THE MAGICIAN'S SHOW BOX,
LYDIA MARIA CHILD
The Author of "Rainbows for Children."
THE MAGICIAN'S SHOW BOX
THE VIOLET FLAME
THE LADY INTELLETTA
EARNING ONE'S OWN LIVING
THE MAGICIAN'S SHOW BOX.
There was once a boy, named Gaspar, whose uncle made voyages to China, and brought him home chessmen, queer toys, porcelain vases, embroidered skullcaps, and all kinds of fine things. He gave him such grand descriptions of foreign countries and costumes, that Gaspar was not at all satisfied to live in a small village, where the people dressed in the most commonplace way. At school he was always covering his slate with pictures of Turks wearing turbans as large as small mosques, or Chinese with queues several yards long, and shoes that turned up to their knees. Then he read every story he could find of all possible and impossible adventures, and longed for nothing so much as to go forth, like Napoleon or Alexander, and make mincemeat of the whole world.
One day he could bear it no longer; so, taking with him an oaken dagger which he had carved with great care, off he started on his conquering expedition. He walked along the sunny road, kicking up a great dust, and coming to a milestone, threw a stone at a huge bullfrog croaking at him from a spring, and made it dive under with a loud splash. Pleased with his prowess, he took a good drink at the spring, and filled his flask with the sparkling water. At the second milestone he threw a pebble at a bird, singing in a tree. Off flew the bird, and down fell a great red apple. "Ah, how fine!" he exclaimed, picking it up; "and how the bird flies! I wish I had such wings." On the third milestone sat a quiet-looking little man, cracking nuts; so Gaspar stopped to crack nuts, and have a chat with him.
The man was very entertaining, and Gaspar listened and listened to his wonderful stories until he saw the milestone shadow stretching far along the bank. Then he jumped up and was going to walk on, but hop went the little man quite across the road. Gaspar went the other side; hop came the little man back again; and so they dodged about, hither and thither, until Gaspar's patience was quite exhausted.
"He is only a small fellow, after all," he thought; "I can take a good run and jump over him." He took the run and gave the jump, but the little man shot up high into the air, and he might as well have tried to jump over the moon.
"It is a most singular thing!" said Gaspar to himself; "a little gray man, not much larger than I am, and yet he seems to be every where at once, like sheet lightning. There is no getting by him, and all the time he looks at me with those bright eyes and that quiet smile, as if he were really very much amused. Well, he must go to sleep by and by, and then I can step over him and walk off."
So he lay down, pretending to sleep, and the little man lay down also, with his face turned to the sky. When Gaspar thought him fast asleep, he arose very softly, believing he could now surely escape; but at his very first step up came a sly hand, catching him by the foot, so that down he fell at the old man's side, and there saw the bright eyes gazing up at the stars, without a wink of sleep in them. But Gaspar soon forgot his travels, with all his bold intentions, and fell asleep himself, to dream of skewers and cimeters.
In the morning the little man said, "Come now, it is foolish for you to go trudging about over the world. You will never see any thing more than polywogs and sandflies, and those you can find in your native village. Give me a drink from your flask, and a bite of your apple, and I can show you more wonders in a day in my show box here, than you would find wandering about for a lifetime."
Then he drew from the pocket of his gray coat a neat box, carved of ivory, and having taken a bit of the apple and a sip of the water, which Gaspar never thought of refusing, he touched a spring, up flew the lid, and Gaspar peeped in. Ah, but it was a wondrous sight; for on and on moved a procession of all imaginable things. Lions and elephants seemed mere puppies, for here were mastodons and ichthyosauri, and animals that lived before the flood was ever dreamed of; and as for Turks and turbans, why, there were people with headdresses that towered up into the skies, and ladies who made rainbows pale. There were queens whose thrones were all one driven pearl, and warriors whose swords were a flash of sunbeams.
"Ah, yes!" exclaimed Gaspar; "this is better than travelling. But how shall I remember all these enchanting sights? I must make a note of them." And seizing his wooden sword, he began to draw in the sandy road each figure as it appeared.
Hour after hour the procession passed on in the little ivory box. Hour after hour he drew it in the sand, and that little man stood by, with his quiet smile and great politeness. At length a loud hallooing was heard, and they saw all the boys from the village running towards them.
"What is going on here?" they called out. "Never were such clouds seen as have been sailing over the village to-day. Whales and astronomers, kings and crocodiles, and nobody knows what. They all sail from this direction, and we have come to see what is going off here. Can it be you, Gaspar, who are raising such a wind? Did you draw all these lively things in the sand, and blow them up into clouds?"
Gaspar said he knew nothing about the clouds, but he thought it was getting rather dark, and was as much surprised as any of the boys, to see what grand figures he had thrown up into the sky. He begged his new friend to show the boys his box; but he said, "No, it was not for them," and put it into his pocket.
They all laughed at it, and said such great creatures never came out of that little paint box.
Gaspar went back to the village with the boys, and for a while was quite contented with the remembrance of what he had seen; but at last his old love of travelling awoke in him. He did not feel satisfied to have seen wonderful nations and animals merely passing through a show box, but wanted to see them in living reality; but how was he to get by the little magician? On foot he knew it was impossible, but thought he might succeed on a fleet horse. So he went to his friend Conrad, and offered him the apple which could never be eaten, for his good cantering horse. Most boys are fond of red apples, but Conrad cared for nothing else but apples and apple dumplings, not even for his cantering horse, and readily exchanged him for Gaspar's apple, which he could be constantly eating. Off rode Gaspar with whip and spur, sure now that the little gray man could not stop him.
As he cantered along the road very grandly, there were those bright eyes fixed upon him.
"Whither so fast to-day?" said the gray man, with his queer smile.
"That's nothing to you," answered Gaspar; and on he tried to go; but hop went the little man, to and fro, just as he did before, and Gaspar did not like to run his horse directly over him; indeed he might as well have tried to ride over the winds of heaven; so he jumped off, exclaiming, "It's no use dodging about in this way; come, now, let's fight it out;" and he drew his oaken dagger with a great flourish.
"Ah, ha! that is it, is it?" said the magician; and out flashed a steel dagger. At it they went, striking their weapons against each other with might and main. At every stroke Gaspar's wooden dagger became sharper and sharper, and when he left off fighting he found it was changed into good steel; but it was useless to hope for victory from such a combatant, who might have pierced him through and through at any moment, as Gaspar very soon saw; so he put up his dagger, and they sat down on the stone, cracking their nuts and jokes together in the old way.
"Now," said Gaspar, "if I had a few bags of nuts like these, I could make my fortune. They do not grow in our village, and I have told the boys about them until they are all wild to have some. But I suppose you cannot give me any, for although you never get out of them, you seem only to have a handful at a time."
"Gaspar," answered the gray man, "there is no end to my nuts; we might crack here until doomsday, and I should still have thousands and thousands of uncracked ones left. I do not think much of them myself, but you are young and easily amused, and if you would like a bag or two, why, here they are;" and he held up his hands with a great sack full of nuts in each. Gaspar jumped on his horse, dragged the bags up after him, while the little man looked smiling on, and rode home to the village.
What a shouting there was when the boys saw him riding through the streets with his great bags of nuts! They offered him bat and ball, hoop and kite; but Gaspar said he did not care for such childish things; he wanted something to be of use on his travels round the world. "You had better go to Lawyer Clang's," called out a newsboy; "he has a horse such as never was seen afore."
Gaspar rode straight to Lawyer Clang's office, and walked in, horse, sacks, and all.
"Sir," said he, "what will you give me for this cantering horse and these very hard nuts?"
"My horse Wayfare; and a more serviceable animal was never known. I am getting a little tired of him myself, but he is just the thing for you, if you wish to see the world."
The horse was brought round, a great gaunt creature, but handsomely bridled and saddled, and Gaspar thought he looked tough and sound, and would be far more useful than his cantering horse, which was only suitable for pleasure riding, so he changed horses, threw in the nuts, and rode off, bidding the boys good by, for many long years, he told them.
When he came to the first milestone he found the mossy spring was frozen over. At the second he saw the leafless apple tree, with a deserted bird's nest upon it; and at the third he discerned something that looked like the little magician; but he believed it was only a snow wreath: at any rate, it did not stop the way, and on he rode, exulting, though a little cold.
It was all very pleasant until night came; and then he was glad to see an inn, with a bright fire shining through the windows. He pulled in the reins, but the horse would not stop. He pulled harder and harder, and called "Whoa!" until he was breathless. It was all of no use. On went the horse, and the inn, with its bright windows, was soon left far behind. And over the wide plain he rode all night, through the wind and the snow, which was not at all agreeable. In the morning he was quite faint, and wanted to stop at a cottage for some breakfast, and a good warming for himself, and some oats for his horse. But no; Wayfare had nothing to do with such trifles. He went calmly on, always at the same jog-trot pace, and that not a very easy one. Gaspar had to catch at some berries as he rode through the woods, but found them poor fare, and was glad to find himself, the next day, getting into a warmer climate, where even oranges grew; but not many could he gather as he rode by the trees, and it was very provoking to see the horse, instead of stopping at a running brook, trot straight through it, and across a green pasture, as if it were all a parched desert.
"What an old fogy of a horse he is! I am sure he must be made of wood," exclaimed Gaspar; and he gave a great pound on the horse's neck. "Hollow, I declare! Nothing but a wooden horse, after all, and goes by machinery. I wonder how long he is wound up to go, and whether I shall ever get off the dreadful nightmare's back. What a fool I was to change my good cantering horse for such a machine as this! But I must endure it now I am in for it."
Day after day they trotted on, through strange countries, among unknown people and animals; but the horse never noticed them, nor they the horse. Gaspar wished to jump off and let the great creature go; but it was so high, and went on so steadily, that he could not get a chance. At last they passed through a gate in a high wall, which he thought must be the Chinese Wall, and a pagoda in the distance soon convinced him that he was right.
"I shall at least see peaked shoes and mandarins, and that is some satisfaction," he thought, and rode on, looking about him with great curiosity, until he came to a palace all gilding and porcelain. Here the horse came to a stand, as if he had been wound up to go so far and no farther.
"This I know must be the emperor's palace, and that must be the very gentleman himself, looking out of the window," said Gaspar. "How fortunate that uncle Gammon taught me Chinese!" He bowed and addressed the emperor, who was quite surprised to see such a very small foreign boy on such a very large horse, speaking his language so correctly. He came down to examine the horse, and when he found it went by machinery instead of being alive, expressed the greatest delight, saying it was just the kind of horse he had always desired, and if Gaspar would give it to him, he should be made one of his chief mandarins. Gaspar replied that his greatest desire was to be a mandarin; so he alighted in the most dignified manner, and entering the palace, was presented with layers of richly embroidered robes, which reached to his feet, and just allowed the peaks of his shoes to peep out. Then he was introduced to a large circle of mandarins who stood round, incessantly bowing to one another. He began to bow too, as if he had done nothing else all his life, and when dinner was served, managed his chop-sticks most dexterously, and smoked as if smoking had been his only vocation. In short, he ate and bobbed, and slept and woke, in the most approved manner.
Now he had attained the summit of his wishes. Every thing was entirely Chinese,—jars, mats, sweetmeats, dresses, bobbing, and stupidity. Rank, luxury, grandeur he called it, and for a while flattered himself that he was immersed in perfect happiness; but, somehow,—he could not tell what it was; perhaps he was not quite old enough,—but somehow he did become a little weary of being a mandarin. The palace was deliciously perfumed, but he longed for a puff of fresh wind. Nothing could be richer than their dresses, but the embroidery was rather heavy. Nothing could be profounder than their politeness, but it would have been a relief to have given some boy a good snowballing. Nothing could be serener than their silence, but he would gladly have given any body three cheers for nothing.
He began to make plans for escape from this palace of his desires, when one morning, just as one venerable mandarin was saying to another, in their usual edifying style of conversation, "Pelican of the Morning, before the magic charm of thy lofty countenance I am spell-bound, like an albatross bewildered amid the flapping sails of a mighty—" down burst the door with a crash, and a lion rushed roaring in among them. What a scrambling there was of the long-flowered dresses! What a tumbling, a flying, a groaning, a screaming! Never before were such confusion and fear in an assembly of bobbing mandarins. But Gaspar felt his breast swell with courage. Throwing off his long robes, he sprang upon the lion, and struggled fiercely with him; but the powerful creature would soon have laid him low if he had not suddenly remembered the dagger, sharpened in his conflict with the little gray man. Drawing it from the belt in which he always wore it, beneath his embroidered robe, he plunged it into the lion's throat, and victory was won. He did not wait for the dispersed mandarins to return; but throwing one of the richest dresses over his shoulder, as Hercules wore the lion's skin, he walked off, taking his way straight to the gate in the wall, for he had had quite enough of China and the Chinese empire.
Now began glad days for him—roaming, like a wild hunter, from land to land, coping single handed with crocodiles and cameleopards, riding upon elephants, mastering tigers and young hyenas, visiting mosques and mausoleums. In every land he made collections of its greatest curiosities in art, literature, science, natural history, and politics. A sphinx, an obelisk, a winged bull from Nineveh, stuffed porcupines, live monkeys, fossil remains, a pinchbeck president of the United States, and many rare specimens even more curious, did he collect, and after years of wandering, by land and by sea, carry with him to his native village. There he converted an old barn into a museum, and gave out to the villagers that he was prepared to instruct them in all that the world contains. They flocked to the museum, and he was occupied every hour of the day going from one object to another, making a little set speech about each to entertain his bewildered visitors. Great admiration was expressed, and perhaps great knowledge was acquired. Gaspar felt that he was the benefactor of his race, and bought a pair of very tight boots to walk around in, and a neat little silver-tipped stick with which to point out the curiosities.
But, alas! even now, when the cup of happiness seemed full, was he not to be satisfied. Had he not attained all that the most eager hopes of his boyhood had promised? Had not the highest honors and the most yellow of garments been lavished upon him in that long-desired Chinese empire? Had he not conquered innumerable wild animals—African, Asiatic, and above all, American? Was he not the focus of life and intelligence in his native village? And yet, how weary had he become of describing to his gaping audience, for the three hundred and sixtieth time, the daily habits of the laughing hyena, and the exact manner in which kangaroos jump! What sad indifference to the nature of whigs and walruses, to the tendencies of sea otters and free institutions, was creeping over him!
"Ah, if a lion would but walk in again, and if I could but have another good fight!" he exclaimed one day. At that moment the door suddenly opened. Hope whispered, "The lion!" and a fair young girl entered. She glanced around the room, cast her eyes on the president, the bones of a mastodon, a parrot in the corner, and a mummy or two.
"Old bones and stuffed animals!" she whispered to her companions, and they all began to laugh.
"I suppose she will call me a stuffed animal too," thought Gaspar; "but I must show them the specimens." So he stepped forward, and began to point out the various objects, and go over his usual descriptions. He did it in his neatest manner; but the girl kept smiling, as if it were all a great joke, and yet she looked at him with some interest. Gaspar went into another room to put on his mandarin's dress and peaked shoes, which he thought would produce a great effect; but if she had only smiled before, now she fairly laughed. Then he caught down his dagger which hung on the wall as one of the curiosities, and felt for a moment as if she were the lion, and he would plunge it into her; but the next moment he saw her beautiful face bending over it. "Ah, this dagger I like! How sharp the point is! It looks as if you might have done something with it. Tell me all about it, will you not?" said the girl.
"If you will come here a week from to-day, I will tell you its history," answered Gaspar; and she promised that she would surely come.
At the appointed time she appeared—alone, now, Gaspar was glad to see, for he did not like to have her whispering and laughing with the other girls. However, he hoped she would not laugh now. He led her through the museum into another room, where he had been painting a picture of his fight with the lion.
"That is excellent!" said the girl; "that is just the thing. There goes the dagger into the throat of the lion. How much better than a petrified peacock, or a labelled dromedary! And you killed the lion and painted the picture too?"
"Yes," answered Gaspar, quite gently.
"And the dagger—where did you find that?"
Gaspar told her how he had carved it of heart of oak when he was a boy, and had changed it to steel in fighting with the magician.
"I must see that magician; let us go and find him," said the girl. So away they went. As they walked along Gaspar told her about the ivory show box, and regretted that he had lost his flask of water, and exchanged his apple for the cantering horse, because they had now nothing to give the little gray man for a peep into it.
"Wait a moment," said the girl; and running into her house, which they were passing, she brought out a golden cup full of red wine. "I think he will like this better than the water—do not you?"
When they came to the milestone, there sat the gray man, cracking away as inveterately as ever. "I should think he would be tired to death," said Gaspar. "Think how much I have seen of the world while he has been cracking those old nuts."
The little man overheard him, and smiled to himself, as much as to say, "I know;" but when he saw the young girl, he rose up and made quite a profound bow. "He never bowed to me," thought Gaspar.
"Will you let me look into your ivory show box, and I will give you a drink of red wine," said the girl.
"It is a poor thing," answered the magician, "not worthy of your attention; but if you will vouchsafe me a sip of the wine, I have been cracking these dry nuts so long. Ah, I do begin to be weary!" The girl peeped into the show box. "All very pretty, but rather stiff and monotonous," she said. "Not so good as you can paint, Gaspar. Come, let us go home."
She made the gray man a pleasant little courtesy, took her vase of wine, and she and Gaspar went back to the village to paint their own pictures, leaving the little magician to crack his nuts and look into his show box as long as he pleased.
THE VIOLET FLAME
Rosamond was the child of a village blacksmith, and of a lady said by the villagers to be a princess from a far land. She herself claimed to be descended from an Ocean Queen; but no one believed that, except her little girl, who thought her mother must know best. Rosamond would sit by her for hours, gazing into the river that flowed through their garden, and listening to her mothers stories of golden palaces beneath the water. But she also liked to pry about her father's forge, and wonder at the quick sparks and great roaring fires. Her cousin Alfred would stay there with her, but while she was watching the red glow of the fire and the heavy fall of her father's hammer, he was gazing upon the violet flame that flickered above her forehead.
One day, when she was playing with him in the picture gallery of the old castle, in which his mother was housekeeper, she called him to look at the portrait of a child daintily holding a bird on the tip of her finger, and arrayed in the quaint richness of the old-fashioned costume. "She looks like you," her cousin said, "only she has not a little trembling flame upon her forehead."
"Have I a flame upon my forehead?" asked Rosamond, wondering.
"Come and look," answered Alfred, and he led her to a great mirror, where she for the first time saw the violet flame. "How beautiful it is!" she exclaimed.
"O, but it is growing dim; you must not look at it," said Alfred. "Come and let us run up and down the garden, between the great hedges."
But Rosamond, having once seen the violet flame, could not be satisfied until she had been to the castle to take another look, and found so much pleasure in gazing at herself in the great mirror, that she went every day to pay herself a stolen visit, while Alfred was at school. But one day he found her there, and said, "I see how it is that the pretty flame has gone; you have been admiring it too much by yourself. I shall not love you now."
Then Rosamond felt very sorry, and wondered how she could win back Alfred's love. At length she took all her money, with which she had intended to buy her old nurse a warm cloak for the winter, and bought a golden feroniere with a purple stone in it, to wear around her head in the place of the vanished flame. Then she walked into the picture gallery with a proud step. "O Rosamond!" exclaimed her cousin, "can you believe that bit of purple glass can replace the dancing flame that shone with, such a lovely violet light over your golden hair? Pray take it off, for it seems mere tinsel to me."
But neither he nor Rosamond could unclasp the feronere; and she had to go back to the jeweller, of whom she bought it, to ask him to file it off, which he tried in vain to do; and at last he said, "The pedler who sold it to me must be right. He said that, once clasped, it could only be loosened by dipping it into a hidden fountain. What fountain it is I do not know; but some old priest, who lives in a town on the mouth of a river, knows."
This was discouraging for Rosamond, there are so many towns and rivers, and so many old priests, in the world. She looked on the map, and thought it must be Paris, for that is not so very far from the sea, and there they know every thing. So, with her mother's leave, and some jewels she gave her, she went off to Paris, taking a bit of the mirror set in a gilt frame. When she arrived there, what was her surprise to find the city entirely inhabited by birds and animals! Parrots and peacocks prevailed, but ospreys and jackdaws, vultures and cormorants, crows and cockerels, and many, many other kinds of birds were also fluttering about, making a perpetual whizzing. Then there were hundreds of monkeys, all jauntily dressed, with little canes in their hands, and a great many camels and spaniels, and other animals, wild and tame, in neat linen blouses. What bewildered her still more, was to see that they were all skating about on the thinnest possible ice. Why it did not crack, to let them all through, she could not imagine. At first she was afraid even to set her foot upon it, but soon found herself skating merrily about, enjoying it as much as any of them. Another queer thing was, that, reflected in the ice, all these birds and animals appeared to be men and women; and she saw that in her own reflection she was a nice little girl. She wondered how she looked in her mirror, and took it out to see. "What kind of an animal am I?" she exclaimed. "O, I see—an ibex. What neat little horns, and how bright my eyes are! What would Alfred say if he knew I was an ibex?"
She called out to the skaters to ask them if they would look into her glass. "Hand it here," answered one, who in the ice appeared very pale, thin, and respectable. "I am a philosopher; I am not afraid of the truth." He looked in, and lo, there was a stork, standing on one leg, with his eyes half closed, and his head neatly tucked under his wing. "What a caricature!" he exclaimed, giving the glass a toss. It fell upon the ermine muff of a furbelowed old dowager, who was skating bravely about, notwithstanding her seventy years. "I will see how I look," she said, with a simpering smile; and behold, there was a puffy white owl in the mirror. Down fell the glass, but Rosamond caught and saved it.
"What a little unfledged thing you are, to be carrying that bit of broken glass about with you!" called out the philosopher.
"Better be unfledged than a one-eyed stork," answered Rosamond, and skated swiftly out of sight.
Now, the grandest skater of all was a griffin, who led all the others, skating more skilfully than any of them, and flitting like mad across the very thinnest places. It made one's head giddy to see him. His swiftness and dexterity, and a knack he had of knocking the other skaters into great black holes under the ice, whenever they crossed his path, greatly imposed upon them, and they all took care to follow straight behind, or to keep well out of his way. Now and then a bear would growl as he glided by; but the next day, Rosamond would see that bear hard at work building ice palaces, too busy to growl. One day, skating off into a corner, she found the griffin sitting apart, behind a great block of ice with his claws crossed, and looking very cold and dreary, like a snow image. "Would you not like to take a peep into my glass?" she said to him, quite amiably.
"No, child," solemnly answered the griffin. "I know by your ironical smile that you have discovered the truth—that I am nothing but a griffin. But if the skaters believe in me, why undeceive them? Why should magpies and zebras have any thing better to reign over them?"
"But do you not see how thin the ice is? You will surely break through some day."
"I know it," he replied. "A good strong trampling, and we are all scattered far and wide. But I keep the tigers and hyenas at work, and the more sagacious elephants bear their burdens in quiet, and let me alone. If there be a lion among them, he roars so gently it does no harm. And you must be a good girl, and keep silence. I see that you also wear a crown, and you know how heavy it is."
"Yes, and it is of brass too, like yours. I am trying to free myself from it," answered Rosamond. "But I do not care for your peacocks and parrots, and will not tell them yours is not of gold; so do not be afraid;" and off she went, leaving his majesty in a very uneasy state of mind. But he had nothing to fear from her, for although she did not cry, "Vive l'Empereur!" when he skated gorgeously by, she never revealed the fact that he was only a long-clawed griffin.
Rosamond might have staid a long time in Paris, so amused was she by all the gay plumage and dazzling confusion around her; but she soon found that she was dying of starvation. She had always heard French dishes and bon-bons most highly extolled, and now she found they were nothing but dry leaves and husks, served up very prettily, to be sure, but with no nourishment in them. So she looked on the map again, and decided to go to the shore of the Baltic, and follow it along until she came to the town in which the priest lived; for it certainly was useless to look for one among the gayly-plumed skaters in Paris.
Hard walking she found it, among sands and stones, and poor living in the fishermen's huts scattered along the coast. She was quite glad, one day, to meet a little girl of her own age, picking berries. Rosamond helped Greta fill her basket, and then accepted her invitation to go home with her. After walking through a long green lane, among fields of waving grain, they entered a town built of white marble; and Rosamond knew this was the place she sought. They stopped at Greta's house; but when Rosamond saw how many children there were in it, she thought she should not be very comfortable there, and asked for a hotel. Greta told her there was none in the town, but that she would find herself welcome in any house.
So she walked about until she found a large one with handsome columns before it, and there she passed the night. In the morning the lady of the house said, "To-day I am bread maker, for you must know we all work in this town, and all share our food together. If you stay here, you must make bread with me."
Rosamond did not like this proposition at all, for her mother had never taught her to work, and besides, she felt as if, with a crown upon her head, she were a kind of queen. It seemed to her as if the villagers also thought so when they looked at her as she walked through the streets, and she bore herself very proudly for a while, but at length became so tired and hungry, that she sank down on a doorstep, her head leaning on her hand; and as she watched the passers-by through her drooping lids, she noticed how very nice their shoes and stockings were. Then she saw that her own were much torn and soiled, and looking down the street, was mortified to trace her way along by the muddy footprints she had left on the fair white marble. She went to Greta's mother, and asked permission to wash her stockings and clean her shoes. But she did not know how to do it nicely, and they still looked very badly. "Clean bare feet would look better than such shoes and stockings," said the mother.
"But I could not have bare feet and a crown," answered Rosamond.
"O, is it a crown? Excuse me, I thought it was a snake skin."
Rosamond half smiled, but said sadly, "It seems like a snake, it stings me so sharply."
"You must go to Father Alter. A lady once came here with a jewelled girdle which was clasping her to death. He sent her to a fountain high among the mountains, and she returned in a white dress with a girdle of wild flowers. She lived with me, and kept a school for children. She was a lovely lady."
This reminded Rosamond of the priest, and she asked Greta to show her where Father Alter lived.
She found him sitting in his garden of herbs among poor people who were waiting for comfort and advice, and Rosamond also had to wait. At length he turned to her, and laying his hand gently upon her golden head, said, "I see what you want, my child. You must bathe your forehead in the fountain, that the weight of this stone may be taken from it."
"How shall I find the fountain, father?" she asked.
"Ah, my child," he answered, looking tenderly upon her, "the way is long and difficult, and many who wish to seek it do not find it. Neither can I point out the path to you. Each must find it for himself. The fountain wells forth in a green valley high among the mountains, and this river on which our village is built flows from it. Yet you cannot follow the stream up to its source, for it is often lost under ground, or is hidden among dark caverns. Through these hidden caves I found my way; but your young feet may try the mountain summits. From these you will discern the valley, and can descend into it. Yet linger not too long among shining glaciers, for the cold may come upon you suddenly in that bright sunshine, and steal your life away. And tread lightly along the mountain paths, for often the slightest motion will bring down an avalanche. And, my child, take with you this osier basket, in which lies a little loaf of bread. Fear not to eat of it every day; but remember always to leave a crumb, lest you should meet a hungry bird, and have nothing to give it. And thus will the loaf be always renewed. Do not forget, and a blessing be upon you."
Rosamond went gravely forth with the osier basket in her hand. As she passed through the village she could not but long to stay among those pleasant gardens, and water flowers with the children who were so busy there; but if she lingered to speak to them, she felt the tightened clasp of the fillet upon her head, and on she hastened. At first she thought the mountains quite near; but when she had walked until she was very tired, they seemed as far off as ever, and so on for several days. At many a weary milestone she stopped, wondering who had rested there before her, and whether they had ever found the hidden valley among those yet distant mountains. At night she staid in some little cottage by the wayside, always kindly welcomed, and carrying kind wishes with her when she went away. At noon she would break her little loaf, and dip it in the stream, remembering to leave a crumb in the basket; and when she opened the basket for her supper, there would still be the loaf, whole as ever; and many and many a bird did she feed on her way.
One day when she had been walking a long distance, and was very hungry, she had forgotten about keeping the crumb, and was just breaking the last crust, when she heard the quick, sharp cry of a bird in distress. Looking round she found a wounded sparrow lying on a rock. She washed the blood from his feathers, and gave him a crumb of the bread, very thankful that he had prevented her from eating it all, for then there would have been none left either for the bird or for herself. She wrapped the sparrow gently in her dress, and carried it with her, and wherever she went, along the edge of steep precipices, or over the rough glaciers, through deep snow or amid cold winds, still she warmed that bird in her bosom and kept it alive. At length she reached the summit of the mountain, and saw the red sunset slowly become gray, and the stars come out one by one in the wide, lonely sky. So far did it stretch around her, on every side, before it touched the horizon; so near did it seem, above her, that she felt as if she were high in the heavens, and turning her face towards her village, she thought Alfred might perhaps see her there, shining among the stars. Ah, foolish little girl! Her weary feet soon sank beneath her, and she fell asleep upon the snow. But the bird fluttered and chirped in her bosom, as if it knew danger were near, and she suddenly awoke. "O, good little sparrow," she cried, "if it had not been for you, I should have been frozen to death in my sleep; but now I will not stay here longer; we will go down into the valleys."
She began to slide down the mountain, and when the sun rose, saw beneath her a green, hidden nook, in which stood a solitary tree. She thought she should reach it immediately; but sometimes her way was blocked up on all sides, and she had to creep over high rocks, or through dark chasms, often losing sight of the valley, and fearing she never should find it. At length, however, she stood safe beneath the blossoming tree, and there was the sparrow's nest with the young birds in it. Rosamond fed them with her crumbs, and looking about for water to give them, found a clear spring bubbling out from under the root of the tree. As she bent down to dip up some of the water in her hand, a few drops were sprinkled upon her brass fillet, and it fell from her head. "Why, this is the very fountain," she exclaimed; "I did not know it." When she raised her head, the free mountain wind blew through her hair, and she felt as light-hearted and happy as the bird which had found its nest.
She slept that night beneath the sheltering tree; the new moon shone upon her, and the bubbling of the water lulled her into a sweeter sleep than she had known for many nights. In the morning she gave all her bread except one crumb to the birds, then descended the mountain, following the stream glancing over the rocks. But at last she lost sight of it, and instead of finding herself by the river on which the marble town was built, she came to the little old mill near her own home. There was Alfred hard at work, for he had hired himself out as a miller's boy. Her mother was weeping beneath the willow by the river, and her father was hammering at his anvil. How pleasant his great, glowing fire looked to Rosamond, after her wanderings among the icy mountains!
Alfred came to tea, and then she had to tell them while she had been. She described the beautiful white marble town, at the mouth of the river, and said she wished they could all go and live there. Her mother's face lighted up as it did when the golden sunset shone upon it, and she said, "Ah, Rosamond, my home was once there, and there I long to be again."
The father listened very thoughtfully. "Yes, it would be good to work there, where all work together; we will go," he said at last. Alfred decided to leave the mill and go with them.
They were all ready before the new moon was full, and leaving the village, with its slow stream and low pastures behind, reached the clear river, after a few days' travel. They walked along its high banks, among stately groves, until they came to the marble town. The people were glad to receive them, and they at once felt that they were among friends.
Rosamond went down to the sea shore with her mother, to whom the ocean breeze gave a new life; but it was really the old life revived; for when she was a child, she had lived beside the sea, and in her inland home had pined for the sight of the great waves.
As they were returning to the town, they met the old priest, who said he had come to offer them part of his house to live in, but that they must not live idly there; they must look about them, and decide what they would like to do.
The next morning Rosamond asked her mother and Alfred to go near the shore with her. There she showed them a bed of fine clay, of which she proposed to make vases. She and her mother sat down on the grass together, and moulded them, just within sight of the waves gently breaking upon the beach. The vases were so beautiful it seemed as if they were modelled from the curves of the waves, and contained within them the rippling sound of the sea upon the shore.
Alfred built up an oven in the father's forge, and baked the vases. When all were finished, they presented them to their new friends, who were greatly delighted, saying they had never seen such beautiful ones.
Rosamond and her mother continued to mould, not only vases, but little images, which were very much sought after by all the villagers. Rosamond never knew that the violet flame once more burned upon her forehead; but she knew that Alfred loved her, and long and happy was their life, there, by the wide, sunny sea.
One long, summer afternoon, old Zachary and his wife Betsy, having finished their tea at four o'clock, and having nothing very interesting to do, thought they would visit Hoppletyhop; the dwarf, who had promised to grant three wishes to any one who would bring him the three things he most desired in the world. Old Zachary took the president's message, a pair of spectacles, and a pipe full of tobacco, which he smoked by the way. The old woman carried a bowl of hot tea, a looking glass, and her very best plaited cap. As they went out of the door, they found their little grandchild, Floribel, reading on the step, and called to her to follow them. So she ran along with Jack the Giant-killer in one hand, and dragging with the other her tin wagon, in which sat her favorite doll, Rosa, drawn by four high-stepping tin horses.
As they passed through the village, their neighbors, who were sitting in their porches, enjoying the cool breeze, and feeling much too indolent to do any thing, called out to know whither they were going; and when told they were on their way to visit the dwarf Hoppletyhop, advised them to stay quietly at home, for he would be sure to do them some mischief. Zachary was a little inclined to turn back, when he heard this; but Betsy said, "Let us go on—I should like to see what mischief he will do;" and Floribel begged them to go, because she wished to see if a fairy dwarf was as large as her doll.
As they walked along, she asked them what they should wish. "I shall wish to be young, and deacon of the church," said her grandfather. "And I, to have a whole chest of souchong tea, and to be young also," said the grandmother. "But I shall wish for a castle as high as the sky, and a golden dress that will never wear out, and a stick of barley candy six thousand miles long," said the little girl.
After a long walk they found Hoppletyhop playing jackstraws with a grasshopper, on a bank of violets. He received them very politely, and asked each of them to take a stone among the violets. The grandfather then offered his presents. The dwarf read two sentences in the president's message, and said he could not stand that; it was too stupid. He peeped through the spectacles, and said they gave every thing a twist; and as for tobacco, he could not endure it.
The grandmother set the bowl of tea before him; but it was so hot it burned his mouth, and he kicked it down hill, smashing the old lady's best china bowl into a hundred pieces. He was angry when she presented the looking glass, thinking she wished to make fun of him, because he was so small. The plaited cap, he said, was not made for a man like him to wear, and he tore it all to shreds.
Then, turning to Floribel, he said, "Well, my little girl, what pretty book is that you have in your hand? Ah, the History of Jack the Giant-killer. A splendid fellow was Jack! my great-grandfather. Just the book I have always wished to read. Family archives, you know. And what is this I behold? What, a splendid red chariot! and what a sweet little doll within! How dumb and amiable she appears! She shall certainly be my wife, and these four horses shall draw us all over the world." He sprang into the wagon, seating himself beside the erect little doll, who immediately began to move her quiet eyes; the horses shook their manes, and pranced about; and away drove Hoppletyhop, calling out to Floribel as he disappeared, "Wish your three wishes, and they shall be granted, whatever they may be."
Then her old grandmother and grandfather implored her, with tears in their eyes, to wish they might be young again. Floribel thought that would be delightful, for then they could all go blackberrying together; so she said in a commanding voice, "I wish my grandmother and grandfather to be young again;" but she did not think to say how young, and the next moment was surprised to see two little babies, lying among the violets, kicking and crying with all their might. "O, dear me!" she exclaimed. "The poor little things! How they do cry! What shall I do with them? I do wish grandmother were here, to help me take care of them!" and one little baby was immediately changed back into her grandmother.
"How could you wish me to be old again, Floribel?" she exclaimed. "Pray wish me to be just seventeen." Then the grandfather began to cry most clamorously, and Floribel knew he also wished to be seventeen, instead of a little, helpless baby. She did not know what to do, for with only one wish left, she could not both wish her grandfather to be older, and her grandmother to be younger. While she was standing in this perplexity, half stunned by the cries of her grandfather, and the entreaties of her grandmother, she chanced to spy a little dog running along, wagging its tail, and without thinking, cried, "O dear, I wish I were a little dog, and then I should not have to choose!" and in the twinkling of an eye, to her great dismay, she became a little brown dog, jumping about.
You may imagine how the poor grandmother felt, when she returned home, carrying her old Zachary, a little baby, in her arms, with a brown dog running beside her, instead of her dear little grandchild, who had always been the best child in the world. The villagers ran out of their gates to meet her, and could not keep from laughing, to see their grave neighbor Zachary a little crying baby; but they felt very sorry about Floribel, for one and all loved the merry little girl. "O, we told you how it would be," they said. "We told you the dwarf would do you some mischief." But this did not comfort poor Betsy, who went sorrowfully into her house, shut the door, and would have had a good cry herself, if the baby had not been crying so hard that she had more than she could do to take care of him. "I never saw such a cross child," she exclaimed. "When he was my old Zachary, he was very good natured; but now he is little Zach, I can hardly stay in the house with him." She laid him on the bed, hoping he would fall asleep; but he screamed as if he had never dreamt of such a thing as sleeping. The little dog barked as if it fain would do something, and at last hopped on to the bed, and softly patted the baby to sleep with one of its fore paws, and then, wearied with the adventures of the day, fell asleep itself, leaving the old lady to her lonely meditations.
The next morning the baby and dog awoke very early, as little dogs and babies always do; so that the poor grandmother had to rise, when she would gladly have slept four hours longer, to give them some breakfast. Then she looked about for something to dress the baby in. She opened the closet, and there hung old Zachary's best Sunday coat. Sad as she felt, she could not help smiling to think how funny he would look in it now. She took down a white dress of Floribel's, and began to cut the sleeves and waist smaller, that it might fit the baby. O, how troubled the little dog was, to see her cutting up the pretty new dress, which was to have been worn by Floribel, on her birthday, at a party her cousins were to give for her, at Elderbrook, their pleasant farm, two miles from the village! And when the little dog thought how, on the morrow, all the gay cousins would come for Floribel, and would find only a brown dog, it laid its head on the grandmother's feet, and whined so piteously that she began to weep, and said, "We are having hard times, Floribel! yes, very hard times!" and then the baby began to cry too, as if it understood all about it.
The dog wondered whether it would still be called Floribel; a pretty name for a little girl, it thought, but not at all the name for a dog. Then it remembered the time when it was Floribel, and had a little dog named Frolic, and wondered if any one would love it as much as Floribel did Frolic. Looking round the room it spied out the doll house, with the dolls and pretty furniture in it, and thought it could play with them just as before. But little paws are not so handy as little hands, and the dog broke off the arm of a chair, smashed in a doll's head, and made such a disturbance in the doll house, that the grandmother said, "Come away, puppy; let Floribel's things remain just as she left them."
"Am I not Floribel?" thought the dog, and barked as much as to say so, and looked up so dolefully in the grandmother's face, that she said, "Poor little creature; you had better go out and have a run," and opened the door. The dog could not resist its active little legs, and off it sped, until it came to the school house. The children saw a little brown face with sparkling eyes peeping in, and one whispered to another, "How much that looks like Floribel's Frolic; do you think he has come back again?"
"Why, no," said another; "do you not know it is Floribel herself, changed by the dwarf into a dog?"
"O, dear! what a pity!" exclaimed the children, and some of them began to cry; but others said it must be fine fun to be a little dog, and run about all day, with no lessons to learn.
When the teacher saw the children could think of nothing but the dog, she said it might come in a little while; so it jumped into the room, and ran all round, from one child to another, receiving many a gentle pat and kind word, and at length laid itself down under Floribel's empty seat, looking about with such mournful eyes, that the children said, "Poor fellow! I am sure it would rather be Floribel, and have the hardest arithmetic lesson to learn, than be only a little scampering dog. Would it not, doggy?" and the dog bobbed its head up and down, as much as to say, "Yes, I am sure I should."
After school the dog and children ran races together; but no child could run so fast as the dog, with its four legs. It went frisking home, and the grandmother called out, "Why, Frolic!" thinking, for a moment, it was the dog they had before, and that Floribel would come bounding in after it. From that time she always called it Frolic.
The next day the cousins arrived in their wagon, and stopping at the gate, they saw a little dog in the yard, and called out, "There is Frolic, returned. I wonder why Floribel does not come out. Has she forgotten it is her birthday, and that we were to come and carry her home to the party? And where is grandfather? Why is he not sitting in his arm chair, in the doorway?"
Running up the path, they saw their grandmother at the window, dancing a baby up and down. "Where did grandmother pick up that baby?" they exclaimed, and rushed into the house. There they heard the strange story, and truly astonished they were. "Can this be grandfather?" cried Sarah. "This little cooing baby, my own grandfather, who always said such wise things?"
"And can this little foolish dog be my cousin Floribel, who had such long curls, and such a sweet smile!" exclaimed Robert. "What will mother say?"
"Let us dress it up in Floribel's clothes, and mother will think it is she, when we drive up, in the wagon," said Sarah.
So they put a pink dress and white sun bonnet on the dog; the grandmother tied a straw hat, that had belonged to the doll Rosa, on the baby, who gave rather a wistful glance at old Zachary's black beaver, on the nail, and away they drove.
The mother came to the door to welcome them, and thought she should see Floribel's smiling face under the white bonnet; but O, there was only a dog's sharp nose. "What prank are you playing, children?" she said. "Where have you hidden Floribel?"
"Allow me to introduce grandfather and Floribel," said Sarah, as she and Robert took the baby and the dog from the wagon.
"What foolish children you are! Whose baby is this?"
The children assured their mother that the baby was their grandfather; but it was not until the old lady, with many sighs and tears, had told the tale, that she could believe it. The two women had rather a melancholy day together, although they did enjoy taking care of the baby, and were not quite sure that it was not as entertaining, with its sprightly little ways, as the old gentleman had been with his grand, moral remarks; and certainly its little shrill pipe was not half so bad as the old tobacco pipe. Sarah said that although she loved her grandfather, she could not help being pleased to have him a baby again; he was so cunning and droll, and she did so like to toss him about, and feed him, and make him laugh.
She carried him out in the hay, where the party of children were at play, and great fun they had burying him up in the haycocks, while Frolic frisked about as merry as any of them. At dinner time, when they went to the table, under a wide-spreading oak tree, they found two high chairs, one for Frolic and one for the baby; and there they both sat, with wreaths on their heads, and behaved with the utmost propriety, although Frolic was seen, after dinner, to slip down under the table, and gnaw a bone, as Floribel would not have done, and the baby cried for a cherry, as grandfathers never do.
Frolic had as pleasant a life as a dog could have. Every one in the village was kind to the playful creature, who had once been a favorite little girl, and the children always came flocking about the house, out of school hours, to play with the dog and the baby. Sometimes some curious child would ask them if they did not wish to be changed back again; but the baby would always shake his little bald head, as much as to say no; for he found himself growing larger and stronger, and thought it pleasanter to be a healthy baby than an old gentleman with the rheumatism. But Frolic's head would always bob up and down, as much as to say yes; for it is surely better to be a little girl than a dog. The children suggested various ways in which the change might be effected. "Why not go to the dwarf and ask him to change her back again?" said one. "Because the dwarf has gone to Chinese Tartary with Floribel's tin horses," answered another.
"They might ask the fairies to change them with their wands," said little Amy.
"Nonsense, with your fairies," replied Tom, the blacksmith's son. "I should like to know where fairies are to be found nowadays!"
But Frolic thought a fairy might possibly be found, and got into wild habits of running about in the moonlight, and barking a great deal at bats and night moths, fancying they were fairies; so that all the neighborhood complained, and begged the grandmother to shut the dog up evenings in the wood house; for though a pleasant animal by day, it was altogether too noisy by night.
One day when Frolic was lying at the school house door, where it learned a great deal listening to the recitations, the teacher read aloud the story of Orpheus, who could tame wild animals with his lyre, and then went on to say that she had heard of music by which animals might be changed into persons. Frolic's white ears were pricked up, and every word was treasured, and thought over, day after day. The children wondered why the little dog did not play with them as usual; they did not know how eagerly it was wandering about, listening to every strain of music it could catch. The young ladies who played on the piano could not imagine why that little dog was always under the windows, and why it gave such a hopeful bark every time they began a new Polka or Sehnsucht, and why it whined so sadly every time it was over. When some soldiers marched through the village, they said the dog had better enlist, he seemed so fond of the trumpet and drum. When the hand organ players came and excruciated the villagers with a wiry "Last Rose of Summer," they laughed to see the excited creature jumping about, and one of them would have carried it off for a dancing dog, if the grandmother had not run screaming after him. The old black man who played on the fiddle, for the villagers to dance in the town hall, said he could not guess why Frolic had taken such a fancy to Minerva's Quickstep. The congregation could scarcely refrain from laughing to hear the dismal howl the dog would set up in the church porch when the whole choir started off in "Old Hundred," as if it were "Catch who can;" and young Edgar, who played on the flute in summer twilights, was quite gratified to find Frolic always lying at his feet, with wistful eyes, and imagined himself a second Orpheus.
But one day, when he had played a most unheard-of melody, Frolic thought that might possibly be the magical one, and annoyed the young man so much, by jumping upon him, that he gave the poor creature a kick, forgetting who it had formerly been. That was a cruel kick; for, though to appearance but a brown dog, Frolic had the tender feelings of a little girl, and, shrinking home, passed a most unhappy night in a dark corner of the garret, thinking every one might be unkind, now that its good friend, the flute player, had been so. And in the morning, when the grandmother called, "Frolic, Frolic," it came very slowly down stairs, and did not once go out all day, but lay on the rug, looking very much grieved.
Frolic never quite forgot that kick, and sometimes was even afraid to go among the children, lest one of them might be angry, as the flute player had been, and felt sadder than ever about being a dog. The villagers said, "Why, what has come over our Frolic? It used to seem as merry as a dog could be, scratching at our doors, and stealing our bones; but now it goes moping about in solitary places, just like young Edgar, with his long hair. Poor thing! It is certainly a sad fate, for one who has once been a bright child, the best scholar in school, winning a medal every week, to be only a barking dog."
A year passed on, and the little dog was still seen about the village; sometimes merry and frolicking with the children, but more often walking alone in the fields, or watching over little Zach, who was now old enough to play in the front yard; when one day, as it was taking a walk on the shore of the river, it saw a little girl who had paddled out in an old boat, which was fast filling with water. In her fright the girl had dropped her paddle overboard, and had no means of getting ashore. Frolic scampered off to a man who was walking at some distance, but seeing it was Edgar, who had given him that sad kick, for a moment scarcely ventured to approach him; then, thinking the little girl would be drowned if it did not make haste, it ran to Edgar, and jumped on him, pulling and barking. "Poor Frolic," said Edgar, "I treated you unkindly once, and now you forgive me." But Frolic pulled harder and harder, and ran towards the river, and then back again to Edgar, so that at last he thought something was the matter, and hastened to the shore. In a few minutes he had rowed out in another boat, and reached the sinking one just in time to save his own sister Lucy from drowning. O, how they both thanked Frolic when they reached the shore! and Edgar said he would never, in all his life, hurt a living thing again; it was bad enough to be a dog, without being kicked for it.
From that time Lucy and Frolic became the greatest friends. Wherever one was seen, the other was sure to be near. Those who passed her house would see Lucy singing at her work, under the great elm tree, and little Frolic lying close at her feet, looking up in her face. She always took the dog with her when she went with Edgar to a neighboring town, where he taught a singing school. One evening the scholars were to give a concert, and Edgar said they had better not take Frolic, lest he should bark; but Lucy answered, "O, let us take the poor little thing; it loves music better than any thing. I sometimes think it will sing itself, some day, instead of barking, and be one of your best scholars;" and the dog looked so entreatingly at Edgar, that he consented to take it.
As they drove along, Frolic peeped from the bottom of the chaise, where it was curled up at Lucy's feet, and saw the crimson sunset. A sudden thought came, that it would be the last sunset it would see with a dog's eyes. When it scrambled up the stairs to the concert room, it thought, "I shall never go pattering up stairs again on dog's paws;" and when it entered the room, and saw the hundred little girls in white dresses and blue sashes, it looked about very gravely, saying to itself, "Soon I shall be a little girl in a white dress and blue sash;" and yet it knew not how all this was to happen.
The concert began; chorus and solo, the sweet, clear strains arose in the air, and at every one the dog pricked up its ears; but every strain found and left it a little brown dog, lying on the step of the platform, and it began to think that a dog it should always remain. Just as it was in despair came a new piece, a solo, tender and entreating, as if a spirit were seeking its way through the lonely night air; and then a full chorus joined in, joyous and triumphant, with the tender tone running through it. Frolic lay with its head pressed close on its fore paws, thrilled through and through by the music. When it was over, Lucy turned to look for her dog, and saw a child, with rich brown curls, sitting on the step. "Have you any where seen a little brown dog, with a coral necklace on?" she asked.
"I am the little dog," answered the child. "And here is the coral necklace you gave me, round my neck."
"You look too good to steal my dog's necklace," said Lucy.
"Do I look too good to be your little dog?"
"Nobody could be better than Frolic, who forgave my brother, and saved my life, and is so gentle to every one."
"Have you forgotten me, Lucy, in the two years I have been Frolic? Do you not know your friend Floribel?"
Lucy threw her arms around her. "O Floribel, is it you? You have come back again! How glad I am! And yet I feel sorry to lose little Frolic, too. I wish you could be both Frolic and Floribel."
Edgar was gladly surprised when a little girl came out with Lucy, to ride home with them, instead of Frolic. "I owe it all to you," she said, "that I have become a little girl. It was your beautiful music." They had a lovely drive home in the moonlight, and Floribel staid with Lucy all night. Her grandmother did not much mind whether a little dog was at home or not. In the morning, instead of an eager paw scratching at the door, she heard a little girl's happy morning voice, saying, "Let me in, grandmother, please." When she opened it, in bounded Floribel, kissed her grandmother, and caught up little Zach, dancing all about the room, in great delight.
"Pray, be still," cried her grandmother, "and let me see you. Are you really my own little Floribel, come back?"
"Yes, grandmother, yes, Zach. Frolic has gone, and Floribel has come."
"'Ittle dog done, 'ittle dirl tome; me 'ove 'ittle dog, me 'ove 'ittle dirl," was Zach's grave remark.
The old lady said, "Yes, my child, it is you; what would your grandfather say?"
Floribel laughed, and looked at Zach, but thought she would not remind her grandmother that he was her grandfather. In the two years the old lady had taken care of the baby and dog, she had almost forgotten they were ever any thing else; and although she could never have her wish, to be young again herself, she almost seemed to become so, living with these two children, who were as happy as kittens together.
A grand festival was held in the village to welcome Floribel's return, and the neighbors said, "We shall all miss little Frolic, but we are right glad to have our happy, singing Floribel among us again; and we hope she will never have any more wishes granted."
"O, dear," exclaimed Floribel, "I do not know about that. But one thing I am sure of; I shall never wish to be a little brown dog again."
THE LADY INTELLETTA.
Little children in the wide world, I have no one here to whom I can speak; so I must write to you, for it will be some consolation to think that you may read my letters, and feel sorry to think that a little child, like yourselves, can be living as I am.
I am writing with an opal pen, at a mother-of-pearl table; and you may see what pretty violet paper I have, with a silver edge. The room is of ivory, delicately carved, and chased with silver, and all around are arches, in which stand fair statues. But there is no window, except one in the ceiling, formed of a single pearl, through which the softened sunlight falls. This room opens, by a silver door, into another, in which sits a fair and stately lady, with hair like heavy folds of gold, and eyes like the blue sky. Her features are carved like those of a statue, and she is almost as pale and still. Her blue silken robe falls richly around her, and a white flower lies, like marble, upon her hair. She sits and gazes into the fire.
Now, this fire is one of the things I wish to tell you about. It is the very brightest fire I ever saw; but there is no motion in it—no flame, no smoke, no glowing coals, that take every moment new forms. It is always still, still, and seems to be made of shining metal. I wonder how the lady can sit and gaze into it as she does. And then there is no warmth in it. No, it is not in the least like our dear wood fire at home. O, how I long for that! For you must know this house is not my home, and that I am now a poor little prisoner here. And yet, how I once wished to come hither! I will tell you about it.
My own home is a brown cottage by the shore of a great lake, over which the sun brightly shines. Our garden stretches down to the very waves of the lake, so that my violets are often sprinkled by their light foam. In this garden I played and worked with my sister Mary. We planted our seeds in the spring, and in summer watered and weeded among the sunny flowers, while mother sat at the door and held the baby, who laughed, and stretched out her little hands for the blossoms we threw her. How I wish I could see that darling baby rolling down the steps into the grass! But I am afraid she will be grown up before I shall see her again. Why could I not have been contented with all that happy life? But I had heard there was a great castle beyond the lake, in which dwelt a beautiful lady, and I dreamed of that lady day and night. When I went in the morning to bathe in the lake, and the waves, all golden in the sunrise, broke softly over my feet, I fancied they had brought me a message from her; and at evening I would lie down among the tall grasses, and gaze over the sunset waters, longing to follow the light to her castle door, whence I thought it shone.
The lake was so wide I could not see the other shore; but I knew that the road which passed our house ran all around it, and I often walked a long way upon it, hoping to reach the castle.
One day, when I had strayed far from home, a coach, all glittering in its swiftness, came sweeping by. "O, take me in, take me in!" I exclaimed; and in a moment I was sitting beside a lady richly arrayed, and we were speeding on. The lady did not speak to me, but gazed out of the window, so that I could only see the veil, that fell around her like shimmering mist. Thus we drove on and on, and every thing passed us so swiftly that I could see nothing distinctly. Indeed, I did not look out much, but turned towards the lady, hoping to catch a glimpse of her beautiful face.
At length we stopped before a strange, dark building, that seemed to rise up into the very sky. "Can this be the castle I have so longed for?" I thought in surprise. High steps led to the entrance, and on each side stood a lion with a woman's head, carved in stone. The door opened silently, and we entered into a marble hall, and went up broad marble stairs.
The lady guided me into a room lighted from the ceiling, where I found a small white bed and a marble bath. Nothing else. "Is this to be my room?" I wondered. "I should think there might at least be a looking glass: how shall I know whether my hair is smooth?" But I did not dare to say this to the still lady. She then walked before me into another room, and we seated ourselves at a marble table. "Every thing is marble," I said to myself, "even the lady." Then an old man entered with a white beard, that looked like icicles frozen upon a rock. "Marble too," I thought; but his eyes were very gentle. Not a word was spoken; but white porcelain dishes stood before us, filled with the most delicate food, and we ate in silence. Then the lady arose, and I followed her into a lofty room. She seated herself, and gazed into the fire, while I stood beside her, waiting for her to speak; but she did not notice me. At length I asked, "Shall I not go home now?" She did not glance at me, she did not speak. I looked around the room. Mirrors, mirrors, every where; and in every mirror I saw the lady, but started when I observed, that I nowhere saw myself beside her. I went nearer to them. There were the lady and the fire, reflected and re-reflected a thousand times; but poor little I was nowhere to be seen. "Am I not, then, any where?" I exclaimed. "The lady does not hear me! The mirrors do not hold me!" I clasped my hands together to feel if there was any real life in them, but almost thought there was not, they were so cold. I went into the marble hall. Silent all; ah, how silent! I opened door after door. Silver and blue were all the rooms; no crimson, no gold. Statues and columns were all around; no paintings, no flowers. Was I not in a great cave full of stalactites? Longing to tread once more the green earth, I ran down the broad flight of stairs; but the entrance door was closed, and I could not remember the word by which the lady had opened it. I went up the stairs and sought the old man, but every room was empty. At length I found a little wooden staircase, that led higher and higher, to a narrow door. I knocked; no answer. I lifted the wooden latch; it did not open. I sat on the threshold, for I liked that wooden staircase. It was like the one that leads to my own little chamber at home, where Mary and I slept so sweetly together. I fancied what Mary was doing at that moment. It must be night, and they must be wondering where I was. I would try to find a window, and perhaps I could climb out. I looked into every room. They were all lighted by windows, high, high in the ceiling, and I could not hope to reach them. I returned to the lady's mirrored room. There she sat in her hundred mirrors, but she saw me not. I went into my little room, and weeping, fell asleep, to dream that my mother wept for me at home.
In the morning, on first awakening, I wondered where Mary was, for I forgot where I was myself; but the faint light, that fell like early dawn through the high window, brought all to my remembrance. A fresh, white dress lay upon my bed; I put it on, and glided down stairs. The lady still sat by the fire. "Had she not slept?" I wondered. "Had she not dreamed of flowers and falling dews, of rosy faces, and of mother's love, as I had?" She arose silently, and I followed her to the room where we had taken our supper the evening before. The old man entered. The lady bowed her head low. I bowed mine. The dishes appeared upon the table, I knew not from whence, and we again ate in silence. The fruits were fair to see, but seemed to have no flavor, no juice. The only drink was water, in crystal vases. How I did want a cup of good old Brindle's milk, foaming and warm, as we have it at home.
All that long day I wandered up and down. Once I saw the old man, at the end of a long corridor. I thought of his gentle eyes, and sprang towards him; but he vanished, I could not tell how. I began to think he was a phantom; that it was all a strange dream. If there had only been a bird to sing, or a frog to hop about, or any thing living! But the lady was so still she scarcely seemed to breathe, and the old man came and went like a shadow. There was not even a breath of wind. Finest lace curtains hung in the rooms, but they never stirred. How much pleasanter was my little muslin curtain at home, that fluttered so lightly in the summer breeze! And then my morning glories, that peeped into my window; they were all in full bloom, pink, purple, and white, and I was not there to see them.
At length I found my way into this ivory room. The statues here are not as stern as in the rest of the house. Some are very lovely, and there is even one of a mother holding a child, which makes me think of my mother and our little baby. O, how many hours I have passed at the feet of this statue, weeping as I never wept before!
I know not how many days I have been here, but it seems a very long while. Did you ever wake in the night, when it was all still, and you could see the faint starlight through the window? and did it not seem as if you were awake a very, very long time, and as if a great many thoughts came, which you never had before? and yet, perhaps, it is only a little while. So it is with me. It may be only a few days since I left home; but it seems to me as if the summer must have passed, as if all the flowers were faded, and the leaves fallen from the trees; and yet father may still be mowing his grass, and Mary playing in the hay. Happy, happy Mary!
I would write to her and my mother, and tell them where I am, and entreat them to come for me, but I know not how to send a letter. There is certainly no post office here. I have no way to send my letter to you; but I cannot speak to any one in this silent castle, and it is a pleasure to write. If I direct it to all the children in the world, perhaps one of them may some day come here and find it. I shall not seal my letter, because there is no sealing wax here, and no seal. I think the lady never writes letters to any one; but sometimes she writes and throws her paper into the fire. There it shrivels up in a moment, and the fire burns, or rather glitters, just as before. O, that fire! It seems more like a keen frost than a fire, and I never dare to approach it. I never look at it except in the mirrors.
In an old, dark cabinet, curiously carved, standing near the fire, are a few books, some large and some very small. They are bound in black leather, and clasped with jewels. I take them down, but cannot unclasp them. Sometimes the old man comes in and reads aloud to the lady. Then she turns her face from the fire, a little towards him. Ah, that is pleasant. His voice is like the summer wind, and I sit beside him to drink it in, but cannot understand his words. Yet they have a strange power over me, and I often weep as I do by the mother's statue. He sometimes looks mildly down upon me, and has even spoken to me; but I did not understand what he wished to say.
One day, when he left the room, I followed him, very timidly, with softest steps. He passed slowly through the great halls, and down a dark staircase, which I had never before seen. Yet it was not altogether dark; but the light was different from the clear, silvery light that shines through the upper halls. I heard a heavy door open and close, and all was hushed. I could not find the door, and after groping a long while for it, I went back to the ivory room, and cried myself to sleep, at the foot of my dear ivory statue.
But you must not think I am always unhappy here. How can I be, where every thing is so beautiful? And another wondrous thing is, that the rooms are always changing; not much, but a little, from day to day. I have never seen any thing move except the silken lady and the silver-haired old man; and these, with a motion that is not like life; yet I can perceive that there is a change—just as, while you are looking at the clouds, you can see that they have taken new forms and tints, and yet cannot tell how it is. I sometimes think there must be invisible spirits in the castle, there are such strange lights in the rooms. Perhaps the statues are enchanted queens and princes, for there seems to be a presence in each one. I wander from one to another, and gaze, and gaze. O, how lovely they are! If they were only alive, it would be almost too great a pleasure to live with such beautiful people. I sometimes lay my hand upon them, to see if they are not warm, but quickly draw it back again, they are so very cold. No lips smile for me, no eye looks into mine, no hand is stretched out towards me.
How I wish some of you, little children, were here! Any child! The poorest beggar, in her rags, if she could but speak and move. If the color would come into her cheeks, and the tears into her eyes, I would throw my arms around her, and kiss her a hundred times. O, she would not be made of marble. But good night now. It is very late, and only a little light comes in through the pearl window. I have written a very long letter for to-day. To-morrow I will write again, only I shall have nothing to tell, for the days are all alike here. Good night.
* * * * *
Dear Children: I have something new to tell you. One morning, when the lady arose from the breakfast table, she went down the broad staircase, and I joyfully followed her. She spoke the magic word at the door. It opened! We passed down the steps, between the two winged lions, and stepped into the glittering carriage. Away it sped. I could not see the driver, but only that there were four white horses. On we flew, faster and faster. I gazed out of the window at the green meadows, the woods, the streams; but we passed them so rapidly that they were all mingled. I could just see that there was something moving about near the houses, and at work in the fields—men and women, I suppose; but they were as transparent as air, and I could see every thing through them. Mere ghosts they seemed to be. Now I could understand why the lady took so little notice of me. I, and all these people, were like wreaths of mist to her. I turned towards her. She was looking out with the same calm eyes. It was all unreal to her, but she was very real to me, very beautiful. I wished she were not. I wished she were not in the carriage; that it would stop; that I could get out, and run, dancing and shouting, through the fields. I broke the silence. I implored the lady to stop the carriage; to let me go and find my home; to let me gather one buttercup, one blade of grass. She drew her glimmering veil more closely around her; I believe she thought the wind blew a little. On, on, we went! At length we stopped, and I thought it was my mother's house. I looked out for the little brown walls, the grass plot, the baby. I saw only the great castle, frowning down upon me, and the lions with women's faces looking at me with large, tranquil eyes. When we alighted from the carriage I tried to escape, but the lady's power was upon me, and I had to follow her up those stone steps. The door opened and closed. I threw myself down by it; I pressed myself against it. I wept as if my heart would break. I know not how long I lay there. All night, perhaps. It may have been yesterday when I flew so fast through the green fields. I know nothing about time here. I have come to write to you again. It is night again. My paper is all wet with my tears. O, if my mother were only here to kiss me to sleep!
* * * * *
Dear Children: To-day something pleasant has happened. I have found a little room I never saw before, away off in the corner of a long entry; and will you believe it? there are the remains of a wood fire in it—real ashes, which I could blow about with my breath, only I do not like to disturb them, and a piece of burnt brand. Some one must have lived in this room, and perhaps not so very long ago. It is hung with flowered chintz curtains, like those around my bed at home. It made me so happy to see them, I kissed the flowers and the buds on them; and yet it made me sad, too, I longed so for my own little room. I lifted the curtains all around the walls, hoping to find a window, and found a little one in a corner, but the shutters were closed. I thought that it might overlook the lake and the hills, and that perhaps some little girl had once sat there with the soft breeze blowing upon her, and she had seen the dancing waves of the lake, and far across it our little brown house, which I would rather see now than the glancing waters I once loved so well. I pushed and pulled; I looked for a spring, and ran over all kinds of strange words in hopes to find one that would open it; but all in vain. There was no bar across the shutter, and yet it was firmly closed. Then I looked around the room. There was a small statue carved in wood of a boy, with an extinguished torch in one hand, stretching out the other as if he were groping in the darkness. There was another carving in wood of a child lying asleep, and an angel bending over it binding a wreath of roses on its head. I looked at this angel, with her softly-folded wings and loving face, for a long while, and at the little sleeping child, and thought, perhaps an angel is binding my head with roses while I sleep in this marble house, for my life here all seems like a sleep and a dream.
There was nothing else in the room except a wooden footstool and a spinning wheel, the broken thread hanging upon it. On the walls was a picture of a child with a halo around its head. It might not be a very good painting, but the face was lovely, and seemed to say, "Come with me." There was a little straw mat beneath this picture, as if some one had knelt before it; at least I did. Then I drew the footstool up, and sat near the ashes, on the hearth. I tried to imagine I was sitting by the fire at home, close to my mother's side, on my little footstool, while Mary, and the baby, and father were frolicking together, as they always do at night; but O, there was only the dead brand. And yet I would rather sit and look into those ashes, and think what a pleasant fire was once there, or might be, if rekindled, than gaze, as the lady does, into that hard, glittering fire, which is always the same.
While I sat there, feeling very homesick and sad, I spied a little cupboard by the side of the fireplace. I opened it rather hesitatingly, for I did not know what might be there, and found—what do you think?—a book! You cannot tell what a joy that was to me, you who have whole shelves of books. But if you had been shut up for a long while in a great castle where there was no person who would speak to you, no book which you could read, not so much as a kitten or a fly to play with, and nothing to do, day after day, but wander about and admire curtains and statues, and a lady like a statue,—would you not be glad to find a book you could read, even Mother Goose? At first I hardly dared to open it, for I was afraid it might be in some unknown language, and that would have been too great a disappointment; but at length I peeped in, and there was a little hymn I used to sing with my mother, and another and another. It was the very same hymn book I had at home—one just like it I mean, only very worn and old, as if it had been read a great many times. And I shall read it many, many times; for although I once knew all the hymns in it by heart, I have forgotten them now. But they will soon return to my memory. I sat on the little stool singing them over to myself in a low voice, until it seemed as if my mother were really singing them with me; and now I shall go to bed and sing myself to sleep with one of them.
* * * * *
Dear Children: I have not written to you for several days, because I have not needed to write, I have been so happy with my hymn book. And besides, I have found in the cupboard some small, sharp tools, with which the images in the little room must have been carved, and I am carving a figure on the wooden stool. It is very pretty, I think. It is our little baby feeding a robin. Perhaps you would not think it a good likeness of baby, but I do, it is such a chubby little thing. Only I cannot carve very well, I have had so little practice. But I draw a great deal from the statues in the ivory room, and am learning very fast. I sing to myself while I am at work; and when I wander, singing, in the great halls, to rest myself, there comes a strange echo through the lofty rooms. One day, when I was dancing along, humming a little song I used to sing with Mary, I met the old man, and he laid his hand upon my head. It seemed for a moment as if it must be my own father, and I almost threw my arms around him, but was afraid of the long, silvery beard; and yet it does not look like icicles now, but is soft and flowing. It made me think of a picture father has of a wise old man named Eli, and I shall always call him Eli now, for I like that people should have names. I think the lady's name must be Intelletta, because I saw it written in a book that was unclasped, one day. It is a pretty name—do you not think so? But I do not like it half so well as Mary.
One day I saw a strange sight. I was sitting on the lower step of the wooden staircase that leads to the narrow turret door, when the lady passed me by, without noticing me, however. She carried a dazzling sword erect in her hand, so that the point gleamed above her head. It was very splendid, to see her thus mounting the stairs. She stood before the door, but it would not open, although the sword flashed as if it would flash its way through. She waited very long, and then came slowly down, with her lips pressed together. I thought she gave one little glance at me. I arose and followed her, for whenever I see her move I always follow her. She seated herself by the fire, but did not look into it. The sword fell from her hand, and she leaned her head against one of the jewel-clasped books. The old man soon entered, unclasped the book, and read to her. She rose from her chair, and sat on a cushion at his feet—a little cushion near mine; and yet she did not see me.
I will draw you a picture of the lady ascending the stairs with the shining sword, and yet I can hardly venture to do so. It will not look like her, for I cannot draw the glittering light in her face, and that marble flower in her hair; that is too handsome for me to draw. But there is no fragrance in it, and I would rather have the smallest violet that blooms in my own dear garden. Good night.
* * * * *
Dear Children: I have not written to you for a long time, and you will be glad to know the reason why I have not. I was drawing one day with my pretty opal pen, when I heard a fluttering sound above my head, and there was a rosy bird flying about and singing. O, I knew that song so well! I often heard it at home when I was lying half asleep and half awake in the morning, and when I was quite awake I had often looked through all the garden, in every vine and tree, but had never found the bird; and now it had come to sing to me again. It alighted on the table. I did not touch it, but sat with my hands folded, looking and listening; and I listened even after it had flown away, and all was silent again. It flew away through the pearl window in the ceiling, which was open, and has remained so ever since; and now I can look up into the blue sky and see clouds drifting by, and the sun shining in. It shines directly upon me and makes me so happy.
After the rosy bird had gone, I missed my drawing of the lady with the sword, and I think he must have carried it away. Perhaps he will fly with it to mother, and she will wonder what it is. She will not know that I drew it, for I never drew before. If she should know it was my drawing, she would send me a little note by the rosy bird.
* * * * *
Evening. Yes, the bird came again to-day, and brought me a blue forget-me-not. I know it very well; it came from Mary's garden. You would have thought some great misfortune had befallen me, if you had seen how I wept over that little flower; but it was only because it made me too happy. I did so long to fly away with the bird. All I could do was to write a little note, and tie it under his wing, hoping mother would find it. So I wrote,—
"Dearest Mother: I am your own little Anna. I am in the castle of the Lady Intelletta. I wish you could see how beautiful it is here. I will come home as soon as I can possibly get out. Cannot you come for me, mother?"
* * * * *
Dear Children: The next day the bird brought me a note. It was written on a bit of paper torn out of a book; but I did not care for that. It said,—
"Anna dear: Why have you gone away from us? Mother is so ill weeping for you, that she cannot come for you. You must come to us. Your own sister, Mary."
Then there was one word added, in a trembling hand—"Mother." I knew who had written that.
I took the note and went to the lady. I threw myself sobbing at her feet. I entreated her, if she had any pity, to let me go home. I clasped my arms around her silken robe. She did not draw it away; she did not know I was there. The rosy bird flew into the room and sang. She heard him. She rose and followed him. He flew out of my open window. The lady gazed up as if she had never seen the drifting clouds before. I fell once more at her feet. She looked at me a moment, passed her hand over my forehead, as if striving to recollect something, but resumed her seat in silence. It was a long while before I could control myself; but at last I sat down and wrote a note to mother, begging her to be well, and to come for me, and promising never to leave her again. I sent it by the bird, and he brought me an answer, to tell me that mother was better, and they were all coming for me the next day.
I searched all over the castle for the gentle Eli, for I thought he would let me out. I went up the wooden stairs, and down the dark stairs, and through every corridor, but he was nowhere to be found. I thought they were all standing outside the great door, but tried in vain to open it. O, how wearied and bruised I was, with throwing myself against it! At night the bird came with a note which told me they had all come for me, and had gone away; that they could not believe I was in the dark castle, for I had said I was in a beautiful place, and they should wait now until I came for them. And I also must wait, and be as patient as I can. I am happier than I was before, because the rosy bird comes every day, and brings me either a note from home, or a flower, or a leaf. The soft air comes in through my window, and the sunshine, and I know they all love me at home, and have not forgotten me. So I go on drawing, that I may have copies of all these statues to hang on our walls, and I have almost finished carving the footstool. How pleased baby will be when she sees it! Ah, when will that be! darling little baby!
* * * * *
Dear Children: Happiest of the happy am I! Now let me tell you. I was just finishing off my footstool, and thinking whether the baby's hair was quite curly enough, when the door gently opened and the old man entered. How he had found my little room I could not imagine. He looked at the footstool, then taking it in one hand and leading me by the other, went through the long corridors to the lady's room. He opened one of the great books, and there was a picture of a baby playing with a robin-red-breast, just like my carving. The lady looked from the carving to the picture, from the picture to the carving, and at last seated herself upon my little wooden footstool, with her rich dress sweeping the floor on either side, and held out her hand to me. I put mine into it,—it was not so very cold,—and she sat looking into my face for some long minutes. I looked into her eyes, and they made me think of the evenings when I used to lie on the frozen snow, and gaze up at the bright winter stars, shining through the bare branches of the elm tree. At length she said to me, "How did you come to this castle?" I could not but smile at the question, and answered, "I came in a carriage with you, but you did not see me, perhaps; I was hidden by your glimmering veil."
"Ah, that veil! I will never wear it again," she said; and then I had to tell her about my mother and the baby, the flowers and the bees, and all we did at home. And now that she would hear me, I told her how I longed to be there once again, and entreated her to let me go. "Yes, we will go," she said, and led me to the door, which flew open.
For a moment I so feared to see that splendid, never-stopping carriage, ready to receive us, that I did not venture to look out; but when I took a peep, and saw it was not there, I sprang upon the sphinx, ran along its back, and gave a great jump from its head, quite across the gravel walk, into the grass beyond, and rolled down to the bottom of the bank. I scrambled up again, my white dress stained with the grass, and saw the stately lady smiling at me. I ran off to gather handfuls of dandelions and buttercups, and then away I went to the lake, to let the little waves break over my feet. O, how delightful that was! I heard the lady singing a low cadence like that of the waves, and saw how beautiful she was in the sunlight, so much more lovely than when she sat by that spell-bound fire. How glad mother will be to have me bring this queenly lady home! I thought, and walked along with my hand in hers. But when we came to our garden wall, over I sprang, and fell down into my violet bed. O, how sweet my violets were! I felt as if I could lie there forever among them, but remembered the lady, and gathering two violets, gave her one, and put the other into my bosom. "But you will crush it, child," she said.
"O, yes, I love it so!" I answered, and was bounding through the garden, when I suddenly thought it would not be very polite to let the lady find her way alone; so I gave her my hand, and led her to the house. There sat my mother, with the baby asleep in the cradle beside her. What happened then I do not know; but I found myself sitting in my mother's lap, with my head on her shoulder, and could hear, as if in a dream, a murmuring sound of the wind in the locust tree, the bees, the brook, the lady's clear tones, and sweetest of all, my mother's low voice answering her. Father and Mary also were sitting on the step, and baby lay sleeping in the cradle, with her dear little face looking just as it did when I went away. Soon we all went in to tea. How the urn smoked, and how good the baked apples tasted! I could not help smiling to see the lady eat bunns, for I thought of her handsome frosted cakes that never had any raisins in them. After tea I undressed the baby; she really seemed to remember me, and we had a grand frolic together. Then I was so happy at night, when Mary and I fell asleep with the moon shining in through the vine leaves twining around our little window! I believe the rosy bird sang in the jessamine all the night long; at least I dreamed that he did.
This morning I have been all over the farm, calling upon the cows, the sheep, and the chickens. Old Nabby, my brown hen, has ten little chickens, and I have come home just in time to take care of them. I left her sitting on her nest. Will you believe it? father has not quite got through his haying yet. They say I have not been gone such a very long time, but it seems a year and a day to me, and mother says it seems even longer to her; for until the bird brought the note, she did not know what had become of me, and was afraid I was drowned in the lake.
The lady has invited us all to go to the castle to-morrow, and father says he will row us across the lake. Will not that be delightful? I have always so longed to sail on the lake! I cannot say that I care much to see the castle again, but I shall like to show mother and Mary all the beautiful statues, and to bring home my drawings and baby's footstool. Good by now; there is mother calling me to dinner. While she went out to call father I just stole a little time to write to you, here in my room, at my little rosewood desk. It is not so pretty as the mother-of-pearl table, but I like it better. It was my last birthday present.
Dear Children: I believe there was never before such a sunny day as yesterday. Early in the morning we sailed off in the boat, with the water splashing and dancing around us, baby and all so happy. We were three hours sailing across the lake. I did not know that it was so wide. We landed on the slope before the castle; the great doors were thrown open, and in the dark archway stood the old man, looking like a picture, with his long, white beard, and flowing hair. He welcomed mother to the castle; then the lady bowed her stately head, and we all entered.
The old man took my mother by the hand, and led her down the mysterious stairs. I think they must have entered the heavily-closing door, which I could not find when I had once groped about there; for when she returned she wore upon her breast a jewel that glowed like living fire. Then he led her up the wooden stairs, bearing her baby in her arms. She lifted the little latch, and entered the turret door, while the lady and I waited below. When she came out of the door it seemed as if the sun were descending upon us, such a radiant light was in her face. She gave her hand to the lady Intelletta, then stooped and kissed me upon the forehead with a kiss that was like a burning star.