance?"
"With myself, Sire, should I have no partner," she replied smiling.
At that moment Prince Merlin approached the throne clothed all in black
silk, more appropriate for a scene of mourning than of festivity; and the
King said to him: "Wilt thou lead this beggar-maid in the dance?"
The Prince's face grew as white for a moment as the lace of his collar,
but he replied proudly, "At a ball a man chooses his own partners."
Then the Princess Myrtle's heart felt as weary as feet on a long road;
but she awaited patiently the King's next word, which was spoken to
Prince Richard and Prince Hugh, inviting them to dance with the
beggar-maid. Each made an excuse. Then King Cuthbert addressed her.
"Dance with yourself, beggar-girl," and he had the heralds proclaim
that this stranger who wore brown wool in court would go on the floor
alone. Everyone laughed and clapped their hands, only Prince Merlin bit
his lip and looked prouder than ever, which, when she saw, the Princess
Myrtle thought, "I will dance so beautifully that he will ask me to be
Then she let down her hair from beneath her crown of flowers, and went
into the center of the circle that the court had formed, and began to
sway a little like a flower in the breeze. Soon the court found itself
swaying with her, so that it was like a garden when the wind rises. But
when all were moving, the Princess saw that Prince Merlin stood like a
pine-tree that will not bend its head unless the tempest comes out of
the North. So she changed from a flower to a butterfly and began a
fluttering, glancing motion, and threw back her golden locks like
wings. Everyone watching her became very still, only Prince Merlin
moved restlessly, and once he put his hand across his eyes as if the
sun were in them.
When she had finished the King cried "Bravo," and then the court crowded
about her, and Prince Hugh and Prince Richard asked her to dance with
them; but Prince Merlin did not ask her, though he led out many ladies;
and because of that it was as if she were dancing in the snow and rain,
or on sharp stones.
The pain in her heart grew violent, and drove her at last to the
orange-tree near which he stood. On the edge of its marble tub she sat
down to rest, and all at once a golden orange dropped in her lap. She
held it out to him. "You have drowned your scarlet ball, take this."
"Nay, for it is perishable," he said.
Then tears like pearls came slowly from her eyes and she was driven
to say: "You alone have not asked me to dance. Did not my dancing
He replied, "I am not like my brothers," and he bowed and left her.
That night she lay on her broad bed beneath silken covers and sobbed
bitterly because her heart told her that Prince Merlin was noble; yet her
memory stung her with his cold words and averted eyes. Soon the third day
would be over, and she would have to leave the court; for even if King
Cuthbert acknowledged that she was a princess, what did that matter if
Merlin did not know that she was his queen?
All next day she sat on the terrace which looks seaward and counted the
sails coming up over the horizon like white petals blown from an
invisible garden; and she would say, "If five come within a space of half
an hour there will be hope for me"; but she always lost count, in
thinking of his face.
That night she took off her woolen dress and she clothed herself in laces
and over the laces she put on a cream silk gown all woven with apple
blossoms, and she placed flowers upon her hair; then flashed before the
mirror and smiled to see herself so beautiful. "Surely," she thought, "he
will not turn from me to-night."
Then she put on her dancing-slippers; and went down. When she entered
the banquet hall there was a stir and a murmur; and even King Cuthbert
was silent with amazement over her beauty. Prince Hugh and Prince
Richard came forward to meet her, and they bowed low, and looked very
"Our father has played a merry jest upon us," they said. "You are,
indeed, a princess and no beggar-maid." Then they began to dispute which
should take her in to dinner. But her eyes were all for Prince Merlin,
who, when the courtiers crowded about her and proclaimed her a princess,
looked straight away from her. This was as a little sword in her heart,
but the grief that dimmed her eyes made her appear even more beautiful.
After the banquet all proceeded to the dancing-hall, and King Cuthbert
gave his arm to her. "Now I know thou art the Princess Myrtle. Which of
my sons hast thou chosen?"
"A woman is chosen; she does not choose," she replied, for her heart was
heavy. "To-night I must leave your court."
"Wilt thou continue thy search, Princess Myrtle?" the King said
"No, I will return to my Kingdom."
"And what wilt thou do there?"
"I will weep," she answered.
She danced a measure with Prince Hugh and a measure with Prince Richard;
then she saw that though Prince Merlin was in white satin and gold he did
not dance, but stood alone by the orange-tree.
When she was free she sent a herald to fetch him, for now she desired no
longer to play a part, but to be herself. He came slowly to where she
stood, and bowed before her in silence.
"Tell me, Prince Merlin," she said, "if you agree with these courtiers
that to-night I am become a princess?"
"I do not agree with them," he answered. "Clothes do not make a
Then they looked at each other. "Will you meet me," she said, "on the
edge of the wild forest in half an hour's time?"
"I am your servant," he replied.
She stole away to her rooms, where the moonlight lay athwart the
tessellated marble floor, and opened the casement and placed the lamp
there, which was to be the signal for her attendants to have her horses
ready on the edge of the wild forest. Then she put on the gown she had
worn as a beggar-girl, and her wooden shoes, and let her hair down over
The way to the wild forest was haunted with shadows and little fleeing
things; and the night-owls called, but she remembered the look in
Merlin's eyes, and conquered her fears.
And there he was waiting, with the moonlight gleaming on his white satin;
and his face turned to the path up which she came.
She held out her hand to him with the blue velvet glove upon it, and she
said softly, "Will you look into my mirror, Prince Merlin?"
"I am your servant," he said again, then looked.
His eyes became full of light. "I see your face," he cried; and sank upon
one knee. She gave him both her hands.
"What am I to you?" she asked. "A princess?"
"No," he whispered.
"No," he whispered.
"Thou art my love."
Then all the birds in all the world sang in her heart. "Tell me," she
said, "why, then, didst thou sink thy ball?"
"That no hands should ever touch it after thine."
"And why didst thou say when thou didst lead me in to dinner, that thou
wast sorry not for me, but for thyself?"
"I feared that thou wouldst never love me."
Then she laughed joyfully and asked, "Why didst thou say 'I am not like
my brothers' when I asked thee to dance?"
"I wanted thee for thyself, not for thy dancing."
And now the stars moved all to nuptial music. "One question more," she
cried. "Why didst thou say 'Clothes do not make a princess'?"
"Because I knew thou wast a princess the first hour I saw thee."
"Rise up, my Prince," she said. "We have a long journey before us."
"I hear the neighing of horses," he said, "and the moving of feet."
"My attendants," she replied. "My foster-mother rides with them. She gave
me the blue glove, and told me he should be my husband who should see not
his own face in the mirror, but mine."
"I see thy face everywhere," cried Prince Merlin.
So he kissed her, and they rode away with all her train through the
sighing night-wind and beneath the summer stars to the land of their joy.
THE INVISIBLE WALL
On the edge of the Dark Wood dwelt for a time a Wizard, whose life had
been spent in the acquirement of many wonderful arts. As a young man he
had wandered over Europe from university to university, until one day he
became aware of the true secret of education and burnt his books.
Then he dwelt for many years in the mountains, gazing into the dark
mirror of his heart, plumbing the blue ocean of the sky until the hour
for which he longed arrived, bringing Wisdom, who appeared to him as a
young, fair being in the twilight.
Leaving his hut he came forth to meet her. "I had thought to greet you at
noonday," said he.
"That is because you live in an age which thinks that to know is to be
wise; but only those see who shut their eyes. Not in the glare of noon,
but at twilight will you find me."
"You are a beautiful maid, Wisdom," said he who was on his way to
be a wizard. "But why do you wear coarse linen who should be
clothed in satins?"
"To travel light," she replied.
"And why do you smile who should look sad?"
"To be wise is to be happy."
"And what will you have me do?"
"Remove from here to the village that is near the Dark Wood. Go through
all the countryside proclaiming that King Theophile will shortly make war
upon the inhabitants, but bid them feel no terror; only they are to build
an invisible wall."
"By the books that I burned, that is a strange command!" cried the
Wizard. "Of what materials is this wonderful wall to be built?"
"Of their sacrifices, their renouncements, their good deeds,"
"But they will call me mad," cried the Wizard.
Wisdom smiled. "Did you expect to be really wise, and yet thought
sane?" she made answer. "Have the courage of all great follies and you
will yet save The Kingdom of the Dark Wood, which is the fairland of
the Princess Myrtle."
Upon which the Wizard took heart, for he knew that to be fearless is to
be in the class of masters, and to be fearful is to be in the class of
slaves; and the whole world is divided into these two classes, nor is
there other aristocracy, or dependency.
"Sweet Wisdom, I will play the fool for your sake," he answered.
Then she smiled and blessed him and vanished into the shadows of the
forest. The Wizard was not of those who say, "To-morrow I will do thus
and thus"; but being truly wise he put all his power into the present
moment. So he took his flask of water and his loaf of bread, for like
Wisdom, he would travel light, and he set forth for The Kingdom of the
There he rented a little cottage in the village near the wood, and set up
a shoemaker's bench, for he knew how to make shoes—and good ones, too.
Being a Wizard he knew that if he showed people he could do one thing
well, they would be the more ready to listen to his words. A fine,
comfortable shoe is a wonderful argument, so the Wizard set to work. The
dewy dawns found him at his bench, and when the air at evening was full
of heliotrope mists and homeward flying birds his little candle burned
yellow to light his labors.
Soon all the inhabitants had comfortable foot-wear, which put them all in
fine humor. Then the Wizard began to proclaim a great war and the coming
of King Theophile. He stood on the green, near the town-pump, and at
first only the geese listened to him, stretching out their long necks and
opening their red bills. But this did not discourage the Wizard, for he
knew that after geese come men.
[Illustration: THE WIZARD'S FIRST AUDIENCE]
"What's this! What's this!" cried the tailor who was the first to get the
message, "A war? I must run right home and polish up my old gun."
"Nay," said the Wizard. "But go home and kiss your wife—for you haven't
kissed her in five years."
"If she would comb her hair and look attractive I might kiss her,"
growled the tailor.
"If you'd buy her a ribbon occasionally," advised the Wizard, "she might
have the desire to make herself look pretty."
"What has all this to do with war?" inquired the tailor.
"Your kiss will make a stone in the invisible wall which is to keep out
the enemy," the Wizard answered. "And if you stop your everlasting work
and take your poor wife on an outing, that will be another stone. Every
sacrifice you make, every good deed you do, will be a guarding stone in
The tailor rubbed his ear. "Am I crazy, or are you?"
"Am I asking you to do much for your country?" demanded the Wizard.
"Think how mean you would feel if the invisible wall got built without
one stone of your donating."
"I'll go right home and kiss Matilda," said the tailor with a skip; and
off he ran. In a few minutes he was back again. "She blushed so and
looked so pretty and pleased that I kissed her three times, and to-morrow
we are going to see her mother. Put me down for four stones."
"Good!" said the Wizard.
By this time quite a crowd had collected, all anxious to hear about the
war. A rich miller took the news very seriously, because his mills lay to
the eastward, from which horizon King Theophile would appear. He sent to
the bank for bags of gold and laid them at the feet of the Wizard. "These
will buy much gunpowder," he said.
"The wall will never be built of gold," replied the Wizard. "There is
no gold minted that will overcome an enemy, or keep him out if he wants
to get in, or put mercy into his heart when vengeance is flaming there.
The real weapons are unseen. If you wish to help build the invisible
wall, stop grinding the faces of the poor and charging famine prices
for your grain."
Then the miller grew red in the face, and took up his bags of gold and
went away. But next day everyone bought wheat at a lower price than it
had been for many a long year, so that people knew the Wizard's words had
taken effect. This made him very popular, and when he again proclaimed
the danger of war and the necessity of building an invisible wall nearly
all the village came forward to ask him what they could do to insure a
stone in that guarding structure. Some of them whispered in his ear,
because they hated to have their secret faults proclaimed to their
Old Peter was among those who made inquiry as to what sacrifice they
should offer to avert the threatening danger. "I have," said he, "a pet
bird that pines in his cage. If I give him his liberty will that help
build up the wall?"
"Yes, Peter," said the Wizard. "For no good man keeps anything captive
that has the desire for freedom."
Some people paid their debts to help build the wall. Others began to go
to church after staying away for years and years. Others made up
long-standing quarrels with their relatives and old-time friends, and
these stones of reconciliation were, the Wizard proclaimed, the strongest
of all, since unity and love are the only impregnable fortresses.
Of course, there was some doubt about the wall, since nobody could prove
that it really existed. But the Wizard declared he saw it to the eastward
growing ever stronger and wider; and he traveled up and down the land
prophesying war and the necessity of making the invisible wall strong and
high by good works. He met with greatest success in the villages and
towns, but when he entered the region of the high castles, where the
knights and ladies dwelt, he was much laughed at and some would have had
him locked up at once.
Now, being a Wizard, he knew how powerful fashion is in this world, and
how a wandering breath may bring it into being, so he said to himself: "I
will go direct to the court of the Princess Myrtle, who has married the
Prince Merlin, and will gain her ear. When she knows the invisible wall
is to protect her kingdom, she will be gracious and set the fashion of
So he journeyed all day and all night and came at last to the grim city
of green stones with towers like aged fingers of gnarled wood in the
midst of which the Princess Myrtle held her court in an old red castle
set about with small, stiff trees. Now the Princess had not long been
married to the Prince Merlin. So full of love were they for each other
that for them many days had drifted away like the dreams of a night; and
so sweet was their converse, and so softly the minstrels sang that all
the court lived in a kind of trance.
The day the Wizard reached the castle it was drowsy noon; and the
golden-woven curtains were softly swaying in the breeze; while upon the
dim walls the greenish tapestries looked like mysterious forests. The
Prince and Princess sat upon their thrones like painted figures, and all
around them sat their courtiers in their golden dreams while the
"The waves are beating on the yellow sands,
The moon in a black vault rides white and high.
Let us go forth, from these most desolate lands,
Led by the spirit's cry."
"You are quite right," said the Wizard. "Your lands will be desolate
unless you help build the invisible wall."
At that all the courtiers whose eyelids had been drooping with the summer
heat and with dreams of romance, looked up, and the Princess Myrtle
withdrew her gaze from Prince Merlin, and fastened her sweet eyes upon
the Wizard. "You must not care what the minstrels sing," she said. "We
are all so happy here, that we love songs of sorrow."
"Sweet Princess," said the Wizard, "King Theophile intends to make war
upon you, and I have come to tell you that already your subjects have
built a fine invisible wall of good deeds and sacrifices; but they must
not perform all the labor and have all the pain while the nobles jest and
feast. For the wall must have a stone in it from every kind of man, rich
or poor, high or low, else it will not endure. And you, the Princess,
must put in the strongest stone of all, since the ruler of a country must
be its protector."
All the courtiers smiled at this, but the Princess did not smile, because
she was as wise as she was fair. She looked down at her peach-colored
robe of satin and her little slippers embroidered with seed-pearls, and
she drew a long-stemmed rose from the jade bowl near her throne to pass
back and forth across her lips, as was her manner when thinking.
"Prince Merlin," she said at last, "if this strange tale be true, what
stone wilt thou place in the invisible wall?"
"I will go for a month to the Council Chamber instead of lingering near
thee while the minstrels sing," replied her husband.
"Spoken like a prince!" cried the Wizard. "And what wilt thou do,
"I will go to the Council Chamber with milord," she answered. "And
read most heavy papers of State; for if he shares my play I must share
"To attend to the duties of sovereignty instead of listening to minstrels
in a scented room is a fitting stone for the Princess to place in the
invisible wall," commented the Wizard; then he looked around at the
Now after the manner of courtiers they wanted to imitate their Prince and
Princess, but they thought this invisible wall a great joke not worth
making sacrifices for. The Wizard read their thoughts and said to them:
"If the ruler works alone, he is like a bird with a crippled wing. He can
only rule wisely and well if all the wisest and best help him. You are
placed high that you may serve. Give me each his vow of sacrifice that
the wall may be strong!"
The knights and nobles looked at each other, then at the Princess Myrtle;
and she bowed her head and thus addressed them:
"If our weapons against an enemy must be our unity, our mutual love and
service, instead of roaring guns and flaming cannon, surely it is easy to
provide them. Nevertheless," she added, turning to the military
commander, "see that the army is made ready."
The Wizard smiled. "Well and good, if you remember, dear Princess, that
an army can never be greater or stronger than the nation back of it. For
every gun manufactured there must be a noble desire forged, or a high
ideal realized; or else the weapons will be but a mask of courage on a
The military commander shrugged his shoulders. "I'll go and see if the
gunpowder is dry," he commented, "as my contribution to yon stranger's
Then one by one the nobles at the command of the Princess Myrtle came
forward to register each his vow of sacrifice. One said that he would
write no more poetry for a year; another that he would eat no truffles
for a fortnight; a third proclaimed that he would sell his jeweled sword
to buy bread for the poor.
The Wizard listened and shook his head. "This layer of stones is going to
be very weak," he said. "Why don't you all stop and think, while the
ladies make their vows?"
The maids-of-honor crowded forward like a nose-gay of sweet-scented
flowers, eager to do better than the knights in the construction of this
invisible wall; for being women they were quicker than their brothers and
husbands to understand what the Wizard meant. Yet they, too, were not
quite clear in their minds, for one said she would wear linen instead of
satin; another that she would give up perfumes for six months; another
that she would read no novels for that time.
The Wizard began to look discouraged. At last a beautiful young girl
came forward to register her vow. "I don't care enough about jewels and
scents and satins to give them up, Sir Stranger," she said; "but I
should like to win the love of the poor; so I will visit them, and be as
one of them."
At this the Wizard clapped his hands. "This stone is most strong," he
said. "Now, Sir Knights, return and make new vows."
Then the knights came forward. "I will be reconciled with my brother,"
said one. "I will build a new cottage for an aged tenant," proclaimed
another; while a third, who was in love with the beautiful girl who
wanted the love of the poor, said, "I will make a great supper for the
hungry and will feast with them."
"Ah," cried the Wizard, "that will be, indeed, a great feast! The bread
of charity chokes the receiver because the hand that gives it will not
break it with him. We must have communion, not patronage; or the
invisible wall will never be built."
The Princess Myrtle listened as one who hears a new gospel; and she
remembered that she had never broken bread with the poor, but only
bestowed benefits upon them, which is no way to become acquainted. And
she sighed—a little sigh of love and regret and hope of doing better,
which the Wizard said afterwards became one of the strongest stones in
the invisible wall.
Such a change in the kingdom! People making up quarrels that had withered
hearts for generations. Court ladies running with warm loaves to the
cottages and staying to eat some of the bread. Knights helping old men
with the harvest; minstrels sent to sing to the bedridden instead of to
an assemblage of bored ladies and gentlemen in a tapestried gallery. Much
less talk of love and many more loving deeds. People wild to serve each
other instead of themselves. All the land silent and helpful, instead of
chattering and selfish! Such a change in the kingdom!
The Wizard was everywhere, for the wall was beginning to be a real
defense, and he spared no pains to see that every stone was strong.
Now the fame of this wall reached King Theophile—for this was in the
days of his warring—and he laughed on his throne and said, "Oh, little
Nation, I will make mincemeat of thee, for I have every kind of weapon
that is made, and many officials who do nothing all day but spy on other
people and brandish their swords. What have you to oppose to such
strength? Little kingdom, you will be but a road to my glory."
So he made great preparations for war, and gathered together all the
weapons that shed blood. There were many of these and he prided himself
upon them, but in all his arsenal was not one instrument that could put
shed blood back again into the veins of a man, which shows that
ironworkers do not know everything.
One fine day the King and all his armies came across the rocking waves
and drove their boats upon the shores of The Kingdom of the Dark Wood
which lay fair before them like a green and purple map edged with white
where the breakers drove high. The land wind brought to their senses the
odors of grapes, and the scent of apples and ripe grain. And the soldiers
said to each other, "We will kill, then we will feast."
They were impatient to overrun the land. Now the air-spies reported that
but a small army had massed to meet the intruders, and that back of their
ranks the inhabitants were peacefully at work gathering in the harvest.
This seemed incredible. Then King Theophile gave his command to the army,
"March forward"; and to the air-spies, "Fly on and drop burning brands on
The army immediately set out. Far away the air-spies were seen beating
the air like black rooks, but strangely enough they always remained in
sight and seemed to get no further. At last they went high up into the
clouds and disappeared.
But the soldiers pressed on joyfully, for the sweet odors of vineyard and
garden grew ever more ravishing; and now the land lay at their feet in a
shimmering haze, through which the forests rose like deep cool islands
with here and there a red roof, or a white church spire to tell of human
habitation. And up through the haze like released spirits in paradise
came with soft, steady motion, phalanxes of soldiers smiling.
"By my sword that never sleeps," cried King Theophile, "their faces shall
be gray ere nightfall, and they shall smile no more."
Then all his soldiers made their swords sing and flash like waving grain
of death; and they chanted together a song without joy. Suddenly the
black dam of their war fury broke and, with the wild roar of an untamed
cataract, they swept forward towards these still and smiling knights,
with King Theophile on a high dark horse at their head.
In his rage of conquest he dug his golden spurs into his horse's side,
and the beast with quivering nostrils, leaped through space, then
suddenly paused, quivering; nor could cry, or whip, or spur move him.
Then King Theophile leaped down and rushed forward to see what was
frightening the animal; and all at once he crashed against something
hard, and his broken right arm fell to his side. He grew gray, not with
pain but with sheer terror, for he could see nothing, yet his arm had
been broken upon a substance that felt like granite.
As he gazed wildly about him, he saw the first phalanx of his army pitch
back with bleeding foreheads; and their eyes rolled in amazement, for
they could see nothing, yet they had driven themselves against stones.
"On! On!" cried King Theophile, for he trusted again to his senses which
revealed only a peaceful landscape and in the distance, haloed with the
mists, a calm army waiting and smiling. That smile of the foe was like
poison in the King's veins, and again he rushed forward, this time to
bruise and cut his head, so that the blood poured over his white mantle.
Then he grew faint with fear as he beheld his soldiers clawing the
empty airs and turning horror-stricken countenances to him. "Sire,"
they whispered, "something is holding us back. Something is here that
we do not see!"
At that moment the air-spies dropped to the ground like tired birds. "The
wind holds us back," cried one. "No!" exclaimed another, "we broke our
machines against a wall miles in the air! This is a bewitched country."
"We will wait and try again," said King Theophile.
So they encamped on the spot, and far off in the haze they saw the other
army pitch its tents, and they heard the soldiers singing. All night
their banners waved in the wind and the faint music continued.
At dawn King Theophile's army was astir, and those air-spies whose
vehicles were still unbroken, began their flight violently—and were as
violently pitched back. The phalanxes were ordered to advance, but some
fell dead with horror as they drove their limbs against an unseen
barrier. For the limpid air revealed only the placid fields; and in the
distance among the golden shadows, men smiling like the still saints in
paradisal meadows. "These be happy warriors," sighed the King, and for
once in his life he longed to call the foe "brother" and ask how the
harvest went; and to pillow his head on the same knapsack with a soldier,
and so sleep sweet and brotherly.
But the wall which shut out his hate, now shut out also his love, so that
he could not walk across the fields and embrace those smiling warriors
waiting in the sunshine for a battle that was never to take place.
So sadly one day he turned his army back to the sea-strand, and the
rocking boats, and away from the vision of calm eyes gazing at him
through golden shadows, where the land lay fair and open.
Now when the last of the fleet had disappeared below the horizon the
people of the Dark Wood kingdom went mad with joy; and the Wizard was
escorted to the palace by all the army. The Princess Myrtle and Prince
Merlin met him at the entrance to the throne-room, and pages scattered
flowers beneath his feet.
"O Wise Man," cried the Princess, "how shall we reward thee for
"Only children crave rewards," replied the Wizard. "It will be pleasure
enough for me to return to my little hut and to hear the woodpeckers in
the eaves; and to see the white owls fly when the stars glow above the
dark forest branches."
Now the Military Commander was the only person in the kingdom who was
not sharing the general joy. He was grumpy because he had lost all the
honor of winning a bloody battle. Even the sight of all his army alive
and well could not soothe the wound to his vanity; so when the Princess
and the Wizard were exchanging the last courtesies, he strode forward,
bowed, and said:
"Your Highness, this invisible wall is all very well, but how will our
people reach the seacoast through this perpetual barrier? Can this mighty
Wizard destroy what he has erected?"
Then all the court looked at the Wizard, who asked to be led at once to
the great concourse where the people were assembled. "This is a question
to be settled by the nation and not by the court," he averred.
So the knights and ladies moved like living flowers to the concourse
where the people were assembled—the pure grain of the kingdom. And the
Wizard called in a loud voice to them, "Men and women, is it your will
that your good deeds be destroyed or remain in everlasting remembrance?
For this wall will never keep any true soul from the sea, nor any honest
man; but he that is a rogue will beat in vain against it!"
Then the people shouted, "We will keep this wall which we have built with
our good deeds."
So the wall stood forever, but the Wizard journeyed home, and knew the
joy of the tired traveler who sees his own little nook again. That night
he ate his bread and drank his draught of water on his own doorstone; and
watched the white owls fly, hoping that Wisdom would let him be quiet
awhile in the arms of the forest before she sent him out again to teach
the restless hearts of men.
THE TREE IN THE DARK WOOD
In the kingdom of the Princess Myrtle were many forests cut through with
roaring streams which dashed and danced their way over immense shining
black bowlders that looked like ebony bears lying in the current. So high
were the trees of these woods that they shut out the sun, and he who
walked through them felt himself among the columns of a gigantic temple.
In the darkest wood of all people sometimes lost their way on bitter
nights when the white stars hung just above the tree-tops and the
frost-fairies filled the air with the little snaps and crackles of their
orchestra—the queer, marred music of winter. The reddening of dawn found
these poor adventurers frozen unless they had the good fortune to find
what all the countryside knew as "The Tree in the Dark Wood."
The whispers of generations had established the fact of the existence
of this tree since the hour when the woodcutter, Peter Garland, had
wandered too far into the forest, and had been benighted on the feast
of St. Stephen when the air sometimes sings with snow. He had become
half paralyzed with the cold, his poor lantern had gone out, and he was
about to say his last prayers thinking he would never live until
morning, when suddenly, in the midst of the whirling snow, he saw
extended the limbs of a most beautiful tree. It was not so tall as the
others, and shining fruit of a delicious appearance hung upon its
branches amidst its thick foliage.
Best of all, poor, half-frozen Peter felt a wonderful warmth glowing from
its trunk, and with the warmth came a soft crimson light; so he stole up
to it as if he were a little boy and this tree were his beautiful Mother;
and he cuddled down in the arms of its great roots and went to sleep.
When he woke up it was morning; and the sun was turning the surface of
the snow into sheets of iridescent light. He yawned and stretched out his
arms, then remembering his wonderful rescue of the evening before, he
gazed upward, but saw only a tall pine tree with shining brownish cones
pendant from its branches. Where was the beautiful green summer-tree hung
with crimson fruit? Where was the light like the sun's rays through
"But here am I alive and warm," thought Peter. "And the night was bitter.
This tree must change its shape at the footfall of evening; and I will
mark it, lest it should be lost to us."
So taking out his knife he cut three crosses in the bark of the tree;
then setting his face to the sun, for his cottage lay to the east of the
Dark Wood, he hacked the trees all along the way; and at last emerged in
the path which led to his dwelling. His wife and all the neighbors, who
had given him up for dead, came running to meet him with cries of joy;
but when he told them what had happened they tapped their foreheads and
glanced at each other. "Poor man," they said, "the frost-king hath stolen
"But I marked the tree with three crosses," he cried, "and I can lead you
straight to it."
They laughed, but to humor him they said he might take them to his
wonderful tree after dinner, when hot soup had given them all courage; so
that afternoon there was a long procession of people trudging through the
Dark Wood with Peter at their head. By the time he arrived at the tree he
was trembling like a leaf with excitement. There, sure enough, stood a
tall pine-tree marked with the three crosses, but it was otherwise in no
way different from its fellows. "Yes, but wait for evening; then you will
see it change," said Peter.
They laughed a little and grumbled a little; but most of them had filled
their lanterns and brought bread and cheese against a hungry time, and
after all, it was not so cold in the forest, for the North Wind with his
blue ballooned cheeks could not blow hard down those long avenues. Peter
was full of excitement, for he was sure that the tree would become
magical as soon as the sun set.
When the last splashes of crimson had faded from the topmost boughs he
began anxiously to watch the tree about which all the villagers had
seated themselves in a circle after first scraping the snow from the dead
leaves. Darker and darker grew the air, and brighter the stars, while far
off in the forest the great cats began to talk to each other, and the
owls hooted and flew. Suddenly Peter gave a cry of joy. "See! See! the
wonderful fruit, the glowing leaves!"
"Nonsense!" said his wife. "O, poor loon, he will never be right again!"
and she began to weep into her apron.
"It is true! It is true!" cried another voice, that of hard-worked Bennie
Brown, who supported an old father and mother and a crippled sister by
"Yes, it is the most beautiful tree," said a young girl, who had once
sold her golden hair to buy bread for a mother with a new-born child. "O
the wonderful fruit! the sweet warmth."
The others stared and rubbed their eyes; and looked angry. "You lie,
Bennie!" one cried; "You are a silly girl, Elsa," shrieked another.
"They speak truth. See you not the crimson light?" spoke grave Henry
Baird, who had rescued many from drowning in the mountain streams.
Those who did not see grew more and more furious. "Crazy people," they
cried. "Loons! silly babblers! will you teach us?" Then some began to
beat Peter; others to belabor young Elsa, at which Bennie ran to her
rescue, and being as brave as he was good, laid about him with his fists,
and cried "Shame on you, to hurt a woman, because your own eyes are
blind." Soon everyone was fighting, but those who saw the tree felt a
great strength in all their limbs, and warmth and joy; so that they soon
escaped from the brawling disappointed ones and ran lightly homeward with
But the dispute thus started went on through many months until half the
village refused to speak to the other half. Finally a good old hermit
traveled over the ridges of the mountains and forded many streams to
reach a place which had become famous by its quarrel. He arrived in
harvest time. Those who knew that the tree glowed with life were in the
fields quietly at work, for what had they to trouble them who had found
the truth? but the others who could not see were leaning over each
other's fences with their neglected gardens at their impatient heels; and
arguing and arguing the matter.
The hermit being a wise man asked no direct questions concerning the
tree, but went himself that evening into the forest and there beheld
Next day he made friends with the villagers; and because warm words open
the heart, soon the good hermit had the life histories of all the
inhabitants, as well as the names of those who had seen the tree and
those whose sight was blinded.
After which he retired into the wood to think upon what he had learned;
and to sort out his people like little colored beads. What he discovered
was this: that all those who had made sacrifices for their fellows, like
Bennie Brown and young Elsa, were able to see the tree, but the selfish
and the hard-hearted and the indifferent could not behold it.
When he was quite sure of this he went calmly back to the village and
calling together all the inhabitants he told them exactly why some saw
the tree and why it was hidden from the sight of others. These latter
only laughed at his words, though some of them were cut to the heart, but
they were too proud to reveal the wound.
The hermit's explanation, however, was accepted by many; and rumor
carried it far beyond the borders of the village, so that after a while
the nobility heard of it, and the burghers in the walled towns where
beautiful tapestries were always drowsing into wonderful life on looms
that could weave dreams. The result was that it grew quite fashionable to
journey to the tree to make a test of one's character, as people go to
physicians to have their blood examined. In the bright summer evenings
long processions could be seen winding like a varicolored serpent among
the gray trees. Swords flashed, banners flew, troubadours sang snatches
of little lilting airs like the rise and dip of birds' wings, and
beautiful ladies jingled the golden bridles of their steeds.
Few of these ladies brought their betrothed with them, lest they should
be made ashamed by not being able to see the tree; and should thereby be
discovered as possessing hard hearts beneath their sweet manners. It was
rumored, indeed, that people known to be selfish and cruel had
proclaimed, nevertheless, that they beheld a glorious tree, so that liars
were made, and hypocrites. Others said this was but the jealousy of
disappointed ones whose own lives had blurred their eyesight.
Now in the realm dwelt a splendid young knight whose name was Sir
Godfrey, and who took pleasure in all manner of chivalrous deeds towards
the ladies of his own rank. He was tall and strong-limbed, with clear
blue eyes, and a fresh skin, and when he wore his golden armor he looked
like the pictures of St. George. His home was a low-set castle of aged
stones held together by a vast ivy vine, and around the castle was a moat
so deep that it gave back a midnight darkness to the noon sky.
Now Sir Godfrey was in love with the Lady Beatrice whose lands adjoined
his. She was pale and slender as any lily, with black heavy hair that had
no light in it, but in her heart was much light; and because her soul
mirrored more than her eyes, she did not love easily, which reluctance of
hers was a grief to Sir Godfrey, who pressed his suit in vain.
One day when the roses were full-blown and all the little lambs were
skipping in the broad green fields, Sir Godfrey rode on his great white
horse towards the castle of the Lady Beatrice which was high up on a
hill, and faced the dawn. And he proudly rode because he saw that she was
watching him from the rose-terraces. But after a while he beheld her no
more, and he thought, "She knows I know she was watching." Pride put a
smile on his lips, because she had never watched for him before.
He spurred his horse to reach her the quicker while she was in this mood.
Now just before he gained the gate of the castle a goose-girl with her
geese blocked the road, and he cried impatiently, "Out of the way! out of
the way!" and scarcely reined in his horse, so that there was danger of
the girl's being hurt. She was quick on her feet, however, and sprang
aside, but one poor bird was trampled under the steed's hoofs, at which
the girl gave a sob and called out, "You are wicked, wicked!" Then he put
his hand in his purse and drew out some gold pieces and flung them
towards her; but she did not see them, for her face was buried in the
down of the bird, which was a pet.
When he reached the gate, there in the shadow of the arch stood the Lady
Beatrice. Her face was as white as a gardenia flower, and she did not
smile when she greeted him. He wondered what he had done to offend her,
and after a page had led away his horse he employed all his graceful arts
to win the smile he craved as a thirsty man longs for water. Sometimes
she glanced at him from beneath her lashes as if seeking to read his
soul; and once he saw her lips tremble, but the smile did not come.
They were pacing up and down between the nodding roses that seemed to be
saying to Sir Godfrey, "Kiss her! kiss her!" until no longer could he
bear it, and he sank on one knee before her and poured out his heart.
She listened like a maiden turned to snow. Then when he was silent she
spoke thus to him: "Will you go with me and my ladies to the Tree in the
Dark Wood this very night? If you can behold the Tree filled with fruit
and rosy flame I will marry you, if not I cannot be your bride. But you
must promise me upon the cross-hilt of your sword that you will speak
truthfully. You must not deceive me to gain my hand."
Then Sir Godfrey gave his word joyfully, for he was sure that he would
behold the magical Tree. He thought of all his noble deeds and the
beautiful ladies for whose sake he had tilted in tourney; and of all his
prowess as a knight in king's courts.
So when the sun was low, he with Lady Beatrice and her train of ladies
rode forth from the gates towards the Dark Wood which lay like a cloud
in the distance; and Sir Godfrey was full of song and jest, for he
never doubted that soon he would be the betrothed of his beautiful
lady; but she was silent and looked often towards the west where the
rosy clouds slept.
When the procession entered the wood it was as if the gray spaces had
turned all at once into a garden. Flashes of jewels and silks threw magic
colors on the twilight, and the troubadours in the train sang so sweetly
that all the birds were mute. As night came on the, pretty little
lanterns were lit and swung at the horses' bridles.
The Tree was nearly reached when Lady Beatrice halted her procession and
bade it await her and Sir Godfrey, for she loved him too well to have him
mortified before other people; and she feared that he would not behold
the glowing fruit-bearing Tree. But never a doubt crossed his mind, for
he remembered all his noble deeds that he had performed beneath the eyes
of gallant knights and fair ladies.
So they rode on to the Tree, and he unhooked the lantern from his saddle
and held it high.
"Why do you do that?" asked the Lady Beatrice.
"To find the three crosses," he said.
"But the Tree is glowing like a jewel," she cried.
Then he grew gray as the ashes of a long-spent fire, for he knew that he
had failed; and his pride suffered a mortal wound, since it was greater
than his love. "You are deceived, Lady Beatrice, like all the rest," he
said. "There is no magic Tree."
For answer she turned her horse and rode sadly away. Her heart was too
heavy for speech. As he saw her going the sense of loss cut like a
knife into his spirit, and his pain was keen, for he still loved for
his sake and not for hers. She, seeing that he suffered, longed to
comfort him, but she was not one of those who live for the moment, and
she held her peace.
When they reached the waiting procession everyone looked at Sir Godfrey,
and his pride was, by the challenge of their eyes, again aroused, for he
could do nothing, nor feel nothing unless he was before a mirror. So he
began to be very gay; and though he would have scorned to speak a lie, he
acted one that everyone might believe he had seen the magic Tree. But the
Lady Beatrice remained silent and sad. When they reached her gates he
asked her permission to enter; then she said: "Some day, not now."
He rode away without a jest, for she had never before refused him any
courtesy, and his heart was heavy within him. That night he could not
sleep, but tossed upon his bed, sometimes grieving because he had not
seen the magic Tree and so had been made of no worth in the Lady
Beatrice's eyes; sometimes in anguish because she had not allowed him to
enter her gates.
But in all this he loved himself, so the pain was but transitory, and
next day he put on his finest doublet of leaf-green satin lined with
primrose silk and edged with pale corals, and rode to her gates. There
the porter brought back word that the Lady Beatrice could not see him.
Sir Godfrey was angry then, and he sought to make her jealous. Next day
when at the jousts, he sat at the feet of her cousin, Lady Alladine, nor
did he look towards the Lady Beatrice.
But all that only heaped fire on his own heart, and he rode home to his
castle with his brow dark. The singing birds seemed to mock him, and he
thought he heard the shrill laughter of the goblin-men, who live in the
deep dells. That night he could not sleep; but murmured again and again
that she was his own love, and not the Lady Alladine.
So full of meekness he rode next day to the castle of his heart's life,
but the porter brought back to him the same message, and Sir Godfrey
departed full of anguish. His pain, like a scourge, drove him on and on
until he was far off in the desert amid the tangled and tripping briers
and the keen-edged stones. The rain beat upon his head and upon his
silken clothes, but he was unmindful of it, because he had begun to
grieve not for himself, but for his sweet lost love.
The days went by and he grew thin and worn with his grieving; and because
he learned how salt is the taste of tears he began to pity everything
that suffered. He was well-nigh worn out with his memories, for now he
never thought of his noble deeds, but of the times when he had given pain
to others. Often he remembered the poor goose-girl and her birds. At
first he would say, "I gave her gold"; then a voice in his heart
answered, "Gold cannot pay for life."
So one day he went to the market-place and bought a fine gray goose with
a bill as red as a cardinal's robe; and he tucked the bird under his arm,
though the people jeered to see a noble knight carrying a goose. But Sir
Godfrey cared not. He went straight to the village green where the
goose-girl was leading her birds around, and bowed low before her as if
she were a great lady.
"I am sorry that I killed one of your flock," he said. "Will you take
this fellow for forgiveness's sake?"
Then the tears came into her eyes, and she took into her arms from his
the gray goose whose bill was red as a cardinal's robe; and stroked
"Why do you cry?" asked Sir Godfrey.
"I am glad you are a true knight," she answered.
Then Sir Godfrey wished with all his heart that he might bring tears to
the eyes of the Lady Beatrice, for he felt that never more would she
believe him a true knight.
The world was full of flying leaves, for it was autumn; then the winds
died and the snows came. Bitter winter chained the mountain streams and
laid the forests asleep. The stars shone blue, and on the windowpanes
were fairy pictures.
Now the time drew near the birth of Christ, and one day Sir Godfrey
was overjoyed to receive a message from the Lady Beatrice, bidding him
to a feast on Christmas Eve. It seemed to him that he could not wait
for the hour to come, and all that day he thought upon the joy of
beholding her again.
Towards nightfall the wind rose and the snow began to fly, but to Sir
Godfrey it was as if the air were full of dainty flowers. Nor did he
regard the cold nor the whistling tempest, but rode in deep joy and
humility to the castlegate of the Lady Beatrice.
When he had nearly reached it he heard a feeble voice crying: "Stop, Sir
Knight; for the love of heaven, stop!" and looking down he saw a bent old
woman holding her hands out to him in supplication.
Every moment's delay was as the point of a sharp sword against his heart,
but he had himself suffered too much to turn from the voice of pain; and
leaning from his saddle he said, "What can I do for you, Mother?"
"Sir Knight," she replied, "my home lies on the farther side of the Dark
Wood, and the neighbor who was to convey me thither has no doubt
forgotten his promise. I have a sick son there for whose sake I made this
journey. Wilt thou, for the love of heaven, take me up behind thee and
convey me through the Dark Wood to my dwelling? I cannot walk through
this tempest, and my son may die."
Then Sir Godfrey was as a man turned into marble by enchantment, and his
heart was sore with struggle. Before him were the lights of the castle
which held his love. If he carried this woman to her home, he could not
see his Lady Beatrice, who, perhaps, would never forgive him for not
appearing at her summons.
The thought was as death to him, and he looked broodingly down at the
poor woman. "I am bidden to a feast, Mother," he said, "the porter of
this castle will give you shelter for the night, and in the morning I
will convey you through the Dark Wood to your home."
"The morning may be too late, Sir Knight," she said sadly.
Then without a word Sir Godfrey turned his horse, and though his heart
was like lead, he bent a cheerful countenance to the stranger, and
assisted her to the place behind the saddle, and off they rode together
through the night and storm.
Sir Godfrey spoke but little, since his thoughts were with the Lady
Beatrice and the empty chair at the feast which should have been his. He
saw her face imprinted on the night's dark veil and heard her voice
calling him on the whistling wind. The old woman behind him muttered of
the storm while on and on they rode.
At last they entered the Dark Wood, and here they made slower progress,
for the light of Sir Godfrey's little lantern was feeble and the trees
cast confusing shadows. By and by the old woman began to moan that she
was cold, that she felt herself dying of the cold. "O would that we could
reach the Tree which sheds warmth and bears fruit even in this bitter
weather," she cried. "O Knight, hasten forward to the Tree."
But Sir Godfrey made no answer, for he was now sure that he should never
be holy enough to behold the Tree; and he, too, felt the sorrow and cold
of death creep upon him, and a dreadful fear that never again should he
leave the Dark Wood alive, but would perish there miserably. He could no
longer see the path, and the arms of the old woman clinging to him were
like the touch of ice. "O Mother!" he cried, "Pray for our deliverance,
for I have lost the road."
At that moment his lantern went out, and he gave a cry of despair, for he
had nothing wherewith to relight it.
"Fear not," cried the old woman, "but press on."
So through the dark he urged his horse, seeing nothing and feeling more
dead than alive; for he now knew that both he and his passenger must
perish of the cold.
But even as he was resigning his heart to the will of heaven, he saw afar
off a beautiful, clear, rosy light shedding long rays over the snow, and
where the light lay the snowflakes fell no more, but a delicate breeze,
soft and caressing, issued like a breath of spring from that circle. The
old woman cried, "The Tree! the Tree!"
Sir Godfrey's heart leaped with joy. He could not believe that he was
at last worthy to behold the Tree, yet there it rose, oh, so glorious!
its trunk glowing with a sweet, warm fire, its branches covered with
lights and heavy with delicious fruit. He laughed with joy, while the
old woman softly wept. Even the horse saw the fine sight, for he
whinnied his pleasure.
Then the knight dismounted and turned to lift the old woman down, when
suddenly she threw back her hood, and straightened herself; and there,
smiling into his eyes, was his own love, the Lady Beatrice. "O my true
Knight," she cried. "For the sake of a stranger thou didst brave death.
Now with thy love shalt thou live."
Then Sir Godfrey cried out with joy and took her in his arms and kissed
her many times, while from behind the Tree came running all the
true-hearted nobles and peasants who had been able to see its wonders,
and they all circled Sir Godfrey and the Lady Beatrice while they
plighted their troth. Then all ate the fruit, and made merry in the rosy
warmth until the Christmas morning dawned, when they went back in the
sunshine to celebrate the marriage of Sir Godfrey and the Lady Beatrice,
who lived happily ever afterwards; for how otherwise could it be with
lovers that had together beheld the Tree in the Dark Wood?
THE CAT THAT WINKED
Once there was an old woman who lived on the edge of the Dark Wood in a
small cottage all covered with thick thatch and over the thatch grew a
honeysuckle vine; but at the gable where the chimneys clustered, the
wisteria flung purple flowers in May.
On the topmost chimney was a stork's nest, and there dear grandfather
stork stood on one leg, unless he was wanted to carry a little baby to
some house in the village; when he flapped his wings and flew away over
the tree-tops to the Land of Little Souls.
Now the old woman loved her home, because she had lived there many years
with her husband. She loved the two worn chairs on each side of the great
hearth, and her pewter dishes, and her big china water-pitcher with
flowers shining on it—not for themselves, but for the reason that once
someone had used them and admired them with her.
Into the little latticed windows the roses peeped, and these Mother
Huldah loved too, and tended carefully all through the sweet-smelling
summer-time. But perhaps she liked best the long winter evenings when she
spun by the fire and sang little songs like these:
"My heart as a bird has flown away,
(Princess, where? Princess, where?)
Into the land that is always gay,
Out of the land of care.
"But no bird flies alone to bliss,
(Princess, why? Princess, why?)
I have no answer but a kiss,
And then the open sky."
Nobody listened but Tommie, who was an immense black cat, held in great
reverence by the villagers, for he had the greenest eyes and the longest
whiskers and the heaviest fur of any cat in the kingdom. Moreover, he had
hundreds of mice to his credit and no birds, for he was a good and wise
grimalkin. Sometimes he talked with his tail and sometimes he opened his
pink mouth and said just as plain as words that he had been stalking
through the moonlight and had seen old Egbert go limping home as if he
had the rheumatism.
So next day Mother Huldah with her little bag of medicines and ointments
would go to old Egbert's hut, and sure enough, find him bedridden; or
Tommie would tell her that Charlemagne the stork had carried a baby to a
poor mother who had no clothes for it. Then Mother Huldah would go to her
great cedar chest and take out linen that smelled all sweetly of
lavender, and carry it with some good food to the poor woman.
Mother Huldah was so kind and generous that everybody got in the habit of
taking things from her without sometimes so much as a "thank you," or an
inquiry as to her own health. But the little children loved her because
she made them pretty cakes; and told them the stories she used to tell
her own children, her two fine sons who were soldiers. These sons sent
her the money upon which she lived and out of which she made her little
charities, and they wrote her fine brave letters, and every year they
came home to see her, bearing beautiful presents from foreign lands,
ivory toys and shining silks (which she always gave to some bride) and
workboxes of sweet-scented wood richly carved—to show how much they
One dreadful year a great war broke out, and not long after Mother Huldah
heard that her two sons had been killed, and she herself thought she
would follow them through grief. But she lived on and as she grew more
sorrowful she went less and less to the village, and people began to
forget her. Even the little children stayed away since she had no longer
the heart to tell them the tales she had once told her sons; and she must
no longer bake the little cakes since every day saw her small hoard of
At last, when the winter tempests were raging, and the sleet was beating
upon the thatch, there came a day when no food remained in the cottage;
and Mother Huldah felt too weak and sick to go out in quest of it. Nor
did she wish to tell her neighbors that no food remained in the cottage.
So full of weary dreams and old sad thoughts she sat down in one of the
armchairs before the fire, and whether she nodded from drowsiness, or
whether Tommie nodded at her she never knew, but he moved his black head
and opened his pink mouth, and said he, "Suppose I fetch you a bird just
She was much surprised, for Tommie had never talked to her before, but
she did not show how astonished she was because she was always very
polite to him. So she replied, "Bless your whiskers! Tommie! but we won't
break through our rule. Maybe some neighbor will fetch me a loaf!"
"Maybe they will and perhaps they won't," said Tommie, "they're an
"They think I am still rich, my dear," she answered.
"So you are, but not in the way they mean," Tommie said. "And,
Mother Huldah, if they neglect you a day longer it won't be your
Then Mother Huldah shook her finger at him. "You switch your tail just as
if you were going to steal something. Tommie, I brought you up better
"Steal! nonsense!" cried Tommie. "Most of 'em have more than they
"Tommie, I believe you're hungry, or your morals wouldn't be so queer!"
Mother Huldah said reprovingly.
"Hungry!" exclaimed Tommie. "I dream of lobster claws and chicken wings
and blue saucers full of yellow wrinkled cream, twelve in a row. No
wonder my morals are queer!"
Then what happened was that poor Mother Huldah dozed off to sleep and
when she awoke there was Tommie staring into the fire, his green eyes
like two lanterns and his whiskers standing out very stiff and knowing,
and at Mother Huldah's' feet was a wicker basket from which issued a most
appetizing odor. "Why, Thomas" (she always called him Thomas in solemn
moments), "what's this?"
"Your dinner," said Tommie, and yawned like a gentleman who lights a
cigarette and says, "O hang it all! what a beastly bore life is."
"Thomas," questioned Mother Huldah solemnly, "where did you get this
dinner?" for she had taken the cover off the basket and found a small
roast chicken with vegetables and a bread pudding.
"Why, I was strolling down the gray lane when I met a woman carrying that
basket and I smelled chicken; so up I stood on my hind legs, and winked
at her and I said, 'Thank you, I know you are taking that to Mother
Huldah; let me carry it the rest of the way.'"
But Mother Huldah cried, "Maybe the dinner wasn't for me, and you
frightened her so she had to give it to you."
Tommie yawned again. "Don't you think that the best thing you can do with
a good dinner is to eat it?"
So Mother Huldah ate her dinner, hoping all the while that she was making
an honest meal; then, when she had fed Thomas, she asked him if
Charlemagne was on the roof. "Indeed, no!" cried he. "Charlemagne has
flown to the war country to fetch you a baby!"
"Alas!" cried Mother Huldah. "I pity the poor babes, but how can I bring
up a baby?"
"It is your granddaughter," said Tommie. "Charlemagne told me that a year
ago your son Rupert married, but he meant to bring his bride home as a
surprise to you. Then the war broke out and—"
"O poor little daughter-in-law!" cried Mother Huldah. "Did she break
"Yes, and so she followed Rupert to the Country of the Brave Souls; but
Charlemagne is fetching the baby in a warm woolen napkin tied up at the
four corners; and when his wings get tired from flying he puts a bit of
sugar and a drop of water in the baby's mouth and leans his feathery
breast against its little feet to keep them warm!"
"Yes! yes!" said Mother Huldah, "a baby's feet should be always kept
warm—but, dear me, dear me, the Sweet One will need milk before long,
and the grain of the whole wheat to help her grow! I have no money to buy
Tommie looked very wise. "Mother Huldah," he said as he drew a black paw
knowingly over one ear, "don't you know that wherever a baby comes, help
comes? Open the linen chest and get your shining shears and begin to make
little shirts and dresses. I think I'll take a look at the weather."
He made the last remark carelessly like a young gentleman who will stroll
out and leave the women-folk to their devices.
"O Tommie!" said Mother Huldah, "you are not going to do anything
"Mother Huldah," replied Tommie, "did you ever know a cat to do anything
impulsive unless he saw a bird, or a mouse?"
With that he left her, and she watched him walk away down the forest path
with the sunlight glistening on his coat and his tail held high and
straight. Sometimes he would pause and lift one foot daintily, the toes
curling in. Mother Huldah always said that Tommie heard not with his ears
but with his whiskers, and perhaps it was true.
Tommie himself was making his own plans as he went along. "If I tell
these villagers outright that Mother Huldah is in need, each person will
think, 'O well, Neighbor Jude, or Gossip Dorcas has more to spare than I.
Someone else will take care of the poor old lady, I am sure.' And it will
end in her getting nothing at all. I will not talk about her, but to each
person I will talk about himself, for that is the way to get people
At which Tommie smiled, and because his great-grandfather was a Cheshire
Cat, his smile gave him a wise and jovial look, as if the Sphinx of Egypt
should suddenly see a joke. With a good heart he went daintily on his
way, shaking the snow from his paws at times, until he reached the
village green. Now in the middle of the green stood the pump, made of
wood with a flat top. On this Tommie seated himself, put his paws neatly
together, folded his tail about them, made his green eyes perfectly
round, and stared straight ahead of him.
Now even a cat when he looks as if he could think for himself will draw
people's attention; especially if he seems to enjoy his thoughts. And
Tommie, seated on the pump in the bright winter sunshine, looked as if he
had something in his mind that pleased him.
"Heigh-O," said one of the passers-by. "Here's a witch-cat!"
"You are mistaken," replied Tommie with a wink. "I belong to Mother
Huldah, and she is the best woman in the village."
The man was so astonished that he dropped a parcel of eggs he was
carrying, and they were all broken.
"That's what comes," said Tommie, "of imagining evil where none exists."
The man was so angry that he made some snowballs hastily and began to
pelt Tommie with them; but Tommie understood the beautiful art of
dodging—which some people never learn all their lives—so he didn't get
hit. By this time a crowd had gathered about the angry man, and were
asking him what was the matter.
"Matter!" he shrieked, "that black object on the pump gave me impudence!"
"Heigh-O!" cried little Elsa. "How could a cat give thee impudence!"
"Ask him then," said the man. "He can talk like any Christian."
At which the crowd all looked at Tommie, who winked at them and said,
"Does anybody here want to ask me any questions? I'll tell him what he
wants to know in perfect confidence between him and me and the pump. If
my answer pleases him, he can give me a silver piece. If my reply make
his heart go pit-a-pat with joy he can give me a gold piece. If he
doesn't like my answers, he needn't give me anything. Now that's fair,
Then everybody looked at everybody else, and dropped their jaws and
rubbed their eyes. Nobody stirred for a minute, then a fine young fellow
stepped forward, blushing. This was Carl, the miller's son, who was
straight as a birch-tree, and had blue eyes like deep lakes, and he
walked right up to the pump, and bowed, then he whispered into Tommie's
ear, "Does Lucia love me?"
Tommie winked his right eye and smiled. "Carl," he replied, "get up
your courage and ask her to-day, for she loves you better than anyone
in the world."
Then Carl felt his heart go pit-a-pat, and all the snow wreaths on the
trees seemed to turn to bridal flowers. "Thanks, dear and wise Pussy," he
said, and took out his handkerchief and spread it at Tommie's feet and on
it he placed not one, but three gold pieces.
When the villagers saw the gold pieces glittering in the sun and beheld
the radiant face of Carl, they all began to wonder, and each person
wanted to try his own luck. "After all," said each one to himself, "if I
don't like what the cat says I needn't pay him anything."
The next person to go up was the village tanner, whose skin was like
leather and whose eyes were little like a pig's. Tommie was already
acquainted with him, having been kicked out of his tannery once when on
an innocent mousing expedition.
"Say," said the tanner, "will my Uncle Jean leave me his farm?"
"No," answered Tommie, winking his left eye. "That he won't! He knows you
are always wishing he would die!"
The tanner was so angry that he snarled: "Don't you ever let me catch you
around the tannery again, or I'll make you into a muff for my daughter."
"Black furs are not fashionable this winter," said Tommie. "Next?"
Everybody laughed when they saw that the tanner hadn't paid money for
his information, and so, presumably, didn't like it. But strangely
enough, instead of discouraging this led them on to try their luck; and
the next person who came to ask Tommie a question was poor, old,
half-blind Henley the miser. He put his mouth close to the cat's ear, so
the people behind him wouldn't catch what he said, and in a hoarse voice
he asked, "Say, old whiskers, will my fine ship loaded with dates and
spices reach Norway safely?"
"Yes, it will," said Tommie, "long before your withered old soul will
reach a haven of peace."
Henley was so excited over the first words that he didn't even hear the
last ones. He hopped about on one leg, and was rushing off at last when
Tommie cried, "Heigh-O, you haven't paid me!"
The miser felt in his pockets and drew out a silver coin and laid it on
"Not at all," said Tommie. "Remember the Worth of that cargo! Gold
Henley began to whine. "I'm a poor old man, Tommie. I'll leave the cream
jug on the doorstep every day and no questions will be asked!"
"I'm not a thief," answered Tommie. "Mother Huldah brought me up better
than that. Come, you don't want to have any quarrel with a black cat."
Whereupon Henley reluctantly drew from his pocket a gold piece, while all
the villagers opened their eyes very wide, and wondered what Tommie could
have told the old gentleman to make him so liberal.
The next person to come up was a little shy girl named Clara. She had big
brown eyes and fair floating hair, and under her white chin and about her
little white wrists were soft furs; for her father was a wealthy
moneylender. She came close to Tommie and whispered, "Tell me, beautiful
Pussy, if I shall ever win the love of Joseph Grange."
Tommie winked his right eye several times and replied, "My dear, I see
She flushed with joy. "And what shall I do to hasten it?"
Tommie reflected a moment. "Be pleasant, but not anxious. A lady with
an anxious expression has little chance of winning a lover! Don't
invite him too often; don't talk too much. Now I haven't hurt your
feelings, have I?"
"No, indeed," she said, for she was a young lady of good sense. "And
Tommie, dear, will you take these gold pieces to Mother Huldah. She was
so good to me when I was a little girl, and because I have been so
absorbed in my own affairs I haven't been to see her lately."
"That's the trouble with being in love," said Tommie, "it's apt to make
people selfish, and it should make them love and remember everybody. It
does when it's the real thing."
Little Clara clasped her hands earnestly. "I will come to see Mother
Huldah this afternoon," she said, "and bring her some cakes of my
After Clara one person and another came up. Some asked foolish questions,
some wise. Some paid down money, others didn't, but the pile of gold and
silver at Tommie's feet grew steadily.
Now all novelties, even talking cats, soon cease to be novelties, and
towards afternoon when the villagers saw how much of their money lay at
Tommie's feet, some of them began to be discontented. Of these the tanner
was the ringleader, and he said to the other grumblers, "If we can get
that lying cat off the pump, we can then take his money. I have three big
rats in the trap at the tannery, and I know Tommie is starving hungry by
this time. We'll let 'em loose on the ground in front of the pump. When
he makes a spring one of you grab the money and run."
Now the tanner had guessed right. Tommie was hungry, but he was
determined to keep his post until sundown. After a while no more people
came, and he was just thinking he would take up the handkerchief by the
four corners and go home, when he espied a group of people approaching.
Suddenly, oh, me, oh, my! three dinners were scampering towards him, such
rats, such big, splendid rats in fine condition. Tommie had never used
such self-control in all his nine lives, but he sat tight and though his
whiskers showed his agitation he never budged.
The tanner was mad clear through, and he cried out, "He's a wizard; he
ought to be killed" because some people can't see others controlling
themselves without thinking there's something wrong with them. Then he
began to make snowballs and to pelt poor Tommie. Now Tommie, as has been
said, was a good dodger, but nevertheless when it rains snowballs it's
hard not to get hit. It might have fared badly with him had not some
knights and ladies at that moment appeared on the scene in the train of
the beautiful Princess Yolande, one of the fairest princesses in all the
realm. She rode a great white horse, and she was robed in cream velvet
and white furs, while about her slender waist was a girdle of gold set
with sapphires which were as blue as her eyes. By her side rode Lord
Mountfalcon. He was all in black armor, for he was mourning a brother who
had died in the distant war.
Love as well as grief filled his heart, for his dark eyes were
continually upon the beautiful Princess, who now reined in her horse and
cried out in a sweet voice, "Shame upon you men to hurt a poor cat."
"He is a wizard and he belongs to a witch," called out the tanner.
"O what a wicked lie," said Tommie. "I don't care what names you call me,
but my mistress is one of the best women in the land. She has come to
poverty in her old age. For her sake and to get her a little money, I've
sat here all day answering truthfully all questions. Now, dear Princess
Yolande, believe me, for I am a true cat."
The Princess was so astonished that she couldn't speak for a moment. At
last she turned to Lord Mountfalcon and said: "Truly, we have come to
wonderland. I'd rather believe the cat than the people who were pelting
him, and I have a mind to test his powers. Let us alight and ask him
Then they all dismounted and with the pages and the ladies and the
gentlemen in armor the scene was as gay as the stage of an opera.
Everybody chatted and laughed, and some of the court ladies stroked
Tommie's fur with their pretty white hands; and one took off her bracelet
and hung it about his neck.
But when the Princess Yolande went forward to ask her question, everyone
fell back. Then with sweet dignity, as became a princess, she stood
before Tommie and said, "Tell me if Lord Mountfalcon love me truly."
Tommie didn't wink, for he knew the ways of court, his grandfather having
been chief mouser to old King Adelbert; but he purred a warm good purr,
like a mill grinding out pure white grain.
"If the sky in heaven be blue,
Then Mountfalcon loves you true;
If the sun set in the West,
Lord Mountfalcon loves you best."
"You see," he added, "I'm not much of a poet, but those are the facts."
"Never was bad verse so sweet to me," cried the Princess and she put down
a whole bag of gold at Tommie's feet.
After her came Lord Mountfalcon himself with that sad grace of his, and
all his spirit shadowed with love and grief. "Sir Puss," he said, "shall
I wed ever the Princess Yolande?"
"Before there are violets in the vales of the kingdom," replied Tommie.
"Two saddlebags will not hold the gold I shall give thee," exclaimed
"Bring them to the cottage where Mother Huldah lives," said Tommie. "And
I ask this further favor: When you leave this spot will you take me up
behind you and give this money to a page to convey; and so bring me
safely home with the wealth, for I fear mischief from the tanner."
"Most willingly," said Mountfalcon. "I will present your request to the
After him all the court came with questions; so when the page advanced
to gather up the money the load was almost more than he could carry.
Then Tommie jumped down from his perch, and another page lifted him
safely on to the big warm back of Lord Mountfalcon's horse, which felt
fine and comforting to poor Tommie's feet. He was so tired that he took
forty winks after he had told the Princess how to reach the cottage of
When he woke they were all in the dim forest and the Princess Yolande and
Lord Mountfalcon were talking in low tones like the whisper of the wind
through flowers; and it seemed as if their talk were all of love and
dreams and far-away griefs and tears that must fall.
At last they reined in their horses where Mother Huldah stood at her gate
peering into the forest. When she saw the beautiful lady and the noble
knight and Tommie on the horse's back, she cried out, "O bless you, Sir
Knight, for bringing him home."
"And I've brought a fortune with me, Mother Huldah," cried Tommie.
At this Mother Huldah looked troubled. "Gracious Lady," she addressed the
Princess, "I hope my cat has not been up to mischief."
"No, bless him," replied the Princess; then she told all that Tommie had
done. "And fear not to take the money, Mother," she added, "for those who
gave it did so of their free-will."
"Alas! I would not take it," sighed Mother Huldah, "had not my Rupert and
my Hugh died in the great war; and Rupert's wife went with him to the
Kingdom of the Brave Souls; and I expect Charlemagne to-night with their
"Rupert? what Rupert?" asked Lord Mountfalcon, leaning down from
"Rupert Gordon; I am Huldah Gordon, his bereaved mother!"
Then Mountfalcon removed his cap, alighted from his horse and bowed low
before Mother Huldah. "He died gloriously. He died trying to remove my
poor brother from danger," he said. "Now let me be as a son to you, for
sweet memory's sake."
[Illustration: CHARLEMAGNE BRINGS THE BABY TO MOTHER HULDAH]
Then they all wept softly, for even to hear of those battles and those
Silent Ones in the Kingdom of the Brave Souls was to behold the world
through tears. And the Princess Yolande alighted and kissed Mother
Huldah's hands and promised to visit her often.
So with many true words they parted at last, and Mother Huldah was left
alone with Tommie and the bags of gold and silver, which she took indoors
and then returned to scan the sky where now the white stars hung and a
thin half-circle of a moon. Tommie romped in the snow for the joy of
stretching his legs. After a while he said, "Listen, don't you hear
something, Mother Huldah?"
"I would I heard wings!" she cried.
"But I hear wings," said Tommie. "Watch! watch where the North
So Mother Huldah watched, and soon she saw the great outspread wings
of Charlemagne and saw his long bill with something hanging from the
end of it.
"My word, here's the baby," called out Tommie. "Hello, Charlemagne, you
old Grandpa! have you kept that precious infant warm?"
But Charlemagne alighted on his feet and walked solemnly to Mother Huldah
and laid in her arms the softest, sweetest, pinkest little baby that she
had ever seen. There was golden down on its head, and its little hands
were folded like rosebuds beneath its tiny chin.
Mother Huldah felt its feet to know if they were warm; then she cried
and sobbed and held the little thing to her breast; and trembled for
love of it.
"Take it before the fire," said Tommie. "We're all tired to-night and
it will be good to drowse and dream. Good-night, Charlemagne. The
So the stork flew up to the roof, and Mother Huldah took her treasure and
held it in her warm, ample lap before the fire; and Tommie winked and
dozed and looked at the baby with his great green eyes, while Mother
"The gold of the world will fade away,
Baby sleep! Baby sleep!
But thou wilt live in my heart alway,
Sleep, my darling, sleep.
"The gold of the world it comes and goes,
Baby sleep! Baby sleep!
But thou wilt bloom like a summer rose,
Cease my soul to weep."
THE MAGIC TEARS
There was once a king named Theophile who lived in a dim castle on the
edge of the ocean, but so far above the water that the flying spray never
reached its lowest terrace; and only the strongest-winged seagulls could
circle its towers and turrets. It was a strange, melancholy, beautiful
place, where the light shimmered on the walls like the ripple of water,
and in the shadows of the massive walls the flowers waved all day in the
sea-wind like little princesses who would dance before they died.
King Theophile had led many armies to victory, driving his golden
white-sailed boats upon far-off coasts, but from each conquest he
returned the sadder because he had made many people hate him, and had won
no one's love. Nor could he find a woman who would wed him, because of
the sorrows of his line, which were great.
When he was not at war he would labor for his kingdom until sunset, and
at that hour he would leave his Council Chamber to pace the terraces and
gaze seaward over the rocking blue-green waves, while his minstrels sang
to him. Only music could drive away his care, so always a page with a
golden harp followed him. Sometimes he would bid everyone be gone but
this boy, and the two would glide like shadows through the long galleries
where the bluish tapestries hung; or brood together by the roaring fire
when the sleet rattled on the casements.
One spring day when it seemed as if even the ocean air wafted the
fragrance of little pale flowers and the sun shone warmly on the old gray
walls of the castle, the King and the boy wandered into the garden of the
white lilacs; where, on a marble bench, King Theophile seated himself,
and listened while the boy sang:
"My love came out of an old dream,
And took away my peace;
And now I dare not sleep again,
Until this heartache cease."
"Did he ever know slumber again, I wonder," said the King. "O boy, of
what use are your love-songs!"
"To arouse love in your heart, Sire!"
"What good is that when I have no maiden to love!"
"Listen, Sire," said the boy. "You are going to war with King Mace who
has a most beautiful daughter, the Princess Elene. When you have
overthrown him, bring her to your kingdom and wed her."
"A strange way to win the love of a woman," said the King, "by invading
her father's kingdom. Nevertheless, I will have regard to the maiden."
"I have heard," said the page, "that they who once behold her are
restless ever afterwards from the wound of her beauty."
The King nodded wearily. "There are women like that—gleams from lost
stars; faces seen at sunset; or where the light is lifting after a storm.
I have never cast eyes on such a maid."
"When you see the Princess Elene you will behold her," said the page.
"I will set forth to war immediately," announced the King.
Soon thereafter he sailed away, and over the rocking billows went the
golden boats until they drove upon the coasts of King Mace's land, where
bitter battles were fought and many men laid asleep with the sword. Then
came a day when all was quiet, and even King Mace pillowed his royal head
on his dead horse, and woke no more.
Then King Theophile entered the little sunny palace where all was so
silent, and strode through the echoing corridors to the throne room.
There alone, beneath a canopy of azure satin, on the great throne sat a
woman whose face was like a gleam from a lost star. She had proud lips,
and hair that was like cloth of gold about her, and eyes that were wells
of sorrow. When he beheld her, King Theophile's limbs became as weak as a
new-born child's, and he heard the sound of a far-off wind that had
traveled from the Kingdom of Lost Hope. He knew that henceforth for him
there must be either love or death.
"O Princess," he cried, "they are all asleep. But thou and I are awake."
"Nay," she replied, "they are awake. Their spirits crowd this hall to
wring my heart with pity; but thou art asleep."
Her words were like a sword in his breast, and kneeling before her, he
cried: "Come with me to my Kingdom. Thou art my only Love."
"Thou mayst force me to wed thee," she replied, "but the sword which can
slay, can never wake love to life. Thou hast come to the end of thy
Then King Theophile tasted the bitterness of death as the men who slept
from the stroke of his sword could never taste it. And because he was not
a man to put his soul into the keeping of his tongue, he made no answer,
but in his secret heart he resolved to win her love, though the adventure
cost him years of pain.
So while he lingered in her kingdom, building costly monuments to the
dead, and showering gold on the wounded, and sending into fine houses the
homeless whose hearts ached for vanished humble hearths; while he worked
to draw life out of death, he spared no effort to bring a smile to the
lips of the Princess Elene.
But she never smiled, and though her heart was breaking, she could not
weep. Often she said to her women, "Pray that I may have the gift of
tears," but always her eyes remained dry, like the vision of those who
have gazed too long on fire.
To King Theophile she seemed the very Beauty of the World, as in her
black robes she sat in her garden at her tapestry frame, or listened with
veiled eyes to the singing of his minstrels. And in his heart was a
battle greater than any he had ever waged in desolated lands, for his
nobler self told him he had no right to wed her. But his wild love drove
like a tempest across these whispers.
[Illustration: KING THEOPHILE AND QUEEN ELENE]
So at last he married her in the dim cathedral church of her dead
father's kingdom, with pomp of flowers and lights and nuptial music, and
she was as pale as those who live long underground.
Then the golden boats drove home across the rocking billows, and one day
the Queen Elene, as she was now titled, lifted her eyes and beheld the
gaunt castle of King Theophile cutting the sky. A mist seemed to hang all
its turrets with fog and vapor. Elene remembered the shining happy little
castle of her vanished kingdom, and her heart was bitter with tears, but
she could not shed them.
King Theophile, gazing upon her face, read her thoughts, for he had the
second-sight of lovers; and his heart was as lead in his breast. He was
jealous of the very years when he had not known her. Her beauty troubled
him like a half remembered name, and when he was in her presence he had
the trembling of illness upon him, and when away from her he was as
restless as a fallen leaf that the wind blows.
Through many days and weeks he wooed her to bring the smile to her lips,
but always she grew whiter and more desolate; so that when she walked the
terraces above the boiling surf, she seemed like a white flower torn of
its petals and tossed up by the bitter waves.
At the end of a year there came a daughter from the Kingdom of the Little
Souls, and lay like a white bud on the Queen's bosom. Then at last Elene
smiled and wept, but her strength was gone; and soon afterwards she
closed her eyes and went to sleep.
King Theophile's heart was broken, for the baby, and not he, himself, had
made Elene smile and weep. When the days of the court mourning were over
the little daughter was christened, and to her christening came all the
wise women of the kingdom. Each told what this child would be. One said,
"She will have the beauty of shimmering rainbows"; another, "She will be
as wise as she is good." But the Wisest Woman of all said, "Every person
will read his future in her tears."
Now this prophecy troubled King Theophile and awoke love in his heart for
his little daughter, who was already showing how beautiful she would be
some day. So he watched over her, and made one of his echoing rooms into
the royal nursery.
Now the nurses knew what the Wisest Woman had said—that the tears of
this Princess would be a magic mirror of the future; and one day when
the child was two years old, the head nurse, who had a sweetheart and
wished to know whether she would marry him, resolved to make the
little girl cry.
Now she was puzzled how to do this, for the royal maid was sweet-tempered
and obedient; but the nurse knew that Elene loved most dearly a beautiful
doll as big as herself, so one afternoon, when the Princess was clasping
this treasure to her little breast, the nurse making sure first that no
one was looking, snatched it from her and threw it into the sea.
[Illustration: THE NURSE SEES HER WEDDING IN THE PRINCESS'S TEARS]
The baby-princess when she saw her darling doll falling into the water
began to wail, and tears came into her eyes. Then her nurse knelt before
her, and saw in those tears her own wedding. So happy was she over this
sight that she jumped up and began to caper about, heeding not the sobs
of the poor little Princess.
But King Theophile heard them and came out with a face of thunder.
"Woman," he cried, "why do you dance when a princess weeps?"
Then the nurse came to her senses and grew gray with fear. She tried to
mutter some excuse, but King Theophile dismissed her on the spot and
gathering up his baby into his arms, took her into the nursery, and wiped
away her tears. Yet her sobs did not cease and she was too little to tell
him of her woe.
The nurse, though she left the King's service, did marry immediately; and
began to whisper how she had seen her wedding in the tears of the
Princess Elene, which word was to work out cruelly for the royal child.
From that day on those about her, though they loved her dearly, could not
refrain from trying their fortune in her tears. As she grew older and
more understanding it was a difficult matter to know how to make her cry
without incurring suspicion.
But even a wrong will finds its way, and little Elene grew up wondering
why people were so unkind to her; and why there was so much sadness in
the world, for when all else failed the minstrels could make her weep by
singing of "old, unhappy far-off things, and battles long-ago."
King Theophile did not know of these troubles of his little daughter, for
she had learned early that her tears hurt him, so she concealed them from
him. All his joy was now in her, for she was the very image of her dead
mother, and beautiful as a dawn of May day. When she danced she was like
the light that ripples over the flowers; when she sang the souls of all
young birds seemed to float on her voice.
The fame of her beauty went through many kingdoms, and with the legend of
her loveliness was told the strange tale of her magic tears.
Now three young princes from three great States, fell ardently in love
with Elene from the mere breath of the rumor of her charms. The first was
Prince Tristan, the second Prince Martin, the third Prince Lorenzo; and
both Prince Tristan and Prince Martin were sure of winning.
But Prince Lorenzo was not at all sure, because he had lost much in his
short life, and knew that love is like the wind that comes and goes; like
the fire that leaps into the night and is seen no more; like the star
that flashes across the dark zenith and then vanishes.
One May morning the three Princes arrived to try their fortunes and to
sue for the hand of the Princess Elene. Prince Tristan, who was straight
and handsome, put on his best white satin doublet and stuck a rose behind
his ear. Prince Martin put on glittering armor like a knight going to
battle; but Prince Lorenzo was so consumed with love that he thought not
at all of what he wore.
King Theophile himself led them into the presence of the Princess Elene,
who was clad in a silk robe that shimmered like a rainbow, and who looked
so beautiful that for an instant Prince Lorenzo put his hand before his
eyes. The two other princes gazed straight at the lady; then made grand
"May I tell you," said Prince Tristan, holding out his rose, "that you
are the most beautiful princess I have ever seen?"
"May I tell you," said Prince Martin, "that your eyes are like stars?"
Prince Lorenzo remained mute because his heart was too full for speech,
and King Theophile looked coldly upon him; but the Princess Elene gazed
at him until he blushed. Then she seated herself on her throne and bade
the princes speak to her of what pleased them best.
Prince Tristan began at once to tell her of his hunting exploits, and
what joy he took in the chase. But the Princess's face grew colder and
colder as she listened, for she loved all living things, and could not
bear to see any of them hurt. Tristan did not observe this, for like all
vain people, he was thinking of his own charms, and so was unaware of the
effect he was producing.
He finished with a flourish, and Prince Martin stumbled in on the last
words, so eager was he to render in his turn a glowing account of all his
fine deeds. These were not few, for he was a brave lad, so for an hour he
discoursed upon tourneys and battles; nor did he observe that the
Princess Elene grew pale—and trembled, for her mother's sorrow over war
lived again in her heart.
To her relief he came at last to the end of his recital; then with a sigh
Elene turned her beautiful eyes upon Prince Lorenzo. "And what have you
to tell me, my Prince?"
For answer he said to a page, "Give me thy harp"; and when it was
delivered to him he struck the strings and sang:
"In the hour of the white moths flying
Beneath the great gray moon,
My sad heart was a-sighing
Lest love should come too soon.
"In the hour of the dawn-birds flying
Each to his feathery mate,
My sad heart was a-sighing
Lest love should come too late.
"Thy spirit heard my voicing,
And bade me cease from fears,
And follow thee, rejoicing,
Beyond all time and tears."
"It is a beautiful song," said the Princess. "And it would be sweet to
follow someone beyond time and tears."
Then Prince Tristan and Prince Martin looked enviously at Prince Lorenzo;
and Prince Martin said contemptuously, "I did not know that thou wert a
"Thou mayst yet discover that I am a shoemaker," returned Lorenzo. "Also,
if there were no carpenters in the world we should all be houseless. A
carpenter may, indeed, be of more use than a princeling."
Tristan looked at Elene to see how she bore the shock of hearing such
people mentioned as carpenters and shoemakers; but she was smiling as if
Lorenzo's words pleased her.
The three princes stayed on at the Castle, and the court was very gay.
Only King Theophile's heart was heavy, for he knew that he must lose his
most beautiful daughter. She was equally kind to all her suitors, and he
could not discover which prince she favored. So one evening he came to
her in her octagon room, which was of white ivory and whose windows were
hung with coral silk; and he found her spinning with her maidens. Her
robe of lace rippled about her little feet, and the band of sapphires
which held back her yellow hair were not as blue as her eyes.
King Theophile dismissed the maidens, and seating himself beside his
daughter he took her hand and said:
"O ray of sunlight out of a great sorrow, tell me in the name of thy dead
mother, to whom thou hast given thine heart?"
But the Princess veiled her eyes and drooped her head, for a burden was
upon her soul. "My father," she said, "a prince can not easily be a
lover, for love has but one object, and in the life of a prince are many
objects. I would be loved, but fine words are no proof of a heart."
"Prince Tristan is a noble youth."
"He is too fond of killing," replied Elene.
King Theophile's cheeks grew pale, for he thought of the long-ago wars
and men asleep in crimson meadows that had once been green.
"Prince Martin is a gallant lad."
"He would rather contend with others than with himself," said the
"As for Prince Lorenzo, he dreams too much."
"Dreamers oft know more than those who are awake," replied Elene.
King Theophile sighed, for when his Princess spoke in this wise she
seemed to pass from his arms into the arms of her dead mother. Now when
Elene heard him sigh her heart was touched, for she loved him dearly.
"King-Father, do not sigh. I will make my choice, and this will be the
manner of my choosing. Thou knowst my tears can show the future."
Then the King grew pale, for he thought of the mother who could not weep
until the little daughter was laid upon her breast.
"My three suitors may try their fortunes through my tears one week from,
this night; that is—" she added, "if they have power to make me weep. He
who beholds me weep, him will I wed."
The King was sad when he heard this, but he saw it was her will and
refrained from protest. Next day he announced to the court and to
the three suitors through what means the Princess Elene would make
From that day on Elene saw little of the three princes, for Prince
Lorenzo was wandering off in the forests alone and Prince Martin and
Prince Tristan were trying pathos on the maids of honor, each vying with
the other to tell the saddest tales. They succeeded so well that the
noble maidens nearly cried their eyes out. King Theophile was much
embarrassed to come, in his walks, upon a little maid of honor weeping
into her handkerchief, while a Prince discoursed at her feet.
At last the week wore away, and the court assembled for what someone
called the Trial of Tears. A thousand wax candles were lit in the
glittering throne room. King Theophile sat upon his throne, and on his
right hand was the Princess Elene, crowned with white roses, and robed in
white silk which had a shimmer of gold in its folds. At the foot of the
throne sat the three princes.
When all were assembled the King arose and announced the intention of
the Princess to give her hand to him who should behold in her tears
Prince Tristan was the first to try his fortune. He had chosen the tale
of a young girl cruelly turned adrift in a forest and left there to die,
and he related it with every circumstance that could render it more
piteous. Soon every lady in the court was weeping, but to the eyes of the
Princess Elene came no tears, which made Prince Tristan angry, so that he
finished his tale in a sullen muttering voice.
Then Prince Martin rose and told a story of little children who had
climbed into a boat which the rising tide seized and carried out to sea.
They were too little to be afraid, and only when starvation seized them
did they begin to wail for their mothers.
This story, related in a soft, melancholy voice, touched all hearts, and
through the court there was the sound of weeping, but the Princess gazed
straight before her, and her eyes were dry.
Prince Martin ended his tale with real sadness, for he saw that the
Princess Elene was unmoved by his narrative, and with drooping head he
returned to his seat.
Then rose Prince Lorenzo and bowed low before the Princess. "Even to win
you," he said, "I would not have you shed tears, for you have been made
to shed too many in your short life."
He had scarcely uttered these words when the Princess's lip quivered like
that of a little child and sudden tears welled up in her eyes. As they
fell Lorenzo went quickly to her, and gazing upon her face, gave a cry of
joy. "O my Love!" he exclaimed. "I see thee all in a white veil and I am
by thy side!"
Then smiling through her tears, she arose and held out her hand to him,
and the court knew that he was the chosen one. He knelt before her and
kissed her hand, while the heralds proclaimed him the victor.
So they were married and lived happily ever afterwards, for she was a
true Princess and he was a true Prince.
THE GOLDEN ARCHER
In the midst of a plain stood a great church built of white stones, with
a massive tower. On this tower was a weather vane in the shape of a
golden man who rode a golden horse, and made ready to shoot a golden
arrow. Only the arrow never left the bow, but pointed always to the
direction from which the wind blew—north from the mountains; east from
the sea; west from the plain; south from the waving forests.
Now the Archer looked very small from the court in front of the cathedral
because he was up so high in the air; so high, indeed, that often the
lightning passed through his body. In reality he was not small, but
life-size, and he had once been a man, but now he was a weather vane
because he had made a vow to dwell forever on the tower and show the
people from which direction came the life-bringing winds.
For the reason that he had a man's heart in his golden body, life was not
always easy for him up there in the high place, and his eyes would sweep
the far horizons in search of someone to companion him, but no living
thing passed by him but the beautiful sea-birds who had learned that his
golden arrow would never pierce their breasts—and so they loved him, and
perched upon his arm that drew the bow.
Even the winds were kind to him because he moved so easily at their
behest, but all winds were not alike to him who had the heart of a man.
When spring came and the breezes blew from the south, heavy with the
scent of magnolia, of lilacs, and blue violets, the heart of the Golden
Archer ached with a strange hurt out of vanished years that he couldn't
quite remember. When summer brought to him the delicious odor of grapes
and berries and strong bright flowers, he longed to go down from the
tower and wander after the fireflies' lanterns among the loaded vines, or
pillow his head on sweet hay and let the winds put him to sleep forever.
When autumn came, and the flying leaves, as golden as his own steed,
looked like yellow butterflies too tired to move their wings, the Archer
would think of fires on hearths only half remembered, and he wished he
could stable his golden horse while he joined some group about the
Winter was hardest of all to him, for all the world went in-doors and
left him lonely. The frost-fairies, that glided down the blue rays of the
winter-moon with their little lanterns that gave much color but no heat,
these little creatures could not comfort him, because though he rode so
high and was so straight, still he had the heart of a man. Sometimes the
wild snows came and blinded his steady, sorrowful eyes; and in blackest
midnight, when the sleet rattled against the golden sides of his horse,
then, indeed, he felt alone and forgotten.
For the people on the plain, though they looked to his guiding arrow did
not love him because they thought him only a weather vane.
So the years drove on and the Golden Archer grew lonelier and lonelier.
Came at last a spring when the scent of peach-blossom was like the hurt
of too great joy, and far-away the peach-orchards splashed the land with
pink. High up in the air the Archer looked wistfully southward and
pointed his bow towards clouds of sweetness and rose-color. How he longed
to leave the great white stones of the tower and go wandering through
those creamy orchards and down the green aisles of the forests by bright
As he was gazing one day over the fertile plain he saw moving upon it
what looked to him from that height like a very little girl. But he knew
that she must be really a tall, slender maiden. That she had golden hair
he also knew because it gleamed in the sun.
Then his lonely heart desired her company and he sent out thoughts to
her, for being an Archer he could do this. Thoughts were his real arrows.
So this thought he sent towards her: "I do not know who you are, but I
am a lonely Archer on the great cathedral where I have made a vow to
tell forever the wandering of the wind. I cannot come to thee, but
climb the winding stairs to this high place that I may gaze upon thee.
I am lonely."
Now the young girl was walking at sunset in the orchards with her
betrothed when through the air this message came to her, and, lifting up
her eyes, she said: "See where the last light lies on the Golden Archer.
How graceful he is, like a bit of flame above the old white church."
"They say the view is fine from there," answered her sweetheart.
"Let us climb up to-morrow," proposed the maid, whose name was Felice.
So next day at sunset she and her betrothed climbed the winding stair of
the cathedral, and emerged on the roof near the Golden Archer, who, when
he saw the maiden, felt an old rapture sweep over him. For a moment he so
forgot his vow that he stood quite still, though the wind was veering.
How beautiful she was with all the beauty of the sweet earth from which
he had been so long removed. Her hair was like harvest-corn, and her eyes
were like dim places where violets hide. The soft voice of her was as
music in the Archer's ears, who had heard too long the jangling of iron
bells in the towers beneath him.
And now she was looking at him. Old memories stirred in him beneath the
armor that hid his manhood. He wanted to get down from his golden horse
and lay aside his bow and arrow, and take her in his arms.
"What a beautiful Archer," she was saying, "how crisp his hair, how clear
and firm his lips, how pure his profile."
Now her betrothed could be jealous even of a weather vane, so he said:
"Anyone can be beautiful who is made of metal."
"It is an imperishable beauty," she replied. "Flesh and blood decay."
The Golden Archer was so agitated that he turned his eyes upon her, and
all at once she knew that he was alive and her heart was aflame with
love for him.
Next day she came alone to the tower. She found him pointing north and
looking away from her, for the vow had gripped him again like the frosts
of winter. But she spoke softly and said, "Beloved, the spring is here."
Then the south wind came, and against his will he veered and looked at
her. She came close to his golden horse and touched the arm that held the
bow. "You drew me to you, and now you do not look at me," she said.
"I am afraid to look at you," he replied and dropped his golden eyelids.
"Yet you are not afraid to gaze into the sky," she ventured.
"Out of the sky will come nothing to harm me," he answered.
"Could I harm you, soul of my soul?" she cried.
"You could make me love you," was his answer.
So they were quiet for a while. She watched the sea-birds circle about
his shining horse which seemed ever ready to plunge from the cathedral
tower into the spaces of the air, yet remained always the toy of the
winds. She listened to the hoarse voices of the huge bells that swung
At last she rose and unbound her hair so that it floated like a golden
banner in the wind. "Come," she whispered.
Then the Golden Archer felt all the pain of those who must turn away from
the voice of love. His eyes looked towards the sunset, but his heart
seemed drowning in a strange, sweet, throbbing darkness. "Come nearer,"
So she went so near that her golden hair floated all about him and he saw
the landscape through a yellow cloud. "Kiss me," she said.
But he set his lips steadfastly, and tried to turn to the north, which he
could not do, for the wind was steadily from the south.
"I am cold," she whispered. "Let us go down to the warm orchards."
"Go!" he answered, "for your words pierce my heart, and I have made a vow
to tell the people about the coming and going of the great winds."
"My love is a great wind," she said.
Then sadly she left him. He was alone on his tower and night was coming.
He tried to think of his vow, but her eyes called him, her lips brushed
his like the light wing of a nesting bird. Hour after hour he endured the
pain—and at last tears rolled from his eyes and melted his armor. The
Golden Archer felt his old humanity return like a flood and set him free;
and in the silence that comes before the dawn, he got down from his
horse. The limbs of the golden animal were moving also; and stealthily,
with the cramped action of those too long in one position, horse and man
went down the stairs of the church, through the stone vestibule and out
into the sweet, warm plain.
The Golden Archer knelt beneath the stars and wept himself back to his
old beautiful manhood, then, mounting his horse, he galloped to the edge
of the forest where in a cottage smothered beneath roses and honeysuckle
Felice lived; once at her window he whispered: "The Golden Archer has
come for thee, dearest."
Then she came out trembling, and in the gray light he took her in his
arms and comforted her. "We will ride away and be married," he said. Then
he lifted her on his horse, and they rode away through the forest, she
lying quite still against his heart, and gazing with wide-open eyes into
the green dimness. So they came to a church and were married.
That night they went to an inn on the borders of the forest, an old house
with nine gables, deep moss on the roof, and a creaking signboard with a
crowing bird painted on it; and the inn was called "The Crowing Cock."
Now there were many countrymen seated in the inn-parlor, and as the
Golden Archer entered the room everyone rose and bowed; and as they
passed through, Felice heard a peasant say, "How strange that a prince
should marry a farm-girl."
Then the hot color came into her face, for Felice was very proud, and did
not like to be thought inferior to her husband. When they were alone
together she related what she had heard. The Golden Archer looked
puzzled, for he thought that she loved him too well to care for such
trifles. "We are one because we are dear to each other," he cried, and
took her in his arms and cherished her.
Next day came the Mistress of the Inn to set the room in order, and
as she bustled about she said, "From what kingdom comes your husband,
"My husband is not a prince," said Felice.
"He talks and acts like one," remarked the Hostess. "What is he then?"
The little Felice felt her cheeks burn. She could not say that her
husband had been a weather vane, and was now a man, so she replied, "He
occupied a very high position of trust."
"Yet he seems to know as little of real life as a prince," mused the
Hostess. "He has asked me strange questions about quite ordinary things."
Felice grew pinker than ever; and when the Golden Archer came into the
room he found her in tears.
"Heart's dearest, why do you weep?" he said.
Then she told him her trouble. He must act like other people, she said,
or tongues would begin to wag. He must forget that he had ever been a
weather vane and must learn the ways of the world. The Golden Archer's
heart was wounded by her words.
"Do you remember," he said, "that you called your love for me a
"Yes, I remember."
"A great wind blows everything before it, even the words of men."
Now Felice was a woman who catches up phrases too easily and speaks them
too trippingly. So she answered, "If you love me you will do anything for
me," for that was her test of love, that whoever cared for her should
bend ever to her will.
"We must serve each other," said the Archer, to whom the winds in all
those years had whispered many secrets. "When equality in love or
friendship ceases the end of joy is near. But remove the cloud from
your forehead, dear love, and let us hunt the blue gentians in the
"Oh, no! let us go to the village fair," said Felice.
"What! Exchange those cool, dim places, flower-scented, for the glare and
noise of a fair?"
"No one can see me in the forest," remarked Felice, turning her head from
side to side and gazing in a mirror.
"But I see you! Isn't that enough!"
Felice sighed, for she liked admiration, and the Golden Archer said no
more about gathering gentians, but went with her to the fair, which was a
sacrifice, for he loved fresh air and solitude; and the crowds, the heat,
and the dust made his head ache. Then, too, he was not used to fairs, and
more than once made Felice uncomfortable by the questions he asked. She
was always afraid that he would betray his origin when anyone spoke of
the wind. Someone, indeed, said it was south, and the Golden Archer with
a smile corrected him. "It is east," he remarked. "Oh, what difference
does it make!" Felice cried crossly.
Her ill-temper increased because people looked more at her husband than
at her. The Golden Archer was, indeed, very handsome, and he had lived so
much in the skies that he had a fine, free air. People could take long
breaths in his presence, instead of feeling choked and cramped, so they
wanted to talk with him.
He would have been glad to gratify them, but his wife's drooping lips
closed his own; and after a while both went sadly back to the inn,
wondering why all the glory was gone from the day.
But in their room he drew her into his arms, and loved her anew, and
talked to her of all the wonderful things that would come to them if they
"Don't you know, sweet Felice," he said, "that love is like the seed in
the ground, which comes up a little frail and tender plant; but through
storm and sunshine grows into a great tree. We must be patient with
Felice was of those who want their trees full-grown, and she began to
wonder why she had married the Golden Archer instead of her own man, whom
she could understand; and she wished that she had never climbed to the
top of the tower and lost her heart to the Archer.
The days of their honeymoon dragged, for the Archer in addition to the
hurt of his love had now to suffer the pain of estrangement. The more he
cared for Felice the harder it was to see her restless and unhappy. "It
will be different when we are in our own home," he would say to himself.
So one day they left the inn and went to their own cottage which stood on
a little hill, and from the window could be seen the tower of the great
white church. Now the Golden Archer used often to gaze at this tower,
which made Felice ask him if he were homesick.
"No; but I miss the great winds," he replied.
"Do you know what people say?" she asked him.
"What do they say?"
"That you were struck by lightning—and all melted away."
"I was struck by lightning," he answered. "Love slew me."
This pleased her. For awhile she showed herself loving and tender, but
because she obeyed moods and not a strong, steadfast will, the old
unhappiness came back. The Golden Archer felt more lonely than ever he
had done on the high white tower, and loneliest of all when he held her
in his arms.
One day he found her crying. "Why do you cry, Beloved?" he asked her.
"I am lonely," she said.
"Yes," she sobbed, "with you. What have you to tell me but your tales of
the great winds? Other men have had their friends, their adventures. They
can relate stories of their boyhood, of their early life, but you came
from a far-off tower and know nothing of the world."
"It is true," he murmured. "I can only tell you of the skies; for all the
time of my former days on earth is dim to me."
That night they sat before the fire, for it was now autumn, and the
leaping flames showed her gold hair and her eyes like dark pools. Upon
the Golden Archer they shone, too, where he sat still and hurt, but
unable to tell his pain, because he had lived too high above the world.
The low, hoarse winds drove the flying leaves against the window glass
and whistled in the keyhole; at which Felice would shiver and cast
sidelong glances at her strange husband.
All at once on the wind came a caroling voice. Felice rushed to the
window and peered out. The voice sang:
"All that I knew of thee, my Love,
The great winds bore away.
When they are hushed wilt thou return
To bless the close of day?
"In that still hour come back to me,
And find thy longed-for rest.
Poor petal blown too near the sun,
Float downward to my breast."
"Ah," cried Felice, "it is my old Love."
"My love for thee is older than the moon," said the Golden Archer. "Can
you not rest by our hearth?"
Then she knelt by him and pressed her face against his knees. And his
heart grew as heavy as a weary dream before a sultry dawn when the
thunder hangs in the hills. Her grief weighed all the more upon him
because he knew she was trying to love him; and when that hour of effort
comes death is under its cloak.
But the next day she was cheerful and sang about her tasks. The Golden
Archer saddled his horse and rode miles through the forest upon the crisp
red leaves; and he knew that goodness would not hold her, nor kindness,
nor fidelity, nor service, for love like hers is held prisoner to nothing
once its wings are outstretched, nor does it know good from evil.
[Illustration: THE GOLDEN ARCHER AND FELICE]
When he rode home the stars were peeping through the forest branches, and
the white owls were flying. But the frost that silvered the red leaves
was not so sharp and glistening as the memory of her tears.
As he reached his door he saw that it was open and the light from the
fire shone out upon the dark paths of the forest. But the room was empty
of her presence.
He called her name, but no answer was returned; then on a tablet upon the
table he saw words written and brought them to the fire and read them.
"O Golden Archer, go back to thy tower, for the great winds have taken me
on a long journey, and I shall never see thee again."
Then he knew that not his faithful winds, but the voice of old memories
had called her, and he bowed his head in an imperishable sorrow.
Because his heart was broken he desired to cease from his humanity and
return to the old white tower. As once his warm tears had thawed his
shining armor and made him an inhabitant of the world, so now his cold
and bitter tears encased him again in hard metal.
Walking wearily and with stiff footsteps he went to the stable, brought
out his horse and rode across the plain to the great white church upon
which the midnight moon was shining. He knocked on its west door, and
from the vaults came the echoes.
"You cannot return, Golden Archer, for you have broken your vow!"
"But I have broken my heart also," he answered; "therefore, let me in."
"But you will come down again from the tower," cried the echoes.
"Nay, for only the broken-hearted know how to keep their vows," he
So the doors swung open, and up the dim spiral stairs rode the Golden
Archer, through bars of moonlight to the region of the great winds where
again he mounted the tower. But always there is one dream left to the
sorrowful, and his was, that some night the great winds would drive her
soul against his breast.
Then he became very still and turned his arrow northward, for the wind
was coming from the far circles of the Arctic ice.
Next day the sun rose red and glorious and made fires on the armor of the
Golden Archer, and all the people upon the plain rubbed their eyes and
"There's a new Archer on the Cathedral. Now we shall know from which
horizon comes the wind!"