Transcriber's Note: Inconsistencies in spelling e.g. color/colour, neighbor/neighbour have been left as in the original.
THE . BLUE . BIRD FOR CHILDREN
THE . WONDERFUL . ADVENTURES OF . TYLTYL . AND . MYTYL . IN SEARCH . OF . HAPPINESS
BY GEORGETTE LEBLANC [MADAME MAURICE MAETERLINCK]
EDITED AND ARRANGED FOR SCHOOLS BY FREDERICK ORVILLE PERKINS
TRANSLATED BY ALEXANDER TEIXEIRA DE MATTOS
SILVER . BURDETT & COMPANY BOSTON . NEW YORK . CHICAGO . ATLANTA DALLAS . SAN FRANCISCO
COPYRIGHT, 1913 BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1913 BY DODD, MEAD & COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1914 BY SILVER, BURDETT & COMPANY
This School Edition of The Blue Bird for Children is affectionately dedicated to the School Children of America
Georgette Leblanc (Madame Maurice Maeterlinck)
To The Teacher
"The Blue Bird, inhabitant of the Pays Bleu, the fabulous blue country of our dreams is an ancient symbol in the folk lore of Lorraine and stands for happiness."
One of the strongest pieces of imaginative writing for children that the past decade has produced and one of the most delicate and beautiful of all times, is "The Blue Bird," by Maurice Maeterlinck, written as a play, and very successfully produced on the stage.
Georgette Leblanc (Madame Maurice Maeterlinck), has rendered this play in story form for children, under the title "The Children's Blue Bird," and in this form it has now been carefully edited and arranged for schools.
Maurice Maeterlinck was born in Ghent, Belgium, August 29, 1862. Although trained for the practice of the law and moderately successful in it, he very early became dissatisfied with the prospect of a career at the bar. In 1887, the young man moved to Paris and turned his attention to writing. Shortly after, at the death of his father, Maeterlinck returned to Belgium where he has since resided most of the time. His career as an author practically began in 1889, when he published two plays. At this time he was quite unknown, except to a small circle, but soon, because of his remarkable originality, we find him being called "The Belgian Shakespeare," and his reputation firmly established.
Amidst his Belgian roses he continued to work and dream, and upon his youthful dreams he built his plays. They are all shadowy, brief transcripts of emotion, and illustrate beautifully his unity of purpose, of mood and of thought. Whether in philosophy, drama or poetry, Maeterlinck is exclusively occupied in revealing or indicating the mystery which lies only just out of sight beneath the ordinary life. In order to produce this effect of the mysterious he aims at extreme simplicity of style and a very realistic symbolism. He allows life itself to astonish us by its strangeness, by its inexplicable elements. Many of his plays are really pathetic records of unseen emotions.
Of all his writings, it is conceded that "The Blue Bird" makes the strongest appeal to children. Maeterlinck has always had much in common with the young. He has the child's mysticism and awe of the unknown, the same delight in mechanical inventions, the same gift of "making believe."
In "The Blue Bird" Maeterlinck takes little account of external fact. All along he has kept the child's capacity for wonder; all along he has preserved youth's freshness of heart. He has, therefore, never lost the key which unlocks the sympathies of childhood; he still possesses the passport that makes him free of the kingdom of Fairyland.
This story of "The Blue Bird" may remind one somewhat of "Hansel and Gretel," for here Maeterlinck, like Grimm, shows to us the adventures of two peasant children as they pass through regions of enchantment where they would be at the mercy of treacherous foes, but for the aid of a supernatural friend. But the originality, the charm and the interest of "The Blue Bird" depend on the way in which the author, while adapting his language and his legends to the intelligence of youthful readers, manages to show them the wonders and romance of Nature. He enlists among his characters a whole series of inanimate objects, such as Bread, Sugar, Milk, Light, Water, Fire and Trees, besides the Cat, the Dog and other animals, investing them all with individuality,—making for instance, with characteristic bias, the Dog the faithful friend of his boy and girl companions and the Cat their stealthy enemy.
We may not understand his characters, we may not be informed whence they came or whither they move; there is nothing concrete or circumstantial about them; their life is intense and consistent, but it is wholly in a spiritual character. They are mysterious with the mystery of the movements of the soul.
All through the story we are led to feel that Maeterlinck's spirit is one of grave and disinterested attachment to the highest moral beauty, and his seriousness, his serenity and his extreme originality impress even those who are bewildered by his graces and his mysticism.
"The Blue Bird" will forever live among Maeterlinck's greatest works and will linger long in the memory of all children, continuing throughout their lives to symbolize that ideal of ideals, true happiness,—the happiness that comes from right seeking.
I THE WOODCUTTER'S COTTAGE 3
II AT THE FAIRY'S 31
III THE LAND OF MEMORY 49
IV THE PALACE OF NIGHT 65
V THE KINGDOM OF THE FUTURE 89
VI IN THE TEMPLE OF LIGHT 117
VII THE GRAVEYARD 125
VIII THE FOREST 137
IX THE LEAVE-TAKING 157
X THE AWAKENING 169
The Land of Memory Frontispiece
She herself helped Mytyl 10
They all looked at her with a bewildered air. They understood that it was a solemn moment 38
Delighted with the importance of his duty, undid the top of his robe, drew his scimitar and cut two slices out of his stomach 42
Sugar also wanted to impress the company and, breaking off two of his fingers, handed them to the astonished Children 44
Everything vanished and, instead, there appeared a pretty little peasant's cottage 50
The grandparents and grandchildren sat down to supper 56
The road to the Palace of Night was rather long and rather dangerous 66
Night sat up, all quivering. Her immense wings beat around her; and she questioned Tylette in a trembling voice 68
Wagging her head and stopping every minute to cough, sneeze and blow her nose 74
A wonderful garden lay before him, a dream-garden filled with flowers that shone like stars 80
Light's servants were very odd 90
Other Blue Children opened great big books 98
Other Blue Children unfolded maps and plans, or brought enormous flowers 102
And, in a moment, the Blue Children were crowding round the tall old man 110
The Cat at once draped her cloak round her, opened the door and ran and bounded out into the forest 119
A regular waterfall of tears came gushing from her eyes, flooding all around her 154
Closely pursued by the Dog, who overwhelmed her with bites, blows and kicks 162
"It's the Blue Bird we were looking for! We have been miles and miles and miles and he was here all the time!" 174
THE WOODCUTTER'S COTTAGE
Once upon a time, a woodcutter and his wife lived in their cottage on the edge of a large and ancient forest. They had two dear little children who met with a most wonderful adventure.
But, before telling you all about it, I must describe the children to you and let you know something of their character; for, if they had not been so sweet and brave and plucky, the curious story which you are about to hear would never have happened at all.
Tyltyl—that was our hero's name—was ten years old; and Mytyl, his little sister, was only six.
Tyltyl was a fine, tall little fellow, stout and well-set-up, with curly black hair which was often in a tangle, for he was fond of a romp. He was a great favorite because of his smiling and good-tempered face and the bright look in his eyes; but, best of all, he had the ways of a bold and fearless little man, which showed the noble qualities of his heart. When, early in the morning, he trotted along the forest-road by the side of his daddy, Tyl the woodcutter, for all his shabby clothes he looked so proud and gallant that every beautiful thing on the earth and in the sky seemed to lie in wait for him to smile upon him as he passed.
His little sister was very different, but looked ever so sweet and pretty in her long frock, which Mummy Tyl kept neatly patched for her. She was as fair as her brother was dark; and her large timid eyes were blue as the forget-me-nots in the fields. Anything was enough to frighten her and she would cry at the least thing; but her little child soul already held the highest womanly qualities: she was loving and gentle and so fondly devoted to her brother that, rather than abandon him, she did not hesitate to undertake a long and dangerous journey in his company.
What happened and how our little hero and heroine went off into the world one night in search of happiness: that is the subject of my story.
Daddy Tyl's cottage was the poorest of the countryside; and it seemed even more wretched because it stood opposite a splendid hall in which rich children lived. From the windows of the cottage you could see what went on inside the Hall when the dining-room and drawing-rooms were lit up in the evening. And, in the daytime, you saw the little children playing on the terraces, in the gardens and in the hot-houses which people came all the way from town to visit because they were always filled with the rarest flowers.
Now, one evening which was not like other evenings, for it was Christmas Eve, Mummy Tyl put her little ones to bed and kissed them even more lovingly than usual. She felt a little sad because, owing to the stormy weather, Daddy Tyl was not able to go to work in the forest; and so she had no money to buy presents with which to fill Tyltyl and Mytyl's stockings. The Children soon fell asleep, everything was still and silent and not a sound was heard but the purring of the cat, the snoring of the dog and the ticking of the great grandfather's clock. But suddenly a light as bright as day crept through the shutters, the lamp upon the table lit again of itself and the two Children awoke, yawned, rubbed their eyes, stretched out their arms in bed and Tyltyl, in a cautious voice called:
"Yes, Tyltyl?" was the answer.
"Are you asleep?"
"No," said Tyltyl. "How can I be asleep, when I'm talking to you?"
"I say, is this Christmas Day?" asked his sister.
"Not yet; not till to-morrow. But Father Christmas won't bring us anything this year."
"I heard Mummy say that she couldn't go to town to tell him. But he will come next year."
"Is next year far off?"
"A good long while," said the boy. "But he will come to the rich children to-night."
"Hullo!" cried Tyltyl of a sudden. "Mummy's forgotten to put out the lamp!... I've an idea!"
"Let's get up."
"But we mustn't," said Mytyl, who always remembered.
"Why, there's no one about!... Do you see the shutters?"
"Oh, how bright they are!..."
"It's the lights of the party," said Tyltyl.
"The rich children opposite. It's the Christmas-tree. Let's open the shutters...."
"Can we?" asked Mytyl, timidly.
"Of course we can; there's no one to stop us.... Do you hear the music?... Let us get up."
The two Children jumped out of bed, ran to the window, climbed on the stool in front of it and threw back the shutters. A bright light filled the room; and the Children looked out eagerly:
"We can see everything!" said Tyltyl.
"I can't," said poor little Mytyl, who could hardly find room on the stool.
"It's snowing!" said Tyltyl. "There are two carriages, with six horses each!"
"There are twelve little boys getting out!" said Mytyl, who was doing her best to peep out of the window.
"Don't be silly!... They're little girls...."
"They've got knickerbockers on...."
"Do be quiet!... And look!..."
"What are those gold things there, hanging from the branches?"
"Why, toys, to be sure!" said Tyltyl. "Swords, guns, soldiers, cannons...."
"And what's that, all round the table?"
"Cakes and fruit and cream-tarts."
"Oh, how pretty the children are!" cried Mytyl, clapping her hands.
"And how they're laughing and laughing!" answered Tyltyl.
"And the little ones dancing!..."
"Yes, yes; let's dance too!" shouted Tyltyl.
And the two Children began to stamp their feet for joy on the stool:
"Oh, what fun!" said Mytyl.
"They're getting the cakes!" cried Tyltyl. "They can touch them!... They're eating, they're eating, they're eating!... Oh, how lovely, how lovely!..."
Mytyl began to count imaginary cakes:
"I have twelve!..."
"And I four times twelve!" said Tyltyl. "But I'll give you some...."
And our little friends, dancing, laughing and shrieking with delight, rejoiced so prettily in the other children's happiness that they forgot their own poverty and want. They were soon to have their reward. Suddenly, there came a loud knocking at the door. The startled Children ceased their romp and dared not move a limb. Then the big wooden latch lifted of itself, with a loud creak; the door opened slowly; and in crept a little old woman, dressed all in green, with a red hood over her head. She was hump-backed and lame and had only one eye; her nose and chin almost touched; and she walked leaning on a stick. She was surely a fairy.
She hobbled up to the Children and asked, in a snuffling voice:
"Have you the grass here that sings or the bird that is blue?"
"We have some grass," replied Tyltyl, trembling all over his body, "but it can't sing...."
"Tyltyl has a bird," said Mytyl.
"But I can't give it away, because it's mine," the little fellow added, quickly.
Now wasn't that a capital reason?
The Fairy put on her big, round glasses and looked at the bird:
"He's not blue enough," she exclaimed. "I must absolutely have the Blue Bird. It's for my little girl, who is very ill.... Do you know what the Blue Bird stands for? No? I thought you didn't; and, as you are good children, I will tell you."
The Fairy raised her crooked finger to her long, pointed nose, and whispered, in a mysterious tone:
"The Blue Bird stands for happiness; and I want you to understand that my little girl must be happy in order to get well. That is why I now command you to go out into the world and find the Blue Bird for her. You will have to start at once.... Do you know who I am?"
The Children exchanged puzzled glances. The fact was that they had never seen a fairy before; and they felt a little scared in her presence. However, Tyltyl soon said politely:
"You are rather like our neighbor, Madame Berlingot...."
Tyltyl thought that, in saying this, he was paying the Fairy a compliment; for Madame Berlingot's shop, which was next door to their cottage, was a very pleasant place. It was stocked with sweets, marbles, chocolate cigars and sugar dolls and hens; and, at fair-time, there were big gingerbread dolls covered all over with gilt paper. Goody Berlingot had a nose that was quite as ugly as the Fairy's; she was old also; and, like the Fairy, she walked doubled up in two; but she was very kind and she had a dear little girl who used to play on Sundays with the woodcutter's Children. Unfortunately, the poor little pretty, fair-haired thing was always suffering from some unknown complaint, which often kept her in bed. When this happened, she used to beg and pray for Tyltyl's dove to play with; but Tyltyl was so fond of the bird that he would not give it to her. All this, thought the little boy, was very like that which the Fairy told him; and that was why he called her Berlingot.
Much to his surprise, the Fairy turned crimson with rage. It was a hobby of hers to be like nobody, because she was a fairy and able to change her appearance, from one moment to the next, as she pleased. That evening, she happened to be ugly and old and hump-backed; she had lost one of her eyes; and two lean wisps of grey hair hung over her shoulders.
"What do I look like?" she asked Tyltyl. "Am I pretty or ugly? Old or young?"
Her reason for asking these questions was to try the kindness of the little boy. He turned away his head and dared not say what he thought of her looks. Then she cried:
"I am the Fairy Berylune!"
"Oh, that's all right!" answered Tyltyl, who, by this time, was shaking in every limb.
This satisfied the Fairy; and, as the Children were still in their night-shirts, she told them to get dressed. She herself helped Mytyl and, while she did so, asked:
"Where are your Father and Mother?"
"In there," said Tyltyl, pointing to the door on the right. "They're asleep."
"And your Grandad and Granny?"
"And your little brothers and sisters.... Have you any?..."
"Oh, yes, three little brothers!" said Tyltyl.
"And four little sisters," added Mytyl.
"Where are they?" asked the Fairy.
"They are dead, too," answered Tyltyl.
"Would you like to see them again?"
"Oh, yes!... At once!... Show them to us!..."
"I haven't them in my pocket," said the Fairy. "But this is very lucky; you will see them when you go through the Land of Memory. It's on the way to the Blue Bird, just on the left, past the third turning.... What were you doing when I knocked?"
"We were playing at eating cakes," said Tyltyl.
"Have you any cakes?... Where are they?..."
"In the house of the rich children.... Come and look, it's so lovely!"
And Tyltyl dragged the Fairy to the window.
"But it's the others who are eating them!" said she.
"Yes, but we can see them eat," said Tyltyl.
"Aren't you cross with them?"
"For eating all the cakes. I think it's very wrong of them not to give you any."
"Not at all; they're rich!... I say, isn't it beautiful over there?"
"It's just the same here, only you can't see...."
"Yes, I can," said Tyltyl. "I have very good eyes. I can see the time on the church clock; and Daddy can't!"
The Fairy suddenly grew angry:
"I tell you that you can't see!" she said.
And she grew angrier and angrier. As though it mattered about seeing the time on the church clock!
Of course, the little boy was not blind; but, as he was kind-hearted and deserved to be happy, she wanted to teach him to see what is good and beautiful in all things. It was not an easy task, for she well knew that most people live and die without enjoying the happiness that lies all around them. Still, as she was a fairy, she was all-powerful; and so she decided to give him a little hat adorned with a magic diamond that would possess the extraordinary property of always showing him the truth, which would help him to see the inside of Things and thus teach him that each of them has a life and an existence of its own, created to match and gladden ours.
The Fairy took the little hat from a great bag hanging by her side. It was green and had a white cockade, with the big diamond shining in the middle of it. Tyltyl was beside himself with delight. The Fairy explained to him how the diamond worked. By pressing the top, you saw the soul of Things; if you gave it a little turn to the right, you discovered the Past; and, when you turned it to the left, you beheld the Future.
Tyltyl beamed all over his face and danced for joy; and then he at once became afraid of losing the little hat:
"Daddy will take it from me!" he cried.
"No," said the Fairy, "for no one can see it as long as it's on your head.... Will you try it?"
"Yes, yes!" cried the Children, clapping their hands.
The hat was no sooner on the little boy's head than a magic change came over everything. The old Fairy turned into a young and beautiful princess, dressed all in silk and covered with sparkling jewels; the walls of the cottage became transparent and gleamed like precious stones; the humble deal furniture shone like marble. The two children ran from right to left clapping their hands and shouting with delight.
"Oh, how lovely, how lovely!" exclaimed Tyltyl.
And Mytyl, like the vain little thing she was, stood spell-bound before the beauty of the fair princess' dress.
But further and much greater surprises were in store for them. Had not the Fairy said that the Things and the Animals would come to life, talk and behave like everybody else? Lo and behold, suddenly the door of the grandfather's clock opened, the silence was filled with the sweetest music and twelve little daintily-dressed and laughing dancers began to skip and spin all around the Children.
"They are the Hours of your life," said the Fairy.
"May I dance with them?" asked Tyltyl, gazing with admiration at those pretty creatures, who seemed to skim over the floor like birds.
But just then he burst into a wild fit of laughter! Who was that funny fat fellow, all out of breath and covered with flour, who came struggling out of the bread-pan and bowing to the children? It was Bread! Bread himself, taking advantage of the reign of liberty to go for a little walk on earth! He looked like a stout, comical old gentleman; his face was puffed out with dough; and his large hands, at the end of his thick arms, were not able to meet, when he laid them on his great, round stomach. He was dressed in a tight-fitting crust-coloured suit, with stripes across the chest like those on the nice buttered rolls which we have for breakfast in the morning. On his head—just think of it!—he wore an enormous bun, which made a funny sort of turban.
He had hardly tumbled out of his pan, when other loaves just like him, but smaller, followed after and began to frisk about with the Hours, without giving a thought to the flour which they scattered over those pretty ladies and which wrapped them in great white clouds.
It was a queer and charming dance; and the Children were delighted. The Hours waltzed with the loaves; the plates, joining in the fun, hopped up and down on the dresser, at the risk of falling off and smashing to pieces; the glasses in the cupboard clinked together, to drink the health of one and all. As to the forks, they chattered so loudly with the knives that you could not hear yourself speak for the noise....
There is no knowing what would have happened if the din had lasted much longer. Daddy and Mummy Tyl would certainly have waked up. Fortunately, when the romp was at its height, an enormous flame darted out of the chimney and filled the room with a great red glow, as though the house were on fire. Everybody bolted into the corners in dismay, while Tyltyl and Mytyl, sobbing with fright, hid their heads under the good Fairy's cloak.
"Don't be afraid," she said. "It's only Fire, who has come to join in your fun. He is a good sort, but you had better not touch him, for he has a hot temper."
Peeping anxiously through the beautiful gold lace that edged the Fairy's cloak, the Children saw a tall, red fellow looking at them and laughing at their fears. He was dressed in scarlet tights and spangles; from his shoulders hung silk scarves that were just like flames when he waved them with his long arms; and his hair stood up on his head in straight, flaring locks. He started flinging out his arms and legs and jumping round the room like a madman.
Tyltyl, though feeling a little easier, dared not yet leave his refuge. Then the Fairy Berylune had a capital idea: she pointed her wand at the tap; and at once there appeared a young girl who wept like a regular fountain. It was Water. She was very pretty, but she looked extremely sad; and she sang so sweetly that it was like the rippling of a spring. Her long hair, which fell to her feet, might have been made of sea-weed. She had nothing on but her bed-gown; but the water that streamed over her clothed her in shimmering colours. She hesitated at first and gave a glance around her; then, catching sight of Fire still whirling about like a great madcap, she made an angry and indignant rush at him, spraying his face, splashing and wetting him with all her might. Fire flew into a rage and began to smoke. Nevertheless, as he found himself suddenly thwarted by his old enemy, he thought it wiser to retire to a corner. Water also beat a retreat; and it seemed as though peace would be restored once more.
The two Children, at last recovering from their alarm, were asking the Fairy what was going to happen next, when a startling noise of breaking crockery made them look round towards the table. What a surprise! The milk-jug lay on the floor, smashed into a thousand fragments, and from the pieces rose a charming lady, who gave little screams of terror and clasped her hands and turned up her eyes with a beseeching glance.
Tyltyl hastened to console her, for he at once knew that she was Milk; and, as he was very fond of her, he gave her a good kiss. She was as fresh and pretty as a little dairy-maid; and a delicious scent of hay came from her white frock all covered with cream.
Meanwhile, Mytyl was watching the sugar-loaf, which also seemed to be coming to life. Packed in its blue paper wrapper, on a shelf near the door, it was swaying from left to right and from right to left without any result. But at last a long thin arm was seen to come out, followed by a peaked head, which split the paper, and by another arm and two long legs that seemed never to end!... Oh, you should have seen how funny Sugar looked: so funny, indeed, that the Children could not help laughing in his face! And yet they would have liked to be civil to him, for they heard the Fairy introducing him in these words:
"This, Tyltyl, is the soul of Sugar. His pockets are crammed with sugar and each of his fingers is a sugar-stick."
How wonderful to have a friend all made of sugar, off whom you can bite a piece whenever you feel inclined!
"Bow, wow, wow!... Good-morning! Good-morning, my little god!... At last, at last we can talk!... Bark and wag my tail as I might, you never understood!... I love you! I love you!"
Who can this extraordinary person be, who jostles everybody and fills the house with his noisy gaiety? We know him at once. It is Tylo, the good Dog who tries his hardest to understand mankind, the good-natured Animal who goes with the Children to the forest, the faithful guardian who protects the door, the staunch friend who is ever true and ever loyal! Here he comes walking on his hind-paws, as on a pair of legs too short for him, and beating the air with the two others, making gestures like a clumsy little man. He has not changed: he still has his smooth, mustard-coloured coat and his jolly bull-dog head, with the black muzzle, but he is much bigger and then he talks! He talks as fast as he can, as though he wanted in one moment to avenge his whole race, which has been doomed to silence for centuries. He talks of everything, now that he is at last able to explain himself; and it is a pretty sight to see him kissing his little master and mistress and calling them "his little gods!" He sits up, he jumps about the room, knocking against the furniture, upsetting Mytyl with his big soft paws, lolling his tongue, wagging his tail and puffing and panting as though he were out hunting. We at once see his simple, generous nature. Persuaded of his own importance, he fancies that he alone is indispensable in the new world of Things.
After making all the fuss he wanted of the Children, he started going the round of the company, distributing the attentions which he thought that none could do without. His joy, now set free, found vent without restraint; and, because he was the most loving of creatures, he would also have been the happiest, if, in becoming human, he had not, unfortunately, retained his little doggy failings. He was jealous! He was terribly jealous; and his heart felt a pang when he saw Tylette, the Cat, coming to life in her turn and being petted and kissed by the Children, just as he had been! Oh, how he hated the Cat! To bear the sight of her beside him, to see her always sharing in the affection of the family: that was the great sacrifice which fate demanded of him. He accepted it, however, without a word, because it pleased his little gods; and he went so far as to leave her alone. But he had had many a crime on his conscience because of her! Had he not, one evening, crept stealthily into Goody Berlingot's kitchen in order to throttle her old tom-cat, who had never done him any harm? Had he not broken the back of the Persian cat at the Hall opposite? Did he not sometimes go to town on purpose to hunt cats and put an end to them, all to wreak his spite? And now Tylette was going to talk, just like himself! Tylette would be his equal in the new world that was opening before him!
"Oh, there is no justice left on earth!" was his bitter thought. "There is no justice left!"
In the meantime, the Cat, who had begun by washing herself and polishing her claws, calmly put out her paw to the little girl.
She really was a very pretty cat; and, if our friend Tylo's jealousy had not been such an ugly feeling, we might almost have overlooked it for once! How could you fail to be attracted by Tylette's eyes, which were like topaz set in emeralds? How could you resist the pleasure of stroking the wonderful black velvet back? How could you not love her grace, her gentleness and the dignity of her poses?
Smiling gently and speaking in well-chosen language, she said to Mytyl:
"Good-morning, miss!... How well you look this morning!..."
And the Children patted her like anything.
Tylo kept watching the Cat from the other end of the room:
"Now that she's standing on her hind-legs like a man," he muttered, "she looks just like the Devil, with her pointed ears, her long tail and her dress as black as ink!" And he could not help growling between his teeth. "She's also like the village chimney-sweep," he went on, "whom I loathe and detest and whom I shall never take for a real man, whatever my little gods may say.... It's lucky," he added, with a sigh, "that I know more about a good many things than they do!"
But suddenly, no longer able to master himself, he flew at the Cat and shouted, with a loud laugh that was more like a roar:
"I'm going to frighten Tylette! Bow, wow, wow!"
But the Cat, who was dignified even when still an animal, now thought herself called to the loftiest destinies. She considered that the time had come to raise a tall barrier between herself and the Dog, who had never been more than an ill-bred person in her eyes; and, stepping back in disdain, she just said:
"Sir, I don't know you."
Tylo gave a bound under the insult, whereupon the Cat bristled up, twisting her whiskers under her little pink nose (for she was very proud of those two pale blotches which gave a special touch to her dark beauty); and then, arching her back and sticking up her tail, she hissed out, "Fft! Fft!" and stood stock-still on the chest of drawers, like a dragon on the lid of a Chinese vase.
Tyltyl and Mytyl screamed with laughter; but the quarrel would certainly have had a bad ending if, at that moment, a great thing had not happened. At eleven o'clock in the evening, in the middle of that winter's night, a great light, the light of the noon-day sun, glowing and dazzling, burst into the cottage.
"Hullo, there's daylight!" said the little boy, who no longer knew what to make of things. "What will Daddy say?"
But, before the Fairy had time to set him right, Tyltyl understood; and, full of wonderment, he knelt before the latest vision that bewitched his eyes.
At the window, in the center of a great halo of sunshine, there rose slowly, like a tall golden sheaf, a maiden of surpassing loveliness! Gleaming veils covered her figure without hiding its beauty; her bare arms, stretched in the attitude of giving, seemed transparent; and her great clear eyes wrapped all upon whom they fell in a fond embrace.
"It's the Queen!" said Tyltyl.
"It's a Fairy Princess!" cried Mytyl, kneeling beside her brother.
"No, my Children," said the Fairy. "It is Light!"
Smiling, Light stepped towards the two little ones. She, the Light of Heaven, the strength and beauty of the Earth, was proud of the humble mission entrusted to her; she, never before held captive, living in space and bestowing her bounty upon all alike, consented to be confined, for a brief spell, within a human shape, so as to lead the Children out into the world and teach them to know that other Light, the Light of the Mind, which we never see, but which helps us to see all things that are.
"It is Light!" exclaimed the Things and the Animals; and, as they all loved her, they began to dance around her with cries of pleasure.
Tyltyl and Mytyl capered with joy. Never had they pictured so amusing and so pretty a party; and they shouted louder than all the rest.
Then what was bound to happen came. Suddenly, three knocks were heard against the wall, loud enough to throw the house down! It was Daddy Tyl, who had been waked up by the din and who was now threatening to come and put a stop to it.
"Turn the diamond!" cried the Fairy to Tyltyl.
Our hero hastened to obey, but he had not the knack of it yet; besides, his hand shook at the thought that his father was coming. In fact, he was so awkward that he nearly broke the works.
"Not so quick, not so quick!" said the Fairy. "Oh dear, you've turned it too briskly: they will not have time to resume their places and we shall have a lot of bother!"
There was a general stampede. The walls of the cottage lost their splendour. All ran hither and thither, to return to their proper shape: Fire could not find his chimney; Water ran about looking for her tap; Sugar stood moaning in front of his torn wrapper; and Bread, the biggest of the loaves, was unable to squeeze into his pan, in which the other loaves had jumped higgledy-piggledy, taking up all the room. As for the Dog, he had grown too large for the hole in his kennel; and the Cat also could not get into her basket. The Hours alone, who were accustomed always to run faster than Man wished, had slipped back into the clock without delay.
Light stood motionless and unruffled, vainly setting an example of calmness to the others, who were all weeping and wailing around the Fairy:
"What is going to happen?" they asked. "Is there any danger?"
"Well," said the Fairy, "I am bound to tell you the truth: all those who accompany the two Children will die at the end of the journey."
They began to cry like anything, all except the Dog, who was delighted at remaining human as long as possible and who had already taken his stand next to Light, so as to be sure of going in front of his little master and mistress.
At that moment, there came a knocking even more dreadful than before.
"There's Daddy again!" said Tyltyl. "He's getting up, this time; I can hear him walking...."
"You see," said the Fairy, "you have no choice now; it is too late; you must all start with us.... But you, Fire, don't come near anybody; you, Dog, don't tease the Cat; you, Water, try not to run all over the place; and you, Sugar, stop crying, unless you want to melt. Bread shall carry the cage in which to put the Blue Bird; and you shall all come to my house, where I will dress the Animals and the Things properly.... Let us go out this way!"
As she spoke, she pointed her wand at the window, which lengthened magically downwards, like a door. They all went out on tip-toe, after which the window resumed its usual shape. And so it came about that, on Christmas Night, in the clear light of the moon, while the bells rang out lustily, proclaiming the birth of Jesus, Tyltyl and Mytyl went in search of the Blue Bird that was to bring them happiness.
AT THE FAIRY'S
The Fairy Berylune's Palace stood at the top of a very high mountain, on the way to the moon. It was so near that, on summer nights, when the sky was clear, you could plainly see the moon's mountains and valleys, lakes and seas from the terrace of the palace. Here the Fairy studied the stars and read their secrets, for it was long since the Earth had had anything to teach her.
"This old planet no longer interests me!" she used to say to her friends, the giants of the mountain. "The men upon it still live with their eyes shut! Poor things, I pity them! I go down among them now and then, but it is out of charity, to try and save the little children from the fatal misfortune that awaits them in the darkness."
This explains why she had come and knocked at the door of Daddy Tyl's cottage on Christmas Eve.
And now to return to our travellers. They had hardly reached the high-road, when the Fairy remembered that they could not walk like that through the village, which was still lit up because of the feast. But her store of knowledge was so great that all her wishes were fulfilled at once. She pressed lightly on Tyltyl's head and willed that they should all be carried by magic to her palace. Then and there, a cloud of fireflies surrounded our companions and wafted them gently towards the sky. They were at the Fairy's palace before they had recovered from their surprise.
"Follow me," she said and led them through chambers and passages all in gold and silver.
They stopped in a large room surrounded with mirrors on every side and containing an enormous wardrobe with light creeping through its chinks. The Fairy Berylune took a diamond key from her pocket and opened the wardrobe. One cry of amazement burst from every throat. Precious stuffs were seen piled one on the top of the other: mantles covered with gems, dresses of every sort and every country, pearl coronets, emerald necklaces, ruby bracelets.... Never had the Children beheld such riches! As for the Things, their state was rather one of utter bewilderment; and this was only natural, when you think that they were seeing the world for the first time and that it showed itself to them in such a queer way.
The Fairy helped them make their choice. Fire, Sugar and the Cat displayed a certain decision of taste. Fire, who only cared for red, at once chose a splendid bright red dress, with gold spangles. He put nothing on his head, for his head was always very hot. Sugar could not stand anything except white and pale blue: bright colors jarred on his sweet nature. The long blue and white dress which he selected and the pointed hat, like a candle extinguisher, which he wore on his head made him look perfectly ridiculous; but he was too silly to notice it and kept spinning before the glass like a top and admiring himself in blissful ignorance.
The Cat, who was always a lady and who was used to her dusky garments, reflected that black always looks well, in any circumstance, particularly now, when they were travelling without luggage. She therefore put on a suit of black tights, with jet embroidery, hung a long velvet cloak from her shoulders and perched a large cavalier hat, with a long feather, on her neat little head. She next asked for a pair of soft kid boots, in memory of Puss-in-Boots, her distinguished ancestor, and put a pair of gloves on her fore-paws, to protect them from the dust of the roads.
Thus attired, she took a satisfied glance at the mirror. Then, a little nervously, with an anxious eye and a quivering pink nose, she hastily invited Sugar and Fire to take the air with her. So they all three walked out, while the others went on dressing. Let us follow them for a moment, for we have already grown to like our brave little Tyltyl and we shall want to hear anything that is likely to help or delay his undertaking.
After passing through several splendid galleries, hung like balconies in the sky, our three cronies stopped in the hall; and the Cat at once addressed the meeting in a hushed voice:
"I have brought you here," she said, "in order to discuss the position in which we are placed. Let us make the most of our last moment of liberty...."
But she was interrupted by a furious uproar:
"Bow, wow, wow!"
"There now!" cried the Cat. "There's that idiot of a Dog! He has scented us out! We can't get a minute's peace. Let us hide behind the balustrade. He had better not hear what I have to say to you."
"It's too late," said Sugar, who was standing by the door.
And, sure enough, Tylo was coming up, jumping, barking, panting and delighted.
The Cat, when she saw him, turned away in disgust:
"He has put on the livery of one of the footmen of Cinderella's coach.... It is just the thing for him: he has the soul of a flunkey!"
She ended these words with a "Fft! Fft!" and, stroking her whiskers, took up her stand, with a defiant air, between Sugar and Fire. The good Dog did not see her little game. He was wholly wrapped up in the pleasure of being gorgeously arrayed; and he danced round and round. It was really funny to see his velvet coat whirling like a merry-go-round, with the skirts opening every now and then and showing his little stumpy tail, which was all the more expressive as it had to express itself very briefly. For I need hardly tell you that Tylo, like every well-bred bull-dog, had had his tail and his ears cropped as a puppy.
Poor fellow, he had long envied the tails of his brother dogs, which allowed them to use a much larger and more varied vocabulary. But physical deficiencies and the hardships of fortune strengthen our innermost qualities. Tylo's soul, having no outward means of expressing itself, had only gained through silence; and his look, which was always filled with love, had become very eloquent.
To-day his big dark eyes glistened with delight; he had suddenly changed into a man! He was all over magnificent clothes; and he was about to perform a grand errand across the world in company with the gods!
"There!" he said. "There! Aren't we fine!... Just look at this lace and embroidery!... It's real gold and no mistake!"
He did not see that the others were laughing at him, for, to tell the truth, he did look very comical; but, like all simple creatures, he had no sense of humour. He was so proud of his natural garment of yellow hair that he had put on no waistcoat, in order that no one might have a doubt as to where he sprang from. For the same reason, he had kept his collar, with his address on it. A big red velvet coat, heavily braided with gold-lace, reached to his knees; and the large pockets on either side would enable him, he thought, always to carry a few provisions; for Tylo was very greedy. On his left ear, he wore a little round cap with an osprey-feather in it and he kept it on his big square head by means of an elastic which cut his fat, loose cheeks in two. His other ear remained free. Cropped close to his head in the shape of a little paper screw-bag, this ear was the watchful receiver into which all the sounds of life fell, like pebbles disturbing its rest.
He had also encased his hind-legs in a pair of patent-leather riding-boots, with white tops; but his fore-paws he considered of such use that nothing would have induced him to put them into gloves. Tylo had too natural a character to change his little ways all in a day; and, in spite of his new-blown honours, he allowed himself to do undignified things. He was at the present moment lying on the steps of the hall, scratching the ground and sniffing at the wall, when suddenly he gave a start and began to whine and whimper! His lower lip shook nervously as though he were going to cry.
"What's the matter with the idiot now?" asked the Cat, who was watching him out of the corner of her eye.
But she at once understood. A very sweet song came from the distance; and Tylo could not endure music. The song drew nearer, a girl's fresh voice filled the shadows of the lofty arches and Water appeared. Tall, slender and white as a pearl, she seemed to glide rather than to walk. Her movements were so soft and graceful that they were suspected rather than seen. A beautiful silvery dress waved and floated around her; and her hair decked with corals flowed below her knees.
When Fire caught sight of her, like the rude and spiteful fellow that he was, he sneered:
"She's not brought her umbrella!"
But Water, who was really quite witty and who knew that she was the stronger of the two, chaffed him pleasantly and said, with a glance at his glowing nose:
"I beg your pardon?... I thought you might be speaking of a great red nose I saw the other day!..."
The others began to laugh and poke fun at Fire, whose face was always like a red-hot coal. Fire angrily jumped to the ceiling, keeping his revenge for later. Meanwhile, the Cat went up to Water, very cautiously, and paid her ever so many compliments on her dress. I need hardly tell you that she did not mean a word of it; but she wished to be friendly with everybody, for she wanted their votes, to carry out her plan; and she was anxious at not seeing Bread, because she did not want to speak before the meeting was complete:
"What can he be doing?" she mewed, time after time.
"He was making an endless fuss about choosing his dress," said the Dog. "At last, he decided in favour of a Turkish robe, with a scimitar and a turban."
The words were not out of his mouth, when a shapeless and ridiculous bulk, clad in all the colours of the rainbow, came and blocked the narrow door of the hall. It was the enormous stomach of Bread, who filled the whole opening. He kept on knocking himself, without knowing why; for he was not very clever and, besides, he was not yet used to moving about in human beings' houses. At last, it occurred to him to stoop; and, by squeezing through sideways, he managed to make his way into the hall.
It was certainly not a triumphal entry, but he was pleased with it all the same:
"Here I am!" he said. "Here I am! I have put on Blue-beard's finest dress.... What do you think of this?"
The Dog began to frisk around him: he thought Bread magnificent! That yellow velvet costume, covered all over with silver crescents, reminded Tylo of the delicious horse-shoe rolls which he loved; and the huge, gaudy turban on Bread's head was really very like a fairy bun!
"How nice he looks!" he cried. "How nice he looks!"
Bread was shyly followed by Milk. Her simple mind had made her prefer her cream dress to all the finery which the Fairy suggested to her. She was really a model of humility.
Bread was beginning to talk about the dresses of Tyltyl, Light and Mytyl, when the Cat cut him short in a masterful voice:
"We shall see them in good time," she said. "Stop chattering, listen to me, time presses: our future is at stake...."
They all looked at her with a bewildered air. They understood that it was a solemn moment, but the human language was still full of mystery to them. Sugar wriggled his long fingers as a sign of distress; Bread patted his huge stomach; Water lay on the floor and seemed to suffer from the most profound despair; and Milk only had eyes for Bread, who had been her friend for ages and ages.
The Cat, becoming impatient, continued her speech:
"The Fairy has just said it, the end of this journey will, at the same time, mark the end of our lives. It is our business, therefore, to spin the journey out as long as possible and by every means in our power...."
Bread, who was afraid of being eaten as soon as he was no longer a man, hastened to express approval; but the Dog, who was standing a little way off, pretending not to hear, began to growl deep down in his soul. He well knew what the Cat was driving at; and, when Tylette ended her speech with the words, "We must at all costs prolong the journey and prevent Blue Bird from being found, even if it means endangering the lives of the Children," the good Dog, obeying only the promptings of his heart, leapt at the Cat to bite her. Sugar, Bread and Fire flung themselves between them:
"Order! Order!" said Bread pompously. "I'm in the chair at this meeting."
"Who made you chairman?" stormed Fire.
"Who asked you to interfere?" asked Water, whirling her wet hair over Fire.
"Excuse me," said Sugar, shaking all over, in conciliatory tones. "Excuse me.... This is a serious moment.... Let us talk things over in a friendly way."
"I quite agree with Sugar and the Cat," said Bread, as though that ended the matter.
"This is ridiculous!" said the Dog, barking and showing his teeth. "There is Man and that's all!... We have to obey him and do as he tells us!... I recognise no one but him!... Hurrah for Man!... Man for ever!... In life or death, all for Man!... Man is everything!..."
But the Cat's shrill voice rose above all the others. She was full of grudges against Man and she wanted to make use of the short spell of humanity which she now enjoyed to avenge her whole race:
"All of us here present," she cried, "Animals, Things and Elements, possess a soul which Man does not yet know. That is why we retain a remnant of independence; but, if he finds the Blue Bird, he will know all, he will see all and we shall be completely at his mercy.... Remember the time when we wandered at liberty upon the face of the earth!..." But, suddenly her face changed, her voice sank to a whisper and she hissed, "Look out! I hear the Fairy and Light coming. I need hardly tell you that Light has taken sides with Man and means to stand by him; she is our worst enemy.... Be careful!"
But our friends had had no practice in trickery and, feeling themselves in the wrong, took up such ridiculous and uncomfortable attitudes that the Fairy, the moment she appeared upon the threshold, exclaimed:
"What are you doing in that corner?... You look like a pack of conspirators!"
Quite scared and thinking that the Fairy had already guessed their wicked intentions, they fell upon their knees before her. Luckily for them, the Fairy hardly gave a thought to what was passing through their little minds. She had come to explain the first part of the journey to the Children and to tell each of the others what to do. Tyltyl and Mytyl stood hand in hand in front of her, looking a little frightened and a little awkward in their fine clothes. They stared at each other in childish admiration.
The little girl was wearing a yellow silk frock embroidered with pink posies and covered with gold spangles. On her head was a lovely orange velvet cap; and a starched muslin tucker covered her little arms. Tyltyl was dressed in a red jacket and blue knickerbockers, both of velvet; and of course he wore the wonderful little hat on his head.
The Fairy said to them:
"It is just possible that the Blue Bird is hiding at your grandparents' in the Land of Memory; so you will go there first."
"But how shall we see them, if they are dead?" asked Tyltyl.
Then the good Fairy explained that they would not be really dead until their grandchildren ceased to think of them:
"Men do not know this secret," she added. "But, thanks to the diamond, you, Tyltyl, will see that the dead whom we remember live as happily as though they were not dead."
"Are you coming with us?" asked the boy, turning to Light, who stood in the doorway and lit up all the hall.
"No," said the Fairy. "Light must not look at the past. Her energies must be devoted to the future!"
The two Children were starting on their way, when they discovered that they were very hungry. The Fairy at once ordered Bread to give them something to eat; and that big, fat fellow, delighted with the importance of his duty, undid the top of his robe, drew his scimitar and cut two slices out of his stomach. The Children screamed with laughter. Tylo dropped his gloomy thoughts for a moment and begged for a bit of bread; and everybody struck up the farewell chorus. Sugar, who was very full of himself, also wanted to impress the company and, breaking off two of his fingers, handed them to the astonished Children.
As they were all moving towards the door, the Fairy Berylune stopped them:
"Not to-day," she said. "The children must go alone. It would be indiscreet to accompany them; they are going to spend the evening with their late family. Come, be off! Good-bye, dear children, and mind that you are back in good time: it is extremely important!"
The two Children took each other by the hand and, carrying the big cage, passed out of the hall; and their companions, at a sign from the Fairy, filed in front of her to return to the palace. Our friend Tylo was the only one who did not answer to his name. The moment he heard the Fairy say that the Children were to go alone, he had made up his mind to go and look after them, whatever happened; and, while the others were saying good-bye, he hid behind the door. But the poor fellow had reckoned without the all-seeing eyes of the Fairy Berylune.
"Tylo!" she cried. "Tylo! Here!"
And the poor Dog, who had so long been used to obey, dared not resist the command and came, with his tail between his legs, to take his place among the others. He howled with despair when he saw his little master and mistress swallowed up in the great gold staircase.
THE LAND OF MEMORY
The Fairy Berylune had told the Children that the Land of Memory was not far off; but to reach it you had to go through a forest that was so dense and so old that your eyes could not see the tops of the trees. It was always shrouded in a heavy mist; and the Children would certainly have lost their way, if the Fairy had not said to them beforehand:
"It is straight ahead; and there is only one road."
The ground was carpeted with flowers which were all alike: they were snow-white pansies and very pretty; but, as they never saw the sun, they had no scent.
Those little flowers comforted the Children, who felt extremely lonely. A great mysterious silence surrounded them; and they trembled a little with a very pleasant sense of fear which they had never felt before.
"Let's take Granny a bunch of flowers," said Mytyl.
"That's a good idea! She will be pleased!" cried Tyltyl.
And, as they walked along, the Children gathered a beautiful white nosegay. The dear little things did not know that every pansy (which means "a thought") that they picked brought them nearer to their grandparents; and they soon saw before them a large oak with a notice-board nailed to it.
"Here we are!" cried the boy in triumph, as, climbing up on a root, he read:
"The Land of Memory."
They had arrived; but they turned to every side without seeing a thing:
"I can see nothing at all!" whimpered Mytyl. "I'm cold!... I'm tired!... I don't want to travel any more!"
Tyltyl, who was wholly wrapped up in his errand, lost his temper:
"Come, don't keep on crying just like Water!... You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" he said. "There! Look! Look! The fog is lifting!"
And, sure enough, the mist parted before their eyes, like veils torn by an invisible hand; the big trees faded away, everything vanished and, instead, there appeared a pretty little peasant's cottage, covered with creepers and standing in a little garden filled with flowers and with trees all over fruit.
The Children at once knew the dear cow in the orchard, the watch-dog at the door, the blackbird in his wicker cage; and everything was steeped in a pale light and a warm and balmy air.
Tyltyl and Mytyl stood amazed. So that was the Land of Memory! What lovely weather it was! And how nice it felt to be there! They at once made up their minds to come back often, now that they knew the way. But how great was their happiness when the last veil disappeared and they saw, at a few steps from them, Grandad and Granny sitting on a bench, sound asleep. They clapped their hands and called out gleefully:
"It's Grandad! It's Granny!... There they are! There they are!"
But they were a little scared by this great piece of magic and dared not move from behind the tree; and they stood looking at the dear old couple, who woke up gently and slowly under their eyes. Then they heard Granny Tyl's trembling voice say:
"I have a notion that our grandchildren who are still alive are coming to see us to-day."
And Gaffer Tyl answered:
"They are certainly thinking of us, for I feel queer and I have pins and needles in my legs."
"I think they must be quite near," said Granny, "for I see tears of joy dancing before my eyes and...."
Granny had not time to finish her sentence. The Children were in her arms!... What joy! What wild kisses and huggings! What a wonderful surprise! The happiness was too great for words. They laughed and tried to speak and kept on looking at one another with delighted eyes: it was so glorious and so unexpected to meet again like this. When the first excitement was over, they all began to talk at once:
"How tall and strong you've grown, Tyltyl!" said Granny.
And Grandad cried:
"And Mytyl! Just look at her! What pretty hair, what pretty eyes!"
And the Children danced and clapped their hands and flung themselves by turns into the arms of one or the other.
At last, they quieted down a little; and, with Mytyl nestling against Grandad's chest and Tyltyl comfortably perched on Granny's knees, they began to talk of family affairs:
"How are Daddy and Mummy Tyl?" asked Granny.
"Quite well, Granny," said Tyltyl. "They were asleep when we went out."
Granny gave them fresh kisses and said:
"My word, how pretty they are and how nice and clean!... Why don't you come to see us oftener? It is months and months now that you have forgotten us and that we have seen nobody...."
"We couldn't, Granny," said Tyltyl, "and to-day it's only because of the Fairy...."
"We are always here," said Granny Tyl, "waiting for a visit from those who are alive. The last time you were here was on All-hallows...."
"All-hallows? We didn't go out that day, for we both had colds!"
"But you thought of us! And, every time you think of us, we wake up and see you again."
Tyltyl remembered that the Fairy had told him this. He had not thought it possible then; but now, with his head on the heart of the dear Granny whom he had missed so much, he began to understand things and he felt that his grandparents had not left him altogether. He asked:
"So you are not really dead?..."
The old couple burst out laughing. When they exchanged their life on earth for another and a much nicer and more beautiful life, they had forgotten the word "dead."
"What does that word 'dead' mean?" asked Gaffer Tyl.
"Why, it means that one's no longer alive!" said Tyltyl.
Grandad and Granny only shrugged their shoulders:
"How stupid the Living are, when they speak of the Others!" was all they said.
And they went over their memories again, rejoicing in being able to chat.
All old people love discussing old times. The future is finished, as far as they are concerned; and so they delight in the present and the past. But we are growing impatient, like Tyltyl; and, instead of listening to them, we will follow our little friend's movements.
He had jumped off Granny's knees and was poking about in every corner, delighted at finding all sorts of things which he knew and remembered:
"Nothing is changed, everything is in its old place!" he cried. And, as he had not been to the old people's home for so long, everything struck him as much nicer; and he added, in the voice of one who knows, "Only everything is prettier!... Hullo, there's the clock with the big hand which I broke the point off and the hole which I made in the door, the day I found Grandad's gimlet...."
"Yes, you've done some damage in your time!" said Grandad. "And there's the plum-tree which you were so fond of climbing, when I wasn't looking...."
Meantime, Tyltyl was not forgetting his errand:
"You haven't the Blue Bird here by chance, I suppose?"
At the same moment, Mytyl, lifting her head, saw a cage:
"Hullo, there's the old blackbird!... Does he still sing?"
As she spoke, the blackbird woke up and began to sing at the top of his voice.
"You see," said Granny, "as soon as one thinks of him...."
Tyltyl was simply amazed at what he saw:
"But he's blue!" he shouted. "Why, that's the bird, the Blue Bird!... He's blue, blue, blue as a blue glass marble!... Will you give him to me?"
The grandparents gladly consented; and, full of triumph, Tyltyl went and fetched the cage which he had left by the tree. He took hold of the precious bird with the greatest of care; and it began to hop about in its new home.
"How pleased the Fairy will be!" said the boy, rejoicing at his conquest. "And Light too!"
"Come along," said the grandparents. "Come and look at the cow and the bees."
As the old couple were beginning to toddle across the garden, the children suddenly asked if their little dead brothers and sisters were there too. At the same moment, seven little children, who, up to then, had been sleeping in the house, came tearing like mad into the garden. Tyltyl and Mytyl ran up to them. They all hustled and hugged one another and danced and whirled about and uttered screams of joy.
"Here they are, here they are!" said Granny. "As soon as you speak of them, they are there, the imps!"
Tyltyl caught a little one by the hair:
"Hullo, Pierrot! So we're going to fight again, as in the old days!... And Robert!... I say, Jean, what's become of your top?... Madeleine and Pierrette and Pauline!... And here's Riquette!..."
"Riquette's still crawling on all fours!"
Tyltyl noticed a little dog yapping around them:
"There's Kiki, whose tail I cut off with Pauline's scissors.... He hasn't changed either...."
"No," said Gaffer Tyl, in a voice of great importance, "nothing changes here!"
But, suddenly, amid the general rejoicings, the old people stopped spell-bound: they had heard the small voice of the clock indoors strike eight!
"How's this?" they asked. "It never strikes nowadays...."
"That's because we no longer think of the time," said Granny. "Was any one thinking of the time?"
"Yes, I was," said Tyltyl. "So it's eight o'clock?... Then I'm off, for I promised Light to be back before nine...."
He was going for the cage, but the others were too happy to let him run away so soon: it would be horrid to say good-bye like that! Granny had a good idea: she knew what a little glutton Tyltyl was. It was just supper-time and, as luck would have it, there was some capital cabbage-soup and a beautiful plum-tart.
"Well," said our hero, "as I've got the Blue Bird!... And cabbage-soup is a thing you don't have every day!..."
They all hurried and carried the table outside and laid it with a nice white table-cloth and put a plate for each; and, lastly, Granny brought out the steaming soup-tureen in state. The lamp was lit and the grandparents and grandchildren sat down to supper, jostling and elbowing one another and laughing and shouting with pleasure. Then, for a time, nothing was heard but the sound of the wooden spoons noisily clattering against the soup-plates.
"How good it is! Oh, how good it is!" shouted Tyltyl, who was eating greedily. "I want some more! More! More! More!"
"Come, come, a little more quiet," said Grandad. "You're just as ill-behaved as ever; and you'll break your plate...."
Tyltyl took no notice of the remark, stood up on his stool, caught hold of the tureen and dragged it towards him and upset it; and the hot soup trickled all over the table and down upon everybody's lap. The children yelled and screamed with pain. Granny was quite scared; and Grandad was furious. He dealt our friend Tyltyl a tremendous box on the ear.
Tyltyl was staggered for a moment; and then he put his hand to his cheek with a look of rapture and exclaimed:
"Grandad, how good, how jolly! It was just like the slaps you used to give me when you were alive!... I must give you a kiss for it!..."
"There's more where that came from, if you like them!" said Grandad, grumpily.
But he was touched, all the same, and turned to wipe a tear from his eyes.
"Goodness!" cried Tyltyl, starting up. "There's half-past eight striking!... Mytyl, we've only just got time!..."
Granny in vain implored them to stay a few minutes longer.
"No, we can't possibly," said Tyltyl firmly; "I promised Light!"
And he hurried to take up the precious cage.
"Good-bye, Grandad.... Good-bye, Granny.... Good-bye, brothers and sisters, Pierrot, Robert, Pauline, Madeleine, Riquette and you, too, Kiki.... We can't stay.... Don't cry, Granny; we will come back often!"
Poor old Grandad was very much upset and complained lustily:
"Gracious me, how tiresome the Living are, with all their fuss and excitement!"
Tyltyl tried to console him and again promised to come back very often.
"Come back every day!" said Granny. "It is our only pleasure; and it's such a treat for us when your thoughts pay us a visit!"
"Good-bye! Good-bye!" cried the brothers and sisters in chorus. "Come back very soon! Bring us some barley sugar!"
There were more kisses; all waved their handkerchiefs; all shouted a last good-bye. But the figures began to fade away; the little voices could no longer be heard; the two Children were once more wrapped in mist; and the old forest covered them with its great dark mantle.
"I'm so frightened!" whimpered Mytyl. "Give me your hand, little brother! I'm so frightened!"
Tyltyl was shaking too, but it was his duty to try and comfort and console his sister:
"Hush!" he said. "Remember that we are bringing back the Blue Bird!"
As he spoke, a thin ray of light pierced the gloom; and the little boy hurried towards it. He was holding his cage tight in his arms; and the first thing he did was to look at his bird.... Alas and alack, what a disappointment awaited him! The beautiful Blue Bird of the Land of Memory had turned quite black! Stare at it as hard as Tyltyl might, the bird was black! Oh, how well he knew the old blackbird that used to sing in its wicker prison, in the old days, at the door of the house! What had happened? How painful it was! And how cruel life seemed to him just then!
He had started on his journey with such zest and delight that he had not thought for a moment of the difficulties and dangers. Full of confidence, pluck and kindness, he had marched off, certain of finding the beautiful Blue Bird which would bring happiness to the Fairy's little girl. And now all his hopes were shattered! For the first time, our poor friend understood the trials, the vexations and the obstacles that awaited him! Alas, was he attempting an impossible thing? Was the Fairy making fun of him? Would he ever find the Blue Bird? All his courage seemed to be leaving him....
To add to his misfortunes, he could not find the straight road by which he had come. There was not a single white pansy on the ground; and he began to cry.
Luckily, our little friends were not to remain in trouble long. The Fairy had promised that Light would watch over them. The first trial was over; and, just as outside the old people's house a little while ago, the mist now suddenly lifted. But, instead of disclosing a peaceful picture, a gentle, homely scene, it revealed a marvellous temple, with a blinding glare streaming from it.
On the threshold stood Light, fair and beautiful in her diamond-coloured dress. She smiled when Tyltyl told her of his first failure. She knew what the little ones were seeking; she knew everything. For Light surrounds all mortals with her love, though none of them is fond enough of her ever to receive her thoroughly and thus to learn all the secrets of Truth. Now, for the first time, thanks to the diamond which the Fairy had given to the boy, she was going to try and conquer a human soul:
"Do not be sad," she said to the Children. "Are you not pleased to have seen your grandparents? Is that not enough happiness for one day? Are you not glad to have restored the old blackbird to life? Listen to him singing!"
For the old blackbird was singing with might and main; and his little yellow eyes sparkled with pleasure as he hopped about his big cage.
"As you look for the Blue Bird, dear Children, accustom yourselves to love the grey birds which you find on your way."
She nodded her fair head gravely; and it was quite clear that she knew where the Blue Bird was. But life is often full of beautiful mysteries, which we must respect, lest we should destroy them; and, if Light had told the Children where the Blue Bird was, well, they would never have found him! I will tell you why at the end of this story.
And now let us leave our little friends to sleep on beautiful white clouds under Light's watchful care.
THE PALACE OF NIGHT
Some time after, the Children and their friends met at the first dawn to go to the Palace of Night, where they hoped to find the Blue Bird. Several of the party failed to answer to their names when the roll was called. Milk, for whom any sort of excitement was bad, was keeping her room. Water sent an excuse: she was accustomed always to travel in a bed of moss, was already half-dead with fatigue and was afraid of falling ill. As for Light, she had been on bad terms with Night since the world began; and Fire, as a relation, shared her dislike. Light kissed the Children and told Tylo the way, for it was his business to lead the expedition; and the little band set out upon its road.
You can imagine dear Tylo trotting ahead, on his hind legs, like a little man, with his nose in the air, his tongue dangling down his chin, his front paws folded across his chest. He fidgets, sniffs about, runs up and down, covering twice the ground without minding how tired it makes him. He is so full of his own importance that he disdains the temptations on his path: he neglects the rubbish heaps, pays no attention to anything he sees and cuts all his old friends.
Poor Tylo! He was so delighted to become a man; and yet he was no happier than before! Of course, life was the same to him, because his nature had remained unchanged. What was the use of his being a man, if he continued to feel and think like a dog? In fact, his troubles were increased a hundred-fold by the sense of responsibility that now weighed upon him.
"Ah!" he said, with a sigh, for he was joining blindly in his little gods' search, without for a moment reflecting that the end of the journey would mean the end of his life. "Ah," he said, "if I got hold of that rascal of a Blue Bird, trust me, I wouldn't touch him even with the tip of my tongue, not if he were as plump and sweet as a quail!"
Bread followed solemnly, carrying the cage; the two Children came next; and Sugar brought up the rear.
But where was the Cat? To discover the reason of her absence, we must go a little way back and read her thoughts. At the time when Tylette called a meeting of the Animals and Things in the Fairy's hall, she was contemplating a great plot which would aim at prolonging the journey; but she had reckoned without the stupidity of her hearers:
"The idiots," she thought, "have very nearly spoiled the whole thing by foolishly throwing themselves at the Fairy's feet, as though they were guilty of a crime. It is better to rely upon one's self alone. In my cat-life, all our training is founded on suspicion; I can see that it is just the same in the life of men. Those who confide in others are only betrayed; it is better to keep silent and to be treacherous one's self."
As you see, my dear little readers, the Cat was in the same position as the Dog: she had not changed her soul and was simply continuing her former existence; but, of course, she was very wicked, whereas our dear Tylo was, if anything, too good. Tylette, therefore, resolved to act on her own account and went, before daybreak, to call on Night, who was an old friend of hers.
The road to the Palace of Night was rather long and rather dangerous. It had precipices on either side of it; you had to climb up and climb down and then climb up again among high rocks that always seemed waiting to crush the passers-by. At last, you came to the edge of a dark circle; and there you had to go down thousands of steps to reach the black-marble underground palace in which Night lived.
The Cat, who had often been there before, raced along the road, light as a feather. Her cloak, borne on the wind, streamed like a banner behind her; the plume in her hat fluttered gracefully; and her little grey kid boots hardly touched the ground. She soon reached her destination and, in a few bounds, came to the great hall where Night was.
It was really a wonderful sight. Night, stately and grand as a Queen, reclined upon her throne; she slept; and not a glimmer, not a star twinkled around her. But we know that the night has no secrets for cats and that their eyes have the power of piercing the darkness. So Tylette saw Night as though it were broad daylight.
Before waking her, she cast a loving glance at that motherly and familiar face. It was white and silvery as the moon; and its unbending features inspired both fear and admiration. Night's figure, which was half visible through her long black veils, was as beautiful as that of a Greek statue. She had long arms and a pair of enormous wings, now furled in sleep, came from her shoulders to her feet and gave her a look of majesty beyond compare. Still, in spite of her affection for her best of friends, Tylette did not waste too much time in gazing at her: it was a critical moment; and time was short. Tired and jaded and overcome with anguish, she sank upon the steps of the throne and mewed, plaintively:
"It is I, Mother Night!... I am worn out!"
Night is of an anxious nature and easily alarmed. Her beauty, built up of peace and repose, possesses the secret of Silence, which life is constantly disturbing: a star shooting through the sky, a leaf falling to the ground, the hoot of an owl, a mere nothing is enough to tear the black velvet pall which she spreads over the earth each evening. The Cat, therefore, had not finished speaking, when Night sat up, all quivering. Her immense wings beat around her; and she questioned Tylette in a trembling voice. As soon as she had learned the danger that threatened her, she began to lament her fate. What! A man's son coming to her palace! And, perhaps, with the help of the magic diamond, discovering her secrets! What should she do? What would become of her? How could she defend herself? And, forgetting that she was sinning against Silence, her own particular god, Night began to utter piercing screams. It was true that falling into such a commotion was hardly likely to help her find a cure for her troubles. Luckily for her, Tylette, who was accustomed to the annoyances and worries of human life, was better armed. She had worked out her plan when going ahead of the children; and she was hoping to persuade Night to adopt it. She explained this plan to her in a few words:
"I see only one thing for it, Mother Night: as they are children, we must give them such a fright that they will not dare to insist on opening the great door at the back of the hall, behind which the Birds of the Moon live and generally the Blue Bird too. The secrets of the other caverns will be sure to scare them. The hope of our safety lies in the terror which you will make them feel."
There was clearly no other course to take. But Night had not time to reply, for she heard a sound. Then her beautiful features contracted; her wings spread out angrily; and everything in her attitude told Tylette that Night approved of her plan.
"Here they are!" cried the Cat.
The little band came marching down the steps of Night's gloomy staircase. Tylo pranced bravely in front, whereas Tyltyl looked around him with an anxious glance. He certainly found nothing to comfort him. It was all very magnificent, but very terrifying. Picture a huge and wonderful black marble hall, of a stern and tomb-like splendour. There is no ceiling visible; and the ebony pillars that surround the amphitheatre shoot up to the sky. It is only when you lift your eyes up there that you catch the faint light falling from the stars. Everywhere, the thickest darkness reigns. Two restless flames—no more—flicker on either side of Night's throne, before a monumental door of brass. Bronze doors show through the pillars to the right and left.
The Cat rushed up to the Children:
"This way, little master, this way!... I have told Night; and she is delighted to see you."
Tylette's soft voice and smile made Tyltyl feel himself again; and he walked up to the throne with a bold and confident step, saying:
"Good-day, Mrs. Night!"
Night was offended by the word, "Good-day," which reminded her of her eternal enemy Light, and answered drily:
"Good-day?... I am not used to that!... You might say, Good-night, or, at least, Good-evening!"
Our hero was not prepared to quarrel. He felt very small in the presence of that stately lady. He quickly begged her pardon, as nicely as he could; and very gently asked her leave to look for the Blue Bird in her palace.
"I have never seen him, he is not here!" exclaimed Night, flapping her great wings to frighten the boy.
But, when he insisted and gave no sign of fear, she herself began to dread the diamond, which, by lighting up her darkness, would completely destroy her power; and she thought it better to pretend to yield to an impulse of generosity and at once to point to the big key that lay on the steps of the throne.
Without a moment's hesitation, Tyltyl seized hold of it and ran to the first door of the hall.
Everybody shook with fright. Bread's teeth chattered in his head; Sugar, who was standing some way off, moaned with mortal anguish; Mytyl howled:
"Where is Sugar?... I want to go home!"
Meanwhile, Tyltyl, pale and resolute, was trying to open the door, while Night's grave voice, rising above the din, proclaimed the first danger.
"It's the Ghosts!"
"Oh, dear!" thought Tyltyl. "I have never seen a ghost: it must be awful!"
The faithful Tylo, by his side, was panting with all his might, for dogs hate anything uncanny.
At last, the key grated in the lock. Silence reigned as dense and heavy as the darkness. No one dared draw a breath. Then the door opened; and, in a moment, the gloom was filled with white figures running in every direction. Some lengthened out right up to the sky; others twined themselves round the pillars; others wriggled ever so fast along the ground. They were something like men, but it was impossible to distinguish their features; the eye could not catch them. The moment you looked at them, they turned into a white mist. Tyltyl did his best to chase them; for Mrs. Night kept to the plan contrived by the Cat and pretended to be frightened. She had been the Ghosts' friend for hundreds and hundreds of years and had only to say a word to drive them in again; but she was careful to do nothing of the sort and, flapping her wings like mad, she called upon all her gods and screamed:
"Drive them away! Drive them away! Help! Help!"
But the poor Ghosts, who hardly ever come out now that Man no longer believes in them, were much too happy at taking a breath of air; and, had it not been that they were afraid of Tylo, who tried to bite their legs, they would never have been put back indoors.
"Oof!" gasped the Dog, when the door was shut at last. "I have strong teeth, goodness knows; but chaps like those I never saw before! When you bite them, you'd think their legs were made of cotton!"
By this time, Tyltyl was making for the second door and asking:
"What's behind this one?"
Night made a gesture as though to put him off. Did the obstinate little fellow really want to see everything?
"Must I be careful when I open it?" asked Tyltyl.
"No," said Night, "it is not worth while. It's the Sicknesses. They are very quiet, the poor little things! Man, for some time, has been waging such war upon them!... Open and see for yourself...."
Tyltyl threw the door wide open and stood speechless with astonishment: there was nothing to be seen....
He was just about to close the door again, when he was hustled aside by a little body in a dressing-gown and a cotton night-cap, who began to frisk about the hall, wagging her head and stopping every minute to cough, sneeze and blow her nose ... and to pull on her slippers, which were too big for her and kept dropping off her feet. Sugar, Bread and Tyltyl were no longer frightened and began to laugh like anything. But they had no sooner come near the little person in the cotton night-cap than they themselves began to cough and sneeze.
"It's the least important of the Sicknesses," said Night. "It's Cold-in-the-Head."
"Oh, dear, oh, dear!" thought Sugar. "If my nose keeps on running like this, I'm done for: I shall melt!"
Poor Sugar! He did not know where to hide himself. He had become very much attached to life since the journey began, for he had fallen over head and ears in love with Water! And yet this love caused him the greatest worry. Miss Water was a tremendous flirt, expected a lot of attention and was not particular with whom she mixed; but mixing too much with Water was an expensive luxury, as poor Sugar found to his cost; for, at every kiss he gave her, he left a bit of himself behind, until he began to tremble for his life.
When he suddenly found himself attacked by Cold-in-the-Head, he would have had to fly from the palace, but for the timely aid of our dear Tylo, who ran after the little minx and drove her back to her cavern, amidst the laughter of Tyltyl and Mytyl, who thought gleefully that, so far, the trial had not been very terrible.
The boy, therefore, ran to the next door with still greater courage.
"Take care!" cried Night, in a dreadful voice. "It's the Wars! They are more powerful than ever! I daren't think what would happen, if one of them broke loose! Stand ready, all of you, to push back the door!"
Night had not finished uttering her warnings, when the plucky little fellow repented his rashness. He tried in vain to shut the door which he had opened: an invincible force was pushing it from the other side, streams of blood flowed through the cracks; flames shot forth; shouts, oaths and groans mingled with the roar of cannon and the rattle of musketry. Everybody in the Palace of Night was running about in wild confusion. Bread and Sugar tried to take to flight, but could not find the way out; and they now came back to Tyltyl and put their shoulders to the door with despairing force.
The Cat pretended to be anxious, while secretly rejoicing:
"This may be the end of it," she said, curling her whiskers. "They won't dare to go on after this."
Dear Tylo made superhuman efforts to help his little master, while Mytyl stood crying in a corner.
At last, our hero gave a shout of triumph:
"Hurrah! They're giving way! Victory! Victory! The door is shut!"
At the same time, he dropped on the steps, utterly exhausted, dabbing his forehead with his poor little hands which shook with terror.
"Well?" asked Night, harshly. "Have you had enough? Did you see them?"
"Yes, yes!" replied the little fellow, sobbing. "They are hideous and awful.... I don't think they have the Blue Bird...."
"You may be sure they haven't," answered Night, angrily. "If they had, they would eat him at once.... You see there is nothing to be done...."
Tyltyl drew himself up proudly:
"I must see everything," he declared. "Light said so...."
"It's an easy thing to say," retorted Night, "when one's afraid and stays at home!"
"Let us go to the next door," said Tyltyl, resolutely. "What's in here?"
"This is where I keep the Shades and the Terrors!"
Tyltyl reflected for a minute:
"As far as Shades go," he thought, "Mrs. Night is poking fun at me. It's more than an hour since I've seen anything but shade in this house of hers; and I shall be very glad to see daylight again. As for the Terrors, if they are anything like the Ghosts, we shall have another good joke."
Our friend went to the door and opened it, before his companions had time to protest. For that matter, they were all sitting on the floor, exhausted with the last fright; and they looked at one another in astonishment, glad to find themselves alive after such a scare. Meanwhile, Tyltyl threw back the door and nothing came out:
"There's no one there!" he said.
"Yes, there is! Yes, there is! Look out!" said Night, who was still shamming fright.
She was simply furious. She had hoped to make a great impression with her Terrors; and, lo and behold, the wretches, who had so long been snubbed by Man, were afraid of him! She encouraged them with kind words and succeeded in coaxing out a few tall figures covered with grey veils. They began to run all around the hall until, hearing the Children laugh, they were seized with fear and rushed indoors again. The attempt had failed, as far as Night was concerned, and the dread hour was about to strike. Already, Tyltyl was moving towards the big door at the end of the hall. A few last words took place between them:
"Do not open that one!" said Night, in awe-struck tones.
"Because it's not allowed!"
"Then it's here that the Blue Bird is hidden!"
"Go no farther, do not tempt fate, do not open that door!"
"But why?" again asked Tyltyl, obstinately.
Thereupon, Night, irritated by his persistency, flew into a rage, hurled the most terrible threats at him, and ended by saying:
"Not one of those who have opened it, were it but by a hair's breadth, has ever returned alive to the light of day! It means certain death; and all the horrors, all the terrors, all the fears of which men speak on earth are as nothing compared with those which await you if you insist on touching that door!"
"Don't do it, master dear!" said Bread, with chattering teeth. "Don't do it! Take pity on us! I implore you on my knees!"
"You are sacrificing the lives of all of us," mewed the Cat.
"I won't! I sha'n't!" sobbed Mytyl.
"Pity! Pity!" whined Sugar, wringing his fingers.
All of them were weeping and crying, all of them crowded round Tyltyl. Dear Tylo alone, who respected his little master's wishes, dared not speak a word, though he fully believed that his last hour had come. Two big tears rolled down his cheeks; and he licked Tyltyl's hands in despair. It was really a most touching scene; and for a moment, our hero hesitated. His heart beat wildly, his throat was parched with anguish, he tried to speak and could not get out a sound: besides, he did not wish to show weakness in the presence of his hapless companions!
"If I have not the strength to fulfil my task," he said to himself, "who will fulfil it? If my friends behold my distress, it is all up with me: they will not let me go through with my mission and I shall never find the Blue Bird!"
At this thought, the boy's heart leaped within his breast and all his generous nature rose in rebellion. It would never do to be, perhaps, within arm's length of happiness and not to try for it, at the risk of dying in the attempt, to try for it and hand it over at last to all mankind!
That settled it! Tyltyl resolved to sacrifice himself. Like a true hero, he brandished the heavy golden key and cried:
"I must open the door!"
He ran up to the great door, with Tylo panting by his side. The poor Dog was half-dead with fright, but his pride and his devotion to Tyltyl obliged him to smother his fears:
"I shall stay," he said to his master, "I'm not afraid! I shall stay with my little god!"
In the meantime, all the others had fled. Bread was crumbling to bits behind a pillar; Sugar was melting in a corner with Mytyl in his arms; Night and the Cat, both shaking with fury, kept to the far end of the hall.
Then Tyltyl gave Tylo a last kiss, pressed him to his heart and, with never a tremble, put the key in the lock. Yells of terror came from all the corners of the hall, where the runaways had taken shelter, while the two leaves of the great door opened by magic in front of our little friend, who was struck dumb with admiration and delight. What an exquisite surprise! A wonderful garden lay before him, a dream-garden filled with flowers that shone like stars, waterfalls that came rushing from the sky and trees which the moon had clothed in silver. And then there was something whirling like a blue cloud among the clusters of roses. Tyltyl rubbed his eyes; he could not believe his senses. He waited, looked again and then dashed into the garden, shouting like mad:
"Come quickly!... Come quickly!... They are here!... We have them at last!... Millions of blue birds!... Thousands of millions!... Come, Mytyl!... Come, Tylo!... Come, all!... Help me!... You can catch them by handfuls!..."
Reassured at last, his friends came running up and all darted in among the birds, seeing who could catch the most:
"I've caught seven already!" cried Mytyl. "I can't hold them!"
"Nor can I!" said Tyltyl. "I have too many of them!... They're escaping from my arms!... Tylo has some too!... Let us go out, let us go!... Light is waiting for us!... How pleased she will be!... This way, this way!..."
And they all danced and scampered away in their glee, singing songs of triumph as they went.
Night and the Cat, who had not shared in the general rejoicing, crept back anxiously to the great door; and Night whimpered:
"Haven't they got him?..."
"No," said the Cat, who saw the real Blue Bird perched high up on a moonbeam.... "They could not reach him, he kept too high...."
Our friends in all haste ran up the numberless stairs between them and the daylight. Each of them hugged the birds which he had captured, never dreaming that every step which brought them nearer to the light was fatal to the poor things, so that, by the time they came to the top of the staircase, they were carrying nothing but dead birds.
Light was waiting for them anxiously:
"Well, have you caught him?" she asked.
"Yes, yes!" said Tyltyl. "Lots of them! There are thousands! Look!"
As he spoke, he held out the dear birds to her and saw, to his dismay, that they were nothing more than lifeless corpses: their poor little wings were broken and their heads drooped sadly from their necks! The boy, in his despair, turned to his companions. Alas, they too were hugging nothing but dead birds!
Then Tyltyl threw himself sobbing into Light's arms. Once more, all his hopes were dashed to the ground.
"Do not cry, my child," said Light. "You did not catch the one that is able to live in broad daylight.... We shall find him yet...."
"Of course, we shall find him," said Bread and Sugar, with one voice.
They were great boobies, both of them; but they wanted to console the boy. As for friend Tylo, he was so much put out that he forgot his dignity for a moment and, looking at the dead birds, exclaimed:
"Are they good to eat, I wonder?"
The party set out to walk back and sleep in the Temple of Light. It was a melancholy journey; all regretted the peace of home and felt inclined to blame Tyltyl for his want of caution. Sugar edged up to Bread and whispered in his ear:
"Don't you think, Mr. Chairman, that all this excitement is very useless?"
And Bread, who felt flattered at receiving so much attention, answered, pompously:
"Never you fear, my dear fellow, I shall put all this right. Life would be unbearable if we had to listen to all the whimsies of that little madcap!... To-morrow, we shall stay in bed!..."
They forgot that, but for the boy at whom they were sneering, they would never have been alive at all; and that, if he had suddenly told Bread that he must go back to his pan to be eaten and Sugar that he was to be cut into small lumps to sweeten Daddy Tyl's coffee and Mummy Tyl's syrups, they would have thrown themselves at their benefactor's feet and begged for mercy. In fact, they were incapable of appreciating their good luck until they were brought face to face with bad.
Poor things! The Fairy Berylune, when making them a present of their human life, ought to have thrown in a little wisdom. They were not so much to blame. Of course, they were only following Man's example. Given the power of speaking, they jabbered; knowing how to judge, they condemned; able to feel, they complained. They had hearts which increased their sense of fear, without adding to their happiness. As to their brains, which could easily have arranged all the rest, they made so little of them that they had already grown quite rusty; and, if you could have opened their heads and looked at the works of their life inside, you would have seen the poor brains, which were their most precious possession, jumping about at every movement they made and rattling in their empty skulls like dry peas in a pod.
Fortunately, Light, thanks to her wonderful insight, knew all about their state of mind. She determined, therefore, to employ the Elements and Things no more than she was obliged to:
"They are useful," she thought, "to feed the children and amuse them on the way; but they must have no further share in the trials, because they have neither courage nor conviction."
Meanwhile, the party walked on, the road widened out and became resplendent; and, at the end, the Temple of Light stood on a crystal height, shedding its beams around. The tired Children made the Dog carry them pick-a-back by turns; and they were almost asleep when they reached the shining steps.
THE KINGDOM OF THE FUTURE
Tyltyl and Mytyl woke up next morning, feeling very gay; with childish carelessness, they had forgotten their disappointment. Tyltyl was very proud of the compliments which Light had paid him: she seemed as happy as though he had brought the Blue Bird with him:
She said, with a smile, as she stroked the lad's dark curls:
"I am quite satisfied. You are such a good, brave boy that you will soon find what you are looking for."
Tyltyl did not understand the deep meaning of her words; but, for all that, he was very glad to hear them. And, besides, Light had promised him that to-day he would have nothing to fear in their new expedition. On the contrary, he would meet millions and millions of little children who would show him the most wonderful toys of which no one on earth had the least idea. She also told him that he and his little sister would travel alone with her this time and that all the others would take a rest while they were gone.
That is why, at the moment when our chapter opens, they had all met in the underground vaults of the temple. Light thought it as well to lock up the Elements and Things. She knew that, if they were left to do as they pleased, they might escape and get into mischief. It was not so very cruel of her, because the vaults of her temple are even lighter and lovelier than the upper floors of human houses; but you cannot get out without her leave. She alone has the power of widening, with a stroke of her wand, a little cleft in an emerald wall at the end of the passage, through which you go down a few crystal steps till you come to a sort of cave, all green and transparent like a forest when the sunlight sweeps through its branches.
Usually, this great hall was quite empty; but now it had sofas in it and a gold table laid with fruits and cakes and creams and delicious wines, which Light's servants had just finished setting out. Light's servants were very odd! They always made the Children laugh: with their long white satin dresses and their little black caps with a flame at the top, they looked like lighted candles. Their mistress sent them away and then told the Animals and Things to be very good and asked them if they would like some books and games to play with; they answered, with a laugh, that nothing amused them more than eating and sleeping and that they were very glad to stay where they were.
Tylo, of course, did not share this view. His heart spoke louder than his greed or his laziness; and his great dark eyes turned in entreaty on Tyltyl, who would have been only too pleased to take his faithful companion with him, if Light had not absolutely forbidden it:
"I can't help it," said the boy, giving him a kiss. "It seems that dogs are not admitted where we are going."