Honey, I’m Hoooome!

So after a nice, week-long vacation from my home computer … I realized how much I missed posting things. Over the past few days I’ve been working on my new book The Prince of Prophecy Vol. III: Changing Tides which will be released in October of this year! I’m super excited and I’ve been working really hard alongside my editor (Samantha Cook) and illustrator (Eren Angiolini) to produce the best book in the TPoP series yet. The beta-readers love it so far which is a great sign, and I’m looking forward to sharing the story with more people once it’s a little closer to completion.

For now, however, I do have something to share with you guys… The very first cover WIP (work in progress) that I got from my illustrator (it’s a sneak peek as to what’s gonna be on the cover)!

destan and evie wip

Pretty cool, right? From this, you can just imagine the action I’ve got in store for you guys with this book! Stay tuned for more Prince of Prophecy updates (there will be a lot more in the near future).

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Advertisements

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s “The Rabbit’s Bride”

rabbitbride

There was once a woman who lived with her daughter in a beautiful cabbage-garden; and there came a rabbit and ate up all the cabbages. At last said the woman to her daughter, “Go into the garden, and drive out the rabbit.” – “Shoo! shoo!” said the maiden; “don’t eat up all our cabbages, little rabbit!” – “Come, maiden,” said the rabbit, “sit on my tail and go with me to my rabbit-hutch.” But the maiden would not. Another day, back came the rabbit, and ate away at the cabbages, until the woman said to her daughter, “Go into the garden, and drive away the rabbit.” – “Shoo! shoo!” said the maiden; “don’t eat up all our cabbages, little rabbit!” – “Come, maiden,” said the rabbit, “sit on my tail and go with me to my rabbit-hutch.” But the maiden would not. Again, a third time back came the rabbit, and ate away at the cabbages, until the woman said to her daughter, “Go into the garden, and drive away the rabbit.” – “Shoo! shoo!” said the maiden; “don’t eat up all our cabbages, little rabbit!” – “Come, maiden,” said the rabbit, “sit on my tail and go with me to my rabbit-hutch.” And then the girl seated herself on the rabbit’s tail, and the rabbit took her to his hutch. “Now,” said he, “set to work and cook some bran and cabbage; I am going to bid the wedding guests.” And soon they were all collected. Would you like to know who they were? Well, I can only tell you what was told to me; all the hares came, and the crow who was to be the parson to marry them, and the fox for the clerk, and the altar was under the rainbow.

But the maiden was sad, because she was so lonely. “Get up! get up!” said the rabbit, “the wedding folk are all merry.” But the bride wept and said nothing, and the rabbit went away, but very soon came back again. “Get up! get up!” said he, “the wedding folk are waiting.” But the bride said nothing, and the rabbit went away. Then she made a figure of straw, and dressed it in her own clothes, and gave it a red mouth, and set it to watch the kettle of bran, and then she went home to her mother. Back again came the rabbit, saying, “Get up! get up!” and he went up and hit the straw figure on the head, so that it tumbled down.

And the rabbit thought that he had killed his bride, and he went away and was very sad.

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s “The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean”

2303557317_f5929178c8

In a village dwelt a poor old woman, who had gathered together a dish of beans and wanted to cook them. So she made a fire on her hearth, and that it might burn the quicker, she lighted it with a handful of straw. When she was emptying the beans into the pan, one dropped without her observing it, and lay on the ground beside a straw, and soon afterwards a burning coal from the fire leapt down to the two. Then the straw began and said: “Dear friends, from whence do you come here?” The coal replied: “I fortunately sprang out of the fire, and if I had not escaped by sheer force, my death would have been certain,–I should have been burnt to ashes.” The bean said: “I too have escaped with a whole skin, but if the old woman had got me into the pan, I should have been made into broth without any mercy, like my comrades.” “And would a better fate have fallen to my lot?” said the straw. “The old woman has destroyed all my brethren in fire and smoke; she seized sixty of them at once, and took their lives. I luckily slipped through her fingers.”

“But what are we to do now?” said the coal.

“I think,” answered the bean, “that as we have so fortunately escaped death, we should keep together like good companions, and lest a new mischance should overtake us here, we should go away together, and repair to a foreign country.”

The proposition pleased the two others, and they set out on their way together. Soon, however, they came to a little brook, and as there was no bridge or foot-plank, they did not know how they were to get over it. The straw hit on a good idea, and said: “I will lay myself straight across, and then you can walk over on me as on a bridge.” The straw therefore stretched itself from one bank to the other, and the coal, who was of an impetuous disposition, tripped quite boldly on to the newly-built bridge. But when she had reached the middle, and heard the water rushing beneath her, she was after all, afraid, and stood still, and ventured no farther. The straw, however, began to burn, broke in two pieces, and fell into the stream. The coal slipped after her, hissed when she got into the water, and breathed her last. The bean, who had prudently stayed behind on the shore, could not but laugh at the event, was unable to stop, and laughed so heartily that she burst. It would have been all over with her, likewise, if, by good fortune, a tailor who was travelling in search of work, had not sat down to rest by the brook. As he had a compassionate heart he pulled out his needle and thread, and sewed her together. The bean thanked him most prettily, but as the tailor used black thread, all beans since then have a black seam.

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Here’s chapter 5 of that sci-fi novel! This one’s gonna be rough…

Okay! Here is chapter five of that novel I haven’t named yet–that’s got to change soon… Anyway, if you haven’t read the prologue, chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, and chapter 4, go read those first or you will be very, very confused. I know for a fact that this chapter is going to be much more typo-ridden than the last since none of my beta readers have read this far yet. Still, I hope you guys enjoy it all the same!

 

Disclaimer: these chapters have not yet been professionally edited so there will most definitely be mistakes that I did not catch. Also this series contains violence, moderately strong language, and a touch of gore. Reader discretion is advised.

Chapter 5

Out of the Frying Pan

 

“The uniforms look superb, Mr. Cain,” Noire said as he examined Kira and Artemis in front of the entrance hatch. “Your contact certainly has an eye for detail.”

“My tailor droids made them,” Cain said, his voice low, and growling as it usually was. Kira had gotten used to his naturally severe tone. “I believe Tora Corps employees will find everything to be in order.”

Kira glanced toward Artemis noting that he looked quite dashing with his face clean-shaven and his usually unruly chestnut-brown hair brushed back out of his face. The white uniform fitted his tall, toned form perfectly, accentuating his muscles. The edges of his long, high collared coat was lined with smooth black trim, and the rank stripes on the left side of his chest pulsed orange and black in time with his heart—a staple of the Tora Corp solider uniforms. Those stripes monitored pulse-rate, body temperature, and a multitude of other physical functions. It was like having a personal diagnostics droid. Traditionally the information the stripes gathered were sent to one’s data chip, but since Kira and Artemis lacked that tech, Kira programmed the stripes to send the data to their holowatches instead.

Kira wore an outfit almost identical to Artemis’s, except hers was tailor-made for her curvier physique. The tight black pants that went with uniform were not nearly as uncomfortable as she thought they’d be, and Artemis didn’t seem to mind them either. Tight was good—tight meant loose material wouldn’t get in the way in case they had to fight. The material had some stretch to it as well which would allow for flexibility. Overall, Kira approved of their uniforms.

Artemis scratched at his neck, his serious solider act falling to pieces in that instant. “This coat’s kinda hot—and not in the good way.”

“You can adjust the coat’s temperature with your watch,” Cain said. “Ms. Chevalier, you added those settings, didn’t you.”

“Of course,” Kira said, gabbing Artemis’s wrists and pointing and speaking to the watch. “Archimedes, make Artemis’s coat 70 degrees Fahrenheit.”

“Yes, Ms. Chevalier,” Archimedes replied in his smooth inflectionless voice.

Artemis’s upper lip twitched in disgust. “You gave mine a voice too?”

“Our watches share an operating system. Deal with it,” she replied coolly, letting go of his wrist and letting it fall back down to his side.

Noire’s dark, well-maintained brows furrowed—the only sign he ever showed of discomfort. “Is there nothing I can say to make you reconsider?”

There was plenty Noire could say to make Kira reconsider, but when Artemis set his mind on something… “Nope,” Artemis said, making a popping sound at the ‘p’. He placed his hands on his hips, looking like a super hero out of one of his stupid comic books. “We’re doing this, Addy. Once we steal some MCTA and sell it, we’re gonna be rolling in the dough and you’re gonna be back on top again! We’re gonna have all the new tech we need to steal anything we want. This is our only ticket out of this slump.”

Noire’s lips pressed into a thin, white slash. “We’re not in a slump. We’re fine—we’re surviving.”

“But we could be thriving,” Artemis said pointedly. “We used to and we will again. You don’t have to worry about me and K—we’re gonna be alright. With her brains and my moves, there’s no way those science nerds can stop us.”

“Assuming you work together,” Noire said, loosely crossing his arms over his chest. “That’s the only way you’re going to be successful. You must learn to operate as one unit, not as two individuals with separate plans.”

Kira could tell by Noire’s wary tone that he didn’t think they were ready for a heist like this. In truth, Kira didn’t think they were ready either, but she couldn’t let Artemis do this alone. He was too brash to execute a successful lift. He needed her steady hand, and she was certain he knew that too.

Artemis set his hand on Noire’s shoulder and grinned so confidently, Kira was tempted to believe his next words. “We’re gonna be fine, Pops. Me and K learned from the best, after all.”

Cain’s dark eyes flickered to Noire who still looked as if he was fighting the urge to knock her and Artemis unconscious to prevent them from leaving. “Departures end in less than an hour now. It’s time to go.”

Noire clenched his jaw so tightly that Kira thought he might break his teeth as Cain typed in a code on the touch keypad and opened the entrance hatch. Kira lowered her eyes and turned her back to her mentor, her and Artemis following Cain out of Noire’s base.

Noire made a sound as if he was going to speak and Kira looked back at him. His mouth hung open for a moment as if he couldn’t decide what to say before giving up and waving her forward without another word.

The hatch shut and its three steel bolts locked into place. The metallic thud of the bolts was more severe and final than it had ever been before, and the sound echoed through her. She felt a cold sort of emptiness envelop her as she watched Cain and Artemis climb up the ladder that would lead them to the surface. It was a familiar feeling that settled uncomfortably at the pit of her stomach.

This wasn’t a good idea. Something inside of her was screaming for her to turn back now. After a moment of indulging the panicked thoughts, she took a deep breath and attempted to release all of her worries upon exhale.

That was just her pessimism talking. Everything would be fine. Despite trying to convince herself of this, that terrible feeling in the pit of her stomach did not dissipate.

 

Cain programmed the coordinates into his hovercraft’s navigation system and they flew off toward Tora Corp’s teleportation center. It was a lush hovercraft complete with real leather cushions and a minibar full of drinks neither Kira nor Artemis had ever tasted or even heard of. Cain didn’t allow them to partake in any of the luxurious drinks as he feared it would impair their judgment.

The Tora Corporation Teleportation Center was a massive domed building that floated in the sky above Imperial city. Like most other building, the teleportation center was made of thick anti-shatter glass that had been tinted white, making it difficult to see what was on the inside unless you were very close—nose-pressed-to-the-glass close.

Cain dropped them off at the building’s entrance not saying so much as ‘good luck’ before speeding away. Kira didn’t mind the abrupt exit—there was nothing he could have said to ease her fretful mind anyway.

Artemis’s eyes darted down to her chest. She was just about to slap him when she too looked down to see that her stripes were blinking quite rapidly in time with her heart. Artemis placed his hand on her shoulder, his features softening into something less excited and more sympathetic. He knew that he was the only reason she had come along. He knew he’d dragged her into this against her better judgment. He knew and maybe deep down he also knew that it was unfair for him to have manipulated her in such a way.

He gently squeezed her shoulder. “Hey.” Kira eyes flickered up to meet his. “It’s gonna be alright.”

She nodded slowly, averting her eyes once more. “I hope so…”

He patted her arm roughly. “It will! Me and you are always gonna be ‘A o’ K’! Get it? Cause my name starts with and A and your name—”

“I get it,” she said quickly, grabbing his wrist and pulling him towards the entrance where other people dressed in uniforms like there’s were strolling into the building. “Let’s just get inside. If we loiter out here for too long, people might get suspicious.”

When they entered the teleportation center, they paused to take in the sight. They stood in a large, open room with white, tile floors, and harsh fluorescent lighting—even with technological advancements lightbulbs where still the best way to light a room. People didn’t bustle about here, they marched and waited in orderly lines once they got to where they were headed. And it was quiet. Not so quiet that one could hear a pin drop, but much too quiet for a public space with so much foot traffic. Scanning droids hovered about overhead, soundlessly scanning each person in sight. Noting this, Kira could not help but shrink where she stood.

Who where they kidding? There was no way they were going fool anyone even with their weeks’ worth of solider training and Tora Corp uniforms. This was a mistake, and they needed to get out of there before they were caught and thrown into prison for their lousy attempts at impersonation.

“Tora Corp doesn’t image-ray their employee’s skulls. I checked,” Artemis said to lowly, more to herself than to Artemis.

Artemis shrugged. “Yeah, I know. We went over this before we left. Come on, let’s get to the scan dock.”

Kira swallowed heavily and straightened up, feeling her hands trembling against her will. “Right. Let’s just try to avoid the droids. If there’s even the tiniest inconsistency with our data files, they’ll pick it up.”

“What about the scanning dock itself?”

She shook her head. “The docks aren’t intelligent bots. They just read the information and cross-reference it with the employee data Tora Corp has on file. As long as there aren’t more than a few discrepancies, we should be able to pass the scan with no problem.”

“And Tora Corp has us on file?”

“Yes. Cain used his connections to put our alias information into Tora’s employee database. We should be fine,” she said, once more trying to convince herself more so than her already confident partner.

“Sure we will,” Artemis said, pushing back his shoulders and putting on a more serious face. “Now let’s go be the best damn soldiers Tora Corp’s ever had.”

Kira sighed. “I’m pretty sure ‘the best damn soldiers Tora Corp ever had’ wouldn’t be planning on stealing from them.”

Artemis smirked. “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s go steal some shit, K.”

His smirk must have been infectious for she found herself smirking too. “Now you’re speaking my language.”

They strolled through the crowd of men and women in solider uniforms, lab coats, and expensive suits, as they made their way towards the scanning docks—a line of large circular platforms with rectangular archways for people to pass beneath—at the back of the large domed space. Once they passed the scan they would be authorized to teleport to N.E.S. Bengal—Tora Corporation’s Research and Development space station. Kira just hoped they would make it to the docks. At least five scanner droids stood between them and their ultimate goal and there were another two scanning people behind them.

She pushed on Artemis’s back, urging him to go faster, trying her best not to look as anxious as she felt. Her palms were already saturated with perspiration despite the cool air circulating throughout the teleportation center lobby. She knew Noire had done an excellent job on their alias files, but that terrible feeling at the pit of her stomach had yet to go away. Was this intuition telling her to run, or was it merely nerves? She couldn’t tell, but she prayed to whatever omniscient being that was listening that it was the latter of the two.

They were forced to bring their quick strides to a halt when they reached the rather long line of people and AIBs waiting to be scanned. Kira cursed beneath her breath, noting that there was still one more scanner droid up ahead along with one hovering a few people behind them in line. There was no way they could avoid the droids now. She just hoped that Noire had double and triple checked their data files for flaws. Of course he would have checked them multiple times, Kira thought, breathing in deeply through her nose as one of the droids moved on to the third person in front of them. There’s nothing wrong with our data files. There’s nothing wrong with our data files. There’s nothing wrong with our—

Data files forged. Intruder alert. Data files forged,” said a monotonous droid voice from behind her.

Kira spun around and saw that Artemis had gone pale and his eyes were wide. A scanner droid was hovering behind him, blinking red. The droid’s voice sounded over the loud speakers now. “Data files forged. Intruder alert.”

Soldiers in black uniforms wearing smooth helmets that covered their entire face had surrounded their section of the line before Kira even had a chance to blink. They raised their sleek-looking phaser-guns—if she wasn’t so frightened, she knew she’d be drooling over the weapons. A slow grin built upon Artemis’s face, his eyes alight with mischief—she knew what that look meant. He was about to do something stupid again.

Fine, she thought glumly to herself. I’m sure whatever he’s planning on doing won’t get us in any more trouble than we’re already in. She was just about to step back and let Artemis beat them up, when she noticed something: the soldier’s weren’t looking at Artemis—they were looking at the man directly behind Artemis. The droid hovered above the middle-aged man, still flashing red.

Artemis raised his arms, clenching his hands into fist, but Kira grabbed his wrists and yanked his arms back down to his sides, giving him a discreet shake of her head. Their cover wasn’t blown yet, but it would be if Artemis started kicking and punching the soldiers.

“I know what you do!” shouted the man behind Artemis. “You’re killers and I’m going expose you one way or another! Reid Zarlock murdered my daughter and buried the evidence underneath mountains of red tape!” the man cried, his voice breaking beneath the weight of his words. “His damned organization is killing innocent beings, and us, the common people, are going to be the ones to pay the price for his greed! They’re coming … it won’t be long now. We’re all going to die…”

“Take him down,” one of the soldiers commanded coolly.

The other soldiers rushed the man and rendered him unconscious with a stun shot—she knew because stun shots were blue—to the temple. They dragged the limp man off, not towards the buildings exit, but past the scanning docks to the teleporting chambers beyond. What were they doing? Why didn’t the soldiers just throw him outside?

Once Tora security had gone, Artemis relaxed, his shoulders slumping forward as he exhaled softly. “I think I might need a new pair of pants, K.”

Kira laughed despite herself. Great job, Noire. If only that other guy had one of your pristine file sets, huh? she though as she faced forward once more.

“Do you think all that crap that hippie just spouted was true?” Artemis asked lowly as the line shuffled forward.

“What? About that Zarlock guy being some murderous mastermind? Doubtful,” Kira said. “He looks and acts like a bum Tora picked up off the skyway to be their figure-head. He’s just some idiot that got lucky with a couple good ideas, that’s it.”

Artemis hummed thoughtfully. “If you say so, K. You’re the genius—I’m just here to be eye-candy.”

“And half the time you can’t even do that right.”

“But half the time I do,” he said, playfully nudging her in the small of her back.

She rolled her eyes. “I was being generous.”

“Ouch! Way to hurt a guy’s pride.”

Despite the mild jokes, the air between them was still tense. They stopped talking and Kira was glad for it. All she wanted to do was focus on getting past the scanning docks—if they did, they would have little else to worry about. She breathed in and out as steady and slow as she could manage, trying to keep the stripes on her coat from blinking too quickly.

After what seemed like hours—when in actuality it only took a few minutes—it was Kira’s turn the step up onto one of the scanning platforms. Her eyes darted to the armed guards on either side of the scanning platform. They were looking straight ahead, unmoving, and their faces were shielded by smooth black helmets just like the soldiers who dragged the hysterical man away. She stood there for a moment waiting for something to happen, and startled when an even female voice sounded from above her. “Please face forward and lift your arms so that scanning may begin.”

Kira did as the scanner instructed, lifting her arms up horizontally to shoulder height. There was a soft buzzing sound that droned on for a few seconds before the scanner beeped loudly. “Unauthorized technology detected.”

She breathed in deeply, swallowing hard as the soldiers beside the scanning dock left their posts to hop up onto the platform with her. One guard took a flat, metallic wand from his belt and waved it down her torso, while the other guard inspected her clothes, soon pulling up her sleeve to reveal her holowatch. “Found it,” the second solider said to his friend with the wand. “What’s with the old timekeeping tech, Sergeant? Is your data chip defunct or something?”

Kira shook her head, her gaze flickering to Artemis, who gave her a thumbs up. She could do this. She was smart, she could make up a lie. She cleared her throat. “I like vintage tech. I restore old watches as a hobby.”

“What’s a watch?” the solider with the wand asked with a tilt of his helmeted head.

She pointed to her wrist. “This. I was told we were allowed to bring a few personal effects on board. This doesn’t violate protocol, does it?”

“That depends on what it does,” the first guard said. “Show us.”

Kira was tempted to smirk, but she knew that wouldn’t be in her best interest at the moment. These soldiers didn’t know a thing about old tech. She tapped the screen of her hollow watch and the time was projected above the watch face. She shrugged. “Not so impressive is it? But what can I say—I’m a sucker for antique things like this.”

The guards stared at the watched for a moment before turning their heads to look at each other. “Let her keep it,” the second solider said, slipping his wand back into his belt. “It’s just some crappy old tech.”

Kira scowled but stopped herself from saying or doing anything that might jeopardize the task at hand. She pulled down her sleeve. “Is that all?”

“Not yet,” said the first guard. “Scanning dock three, state Tora employee status.”

“Employee status confirmed,” the dock replied. “Kira Leonid—Chief Master Sergeant. Science and engineer level ten downloaded to data chip. Employee on teleportation roster.”

The second guard nodded. “A scientist, huh? You better get going. They need up there, Sergeant Leonid.” The two soldiers saluted her and she saluted them back just as Cain had taught her.

She strolled off the platform, smiling minutely to herself. That wasn’t so terrible, she thought as she watched Artemis step up onto the platform after her. The dock beeped, just like it had with her, alerting the guards of unauthorized tech once more. They found Artemis’s watch without any trouble.

“You’ve got one too, Sergeant?” the first guards asked incredulously. “Hobby of yours?”

“Nah. I’m too dumb to mess with tech,” Artemis said with an unwavering smile. Kira wished she had half the confidence he exuded. “Sergeant Leonid refurbed an extra and it looked so cool I just had to have it.”

The second guard crossed his arms over his chest. “Alright, he’s clean. Scanning dock three, state Tora employee status.”

“Employee status confirmed. Artemis Hartford—Chief Master Sergeant. Combative Martial Arts chip level ten downloaded to data chip. Employee on teleportation roster.”

“Looks like you’re all set, Sergeant Hartford,” said the first solider. “Have I nice trip.”

They saluted each other and Artemis marched off the platform with his head held high to meet Kira. He nudged her once he was close enough. “Easy peasy,” he said with a wink.

She shook her head and ran a hand through her short, brown hair. “Whatever. Let’s just get to the teleporters.”

They followed the long hall behind the scanner docks and eventually reached a much smaller domed room than they had been in before. Upon arrival, Kira and Artemis were instructed by a woman in a white lab suit, to get in to one of the many glass capsules that lined the concaved wall at far end of the chamber.

Kira and Artemis exchanged slightly wary looks. They both had never teleported before, and Kira could tell that the idea of their shattered particles being shot up into space faster than the speed of light unsettled him as much as it did her. But they had both come this far—they were going to finish what they started. Thus, after the moment of hesitation passed, Kira stepped up into a capsule, and Artemis did the same.

Kira only had the chance to take one deep breath before the sensation of being pinched all over her body set in. The next thing she knew, the scene around her capsule was gone in the blink of an eye and she was on her way to the N.E.S. Bengal.

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Rudyard Kipling’s “the Miracle of Purun Bhagat”

The night we felt the earth would move
We stole and plucked him by the hand,
Because we loved him with the love
That knows but cannot understand.

And when the roaring hillside broke,
And all our world fell down in rain,
We saved him, we the Little Folk;
But lo! he does not come again!

Mourn now, we saved him for the sake
Of such poor love as wild ones may.
Mourn ye! Our brother will not wake,
And his own kind drive us away!

Dirge of the Langurs

 

There was once a man in India who was Prime Minister of one of the semi-independent native States in the north-western part of the country. He was a Brahmin, so high-caste that caste ceased to have any particular meaning for him; and his father had been an important official in the gay-coloured tag-rag and bobtail of an old-fashioned Hindu Court. But as Purun Dass grew up he felt that the old order of things was changing, and that if any one wished to get on in the world he must stand well with the English, and imitate all that the English believed to be good. At the same time a native official must keep his own master’s favour. This was a difficult game, but the quiet, close-mouthed young Brahmin, helped by a good English education at a Bombay University, played it coolly, and rose, step by step, to be Prime Minister of the kingdom. That is to say, he held more real power than his master the Maharajah.

When the old king — who was suspicious of the English, their railways and telegraphs –died, Purun Dass stood high with his young successor, who had been tutored by an Englishman; and between them, though he always took care that his master should have the credit, they established schools for little girls, made roads, and started State dispensaries and shows of agricultural implements, and published a yearly blue-book on the “Moral and Material Progress of the State,” and the Foreign Office and the Government of India were delighted. Very few native States take up English progress altogether, for they will not believe, as Purun Dass showed he did, that what was good for the Englishman must be twice as good for the Asiatic. The Prime Minister became the honoured friend of Viceroys, and Governors, and Lieutenant-Governors, and medical missionaries, and common missionaries, and hard-riding English officers who came to shoot in the State preserves, as well as of whole hosts of tourists who travelled up and down India in the cold weather, showing how things ought to be managed. In his spare time he would endow scholarships for the study of medicine and manufactures on strictly English lines, and write letters to the “Pioneer”, the greatest Indian daily paper, explaining his master’s aims and objects.

At last he went to England on a visit, and had to pay enormous sums to the priests when he came back; for even so high-caste a Brahmin as Purun Dass lost caste by crossing the black sea. In London he met and talked with every one worth knowing –men whose names go all over the world — and saw a great deal more than he said. He was given honorary degrees by learned universities, and he made speeches and talked of Hindu social reform to English ladies in evening dress, till all London cried, “This is the most fascinating man we have ever met at dinner since cloths were first laid.”

When he returned to India there was a blaze of glory, for the Viceroy himself made a special visit to confer upon the Maharajah the Grand Cross of the Star of India — all diamonds and ribbons and enamel; and at the same ceremony, while the cannon boomed, Purun Dass was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire; so that his name stood Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E.

That evening, at dinner in the big Viceregal tent, he stood up with the badge and the collar of the Order on his breast, and replying to the toast of his master’s health, made a speech few Englishmen could have bettered.

Next month, when the city had returned to its sun-baked quiet, he did a thing no Englishman would have dreamed of doing; for, so far as the world’s affairs went, he died. The jewelled order of his knighthood went back to the Indian Government, and a new Prime Minister was appointed to the charge of affairs, and a great game of General Post began in all the subordinate appointments. The priests knew what had happened, and the people guessed; but India is the one place in the world where a man can do as he pleases and nobody asks why; and the fact that Dewan Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E., had resigned position, palace, and power, and taken up the begging-bowl and ochre-coloured dress of a Sunnyasi, or holy man, was considered nothing extraordinary. He had been, as the Old Law recommends, twenty years a youth, twenty years a fighter, — though he had never carried a weapon in his life, — and twenty years head of a household. He had used his wealth and his power for what he knew both to be worth; he had taken honour when it came his way; he had seen men and cities far and near, and men and cities had stood up and honoured him. Now he would let those things go, as a man drops the cloak he no longer needs.

Behind him, as he walked through the city gates, an antelope skin and brass-handled crutch under his arm, and a begging-bowl of polished brown coco-de-mer in his hand, barefoot, alone, with eyes cast on the ground — behind him they were firing salutes from the bastions in honour of his happy successor. Purun Dass nodded. All that life was ended; and he bore it no more ill-will or good-will than a man bears to a colourless dream of the night. He was a Sunnyasi — a houseless, wandering mendicant, depending on his neighbours for his daily bread; and so long as there is a morsel to divide in India, neither priest nor beggar starves. He had never in his life tasted meat, and very seldom eaten even fish. A five-pound note would have covered his personal expenses for food through any one of the many years in which he had been absolute master of millions of money. Even when he was being lionised in London he had held before him his dream of peace and quiet — the long, white, dusty Indian road, printed all over with bare feet, the incessant, slow-moving traffic, and the sharp-smelling wood smoke curling up under the fig-trees in the twilight, where the wayfarers sit at their evening meal.

When the time came to make that dream true the Prime Minister took the proper steps, and in three days you might more easily have found a bubble in the trough of the long Atlantic seas, than Purun Dass among the roving, gathering, separating millions of India.

At night his antelope skin was spread where the darkness overtook him — sometimes in a Sunnyasi monastery by the roadside; sometimes by a mud-pillar shrine of Kala Pir, where the Jogis, who are another misty division of holy men, would receive him as they do those who know what castes and divisions are worth; sometimes on the outskirts of a little Hindu village, where the children would steal up with the food their parents had prepared; and sometimes on the pitch of the bare grazing-grounds, where the flame of his stick fire waked the drowsy camels. It was all one to Purun Dass — or Purun Bhagat, as he called himself now. Earth, people, and food were all one. But unconsciously his feet drew him away northward and eastward; from the south to Rohtak; from Rohtak to Kurnool; from Kurnool to ruined Samanah, and then up-stream along the dried bed of the Gugger river that fills only when the rain falls in the hills, till one day he saw the far line of the great Himalayas.

Then Purun Bhagat smiled, for he remembered that his mother was of Rajput Brahmin birth, from Kulu way — a Hill-woman, always home-sick for the snows — and that the least touch of Hill blood draws a man in the end back to where he belongs.

“Yonder,” said Purun Bhagat, breasting the lower slopes of the Sewaliks, where the cacti stand up like seven-branched candlesticks, “yonder I shall sit down and get knowledge;” and the cool wind of the Himalayas whistled about his ears as he trod the road that led to Simla.

The last time he had come that way it had been in state, with a clattering cavalry escort, to visit the gentlest and most affable of Viceroys; and the two had talked for an hour together about mutual friends in London, and what the Indian common folk really thought of things. This time Purun Bhagat paid no calls, but leaned on the rail of the Mall, watching that glorious view of the Plains spread out forty miles below, till a native Mohammedan policeman told him he was obstructing traffic; and Purun Bhagat salaamed reverently to the Law, because he knew the value of it, and was seeking for a Law of his own. Then he moved on, and slept that night in an empty hut at Chota Simla, which looks like the very last end of the earth, but it was only the beginning of his journey.

He followed the Himalaya-Thibet road, the little ten-foot track that is blasted out of solid rock, or strutted out on timbers over gulfs a thousand feet deep; that dips into warm, wet, shut-in valleys, and climbs out across bare, grassy hill-shoulders where the sun strikes like a burning-glass; or turns through dripping, dark forests where the tree-ferns dress the trunks from head to heel, and the pheasant calls to his mate. And he met Thibetan herdsmen with their dogs and flocks of sheep, each sheep with a little bag of borax on his back, and wandering wood-cutters, and cloaked and blanketed Lamas from Thibet, coming into India on pilgrimage, and envoys of little solitary Hill-states, posting furiously on ring-streaked and piebald ponies, or the cavalcade of a Rajah paying a visit; or else for a long, clear day he would see nothing more than a black bear grunting and rooting below in the valley. When he first started, the roar of the world he had left still rang in his ears, as the roar of a tunnel rings long after the train has passed through; but when he had put the Mutteeanee Pass behind him that was all done, and Purun Bhagat was alone with himself, walking, wondering, and thinking, his eyes on the ground, and his thoughts with the clouds.

One evening he crossed the highest pass he had met till then — it had been a two-day’s climb — and came out on a line of snow-peaks that banded all the horizon — mountains from fifteen to twenty thousand feet high, looking almost near enough to hit with a stone, though they were fifty or sixty miles away. The pass was crowned with dense, dark forest — deodar, walnut, wild cherry, wild olive, and wild pear, but mostly deodar, which is the Himalayan cedar; and under the shadow of the deodars stood a deserted shrine to Kali– who is Durga, who is Sitala, who is sometimes worshipped against the smallpox.

Purun Dass swept the stone floor clean, smiled at the grinning statue, made himself a little mud fireplace at the back of the shrine, spread his antelope skin on a bed of fresh pine-needles, tucked his bairagi — his brass-handled crutch — under his armpit, and sat down to rest.

Immediately below him the hillside fell away, clean and cleared for fifteen hundred feet, where a little village of stone-walled houses, with roofs of beaten earth, clung to the steep tilt. All round it the tiny terraced fields lay out like aprons of patchwork on the knees of the mountain, and cows no bigger than beetles grazed between the smooth stone circles of the threshing-floors. Looking across the valley, the eye was deceived by the size of things, and could not at first realise that what seemed to be low scrub, on the opposite mountain-flank, was in truth a forest of hundred-foot pines. Purun Bhagat saw an eagle swoop across the gigantic hollow, but the great bird dwindled to a dot ere it was half-way over. A few bands of scattered clouds strung up and down the valley, catching on a shoulder of the hills, or rising up and dying out when they were level with the head of the pass. And “Here shall I find peace,” said Purun Bhagat.

Now, a Hill-man makes nothing of a few hundred feet up or down, and as soon as the villagers saw the smoke in the deserted shrine, the village priest climbed up the terraced hillside to welcome the stranger.

When he met Purun Bhagat’s eyes — the eyes of a man used to control thousands — he bowed to the earth, took the begging-bowl without a word, and returned to the village, saying, “We have at last a holy man. Never have I seen such a man. He is of the Plains — but pale-coloured — a Brahmin of the Brahmins.” Then all the housewives of the village said, “Think you he will stay with us?” and each did her best to cook the most savoury meal for the Bhagat. Hill-food is very simple, but with buckwheat and Indian corn, and rice and red pepper, and little fish out of the stream in the valley, and honey from the flue-like hives built in the stone walls, and dried apricots, and turmeric, and wild ginger, and bannocks of flour, a devout woman can make good things, and it was a full bowl that the priest carried to the Bhagat. Was he going to stay? asked the priest. Would he need a chela — a disciple — to beg for him? Had he a blanket against the cold weather? Was the food good?

Purun Bhagat ate, and thanked the giver. It was in his mind to stay. That was sufficient, said the priest. Let the begging-bowl be placed outside the shrine, in the hollow made by those two twisted roots, and daily should the Bhagat be fed; for the village felt honoured that such a man — he looked timidly into the Bhagat’s face –should tarry among them.

That day saw the end of Purun Bhagat’s wanderings. He had come to the place appointed for him — the silence and the space. After this, time stopped, and he, sitting at the mouth of the shrine, could not tell whether he were alive or dead; a man with control of his limbs, or a part of the hills, and the clouds, and the shifting rain and sunlight. He would repeat a Name softly to himself a hundred hundred times, till, at each repetition, he seemed to move more and more out of his body, sweeping up to the doors of some tremendous discovery; but, just as the door was opening, his body would drag him back, and, with grief, he felt he was locked up again in the flesh and bones of Purun Bhagat.

Every morning the filled begging-bowl was laid silently in the crutch of the roots outside the shrine. Sometimes the priest brought it; sometimes a Ladakhi trader, lodging in the village, and anxious to get merit, trudged up the path; but, more often, it was the woman who had cooked the meal overnight; and she would murmur, hardly above her breath. “Speak for me before the gods, Bhagat. Speak for such a one, the wife of so-and-so!” Now and then some bold child would be allowed the honour, and Purun Bhagat would hear him drop the bowl and run as fast as his little legs could carry him, but the Bhagat never came down to the village. It was laid out like a map at his feet. He could see the evening gatherings, held on the circle of the threshing-floors, because that was the only level ground; could see the wonderful unnamed green of the young rice, the indigo blues of the Indian corn, the dock-like patches of buckwheat, and, in its season, the red bloom of the amaranth, whose tiny seeds, being neither grain nor pulse, make a food that can be lawfully eaten by Hindus in time of fasts.

When the year turned, the roofs of the huts were all little squares of purest gold, for it was on the roofs that they laid out their cobs of the corn to dry. Hiving and harvest, rice-sowing and husking, passed before his eyes, all embroidered down there on the many-sided plots of fields, and he thought of them all, and wondered what they all led to at the long last.

Even in populated India a man cannot a day sit still before the wild things run over him as though he were a rock; and in that wilderness very soon the wild things, who knew Kali’s Shrine well, came back to look at the intruder. The langurs, the big gray-whiskered monkeys of the Himalayas, were, naturally, the first, for they are alive with curiosity; and when they had upset the begging-bowl, and rolled it round the floor, and tried their teeth on the brass-handled crutch, and made faces at the antelope skin, they decided that the human being who sat so still was harmless. At evening, they would leap down from the pines, and beg with their hands for things to eat, and then swing off in graceful curves. They liked the warmth of the fire, too, and huddled round it till Purun Bhagat had to push them aside to throw on more fuel; and in the morning, as often as not, he would find a furry ape sharing his blanket. All day long, one or other of the tribe would sit by his side, staring out at the snows, crooning and looking unspeakably wise and sorrowful.

After the monkeys came the barasingh, that big deer which is like our red deer, but stronger. He wished to rub off the velvet of his horns against the cold stones of Kali’s statue, and stamped his feet when he saw the man at the shrine. But Purun Bhagat never moved, and, little by little, the royal stag edged up and nuzzled his shoulder. Purun Bhagat slid one cool hand along the hot antlers, and the touch soothed the fretted beast, who bowed his head, and Purun Bhagat very softly rubbed and ravelled off the velvet. Afterward, the barasingh brought his doe and fawn — gentle things that mumbled on the holy man’s blanket — or would come alone at night, his eyes green in the fire-flicker, to take his share of fresh walnuts. At last, the musk-deer, the shyest and almost the smallest of the deerlets, came, too, her big rabbity ears erect; even brindled, silentmushick-nabha must needs find out what the light in the shrine meant, and drop out her moose-like nose into Purun Bhagat’s lap, coming and going with the shadows of the fire. Purun Bhagat called them all “my brothers,” and his low call of “Bhai! Bhai!” would draw them from the forest at noon if they were within ear shot. The Himalayan black bear, moody and suspicious–Sona, who has the V-shaped white mark under his chin–passed that way more than once; and since the Bhagat showed no fear, Sona showed no anger, but watched him, and came closer, and begged a share of the caresses, and a dole of bread or wild berries. Often, in the still dawns, when the Bhagat would climb to the very crest of the pass to watch the red day walking along the peaks of the snows, he would find Sona shuffling and grunting at his heels, thrusting, a curious fore-paw under fallen trunks, and bringing it away with a whoof of impatience; or his early steps would wake Sona where he lay curled up, and the great brute, rising erect, would think to fight, till he heard the Bhagat’s voice and knew his best friend.

Nearly all hermits and holy men who live apart from the big cities have the reputation of being able to work miracles with the wild things, but all the miracle lies in keeping still, in never making a hasty movement, and, for a long time, at least, in never looking directly at a visitor. The villagers saw the outline of the barasingh stalking like a shadow through the dark forest behind the shrine; saw the minaul, the Himalayan pheasant, blazing in her best colours before Kali’s statue; and the langurs on their haunches, inside, playing with the walnut shells. Some of the children, too, had heard Sona singing to himself, bear-fashion, behind the fallen rocks, and the Bhagat’s reputation as miracle-worker stood firm.

Yet nothing was farther from his mind than miracles. He believed that all things were one big Miracle, and when a man knows that much he knows something to go upon. He knew for a certainty that there was nothing great and nothing little in this world: and day and night he strove to think out his way into the heart of things, back to the place whence his soul had come.

So thinking, his untrimmed hair fell down about his shoulders, the stone slab at the side of the antelope skin was dented into a little hole by the foot of his brass-handled crutch, and the place between the tree-trunks, where the begging-bowl rested day after day, sunk and wore into a hollow almost as smooth as the brown shell itself; and each beast knew his exact place at the fire. The fields changed their colours with the seasons; the threshing-floors filled and emptied, and filled again and again; and again and again, when winter came, the langurs frisked among the branches feathered with light snow, till the mother-monkeys brought their sad-eyed little babies up from the warmer valleys with the spring. There were few changes in the village. The priest was older, and many of the little children who used to come with the begging-dish sent their own children now; and when you asked of the villagers how long their holy man had lived in Kali’s Shrine at the head of the pass, they answered, “Always.”

Then came such summer rains as had not been known in the Hills for many seasons. Through three good months the valley was wrapped in cloud and soaking mist — steady, unrelenting downfall, breaking off into thunder-shower after thunder-shower. Kali’s Shrine stood above the clouds, for the most part, and there was a whole month in which the Bhagat never caught a glimpse of his village. It was packed away under a white floor of cloud that swayed and shifted and rolled on itself and bulged upward, but never broke from its piers — the streaming flanks of the valley.

All that time he heard nothing but the sound of a million little waters, overhead from the trees, and underfoot along the ground, soaking through the pine-needles, dripping from the tongues of draggled fern, and spouting in newly-torn muddy channels down the slopes. Then the sun came out, and drew forth the good incense of the deodars and the rhododendrons, and that far-off, clean smell which the Hill people call “the smell of the snows.” The hot sunshine lasted for a week, and then the rains gathered together for their last downpour, and the water fell in sheets that flayed off the skin of the ground and leaped back in mud. Purun Bhagat heaped his fire high that night, for he was sure his brothers would need warmth; but never a beast came to the shrine, though he called and called till he dropped asleep, wondering what had happened in the woods.

It was in the black heart of the night, the rain drumming like a thousand drums, that he was roused by a plucking at his blanket, and, stretching out, felt the little hand of alangur. “It is better here than in the trees,” he said sleepily, loosening a fold of blanket; “take it and be warm.” The monkey caught his hand and pulled hard. “Is it food, then?” said Purun Bhagat. “Wait awhile, and I will prepare some.” As he kneeled to throw fuel on the fire the langur ran to the door of the shrine, crooned and ran back again, plucking at the man’s knee.

“What is it? What is thy trouble, Brother?” said Purun Bhagat, for the langur‘s eyes were full of things that he could not tell. “Unless one of thy caste be in a trap — and none set traps here — I will not go into that weather. Look, Brother, even the barasingh comes for shelter!”

The deer’s antlers clashed as he strode into the shrine, clashed against the grinning statue of Kali. He lowered them in Purun Bhagat’s direction and stamped uneasily, hissing through his half-shut nostrils. “Hai! Hai! Hai!” said the Bhagat, snapping his fingers, “Is this payment for a night’s lodging?” But the deer pushed him toward the door, and as he did so Purun Bhagat heard the sound of something opening with a sigh, and saw two slabs of the floor draw away from each other, while the sticky earth below smacked its lips.

“Now I see,” said Purun Bhagat. “No blame to my brothers that they did not sit by the fire to-night. The mountain is falling. And yet — why should I go?” His eye fell on the empty begging-bowl, and his face changed. “They have given me good food daily since — since I came, and, if I am not swift, to-morrow there will not be one mouth in the valley. Indeed, I must go and warn them below. Back there, Brother! Let me get to the fire.”

The barasingh backed unwillingly as Purun Bhagat drove a pine torch deep into the flame, twirling it till it was well lit. “Ah! ye came to warn me,” he said, rising. “Better than that we shall do; better than that. Out, now, and lend me thy neck, Brother, for I have but two feet.”

He clutched the bristling withers of the barasingh with his right hand, held the torch away with his left, and stepped out of the shrine into the desperate night. There was no breath of wind, but the rain nearly drowned the flare as the great deer hurried down the slope, sliding on his haunches. As soon as they were clear of the forest more of the Bhagat’s brothers joined them. He heard, though he could not see, the langurs pressing about him, and behind them the uhh! uhh! of Sona. The rain matted his long white hair into ropes; the water splashed beneath his bare feet, and his yellow robe clung to his frail old body, but he stepped down steadily, leaning against the barasingh. He was no longer a holy man, but Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E., Prime Minister of no small State, a man accustomed to command, going out to save life. Down the steep, plashy path they poured all together, the Bhagat and his brothers, down and down till the deer’s feet clicked and stumbled on the wall of a threshing-floor, and he snorted because he smelt Man. Now they were at the head of the one crooked village street, and the Bhagat beat with his crutch on the barred windows of the blacksmith’s house, as his torch blazed up in the shelter of the eaves. “Up and out!” cried Purun Bhagat; and he did not know his own voice, for it was years since he had spoken aloud to a man. “The hill falls! The hill is falling! Up and out, oh, you within!”

“It is our Bhagat,” said the blacksmith’s wife. “He stands among his beasts. Gather the little ones and give the call.”

It ran from house to house, while the beasts, cramped in the narrow way, surged and huddled round the Bhagat, and Sona puffed impatiently. The people hurried into the street — they were no more than seventy souls all told — and in the glare of the torches they saw their Bhagat holding back the terrified barasingh, while the monkeys plucked piteously at his skirts, and Sona sat on his haunches and roared.

“Across the valley and up the next hill!” shouted Purun Bhagat. “Leave none behind! We follow!”

Then the people ran as only Hill folk can run, for they knew that in a landslip you must climb for the highest ground across the valley. They fled, splashing through the little river at the bottom, and panted up the terraced fields on the far side, while the Bhagat and his brethren followed. Up and up the opposite mountain they climbed, calling to each other by name — the roll-call of the village — and at their heels toiled the big barasingh, weighted by the failing strength of Purun Bhagat. At last the deer stopped in the shadow of a deep pinewood, five hundred feet up the hillside. His instinct, that had warned him of the coming slide, told him he would he safe here.

Purun Bhagat dropped fainting by his side, for the chill of the rain and that fierce climb were killing him; but first he called to the scattered torches ahead, “Stay and count your numbers;” then, whispering to the deer as he saw the lights gather in a cluster: “Stay with me, Brother. Stay — till — I — go!”

There was a sigh in the air that grew to a mutter, and a mutter that grew to a roar, and a roar that passed all sense of hearing, and the hillside on which the villagers stood was hit in the darkness, and rocked to the blow. Then a note as steady, deep, and true as the deep C of the organ drowned everything for perhaps five minutes, while the very roots of the pines quivered to it. It died away, and the sound of the rain falling on miles of hard ground and grass changed to the muffled drum of water on soft earth. That told its own tale.

Never a villager — not even the priest — was bold enough to speak to the Bhagat who had saved their lives. They crouched under the pines and waited till the day. When it came they looked across the valley and saw that what had been forest, and terraced field, and track-threaded grazing-ground was one raw, red, fan-shaped smear, with a few trees flung head-down on the scarp. That red ran high up the hill of their refuge, damming back the little river, which had begun to spread into a brick-coloured lake. Of the village, of the road to the shrine, of the shrine itself, and the forest behind, there was no trace. For one mile in width and two thousand feet in sheer depth the mountain-side had come away bodily, planed clean from head to heel.

And the villagers, one by one, crept through the wood to pray before their Bhagat. They saw the barasingh standing over him, who fled when they came near, and they heard thelangurs wailing in the branches, and Sona moaning up the hill; but their Bhagat was dead, sitting cross-legged, his back against a tree, his crutch under his armpit, and his face turned to the north-east.

The priest said: “Behold a miracle after a miracle, for in this very attitude must all Sunnyasis be buried! Therefore where he now is we will build the temple to our holy man.”

They built the temple before a year was ended — a little stone-and-earth shrine — and they called the hill the Bhagat’s hill, and they worship there with lights and flowers and offerings to this day. But they do not know that the saint of their worship is the late Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E., D.C.L., Ph.D., etc., once Prime Minister of the progressive and enlightened State of Mohiniwala, and honorary or corresponding member of more learned and scientific societies than will ever do any good in this world or the next.

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Wicked Prince”

THERE lived once upon a time a wicked prince whose heart and mind were set upon conquering all the countries of the world, and on frightening the people; he devastated their countries with fire and sword, and his soldiers trod down the crops in the fields and destroyed the peasants’ huts by fire, so that the flames licked the green leaves off the branches, and the fruit hung dried up on the singed black trees. Many a poor mother fled, her naked baby in her arms, behind the still smoking walls of her cottage; but also there the soldiers followed her, and when they found her, she served as new nourishment to their diabolical enjoyments; demons could not possibly have done worse things than these soldiers! The prince was of opinion that all this was right, and that it was only the natural course which things ought to take. His power increased day by day, his name was feared by all, and fortune favoured his deeds.

He brought enormous wealth home from the conquered towns, and gradually accumulated in his residence riches which could nowhere be equalled. He erected magnificent palaces, churches, and halls, and all who saw these splendid buildings and great treasures exclaimed admiringly: “What a mighty prince!” But they did not know what endless misery he had brought upon other countries, nor did they hear the sighs and lamentations which rose up from the débris of the destroyed cities.

The prince often looked with delight upon his gold and his magnificent edifices, and thought, like the crowd: “What a mighty prince! But I must have more—much more. No power on earth must equal mine, far less exceed it.”

He made war with all his neighbours, and defeated them. The conquered kings were chained up with golden fetters to his chariot when he drove through the streets of his city. These kings had to kneel at his and his courtiers’ feet when they sat at table, and live on the morsels which they left. At last the prince had his own statue erected on the public places and fixed on the royal palaces; nay, he even wished it to be placed in the churches, on the altars, but in this the priests opposed him, saying: “Prince, you are mighty indeed, but God’s power is much greater than yours; we dare not obey your orders.”

“Well,” said the prince. “Then I will conquer God too.” And in his haughtiness and foolish presumption he ordered a magnificent ship to be constructed, with which he could sail through the air; it was gorgeously fitted out and of many colours; like the tail of a peacock, it was covered with thousands of eyes, but each eye was the barrel of a gun. The prince sat in the centre of the ship, and had only to touch a spring in order to make thousands of bullets fly out in all directions, while the guns were at once loaded again. Hundreds of eagles were attached to this ship, and it rose with the swiftness of an arrow up towards the sun. The earth was soon left far below, and looked, with its mountains and woods, like a cornfield where the plough had made furrows which separated green meadows; soon it looked only like a map with indistinct lines upon it; and at last it entirely disappeared in mist and clouds. Higher and higher rose the eagles up into the air; then God sent one of his numberless angels against the ship. The wicked prince showered thousands of bullets upon him, but they rebounded from his shining wings and fell down like ordinary hailstones. One drop of blood, one single drop, came out of the white feathers of the angel’s wings and fell upon the ship in which the prince sat, burnt into it, and weighed upon it like thousands of hundredweights, dragging it rapidly down to the earth again; the strong wings of the eagles gave way, the wind roared round the prince’s head, and the clouds around—were they formed by the smoke rising up from the burnt cities?—took strange shapes, like crabs many, many miles long, which stretched their claws out after him, and rose up like enormous rocks, from which rolling masses dashed down, and became fire-spitting dragons.

The prince was lying half-dead in his ship, when it sank at last with a terrible shock into the branches of a large tree in the wood.

“I will conquer God!” said the prince. “I have sworn it: my will must be done!”

And he spent seven years in the construction of wonderful ships to sail through the air, and had darts cast from the hardest steel to break the walls of heaven with. He gathered warriors from all countries, so many that when they were placed side by side they covered the space of several miles. They entered the ships and the prince was approaching his own, when God sent a swarm of gnats—one swarm of little gnats. They buzzed round the prince and stung his face and hands; angrily he drew his sword and brandished it, but he only touched the air and did not hit the gnats. Then he ordered his servants to bring costly coverings and wrap him in them, that the gnats might no longer be able to reach him. The servants carried out his orders, but one single gnat had placed itself inside one of the coverings, crept into the prince’s ear and stung him. The place burnt like fire, and the poison entered into his blood. Mad with pain, he tore off the coverings and his clothes too, flinging them far away, and danced about before the eyes of his ferocious soldiers, who now mocked at him, the mad prince, who wished to make war with God, and was overcome by a single little gnat.

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Here is chapter 4 of that sci-fi novel I haven’t named yet!

Sorry this is a little late! It’s been a while since I’ve given you guys one of these (about two months I think), so here is chapter 4 FINALLY. Click the following links for the prologuechapter 1, chapter 2, and chapter 3!

 

Disclaimer: these chapters have not yet been professionally edited so there will most definitely be mistakes that I didn’t catch. Also this series contains violence, moderately strong language, and a touch of gore. Reader discretion is advised.

Chapter 4

Would-Be Killer

 

After five days of order intensive soldier training—curtesy of Lucas Cain—Kira and Artemis were nearly ready to infiltrate the N.E.S. Bengal. They had both been taught how to salute properly, how to reply to a superior officer, as well as how to address people who ranked lower than them. They’d been through Obstacle courses designed by Cain to simulate military training and it was no surprise to anyone that they both passed the physical assessments with flying colors. It was true that Artemis was more physically inclined than she was, but she was still much more skilled at combat than most people her age. Regardless, she was expecting to be underestimated, thus she’d worked twice as hard as Artemis to see to it that she was at least on par with him.

Thanks to Artemis’s vast knowledge of multiple martial arts, he was able to flip and spin his way through Cain’s difficult laser trials, while Kira had to run and dodge to keep herself from getting burned by the beams. There were a few times that she’d been tempted to just shoot the laser projectors and be done with them; however, she refrained knowing that sort of exercise was good practice for beating more complex security systems that were ‘un-hackable’—although she had yet to meet a system that she couldn’t hack into.

Kira liked Cain. Yes, he was strict and at times difficult to get along with because of his severe personality, but he was very good at getting she and Artemis to give it their all in every task he had them do. It was hard work, but Kira felt as if she had learned a lot about how to be a convincing Tora Corp solider—she only hoped the Tora Corp staff would feel the same.

Another day of training had finally concluded and Kira and Artemis sat in the middle of the bunker’s vacant training grounds—a large empty section of the base that Cain had used to project his laser obstacle courses. Cain had since ended the projections and was in the midst of packing up his state of the art lightdrives and other modern tech which Kira envied. With a simple flick and swipe of his fingers, Cain opened up a translucent light screen in front of him, typing in a few things.

“I thought only data chips could support lightbeam interfaces,” Kira said as she watched him.

Cain paused in his type to point to the onyx band on his finger. “You’re not the only one with tech accessories, Ms. Chevalier. Unfortunately we at the Timber Organization must occasionally turn to empire technology to keep us ‘in the game’ as it were, but we make their tech our own. We try to keep up with our own ingenuity, but empire tech is advancing too quickly, even for our genius engineers and technicians. It’s strange really—the leaps the empire has taken with technology is almost supernatural…”

“What? You think ghosts and vampires are helping them out or something?” Artemis asked with a snort of a laugh.

Cain raised a brow at Artemis. “I don’t know what a vampire is, but no, I don’t think it has anything to do with people’s residual energy. The term ‘ghost’ is so archaic I couldn’t even remember what it was you were talking about for a moment,” he said before returning his attention to his light screen. “In any case, the sixth dimension plane has been barred off to the living for almost four centuries now, therefore, I don’t believe ‘ghosts’, as you call them, are the culprits here. Tora Corporation tech is advancing almost as quickly as empire tech—I want you two to find out why.”

Kira and Artemis discreetly glanced to one another, both looking reluctant to the idea. “With all due respect, Mr. Cain, Artemis and I are only going to the Bengal to steal a sample of Tora Corp’s new MCTA prototype. We’re thieves, not spies,” Kira said.

Artemis nodded, Hopping to his feet and stretching his arms out high above his head. “She’s right. We just wanna get in and get out.”

Cain frowned and swiped his light screen away, closing it out. “I thought there might be a bit of resistance from the two of you. So, I’m prepared to make you a deal. If you find out how Tora Corp’s technology is advancing so rapidly, the Timber Organization will donate all new tech to this bunker. You and I both know Noire is in desperate need of new equipment and so are you. Deliver to me the information that I require and the tech is yours—no strings attached.”

Artemis smirked, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’re gonna update this whole bunker just for some info? Man, you wolves must really be hard up.”

“It’s not every day that we get the opportunity to infiltrate a high-security facility,” Cain said, clasping his hands behind his back. “Even with the tech and means, most of our operatives have been reluctant to agree to precarious mission such as the one you are undertaking.”

Kira scoffed and shut her eyes, slowly shaking her head. “So, basically, you’re trying to capitalize on our stupidity?”

“Those aren’t exactly the words I’d choose, but, in a sense, yes,” Cain replied.

“Well, at least he’s upfront about it,” Artemis said with a shrug.

“If Mr. Noire believes you can successfully achieve what you intend to do, I have absolutely no reason to doubt you,” Cain said, cracking the smallest of smiles. “He’s a tough critic.”

Yeah he is,” Artemis muttered sourly.

Cain picked up his stainless steel briefcase, typing in a code on the touchscreen lock. “Well, Mr. Flynn, Ms. Chevalier, I believe we’re done for today. I’ll see myself out.”

Kira got to her feet and shook Cain’s hand. “Thank you for all your help, Mr. Cain. Artemis and I really appreciate it.”

Cain nodded. “Anything for protégés of the Panther. I’ll see the two of you bright and early tomorrow morning.”

“Can ‘early’ be like ten-thirty?” Artemis asked, smiling hopefully.

“Nice try, Mr. Flynn. I’ll see you at six,” Cain said as he strode out of the white warehouse-looking room, leaving Artemis and Kira to stand there alone.

Kira took a deep breath. “Two days.”

Artemis nodded. “Two days.”

“I’m almost finished with your holowatch,” Kira said, waving to him and strolling to the exit. “I’ll drop it off at your room tonight after I’m done with it.”

Artemis was silent for a moment before jogging after her. “Hey wait.”

She stopped and turned around to face him. “Yeah?”

“You’re not freaking out are you?”

She shrugged. No she wasn’t freaking out, but she wasn’t confident about this plan either. But now wasn’t the time for those sorts of admissions. She offered him a weak smile. “Of course not. I’m fine.”

“Good. Me too,” he said, patting her arm. “We’ve got this in the bag, K.” He then brushed past her, whistling one of his favorite rock and roll tune as he too left the training arena.

Artemis ran a hand through her hair, grasping him for a moment before letting her hand fall back down to her side. I hope things go as smoothly as he thinks they’re going to go…

 

Kira finished Artemis’s holowatch that evening and brought it to him. It took quite a while, but she was eventually able to teach him how to use his new gadget. “Are you sure you’ve got the hang of it?” she asked, watching him tap random options on his holoscreen. “If you need me to go over it again—”

“I got it, I got it! Chill out, will you?” Artemis said as he swiped his finger down and lowered the holoprojection. “So you loaded up those files that Noire put together for our cover IDs?”

“Yes,” Kira said, handing him their modified ear coms. “I also modified our coms so to include Noire’s language translating microbugs. As long as we have our coms in our ears we’ll be able to understand what people speaking other languages are say, as well as communicate in the appropriate languages.”

“Awesome. But aren’t they gonna check for outside tech?” Artemis asked.

“Yes, but Noire coded our files to include medical history. We have a few ‘AI implants’, so they shouldn’t question our coms or holowatches,” Kira replied, taking a seat beside Artemis on his bed and sticking her com in her ear. “I’ve programed our holowatches to communicate with our coms so anything we hear, the micro drives in our watches will record.”

“How about what we see?”

“No go. We’re out of eye-lens recorders.”

“You think they’ve got some up on Bengal?”

Kira pulled her legs up onto the bed and crossed them beneath her. “You never know. Maybe they’ve got something better than eye-lens recorders up there.”

Artemis set his elbow on his leg and leaned his cheek against his fist. “Looks like you’ve got it all figured out then. Noire told me that our bot tailor’s finished with our uniforms. It took nearly ten minutes to finish them—that thing’s getting old…”

Kira hung her head, her shoulders falling forward. “We had a newer one.”

“I know,” he grumbled. “Do you … wanna talk about him or something?”

“Not really.”

“Are you sure?”

Artemis groaned and threw her hands up in the air. “Elliot’s gone and he stole all of our best equipment! What more is there to say, Artemis?”

He pursed his lips nodding slowly. “So… Were you and him ever—”

No.”

“You two just seemed so—”

“We weren’t.”

“Really? Cause it kinda felt like—”

“We were friends, Artemis,” Kira snapped. “That was bad enough, alright? I should have seen it in him—that darkness.”

“It’s not your fault, and no one blames you for what he did,” Artemis said, his tone gentler than it usually was. “It’s been three years, Kira—you should be able to talk about this by now. He screwed us all over, not just you.”

“He was a part of the only family I’ve ever known. I can’t just forget that.”

“You don’t have to forget it, you just have to remember that me and Noire are your family too,” Artemis said, staring at her intently. “Elliot’s a dick, alright? Can’t you just, I dunno, try to move on?”

She could feel the anger bubbling within in her chest as the memories of her former comrade and friend flooded back to her. Artemis was right. It had been three years—she should have gotten over it by now. But the fury she felt each time Elliot’s name was brought up never went away.

Her hands tightened into fists, her nails biting into the palms of her hands. “Noire and I knew him for twelve years and you knew him ten—I just don’t get how someone could betray people who they’ve known for so long,” Kira whispered.

Artemis cautiously placed his hand on her back. “We don’t need him, Kira. We’re gonna get that MCTA and find out how Tora’s coming up with their tech and then this place is getting a major overhaul. And, you know what?”

“What?”

“Elliot broke rule number one of the code,” Artemis said. He straightened up and cleared his throat before reciting in Noire’s accent, “Only steal from those who can live without it. Is someone who can’t even follow that simple rule worth mourning over? It’s like Noire says: holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die—or some crap like that. It’s just not worth it to be mad at him anymore. He’s gone, he’s never coming back, and we’re probably never gonna have to see his stupid, smug face again. So, screw Elliot! We’ve got more important shit to deal with.”

Kira breathed in deeply and lifted her head again. “Yeah, you’re right. It just—it makes me so angry every time I think about what he did. I don’t know how to let that go. I want to, but I can’t. I dream about kicking his ass at least once a week and it’s so … satisfying. But that satisfaction is gone as soon as I wake up and realize that I didn’t really hurt him and he got away scot-free. And I can’t stand that he’s out there with our tech, probably living the high life in some fancy loft, while we—the terrible two—”

“Damn, that name sucks so hard…”

“—are stuck in an endless cycle of attempted robberies, getting caught by Figment, and jail time—lather, rinse, repeat,” Kira said through gritted teeth. “I swear if I ever see him again, I’ll—”

“You’ll what, Kira? Kill him?” Artemis asked. “What is it with your ‘gun go boom, solve all problems’ attitude? Killing him is not gonna get our stuff back.”

“Uh, yes it will, Artemis,” she said. “After he’s gone we can just steal it all back. He’ll be dead, it’s not like he’s going care.”

“Killing him is not gonna make you feel any better.”

“I beg to differ.”

Artemis fell back on the bed staring up at the poster laden canvas ceiling above. “We’re not gonna need the shitty tech he stole from us once we get that info that Cain wants. Just let it go—let him go. You think he’s sitting around in his fancy loft thinking about us? Hell no! So why should we waste our time thinking about him?”

Kira glanced back at him. “Why did you even bring this subject up?”

“Because I don’t want it to be an issue on this job. I need you to focus on that MCTA.”

Kira clenched her jaw. “Elliot is going to be the last thing on my mind when I’m up there.”

“Good. That’s all I needed to hear.”

Kira, tiring of the conversation, stood up from the bed and went to the door. “I’m going to sleep, you should too. Don’t stay up all night listening to that noise you call music.”

“It’s called ‘classic rock’,” Artemis said rather haughtily. “Jeez, download a music history book, will you? Get cultured.”

She refrained from rolling her eyes as the door slid open for her. “Night, Artemis.

“See ya on the flip side, K.”

Kira strolled down an aisle of whirring and beeping machines as she made her way back to her room. She had lied when she told Artemis that Elliot would be the last thing on her mind. Elliot was going to be the very first thing on her mind. She was going to keep him in the forefront of her thoughts to motivate her. She was going to prove to him that they didn’t need him and that they were doing just fine without him.

She suddenly paused, hearing voices from just up ahead. Is that Noire and Cain? I thought Cain left for the day, she thought, slowing her gait and tiptoeing forward so as not to alert them of her presence. She peered around the side of a machine that controlled the bunker’s emergency laser barriers and saw Noire and Cain standing in a small nook-like space with a few chairs and a small table.

“How long until you’ve got the memento viewer up and running?” Noire asked.

“Six months at the very least,” Cain replied pouring an amber-colored liquid from the automatic kettle and into a glass cup.

She thought she recalled Noire refereeing to the drink as ‘tea’, but she had never had any. Tea was scarce along with any other food item that wasn’t processed into tablets, which is why Noire saved most of his rare things for special occasions.

“Why so long?” Noire asked, taking a seat in one of the chairs.

“Light spheres are hard to come by,” Cain said before taking a sip out of his cup. “The empire regulates them quite strictly, as I’m sure you know. Most of my black market connections refuse to sell them, and the ones who will sell them rarely have them in stock. I’m having my best engineers build a substitute; however, until we have a suitable replacement, the memento viewer will remain inoperable.”

A memento viewer? Kira thought. Why would the Timber Organization need one of those? That’s really old tech.

“Have you considered giving the memento back to her?” Noire asked. “Perhaps there’s a way to return it to her mind.”

“If there was, I would have done it already,” Cain said, sighing softly. “The technology is temperamental. When the empire tested their memento replacement process, all of their subjects died. I would never risk that with Kira.”

Kira’s eyes widen. They were talking about her? If that was true then it would certainly explain why she couldn’t remember anything before the age of five. Had they wiped her memory, and, if they had, what for?

After Noire said nothing in response, Cain went on. “Perhaps we needn’t worry ourselves over this as much now that Braith is dead. Demetrius is proving himself to be a fair and just emperor. Besides, there’s no certainty that the information the memento holds pertains to anyone other than a dead man anyway.”

Noire’s expression hardened. “Don’t you start with that nonsense too, Lucas. The empire—in any form—is more harmful to our society than helpful. Demetrius may be a ‘kind and just’ ruler, as you say, but he is still oppressing his people. Perhaps he doesn’t oppress as overtly as his father, but he has yet to repeal the law that states that all citizens of the Northwest Empire must be chipped by the age of five—that’s not freedom. Things haven’t changed.”

“The boy has only been emperor for two years,” Cain reasoned. “He can’t fix everything his father ruined in such a short period of time.”

Noire scowled, tapping his fingers impatiently on the arm of his chair. “You’re going soft, Cain. Demetrius is a poison to our world, just like his father—perhaps a better tasting poison, but a poison nonetheless.”

Cain finished his tea and set the cup down on the glass table beside Noire’s chair. “Since you feel so strongly about it, Adair, I’ll have my organization continue to search for a way to repair the memento.”

“A wise decision,” Noire said. “It’s not my place to tell you how to run your organization, but I truly believe it’s unwise not to find out what’s on Kira’s memento. The Empire attempted to hunt her down for the information she possessed—it must be important.”

“I suppose we’ll find out soon enough,” Cain said as he picked up his briefcase. “Tomorrow I’ll continue with Kira and Artemis’s training.”

“Do you think they’re ready?”

Cain paused, looking back over his shoulder at Noire. “As ready as they can be given the time constraint. Once they’re on the Bengal, they’re going to be on their own. Keep communication with them to a minimum—the less you speak with them, the lower their chances are of getting caught.”

Noire furrowed his brow, nodding slowly. “I understand.”

Cain straightened out his neatly pressed suit jacket and strolled away. “As long as they keep their heads down, they’ll be just fine. Despite what you may think, you’ve taught them well, Mr. Noire.”

Noire said nothing more as Cain got further and further way, his footsteps fading and the sound of the entrance hatch opening and closing behind him.

Kira pressed herself to the box-like machine she was listening from and tilted her head back to the domed bunker ceiling far above. The empire was chasing after her when she was a child? What information could she—a kid at the time—have possibly possessed that was so important to them? It didn’t make any sense. But she did know one thing for certain: she had to find out what was on that extracted memento. Not for the empire’s sake, but for her own sake. That was a stolen piece of her life and she wanted it back.

Noire had kept something vital from her for sixteen years and she was going to find out what it was even if he didn’t want her too. She had gone along with what he said for long enough—it was time to find out about her past, and her family, and who she really was. It was time she got the answers she deserved. Well, look at the bright side, she thought, despite the sinking feeling at the pit of her stomach. At least I’m not thinking about killing Elliot anymore.

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Happy Birthday, Hans Christian Andersen!

tumblr_n0vayhuFZZ1tsdjmfo1_500

For those of you who didn’t already know, Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday was on the 2nd of April. I’ve already done a fact post about HCA, so if you want to check that out CLICK HERE. People seemed to like what I did for Wilhelm Grimm’s birthday (I posted a scene from my book including him and Jacob), so I decided I would do the same thing for Andersen this year.

The following scene is from my second book The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed, and it’s right after you first meet Hans. I’ve always really liked this scene and I wanted to share it with all of you literary aficionados. I hope you guys will enjoy it!

 

Excerpt from The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed

 

Destan spent the rest of the day talking with Hans and trying to make him feel more comfortable with his new surroundings. The prince had showed the Danish boy around the castle, the gardens, and had even taken him to the castle ruins. Hans seemed absolutely enchanted at everything the palace grounds had to offer. The exotic flowers, the hedge maze, the tennis courts—Hans’s eyes lit up a little more with each new discovery.

By the time they came to the end of their tour, night was fast approaching and the stars were just beginning to appear in the deep purple sky above.

“I believe you’ll find it quite difficult to be bored here,” Destan said as the two made their way back towards the palace. “Ah, but you’re probably more interested in your studies than the silly trivialities I’ve shown you.”

Hans frowned, looking down at his feet. “Well, to be completely honest, your highness, my studies don’t interest me as much as other things do.”

“Oh?” Destan asked. “What interests you, then?”

Hans looked around to make sure no one was listening in before saying, “Singing and acting!” His smile disappeared as his gaze met the ground once more. “I-I mean, I like acting and singing, but if I were to pursue either of those professions my mother would be very disappointed in me. Now that father’s gone, I must do something to support the two of us and mother does not approve of my interests. I just want to make her proud of me, even if that means I’ll be unhappy.”

“What happened to your father?” Destan asked gently.

Hans was reluctant to answer at first, but finally he obliged the prince with a quiet reply. “He got sick…”

The prince paused, frowning as he looked down at him. “I’m sorry to hear it, Herr Andersen.”

Hans only shrugged, saying no more.

“Though, you can’t truly mean what you said. You shouldn’t sacrifice your dreams in order to satisfy someone else,” Destan said. “You should follow your heart no matter the cost. Your mother may be upset that you did not do as she wished, but it’s your life to lead, not hers. Take advantage of the freedom at your disposal. Some people don’t have the privilege of choice as you do.”

Hans tilted his head. “I thought everyone had a choice.”

“No. Not everyone,” he murmured, giving Hans a half-hearted smile. “Pursue your dreams. You’ll come to regret it if you don’t. That I can promise you.”

There was a comfortable silence between them before Hans spoke up again. “Prince Destan?”

“Yes?”

“There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you about,” the little boy said, fidgeting a bit. “What happened at the Snow Queen’s Palace? I’ve heard several different versions of the story thus far, but they all seem to conflict. Your adventure is famous even in Denmark, you know!”

Destan sheepishly scratched the back of his head. “Really? I didn’t think anyone outside of Rosenstaat had heard about it.”

“Oh no! The people that you freed from the Snow Queen were from all over Europe! In fact, you happened to free a boy from my village and he told everyone in town of you and your friends’ bravery,” Hans explained with more enthusiasm than Destan had seen from him thus far. “But weren’t you frightened of her?”

Destan took pause to seriously consider this question. “Well, I wasn’t frightened of her. I was frightened that if I didn’t act I could lose all of my friends, not to mention myself. I didn’t have time to let my fear hinder me. Instead I harnessed it and used my fear as my motivation to succeed.” Is that what I did? he thought. I suppose I’d never analyzed it until now.

Hans stared at the prince with complete admiration. “That’s amazing! I don’t think I could ever be that courageous.”

“It wasn’t a matter of courage. It was a matter of desperation. I couldn’t lose my friends—I have too few of them as it is,” Destan admitted with a feeble laugh.

“Hm, desperation…” Hans said thoughtfully. “So did you really think that you and your friends could defeat the Snow Queen?”

“Yes, I did,” the prince said, nodding firmly. “I had so much more to lose than Queen Isole did. I had to win. We all had to win. There was no other option.”

“I see,” Hans said. “And the girl whose hand you were holding when you left the Snow Queen’s palace?”

Destan felt his cheeks heat up at the mention. “Y-you heard about that?”

“Oh, yes! I’ve even developed a theory,” Hans said proudly. “Once I heard the initial story, I built from there. First, the Snow Queen enticed you to stay with her by making a deal with you—”

“I wouldn’t say she ‘enticed’ me, per se—”

“And then she took your memories and kept you as her slave at her palace!”

“I prefer ‘servant’,” Destan interjected once more, his frown becoming even more prominent as Hans continued on with his version of the story.

“Then the girl went to save you—”

“My other friends were there too, you know.”

“—But when she got there and saw that you were just a shell of your former self, she wept, and the tears of her love and devotion for you melted your icy heart. Then you awoke, proving that true love conquers all!” Hans cried, shooting his fist into the air and grinning triumphantly. “That’s what I wrote about anyway,” he said, bashfully lowering his hand.

“You wrote a story about me?” Destan asked.

“Well, um … yes,” Hans murmured. “It’s silly really. Don’t worry, I don’t intend on showing it to anyone.”

The prince released a relieved laugh. “You did make me seem a bit helpless. But at the very least, I’m glad you didn’t turn me into a girl.”

Hans made a face. “Why would I do that, your highness?”

Destan grimaced and shook his head. “The only two authors I’ve ever known used to make a habit out of doing so, but never you mind that.” He cleared his throat and straightened up. “Anyway, supper will be ready soon, so we should return to the palace.”

The two then headed back to the castle, speaking no more of either version of what happened at the Snow Queen’s palace, much to the prince’s relief.

Why is it that I’m always made out to be the damsel in distress? Destan thought as they silently made their way up the garden path. For once, I’d like to be the hero.

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Writer’s Corner: Illustration Breakdown – SCARLET

Hello again, everyone! Today we’re talking about artwork! I unfortunately I wasn’t blessed with the gift of expressing myself through drawing, sketching, or painting, but I was lucky enough to cross paths with Eren Angiolini (my official illustrator for The Prince of Prophecy series) and she was able to really bring my characters to life through her amazing artistic talents.

I gave Eren the basic idea of what I wanted my characters to look like by providing a face model for each character and told her what sort of pose I’d like each character to be in for each specific scene. Needless to say, she did an excellent job and went above and beyond my expectations. Eren gave me some awesome early sketches of my characters when we were trying to figure out a look for them and I really wanted to share them with you all. So today we’re starting with Scarlet–he’s pretty much everyone’s favorite character so I thought it was only appropriate. *you can click on any of the pictures to make them larger*

 

These were Scarlet’s very first sketches

Schermata_2014-10-01_a_12.21.51 Schermata_2014-10-02_a_15.48.53 Schermata_2014-10-02_a_21.43.18

After the initial sketching is completed Eren goes back and shades the sketch as pictured below

Schermata_2014-10-14_a_15.24.58 Schermata_2014-11-13_a_11.01.39 (1)

Now it’s time to add some color…

Schermata_2014-11-18_a_15.34.07

Finally, I ask Eren to make any adjustments before the final masterpiece is complete, and (drum roll please)…

Scarlet

TA DAAAH! He’s all finished! And look how handsome he is!

I’ve got similar processes for Nicholas and Destan if you guys would like to see more. Please like if you enjoyed this and I’ll be sure to post more entries like this in the future. The illustration process is so much fun and super exciting for me as the author of these books, and I’m really happy to share these artworks with you (courtesy of Eren Angiolini, of course).

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Hans Christian Andersen’s “What the Moon Saw”

Hello everyone! I just wanted to start this post by saying that I’m so sorry I missed Wednesday’s post! I’ve been super busy with switching universities that I didn’t even get to post a video on my youtube channel this week! D:

However, I have some exciting news for those of you who are following my Prince of Prophecy series, I’ll be releasing two new designs on my cafepress store on the 23rd in honor of Destan’s birthday (he’s my main character for those of you who don’t know)! I’ll post an update on Wednesday with all that information. ^_^

Now, without further ado, please enjoy Hans Christian Andersen’s What the Moon Saw!

Introduction

IT is a strange thing, when I feel most fervently and most deeply, my hands and my tongue seem alike tied, so that I cannot rightly describe or accurately portray the thoughts that are rising within me; and yet I am a painter; my eye tells me as much as that, and all my friends who have seen my sketches and fancies say the same.

I am a poor lad, and live in one of the narrowest of lanes; but I do not want for light, as my room is high up in the house, with an extensive prospect over the neighbouring roofs. During the first few days I went to live in the town, I felt low-spirited and solitary enough. Instead of the forest and the green hills of former days, I had here only a forest of chimney-pots to look out upon. And then I had not a single friend; not one familiar face greeted me.

So one evening I sat at the window, in a desponding mood; and presently I opened the casement and looked out. Oh, how my heart leaped up with joy! Here was a well-known face at last—a round, friendly countenance, the face of a good friend I had known at home. In, fact, it was the MOON that looked in upon me. He was quite unchanged, the dear old Moon, and had the same face exactly that he used to show when he peered down upon me through the willow trees on the moor. I kissed my hand to him over and over again, as he shone far into my little room; and he, for his part, promised me that every evening, when he came abroad, he would look in upon me for a few moments. This promise he has faithfully kept. It is a pity that he can only stay such a short time when he comes. Whenever he appears, he tells me of one thing or another that he has seen on the previous night, or on that same evening. “Just paint the scenes I describe to you”—this is what he said to me—“and you will have a very pretty picture-book.” I have followed his injunction for many evenings. I could make up a new “Thousand and One Nights,” in my own way, out of these pictures, but the number might be too great, after all. The pictures I have here given have not been chosen at random, but follow in their proper order, just as they were described to me. Some great gifted painter, or some poet or musician, may make something more of them if he likes; what I have given here are only hasty sketches, hurriedly put upon the paper, with some of my own thoughts, interspersed; for the Moon did not come to me every evening— a cloud sometimes hid his face from me.

First Evening

“LAST night”—I am quoting the Moon’s own words—“last night I was gliding through the cloudless Indian sky. My face was mirrored in the waters of the Ganges, and my beams strove to pierce through the thick intertwining boughs of the bananas, arching beneath me like the tortoise’s shell. Forth from the thicket tripped a Hindoo maid, light as a gazelle, beautiful as Eve. Airy and etherial as a vision, and yet sharply defined amid the surrounding shadows, stood this daughter of Hindostan: I could read on her delicate brow the thought that had brought her hither. The thorny creeping plants tore her sandals, but for all that she came rapidly forward. The deer that had come down to the river to quench her thirst, sprang by with a startled bound, for in her hand the maiden bore a lighted lamp. I could see the blood in her delicate finger tips, as she spread them for a screen before the dancing flame. She came down to the stream, and set the lamp upon the water, and let it float away. The flame flickered to and fro, and seemed ready to expire; but still the lamp burned on, and the girl’s black sparkling eyes, half veiled behind their long silken lashes, followed it with a gaze of earnest intensity. She knew that if the lamp continued to burn so long as she could keep it in sight, her betrothed was still alive; but if the lamp was suddenly extinguished, he was dead. And the lamp burned bravely on, and she fell on her knees, and prayed. Near her in the grass lay a speckled snake, but she heeded it not—she thought only of Bramah and of her betrothed. ‘He lives!’ she shouted joyfully, ‘he lives!’ And from the mountains the echo came back upon her, ‘he lives!’”

Second Evening

“YESTERDAY,” said the Moon to me, “I looked down upon a small courtyard surrounded on all sides by houses. In the courtyard sat a clucking hen with eleven chickens; and a pretty little girl was running and jumping around them. The hen was frightened, and screamed, and spread out her wings over the little brood. Then the girl’s father came out and scolded her; and I glided away and thought no more of the matter.

“But this evening, only a few minutes ago, I looked down into the same courtyard. Everything was quiet. But presently the little girl came forth again, crept quietly to the hen-house, pushed back the bolt, and slipped into the apartment of the hen and chickens. They cried out loudly, and came fluttering down from their perches, and ran about in dismay, and the little girl ran after them. I saw it quite plainly, for I looked through a hole in the hen-house wall. I was angry with the willful child, and felt glad when her father came out and scolded her more violently than yesterday, holding her roughly by the arm; she held down her head, and her blue eyes were full of large tears. ‘What are you about here?’ he asked. She wept and said, ‘I wanted to kiss the hen and beg her pardon for frightening her yesterday; but I was afraid to tell you.’

“And the father kissed the innocent child’s forehead, and I kissed her on the mouth and eyes.”

Third Evening

“IN the narrow street round the corner yonder—it is so narrow that my beams can only glide for a minute along the walls of the house, but in that minute I see enough to learn what the world is made of—in that narrow street I saw a woman. Sixteen years ago that woman was a child, playing in the garden of the old parsonage, in the country. The hedges of rose-bush were old, and the flowers were faded. They straggled wild over the paths, and the ragged branches grew up among the boughs of the apple trees; here and there were a few roses still in bloom—not so fair as the queen of flowers generally appears, but still they had colour and scent too. The clergyman’s little daughter appeared to me a far lovelier rose, as she sat on her stool under the straggling hedge, hugging and caressing her doll with the battered pasteboard cheeks.

“Ten years afterwards I saw her again. I beheld her in a splendid ballroom: she was the beautiful bride of a rich merchant. I rejoiced at her happiness, and sought her on calm quiet evenings— ah, nobody thinks of my clear eye and my silent glance! Alas! my rose ran wild, like the rose bushes in the garden of the parsonage. There are tragedies in every-day life, and tonight I saw the last act of one.

“She was lying in bed in a house in that narrow street: she was sick unto death, and the cruel landlord came up, and tore away the thin coverlet, her only protection against the cold. ‘Get up!’ said he; ‘your face is enough to frighten one. Get up and dress yourself, give me money, or I’ll turn you out into the street! Quick—get up!’ She answered, ‘Alas! death is gnawing at my heart. Let me rest.’ But he forced her to get up and bathe her face, and put a wreath of roses in her hair; and he placed her in a chair at the window, with a candle burning beside her, and went away.

“I looked at her, and she was sitting motionless, with her hands in her lap. The wind caught the open window and shut it with a crash, so that a pane came clattering down in fragments; but still she never moved. The curtain caught fire, and the flames played about her face; and I saw that she was dead. There at the open window sat the dead woman, preaching a sermon against sin—my poor faded rose out of the parsonage garden!”

Fourth Evening

“THIS evening I saw a German play acted,” said the Moon. “It was in a little town. A stable had been turned into a theatre; that is to say, the stable had been left standing, and had been turned into private boxes, and all the timber work had been covered with coloured paper. A little iron chandelier hung beneath the ceiling, and that it might be made to disappear into the ceiling, as it does in great theatres, when the ting-ting of the prompter’s bell is heard, a great inverted tub has been placed just above it.

‘Ting-ting!’ and the little iron chandelier suddenly rose at least half a yard and disappeared in the tub; and that was the sign that the play was going to begin. A young nobleman and his lady, who happened to be passing through the little town, were present at the performance, and consequently the house was crowded. But under the chandelier was a vacant space like a little crater: not a single soul sat there, for the tallow was dropping, drip, drip! I saw everything, for it was so warm in there that every loophole had been opened. The male and female servants stood outside, peeping through the chinks, although a real policeman was inside, threatening them with a stick. Close by the orchestra could be seen the noble young couple in two old arm-chairs, which were usually occupied by his worship the mayor and his lady; but these latter were to-day obliged to content themselves with wooden forms, just as if they had been ordinary citizens; and the lady observed quietly to herself, ‘One sees, now, that there is rank above rank;’ and this incident gave an air of extra festivity to the whole proceedings. The chandelier gave little leaps, the crowd got their knuckles rapped, and I, the Moon, was present at the performance from beginning to end.”

Fifth Evening

“YESTERDAY,” began the Moon, “I looked down upon the turmoil of Paris. My eye penetrated into an apartment of the Louvre. An old grandmother, poorly clad—she belonged to the working class—was following one of the under-servants into the great empty throne-room, for this was the apartment she wanted to see—that she was resolved to see; it had cost her many a little sacrifice, and many a coaxing word, to penetrate thus far. She folded her thin hands, and looked round with an air of reverence, as if she had been in a church.

“‘Here it was!’ she said, ‘here!’ and she approached the throne, from which hung the rich velvet fringed with gold lace. ‘There,’ she exclaimed, ‘there!’ and she knelt and kissed the purple carpet. I think she was actually weeping.

“‘But it was not this very velvet!’ observed the footman, and a smile played about his mouth. ‘True, but it was this very place,’ replied the woman, ‘and it must have looked just like this’. ‘It looked so, and yet it did not,’ observed the man: ‘the windows were beaten in, and the doors were off their hinges, and there was blood upon the floor.’ ‘But for all that you can say, my grandson died upon the throne of France. Died!’ mournfully repeated the old woman. I do not think another word was spoken, and they soon quitted the hall. The evening twilight faded and my light shone doubly vivid upon the rich velvet that covered the throne of France.

“Now who do you think this poor woman was? Listen, I will tell you a story.

“It happened, in the Revolution of July, on the evening of the most brilliantly victorious day, when every house was a fortress, every window a breastwork. The people stormed the Tuileries. Even women and children were to be found among the combatants. They penetrated into the apartments and halls of the palace. A poor half-grown boy in a ragged blouse fought among the older insurgents. Mortally wounded with several bayonet thrusts, he sank down. This happened in the throne-room. They laid the bleeding youth upon the throne of France, wrapped the velvet around his wounds, and his blood streamed forth upon the imperial purple. There was a picture! The splendid hall, the fighting groups! A torn flag upon the ground, the tricolor was waving above the bayonets, and on the throne lay the poor lad with the pale glorified countenance, his eyes turned towards the sky, his limbs writhing in the death agony, his breast bare, and his poor tattered clothing half hidden by the rich velvet embroidered with silver lilies. At the boy’s cradle a prophecy had been spoken: ‘He will die on the throne of France!’ The mother’s heart dreamt of a second Napoleon.

“My beams have kissed the wreath of immortelles on his grave, and this night they kissed the forehead of the old grandame, while in a dream the picture floated before her which thou mayest draw— the poor boy on the throne of France.”

Sixth Evening

“I’VE been in Upsala,” said the Moon: “I looked down upon the great plain covered with coarse grass, and upon the barren fields. I mirrored my face in the Tyris river, while the steamboat drove the fish into the rushes. Beneath me floated the waves, throwing long shadows on the so-called graves of Odin, Thor, and Friga. In the scanty turf that covers the hill-side names have been cut. There is no monument here, no memorial on which the traveller can have his name carved, no rocky wall on whose surface he can get it painted; so visitors have the turf cut away for that purpose. The naked earth peers through in the form of great letters and names; these form a network over the whole hill. Here is an immortality, which lasts till the fresh turf grows!

“Up on the hill stood a man, a poet. He emptied the mead horn with the broad silver rim, and murmured a name. He begged the winds not to betray him, but I heard the name. I knew it. A count’s coronet sparkles above it, and therefore he did not speak it out. I smiled, for I knew that a poet’s crown adorns his own name. The nobility of Eleanora d’Este is attached to the name of Tasso. And I also know where the Rose of Beauty blooms!”

Thus spake the Moon, and a cloud came between us. May no cloud separate the poet from the rose!

Seventh Evening

“ALONG the margin of the shore stretches a forest of firs and beeches, and fresh and fragrant is this wood; hundreds of nightingales visit it every spring. Close beside it is the sea, the ever-changing sea, and between the two is placed the broad high-road. One carriage after another rolls over it; but I did not follow them, for my eye loves best to rest upon one point. A Hun’s Grave lies there, and the sloe and blackthorn grow luxuriantly among the stones. Here is true poetry in nature.

“And how do you think men appreciate this poetry? I will tell you what I heard there last evening and during the night.

“First, two rich landed proprietors came driving by. ‘Those are glorious trees!’ said the first. ‘Certainly; there are ten loads of firewood in each,’ observed the other: ‘it will be a hard winter, and last year we got fourteen dollars a load’—and they were gone. ‘The road here is wretched,’ observed another man who drove past. ‘That’s the fault of those horrible trees,’ replied his neighbour; ‘there is no free current of air; the wind can only come from the sea’—and they were gone. The stage coach went rattling past. All the passengers were asleep at this beautiful spot. The postillion blew his horn, but he only thought, ‘I can play capitally. It sounds well here. I wonder if those in there like it?’—and the stage coach vanished. Then two young fellows came gallopping up on horseback. There’s youth and spirit in the blood here! thought I; and, indeed, they looked with a smile at the moss-grown hill and thick forest. ‘I should not dislike a walk here with the miller’s Christine,’ said one— and they flew past.

“The flowers scented the air; every breath of air was hushed; it seemed as if the sea were a part of the sky that stretched above the deep valley. A carriage rolled by. Six people were sitting in it. Four of them were asleep; the fifth was thinking of his new summer coat, which would suit him admirably; the sixth turned to the coachman and asked him if there were anything remarkable connected with yonder heap of stones. ‘No,’ replied the coachman, ‘it’s only a heap of stones; but the trees are remarkable.’ ‘How so?’ ‘Why I’ll tell you how they are very remarkable. You see, in winter, when the snow lies very deep, and has hidden the whole road so that nothing is to be seen, those trees serve me for a landmark. I steer by them, so as not to drive into the sea; and you see that is why the trees are remarkable.’

“Now came a painter. He spoke not a word, but his eyes sparkled. He began to whistle. At this the nightingales sang louder than ever. ‘Hold your tongues!’ he cried testily; and he made accurate notes of all the colours and transitions—blue, and lilac, and dark brown. ‘That will make a beautiful picture,’ he said. He took it in just as a mirror takes in a view; and as he worked he whistled a march of Rossini. And last of all came a poor girl. She laid aside the burden she carried, and sat down to rest upon the Hun’s Grave. Her pale handsome face was bent in a listening attitude towards the forest. Her eyes brightened, she gazed earnestly at the sea and the sky, her hands were folded, and I think she prayed, ‘Our Father.’ She herself could not understand the feeling that swept through her, but I know that this minute, and the beautiful natural scene, will live within her memory for years, far more vividly and more truly than the painter could portray it with his colours on paper. My rays followed her till the morning dawn kissed her brow.”

Eighth Evening

HEAVY clouds obscured the sky, and the Moon did not make his appearance at all. I stood in my little room, more lonely than ever, and looked up at the sky where he ought to have shown himself. My thoughts flew far away, up to my great friend, who every evening told me such pretty tales, and showed me pictures. Yes, he has had an experience indeed. He glided over the waters of the Deluge, and smiled on Noah’s ark just as he lately glanced down upon me, and brought comfort and promise of a new world that was to spring forth from the old. When the Children of Israel sat weeping by the waters of Babylon, he glanced mournfully upon the willows where hung the silent harps. When Romeo climbed the balcony, and the promise of true love fluttered like a cherub toward heaven, the round Moon hung, half hidden among the dark cypresses, in the lucid air. He saw the captive giant at St. Helena, looking from the lonely rock across the wide ocean, while great thoughts swept through his soul. Ah! what tales the Moon can tell. Human life is like a story to him. To-night I shall not see thee again, old friend. Tonight I can draw no picture of the memories of thy visit. And, as I looked dreamily towards the clouds, the sky became bright. There was a glancing light, and a beam from the Moon fell upon me. It vanished again, and dark clouds flew past: but still it was a greeting, a friendly good-night offered to me by the Moon.

Ninth Evening

THE air was clear again. Several evenings had passed, and the Moon was in the first quarter. Again he gave me an outline for a sketch. Listen to what he told me.

“I have followed the polar bird and the swimming whale to the eastern coast of Greenland. Gaunt ice-covered rocks and dark clouds hung over a valley, where dwarf willows and barberry bushes stood clothed in green. The blooming lychnis exhaled sweet odours. My light was faint, my face pale as the water lily that, torn from its stem, has been drifting for weeks with the tide. The crown-shaped Northern Light burned fiercely in the sky. Its ring was broad, and from its circumference the rays shot like whirling shafts of fire across the whole sky, flashing in changing radiance from green to red. The inhabitants of that icy region were assembling for dance and festivity; but, accustomed to this glorious spectacle, they scarcely deigned to glance at it. ‘Let us leave the soul of the dead to their ball-play with the heads of the walruses,’ they thought in their superstition, and they turned their whole attention to the song and dance. In the midst of the circle, and divested of his furry cloak, stood a Greenlander, with a small pipe, and he played and sang a song about catching the seal, and the chorus around chimed in with, ‘Eia, Eia, Ah.’ And in their white furs they danced about in the circle, till you might fancy it was a polar bear’s ball.

“And now a Court of Judgment was opened. Those Greenlanders who had quarrelled stepped forward, and the offended person chanted forth the faults of his adversary in an extempore song, turning them sharply into ridicule, to the sound of the pipe and the measure of the dance. The defendant replied with satire as keen, while the audience laughed, and gave their verdict. The rocks heaved, the glaciers melted, and great masses of ice and snow came crashing down, shivering to fragments as they fall; it was a glorious Greenland summer night. A hundred paces away, under the open tent of hides, lay a sick man. Life still flowed through his warm blood, but still he was to die—he himself felt it, and all who stood round him knew it also; therefore his wife was already sewing round him the shroud of furs, that she might not afterwards be obliged to touch the dead body. And she asked, ‘Wilt thou be buried on the rock, in the firm snow? I will deck the spot with thy kayak, and thy arrows, and the angekokk shall dance over it. Or wouldst thou rather be buried in the sea?’ ‘In the sea,’ he whispered, and nodded with a mournful smile. ‘Yes, it is a pleasant summer tent, the sea,’ observed the wife. ‘Thousands of seals sport there, the walrus shall lie at thy feet, and the hunt will be safe and merry!’ And the yelling children tore the outspread hide from the window-hole, that the dead man might be carried to the ocean, the billowy ocean, that had given him food in life, and that now, in death, was to afford him a place of rest. For his monument, he had the floating, ever-changing icebergs, whereon the seal sleeps, while the storm bird flies round their gleaming summits!”

Tenth Evening

“I KNEW an old maid,” said the Moon. “Every winter she wore a wrapper of yellow satin, and it always remained new, and was the only fashion she followed. In summer she always wore the same straw hat, and I verily believe the very same gray-blue dress.

“She never went out, except across the street to an old female friend; and in later years she did not even take this walk, for the old friend was dead. In her solitude my old maid was always busy at the window, which was adorned in summer with pretty flowers, and in winter with cress, grown upon felt. During the last months I saw her no more at the window, but she was still alive. I knew that, for I had not yet seen her begin the ‘long journey,’ of which she often spoke with her friend. ‘Yes, yes,’ she was in the habit of saying, ‘when I come to die I shall take a longer journey than I have made my whole life long. Our family vault is six miles from here. I shall be carried there, and shall sleep there among my family and relatives.’ Last night a van stopped at the house. A coffin was carried out, and then I knew that she was dead. They placed straw round the coffin, and the van drove away. There slept the quiet old lady, who had not gone out of her house once for the last year. The van rolled out through the town-gate as briskly as if it were going for a pleasant excursion. On the high-road the pace was quicker yet. The coachman looked nervously round every now and then—I fancy he half expected to see her sitting on the coffin, in her yellow satin wrapper. And because he was startled, he foolishly lashed his horses, while he held the reins so tightly that the poor beasts were in a foam: they were young and fiery. A hare jumped across the road and startled them, and they fairly ran away. The old sober maiden, who had for years and years moved quietly round and round in a dull circle, was now, in death, rattled over stock and stone on the public highway. The coffin in its covering of straw tumbled out of the van, and was left on the high-road, while horses, coachman, and carriage flew past in wild career. The lark rose up carolling from the field, twittering her morning lay over the coffin, and presently perched upon it, picking with her beak at the straw covering, as though she would tear it up. The lark rose up again, singing gaily, and I withdrew behind the red morning clouds.”

Eleventh Evening

“I WILL give you a picture of Pompeii,” said the Moon. “I was in the suburb in the Street of Tombs, as they call it, where the fair monuments stand, in the spot where, ages ago, the merry youths, their temples bound with rosy wreaths, danced with the fair sisters of Lais. Now, the stillness of death reigned around. German mercenaries, in the Neapolitan service, kept guard, played cards, and diced; and a troop of strangers from beyond the mountains came into the town, accompanied by a sentry. They wanted to see the city that had risen from the grave illumined by my beams; and I showed them the wheel-ruts in the streets paved with broad lava slabs; I showed them the names on the doors, and the signs that hung there yet: they saw in the little courtyard the basins of the fountains, ornamented with shells; but no jet of water gushed upwards, no songs sounded forth from the richly-painted chambers, where the bronze dog kept the door.

“It was the City of the Dead; only Vesuvius thundered forth his everlasting hymn, each separate verse of which is called by men an eruption. We went to the temple of Venus, built of snow-white marble, with its high altar in front of the broad steps, and the weeping willows sprouting freshly forth among the pillars. The air was transparent and blue, and black Vesuvius formed the background, with fire ever shooting forth from it, like the stem of the pine tree. Above it stretched the smoky cloud in the silence of the night, like the crown of the pine, but in a blood-red illumination. Among the company was a lady singer, a real and great singer. I have witnessed the homage paid to her in the greatest cities of Europe. When they came to the tragic theatre, they all sat down on the amphitheatre steps, and thus a small part of the house was occupied by an audience, as it had been many centuries ago. The stage still stood unchanged, with its walled side-scenes, and the two arches in the background, through which the beholders saw the same scene that had been exhibited in the old times—a scene painted by nature herself, namely, the mountains between Sorento and Amalfi. The singer gaily mounted the ancient stage, and sang. The place inspired her, and she reminded me of a wild Arab horse, that rushes headlong on with snorting nostrils and flying mane—her song was so light and yet so firm. Anon I thought of the mourning mother beneath the cross at Golgotha, so deep was the expression of pain. And, just as it had done thousands of years ago, the sound of applause and delight now filled the theatre. ‘Happy, gifted creature!’ all the hearers exclaimed. Five minutes more, and the stage was empty, the company had vanished, and not a sound more was heard—all were gone. But the ruins stood unchanged, as they will stand when centuries shall have gone by, and when none shall know of the momentary applause and of the triumph of the fair songstress; when all will be forgotten and gone, and even for me this hour will be but a dream of the past.”

Twelfth Evening

“I LOOKED through the windows of an editor’s house,” said the Moon. “It was somewhere in Germany. I saw handsome furniture, many books, and a chaos of newspapers. Several young men were present: the editor himself stood at his desk, and two little books, both by young authors, were to be noticed. ‘This one has been sent to me,’ said he. ‘I have not read it yet; what think you of the contents?’ ‘Oh,’ said the person addressed—he was a poet himself—‘it is good enough; a little broad, certainly; but, you see, the author is still young. The verses might be better, to be sure; the thoughts are sound, though there is certainly a good deal of common-place among them. But what will you have? You can’t be always getting something new. That he’ll turn out anything great I don’t believe, but you may safely praise him. He is well read, a remarkable Oriental scholar, and has a good judgment. It was he who wrote that nice review of my ‘Reflections on Domestic Life.’ We must be lenient towards the young man.’

“‘But he is a complete hack!’ objected another of the gentlemen. ‘Nothing worse in poetry than mediocrity, and he certainly does not go beyond this.’

“‘Poor fellow,’ observed a third, ‘and his aunt is so happy about him. It was she, Mr. Editor, who got together so many subscribers for your last translation.’

“‘Ah, the good woman! Well, I have noticed the book briefly. Undoubted talent—a welcome offering—a flower in the garden of poetry—prettily brought out—and so on. But this other book—I suppose the author expects me to purchase it? I hear it is praised. He has genius, certainly: don’t you think so?’

“‘Yes, all the world declares as much,’ replied the poet, ‘but it has turned out rather wildly. The punctuation of the book, in particular, is very eccentric.’

“‘It will be good for him if we pull him to pieces, and anger him a little, otherwise he will get too good an opinion of himself.’

“‘But that would be unfair,’ objected the fourth. ‘Let us not carp at little faults, but rejoice over the real and abundant good that we find here: he surpasses all the rest.’

“‘Not so. If he is a true genius, he can bear the sharp voice of censure. There are people enough to praise him. Don’t let us quite turn his head.’

“‘Decided talent,’ wrote the editor, ‘with the usual carelessness. that he can write incorrect verses may be seen in page 25, where there are two false quantities. We recommend him to study the ancients, etc.’

“I went away,” continued the Moon, “and looked through the windows in the aunt’s house. There sat the be-praised poet, the tame one; all the guests paid homage to him, and he was happy.

“I sought the other poet out, the wild one; him also I found in a great assembly at his patron’s, where the tame poet’s book was being discussed.

“‘I shall read yours also,’ said Maecenas; ‘but to speak honestly— you know I never hide my opinion from you—I don’t expect much from it, for you are much too wild, too fantastic. But it must be allowed that, as a man, you are highly respectable.’

“A young girl sat in a corner; and she read in a book these words:

“‘In the dust lies genius and glory,

But ev’ry-day talent will pay.

It’s only the old, old story,

But the piece is repeated each day.’”

Thirteenth Evening

THE Moon said, “Beside the woodland path there are two small farm-houses. The doors are low, and some of the windows are placed quite high, and others close to the ground; and whitethorn and barberry bushes grow around them. The roof of each house is overgrown with moss and with yellow flowers and houseleek. Cabbage and potatoes are the only plants cultivated in the gardens, but out of the hedge there grows a willow tree, and under this willow tree sat a little girl, and she sat with her eyes fixed upon the old oak tree between the two huts.

“It was an old withered stem. It had been sawn off at the top, and a stork had built his nest upon it; and he stood in this nest clapping with his beak. A little boy came and stood by the girl’s side: they were brother and sister.

“‘What are you looking at?’ he asked.

“‘I’m watching the stork,’ she replied: ‘our neighbors told me that he would bring us a little brother or sister to-day; let us watch to see it come!’

“‘The stork brings no such things,’ the boy declared, ‘you may be sure of that. Our neighbor told me the same thing, but she laughed when she said it, and so I asked her if she could say ‘On my honor,’ and she could not; and I know by that the story about the storks is not true, and that they only tell it to us children for fun.’

“‘But where do babies come from, then?’ asked the girl.

“‘Why, an angel from heaven brings them under his cloak, but no man can see him; and that’s why we never know when he brings them.’

“At that moment there was a rustling in the branches of the willow tree, and the children folded their hands and looked at one another: it was certainly the angel coming with the baby. They took each other’s hand, and at that moment the door of one of the houses opened, and the neighbour appeared.

“‘Come in, you two,’ she said. ‘See what the stork has brought. It is a little brother.’

“And the children nodded gravely at one another, for they had felt quite sure already that the baby was come.”

Fourteenth Evening

“I WAS gliding over the Luneburg Heath,” the Moon said. “A lonely hut stood by the wayside, a few scanty bushes grew near it, and a nightingale who had lost his way sang sweetly. He died in the coldness of the night: it was his farewell song that I heard.

“The morning dawn came glimmering red. I saw a caravan of emigrant peasant families who were bound to Hamburgh, there to take ship for America, where fancied prosperity would bloom for them. The mothers carried their little children at their backs, the elder ones tottered by their sides, and a poor starved horse tugged at a cart that bore their scanty effects. The cold wind whistled, and therefore the little girl nestled closer to the mother, who, looking up at my decreasing disc, thought of the bitter want at home, and spoke of the heavy taxes they had not been able to raise. The whole caravan thought of the same thing; therefore, the rising dawn seemed to them a message from the sun, of fortune that was to gleam brightly upon them. They heard the dying nightingale sing; it was no false prophet, but a harbinger of fortune. The wind whistled, therefore they did not understand that the nightingale sung, ‘Fare away over the sea! Thou hast paid the long passage with all that was thine, and poor and helpless shalt thou enter Canaan. Thou must sell thyself, thy wife, and thy children. But your griefs shall not last long. Behind the broad fragrant leaves lurks the goddess of Death, and her welcome kiss shall breathe fever into thy blood. Fare away, fare away, over the heaving billows.’ And the caravan listened well pleased to the song of the nightingale, which seemed to promise good fortune. Day broke through the light clouds; country people went across the heath to church; the black-gowned women with their white head-dresses looked like ghosts that had stepped forth from the church pictures. All around lay a wide dead plain, covered with faded brown heath, and black charred spaces between the white sand hills. The women carried hymn books, and walked into the church. Oh, pray, pray for those who are wandering to find graves beyond the foaming billows.”

Fifteenth Evening

“I KNOW a Pulcinella,” the Moon told me. “The public applaud vociferously directly they see him. Every one of his movements is comic, and is sure to throw the house into convulsions of laughter; and yet there is no art in it all—it is complete nature. When he was yet a little boy, playing about with other boys, he was already Punch. Nature had intended him for it, and had provided him with a hump on his back, and another on his breast; but his inward man, his mind, on the contrary, was richly furnished. No one could surpass him in depth of feeling or in readiness of intellect. The theatre was his ideal world. If he had possessed a slender well-shaped figure, he might have been the first tragedian on any stage; the heroic, the great, filled his soul; and yet he had to become a Pulcinella. His very sorrow and melancholy did but increase the comic dryness of his sharply-cut features, and increased the laughter of the audience, who showered plaudits on their favourite. The lovely Columbine was indeed kind and cordial to him; but she preferred to marry the Harlequin. It would have been too ridiculous if beauty and ugliness had in reality paired together.

“When Pulcinella was in very bad spirits, she was the only one who could force a hearty burst of laughter, or even a smile from him: first she would be melancholy with him, then quieter, and at last quite cheerful and happy. ‘I know very well what is the matter with you,’ she said; ‘yes, you’re in love!’ And he could not help laughing. ‘I and Love,’ he cried, ‘that would have an absurd look. How the public would shout!’ ‘Certainly, you are in love,’ she continued; and added with a comic pathos, ‘and I am the person you are in love with.’ You see, such a thing may be said when it is quite out of the question—and, indeed, Pulcinella burst out laughing, and gave a leap into the air, and his melancholy was forgotten.

“And yet she had only spoken the truth. He did love her, love her adoringly, as he loved what was great and lofty in art. At her wedding he was the merriest among the guests, but in the stillness of night he wept: if the public had seen his distorted face then, they would have applauded rapturously.

“And a few days ago, Columbine died. On the day of the funeral, Harlequin was not required to show himself on the boards, for he was a disconsolate widower. The director had to give a very merry piece, that the public might not too painfully miss the pretty Columbine and the agile Harlequin. Therefore Pulcinella had to be more boisterous and extravagant than ever; and he danced and capered, with despair in his heart; and the audience yelled, and shouted ‘bravo, bravissimo!’ Pulcinella was actually called before the curtain. He was pronounced inimitable.

“But last night the hideous little fellow went out of the town, quite alone, to the deserted churchyard. The wreath of flowers on Columbine’s grave was already faded, and he sat down there. It was a study for a painter. As he sat with his chin on his hands, his eyes turned up towards me, he looked like a grotesque monument—a Punch on a grave—peculiar and whimsical! If the people could have seen their favourite, they would have cried as usual, ‘Bravo, Pulcinella; bravo, bravissimo!’

Sixteenth Evening

HEAR what the Moon told me. “I have seen the cadet who had just been made an officer put on his handsome uniform for the first time; I have seen the young bride in her wedding dress, and the princess girl-wife happy in her gorgeous robes; but never have I seen a felicity equal to that of a little girl of four years old, whom I watched this evening. She had received a new blue dress, and a new pink hat, the splendid attire had just been put on, and all were calling for a candle, for my rays, shining in through the windows of the room, were not bright enough for the occasion, and further illumination was required. There stood the little maid, stiff and upright as a doll, her arms stretched painfully straight out away from the dress, and her fingers apart; and oh, what happiness beamed from her eyes, and from her whole countenance! ‘To-morrow you shall go out in your new clothes,’ said her mother; and the little one looked up at her hat, and down at her frock, and smiled brightly. ‘Mother,’ she cried, ‘what will the little dogs think, when they see me in these splendid new things?’”

Seventeenth Evening

“I HAVE spoken to you of Pompeii,” said the Moon; “that corpse of a city, exposed in the view of living towns: I know another sight still more strange, and this is not the corpse, but the spectre of a city. Whenever the jetty fountains splash into the marble basins, they seem to me to be telling the story of the floating city. Yes, the spouting water may tell of her, the waves of the sea may sing of her fame! On the surface of the ocean a mist often rests, and that is her widow’s veil. The bridegroom of the sea is dead, his palace and his city are his mausoleum! Dost thou know this city? She has never heard the rolling of wheels or the hoof-tread of horses in her streets, through which the fish swim, while the black gondola glides spectrally over the green water. I will show you the place,” continued the Moon, “the largest square in it, and you will fancy yourself transported into the city of a fairy tale. The grass grows rank among the broad flagstones, and in the morning twilight thousands of tame pigeons flutter around the solitary lofty tower. On three sides you find yourself surrounded by cloistered walks. In these the silent Turk sits smoking his long pipe, the handsome Greek leans against the pillar and gazes at the upraised trophies and lofty masts, memorials of power that is gone. The flags hang down like mourning scarves. A girl rests there: she has put down her heavy pails filled with water, the yoke with which she has carried them rests on one of her shoulders, and she leans against the mast of victory. That is not a fairy palace you see before you yonder, but a church: the gilded domes and shining orbs flash back my beams; the glorious bronze horses up yonder have made journeys, like the bronze horse in the fairy tale: they have come hither, and gone hence, and have returned again. Do you notice the variegated splendour of the walls and windows? It looks as if Genius had followed the caprices of a child, in the adornment of these singular temples. Do you see the winged lion on the pillar? The gold glitters still, but his wings are tied—the lion is dead, for the king of the sea is dead; the great halls stand desolate, and where gorgeous paintings hung of yore, the naked wall now peers through. The lazzarone sleeps under the arcade, whose pavement in old times was to be trodden only by the feet of high nobility. From the deep wells, and perhaps from the prisons by the Bridge of Sighs, rise the accents of woe, as at the time when the tambourine was heard in the gay gondolas, and the golden ring was cast from the Bucentaur to Adria, the queen of the seas. Adria! shroud thyself in mists; let the veil of thy widowhood shroud thy form, and clothe in the weeds of woe the mausoleum of thy bridegroom—the marble, spectral Venice.”

Eighteenth Evening

“I LOOKED down upon a great theatre,” said the Moon. “The house was crowded, for a new actor was to make his first appearance that night. My rays glided over a little window in the wall, and I saw a painted face with the forehead pressed against the panes. It was the hero of the evening. The knighly beard curled crisply about the chin; but there were tears in the man’s eyes, for he had been hissed off, and indeed with reason. The poor Incapable! But Incapables cannot be admitted into the empire of Art. He had deep feeling, and loved his art enthusiastically, but the art loved not him. The prompter’s bell sounded; ‘the hero enters with a determined air,’ so ran the stage direction in his part, and he had to appear before an audience who turned him into ridicule. When the piece was over, I saw a form wrapped in a mantle, creeping down the steps: it was the vanquished knight of the evening. The scene-shifters whispered to one another, and I followed the poor fellow home to his room. To hang one’s self is to die a mean death, and poison is not always at hand, I know; but he thought of both. I saw how he looked at his pale face in the glass, with eyes half closed, to see if he should look well as a corpse. A man may be very unhappy, and yet exceedingly affected. He thought of death, of suicide; I believe he pitied himself, for he wept bitterly, and when a man has had his cry out he doesn’t kill himself.

“Since that time a year had rolled by. Again a play was to be acted, but in a little theatre, and by a poor strolling company. Again I saw the well-remembered face, with the painted cheeks and the crisp beard. He looked up at me and smiled; and yet he had been hissed off only a minute before—hissed off from a wretched theatre, by a miserable audience. And tonight a shabby hearse rolled out of the town-gate. It was a suicide—our painted, despised hero. The driver of the hearse was the only person present, for no one followed except my beams. In a corner of the churchyard the corpse of the suicide was shovelled into the earth, and nettles will soon be growing rankly over his grave, and the sexton will throw thorns and weeds from the other graves upon it.”

Nineteenth Evening

“I COME from Rome,” said the Moon. “In the midst of the city, upon one of the seven hills, lie the ruins of the imperial palace. The wild fig tree grows in the clefts of the wall, and covers the nakedness thereof with its broad grey-green leaves; trampling among heaps of rubbish, the ass treads upon green laurels, and rejoices over the rank thistles. From this spot, whence the eagles of Rome once flew abroad, whence they ‘came, saw, and conquered,’ our door leads into a little mean house, built of clay between two pillars; the wild vine hangs like a mourning garland over the crooked window. An old woman and her little granddaughter live there: they rule now in the palace of the Caesars, and show to strangers the remains of its past glories. Of the splendid throne-hall only a naked wall yet stands, and a black cypress throws its dark shadow on the spot where the throne once stood. The dust lies several feet deep on the broken pavement; and the little maiden, now the daughter of the imperial palace, often sits there on her stool when the evening bells ring. The keyhole of the door close by she calls her turret window; through this she can see half Rome, as far as the mighty cupola of St. Peter’s.

“On this evening, as usual, stillness reigned around; and in the full beam of my light came the little granddaughter. On her head she carried an earthen pitcher of antique shape filled with water. Her feet were bare, her short frock and her white sleeves were torn. I kissed her pretty round shoulders, her dark eyes, and black shining hair. She mounted the stairs; they were steep, having been made up of rough blocks of broken marble and the capital of a fallen pillar. The coloured lizards slipped away, startled, from before her feet, but she was not frightened at them. Already she lifted her hand to pull the door-bell—a hare’s foot fastened to a string formed the bell-handle of the imperial palace. She paused for a moment—of what might she be thinking? Perhaps of the beautiful Christ-child, dressed in gold and silver, which was down below in the chapel, where the silver candlesticks gleamed so bright, and where her little friends sung the hymns in which she also could join? I know not. Presently she moved again—she stumbled: the earthen vessel fell from her head, and broke on the marble steps. She burst into tears. The beautiful daughter of the imperial palace wept over the worthless broken pitcher; with her bare feet she stood there weeping; and dared not pull the string, the bell-rope of the imperial palace!”

Twentieth Evening

IT was more than a fortnight since the Moon had shone. Now he stood once more, round and bright, above the clouds, moving slowly onward. Hear what the Moon told me.

“From a town in Fezzan I followed a caravan. On the margin of the sandy desert, in a salt plain, that shone like a frozen lake, and was only covered in spots with light drifting sand, a halt was made. The eldest of the company—the water gourd hung at his girdle, and on his head was a little bag of unleavened bread—drew a square in the sand with his staff, and wrote in it a few words out of the Koran, and then the whole caravan passed over the consecrated spot. A young merchant, a child of the East, as I could tell by his eye and his figure, rode pensively forward on his white snorting steed. Was he thinking, perchance, of his fair young wife? It was only two days ago that the camel, adorned with furs and with costly shawls, had carried her, the beauteous bride, round the walls of the city, while drums and cymbals had sounded, the women sang, and festive shots, of which the bridegroom fired the greatest number, resounded round the camel; and now he was journeying with the caravan across the desert.

“For many nights I followed the train. I saw them rest by the wellside among the stunted palms; they thrust the knife into the breast of the camel that had fallen, and roasted its flesh by the fire. My beams cooled the glowing sands, and showed them the black rocks, dead islands in the immense ocean of sand. No hostile tribes met them in their pathless route, no storms arose, no columns of sand whirled destruction over the journeying caravan. At home the beautiful wife prayed for her husband and her father. ‘Are they dead?’ she asked of my golden crescent; ‘Are they dead?’ she cried to my full disc. Now the desert lies behind them. This evening they sit beneath the lofty palm trees, where the crane flutters round them with its long wings, and the pelican watches them from the branches of the mimosa. The luxuriant herbage is trampled down, crushed by the feet of elephants. A troop of negroes are returning from a market in the interior of the land: the women, with copper buttons in their black hair, and decked out in clothes dyed with indigo, drive the heavily-laden oxen, on whose backs slumber the naked black children. A negro leads a young lion which he has brought, by a string. They approach the caravan; the young merchant sits pensive and motionless, thinking of his beautiful wife, dreaming, in the land of the blacks, of his white lily beyond the desert. He raises his head, and—” But at this moment a cloud passed before the Moon, and then another. I heard nothing more from him this evening.

Twenty-First Evening

“I SAW a little girl weeping,” said the Moon; “she was weeping over the depravity of the world. She had received a most beautiful doll as a present. Oh, that was a glorious doll, so fair and delicate! She did not seem created for the sorrows of this world. But the brothers of the little girl, those great naughty boys, had set the doll high up in the branches of a tree and had run away.

“The little girl could not reach up to the doll, and could not help her down, and that is why she was crying. The doll must certainly have been crying too, for she stretched out her arms among the green branches, and looked quite mournful. Yes, these are the troubles of life of which the little girl had often heard tell. Alas, poor doll! it began to grow dark already; and suppose night were to come on completely! Was she to be left sitting on the bough all night long? No, the little maid could not make up her mind to that. ‘I’ll stay with you,’ she said, although she felt anything but happy in her mind. She could almost fancy she distinctly saw little gnomes, with their high-crowned hats, sitting in the bushes; and further back in the long walk, tall spectres appeared to be dancing. They came nearer and nearer, and stretched out their hands towards the tree on which the doll sat; they laughed scornfully, and pointed at her with their fingers. Oh, how frightened the little maid was! ‘But if one has not done anything wrong,’ she thought, ‘nothing evil can harm one. I wonder if I have done anything wrong?’ And she considered. ‘Oh, yes! I laughed at the poor duck with the red rag on her leg; she limped along so funnily, I could not help laughing; but it’s a sin to laugh at animals.’ And she looked up at the doll. ‘Did you laugh at the duck too?’ she asked; and it seemed as if the doll shook her head.”

Twenty-Second Evening

“I LOOKED down upon Tyrol,” said the Moon, “and my beams caused the dark pines to throw long shadows upon the rocks. I looked at the pictures of St. Christopher carrying the Infant Jesus that are painted there upon the walls of the houses, colossal figures reaching from the ground to the roof. St. Florian was represented pouring water on the burning house, and the Lord hung bleeding on the great cross by the wayside. To the present generation these are old pictures, but I saw when they were put up, and marked how one followed the other. On the brow of the mountain yonder is perched, like a swallow’s nest, a lonely convent of nuns. Two of the sisters stood up in the tower tolling the bell; they were both young, and therefore their glances flew over the mountain out into the world. A travelling coach passed by below, the postillion wound his horn, and the poor nuns looked after the carriage for a moment with a mournful glance, and a tear gleamed in the eyes of the younger one. And the horn sounded faint and more faintly, and the convent bell drowned its expiring echoes.”

Twenty-Third Evening

HEAR what the Moon told me. “Some years ago, here in Copenhagen, I looked through the window of a mean little room. The father and mother slept, but the little son was not asleep. I saw the flowered cotton curtains of the bed move, and the child peep forth. At first I thought he was looking at the great clock, which was gaily painted in red and green. At the top sat a cuckoo, below hung the heavy leaden weights, and the pendulum with the polished disc of metal went to and fro, and said ‘tick, tick.’ But no, he was not looking at the clock, but at his mother’s spinning wheel, that stood just underneath it. That was the boy’s favourite piece of furniture, but he dared not touch it, for if he meddled with it he got a rap on the knuckles. For hours together, when his mother was spinning, he would sit quietly by her side, watching the murmuring spindle and the revolving wheel, and as he sat he thought of many things. Oh, if he might only turn the wheel himself! Father and mother were asleep; he looked at them, and looked at the spinning wheel, and presently a little naked foot peered out of the bed, and then a second foot, and then two little white legs. There he stood. He looked round once more, to see if father and mother were still asleep—yes, they slept; and now he crept softly, softly, in his short little nightgown, to the spinning wheel, and began to spin. The thread flew from the wheel, and the wheel whirled faster and faster. I kissed his fair hair and his blue eyes, it was such a pretty picture.

“At that moment the mother awoke. The curtain shook, she looked forth, and fancied she saw a gnome or some other kind of little spectre. ‘In Heaven’s name!’ she cried, and aroused her husband in a frightened way. He opened his eyes, rubbed them with his hands, and looked at the brisk little lad. ‘Why, that is Bertel,’ said he. And my eye quitted the poor room, for I have so much to see. At the same moment I looked at the halls of the Vatican, where the marble gods are enthroned. I shone upon the group of the Laocoon; the stone seemed to sigh. I pressed a silent kiss on the lips of the Muses, and they seemed to stir and move. But my rays lingered longest about the Nile group with the colossal god. Leaning against the Sphinx, he lies there thoughtful and meditative, as if he were thinking on the rolling centuries; and little love-gods sport with him and with the crocodiles. In the horn of plenty sat with folded arms a little tiny love-god, contemplating the great solemn river-god, a true picture of the boy at the spinning wheel—the features were exactly the same. Charming and life-like stood the little marble form, and yet the wheel of the year has turned more than a thousand times since the time when it sprang forth from the stone. Just as often as the boy in the little room turned the spinning wheel had the great wheel murmured, before the age could again call forth marble gods equal to those he afterwards formed.

“Years have passed since all this happened,” the Moon went on to say. “Yesterday I looked upon a bay on the eastern coast of Denmark. Glorious woods are there, and high trees, an old knightly castle with red walls, swans floating in the ponds, and in the background appears, among orchards, a little town with a church. Many boats, the crews all furnished with torches, glided over the silent expanse—but these fires had not been kindled for catching fish, for everything had a festive look. Music sounded, a song was sung, and in one of the boats the man stood erect to whom homage was paid by the rest, a tall sturdy man, wrapped in a cloak. He had blue eyes and long white hair. I knew him, and thought of the Vatican, and of the group of the Nile, and the old marble gods. I thought of the simple little room where little Bertel sat in his night-shirt by the spinning wheel. The wheel of time has turned, and new gods have come forth from the stone. From the boats there arose a shout: ‘Hurrah, hurrah for Bertel Thorwaldsen!’”

Twenty-Fourth Evening

“I WILL now give you a picture from Frankfort,” said the Moon. “I especially noticed one building there. It was not the house in which Goethe was born, nor the old Council House, through whose grated windows peered the horns of the oxen that were roasted and given to the people when the emperors were crowned. No, it was a private house, plain in appearance, and painted green. It stood near the old Jews’ Street. It was Rothschild’s house.

“I looked through the open door. The staircase was brilliantly lighted: servants carrying wax candles in massive silver candlesticks stood there, and bowed low before an old woman, who was being brought downstairs in a litter. The proprietor of the house stood bare-headed, and respectfully imprinted a kiss on the hand of the old woman. She was his mother. She nodded in a friendly manner to him and to the servants, and they carried her into the dark narrow street, into a little house, that was her dwelling. Here her children had been born, from hence the fortune of the family had arisen. If she deserted the despised street and the little house, fortune would also desert her children. That was her firm belief.”

The Moon told me no more; his visit this evening was far too short. But I thought of the old woman in the narrow despised street. It would have cost her but a word, and a brilliant house would have arisen for her on the banks of the Thames—a word, and a villa would have been prepared in the Bay of Naples.

“If I deserted the lowly house, where the fortunes of my sons first began to bloom, fortune would desert them!” It was a superstition, but a superstition of such a class, that he who knows the story and has seen this picture, need have only two words placed under the picture to make him understand it; and these two words are: “A mother.”

Twenty-Fifth Evening

“IT was yesterday, in the morning twilight”—these are the words the Moon told me—“in the great city no chimney was yet smoking—and it was just at the chimneys that I was looking. Suddenly a little head emerged from one of them, and then half a body, the arms resting on the rim of the chimney-pot. ‘Ya-hip! ya-hip!’ cried a voice. It was the little chimney-sweeper, who had for the first time in his life crept through a chimney, and stuck out his head at the top. ‘Ya-hip! ya-hip’ Yes, certainly that was a very different thing to creeping about in the dark narrow chimneys! the air blew so fresh, and he could look over the whole city towards the green wood. The sun was just rising. It shone round and great, just in his face, that beamed with triumph, though it was very prettily blacked with soot.

“‘The whole town can see me now,’ he exclaimed, ‘and the moon can see me now, and the sun too. Ya-hip! ya-hip!’ And he flourished his broom in triumph.”

Twenty-Sixth Evening

“LAST night I looked down upon a town in China,” said the Moon. “My beams irradiated the naked walls that form the streets there. Now and then, certainly, a door is seen; but it is locked, for what does the Chinaman care about the outer world? Close wooden shutters covered the windows behind the walls of the houses; but through the windows of the temple a faint light glimmered. I looked in, and saw the quaint decorations within. From the floor to the ceiling pictures are painted, in the most glaring colours, and richly gilt— pictures representing the deeds of the gods here on earth. In each niche statues are placed, but they are almost entirely hidden by the coloured drapery and the banners that hang down. Before each idol (and they are all made of tin) stood a little altar of holy water, with flowers and burning wax lights on it. Above all the rest stood Fo, the chief deity, clad in a garment of yellow silk, for yellow is here the sacred colour. At the foot of the altar sat a living being, a young priest. He appeared to be praying, but in the midst of his prayer he seemed to fall into deep thought, and this must have been wrong, for his cheeks glowed and he held down his head. Poor Soui-Hong! Was he, perhaps, dreaming of working in the little flower garden behind the high street wall? And did that occupation seem more agreeable to him than watching the wax lights in the temple? Or did he wish to sit at the rich feast, wiping his mouth with silver paper between each course? Or was his sin so great that, if he dared utter it, the Celestial Empire would punish it with death? Had his thoughts ventured to fly with the ships of the barbarians, to their homes in far distant England? No, his thoughts did not fly so far, and yet they were sinful, sinful as thoughts born of young hearts, sinful here in the temple, in the presence of Fo and the other holy gods.

“I know whither his thoughts had strayed. At the farther end of the city, on the flat roof paved with porcelain, on which stood the handsome vases covered with painted flowers, sat the beauteous Pu, of the little roguish eyes, of the full lips, and of the tiny feet. The tight shoe pained her, but her heart pained her still more. She lifted her graceful round arm, and her satin dress rustled. Before her stood a glass bowl containing four gold-fish. She stirred the bowl carefully with a slender lacquered stick, very slowly, for she, too, was lost in thought. Was she thinking, perchance, how the fishes were richly clothed in gold, how they lived calmly and peacefully in their crystal world, how they were regularly fed, and yet how much happier they might be if they were free? Yes, that she could well understand, the beautiful Pu. Her thoughts wandered away from her home, wandered to the temple, but not for the sake of holy things. Poor Pu! Poor Soui-hong!

“Their earthly thoughts met, but my cold beam lay between the two, like the sword of the cherub.”

Twenty-Seventh Evening

“THE air was calm,” said the Moon; “the water was transparent as the purest ether through which I was gliding, and deep below the surface I could see the strange plants that stretched up their long arms towards me like the gigantic trees of the forest. The fishes swam to and fro above their tops. High in the air a flight of wild swans were winging their way, one of which sank lower and lower, with wearied pinions, his eyes following the airy caravan, that melted farther and farther into the distance. With outspread wings he sank slowly, as a soap bubble sinks in the still air, till he touched the water. At length his head lay back between his wings, and silently he lay there, like a white lotus flower upon the quiet lake. And a gentle wind arose, and crisped the quiet surface, which gleamed like the clouds that poured along in great broad waves; and the swan raised his head, and the glowing water splashed like blue fire over his breast and back. The morning dawn illuminated the red clouds, the swan rose strengthened, and flew towards the rising sun, towards the bluish coast whither the caravan had gone; but he flew alone, with a longing in his breast. Lonely he flew over the blue swelling billows.”

Twenty-Eighth Evening

“I WILL give you another picture of Sweden,” said the Moon. “Among dark pine woods, near the melancholy banks of the Stoxen, lies the old convent church of Wreta. My rays glided through the grating into the roomy vaults, where kings sleep tranquilly in great stone coffins. On the wall, above the grave of each, is placed the emblem of earthly grandeur, a kingly crown; but it is made only of wood, painted and gilt, and is hung on a wooden peg driven into the wall. The worms have gnawed the gilded wood, the spider has spun her web from the crown down to the sand, like a mourning banner, frail and transient as the grief of mortals. How quietly they sleep! I can remember them quite plainly. I still see the bold smile on their lips, that so strongly and plainly expressed joy or grief. When the steamboat winds along like a magic snail over the lakes, a stranger often comes to the church, and visits the burial vault; he asks the names of the kings, and they have a dead and forgotten sound. He glances with a smile at the worm-eaten crowns, and if he happens to be a pious, thoughtful man, something of melancholy mingles with the smile. Slumber on, ye dead ones! The Moon thinks of you, the Moon at night sends down his rays into your silent kingdom, over which hangs the crown of pine wood.”

Twenty-Ninth Evening

“CLOSE by the high-road,” said the Moon, “is an inn, and opposite to it is a great waggon-shed, whose straw roof was just being re-thatched. I looked down between the bare rafters and through the open loft into the comfortless space below. The turkey-cock slept on the beam, and the saddle rested in the empty crib. In the middle of the shed stood a travelling carriage; the proprietor was inside, fast asleep, while the horses were being watered. The coachman stretched himself, though I am very sure that he had been most comfortably asleep half the last stage. The door of the servants’ room stood open, and the bed looked as if it had been turned over and over; the candle stood on the floor, and had burnt deep down into the socket. The wind blew cold through the shed: it was nearer to the dawn than to midnight. In the wooden frame on the ground slept a wandering family of musicians. The father and mother seemed to be dreaming of the burning liquor that remained in the bottle. The little pale daughter was dreaming too, for her eyes were wet with tears. The harp stood at their heads, and the dog lay stretched at their feet.”

Thirtieth Evening

“IT was in a little provincial town,” the Moon said; “it certainly happened last year, but that has nothing to do with the matter. I saw it quite plainly. To-day I read about it in the papers, but there it was not half so clearly expressed. In the taproom of the little inn sat the bear leader, eating his supper; the bear was tied up outside, behind the wood pile—poor Bruin, who did nobody any harm, though he looked grim enough. Up in the garret three little children were playing by the light of my beams; the eldest was perhaps six years old, the youngest certainly not more than two. ‘Tramp, tramp’— somebody was coming upstairs: who might it be? The door was thrust open—it was Bruin, the great, shaggy Bruin! He had got tired of waiting down in the courtyard, and had found his way to the stairs. I saw it all,” said the Moon. “The children were very much frightened at first at the great shaggy animal; each of them crept into a corner, but he found them all out, and smelt at them, but did them no harm. ‘This must be a great dog,’ they said, and began to stroke him. He lay down upon the ground, the youngest boy clambered on his back, and bending down a little head of golden curls, played at hiding in the beast’s shaggy skin. Presently the eldest boy took his drum, and beat upon it till it rattled again; the bear rose upon his hind legs, and began to dance. It was a charming sight to behold. Each boy now took his gun, and the bear was obliged to have one too, and he held it up quite properly. Here was a capital playmate they had found; and they began marching—one, two; one, two.

“Suddenly some one came to the door, which opened, and the mother of the children appeared. You should have seen her in her dumb terror, with her face as white as chalk, her mouth half open, and her eyes fixed in a horrified stare. But the youngest boy nodded to her in great glee, and called out in his infantile prattle, ‘We’re playing at soldiers.’ And then the bear leader came running up.”

Thirty-First Evening

THE wind blew stormy and cold, the clouds flew hurriedly past; only for a moment now and then did the Moon become visible. He said, “I looked down from the silent sky upon the driving clouds, and saw the great shadows chasing each other across the earth. I looked upon a prison. A closed carriage stood before it; a prisoner was to be carried away. My rays pierced through the grated window towards the wall; the prisoner was scratching a few lines upon it, as a parting token; but he did not write words, but a melody, the outpouring of his heart. The door was opened, and he was led forth, and fixed his eyes upon my round disc. Clouds passed between us, as if he were not to see his face, nor I his. He stepped into the carriage, the door was closed, the whip cracked, and the horses gallopped off into the thick forest, whither my rays were not able to follow him; but as I glanced through the grated window, my rays glided over the notes, his last farewell engraved on the prison wall—where words fail, sounds can often speak. My rays could only light up isolated notes, so the greater part of what was written there will ever remain dark to me. Was it the death-hymn he wrote there? Were these the glad notes of joy? Did he drive away to meet death, or hasten to the embraces of his beloved? The rays of the Moon do not read all that is written by mortals.”

Thirty-Second Evening

“I LOVE the children,” said the Moon, “especially the quite little ones—they are so droll. Sometimes I peep into the room, between the curtain and the window frame, when they are not thinking of me. It gives me pleasure to see them dressing and undressing. First, the little round naked shoulder comes creeping out of the frock, then the arm; or I see how the stocking is drawn off, and a plump little white leg makes its appearance, and a white little foot that is fit to be kissed, and I kiss it too.

“But about what I was going to tell you. This evening I looked through a window, before which no curtain was drawn, for nobody lives opposite. I saw a whole troop of little ones, all of one family, and among them was a little sister. She is only four years old, but can say her prayers as well as any of the rest. The mother sits by her bed every evening, and hears her say her prayers; and then she has a kiss, and the mother sits by the bed till the little one has gone to sleep, which generally happens as soon as ever she can close her eyes.

“This evening the two elder children were a little boisterous. One of them hopped about on one leg in his long white nightgown, and the other stood on a chair surrounded by the clothes of all the children, and declared he was acting Grecian statues. The third and fourth laid the clean linen carefully in the box, for that is a thing that has to be done; and the mother sat by the bed of the youngest, and announced to all the rest that they were to be quiet, for little sister was going to say her prayers.

“I looked in, over the lamp, into the little maiden’s bed, where she lay under the neat white coverlet, her hands folded demurely and her little face quite grave and serious. She was praying the Lord’s prayer aloud. But her mother interrupted her in the middle of her prayer. ‘How is it,’ she asked, ‘that when you have prayed for daily bread, you always add something I cannot understand? You must tell me what that is.’ The little one lay silent, and looked at her mother in embarrassment. ‘What is it you say after our daily bread?’ ‘Dear mother, don’t be angry: I only said, and plenty of butter on it.’”

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!