And so the years passed. Our stone man had grown very old, and because he was now unable to do hard work, he was sent back to his cliff and set to sew sacks.
One day the chaplain on his round paused before the stone man, who sat and sewed.
"Well," said the clergyman, "and are you never to leave this cliff?"
"How would that be possible?" replied the stone man.
"You will go as soon as you come to see that you did wrong."
"If ever I find a human being who does not only do right, but more than is right, I will believe that I did wrong! But I don't believe that there is such a being."
"To do more than that which is right is to have compassion. May it please God that you will soon come to know it!"
One day the stone man was sent to repair the road on the cliff, which he had not seen for, perhaps, twenty years.
It was again a warm summer's day, and from the passing steamers, bright and beautiful as butterflies, came the sounds of music and gay laughter.
When he arrived at the headland he found that the cliff had disappeared under a lovely green wood, whose millions of leaves glittered and sparkled in the breeze like small waves. There were tall, white birch trees and trembling aspens, and ash trees grew on the shore.
Everything was just as it had been in his dream. At the foot of the trees tall grasses nodded, butterflies played in the sunshine, and humble-bees buzzed from flower to flower. The birds were singing, but he could not understand what they said, and therefore he knew that it was not a dream.
The cursed mountain had been transformed into a mountain of bliss, and he could not help thinking of the prophet and the gourd.
"This is mercy and compassion," whispered a voice in his heart, or perhaps it was a warning.
And when a steamer passed, the faces of the passengers did not grow gloomy, but brightened at the sight of the beautiful scenery; he even fancied that he saw some one wave a handkerchief, as people on a steamer do when they pass a summer resort.
He walked along a path beneath waving trees. It is true, there was not one lime tree; but he did not dare to wish for one, for fear the birches might turn into rods. He had learnt that much.
As he walked through a leafy avenue, he saw in the distance a white wall with a green gate. And somebody was playing on an instrument which was not an organ, for the movement was much jollier and livelier. Above the wall the pretty roof of a villa was visible, and a yellow and blue flag fluttered in the wind.
And he saw a gaily coloured ball rise and fall on the other side of the wall; he heard the chattering of children's voices, and the clinking of plates and glasses told him that a table was being laid.
He went and looked through the gate. The syringa was in full flower, and the table stood under the flowering shrubs; children were running about, the piano was being played and somebody sang a song.
"This is Paradise," said the voice within him.
The old man stood a long time and watched, so long that in the end he broke down, overcome by fatigue, hunger, and thirst, and all the misery of life.
Then the gate was opened and a little girl in a white dress came out. She carried a silver tray in her hand, and on the tray stood a glass filled with wine, the reddest wine which the old man had ever seen. And the child went up to the old man and said:
"Come now, daddy, you must drink this!"
The old man took the glass and drank. It was the rich man's wine, which had grown a long way off in the sunny South; and it tasted like the sweetness of a good life when it is at its very best.
"This is compassion," said his own old broken voice. "But you, child, in your ignorance, you wouldn't have brought me this wine if you had known who I am. Do you know what I am?"
"Yes, you are a prisoner, I know that," replied the little girl.
When the old stone man went back, he was no longer a man of stone, for something in him had begun to quicken.
And as he passed a steep incline, he saw a tree with many trunks, which looked like a shrub. It was more beautiful than the others; it was a buckthorn tree, but the old man did not know it. A restless little bird, black and white like a swallow, fluttered from branch to branch. The peasants call it tree-swallow, but its name is something else. And it sat in the foliage and sang a sweet sad song:
In mud, in mud, in mud you died, From mud, from mud, from mud you rose.
It was exactly as it had been in his dream. And now the old man understood what the tree-swallow meant.
THE MYSTERY OF THE TOBACCO SHED
Listen to the story of a young opera-singer who was so beautiful that the people in the street turned round to stare at her when she passed. And she was not only very beautiful, but she had a better voice than most singers.
The conductor of the orchestra, who was also a composer, came and laid his heart and all his possessions at her feet. She took his possessions, but left his heart lying in the dust.
Now she was famous, more famous than any other singer; she drove through the streets in her elegant victoria, and nodded to her portrait, which greeted her from all the stationers' and booksellers' shop windows.
And as her fame grew, her picture appeared on post-cards, soap and cigar boxes. Finally her portrait was hung up in the foyer of the theatre, amongst all the dead immortals; and as a result her head began to swell.
One day she was standing on a pier, the sea was very rough and there was a strong current. The conductor, of course, stood by her side, and a great many young men were present, paying her court. The beauty was playing with a rose; all the cavaliers coveted the flower, but she said that it should become the property of him who knew how to earn it, and she flung it far out into the sea. The cavaliers looked at it with longing glances, but the conductor jumped off the pier without a moment's hesitation, swam like a sea-gull on the crests of the waves and soon held the flower between his lips.
The cavaliers cheered, and the swimmer could read the promise of love in his lady's eyes. But when he struck out for the shore, he found that he could not move from the spot. He had been caught in the current. The singer on the pier did not realise his danger, but merely thought he was fooling, and therefore she laughed. But the conductor, who saw death staring him in the face, misunderstood her laughter; a bitter pang shot through his heart, and then his love for her was dead.
However, he came ashore at last, with bleeding hands, for he had cut them at the pier in many places.
"I will marry you," said the beauty.
"No, thank you," replied the conductor; turned, and walked away.
This was an offence for which she swore that she would be revenged.
Only the people connected with the theatre, who understand these things, know how it happened that the conductor lost his post. He had been firmly established, and it took two years to get rid of him.
But he was got rid of; she watched the downfall of her benefactor and triumphed, and her head swelled still more, in fact it swelled so much that everybody noticed it. The public, who realised that the heart underneath the beautiful form was wicked, ceased to be touched by her singing, and no longer believed in her smiles and tears.
She soon became aware of it, and it embittered her. But she continued ruling at the theatre, suppressed all young talents, and used her influence with the press to ruin their careers.
She lost the love and respect of her audiences, but she did not mind that as long as she remained in power; and as she was wealthy, influential, and contented, she throve and prospered.
Now, when people are prosperous, they do not lose flesh; on the contrary, they are inclined to grow stout; and she really began to grow corpulent. It came so gradually that she had no idea of it until it was too late. Bang! The downhill journey is ever a fast journey, and in her case it was accom-plished with startling rapidity. She tried every remedy—in vain! She kept the best table in the whole town, but she starved herself, and the more she starved, the stouter she grew.
One more year, and she was no longer a great star, and her pay was reduced. Two more years and she was half forgotten, and her place was filled by others. After the third year she was not re-engaged, and she went and rented an attic.
"She is suffering from an unnatural corpulency," said the stage-manager to the prompter.
"It's not corpulency at all," replied the prompter, "she's just puffed up with pride."
Now she lived in the attic and looked out on a large plantation. In the middle of this plantation stood a tobacco shed, which pleased her, because it had no windows behind which curious people could sit and stare at her. Sparrows had built their nests under the eaves, but the shed was no longer used for drying or storing tobacco, which was not, now, grown on the plantation.
There she lived during the summer, looking at the shed and wondering what purpose it could possibly serve, for the doors were locked with large padlocks, padlocks, and nobody ever went in or out.
She knew that it contained secrets, and what these secrets were, she was to learn sooner than she expected.
A few little shreds of her great reputation, to which she clung desperately, and which helped her to bear her life, were still left: the memory of her best parts, Carmen and Aida, for which no successor had yet been found; the public still remembered her impersonation of these parts, which had been beyond praise.
Very well, August came; the street lamps were again lighted in the evenings, and the theatres were reopened.
The singer sat at her window and looked at the tobacco shed, which had been painted a bright red, and, moreover, had just received a new red-tiled roof.
A man walked across the potato field; he carried a large rusty key, with which he opened the shed and went in.
Then two other men arrived; two men whom she thought she had seen before; and they, too, disappeared in the shed.
It began to be interesting.
After a while the three men reappeared, carrying large, strange objects, which looked like the bottom of a bed or a big screen.
When they had passed the gate, they turned the screens round and leaned them against the wall; one of them represented a badly painted tiled stove, another the door of a country cottage, perhaps a forester's cottage. Others a wood, a window, and a library.
She understood. It was the scenery of a play. And after a while she recognised the rose tree from Faust.
The shed was used by the theatre for storing scenes and stage properties; she herself had more than once stood by the side of the rose tree, singing "Gentle flowers in the dew."
The thought that they were going to play Faust wrung her heart, but she had one little comfort: she had never sung the principal part in it, for the principal part is Margaret's.
"I don't mind Faust; but I shall die if they play Carmen or Aida."
And she sat and watched the change in the repertoire. She knew a fortnight before the papers what was going to be played next. It was amusing in a way. She knew when the Freischuetz was going to be played, for she saw the wolves' den being brought out; she knew when they were going to put on the Flying Dutchman, for the ship and the sea came out of the shed; and Tannhaeuser, and Lohengrin, and many others.
But the inevitable day dawned—for the inevitable must happen. The men had again gone into the shed (she remembered that the name of one of them was Lindquist, and that it was his business to look after the pulleys), and presently reappeared with a Spanish market-place. The scene was not standing straight up, so that she could not see at once what it was, but one of the men turned it slowly over, and when he stood it up on its side she could see the back, which is always very ugly. And one after the other, slowly, as if they warded to prolong the torture, huge, black letters appeared: CARMEN. It was Carmen!
"I shall die," said the singer.
But she did not die, not even when they played Aida. But her name was blotted out from the memory of the public, her picture disappeared from the stationers' windows, and from the post-cards; finally her portrait was removed from the foyer of the theatre by an unknown hand.
She could not understand how men could forget so quickly. It was quite inexplicable! But she mourned for herself as if she were mourning a friend who had died; and wasn't it true, that the singer, the famous singer, was dead?
One evening she was strolling through a deserted street. At one end of the street was a rubbish shoot. Without knowing why, she stood still, and then she had an object lesson on the futility of all earthly things. For on the rubbish heap lay a post-card, and on the post-card was her picture in the part of Carmen.
She walked away quickly, suppressing her tears. She came to a little side street, and stopped before a stationer's shop. It had been her custom to look at the shop windows to see whether her portrait was exhibited. But it was not exhibited here; instead of that her eyes fell on a text and she read it, unconsciously:
"The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth."
Them that do evil! That was the reason why her memory was blotted out. That was the explanation of the forgetfulness of men.
"But is it not possible to undo the wrong I have done?" she moaned. "Have I not been sufficiently punished?"
And she wandered in the direction of the wood, where she was not likely to meet anybody. And as she was walking along, crushed, humiliated, her heart full of despair, she met another lonely being, who stopped her as she was going to pass him. His eyes begged permission to speak to her.
It was the conductor. But his eyes did not reproach her, nor did they pity her, they only expressed admiration, admiration and tenderness.
"How beautiful and slender you have grown, Hannah," he said.
She looked at herself, and she could not help admitting that he was right. Grief had burnt all her superfluous fat and she was more beautiful than she had ever been.
"And you look as young as ever! Younger!"
It was the first kind word which she had heard for many a day; and since it had been spoken by him whom she had wronged, she realised what a splendid character he had, and said so.
"I hope you haven't lost your voice?" asked the conductor, who could not bear flattery.
"I don't know," she sobbed.
"Come to me to-morrow ... yes, come to the Opera-house, and then we shall see. I am conducting there. ..."
The singer went, not once or twice, but many times, and regained her former position.
The public had forgiven and forgotten all the evil she had done. And she became greater and more famous than she had been before.
Isn't that an edifying story?
THE STORY OF THE ST. GOTTHARD
It was Saturday night in Goeschenen, in the canton of Uri, that part of Switzerland which William Tell and Walter Fuerst have made famous. The pretty green village on the northern side of the St. Gotthard is situated on a little stream which drives a mill-wheel and contains trout. Quiet, kindly people live there, who speak the German language and have home rule, and the "sacred wood" protects their homes from avalanche and landslip.
On the Saturday night I am speaking of, all the folks were gathering round the village pump, underneath the great walnut tree, at the hour when the church bells were ringing the Angelus. The postmaster, the magistrate, and the colonel were there, all in their shirt-sleeves and carrying scythes. They had been mowing all day long, and had come to the pump to wash their scythes, for in the little village work was sacred and every man was his own servant. Then the young men came trooping through the village street, carrying scythes too, and the maids with their milk-pails; finally the cows, a gigantic breed, every cow as big as a bull. The country is rich and fertile, but it bears neither wine nor olives, neither the mulberry tree nor the luxurious maize. Nothing but green grass and golden corn, the walnut tree and the luscious beet-root grow there.
At the foot of the steep wall of the St. Gotthard, close to the pump, stood the inn, "The Golden Horse." All the tired men, regardless of rank or position, were sitting at a long table in the garden, not one of them was missing: the magistrate, the postmaster, the colonel and the farmers' labourers; the straw-hat manufacturer and his workmen, the little village shoemaker, and the schoolmaster, they were all there.
They talked of cattle breeding and harvest time; they sang songs, reminiscent in their simplicity of cowbells and the shepherd's flute. They sang of the spring and its pure joys, of its promise and its hope. And they drank the golden beer.
After a while the young men rose to play, to wrestle and to jump, for on the following day was the annual festival of the Rifle Club, and there would be trials of strength, and competitions; it was im-portant therefore that their limbs should be supple.
And at an early hour that night the whole village was in bed, for no man must be late on the morning of the festival, and no one must be sleepy or dull. The honour of the village was involved.
It was Sunday morning; the sun was shining brightly and the church bells were ringing. Men and women from the neighbouring villages, in their best Sunday clothes, were gathering on the village green, and all of them looked happy and very wide awake. Nearly every man carried a gun instead of the scythe; and matrons and maids looked at the men with scrutinising and encouraging eyes, for it was for the defence of their country and their homes that they had learned to handle a gun; and to-night the best shot would have the honour of opening the dance with the prettiest girl of the village.
A large waggon, drawn by four horses, gaily decorated with flowers and ribbons, drew up; the whole waggon had been transformed into a summer arbour; one could not see the people inside, but one could hear their songs. They sang of Switzerland and the Swiss people, the most beautiful country and the bravest people in the world.
Behind the waggon walked the children's procession. They went by twos, hand in hand, like good friends or little brides and bridegrooms.
And with the pealing of bells the procession slowly wound up the mountain to the church.
After divine service the festivities began, and very soon shots were fired on the rifle-range, which was built against the rocky wall of the St. Gotthard.
The postmaster's son was the best shot in the village, and nobody doubted that he would win the prize. He hit the bull's-eye four times out of six.
From the summit of the mountain came a hallooing and a crashing; stones and gravel rolled down the precipice, and the fir trees in the sacred wood rocked as if a gale were blowing. On the top of a cliff, his rifle slung across his shoulders, frantically waving his hat, appeared the wild chamois hunter Andrea of Airolo, an Italian village on the other side of the mountain.
"Don't go into the wood!" screamed the riflemen.
Andrea did not understand.
"Don't go into the sacred wood," shouted the magistrate, "or the mountain will fall on us!"
"Let it fall, then," shouted Andrea, running down the cliff with incredible rapidity.
"Here I am!"
"You're too late!" exclaimed the magistrate.
"I have never been too late yet!" replied Andrea; went to the shooting-range, raised his rifle six times to his cheek, and each time hit the bull's-eye.
Now, he really was the best shot, but the club had its regulations, and, moreover, the dark-skinned men from the other side of the mountain, where the wine grew and the silk was spun, were not very popular. An old feud raged between them and the men of Goeschenen, and the newcomer was disqualified.
But Andrea approached the prettiest girl in the grounds, who happened to be the magistrate's own daughter, and politely asked her to open the dance with him.
Pretty Gertrude blushed, for she was fond of Andrea, but she was obliged to refuse his request.
Andrea frowned, bowed and whispered words into her ear, which covered her face with crimson.
"You shall be my wife," he said, "even if I have to wait ten years for you. I have walked eight hours across the mountain to meet you; that is why I am so late; next time I shall be in good time, even if I should have to walk right through the mountain itself."
The festivities were over. All the riflemen were sitting in "The Golden Horse," Andrea in the midst of them. Rudi, the son of the postmaster, sat at the head of the table, because he was the prize-winner according to the regulations, even if Andrea was the best shot in reality.
Rudi was in a teasing mood.
"Well, Andrea," he said, "we all know you for a mighty hunter; but, you know, it's easier to shoot a chamois than to carry it home."
"If I shoot a chamois I carry it home," replied Andrea.
"Maybe you do! But everybody here has had a shot at Barbarossa's ring, although nobody has won it yet!" answered Rudi.
"What is that about Barbarossa's ring?" asked a stranger who had never been in Goeschenen.
"That's Barbarossa's ring, over there," said Rudi.
He pointed to the side of the mountain, where a large copper ring hung on a hook, and went on:
"This is the road by which King Frederick Barbarossa used to travel to Italy; he travelled over it six times, and was crowned both in Milan and in Rome. And as this made him German-Roman emperor, he caused this ring to be hung up on the mountain, in remembrance of his having wedded Germany to Italy. And if this ring, so goes the saying, can be lifted off its hook, then the marriage, which was not a happy one, will be annulled."
"Then I will annul it," said Andrea. "I will break the bonds as my fathers broke the bonds which bound my poor country to the tyrants of Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden."
"Are you not a Swiss, yourself ?" asked the magistrate severely.
"No, I am an Italian of the Swiss Confederation."
He slipped an iron bullet into his gun, took aim and shot.
The ring was lifted from below and jerked off the hook. Barbarossa's ring lay at their feet.
"Long live Italy!" shouted Andrea. throwing his hat into the air.
Nobody said a word.
Andrea picked up the ring, handed it to the magistrate and said:
"Keep this ring in memory of me and this day, on which you did me a wrong."
He seized Gertrude's hand and kissed it; climbed up the mountain and disappeared; was seen again and vanished in a cloud. After a while he reappeared, high above them; but this time it was merely his gigantic shadow thrown on a cloud. And there he stood, shaking a threatening fist at the village.
"That was Satan himself," said the colonel.
"No, it was an Italian," said the postmaster.
"Since it is late in the evening," said the magistrate, "I'll tell you an official secret, which will be read in all the papers to-morrow."
"We have received information that when it became known that the Emperor of France was made a prisoner at Sedan, the Italians drove the French troops out of Rome, and that Victor Emanuel is at this moment on his way to the capital."
"This is great news. It puts an end to Germany's dreams of promenades to Rome. Andrea must have known about it when he boasted so much."
"He must have known more," said the magistrate.
"Wait, and you'll see."
And they saw.
One day strangers came and carefully examined the mountain through their field-glasses. It looked as if they were gazing at the place where Barbarossa's ring had hung, for that was the spot at which they directed their glasses. And then they consulted the compass, as if they did not know which was the North and which was the South.
There was a big dinner at "The Golden Horse," at which the magistrate was present. At dessert they talked of millions and millions of money.
A short time after "The Golden Horse" was pulled down; next came the church, which was taken down piece by piece and built up again on another spot; half the village was razed to the ground; barracks were built, the course of the stream deflected, the mill-wheel taken away, the factory closed, the cattle sold.
And then three thousand Italian-speaking labourers with dark hair and olive skins arrived on the scene.
The beautiful old songs of Switzerland and the pure joys of spring were heard no more.
Instead of that, the sound of hammering could be heard day and night. A jumper was driven into the mountain at the exact spot where Barbarossa's ring had hung; and then the blasting began.
It would not have been so very difficult (as everybody knew) to make a hole through the mountain, but it was intended to make two holes, one on each side, and the two holes were to meet in the middle; nobody believed that this was possible, for the tunnel was to be nearly nine miles long. Nearly nine miles!
And what would happen if they did not meet? Well, they would have to begin again at the beginning.
But the engineer-in-chief had assured them that they would meet.
Andrea, on the Italian side, had faith in the engineer-in-chief, and since he was himself a very capable fellow, as we know, he applied for work under him and soon was made a foreman.
Andrea liked his work. He no longer saw daylight, the green fields and snow-clad Alps. But he fancied that he was cutting a way for himself through the mountain to Gertrude, the way which he had boasted he would come.
For eight years he stood in darkness, living the life of a dog, stripped to the waist, for he was working in a temperature of a hundred degrees. Now the way was blocked by a spring, and he had to work standing in the water; now by a deposit of loam, and he stood almost knee-deep in the mire; the atmosphere was nearly always foul, and many of his fellow-labourers succumbed to it; but new ones were ever ready to take their place. Finally Andrea, too, succumbed, and was taken into the hospital. He was tortured by the idea that the two tunnels would never meet. Supposing they never met!
There were also men from the other side in the hospital; and at times, when they were not delirious, they would ask one another the all-absorbing question: "Would they meet?"
The people from the South had never before been so anxious to meet the people from the North as they were now, deep down in the heart of the mountain. They knew that if they met, their feud of over a thousand years' standing would be over, and they would fall into each other's arms, reconciled.
Andrea recovered and returned to work; he was in the strike of 1875, threw a stone, and underwent a term of imprisonment.
In the year 1877 his native village, Airolo, was destroyed by fire.
"Now I have burnt my boats behind me," he said, "there is no going back—I must go on."
The 19th of July 1879 was a day of mourning. The engineer-in-chief had gone into the mountain to measure and to calculate; and, all absorbed in his work, he had had a stroke and died. Died with his race only half run! He ought to have been buried where he fell, in a more gigantic stone pyramid than any of the Egyptian Pharaohs had built for tees, and his name, Favre, should have been carved into the stone.
However, time passed, Andrea gained money, experience, and strength. He never went to Goeschenen, but once a year he went to the "sacred wood" to contemplate the devastation, as he said.
He never saw Gertrude, never sent her a letter; there was no need for it, he was always with her is his thoughts, and he felt that her will was his.
In the seventh year the magistrate died, in poverty.
"What a lucky thing that he died a poor man," thought Andrea; and there are not many sons-in-law who would think like that.
In the eighth year something extraordinary happened; Andrea, foremost man on the Italian side of the tunnel, was hard at work, beating on his jumper. There was scarcely any air; he felt suffocated, and suffered from a disagreeable buzzing in his ears. Suddenly he heard a ticking, which sounded like the ticking of a wood-worm, whom people call "the death-watch."
"Has my last hour come?" he said, thinking aloud.
"Your last hour!" replied a voice; he did not know whether it was within or without him, but he felt afraid.
On the next day he again heard the ticking, but more distinctly, so that he came to the conclusion that it must be his watch.
But on the third day, which was a holiday, he heard nothing; and now he believed that it must have been something supernatural; he was afraid and went to mass, and in his heart he deplored the futility of life. He would never see the great day, never win the prize offered to the man who would first walk through the dividing wall, never win Gertrude.
On the Monday, however, he was again the foremost of the men in the tunnel, but he felt despondent, for he no longer believed that they would meet the Germans in the mountain.
He beat and hammered, but without enthusiasm, slowly, as his weakened heart was beating after the tunnel-sickness. All of a sudden he heard something like a shot and a tremendous crashing noise inside the mountain on the other side.
And now a light burst on him; they had met.
He fell on his knees and thanked God. And then he arose and began to work. He worked during breakfast, during dinner, during recreation time, and during supper. When his right arm was lame with exertion, he worked with the left one. He thought of the engineer-in-chief, who had been struck down before the wall of rock; he sang the song of the three men in the fiery furnace, for it seemed to him that the air around him was red-hot, while the perspiration dropped from his forehead, and his feet stood in the mire.
On the stroke of seven, on the 28th of January, he fell forward on his jumper, which pierced the wall right through. Loud cheering from the other side roused him, and he understood; he realised that they had met, that his troubles were over, and that he was the winner of ten thousand lire.
After a sigh of thanksgiving to the All-Merciful God, he pressed his lips to the bore-hole and whispered the name, of Gertrude; and then he called for three times three cheers for the Germans.
At eleven o'clock at night, there were shouts of "attention!" on the Italian side, and with a thunderous crash, a noise like the booming of cannon at a siege, the wall fell down. Germans and Italians embraced one another and wept, and all fell on their knees and sang the "Te Deum laudamus."
It was a great moment; it was in 1880, the year in which Stanley's work in Africa was done, and Nordenskoeld had accomplished his task.
When they had sung the "Te Deum" a German workman stepped forward and handed to the Italians a beautifully got-up parchment. It was a record and an appreciation of the services of the engineer-in-chief, Louis Favre.
He was to be the first man to pass through the tunnel, and Andrea was appointed to carry the memorial and his name by the little workmen's train to Airolo.
And Andrea accomplished his mission faithfully, sitting before the locomotive on a barrow.
Yes, it was a great day, and the night was no less great.
They drank wine in Airolo, Italian wine, and let off fireworks. They made speeches on Louis Favre, Stanley, and Nordenskoeld; they made a speech on the St. Gotthard, which, for thousands of years had been a barrier between Germany and Italy, between the North and the South. A barrier it had been, and at the same time a uniter, honestly dividing its waters between the German Rhine, the French Rhone, the North Sea and the Mediterranean . ...
"And the Adriatic," interrupted a man from Tessin. "Don't forget the Ticino, which is a tributary to the largest river of Italy, the mighty Po . ..."
"Bravo! That's better still! Three cheers for the St. Gotthard, the great Germany, the free Italy, and the new France!"
It was a great night, following a great day.
On the following morning Andrea called at the Engineering Offices. He wore his Italian shooting-dress; an eagle's feather ornamented his hat, and a gun and a knapsack were slung across his shoulder. His face and his hands were white.
"So you have done with the tunnel," said the cashier, or the "moneyman," as they called him. "Well, nobody can blame you for it, for what remains to be done is mason's work. To your account, then!"
The moneyman opened a book, wrote something on a piece of paper, and handed Andrea ten thousand lire in gold.
Andrea signed his name, put the gold into his knapsack and went.
He jumped into a workman's train, and in ten minutes he had arrived at the fallen barrier. There were fires burning in the mountain, the workmen cheered when they saw him and waved their caps. It was splendid!
Ten more minutes and he was at the Swiss side. When he saw the daylight shining through the entrance to the tunnel, the train stopped and he got out.
He walked towards the green light, and came to the village and the green world, bathed in sunlight; the village had been rebuilt and looked prettier than before. And when the workmen saw him they saluted their first man.
He went straight up to a little house, and there, under a walnut tree, by the side of the bee-hives, stood Gertrude, calm, and a hundred times more beautiful and gentle. It looked as if she had stood there for eight years, waiting for him.
"Now I have come," he said, "as I intended to come! Will you follow me to my country?"
"I will follow you wherever you go!"
"I gave you a ring long ago; have you still got it?"
"I have it still!"
"Then let us go at once! No, don't turn back! Don't take anything with you!"
And they went away, hand in hand, but not through the tunnel.
"On to the mountain!" said Andrea, turning in the direction of the old pass; "through darkness I came to you, but in light I will live with you and for you!"
THE STORY OF JUBAL WHO HAD NO "I"
Once upon a time there was a king whose name was John Lackland, and it is not difficult to imagine the reason why.
But another time there lived a great singer who was called "Jubal, who had no I," and I am now going to tell you the reason.
The name which he had inherited from his father, a soldier, was Peal, and undeniably there was music in the name. But nature had also given him a strong will, which stiffened his back like an iron bar, and that is a splendid gift, quite invaluable in the struggle for an existence. When he was still a baby, only just able to stammer a few words, he would never refer to his own little person as "he," as other babies do, but from the very first he spoke of himself as "I." You have no "I," said his parents. When he grew older, he expressed every little want or desire by "I will." But then his father said to him, "You have no will," and "Your will grows in the wood."
It was very foolish of the soldier, but he knew no better; he had learned to will only what he was ordered to do.
Young Peal thought it strange that he should be supposed to have no will when he had such a very strong one, but he let it pass.
When he had grown into a fine, strong youth, his father said to him one day, "What trade will you learn?"
The boy did not know; he had ceased to will anything, because he was forbidden to do so. It is true, he had a leaning towards music, but he did not dare to say so, for he was convinced that his parents would not allow him to become a musician. Therefore, being an obedient son, he replied, "I don't will anything."
"Then you shall be a tapster," said the father.
Whether it was because the father knew a tapster, or because wine had a peculiar attraction for him, is a matter of indifference. It is quite enough to know that young Peal was sent to the wine vaults, and he might have fared a good deal worse.
There was a lovely smell of sealing-wax and French wine in the cellars, and they were large and had vaulted roofs, like churches. When he sat at the casks and tapped the red wine, his heart was filled with gladness, and he sang, in an undertone at first, all sorts of tunes which he had picked up.
His master, to whom wine spelt life, loved song and gaiety, and never dreamed of stopping his singing; it sounded so well in the vaults, and, moreover, it attracted customers, which was a splendid thing from the master's point of view.
One day a commercial traveller dropped in; he had started life as an opera-singer, and when he heard Peal, he was so delighted with him that he invited him to dinner.
They played nine-pins, ate crabs with dill, drank punch, and, above everything, sang songs. Between two songs, and after they had sworn eternal friendship, the commercial traveller said:
"Why don't you go on the stage?"
"I?" answered Peal, "how could I do that?"
"All you have to do is to say 'I will.'"
This was a new doctrine, for since his third year young Peal had not used the words "I" and "will." He had trained himself to neither wish nor will, and he begged his friend not to lead him into temptation.
But the commercial traveller came again; he came many times, and once he was accompanied by a famous singer; and one evening Peal, after much applause from a professor of singing, took his fate into his own hands.
He said good-bye to his master, and over a glass of wine heartily thanked his friend, the commercial traveller, for having given him self-confidence and will,—"will, that iron bar, which keeps a man's back erect and prevents him from grovelling on all fours." And he swore a solemn oath never to forget his friend, who had taught him to have faith in himself.
Then he went to say good-bye to his parents.
"I will be a singer," he said in a loud voice, which echoed through the room.
The father glanced at the horse-whip, and the mother cried; but it was no use.
"Don't lose yourself, my darling boy," were the mother's last words.
Young Peal managed to raise enough money to enable him to go abroad. There he learned singing according to all the rules of the art, and in a few years' time he was a very great singer indeed. He earned much money and travelled with his own impresario.
Peal was prospering now and found no difficulty in saying "I will," or even "I command." His "I" grew to gigantic proportions, and he suffered no other "I's" near him. He denied himself nothing, and did not put his light under a bushel. But now, as he was about to return to his own country, his impresario told him that no man could be a great singer and at the same time be called Peal; he advised him to adopt a more elegant name, a foreign name by preference, for that was the fashion.
The great man fought an inward struggle, for it is not a very nice thing to change one's name; it looks as if one were ashamed of one's father and mother, and is apt to create a bad impression.
But hearing that it was the fashion, he let it pass.
He opened his Bible to look for a name, for the Bible is the very best book for the purpose.
And when he came to Jubal, "who was the son of Lamech, and the father of all such as handle the harp and organ," he considered that he could not do better. The impresario, who was an Englishman, suggested that he should call himself Mr. Jubal, and Peal agreed. Henceforth he was Mr. Jubal.
It was all quite harmless, of course, since it was the fashion, but it was nevertheless a strange thing with the new name Peal had changed his nature. His past was blotted out. Mr. Jubal looked upon himself as an Englishman born and bred, spoke with a foreign accent, grew side-whiskers and wore very high collars; a checked suit grew round him as the bark grows round a tree, apparently without any effort on his part. He carried himself stiffly, and when he met a friend in the street he acknowledged his friendly bow with the flicker of an eyelid. He never turned round if anybody called after him, and he always stood right in the middle of a street car.
He hardly knew himself.
He was now at home again, in his own country, and engaged to sing at the Opera-house. He played kings and prophets, heroes and demons, and he was so good an actor that whenever he rehearsed a part, he instantly became the part he impersonated.
One day he was strolling along the street. He was playing some sort of a demon, but he was also Mr. Jubal. Suddenly he heard a voice calling after him, "Peal!" He did not turn round, for no Englishman would do such a thing, and, moreover, his name was no longer Peal.
But the voice called again, "Peal!" and his friend, the commercial traveller, stood before him, looking at him searchingly, and yet with an expression of shy kindliness.
"Dear old Peal, it is you!" he said.
Mr. Jubal felt that a demon was taking possession of him; he opened his mouth so wide that he showed all his teeth, and bellowed a curt "No!"
Then his friend felt quite convinced that it was he and went away. He was an enlightened man, who knew men, the world and himself inside out, and therefore he was neither sorry nor astonished.
But Mr. Jubal thought he was; he heard a voice within him saying, "Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice," and he did what St. Peter had done, he went away and wept bitterly. That is to say, he wept in imagination, but the demon in his heart laughed.
Henceforth he was always laughing; he laughed at good and evil, sorrow and disgrace, at everything and everybody.
His father and mother knew, from the papers, who Mr. Jubal really was, but they never went to the Opera-house, for they fancied it had something to do with hoops and horses, and they objected to seeing their son in such surroundings.
Mr. Jubal was now the greatest living singer; he had lost a lot of his "I," but he still had his will.
Then his day came. There was a little ballet-dancer who could bewitch men, and she bewitched Jubal. She bewitched him to such an extent that he asked her whether he might be hers. (He meant, of course, whether she would be his, but the other is a more polite way of expressing it.)
"You shall be mine," said the sorceress, if I may take you."
"You may do anything you like," replied Jubal.
The girl took him at his word and they married. First of all he taught her to sing and play, and then he gave her everything she asked for. But since was a sorceress, she always wanted the things which he most objected to giving to her, and so, gradually, she wrested his will from him and made him her slave.
One fine day Mrs. Jubal had become a great singer, so great that when the audience called "Jubal!" it was not Mr. but Mrs. Jubal who took the call.
Jubal, of course, longed to regain his former position, but he scorned to do it at his wife's expense.
The world began to forget him.
The brilliant circle of friends who had surrounded Mr. Jubal in his bachelor chambers now surrounded his wife, for it was she who was "Jubal."
Nobody wanted to talk to him or drink with him, and when he attempted to join in the conversation, nobody listened to his remarks; it was just as if he were not present, and his wife was treated as if she were an unmarried woman.
Then Mr. Jubal grew very lonely, and in his loneliness he began to frequent the cafes.
One evening he was at a restaurant, trying to find somebody to talk to, and ready to talk to anybody willing to listen to him. All at once he caught sight of his old friend the commercial traveller, sitting at a table by himself, evidently very bored. "Thank goodness," he thought, "here's somebody to spend an hour with—it's old Lundberg."
He went to Mr. Lundberg's table and said "good evening." But no sooner had he done so than his friend's face changed in so extraordinary a manner that Jubal wondered whether he had made a mistake.
"Aren't you Lundberg?" he asked.
"Don't you know me? I'm Jubal!"
"Don't you know your old friend Peal?"
"Peal died a long time ago."
Then Jubal understood that he was, from a certain point of view, dead, and he went away.
On the following day he left the stage for ever and opened a school for singing, with the title of a professor.
Then he went to foreign countries, and remained abroad for many years.
Sadness, for he mourned for himself as for a dead friend, and sorrow were fast making an old man of him. But he was glad that it should be so, for, he thought, if I'm old, it won't last much longer. But as he did not age quite as fast as he would have liked, he bought himself a wig with long white curls. He felt better after that, for it disguised him completely, so completely that he did not know himself.
With long strides, his hands crossed on his back, he walked up and down the pavements, lost in a brown study; he seemed to be looking for some one, or expecting some one. If his eyes met the glance of other eyes, he did not respond to the question in them; if anybody tried to make his acquaintance, he would never talk of anything but things and objects. And he never said "I" or "I find," but always "it seems." He had lost himself, as he did one day just as he was going to shave. He was sitting before his looking-glass, his chin covered with a lather of soap; he raised the hand which held the razor and looked into the glass; then he beheld the room behind his back, but he could not see his face, and all at once he realised how matters stood. Now he was filled with a passionate yearning to find himself again. He had given the best part of himself to his wife, for she had his will, and so he decided to go and see her.
When he was back in his native country and walked through the streets in his white wig, not a soul recognised him. But a musician who had been in Italy, meeting him in town one day, said in a loud voice, "There goes a maestro!"
Immediately Jubal imagined that he was a great composer. He bought some music paper and started to write a score; that is to say, he wrote a number of long and short notes on the lines, some for the violins, of course, others for the wood-wind, and the remainder for the brass instruments. He sent his work to the Conservatoire. But nobody could play the music, because it was not music, but only notes.
A little later on he was met by an artist who had been in Paris. "There goes a model!" said the artist. Jubal heard it, and at once believed that he was a model, for he believed everything that was said of him, because he did not know who or what he was.
Presently he remembered his wife, and he resolved to go and see her. He did go, but she had married again, and she and her second husband, who was a baron, had gone abroad.
At last he grew tired of his quest, and, like all tired men, he felt a great yearning for his mother. He knew that she was a widow and lived in a cottage in the mountains, so one day he went to see her.
"Don't you know me?" he asked.
"What is your name?" asked the mother.
"My name is your son's name. Don't you know it?"
"My son's name was Peal, but yours is Jubal, and I don't know Jubal."
"You disown me?"
"As you disowned yourself and your mother."
"Why did you rob me of my will when I was a little child?"
"You gave your will to a woman."
"I had to, because it was the only way of winning her. But why did you tell me I had no will?"
"Well, your father told you that, my boy, and he knew no better; you must forgive him, for he is dead now. Children, you see, are not supposed to have a will of their own, but grown-up people are."
"How well you explain it all, mother! Children are not supposed to have a will, but grown-up people are."
"Now, listen to me, Gustav," said his mother, "Gustav Peal . ..."
These were his two real names, and when he heard them from her lips, he became himself again. All the parts he had played—kings and demons, the maestro and the model—cut and ran, and he was but the son of his mother.
He put his head on her knees and said, "Now, let me die here, for at last I am at home."
THE GOLDEN HELMETS IN THE ALLEBERG
Anders was the son of poor people, and in his youth he had wandered through many kingdoms, with a bale of cloth and a yard-measure on his back. But as he grew older he carne to the conclusion that it would be better to wear the king's uniform and carry a rifle on his shoulder, and therefore he went and enlisted in the Vaestgotadal regiment. And one day it happened that he was sent to Stockholm on sentry duty.
Friend Cask, as he was now called, was on leave one day, and he made up his mind to spend it at the "Fort." But when he came to the gate he found that he had not a sixpence, and consequently he had to remain outside.
For a long time he stood staring at the railings, and then he thought, "I'll just walk round; perhaps I'll come across a stile; if the worst comes to the worst, I'll climb over."
The sun was setting; he walked along the shore, at the foot of the mountain, and the railings were high above him; he could hear the sound of music and singing. Cask went round and round, but found no stile, and at last the railings disappeared in a forest of nut trees. When he was tired he sat down on a hillock and began to crack nuts.
Suddenly a squirrel appeared before him and put up its tail.
"Leave my nuts alone!" it said.
"I will, if you'll take me to a stile," said Cask.
"Part of the way, then," said the squirrel. It hopped along and the soldier followed, until all at once it had vanished.
Then a hedgehog came rustling along.
"Come with me and I'll show you the stile," it said.
"Go with you? not if I know it."
But in spite of his remark the hedgehog followed him.
Next an adder joined them. It was very genteel; it lisped and could twist itself into a knot.
"Follow me," it said, "I will show you the stile."
"I follow," said Cask.
"But you mutht be genteel; you muthtn't t stread as me. I like nithe people."
"Well, a soldier isn't exactly genteel," said Cask, "but I'm not so terribly uncouth."
"Tread on it," said the hedgehog, "else it will bite you, ever so genteely."
The adder reared its neck and rustled away.
"Stop!" shouted the hedgehog, attacking the snake. "I am not as genteel as you are, but I show my bristles openly, I do!"
And then it killed the snake and disappeared.
Now the soldier was alone in the wood and very sorry he felt that he had rejected the society of the prickly hedgehog.
It had grown dark, but the crescent of the moon shone between the birch leaves, and it was quite still.
The soldier fancied that he could see a big yellow hand moving backwards and forwards. He went close up to it, and then he saw that it was a yellow leaf, which seemed to gesticulate with its fingers, although nobody could possibly understand what it wanted to say.
As he stood there, watching it, he heard an asp trembling:
"Huh! I'm so cold," said the asp, "for my feet are wet, and I am so frightened."
"What are you frightened of?" asked the soldier.
"Well, of the dwarf who is sitting in the mountain."
Now the soldier realised what the maple leaf meant, and there was no doubt about it, he saw a dwarf sitting in the mountain, cooking porridge.
"Who are you?" asked the dwarf.
"I belong to the Vaestgotadal regiment; where do you come from?"
"I," said the dwarf, "I am in the Alleberg."
"The Alleberg is in the Vaestgota country," answered the soldier.
"We have removed it to this place," replied the dwarf.
"You lie!" exclaimed the soldier, seized the pot by its handle and threw the porridge into the fire.
"Now we'll have a look at the mouse-hole," he said, and went right into the mountain.
There he found a giant sitting by a huge fire, making an iron bar red-hot.
"Good day, good day," said the soldier, stretching out his hand.
"Good day to you," said the giant, giving him the red-hot iron bar.
Cask took the iron and pressed it so hard that it hissed.
"You have got very warm hands, I must say," he said. "What's your name?"
"I'm the giant Swede," said the troll.
"That was a Swedish hand-shake of yours, anyhow, and now I realise that I am in the Alleberg. Are the golden helmets still asleep?"
"Will you be quiet!" exclaimed the giant, threatening him with the red-hot bar.
"You shall see them, because you belong to the Vaestgotadal regiment, but first of all you must solve my riddle," he continued.
"If you want to fight one of your own countrymen, well and good. But first of all, put that fiery thing away!"
"Very well, Cask, you shall recite the history of Sweden while I smoke my pipe. Then I will show you the golden helmets. The whole history of Sweden, please."
"I can easily do that, although I was not one of the top dogs at the military school. Let me try and recall it to memory."
"There is one condition: you must not mention the name of a single king; for if you do, those inside will get angry; and when they get angry, then, you know . ..."
"It will be awfully difficult. But light your pipe and I'll begin. Here's a match!"
The soldier scratched his head and began:
"One—two—three! In the year 1161, or thereabouts, Sweden first came into existence; a kingdom, a king, and an archbishop—is that enough?"
"No," said Swede, "not at all. Begin again."
"Very well, then! In the year 1359 the Swedish people became a nation, for then the Parliament of the four estates first met, and it continued to meet, with interruptions, until 1866."
"Well, but you're a soldier," said Swede, "surely you'll have a few words to say about wars."
"There are only two wars of any importance, and they ended, the first with the peace of Broemsebro in 1645, when we got Herjedalen, Jaemtland, and Gottland, and the second with the peace of Roeskilde in 1658, when we got Schonen, Halland, Blekinge, and Bohuslaen. And that is all there is of the history of Sweden."
"But you forget the constitutions?"
"Well, we had an autocracy from 1680 to 1718 then there followed a period of freedom until 1789, and this was followed again by an autocracy. Then came Adlersparre's revolution in 1809, and he got Hans Jaerke to draw up the constitution which is still surviving. That is all you need know. Haven't you finished your pipe yet?"
"There!" said the giant. "It wasn't so bad on the whole! And now you shall see the golden helmets."
The troll arose with difficulty and went into the inferior of the mountain; the soldier followed at his heels.
"Tread softly!" said the giant, pointing to a light with a golden helmet who was leaning against a door, made of rock, apparently fast asleep. But before the words had been out of his mouth, Cask stumbled and the iron on the heel of his shoe struck a stone so forcibly that it emitted sparks. The golden helmet awoke at once, just as if he had been a sleeping sentry, and called:
"Is it time?"
"Not yet!" answered the giant.
The knight with the golden helmet sat down again and instantly fell asleep.
The giant opened a mountain wall and the soldier looked into a huge hall. A table, that seemed to have no end, ran through the centre of the hall, and in the twilight the soldier could see a brilliant gathering of knights with golden helmets sitting in arm-chairs, the backs of which were decorated with golden crowns. At the head of the table sat a man who seemed head and shoulders taller than the rest; his beard reached to his waist, like the beard of Moses or Joshua, and he held a hammer all his hand.
All of them seemed fast asleep, although it was neither the sleep which restores strength, nor the sleep which is called eternal sleep.
"Now, pay attention," said the giant, "to-day is the great commemoration day."
He pressed a finger on a lark garnet in the mountain rock, and a thousand flames shot up.
The golden helmets awoke.
"Who goes there?" asked the man with the prophet's beard.
"Swede," answered the giant.
"A good name!" replied Gustav Eriksson Wasa, for it was he. "How much time has passed away?"
"In years, after the birth of Christ, one thousand nine hundred and three."
"Time flies. But have you made arty progress? Are you still a country and a nation?"
"We are. But since Gustavus I, the country has grown. Jaemtland, Herjedalen, and Gottland have been added."
"Who conquered them?"
"Well, it was in the time of Queen Christina; but her guardians really conquered them."
"Then we got Schonen, Halland, Blekinge, and Bohuslaen."
"The deuce you did! Who won them?"
"Well, and then?"
"Is that all?"
Somebody knocked on the table.
"Erich the saint wishes to speak," said Gustav Wasa.
"My name is Erich Jedvardson, and I never was a saint. May I be allowed to ask Swede what became of my Finland?"
"Finland belongs to Russia, by its own wish, after the peace of Fredrikshamn in 1809, when the Finnish nation sore allegiance to the Czar."
Gustavus II., Adolfus, asked permission to speak.
"Where are the Baltic provinces?" he asked.
"Reclaimed by their rightful owner," answered Swede.
"And the emperor? Is there still an emperor?"
"There are two; one in Berlin. and one in Vienna."
"Two of the House of Habsburg?"
"No, one of the House of Habsburg and the other of the House of Hohenzollern."
"Incredible! And the Catholics in North Germany—are they converted?"
"No, the Catholics form the majority in the German Parliament, and the emperor at Berlin is trying to put pressure on the College of Cardinals, with a view to influencing the choice of the next Pope."
"There is still a Pope, then?"
"Oh! yes, although one of them has just died."
"And what does the Hohenzollern want in Rome?"
"No one knows; some say that it is his ambition to become Roman-German emperor of the Evangelical Confession."
"A syncretistic emperor dreamt of by John George of Saxony! I don't want to hear anymore. The ways of Providence are strange, and we mortals, what are we? Dust and ashes!"
Charles XII. asked permission to speak.
"Can Swede tell me what has become of Poland?"
"Poland is no more. It has been split up."
"Split up? And Russia?"
"Russia recently celebrated the foundation of Petersburg, and the Lord Mavor of Stockholm walked in the procession."
"As a prisoner?"
"No, as a guest. All nations are on friendly terms now, and not very long ago a French army, commanded by a German field-marshall, invaded China."
"Delicious! Are people now the friends of their enemies?"
"Yes, they are all penetrated by a Christian spirit, and there is a permanent Committee for the Preservation of Peace established at the Hague."
"A permanent Committee for the Preservation of Peace."
"Then my time is over! God's will be done!"
The king closed his visor and remained silent.
Charles, XI. claimed attention.
"Well, Swede, what about the finances of the old country?"
"It's difficult to answer your question, for I'm afraid they know nothing of keeping accounts. But one or two things are certain: that quite half kingdom has been pledged to the foreigner for about three hundred millions."
"And the municipal debts amount to about two hundred millions."
"And in the years 1881 to 1885 one hundred and forty-six thousand Swedes emigrated."
"Enough! I don't want to hear any more!"
Gustav Wasa knocked on the table with his hammer.
"As far as I can understand the matter, the country is in a bad way. Sluggards you are, lazy, envious, irresponsible sluggards; too idle to bestir yourselves, but quick enough to prevent anybody else from doing anything. But tell me, Swede, what about my church and my priests?"
"The priests of the church are farmers and dairy-keepers. The bishops have an income of thirty thousand crowns, and collect money, exactly as they did before the Recess of Vesteraes; moreover, nearly all of them are heretics, or free-thinkers, as they call themselves. Men are beginning to expect some sort of a Reformation."
"Indeed? ... And what is the meaning of this music and singing up here?"
"This is the 'Fort.' That is, a mountain, where they have a collection of all the national keepsakes, just as if the nation were anticipating its end and making its last will and testament, gathering together all the mementoes of the past. It shows reverence for the ancestors, but nothing else."
"What we have heard on this commemoration day seems to prove that the deeds of our forefathers have been engulfed in the ocean of time. One thing swims on the surface, another sinks to the bottom. Here we are sitting like the shadows of our former selves, and to you, who are alive, we must remain shadows . ... Put out the lights!"
The giant Swede extinguished the lights and went out; the soldier followed close behind him and climbed into something which looked like a cage.
"If you say a word to anybody of what you have seen and heard," said the giant, "you will be sorry for it."
"I can quite believe that," answered Cask, "but shall always remember it. That they should have squandered the old country in drink and pledge to the foreigner! It's too bad—if it's true."
"Click" went the turbine; and the lift with soldier shot upwards to the "Fort." And there stood, in the sunset, and the country looked just as it had looked when the chimes in the belfry Haesjoer chimed, and Gustav Wasa entered Stockholm, surrounded by his generals.
LITTLE BLUEWING FINDS THE GOLDPOWDER
The rich man had visited the poor island and fallen in love with it. He could not have said why, but he was charmed; probably the island resembled some memory of his childhood, or, perhaps, a beautiful dream.
He bought the island, built a villa, and planted all sorts of lovely trees, shrubs, and flowers. And all around was the sea; he had his own landing-stage, with a flag-staff and white boats; oak trees, as tall as a church, shaded his house, and cool breezes gently swept the green meadows. He had a wife, children, servants, cattle; he had everything, except one thing: it was but a trifle, but it was more important than anything else in the world, and yet he had forgotten it until the very last: he had no spring water. Wells were sunk and rocks were blasted, but all he got was brown, brackish water; it was filtered until it looked as clear as crystal, but it remained brackish. And that was where the shoe pinched.
Then there came to the island a man endowed with great gifts; he had been lucky in all his enterprises, and was one of the most famous men in the world. Everybody remembered how he struck the mountain with his diamond staff and produced water from the rock, like Moses. Now he was to bore or the island and see whether the mountain would yield water, as other mountains had done. They spent a hundred, a thousand, several thousand crowns, but found none but brackish water. There was no blessing on their undertaking. And it was brought home to the rich man that money will not buy everything, not even, when the worst comes to the worst, a drink of fresh water. Thereupon he grew despondent and life seemed to hold no more happiness in store for him.
The schoolmaster searched the old books, and then sent for a venerable old man, who came and brought his divining rod; but it was no use.
But the clergyman was a great deal wiser. He assembled all the school children one day, and offered a prize to the one who could bring him a plant called "goldpowder," in Latin Chrysosplenium, which will only grow near a spring.
"It has a flower," he said, "like the bird's-eye and leaves like the saxifrage, and it looks as if it had gold dust on its top leaves. Remember that!"
"A flower like the bird's-eye and leaves like the saxifrage," repeated the children; and they ran into the wood and the fields to look for the goldpowder.
Not one of the children found it; a little boy, it is true, came home with some milk-weed, which have a tiny bit of gold dust on the points of its leaves; but the milk-weed is poisonous, and it was not at all what was wanted. And finally the children grew tired of looking for it and gave it up.
But there lived on the island a little girl, too small yet to go to school. Her father had served in the dragoons, and owned a little farm, but he was rather poor than rich. His only treasure was his little daughter, whom everybody in the village called "Little Bluewing," because she always wore a ski blue dress with wide sleeves, which fluttered like wings when she moved. There is, by the bye, a little blue butterfly whom the people call bluewing; you can see it in the summer sitting on the tall blades of the grass, and its wings resemble a flax blossom; a fluttering flax blossom with antenna instead of filaments.
Little Bluewing, the dragoon's little bluewing, that is, was not like other children; she always talked very sensibly, but she often said queer things, and everybody was puzzled to know where she got them from. All living things loved her, even the animals; fowls and calves ran up to her when they saw her, and she even dared to stroke the bull. She frequently went out by herself and stayed away a long tune, but when anybody asked her where she had been, she could not tell. But she had had the most wonderful adventures; she had seen strange things; she had met venerable old men and women, who ha told her no end of wonderful stories. The dragoon let her do as she liked, for he knew that a guardian spirit was watching over her.
One morning Little Bluewing went out for a walk. She ran through fields and meadows, singing songs which nobody had ever heard, and which came into her heart from nowhere. The morning sun shone brightly and seemed so young, as if it had only just been born; the air was fresh and sweet, and the evaporating dew cooled her little face.
When she came to the wood, she met an old man in a green dress.
"Good morning, Little Bluewing," said the old man, "I am the gardener at Sunnyglade; come and look at my flowers."
"Too much honour for me," answered Little Bluewing.
"Not at all, for you have never ill-used flowers."
They walked together to the strand and crossed a little bridge, which led to an islet.
On the islet was a wonderful garden. Every flower, large and small, grew there, and everything was in order, just as if the garden had been a book.
The old man lived in a house which was built of growing ever-green trees-pines, fir trees, and junipers; the floor consisted of growing ever-green shrubs. Moss and lichen grew in the crevices and held them together. The roof was made entirely of creepers, Virginia creeper, Caprifolium, and ivy, and it was so thick that not a drop of rain could come through. A number of bee-hives stood before the door, but butterflies lived in them instead of bees; just think of the lovely sight when they swarmed!
"I don't like torturing bees," explained the old man. "And, moreover, I consider them not at all pretty; they look like hairy coffee-beans and sting like adders."
And then they went into the garden.
"Now, you may read in the book of nature and learn the secrets and sensibilities of the plants. But you must not ask questions, only listen to what I say and answer me . ... Now, look here, little one, on this grey stone something is growing which looks like grey paper. This is the first thing which grows when the rock becomes damp. It grows mouldy, you see, and the mould is called lichen. Here are two kinds: one looks like the horns of a reindeer, it is called reindeer-moss, and the reindeer feeds on it; and the other is called Iceland-moss, and looks like ... now, what does it look like?"
"It looks like lungs, anyhow it says so in the natural history book."
"Quite right; looked at through a magnifying glass, it has exactly that appearance, and that is how people came to think of using it as a remedy for all sorts of diseases of the chest. Later, when the lichen has gathered enough vegetable soil, the mosses appear; they have quite simple flowers and grow seed. They are not unlike ice-flowers, but they are also like heather and fir trees and all sorts of other things, for all plants are related. The wall-moss here looks like a fir tree, but it has seed cases, like a poppy, only rather more simple. Once moss has begun to grow an a spot, heather is not very long in coming. And if you examine heather through a strong magnifying-glass, it is like milk-wort, Epilobium in Latin or a rhododendron, or like an elm tree, which is nothing more nor less than a huge nettle.
"Now, we have a perfect covering for the rocks, and in this mould everything will grow. Man has domesticated a number of plants, but nature herself has directed him which to take and how to use their is so extraordinary as the colour and ornaments which the flowers have acquired to tell the bees where the honey is. You have often seen an ear of rye, which shows a baker's implements like a signboard. And if you look at the flax, the most useful of all the plants, you will have to admit that it is the plant itself which has taught man to spin. Look right into the heart of the flower and you will find the filaments wound round the style like flax round a spindle. And to make her meaning even more plain, nature has planted a parasite, the bind-weed by its side, which winds itself round and round the plant up and down, to and fro, like a weaver's shuttle. And isn't it wonderful that not a man, but a butterfly, first thought of spinning the flax? People call it 'flax-spinner,' for with its own silk and the leaves of the plant it weaves little sheets and blankets for its young ones. And so cunning it is that when flax began to be cultivated, it completely adapted itself to the new conditions, so that the young ones should be hatched before the flax was harvested. And now, look at the medicinal herbs! Look at the large poppy, for instance, fiery red it is, like fever and insanity! But in the heart of the blossom is a black cross, just like the cross on the chemist's label which he puts on his poisons. In the middle of the cross is a Roman vase with little grooves. When these grooves are pricked the drug runs out, the powerful drug, which will call either death, or death's gentle brother, sleep. Yes, now you can form an idea of the generosity and wisdom of nature.
"And now, let's see about the goldpowder."
He paused to see whether Little Bluewing was at all curious. But she was not.
"And now, let's see about the goldpowder," he repeated.
Another pause! No, Little Bluewing could hold her tongue, although she was as not much more than a baby.
"And now, let's see about the goldpowder," he said for the third time, "which has flowers like the bird's-eye and leaves like the saxifrage. That's its distinctive mark, and tells you where water can be found. The bird's-eye collects dew and water in its leaves, and is in itself a tiny, clear rivulet; but the saxifrage can break mountain rocks. There is no spring without a mountain, be the mountain never so distant. This is what the goldpowder tells all those who can understand its message. It grows here, on this island, and you shall know the spot, because your heart is pure. The rich man shall receive water for his parched soul from your tiny hand, and through you all the island shall be blessed. Go in peace, my child, and when you come to the wood where the nuts grow, you will find a silver-linden on your right; at its foot lies a copper coloured slow-worm, which is not dangerous. It show you the way to the goldpowder. But before you go, you must give the old man a kiss, that is to say, if you want to."
Little Bluewing held up her lips and kissed the old man, and immediately his face changed and he looked fifty years younger.
"I have kissed a child, I have grown young again," said the gardener. "You owe me no thanks. Farewell!"
Little Bluewing went to the wood where the nuts grew. The silver-linden was rustling in the breeze, and the humble-bees hummed and buzzed round its blossoms. The slow-worm was really there, although its copper looked a bit rusty.
"Hallo! There is Little Bluewing, who is to have the goldpowder," said the copper snake. "Well, you shall have it on three conditions: no to talk, not to be led astray, not to be inquisitive. Now go straight ahead and you will find the goldpowder."
Little Bluewing went straight ahead. On her way she met a woman.
"Good morning, child," said the woman. "Have you been to see the gardener at Sunnyglade?"
"Good morning, woman," said Little Bluewing without stopping.
"Well, you aren't a gossip," said the woman.
Next she met a gipsy.
"Where are you going to?" asked the gipsy.
"Straight ahead," answered Little Bluewing.
"Then you won't be led astray," said the gipsy.
Then she met a milkman. But she could not understand why the horse was inside the cart and the milkman harnessed to the shafts.
"Now I shall shy and run away," said the milkman, and gave such a start that the horse fell out of the cart into the ditch . ... "Now I shall water the rye," he went on, and took the lid off one of his milk cans.
Little Bluewing thought it strange, but continued her way without giving him as much as a look.
"And you aren't curious, either," said the milkman.
And now Little Bluewing was standing at the foot of the mountain; the sunbeams fell through the hazel bushes on the green leaves of a luxurious plant which shone like gold.
It was the goldpowder. Little Bluewing noticed how it followed the vein of the spring down the mountain side into the rich man's meadow.
She belt down and gathered three flowers, put them carefully into her pinafore and took them home to her father.
The dragoon put on sword, helmet, and uniform, and went with his little daughter to the clergyman. And all three went to the rich man.
"Little Bluewzng has found the goldpowder!" said the clergyman, as soon as he entered the drawing-room. "And now the whole village will be rich before long, because it is sure to become a summer resort."
And it became a summer resort before long; steamers and shop people arrived; an inn and a post-office were built; a doctor settled on the island, and a chemist. Gold poured into the village all during the summer, and that is the story of the goldpowder, which can transform poverty into wealth.