Fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen (Walker)/What the Moon Saw
IT IS very extraordinary, but when my feelings are most fervent, and at their best, my tongue and my hands alike seem tied. I cannot reproduce my impressions either in words, or in painting, as I feel them burning within me. And yet I am an artist, my eye tells me so, and all who have seen my sketches and notes acknowledge the same.
I am only a poor lad, and I live in one of the narrowest streets; but light is not wanting to me, for I live high up, and I have a fine view over the roof. For the first few days when I came to live in the town, it seemed very cramped and lonely. Instead of green woods and hills, I only had chimney pots on my horizon. I had not a single friend, and there was not even the face of an acquaintance to greet me.
One evening I was standing sadly by the window. I opened it and looked out, and there, how pleased I was! I saw a face I knew, a round friendly face, my best friend at home. It was the moon, the dear old moon, unchanged, and looking exactly the same as he used to look when he peeped at me there through the willows in the marshes. I kissed my hand to him, and he shone straight into my room and promised to look in at me every evening he was out. This promise he has faithfully kept, and it is only a pity that he stays so short a time. Every time he comes he tells me something or another which he has seen the night before.
"Now paint what I tell you!" said he, "and you will have a very fine picture book." I have done as he said for many evenings, and in my own way I could give a new rendering of the "Thousand and One Nights," but that would be too many. Those I give here are not selected, but they come in the order in which I heard them. A highly gifted painter, a poet or a musician might perhaps make more of them; what I have given here are only hasty sketches, with my own thoughts occasionally interspersed, for the moon did not come every night; there were some evenings when he was hidden by the clouds.
"Last evening," to give the moon's own words, "as I was gliding through the clear atmosphere of India, and reflecting myself in the Ganges, I tried to pierce the thick groves of plantain trees the leaves of which overlap each other as tightly as the horny plates on the back of the turtle. From out of the thicket came a Hindu maiden; she was as light as a gazelle, and as beautiful as Eve. There was such an airy grace about her, and yet such firmness of purpose in this daughter of India; I could read her intention in coming. The thorny creepers tore her sandals, but she stepped rapidly onward. The deer coming up from the river where they had quenched their thirst, bounded shyly past her, for the girl held in her hand a burning lamp. I could see the blood coursing in her delicate fingers as she bent them round the flame to form a shelter for it. She approached the river and placed the lamp upon the face of the waters, and it floated away on the stream. The flame flickered and seemed as if it would go out, but still it burned, and the dark sparkling eyes of the girl followed it with a longing glance, from under their silken fringes. She knew that if the lamp burned as long as she could follow it with her eyes, her lover lived. But if it went out, he was dead. The lamp burnt and flickered, and her heart burnt and trembled. She sank upon her knees in prayer. By her side in the grass lay a venomous snake, but she heeded it not; she only thought of Brahma, and her bridegroom. 'He lives!' she rejoiced, and from the hills came the echo, 'He lives!'"
"It was yesterday," the moon told me, "I peeped down into a little court surrounded by houses; in it sat a hen with eleven chickens. A charming little girl was skipping about among them. The hen clucked and spread her wings in alarm over her brood. Then the little girl's father came out and scolded her, and I slipped away without thinking any more about it. But to-night, only a few minutes ago, I looked into the same court. At first it was quite quiet, but then the same little girl came out. She crept softly along to the chicken house, lifted the latch and slipped in beside the hen and chickens. They cackled and flapped their wings and the little girl ran after them. I saw it all quite plainly, for I peeped in by a hole in the wall. I was quite angry with the naughty child, and felt pleased when her father came and scolded her, more angrily than yesterday. He took her by the arm, and she bent back her head, showing her big blue eyes full of tears. 'What are you doing here?' asked he.
"She cried and said, 'I only wanted to get into the hen to kiss her, and to ask her to forgive me for frightening her yesterday, but I was afraid to tell you.'
"The father kissed the sweet innocent upon the forehead and I kissed her on the eyes and lips."
"In the narrow street close by—it is so narrow that I can only let my beams glide down for a few minutes, but in those minutes I see enough to know what the people are who move about there—I saw a woman sixteen years ago; she was a child; away in the country she played in the old vicarage garden. The rose hedges were old and past flowering. They were running wild over the paths and sending up long shoots into the apple trees. Here and there grew one poor rose, not lovely as the queen of flowers should be, but the colour was there, and the fragrance. The parson's little daughter seemed to me a far sweeter flower, sitting upon her footstool under the wild hedge, kissing the battered cheeks of her doll. Ten years later I saw her again. I saw her in a brilliant ballroom; she was the lovely bride of a rich merchant, I was delighted with her happiness, and I often sought her in those quiet evenings. Alas! no one thought of my clear eye or my sharp glances. My rose was also sending out wild shoots like the roses in the vicarage garden. There are tragedies in everyday life too. To-night I saw the last act. There, in the narrow street, on a bed, she lay at death's door. The wicked landlord, rough and cruel, her only protector, tore aside the coverlet. 'Get up!' he said. 'Your face is a sight. Dress yourself up, paint your face, and get some money, or I will turn you into the street. Get up at once!' 'Death is in my heart!' she said. 'Oh, let me rest!' But he forced her to get up, and painted her cheeks, and put a wreath of roses in her hair. Then he seated her by the window, with the light close by, and left her. I gazed upon her as she sat motionless, with her hands in her lap. The window flew back, and one of the panes cracked, but she did not move. The curtain fluttered round her like a flame. She was dead.
"The dead woman at the open window preached a moral to me: My rose from the vicarage garden."
"I went to a German play last night," said the moon. "It was in a little town; a stable had been turned into a theatre, that is to say, the stalls were left standing and furnished up to make boxes. All the woodwork was covered up with bright paper. A little iron chandelier hung from the low ceiling, and so that it might disappear into the roof, as in a big theatre, at the sound of the prompter's bell, an inverted tub was fixed above it. 'Ring-a-ting' went the bell; and the little chandelier made a spring of about a foot, and then one knew that the play had begun. A young prince and his consort, who were travelling through the town, were present at the performance. The house was crammed; only the place under the chandelier was left like a little crater; not a creature sat there, for the grease dropped. 'Drop, drop.' I saw it all, for it was so warm that all the loopholes had been opened. The lads and lasses outside were peeping in, notwithstanding that the police inside kept threatening them with their sticks. The noble pair sat in a couple of old arm-chairs close to the orchestra. The burgo-master and his wife usually occupied these, but on this occasion they were obliged to sit on the wooden benches, just as if they had been ordinary citizens. 'There, you see there is rank above rank!' was the quiet remark of the goodwives; and this incident gave a special air of festivity to the entertainment. The chandelier gave its little hops; the crowd was rapped over the knuckles, and I— Yes, the moon saw the whole entertainment."
"Yesterday," said the moon, "I looked down upon the life of Paris, and my eye penetrated to some of the apartments in the Louvre. An old grandmother, poorly clad, belonging to the lower classes, accompanied by some of the subordinate attendants, entered the great empty throne room. She wanted to see it, she must see it! It had cost her many small sacrifices and much persuasiveness before she had attained her wish. She folded her thin hands and looked about her as reverently as if she were in a church. 'It was here,' she said, 'here,' and she approached the throne with its rich embroidered velvet hangings. 'There!' she said, 'there!' and she fell upon her knees and kissed the purple carpet; I believe she wept. 'It was not this very velvet,' said the attendant, a smile playing round his mouth. 'But it was here!' said the woman, 'it looked the same.' 'The same,' he answered, 'yet not the same; the windows were smashed to atoms, the doors torn off, and there was blood upon the floors!' 'But still you may say that my grandson died upon the throne of France. Died!' repeated the old woman. I don't think anything more was said; they left the room soon after. The twilight faded, and my light grew stronger upon the rich velvet on the throne of France. Who do you think the old woman was? I will tell you a story. It was evening on the most brilliant day of victory in the July revolution, when every house was a fortress, every window an embrasure. The populace stormed the Tuileries, even women and children fought among the combatants; they pressed through the apartments of the palace. A poor, half-grown lad in rags fought bravely among the other insurgents; he fell, fatally wounded by bayonet thrusts, and sank to the ground in the throne room itself, and his bleeding form was laid upon the throne, where his blood streamed over the imperial purple! What a picture that was! The noble room, the struggling groups, a torn banner upon the ground, the tricolour floating from the bayonets; and on the throne the poor dying boy with his pale transparent face and eyes turned toward heaven, while his limbs were already stiffening in death. His naked breast and torn clothing were half hidden by the purple velvet decked with the lilies of France. It had been prophesied at his cradle that 'he should die on the throne of France.' The mother's heart had dreamt of a new Napoleon. My beams have kissed the wreath of Immortelles on the lad's grave, and this night they kissed the forehead of the old grandmother while she dreamt and saw the picture you may sketch here, 'The poor boy upon the throne of France!'"
"I have been in Upsala," said the moon. "I looked down upon the great plain covered with coarse grass and the barren fields. I looked at myself in the waters of the Fyris river, while the steamers frightened the fishes in among the rushes. The clouds chased each other below me, and threw their shadows on to Odin's, Thor's, and Freya's graves, as they are called. Names have been cut all over the mounds in the short turf. There is no monument here, where travellers can have their Dames carved, nor rock walls where they may be painted, so the visitors have had the turf cut away, and their names stand out in the bare earth. There is a perfect network of these spread all over the mounds. A form of immortality which only lasts till the fresh grass grows. A man was standing there, a poet. He emptied the mead horn with its broad silver rim and whispered a name, telling the wind not to betray it; but I heard it and knew it. A count's coronet sparkles over it, and therefore he did not speak it aloud. I smiled; a poet's crown sparkles over his! Eleanora d'Este's nobility gains lustre from Tasso's name. I knew, too, where this Rose of Beauty blooms!" Having said this the moon was hidden by a cloud. May no clouds come between the poet and his rose!
"Along the shore stretches a great forest of oak and beech; sweet and fragrant is its scent. It is visited every year by hundreds of nightingales. The sea is close by, the ever-changing sea, and the broad high-road separates the two. One carriage after another rolls by; I do not follow them; my eye rather rests on one particular spot. It is a tumulus, or barrow; brambles and wild sloes grow among its stones. Here is real poetry in nature. How do you think people in general interpret it? I will tell you what I heard only last night.
"First two rich farmers drove by. 'There are some fine trees,' said one. 'There are ten loads of wood in each,' answered the other. 'This will be a hard winter, and last winter we got fourteen dollars a cord,' and they were gone. 'This is a bad bit of road,' said the next man who drove along. 'It's those cursed trees,' answered his companion. 'You don't get a current of air, you only have the breeze from the sea,' and then they rolled by. Next, the diligence came along. The passengers were all asleep at the prettiest part of the road. The driver blew his horn; he only thought 'How well I am blowing it, and it sounds well here. I wonder what they think of it,' and then the diligence, too, was gone. The next to pass were two lads on horseback. Here we have youth and champagne in the blood, I thought. And, indeed, they looked with a smile at the moss-grown hill and the dark thicket. 'Shouldn't I like a walk here with the miller's Christine!' said one, and then they rushed on. The flowers scented the air, and every breeze was hushed; it looked as if the sea was a part of the heavens outspread over a deep valley. A carriage drove by in which were six travellers; four of them were asleep; the fifth was thinking of his new summer coat, and whether it became him. The sixth leant forward and asked the driver if there was anything remarkable about that heap of stones. 'No,' answered the man, 'it's only a heap of stones; but those trees are remarkable. 'Tell me about them.' 'Well, they are very remarkable; you see, sir, in winter when the snow lies deep, and every place looks alike, these trees are a landmark to me, and I know I must keep close to them so as not to drive into the sea. In that way, you see, they are remarkable:' then he drove on. Now an artist came along and his eyes sparkled; he did not say a word, but he whistled and the nightingales sang, the one louder than the other. 'Hold your tongues,' he cried, and took out his note-book and began noting down the colours in the most methodical manner, 'Blue, lilac, dark brown. It will make a splendid picture.' He saw it as a mirror reflects a scene, and in the meantime he whistled a march by Rossini. The last to come by was a poor girl; she rested a moment by the barrow and put down her burden. She turned her pale pretty face toward the wood and her eyes shone when she looked upward to the sky over the sea. She folded her hands and I think she whispered a prayer. She did not herself understand the feelings which penetrated her, but I know that in years to come this night will often recur to her with all the lovely scene around her. It will be much more beautiful and truer to nature in her memory than the painter's picture will be with his exact colouring noted down in a book. My beams followed her till the dawn kissed her forehead."
There were heavy clouds in the sky, and the moon did not appear at all. I was doubly lonely in my little room, looking up into the sky where the moon ought to have been. My thoughts wandered up to the kind friend who had told me stories every evening and shown me pictures. What had he not experienced? He had sailed over the angry waters of the flood and looked down upon the ark, as he now did upon me, bringing consolation to the new world which was to arise. When the children of Israel stood weeping by the waters of Babylon, he peeped sadly through the willows where their harps were hung. When Romeo climbed on to the balcony and young love's kiss flew like a cherub's thought from earth to heaven, the round moon was hidden behind the dark cypresses in the transparent air. He saw the hero at St. Helena where he stood on the rock gazing out over the illimitable ocean, while great thoughts stirred his breast. Nay, what could not the moon tell us? The life of the world is a story to him. To-night I do not see you, old friend! and I have no picture to draw in remembrance of your visit. But as I looked dreamily up at the clouds, there appeared one beam from the moon — but it was soon gone, the black clouds swept over it. Still it was a greeting, a friendly evening greeting, to me from the moon.
The air was clear again; several evenings had passed, while the moon was in its first quarter. Then I got a new idea for a sketch: hear what the moon told me. "I have followed the polar birds and the swimming whales to the east coast of Greenland. Gaunt ice-covered rocks and dark clouds overhung a valley where willows and bilberry bushes stood in thick bloom, and the scented lychnis diffused its fragrance; my light was dim and my crescent pale as the leaf of the water-lily which has been floating for weeks upon the waters after being torn away from its stem. The corona of the northern lights burned with a fierce light. The rays spread out from its wide circle, over the heavens like whirling columns of fire playing in green and red lights. The inhabitants were assembled for dancing and merry-making, but they had no wonder to bestow on the glorious sight, so accustomed to it were they. 'Let the souls of the dead play at ball with the walrus's head as much as they like,' they thought, according to their superstitions. Their attention was entirely centred on the dancing and singing. A Greenlander without his fur coat stood in the middle of the circle, with a small drum in his hand, on which he played and at the same time sang a song in praise of seal hunting; the chorus answered him with 'Eia, eia, a!' and at the same time hopped round the circle in their white fur coats looking like polar bears. They wagged their heads and rolled their eyes in the wildest way. Then they held a mock court of justice. The litigants stepped forward and the plaintiff rehearsed his opponent's faults all in a bold and mocking manner; the rest meanwhile dancing to the music of the drum. The defendant replied in the same spirit, and the assemblage laughingly gave their judgment. Thunders resounded from the mountains when portions of the ice fields slipped away, and great masses broke off shivering into dust. It was a typical Greenland summer night.
"A hundred paces away, under a tent of skins, lay a sick man; life was still coursing through his veins, yet he was to die. He knew it himself, and those standing round him knew it too, so much so that his wife was already sewing up the skin robe around him so as not to have to touch the dead man later. She asked him, 'Will you be buried on the Fells, in the hard snow, or would you rather be sunk in the sea?' 'In the sea,' he whispered, and nodded with a sad smile. 'Yes, the sea is a cozy summer tent,' said the woman. 'Thousands of seals sport about in it and the walrus will sleep at your feet; the chase is certain and plenty of it.' The children howled and tore away the tightened skin from the window, so that the dying man might be borne down to the sea, the swelling ocean which gave him food in life, and now in death a resting-place! His headstone was the floating iceberg which changes from day to day. Seals slumber on the ice, and the albatross spreads its great wings above it."
"I knew an old maid," said the moon; "she used to wear a yellow satin pelisse in winter. It was always new, and she never varied the fashion of it. Every summer she used to wear the same straw hat, and, I believe, a bluish gray dress. She only used to go and see one old friend, who lived across the street; but for the last few years she did not go, for her friend was dead. My old friend bustled about in her loneliness by her window, which was always full of beautiful flowers in summer, and in the winter she grew splendid mustard and cress on a piece of felt. For the last few months she has not appeared at the window, but I knew that she still lived, for I had not seen her take the great journey about which she and her friend talked so much. 'Yes,' she used to say, 'when my time comes to die, I shall travel much farther than I have ever done in my whole life. Our family burial place is twenty miles from here, and I am to be taken there for my last sleep with the rest of my family!' Last night a van stopped at the door, and a coffin was carried out, so I knew that she was dead. They put straw round the coffin and drove off. In it slept the quiet old maid, who for the last few years had not been outside the house. The van rattled quickly out of the town, as if bent on a pleasure trip. They went faster still when they reached the high-road. The driver looked over his shoulder every now and then; I believe he was half afraid of seeing the old lady sitting there, on the top of the coffin, in her yellow pelisse. Then he whipped up the horses mercilessly and held them in so tightly that they foamed at the mouth, a hare darted across the road, and they got beyond the man's control. The quiet old maid, who year in, year out, had moved so slowly in her daily round, now that she was dead, was being hurried at a headlong pace over stock and stone along the road. The coffin, which was wrapped in mats, slipped off the van and fell on to the road, while driver, horses, and van rushed away in their wild flight. A little lark flew up from the field and burst into its morning song, right over the coffin. It perched on it and pecked at the matting, as if to tear the shell asunder, then it rose gaily warbling into the air, and I drew back behind the rosy clouds of dawn!"
"It was a bridal feast!" said the moon. "Songs were sung, toasts were drunk, everything was gay and festive. The guests went away; it was past midnight. The mothers kissed the bride and the bridegroom. Then I saw them alone, but the curtains were almost closely drawn; the comfortable room was lit up by a lamp. 'Thank goodness, they are all gone,' said he, kissing her hands and her lips. She smiled and wept and leant her head upon his breast, trembling like the lotus flower upon the flowing waters. They talked together in tender glowing words. 'Sleep sweetly!' he exclaimed, and she drew aside the window curtain. 'How beautifully the moon is shining!' she said; 'see how still and clear it is!' Then she put out the lamp, and the cozy room was dark, except for my beams, which shone as brightly as his eyes. Oh, womanhood, kiss thou the poet's lyre, when he sings of the mysteries of life!"
"I will give you a picture of Pompeii," said the moon. "I was in the outskirts of the town, in the street of Tombs, as it is called, where the beautiful monuments stand; it is the place where once joyous youths, crowned with roses, danced with the fair sisters of Lais. Now the stillness of death reigns. German soldiers in the Neapolitan pay keep guard and play at cards and dice. A crowd of strangers from the other side of the mountains came into the town with guides. They wanted to see this city risen from the grave under my full beams. I showed them the chariot tracks in the streets paved with slabs of lava; I showed them the names on the doors and the sign-boards still hanging. In the small courtyards they saw the basins of the fountains decorated with shells, but no stream of water played, and no songs resounded from the richly painted chambers where the metal dogs guarded the doors. It was indeed a city of the dead, only Vesuvius thundered forth its everlasting hymn, the several verses of which are called by man, 'a new eruption.' We went to the Temple of Venus, built of dazzling white marble, with its high altar in front of the broad steps, and the weeping willow shooting up among the pillars. The air was blue and transparent, and in the background stood Vesuvius, inky black, with its column of fire like the stem of a pine tree. In the darkness the cloud of smoke looked like the crown of the tree, only it was blood-red illuminated by the internal flames. A songstress was among the company, a great and noted one; I have seen the homage paid to her in the various capitals of Europe. When they reached the tragic theatre, they all sat down on the stone steps of the amphitheatre. They filled up a little corner of it as in centuries gone by. The stage still stood with its walled side scenes, and two arches in the background through which one sees the same decoration as was seen then—nature herself, the hills between Amalfi and Sorrento. For a joke the singer mounted the stage and sang, for the place inspired her. I thought of the wild Arab horse, when it neighs, tosses its mane, and tears away—her song was so light and yet so assured. I also thought of the suffering mother beneath the cross on Golgotha, it was so full of deep feeling and pain. Round about echoed, just as it had done a thousand years ago, the sound of applause and delight. 'Happy, gifted creature!' they all cried. Three minutes later the stage was empty and not a sound was to be heard. The company departed, but the ruins stood unchanged, as they will stand for centuries, and no one will know of the momentary burst of applause, the notes of the beautiful songstress and her smiles; they are past and gone. Even to me they are but a vanished memory."
"I peeped through the windows of an editor's office," said the moon. "It was somewhere in Germany. It was well furnished; there were many books and a perfect chaos of papers. Several young men were present and the editor stood by the desk. Two small books, both by young authors, were to be reviewed. 'This one has been sent to me,' he said; 'I have not read it yet, but it is nicely got up; what do you say about the contents?' 'Oh,' said one, who was himself a poet, 'it is pretty good, a little drawn out, perhaps, but he is a young man still. The verses might be better, but the thoughts are sound if a little commonplace. What are you to say? you can't always think of something new. You will be quite safe in praising him, though I don't suppose he will ever be a great poet. He is well read, a first-rate Oriental scholar, and he has judgment. It was he who wrote that nice article on my "Reflections on Domestic Life." One must be kind to a young man.'
"'But he must be a regular ass!' said another man in the room; 'nothing is worse in poetry than mediocrity, and he will never rise above it.'
"'Poor fellow!' said a third, 'and his aunt is so delighted with him; it is she, Mr. Editor, who found so many subscribers to your last translation.'
"'Oh, the good woman. Well, I have reviewed the book quite briefly. Unmistakable talent—a welcome offering — a flower in the garden of poetry—well got up—and so on. But the other book! I suppose the author wants me to buy it. I hear it is being praised. He has genius, don't you think so?'
"'Oh, they all harp upon that,' said the poet; 'but he talks rather wildly! And the punctuation is most peculiar.'
"'It would do him good to pull him to pieces a bit and enrage him, or he will think too highly of himself!'
"'But that would be rather unreasonable,' cried another; 'don't let us carp at his small faults, rather let us rejoice over his good points: and he has many. He beats all the others.'
"'Heaven preserve us! If he is such a genius he will be able to stand some rough handling. There are plenty of people to praise him in private. Don't let us make him mad!'
"'Unmistakable talent,' wrote the editor, 'with the usual want of care; that he can write incorrect verses may be seen on page 25, where there are two false quantities. A study of the Ancients is recommended, and so on!'
"I went away," said the moon, "and peeped through the window into the aunt's room where the cherished poet sat, the tame one. He was worshipped by all the guests, and quite happy. I sought the other poet, the wild one; he was also at a large party, in the house of one of his admirers, where they were talking of the other poet's book. 'I mean to read yours, too,' said Mæcenas; 'but you know I never tell you anything but what I think, and, to tell the truth, I do not expect great things of you, you are too wild, and too fantastic; but I acknowledge that as a man you are very respectable.'
"A young girl sat in a corner, and she read in a book these words;
'Let stifled genius lie below,
The moon said to me: "There are two cottages by the roadside in the wood; the doors are low and the windows crooked, but the buckthorn and the berberis cluster round them. The roofs are overgrown with moss, yellow flowers and houseleek. There are only cabbages and potatoes in the little garden, but near the fence is a flowering elder-bush, and beneath it sat a little girl; her brown eyes were fixed upon the old oak between the cottages. It had a great gnarled trunk, and the crown had been sawed oft', and the stork had built his nest on the top of the trunk. He was standing there now clattering his beak. A little boy came out and placed himself beside the girl; they were brother and sister.
"'What are you looking at?' he asked.
"'I am looking at the stork,' she said; 'the woman next door has told me that he is going to bring us a little brother or sister to-night, and I am watching to see them come.'
'"The stork won't bring one,' said the boy; 'our neighbour told me the same thing, but she laughed when she said it, and I asked if she dared swear by the name of God, and she dared not, so I know very well that all that nonsense about the stork is just something they make up for us children!'
"'Where will the little baby come from, then?' asked the girl.
"'Our Lord will bring it,' said the boy. 'God has it under His mantle; but nobody can see God, and so we shall not see Him bring it.'
"Just then a gust of wind rustled through the leaves of the elder-bush, and the children clasped their hands and looked at each other. It must be God sending the baby! They took hold of each other's hands. The cottage door opened, and a woman appeared. 'Come in now,' she said; 'come in and see what the stork has brought; it is a little brother!' "The children nodded; they knew well enough he had come."
"I was passing over Limborg heath," said the moon, "and I saw a lonely hut by the wayside. Some leafless trees grew round it, on one of which a nightingale was singing; it had lost its way. I knew that it must die of the cold, and that it was its swan-song I heard. At daybreak a caravan came along, of emigrant peasants, on their way to Bremen or Hamburg to take ship for America, where good fortune, the fortune of their dreams, was awaiting them. The women were carrying the babies and the bigger children skipped along beside them. A wretched horse drew a van on which were a few miserable articles of furniture. A cold wind blew and a little girl clung closer to her mother, who looked up at my waning disc, and thought what bitter need they had endured at home, and of the heavy taxes which could not be paid. Her thoughts were those of the whole caravan, so the red dawn shone upon them, like a glimmer from that sun of fortune which was about to arise. They heard the song of the dying nightingale, and to them it was no false prophet, but rather a harbinger of good fortune. The wind whistled sharply, and they did not understand its song. Sail on securely over the ocean! you have given all that you possessed in return for the journey; poor and helpless you will land upon the shores of your Canaan. You must sell yourself, your wife, and your children, but you shall not suffer long. The goddess of death lurks behind the broad, fragrant leaves, her kiss of welcome will breathe pestilential fever into your blood! Sail on, sail on over the surging waters! But the travellers listened happily to the song of the nightingale, for it promised them good fortune. Daylight shone through the floating clouds, and peasants were wending their way over the heath to church. The women in their black dresses and with white kerchiefs round their heads looked as if they might have stepped down out of the old pictures in the church. Round about there was only the great dead plain covered with brown withered heather, and the white sand hills beyond. The women held their prayerbooks in their hands and wandered on toward the church. Ah, pray, pray for those whose steps are leading them to the grave beyond the rolling waters!"
"I know a Punchinello," said the moon. "The public shout directly they see him; each ot his movements is so comic that the whole house roars when he appears; his personality makes them laugh, not his art. Even when he was little, playing about with the other boys, he was already a Punchinello. Nature had made him one; she had given him a hump on his back and one on his chest. But the inner man, the soul—ah, that was richly endowed. No one had deeper feelings or greater elasticity of mind than he. The theatre was his ideal world. If he had been slender and well made he would have been the first tragedian on any stage. The great and the heroic filled his soul, and yet he had to be a Punchinello. Even his pain and his melancholy increased the comic dryness of his sharply cut features, and called forth laughter from the multitudes who applauded their favourite. The pretty Columbine was kind and friendly, but she preferred marrying the Harlequin. It would have been far too comic in real life if Beauty and the Beast had joined hands. When Punchinello was in low spirits, she was the only person who could make him smile, nay, even laugh outright. At first she would be melancholy too, then gay, and at last full of fun. 'I know what is the matter with you, well enough!' said she; 'you are in love.' 'land love,' he exclaimed; 'we should be a nice pair! How the public would applaud us!' 'You are in love,' she repeated. 'You are in love with me.' That might very well be said when one knew there was no question of love. Punchinello laughed, and bounded into the air; all his melancholy was gone. Yet she had spoken the truth; he loved her, worshipped her, as he worshipped all that was highest and best in Art. At her wedding he was the merriest person there, but at night he wept bitter tears. Had the public seen his distorted face they would indeed have applauded.
"Quite lately Columbine had died, and on the day of her burial Harlequin had a holiday; was he not a sorrowing widower? The manager was obliged to produce something more than usually merry, so that the public should not miss pretty Columbine. Therefore Punchinello had to be doubly lively; he danced and bounded with despair in his heart, and he was more applauded than ever. 'Bravo! Bravissimo!' Punchinello was called forward, he was indeed above all price."Last night after the performance the little hunchback wandered out of the town to the lonely churchyard. The
If the public had seen their favorite how they would have shouted "Bravo! Bravissimo! Punchinello"
wreaths were already withering on Columbine's grave. He sat down upon it. It would have made a touching picture, with his hand under his chin, his eyes turned toward me; he was like a monument, a Punchinello on a grave, characteristic and comical. If the public had seen their favourite how they would have shouted, 'Bravo! Bravissimo! Punchinello.'"
Listen to what the moon told me. "I have seen the cadet become an officer, and for the first time put on his handsome uniform. I have seen the young girl in her ball dress, and I have seen a royal bride rejoicing in her festal robes; but I have never seen greater delight than I saw last night in a child, a little four-year-old girl. She had on a new blue frock and a pink hat; they had just been put on, and the bystanders were calling for lights. The moon shining through the window gave too faint a light; they must have something brighter altogether. There stood the little girl as stiff as any doll, holding her arms away from the dress, each finger stuck stiffly out! Oh! how her eyes glistened, and her whole face beamed with delight. 'To-morrow you shall go out in them,' said the mother; and the little one looked down at her frock and smiled contentedly. 'Mother!' she said, 'what will the dogs think when they see me in all my pretty things!'"
"I have told you," said the moon, "about Pompeii, that city of the dead resuscitated, and again ranking among living places. I know another town even more fantastic; it is not so much the corpse as it is the ghost of a city. I seem to hear the romance of the floating city wherever the fountains play into their marble basins. Yes, water must tell its story, the waves of the sea sing its song! A mist often floats over the stretches of its waters; that is its veil of widowhood. The bridegroom of the sea is dead; his palace and town are now his mausoleum. Do you know this city? Never has the roll of wheels or the clatter of horses' hoofs been heard in its streets. The fish swim in them, and the black gondola skims over the surface of its green waters. I will show you," continued the moon, "the Forum of the town, its grand square, and you may imagine yourself to have been in Fairyland. The grass grows between its broad flags, and at dawn thousands of tame pigeons flutter round its solitary lofty tower. On three sides of it you are surrounded by colonnades; under their shelter the silent Turk sits smoking his long pipe. A handsome Greek boy leans against the columns, and looks up at the trophies and lofty masts raised around, memorials of its ancient power. The flags droop from them like mourning scarves. Here a girl is resting; she has put down her heavy water-pails, and the yoke in which she carried them hangs on her shoulders; she supports herself against the column of Victory. That is no Fairy palace there in front of you; it is a church; its gilt cupolas and balls glitter in my beams. Those majestic bronze horses have travelled, like the bronze horse in the Fairy tale. They came hither, went hence, and again returned. Do you see the gorgeous colouring on the walls and in the window-panes? It looks as if genius had given way to the whims of some child in adorning the wonderful Temple. Do you see the winged lion on its column? The gold still glitters, but its wings are bound; the lion is dead, for the king of the sea is dead; his great halls are empty, and there are only bare walls now where costly pictures used to hang. The Lazzaroni sleep now under the arches, on whose floor only the highest nobles in the land dared at one time to tread. From the deep wells—or does it come from the leaden chambers near the Bridge of Sighs?— sounds a groan, just as in the days when tambourines sounded from the gondolas with their gay trappings, when the bridal ring flew from the brilliant Bucentaur to Adria, queen of the sea. Oh, Adria, wrap thyself in the mist! Let thy widow's veil cover thy bosom! Hang it over the mausoleum of the bridegroom, oh, Venice, thou city of ghostly, marble palaces."
"I was looking down on a large theatre," said the moon. "The whole house was crammed with spectators, for a new" actor was to make his debut. My beams glided over a little window in the wall. A painted face was pressed against its panes; it was the hero of the evening. The knightly beard curled around his chin, but there were tears in the man's eyes, for he had been hissed off the stage, and rightly hissed off. Poor fellow! But a 'poor fellow' can't be tolerated in the Kingdom of Art. His feelings were deep, and he loved his art enthusiastically, but art did not love him. The call bell rang; the hero enters; 'boldly and gallantly' was the stage direction. He had to face an audience to whom he was a laughing-stock. When the piece came to an end, I saw a man, muffled in a cloak, creep downstairs. It was the crushed knight of the evening; the scene-shifters whispered to each other. I followed the poor wretch to his home. Hanging is an ugly death, and one has not always got poison at hand. I know he thought of both. I saw him look at his pale face in the glass, and half shut his eyes to see if he would be a handsome corpse. A man may be most unhappy and yet very affected. He thought of death, of suicide; I believe he wept over himself; he wept bitterly; and when a man has been able to shed tears he does not kill himself.
"A whole year has passed since then. There was a play being acted at a small theatre by a poor touring company. I saw" a well-known face, the painted cheeks and curly beard. He looked up at me and smiled; and yet he had been hissed off the stage only a minute ago; hissed by a miserable, low-class audience in a wretched theatre!
"To-night a poor hearse drove out of the town gates, not a soul following it. It was a suicide—our poor, painted, despised hero. The driver was the only mourner, nobody else only the moon. The suicide is laid in the corner of the churchyard, under the wall. The nettles will soon shoot up, and the grave-diggers will throw weeds and rubbish on it from other graves."
"I come from Rome," said the moon. "There in the middle of the town, on the summit of one of the seven hills, stands the ruins of the palace of the Cæsars. The wild fig grows now in the crevices of the walls, covering their nakedness with its broad grayish green leaves. The ass treads down its laurel hedges among the heaps of stones, and browses on the barren thistle. Here, whence once the eagles of Rome fluttered—came, saw, and conquered—there is now the entrance to a poor little hovel plastered up with clay between the two broken marble columns. The vine hangs like a mourning wreath over its crooked windows. An old woman lives in it with her little granddaughter; they now rule in the palace of the Cæsars, and show its treasures to visitors. There is only a bare wall left standing of the rich throne room; the dark cypress points with its long shadows to where the throne once stood. The earth is heaped high over the ruined floor, and the little girl, now sole daughter of the Cæsars, often brings her footstool there when the evening bells ring. She calls the keyhole in the door close by her balcony, for she can see half Rome through it, as far as the mighty dome of St. Peter's. Silence reigned, as always, this evening when the little girl came out into the full light of my beams. She was carrying a water jar of antique shape on her head: her feet were bare, her short skirt and the sleeves of her little chemise were ragged. I kissed the child's delicately rounded shoulders, her dark eyes, and black shining hair. She climbed up the steps to the little house; they were steep and made of sharp bits of marble from the broken columns. Gaily coloured lizards darted about among her feet, but they did not startle her. She was just raising her hand to the bell-pull; this was a hare's foot at the end of a piece of string, such is the bell now in the palace of the Cæsars. She paused a moment—what was she thinking about? Perhaps about the beautiful Infant Jesus wrapped in gold and silver down in the chapel, where the silver lamps gleamed, and where her little friends took part in singing the hymns which she knew, too; I do not know—she moved forward again, tripped, and the jar fell from her head, on to the steps, where it was broken to atoms upon the fluted marble. She burst into tears. The beautiful daughter of the Cæsars, weeping over the poor broken jar. There she stood with her bare feet, weeping, and dared not pull the string—the bell-rope of the palace of the Cæsars."
The moon had not shone for over a fortnight, but now I saw it again; it rose round and bright above the slowly moving clouds. Listen to what it told me.
"I followed a caravan from one of the towns of the Fezzan. They made a halt near the desert by one of the salt plains; it shone like a sheet of ice, and was covered only in parts with quicksands. An elder among them with a water bottle hanging at his belt, and a bag of unleavened bread lying by him, drew a square with his staff in the sand and wrote in it some words from the Koran. After this the whole caravan entered within the consecrated space. A young merchant, a child of the sun—I saw it in his eyes and in the beautiful lines of his figure—rode his fiery white steed thoughtfully. Was he perhaps thinking of his fair young wife? It was only two days since a camel covered with skins and costly shawls carried her, his lovely bride, round the walls of the town, to the sound of drums and pipes. Women sang and festive salvoes were fired; the loudest and most frequent were fired by the bridegroom himself, and now—now he was leading the caravan through the desert. I followed them for many nights; I saw them rest by the wells among the dwarf palms. They stuck their knives into the breast of the fallen camel, and roasted the meat by the fire. My beams cooled the burning sand, my beams showed them the buried rocks like submerged islands in a sea of sand. They encountered no unfriendly tribes on the trackless plain, no storms arose, and no sandstorm swept mercilessly over the caravan. At home the lovely wife prayed for her husband and her father. 'Are they dead?' she asked my golden horns. 'Are they dead?' she asked my shining disc. Now the desert lies behind them, and this evening they sit beneath the lofty palm trees, where the crane spreads its broad wings and the pelican watches them through the branches of the mimosa. The luxuriant thicket is trodden down by the heavy feet of the elephant; a troop of negroes are returning from the market far inland. The women have copper beads twisted round their heads of frizzled hair, and they are clad in skirts of indigo blue. They drive the heavily laden oxen, on whose backs the naked black children lie sleeping. A negro leads by a rope a young lion which he has bought; they approach the caravan. The young merchant sits motionless and silent, thinking of his lovely bride; dreaming, in the land of the blacks, of his white flower beyond the desert; he lifts his head!"
A cloud passed over the moon, and then another; I heard no more that evening.
"I saw a little girl crying," said the moon. "She was crying at the wickedness of the world. The loveliest doll in the world had been given to her. Oh, it was most delicate and fragile, and certainly not fit to face adversity. But the little girl's brothers, great big boys, had taken the doll away and put it up into a high tree, and then had run away. The poor little girl could not get it down, or get at it in any way, so she sat down and cried. The doll no doubt was crying, too; it stretched out its arms among the branches, and looked most unhappy. Yes, this must be the adversity of the world, about which mamma talked so much. Oh, the poor doll! Evening was coming on, it was getting dark, and it would soon be night. Was it to stay out there all alone in the tree for the whole night."
No, the little girl could not endure the thought. 'I will stay with you,' she said, although she was not at all courageous, and she fancied already that she could see the little Brownies in their high-pointed caps peeping through the bushes, and there were long ghostly shadows dancing about in the dark walk. They came nearer and nearer, and stretched out their hands toward the tree where the doll was sitting; and they laughed, and pointed their fingers at her. Oh! how frightened the little girl was. 'But if one has committed no sin,' she thought, 'evil can do one no harm. I wonder if I have sinned!' Then she began to think. 'Oh, yes,' she said, 'I laughed at the poor duck with a red rag round its leg; it looked so funny limping along, so I laughed, and it is a sin to laugh at dumb animals.' Then she looked up at her doll. 'Have you ever laughed at dumb animals?' And the doll seemed to shake its head."
"I looked down in the Tyrol," said the moon. "I let the dark pine trees throw their long shadows on to the rocks. I saw St. Christopher with the child Jesus on his back, as they are painted on the walls of the houses; they are colossal in size, reaching from the ground to the tops of the gables. There is also St. Florian pouring water on the burning house, and the Saviour hanging bleeding on the cross at the roadside. These are old pictures to the new generation, but I saw their origin. There is a solitary convent perched upon the mountain-side like a swallow's nest. Two of the sisters were standing up in the tower ringing the bell; they were both young, so their glances roamed over the mountains into the wide world beyond. A travelling carriage drove along the high road; the post horn sounded gaily and the poor nuns fixed their eyes, filled with the same thoughts, upon the carriage; a tear stood in those of the youngest. The sound of the horn grew fainter and fainter till its dying notes were drowned by the convent bell."
Hear what the moon told me.
"Several years ago I was in Copenhagen; I peeped in at the window of a poor little room. The father and mother were both asleep, but their little son was awake. I saw the flowered chintz curtains stirring and the child peeped out. I thought at first that he was looking at the grandfather's clock from Bornholm. It was gaily painted in red and green, and a cuckoo sat at the top; it had heavy leaden weights and the pendulum, with its shining brass disc, swung backward and forward. 'Tick, tack'; but that was not what he was looking at. No, it was his mother's spinning-wheel which stood under the clock. It was the boy's dearest treasure in all the house, but he dared not touch it or he would be rapped over the knuckles. He would stand for hours, while his mother was spinning, looking at the whirling spindle, and the whizzing wheel, and he had his own thoughts about them. Oh, if only he dared spin with that wheel; father and mother were asleep; he looked at them, he looked at the wheel, and soon he put one bare little foot out of bed, and then another little bare foot followed by two little legs, bump, there he stood upon the floor. He turned round once more to see if father and mother were still asleep. Yes, they were fast asleep; so he went softly, very softly, in his short little shirt, to the wheel and began to spin. The cord flew off and the wheel ran faster and faster. I kissed his yellow hair and his large blue eyes. It was a pretty picture.
"His mother woke just then. She put the curtain aside and looked out and thought she saw a Brownie or some other little sprite. 'In Heaven's name,' she said, pushing her husband; he opened his eyes, rubbed them, and looked at the busy little figure. 'Why, it is our Bertel!' he said. And my eye turned away from the poor little room. My glances extend so far that at the same moment I looked in at the galleries of the Vatican where the sculptured gods stand. I flooded the Laocoon group with my light, and the marble seemed to sigh. I pressed a gentle kiss upon the bosom of the muses; they almost seemed to move. But my glance rested longest upon the great Nile group with the colossal god. He leant pensively against the Sphinx, dreamy and thoughtful, as if he was pondering on the bygone years. Little Cupids played around him sporting with the crocodiles. One tiny little Cupid sat inside the cornucopia with his arms folded looking at the great solemn river-god. He was a true picture of the little boy at the spinning-wheel; his features were the same. This little marble child was lifelike and graceful in the extreme, yet the wheel of time had turned more than a thousand times since he sprang from the marble. Just so many times as the little boy turned the spinning-wheel in the humble little room had the greater wheel of time whirled round, and yet will whirl, before the present time creates marble gods like these.
"Now all this happened years ago," continued the moon. "Yesterday I looked down on to a bay on the east coast of Zealand. The cliffs round it were beautifully wooded, and in the midst of the woods stood an old red castle with swans swimming in the moat. A little country town lay near with its church buried among apple trees. A procession of boats with blazing torches glided over the smooth waters; these torches were not lighted for spearing eels. No, it was a great festivity; there were sounds of music and singing, and in one of the boats stood the object of all the homage. He was a tall powerful man wrapped in a cloak; he had blue eyes and long white hair. I knew him and thought of the Vatican and the Nile group among all the sculptured gods. Then I thought of the poor little room; I believe it was in 'Grönné-gade' where little Bertel sat spinning in his little shirt. The wheel of time had been turning and new gods have arisen from the marble since then. From the boats came 'Hurrah, hurrah, for Bertel Thorwaldsen!'"
"I will give you a picture from Frankfort," said the moon. "I looked at one building in particular. It was not Goethe's birthplace, nor the old Townhall, where through the grated windows may still be seen the horns of the oxen which were roasted and given to the people at the coronation of the Emperor. No, it was a burgher's house I looked at; it was painted green and was quite plain; it stood at the corner of the narrow Jew's street. It was Rothschild's house. I looked in through the open door; the staircase was brightly lighted; footmen stood there holding burning lights in massive silver candlesticks, bending low before the old woman who was being carried down in a carrying-chair. The owner of the house stood with bared head and pressed a respectful kiss upon her hand. She was his mother; she nodded kindly to him and the footmen, and they carried her into a little house in the dark narrow street. Here she lived, here she had borne her children, from here their fortune had blossomed forth. If she now left the little house in the mean street perhaps their luck would leave them. This was her belief."
The moon told me no more; her visit to-night was far too short, but I thought of the old woman in the narrow mean street. One word from her, and she might have a palace on the banks of the Thames; one word, and she would have had a villa on the Bay of Naples. "Were I to leave this humble house where the fortunes of my sons originated, their fortune might forsake them." It is a superstition, but a superstition of such a kind that if one knows the story and sees the picture it only needs two words to understand it, "A Mother."
"Yesterday at daybreak," these were the moon's own words, "not a chimney was yet smoking in the great town, and it was these very chimneys I was looking at, when suddenly a little head popped out at the top of one of them followed by the upper part of a body, with the arms resting on the edge of the chimney. 'Hurrah!' It was a little chimney-sweep who had gone right up a chimney for the first time in his life, and got his head out at the top. 'Hurrah!' this was a very different matter from creeping about in the narrow flues and smaller chimneys. A fresh breeze met his face, and he could see right out over the town away to the green woods beyond. The sun was just rising, big and round, and it shone straight into his face, which beamed with delight, although it was thoroughly smudged with soot. 'Now the whole town can see me,' said he, 'and the moon can see me, and the sun, too, hurrah!' and he waved his brush above his head."
"Last night I looked down upon a town in China," said the moon; "my beams illumined the long blank walls which border the streets. Here and there you certainly find a door, but it is always tightly shut, for what does the Chinaman care about the outside world! The windows of the houses behind the walls are closely covered with jalousies. The Temple was the only place whence a dim light shone through the windows. I looked in upon its gorgeous colours. The walls from floor to ceiling are covered with pictures in strong colours and rich gilding. They are representations of the labours of the gods here on earth. There is an image of a god in every niche, almost hidden by gorgeous draperies and floating banners. Before each of the gods—which are all made of tin—stands a little altar with holy water, flowers and burning wax tapers. At the upper end of the Temple stands Fu, the chief of all the gods; he is draped in silk of the sacred yellow. At the foot of the altar sat a living being, a young priest. He seemed to be praying, but in the midst of his prayers to fall into a reverie; and no doubt that was a sin, for his cheeks burnt, and his head sank lower and lower. Poor Soui-houng! was he in his dream seeing himself behind those dreary walls in a little garden of his own, working at the flower beds? Perhaps a labour much dearer to him than this of tending wax tapers in the Temple. Or was it his desire to sit at a richly spread table, wiping his lips between each course with tissue paper? Or, was his sin so great that, did he dare to express it, the Heavenly powers would punish him with death? Did his thoughts venture to stray with the barbarians' ships to their home in far-distant England? No, his thoughts did not fly so far afield, and yet they were as sinful as only the hot blood of youth can conceive them. Sinful, here in the Temple, before the image of Fu and the other gods. I know whither his thoughts had wandered."In the outskirts of the town, upon the flat flagged roof of a house where the parapet seemed to be made of porcelain, and among handsome vases full of large white bell-shaped flowers, sat the lovely Pé, with her narrow roguish eyes, full lips, and tiny feet. Her shoes pinched, but the pressure at her heart was far greater, and she wearily raised her delicately
Her thoughts wandered from her home and sought the Temple, but not for the sake of God! Poor Pé! Poor Soui-houng!
modelled arms in their rustling satin sleeves. In front of her stood a glass bowl with four goldfish in it; she slowly stirred the water with a little painted and lacquered stick—slowly, oh, very slowly, for she was musing. Was she thinking how richly the fish were clad in gold, and how securely they lived in their glass bowl with all their plentiful food, and yet, how much happier they would be if they had their freedom? Ah, yes, the fair Pé thoroughly comprehended that. Her thoughts wandered from her home and sought the Temple, but not for the sake of God! Poor Pé! Poor Soui-houng! their earthly thoughts met, but my cold beams fell between them like an angel's sword!"
"It was a dead calm," said the moon; "the water was as transparent as the pure air that I was traversing. I could see the curious plants down under the water; they were like giant forest trees stretching toward me, many fathoms long. The fish swam over their tops; a flock of wild swans were flying past high up in the air; one of them sank with outspread wings lower and lower. It followed with its eyes the aërial caravan, as the distance between them rapidly increased. It held its wings outspread and motionless, and sank as a soap bubble sinks in the quiet air; when it touched the surface of the water, it bent its head back between its wings, and lay as still as the white lotus blossom on a tranquil lake. A gentle breeze rose and swelled the glittering surface of the phosphorescent water, brilliant as ether itself rolling on in great broad billows. The swan lifted its head and the sparkling water dashed over its back and breast like blue flames. Dawn shed its rosy light around, and the swan soared aloft with renewed vigour toward the rising sun, toward the faint blue coast line, whither the aërial caravan took its flight. But it flew alone with longing in its breast. Solitary it flew over the swelling blue waters."
"I will give you one more picture from Sweden," said the moon. "Among gloomy forests near the melancholy shores of the Roxen, stands the old convent church of Wreta. My beams fell through a grating in the wall into a spacious vault, where kings slumber in their marble tombs. A royal crown glitters on the wall above them as an emblem of earthly glory; a royal crown, but it is made of painted wood, and kept in place by a wooden peg driven into the wall. Worms have gnawed through the gilded wood; the spider has spun its web from the crown to the coffin. It is a mourning banner, frail and transient as the grief of mortals. How calm their slumber! I remember them distinctly. I still see the confident smile around those lips which so authoritatively and decidedly uttered words of joy or grief.
"When the steamer comes up among the mountains like a bark from fairyland, many a stranger comes to the church and pays a visit to this burial vault. He asks the kings' names, and they echo with a dead and forgotten sound. He looks at the worm-eaten crown, and if he has a pious mind, there is sadness in his smile. Sleep on, ye Dead! The moon remembers you, the moon sends her cold beams in the night, into your silent kingdom, over which the wooden crown hangs."
"Close to the high-road," said the moon, "stands an inn, and immediately opposite to it is a great wagon shed, the roof of which was being thatched. I looked through the rafters, and through the open trap-door into the uncomfortable space below. A turkey cock was asleep on a beam, and a saddle was resting in an empty crib. A travelling carriage stood in the middle of the shed. Its owners slept in it as safely as possible, while the horses were being fed and watered. and the driver stretched his legs, although—and I know it for a certainty—he had been fast asleep for more than half the way. The door of the groom's bedroom was open, the bed was topsy-turvy, and a candle guttered on the floor. The wind whistled cold through the shed; it was nearer daybreak than midnight. A party of strolling musicians were asleep in a stall. The father and mother, I daresay, were dreaming of the drops of liquid fire in their flask, and the pale girl about the teardrop in her eye; a harp lay at their head, and a dog at their feet."
"It was in a little country town," said the moon. "I saw it last year, but that doesn't matter, for I saw it so distinctly. To-night I read about it in the papers, but the story is not nearly so intelligible in them. A bear-leader was sitting in the bar of a public house eating his supper; his bear was tied up outside behind the woodshed. Poor bear! he wouldn't harm a creature, though he looked fierce enough. Three little children were playing in the light of my beams up in an attic; the eldest was perhaps six years old, the youngest not more than two! Flop, flop! a muffled sound was heard coming up the stairs, who could it be? The door flew open—it was the bear, great shaggy Bruin! He was bored by standing out there in the yard, and he had found his way upstairs. I saw it all," said the moon. "The children were very much frightened when they first saw the big furry animal; they each crept into a different corner, but he found them out. He snuffed at them all, but did not hurt them. 'Why it must be a great big dog,' they thought, and they began to pat him. He lay down upon the floor, and the smallest boy rolled about on the top of him, and played at hiding his golden locks in the bear's long black coat. Then the biggest boy got out his drum, and played upon it as hard as ever he could; as soon as he heard it the bear got up on his hind legs and danced; it was a pretty sight. Each boy shouldered his gun, and the bear, of course, had to have one, too, and he held it as tightly as any of them. This was indeed a rare playmate they had got, and no mistake. They marched up and down 'one, two; one, two!' Just then some one came to the door and opened it; it was the children's mother. You should have seen the terrible, speechless agony in her ashen face, with open mouth, and starting eyes. But the smallest boy nodded to her; he was ever so pleased, and cried out loud, in his baby way, 'We are only playing soldiers, mother.' And then the bear-leader made his appearance."
The wind blew strong and cold, the clouds were chasing by, and the moon only appeared now and then.
"I look down upon the flying clouds from the silence of space above!" said he. "I can see the clouds chasing over the earth. Just lately I was looking down into a prison, outside which stood a closed carriage; a prisoner was about to leave. My beams penetrated the grated window and shone upon the inside wall. The prisoner was tracing some lines upon the wall; it was his farewell. He did not write words, but a tune; the outpouring of his heart on his last night in this place. The door opened and he was conducted to the carriage; he looked up at my round disc—clouds flew between us, as if he might not see my face nor I his. He got into the carriage, the door was shut, the whip cracked, and off they went through the thick forest, where my beams could not reach. I looked in through the prison grating again, and my beams fell once more upon the wall where the melody was traced—his last farewell: where words fail, melody may often speak! But my rays only lighted up a few isolated notes, the greater part will always remain dark to me. Was it a death hymn he wrote? or were they carolling notes of joy? Was he driving to meet his death, or to the embrace of his beloved? The beams of the moon cannot read all that even mortals write. I look down on the flying clouds, from the silence of space above, and I see big clouds chasing across the earth."
"I am very fond of children," said the moon; "the little ones especially are so amusing. I often peep at them through the curtains when they least think I see them. It is so amusing to see them trying to undress themselves; first, a little round naked shoulder appears out of the frock, then one arm slips out. Or I see a stocking pulled off a dimpled little leg, firm and round, and then comes out a little foot made to be kissed, and I kissed it," said the moon. "I must tell you what I saw to-night. I looked in at a window where the blind did not reach the bottom, for there were no opposite neighbours. I saw a whole flock of little ones, brothers and sisters. One little girl is only four years old, but she knows 'Our Father' as well as any of them, and her mother sits by her bed every evening to hear it. Then she kisses her and sits by her till she falls asleep, which generally happens as soon as she shuts her eyes.
"To-night the two eldest were rather wild; one of them hopped about on one leg in his long white nightgown. The second one stood on a chair with the clothes of all the others heaped upon him; he said it was a tableau, and they must guess what it meant. The third and fourth were putting their toys carefully away in a drawer, and, of course, that has to be done, but their mother said they must be quiet, for the little one was going to say her prayers. I peeped in over the lamp," said the moon. "The little four-year-old girl lay in bed among all the fine white linen, her little hands were folded, and her face quite grave and serious, and she began, 'Our Father,' aloud. 'But what is this,' said her mother, interrupting her in the middle. 'When you have said, "give us this day our daily bread," you say something more which I can't quite hear; what is it? You must tell me.' The little girl hesitated, and looked shyly at her mother. 'What do you say after "give us this day our daily bread?"' 'Don't be angry, mother, dear,' said the little one; 'I say, please put plenty of butter on it.'"