The Faery Tales of Weir
by Anna McClure Sholl
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"Matter!" he shrieked, "that black object on the pump gave me impudence!"

"Heigh-O!" cried little Elsa. "How could a cat give thee impudence!"

"Ask him then," said the man. "He can talk like any Christian."

At which the crowd all looked at Tommie, who winked at them and said, "Does anybody here want to ask me any questions? I'll tell him what he wants to know in perfect confidence between him and me and the pump. If my answer pleases him, he can give me a silver piece. If my reply make his heart go pit-a-pat with joy he can give me a gold piece. If he doesn't like my answers, he needn't give me anything. Now that's fair, isn't it?"

Then everybody looked at everybody else, and dropped their jaws and rubbed their eyes. Nobody stirred for a minute, then a fine young fellow stepped forward, blushing. This was Carl, the miller's son, who was straight as a birch-tree, and had blue eyes like deep lakes, and he walked right up to the pump, and bowed, then he whispered into Tommie's ear, "Does Lucia love me?"

Tommie winked his right eye and smiled. "Carl," he replied, "get up your courage and ask her to-day, for she loves you better than anyone in the world."

Then Carl felt his heart go pit-a-pat, and all the snow wreaths on the trees seemed to turn to bridal flowers. "Thanks, dear and wise Pussy," he said, and took out his handkerchief and spread it at Tommie's feet and on it he placed not one, but three gold pieces.

When the villagers saw the gold pieces glittering in the sun and beheld the radiant face of Carl, they all began to wonder, and each person wanted to try his own luck. "After all," said each one to himself, "if I don't like what the cat says I needn't pay him anything."

The next person to go up was the village tanner, whose skin was like leather and whose eyes were little like a pig's. Tommie was already acquainted with him, having been kicked out of his tannery once when on an innocent mousing expedition.

"Say," said the tanner, "will my Uncle Jean leave me his farm?"

"No," answered Tommie, winking his left eye. "That he won't! He knows you are always wishing he would die!"

The tanner was so angry that he snarled: "Don't you ever let me catch you around the tannery again, or I'll make you into a muff for my daughter."

"Black furs are not fashionable this winter," said Tommie. "Next?"

Everybody laughed when they saw that the tanner hadn't paid money for his information, and so, presumably, didn't like it. But strangely enough, instead of discouraging this led them on to try their luck; and the next person who came to ask Tommie a question was poor, old, half-blind Henley the miser. He put his mouth close to the cat's ear, so the people behind him wouldn't catch what he said, and in a hoarse voice he asked, "Say, old whiskers, will my fine ship loaded with dates and spices reach Norway safely?"

"Yes, it will," said Tommie, "long before your withered old soul will reach a haven of peace."

Henley was so excited over the first words that he didn't even hear the last ones. He hopped about on one leg, and was rushing off at last when Tommie cried, "Heigh-O, you haven't paid me!"

The miser felt in his pockets and drew out a silver coin and laid it on the handkerchief.

"Not at all," said Tommie. "Remember the Worth of that cargo! Gold or nothing."

Henley began to whine. "I'm a poor old man, Tommie. I'll leave the cream jug on the doorstep every day and no questions will be asked!"

"I'm not a thief," answered Tommie. "Mother Huldah brought me up better than that. Come, you don't want to have any quarrel with a black cat."

Whereupon Henley reluctantly drew from his pocket a gold piece, while all the villagers opened their eyes very wide, and wondered what Tommie could have told the old gentleman to make him so liberal.

The next person to come up was a little shy girl named Clara. She had big brown eyes and fair floating hair, and under her white chin and about her little white wrists were soft furs; for her father was a wealthy moneylender. She came close to Tommie and whispered, "Tell me, beautiful Pussy, if I shall ever win the love of Joseph Grange."

Tommie winked his right eye several times and replied, "My dear, I see it coming!"

She flushed with joy. "And what shall I do to hasten it?"

Tommie reflected a moment. "Be pleasant, but not anxious. A lady with an anxious expression has little chance of winning a lover! Don't invite him too often; don't talk too much. Now I haven't hurt your feelings, have I?"

"No, indeed," she said, for she was a young lady of good sense. "And Tommie, dear, will you take these gold pieces to Mother Huldah. She was so good to me when I was a little girl, and because I have been so absorbed in my own affairs I haven't been to see her lately."

"That's the trouble with being in love," said Tommie, "it's apt to make people selfish, and it should make them love and remember everybody. It does when it's the real thing."

Little Clara clasped her hands earnestly. "I will come to see Mother Huldah this afternoon," she said, "and bring her some cakes of my own baking."

After Clara one person and another came up. Some asked foolish questions, some wise. Some paid down money, others didn't, but the pile of gold and silver at Tommie's feet grew steadily.

Now all novelties, even talking cats, soon cease to be novelties, and towards afternoon when the villagers saw how much of their money lay at Tommie's feet, some of them began to be discontented. Of these the tanner was the ringleader, and he said to the other grumblers, "If we can get that lying cat off the pump, we can then take his money. I have three big rats in the trap at the tannery, and I know Tommie is starving hungry by this time. We'll let 'em loose on the ground in front of the pump. When he makes a spring one of you grab the money and run."

Now the tanner had guessed right. Tommie was hungry, but he was determined to keep his post until sundown. After a while no more people came, and he was just thinking he would take up the handkerchief by the four corners and go home, when he espied a group of people approaching. Suddenly, oh, me, oh, my! three dinners were scampering towards him, such rats, such big, splendid rats in fine condition. Tommie had never used such self-control in all his nine lives, but he sat tight and though his whiskers showed his agitation he never budged.

The tanner was mad clear through, and he cried out, "He's a wizard; he ought to be killed" because some people can't see others controlling themselves without thinking there's something wrong with them. Then he began to make snowballs and to pelt poor Tommie. Now Tommie, as has been said, was a good dodger, but nevertheless when it rains snowballs it's hard not to get hit. It might have fared badly with him had not some knights and ladies at that moment appeared on the scene in the train of the beautiful Princess Yolande, one of the fairest princesses in all the realm. She rode a great white horse, and she was robed in cream velvet and white furs, while about her slender waist was a girdle of gold set with sapphires which were as blue as her eyes. By her side rode Lord Mountfalcon. He was all in black armor, for he was mourning a brother who had died in the distant war.

Love as well as grief filled his heart, for his dark eyes were continually upon the beautiful Princess, who now reined in her horse and cried out in a sweet voice, "Shame upon you men to hurt a poor cat."

"He is a wizard and he belongs to a witch," called out the tanner.

"O what a wicked lie," said Tommie. "I don't care what names you call me, but my mistress is one of the best women in the land. She has come to poverty in her old age. For her sake and to get her a little money, I've sat here all day answering truthfully all questions. Now, dear Princess Yolande, believe me, for I am a true cat."

The Princess was so astonished that she couldn't speak for a moment. At last she turned to Lord Mountfalcon and said: "Truly, we have come to wonderland. I'd rather believe the cat than the people who were pelting him, and I have a mind to test his powers. Let us alight and ask him questions."

Then they all dismounted and with the pages and the ladies and the gentlemen in armor the scene was as gay as the stage of an opera. Everybody chatted and laughed, and some of the court ladies stroked Tommie's fur with their pretty white hands; and one took off her bracelet and hung it about his neck.

But when the Princess Yolande went forward to ask her question, everyone fell back. Then with sweet dignity, as became a princess, she stood before Tommie and said, "Tell me if Lord Mountfalcon love me truly."

Tommie didn't wink, for he knew the ways of court, his grandfather having been chief mouser to old King Adelbert; but he purred a warm good purr, like a mill grinding out pure white grain.

"If the sky in heaven be blue, Then Mountfalcon loves you true; If the sun set in the West, Lord Mountfalcon loves you best."

"You see," he added, "I'm not much of a poet, but those are the facts."

"Never was bad verse so sweet to me," cried the Princess and she put down a whole bag of gold at Tommie's feet.

After her came Lord Mountfalcon himself with that sad grace of his, and all his spirit shadowed with love and grief. "Sir Puss," he said, "shall I wed ever the Princess Yolande?"

"Before there are violets in the vales of the kingdom," replied Tommie.

"Two saddlebags will not hold the gold I shall give thee," exclaimed the nobleman.

"Bring them to the cottage where Mother Huldah lives," said Tommie. "And I ask this further favor: When you leave this spot will you take me up behind you and give this money to a page to convey; and so bring me safely home with the wealth, for I fear mischief from the tanner."

"Most willingly," said Mountfalcon. "I will present your request to the Princess."

After him all the court came with questions; so when the page advanced to gather up the money the load was almost more than he could carry. Then Tommie jumped down from his perch, and another page lifted him safely on to the big warm back of Lord Mountfalcon's horse, which felt fine and comforting to poor Tommie's feet. He was so tired that he took forty winks after he had told the Princess how to reach the cottage of Mother Huldah.

When he woke they were all in the dim forest and the Princess Yolande and Lord Mountfalcon were talking in low tones like the whisper of the wind through flowers; and it seemed as if their talk were all of love and dreams and far-away griefs and tears that must fall.

At last they reined in their horses where Mother Huldah stood at her gate peering into the forest. When she saw the beautiful lady and the noble knight and Tommie on the horse's back, she cried out, "O bless you, Sir Knight, for bringing him home."

"And I've brought a fortune with me, Mother Huldah," cried Tommie.

At this Mother Huldah looked troubled. "Gracious Lady," she addressed the Princess, "I hope my cat has not been up to mischief."

"No, bless him," replied the Princess; then she told all that Tommie had done. "And fear not to take the money, Mother," she added, "for those who gave it did so of their free-will."

"Alas! I would not take it," sighed Mother Huldah, "had not my Rupert and my Hugh died in the great war; and Rupert's wife went with him to the Kingdom of the Brave Souls; and I expect Charlemagne to-night with their little baby."

"Rupert? what Rupert?" asked Lord Mountfalcon, leaning down from his horse.

"Rupert Gordon; I am Huldah Gordon, his bereaved mother!"

Then Mountfalcon removed his cap, alighted from his horse and bowed low before Mother Huldah. "He died gloriously. He died trying to remove my poor brother from danger," he said. "Now let me be as a son to you, for sweet memory's sake."

Then they all wept softly, for even to hear of those battles and those Silent Ones in the Kingdom of the Brave Souls was to behold the world through tears. And the Princess Yolande alighted and kissed Mother Huldah's hands and promised to visit her often.

So with many true words they parted at last, and Mother Huldah was left alone with Tommie and the bags of gold and silver, which she took indoors and then returned to scan the sky where now the white stars hung and a thin half-circle of a moon. Tommie romped in the snow for the joy of stretching his legs. After a while he said, "Listen, don't you hear something, Mother Huldah?"

"I would I heard wings!" she cried.

"But I hear wings," said Tommie. "Watch! watch where the North Star burns!"

So Mother Huldah watched, and soon she saw the great outspread wings of Charlemagne and saw his long bill with something hanging from the end of it.

"My word, here's the baby," called out Tommie. "Hello, Charlemagne, you old Grandpa! have you kept that precious infant warm?"

But Charlemagne alighted on his feet and walked solemnly to Mother Huldah and laid in her arms the softest, sweetest, pinkest little baby that she had ever seen. There was golden down on its head, and its little hands were folded like rosebuds beneath its tiny chin.

Mother Huldah felt its feet to know if they were warm; then she cried and sobbed and held the little thing to her breast; and trembled for love of it.

"Take it before the fire," said Tommie. "We're all tired to-night and it will be good to drowse and dream. Good-night, Charlemagne. The chimney's warm."

So the stork flew up to the roof, and Mother Huldah took her treasure and held it in her warm, ample lap before the fire; and Tommie winked and dozed and looked at the baby with his great green eyes, while Mother Huldah sang:

"The gold of the world will fade away, Baby sleep! Baby sleep! But thou wilt live in my heart alway, Sleep, my darling, sleep.

"The gold of the world it comes and goes, Baby sleep! Baby sleep! But thou wilt bloom like a summer rose, Cease my soul to weep."


There was once a king named Theophile who lived in a dim castle on the edge of the ocean, but so far above the water that the flying spray never reached its lowest terrace; and only the strongest-winged seagulls could circle its towers and turrets. It was a strange, melancholy, beautiful place, where the light shimmered on the walls like the ripple of water, and in the shadows of the massive walls the flowers waved all day in the sea-wind like little princesses who would dance before they died.

King Theophile had led many armies to victory, driving his golden white-sailed boats upon far-off coasts, but from each conquest he returned the sadder because he had made many people hate him, and had won no one's love. Nor could he find a woman who would wed him, because of the sorrows of his line, which were great.

When he was not at war he would labor for his kingdom until sunset, and at that hour he would leave his Council Chamber to pace the terraces and gaze seaward over the rocking blue-green waves, while his minstrels sang to him. Only music could drive away his care, so always a page with a golden harp followed him. Sometimes he would bid everyone be gone but this boy, and the two would glide like shadows through the long galleries where the bluish tapestries hung; or brood together by the roaring fire when the sleet rattled on the casements.

One spring day when it seemed as if even the ocean air wafted the fragrance of little pale flowers and the sun shone warmly on the old gray walls of the castle, the King and the boy wandered into the garden of the white lilacs; where, on a marble bench, King Theophile seated himself, and listened while the boy sang:

"My love came out of an old dream, And took away my peace; And now I dare not sleep again, Until this heartache cease."

"Did he ever know slumber again, I wonder," said the King. "O boy, of what use are your love-songs!"

"To arouse love in your heart, Sire!"

"What good is that when I have no maiden to love!"

"Listen, Sire," said the boy. "You are going to war with King Mace who has a most beautiful daughter, the Princess Elene. When you have overthrown him, bring her to your kingdom and wed her."

"A strange way to win the love of a woman," said the King, "by invading her father's kingdom. Nevertheless, I will have regard to the maiden."

"I have heard," said the page, "that they who once behold her are restless ever afterwards from the wound of her beauty."

The King nodded wearily. "There are women like that—gleams from lost stars; faces seen at sunset; or where the light is lifting after a storm. I have never cast eyes on such a maid."

"When you see the Princess Elene you will behold her," said the page.

"I will set forth to war immediately," announced the King.

Soon thereafter he sailed away, and over the rocking billows went the golden boats until they drove upon the coasts of King Mace's land, where bitter battles were fought and many men laid asleep with the sword. Then came a day when all was quiet, and even King Mace pillowed his royal head on his dead horse, and woke no more.

Then King Theophile entered the little sunny palace where all was so silent, and strode through the echoing corridors to the throne room. There alone, beneath a canopy of azure satin, on the great throne sat a woman whose face was like a gleam from a lost star. She had proud lips, and hair that was like cloth of gold about her, and eyes that were wells of sorrow. When he beheld her, King Theophile's limbs became as weak as a new-born child's, and he heard the sound of a far-off wind that had traveled from the Kingdom of Lost Hope. He knew that henceforth for him there must be either love or death.

"O Princess," he cried, "they are all asleep. But thou and I are awake."

"Nay," she replied, "they are awake. Their spirits crowd this hall to wring my heart with pity; but thou art asleep."

Her words were like a sword in his breast, and kneeling before her, he cried: "Come with me to my Kingdom. Thou art my only Love."

"Thou mayst force me to wed thee," she replied, "but the sword which can slay, can never wake love to life. Thou hast come to the end of thy conquests."

Then King Theophile tasted the bitterness of death as the men who slept from the stroke of his sword could never taste it. And because he was not a man to put his soul into the keeping of his tongue, he made no answer, but in his secret heart he resolved to win her love, though the adventure cost him years of pain.

So while he lingered in her kingdom, building costly monuments to the dead, and showering gold on the wounded, and sending into fine houses the homeless whose hearts ached for vanished humble hearths; while he worked to draw life out of death, he spared no effort to bring a smile to the lips of the Princess Elene.

But she never smiled, and though her heart was breaking, she could not weep. Often she said to her women, "Pray that I may have the gift of tears," but always her eyes remained dry, like the vision of those who have gazed too long on fire.

To King Theophile she seemed the very Beauty of the World, as in her black robes she sat in her garden at her tapestry frame, or listened with veiled eyes to the singing of his minstrels. And in his heart was a battle greater than any he had ever waged in desolated lands, for his nobler self told him he had no right to wed her. But his wild love drove like a tempest across these whispers.

So at last he married her in the dim cathedral church of her dead father's kingdom, with pomp of flowers and lights and nuptial music, and she was as pale as those who live long underground.

Then the golden boats drove home across the rocking billows, and one day the Queen Elene, as she was now titled, lifted her eyes and beheld the gaunt castle of King Theophile cutting the sky. A mist seemed to hang all its turrets with fog and vapor. Elene remembered the shining happy little castle of her vanished kingdom, and her heart was bitter with tears, but she could not shed them.

King Theophile, gazing upon her face, read her thoughts, for he had the second-sight of lovers; and his heart was as lead in his breast. He was jealous of the very years when he had not known her. Her beauty troubled him like a half remembered name, and when he was in her presence he had the trembling of illness upon him, and when away from her he was as restless as a fallen leaf that the wind blows.

Through many days and weeks he wooed her to bring the smile to her lips, but always she grew whiter and more desolate; so that when she walked the terraces above the boiling surf, she seemed like a white flower torn of its petals and tossed up by the bitter waves.

At the end of a year there came a daughter from the Kingdom of the Little Souls, and lay like a white bud on the Queen's bosom. Then at last Elene smiled and wept, but her strength was gone; and soon afterwards she closed her eyes and went to sleep.

King Theophile's heart was broken, for the baby, and not he, himself, had made Elene smile and weep. When the days of the court mourning were over the little daughter was christened, and to her christening came all the wise women of the kingdom. Each told what this child would be. One said, "She will have the beauty of shimmering rainbows"; another, "She will be as wise as she is good." But the Wisest Woman of all said, "Every person will read his future in her tears."

Now this prophecy troubled King Theophile and awoke love in his heart for his little daughter, who was already showing how beautiful she would be some day. So he watched over her, and made one of his echoing rooms into the royal nursery.

Now the nurses knew what the Wisest Woman had said—that the tears of this Princess would be a magic mirror of the future; and one day when the child was two years old, the head nurse, who had a sweetheart and wished to know whether she would marry him, resolved to make the little girl cry.

Now she was puzzled how to do this, for the royal maid was sweet-tempered and obedient; but the nurse knew that Elene loved most dearly a beautiful doll as big as herself, so one afternoon, when the Princess was clasping this treasure to her little breast, the nurse making sure first that no one was looking, snatched it from her and threw it into the sea.

The baby-princess when she saw her darling doll falling into the water began to wail, and tears came into her eyes. Then her nurse knelt before her, and saw in those tears her own wedding. So happy was she over this sight that she jumped up and began to caper about, heeding not the sobs of the poor little Princess.

But King Theophile heard them and came out with a face of thunder. "Woman," he cried, "why do you dance when a princess weeps?"

Then the nurse came to her senses and grew gray with fear. She tried to mutter some excuse, but King Theophile dismissed her on the spot and gathering up his baby into his arms, took her into the nursery, and wiped away her tears. Yet her sobs did not cease and she was too little to tell him of her woe.

The nurse, though she left the King's service, did marry immediately; and began to whisper how she had seen her wedding in the tears of the Princess Elene, which word was to work out cruelly for the royal child. From that day on those about her, though they loved her dearly, could not refrain from trying their fortune in her tears. As she grew older and more understanding it was a difficult matter to know how to make her cry without incurring suspicion.

But even a wrong will finds its way, and little Elene grew up wondering why people were so unkind to her; and why there was so much sadness in the world, for when all else failed the minstrels could make her weep by singing of "old, unhappy far-off things, and battles long-ago."

King Theophile did not know of these troubles of his little daughter, for she had learned early that her tears hurt him, so she concealed them from him. All his joy was now in her, for she was the very image of her dead mother, and beautiful as a dawn of May day. When she danced she was like the light that ripples over the flowers; when she sang the souls of all young birds seemed to float on her voice.

The fame of her beauty went through many kingdoms, and with the legend of her loveliness was told the strange tale of her magic tears.

Now three young princes from three great States, fell ardently in love with Elene from the mere breath of the rumor of her charms. The first was Prince Tristan, the second Prince Martin, the third Prince Lorenzo; and both Prince Tristan and Prince Martin were sure of winning.

But Prince Lorenzo was not at all sure, because he had lost much in his short life, and knew that love is like the wind that comes and goes; like the fire that leaps into the night and is seen no more; like the star that flashes across the dark zenith and then vanishes.

One May morning the three Princes arrived to try their fortunes and to sue for the hand of the Princess Elene. Prince Tristan, who was straight and handsome, put on his best white satin doublet and stuck a rose behind his ear. Prince Martin put on glittering armor like a knight going to battle; but Prince Lorenzo was so consumed with love that he thought not at all of what he wore.

King Theophile himself led them into the presence of the Princess Elene, who was clad in a silk robe that shimmered like a rainbow, and who looked so beautiful that for an instant Prince Lorenzo put his hand before his eyes. The two other princes gazed straight at the lady; then made grand sweeping bows.

"May I tell you," said Prince Tristan, holding out his rose, "that you are the most beautiful princess I have ever seen?"

"May I tell you," said Prince Martin, "that your eyes are like stars?"

Prince Lorenzo remained mute because his heart was too full for speech, and King Theophile looked coldly upon him; but the Princess Elene gazed at him until he blushed. Then she seated herself on her throne and bade the princes speak to her of what pleased them best.

Prince Tristan began at once to tell her of his hunting exploits, and what joy he took in the chase. But the Princess's face grew colder and colder as she listened, for she loved all living things, and could not bear to see any of them hurt. Tristan did not observe this, for like all vain people, he was thinking of his own charms, and so was unaware of the effect he was producing.

He finished with a flourish, and Prince Martin stumbled in on the last words, so eager was he to render in his turn a glowing account of all his fine deeds. These were not few, for he was a brave lad, so for an hour he discoursed upon tourneys and battles; nor did he observe that the Princess Elene grew pale—and trembled, for her mother's sorrow over war lived again in her heart.

To her relief he came at last to the end of his recital; then with a sigh Elene turned her beautiful eyes upon Prince Lorenzo. "And what have you to tell me, my Prince?"

For answer he said to a page, "Give me thy harp"; and when it was delivered to him he struck the strings and sang:

"In the hour of the white moths flying Beneath the great gray moon, My sad heart was a-sighing Lest love should come too soon.

"In the hour of the dawn-birds flying Each to his feathery mate, My sad heart was a-sighing Lest love should come too late.

"Thy spirit heard my voicing, And bade me cease from fears, And follow thee, rejoicing, Beyond all time and tears."

"It is a beautiful song," said the Princess. "And it would be sweet to follow someone beyond time and tears."

Then Prince Tristan and Prince Martin looked enviously at Prince Lorenzo; and Prince Martin said contemptuously, "I did not know that thou wert a minstrel."

"Thou mayst yet discover that I am a shoemaker," returned Lorenzo. "Also, if there were no carpenters in the world we should all be houseless. A carpenter may, indeed, be of more use than a princeling."

Tristan looked at Elene to see how she bore the shock of hearing such people mentioned as carpenters and shoemakers; but she was smiling as if Lorenzo's words pleased her.

The three princes stayed on at the Castle, and the court was very gay. Only King Theophile's heart was heavy, for he knew that he must lose his most beautiful daughter. She was equally kind to all her suitors, and he could not discover which prince she favored. So one evening he came to her in her octagon room, which was of white ivory and whose windows were hung with coral silk; and he found her spinning with her maidens. Her robe of lace rippled about her little feet, and the band of sapphires which held back her yellow hair were not as blue as her eyes.

King Theophile dismissed the maidens, and seating himself beside his daughter he took her hand and said:

"O ray of sunlight out of a great sorrow, tell me in the name of thy dead mother, to whom thou hast given thine heart?"

But the Princess veiled her eyes and drooped her head, for a burden was upon her soul. "My father," she said, "a prince can not easily be a lover, for love has but one object, and in the life of a prince are many objects. I would be loved, but fine words are no proof of a heart."

"Prince Tristan is a noble youth."

"He is too fond of killing," replied Elene.

King Theophile's cheeks grew pale, for he thought of the long-ago wars and men asleep in crimson meadows that had once been green.

"Prince Martin is a gallant lad."

"He would rather contend with others than with himself," said the Princess.

"As for Prince Lorenzo, he dreams too much."

"Dreamers oft know more than those who are awake," replied Elene.

King Theophile sighed, for when his Princess spoke in this wise she seemed to pass from his arms into the arms of her dead mother. Now when Elene heard him sigh her heart was touched, for she loved him dearly.

"King-Father, do not sigh. I will make my choice, and this will be the manner of my choosing. Thou knowst my tears can show the future."

Then the King grew pale, for he thought of the mother who could not weep until the little daughter was laid upon her breast.

"My three suitors may try their fortunes through my tears one week from, this night; that is—" she added, "if they have power to make me weep. He who beholds me weep, him will I wed."

The King was sad when he heard this, but he saw it was her will and refrained from protest. Next day he announced to the court and to the three suitors through what means the Princess Elene would make her decision.

From that day on Elene saw little of the three princes, for Prince Lorenzo was wandering off in the forests alone and Prince Martin and Prince Tristan were trying pathos on the maids of honor, each vying with the other to tell the saddest tales. They succeeded so well that the noble maidens nearly cried their eyes out. King Theophile was much embarrassed to come, in his walks, upon a little maid of honor weeping into her handkerchief, while a Prince discoursed at her feet.

At last the week wore away, and the court assembled for what someone called the Trial of Tears. A thousand wax candles were lit in the glittering throne room. King Theophile sat upon his throne, and on his right hand was the Princess Elene, crowned with white roses, and robed in white silk which had a shimmer of gold in its folds. At the foot of the throne sat the three princes.

When all were assembled the King arose and announced the intention of the Princess to give her hand to him who should behold in her tears her wedding.

Prince Tristan was the first to try his fortune. He had chosen the tale of a young girl cruelly turned adrift in a forest and left there to die, and he related it with every circumstance that could render it more piteous. Soon every lady in the court was weeping, but to the eyes of the Princess Elene came no tears, which made Prince Tristan angry, so that he finished his tale in a sullen muttering voice.

Then Prince Martin rose and told a story of little children who had climbed into a boat which the rising tide seized and carried out to sea. They were too little to be afraid, and only when starvation seized them did they begin to wail for their mothers.

This story, related in a soft, melancholy voice, touched all hearts, and through the court there was the sound of weeping, but the Princess gazed straight before her, and her eyes were dry.

Prince Martin ended his tale with real sadness, for he saw that the Princess Elene was unmoved by his narrative, and with drooping head he returned to his seat.

Then rose Prince Lorenzo and bowed low before the Princess. "Even to win you," he said, "I would not have you shed tears, for you have been made to shed too many in your short life."

He had scarcely uttered these words when the Princess's lip quivered like that of a little child and sudden tears welled up in her eyes. As they fell Lorenzo went quickly to her, and gazing upon her face, gave a cry of joy. "O my Love!" he exclaimed. "I see thee all in a white veil and I am by thy side!"

Then smiling through her tears, she arose and held out her hand to him, and the court knew that he was the chosen one. He knelt before her and kissed her hand, while the heralds proclaimed him the victor.

So they were married and lived happily ever afterwards, for she was a true Princess and he was a true Prince.


In the midst of a plain stood a great church built of white stones, with a massive tower. On this tower was a weather vane in the shape of a golden man who rode a golden horse, and made ready to shoot a golden arrow. Only the arrow never left the bow, but pointed always to the direction from which the wind blew—north from the mountains; east from the sea; west from the plain; south from the waving forests.

Now the Archer looked very small from the court in front of the cathedral because he was up so high in the air; so high, indeed, that often the lightning passed through his body. In reality he was not small, but life-size, and he had once been a man, but now he was a weather vane because he had made a vow to dwell forever on the tower and show the people from which direction came the life-bringing winds.

For the reason that he had a man's heart in his golden body, life was not always easy for him up there in the high place, and his eyes would sweep the far horizons in search of someone to companion him, but no living thing passed by him but the beautiful sea-birds who had learned that his golden arrow would never pierce their breasts—and so they loved him, and perched upon his arm that drew the bow.

Even the winds were kind to him because he moved so easily at their behest, but all winds were not alike to him who had the heart of a man. When spring came and the breezes blew from the south, heavy with the scent of magnolia, of lilacs, and blue violets, the heart of the Golden Archer ached with a strange hurt out of vanished years that he couldn't quite remember. When summer brought to him the delicious odor of grapes and berries and strong bright flowers, he longed to go down from the tower and wander after the fireflies' lanterns among the loaded vines, or pillow his head on sweet hay and let the winds put him to sleep forever.

When autumn came, and the flying leaves, as golden as his own steed, looked like yellow butterflies too tired to move their wings, the Archer would think of fires on hearths only half remembered, and he wished he could stable his golden horse while he joined some group about the dancing flames.

Winter was hardest of all to him, for all the world went in-doors and left him lonely. The frost-fairies, that glided down the blue rays of the winter-moon with their little lanterns that gave much color but no heat, these little creatures could not comfort him, because though he rode so high and was so straight, still he had the heart of a man. Sometimes the wild snows came and blinded his steady, sorrowful eyes; and in blackest midnight, when the sleet rattled against the golden sides of his horse, then, indeed, he felt alone and forgotten.

For the people on the plain, though they looked to his guiding arrow did not love him because they thought him only a weather vane.

So the years drove on and the Golden Archer grew lonelier and lonelier. Came at last a spring when the scent of peach-blossom was like the hurt of too great joy, and far-away the peach-orchards splashed the land with pink. High up in the air the Archer looked wistfully southward and pointed his bow towards clouds of sweetness and rose-color. How he longed to leave the great white stones of the tower and go wandering through those creamy orchards and down the green aisles of the forests by bright refreshing streams.

As he was gazing one day over the fertile plain he saw moving upon it what looked to him from that height like a very little girl. But he knew that she must be really a tall, slender maiden. That she had golden hair he also knew because it gleamed in the sun.

Then his lonely heart desired her company and he sent out thoughts to her, for being an Archer he could do this. Thoughts were his real arrows.

So this thought he sent towards her: "I do not know who you are, but I am a lonely Archer on the great cathedral where I have made a vow to tell forever the wandering of the wind. I cannot come to thee, but climb the winding stairs to this high place that I may gaze upon thee. I am lonely."

Now the young girl was walking at sunset in the orchards with her betrothed when through the air this message came to her, and, lifting up her eyes, she said: "See where the last light lies on the Golden Archer. How graceful he is, like a bit of flame above the old white church."

"They say the view is fine from there," answered her sweetheart.

"Let us climb up to-morrow," proposed the maid, whose name was Felice.

So next day at sunset she and her betrothed climbed the winding stair of the cathedral, and emerged on the roof near the Golden Archer, who, when he saw the maiden, felt an old rapture sweep over him. For a moment he so forgot his vow that he stood quite still, though the wind was veering. How beautiful she was with all the beauty of the sweet earth from which he had been so long removed. Her hair was like harvest-corn, and her eyes were like dim places where violets hide. The soft voice of her was as music in the Archer's ears, who had heard too long the jangling of iron bells in the towers beneath him.

And now she was looking at him. Old memories stirred in him beneath the armor that hid his manhood. He wanted to get down from his golden horse and lay aside his bow and arrow, and take her in his arms.

"What a beautiful Archer," she was saying, "how crisp his hair, how clear and firm his lips, how pure his profile."

Now her betrothed could be jealous even of a weather vane, so he said: "Anyone can be beautiful who is made of metal."

"It is an imperishable beauty," she replied. "Flesh and blood decay."

The Golden Archer was so agitated that he turned his eyes upon her, and all at once she knew that he was alive and her heart was aflame with love for him.

Next day she came alone to the tower. She found him pointing north and looking away from her, for the vow had gripped him again like the frosts of winter. But she spoke softly and said, "Beloved, the spring is here."

Then the south wind came, and against his will he veered and looked at her. She came close to his golden horse and touched the arm that held the bow. "You drew me to you, and now you do not look at me," she said.

"I am afraid to look at you," he replied and dropped his golden eyelids.

"Yet you are not afraid to gaze into the sky," she ventured.

"Out of the sky will come nothing to harm me," he answered.

"Could I harm you, soul of my soul?" she cried.

"You could make me love you," was his answer.

So they were quiet for a while. She watched the sea-birds circle about his shining horse which seemed ever ready to plunge from the cathedral tower into the spaces of the air, yet remained always the toy of the winds. She listened to the hoarse voices of the huge bells that swung beneath her.

At last she rose and unbound her hair so that it floated like a golden banner in the wind. "Come," she whispered.

Then the Golden Archer felt all the pain of those who must turn away from the voice of love. His eyes looked towards the sunset, but his heart seemed drowning in a strange, sweet, throbbing darkness. "Come nearer," he whispered.

So she went so near that her golden hair floated all about him and he saw the landscape through a yellow cloud. "Kiss me," she said.

But he set his lips steadfastly, and tried to turn to the north, which he could not do, for the wind was steadily from the south.

"I am cold," she whispered. "Let us go down to the warm orchards."

"Go!" he answered, "for your words pierce my heart, and I have made a vow to tell the people about the coming and going of the great winds."

"My love is a great wind," she said.

Then sadly she left him. He was alone on his tower and night was coming.

He tried to think of his vow, but her eyes called him, her lips brushed his like the light wing of a nesting bird. Hour after hour he endured the pain—and at last tears rolled from his eyes and melted his armor. The Golden Archer felt his old humanity return like a flood and set him free; and in the silence that comes before the dawn, he got down from his horse. The limbs of the golden animal were moving also; and stealthily, with the cramped action of those too long in one position, horse and man went down the stairs of the church, through the stone vestibule and out into the sweet, warm plain.

The Golden Archer knelt beneath the stars and wept himself back to his old beautiful manhood, then, mounting his horse, he galloped to the edge of the forest where in a cottage smothered beneath roses and honeysuckle Felice lived; once at her window he whispered: "The Golden Archer has come for thee, dearest."

Then she came out trembling, and in the gray light he took her in his arms and comforted her. "We will ride away and be married," he said. Then he lifted her on his horse, and they rode away through the forest, she lying quite still against his heart, and gazing with wide-open eyes into the green dimness. So they came to a church and were married.

That night they went to an inn on the borders of the forest, an old house with nine gables, deep moss on the roof, and a creaking signboard with a crowing bird painted on it; and the inn was called "The Crowing Cock."

Now there were many countrymen seated in the inn-parlor, and as the Golden Archer entered the room everyone rose and bowed; and as they passed through, Felice heard a peasant say, "How strange that a prince should marry a farm-girl."

Then the hot color came into her face, for Felice was very proud, and did not like to be thought inferior to her husband. When they were alone together she related what she had heard. The Golden Archer looked puzzled, for he thought that she loved him too well to care for such trifles. "We are one because we are dear to each other," he cried, and took her in his arms and cherished her.

Next day came the Mistress of the Inn to set the room in order, and as she bustled about she said, "From what kingdom comes your husband, the Prince?"

"My husband is not a prince," said Felice.

"He talks and acts like one," remarked the Hostess. "What is he then?"

The little Felice felt her cheeks burn. She could not say that her husband had been a weather vane, and was now a man, so she replied, "He occupied a very high position of trust."

"Yet he seems to know as little of real life as a prince," mused the Hostess. "He has asked me strange questions about quite ordinary things."

Felice grew pinker than ever; and when the Golden Archer came into the room he found her in tears.

"Heart's dearest, why do you weep?" he said.

Then she told him her trouble. He must act like other people, she said, or tongues would begin to wag. He must forget that he had ever been a weather vane and must learn the ways of the world. The Golden Archer's heart was wounded by her words.

"Do you remember," he said, "that you called your love for me a great wind."

"Yes, I remember."

"A great wind blows everything before it, even the words of men."

Now Felice was a woman who catches up phrases too easily and speaks them too trippingly. So she answered, "If you love me you will do anything for me," for that was her test of love, that whoever cared for her should bend ever to her will.

"We must serve each other," said the Archer, to whom the winds in all those years had whispered many secrets. "When equality in love or friendship ceases the end of joy is near. But remove the cloud from your forehead, dear love, and let us hunt the blue gentians in the forest glades."

"Oh, no! let us go to the village fair," said Felice.

"What! Exchange those cool, dim places, flower-scented, for the glare and noise of a fair?"

"No one can see me in the forest," remarked Felice, turning her head from side to side and gazing in a mirror.

"But I see you! Isn't that enough!"

Felice sighed, for she liked admiration, and the Golden Archer said no more about gathering gentians, but went with her to the fair, which was a sacrifice, for he loved fresh air and solitude; and the crowds, the heat, and the dust made his head ache. Then, too, he was not used to fairs, and more than once made Felice uncomfortable by the questions he asked. She was always afraid that he would betray his origin when anyone spoke of the wind. Someone, indeed, said it was south, and the Golden Archer with a smile corrected him. "It is east," he remarked. "Oh, what difference does it make!" Felice cried crossly.

Her ill-temper increased because people looked more at her husband than at her. The Golden Archer was, indeed, very handsome, and he had lived so much in the skies that he had a fine, free air. People could take long breaths in his presence, instead of feeling choked and cramped, so they wanted to talk with him.

He would have been glad to gratify them, but his wife's drooping lips closed his own; and after a while both went sadly back to the inn, wondering why all the glory was gone from the day.

But in their room he drew her into his arms, and loved her anew, and talked to her of all the wonderful things that would come to them if they were faithful.

"Don't you know, sweet Felice," he said, "that love is like the seed in the ground, which comes up a little frail and tender plant; but through storm and sunshine grows into a great tree. We must be patient with each other."

Felice was of those who want their trees full-grown, and she began to wonder why she had married the Golden Archer instead of her own man, whom she could understand; and she wished that she had never climbed to the top of the tower and lost her heart to the Archer.

The days of their honeymoon dragged, for the Archer in addition to the hurt of his love had now to suffer the pain of estrangement. The more he cared for Felice the harder it was to see her restless and unhappy. "It will be different when we are in our own home," he would say to himself.

So one day they left the inn and went to their own cottage which stood on a little hill, and from the window could be seen the tower of the great white church. Now the Golden Archer used often to gaze at this tower, which made Felice ask him if he were homesick.

"No; but I miss the great winds," he replied.

"Do you know what people say?" she asked him.

"What do they say?"

"That you were struck by lightning—and all melted away."

"I was struck by lightning," he answered. "Love slew me."

This pleased her. For awhile she showed herself loving and tender, but because she obeyed moods and not a strong, steadfast will, the old unhappiness came back. The Golden Archer felt more lonely than ever he had done on the high white tower, and loneliest of all when he held her in his arms.

One day he found her crying. "Why do you cry, Beloved?" he asked her.

"I am lonely," she said.

"With me?"

"Yes," she sobbed, "with you. What have you to tell me but your tales of the great winds? Other men have had their friends, their adventures. They can relate stories of their boyhood, of their early life, but you came from a far-off tower and know nothing of the world."

"It is true," he murmured. "I can only tell you of the skies; for all the time of my former days on earth is dim to me."

That night they sat before the fire, for it was now autumn, and the leaping flames showed her gold hair and her eyes like dark pools. Upon the Golden Archer they shone, too, where he sat still and hurt, but unable to tell his pain, because he had lived too high above the world. The low, hoarse winds drove the flying leaves against the window glass and whistled in the keyhole; at which Felice would shiver and cast sidelong glances at her strange husband.

All at once on the wind came a caroling voice. Felice rushed to the window and peered out. The voice sang:

"All that I knew of thee, my Love, The great winds bore away. When they are hushed wilt thou return To bless the close of day?

"In that still hour come back to me, And find thy longed-for rest. Poor petal blown too near the sun, Float downward to my breast."

"Ah," cried Felice, "it is my old Love."

"My love for thee is older than the moon," said the Golden Archer. "Can you not rest by our hearth?"

Then she knelt by him and pressed her face against his knees. And his heart grew as heavy as a weary dream before a sultry dawn when the thunder hangs in the hills. Her grief weighed all the more upon him because he knew she was trying to love him; and when that hour of effort comes death is under its cloak.

But the next day she was cheerful and sang about her tasks. The Golden Archer saddled his horse and rode miles through the forest upon the crisp red leaves; and he knew that goodness would not hold her, nor kindness, nor fidelity, nor service, for love like hers is held prisoner to nothing once its wings are outstretched, nor does it know good from evil.

When he rode home the stars were peeping through the forest branches, and the white owls were flying. But the frost that silvered the red leaves was not so sharp and glistening as the memory of her tears.

As he reached his door he saw that it was open and the light from the fire shone out upon the dark paths of the forest. But the room was empty of her presence.

He called her name, but no answer was returned; then on a tablet upon the table he saw words written and brought them to the fire and read them.

"O Golden Archer, go back to thy tower, for the great winds have taken me on a long journey, and I shall never see thee again."

Then he knew that not his faithful winds, but the voice of old memories had called her, and he bowed his head in an imperishable sorrow.

Because his heart was broken he desired to cease from his humanity and return to the old white tower. As once his warm tears had thawed his shining armor and made him an inhabitant of the world, so now his cold and bitter tears encased him again in hard metal.

Walking wearily and with stiff footsteps he went to the stable, brought out his horse and rode across the plain to the great white church upon which the midnight moon was shining. He knocked on its west door, and from the vaults came the echoes.

"You cannot return, Golden Archer, for you have broken your vow!"

"But I have broken my heart also," he answered; "therefore, let me in."

"But you will come down again from the tower," cried the echoes.

"Nay, for only the broken-hearted know how to keep their vows," he answered.

So the doors swung open, and up the dim spiral stairs rode the Golden Archer, through bars of moonlight to the region of the great winds where again he mounted the tower. But always there is one dream left to the sorrowful, and his was, that some night the great winds would drive her soul against his breast.

Then he became very still and turned his arrow northward, for the wind was coming from the far circles of the Arctic ice.

Next day the sun rose red and glorious and made fires on the armor of the Golden Archer, and all the people upon the plain rubbed their eyes and cried out:

"There's a new Archer on the Cathedral. Now we shall know from which horizon comes the wind!"


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