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Fabulous Fairy Tales for children and adults. From our vast collection of old traditional fairy tales and fables.

What The Moon Saw - Part 1

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.'



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