In his little hut by the great river, which a heavy rain had swollen to
overflowing, lay the ancient Ferryman, asleep, wearied by the toil of the
day. In the middle of the night, loud voices awoke him; he heard that it was
travellers wishing to be carried over.
Stepping out, he saw two large Will-o'-wisps, hovering to and fro on his
boat, which lay moored: they said, they were in violent haste, and should
have been already on the other side. The old Ferryman made no loitering;
pushed off, and steered with his usual skill obliquely through the stream;
while the two strangers whiffled and hissed together, in an unknown very rapid
tongue, and every now and then broke out in loud laughter, hopping about, at
one time on the gunwale and the seats, at another on the bottom of the boat.
"The boat is keeling!" cried the old man; "if you don't be quiet, it'll
overset; be seated, gentlemen of the wisp!"
At this advice they burst into a fit of laughter, mocked the old man, and
were more unquiet than ever. He bore their mischief with silence, and soon
reached the farther shore.
"Here is for your labour!" cried the travellers; and as they shook
themselves, a heap of glittering gold-pieces jingled down into the wet
boat. "For Heaven's sake, what are you about?" cried the old man; "you will
ruin me forever! Had a single piece of gold got into the water, the stream,
which cannot suffer gold, would have risen in horrid waves, and swallowed
both my skiff and me; and who knows how it might have fared with you in that
case? here, take back your gold."
"We can take nothing back, which we have once shaken from us," said the
"Then you give me the trouble," said the old man, stooping down, and
gathering the pieces into his cap, "of raking them together, and carrying
them ashore and burying them."
The Lights had leaped from the boat, but the old man cried: "Stay; where is
"If you take no gold, you may work for nothing," cried the Will-o'-wisps.
"You must know that I am only to be paid with fruits of the earth." "Fruits
of the earth? we despise them, and have never tasted them." "And yet I
cannot let you go, till you have promised that you will deliver me three
Cabbages, three Artichokes, and three large Onions.
The Lights were making-off with jests; but they felt themselves, in some
inexplicable manner, fastened to the ground: it was the unpleasantest
feeling they had ever had. They engaged to pay him his demand as soon as
possible: he let them go, and pushed away. He was gone a good distance, when
they called to him: "Old man! Holla, old man! the main point is forgotten!"
He was off, however, and did not hear them. He had fallen quietly down that
side of the River, where, in a rocky spot, which the water never reached, he
meant to bury the pernicious gold. Here, between two high crags, he found a
monstrous chasm; shook the metal into it, and steered back to his cottage.
Now in this chasm lay the fair green Snake, who was roused from her sleep by
the gold coming chinking down. No sooner did she fix her eye on the
glittering coins, than she ate them all up, with the greatest relish, on the
spot; and carefully picked out such pieces as were scattered in the chinks
of the rock.
Scarcely had she swallowed them, when, with extreme delight, she began to
feel the metal melting in her inwards, and spreading all over
her body; and soon, to her lively joy, she observed that she was grown
transparent and luminous. Long ago she had been told that this was possible;
but now being doubtful whether such a light could last, her curiosity and
her desire to be secure against her future, drove her from her cell, that
she might see who it was that had shaken in this precious metal. She found
no one. The more delightful was it to admire her own appearance, and her
graceful brightness, as she crawled along through roots and bushes, and
spread out her light among her grass. Every leaf seemed of emerald, every
flower was dyed with new glory. It was in vain that she crossed her solitary
thickets; but her hopes rose high, when, on reaching her open country, she
perceived from afar a brilliancy resembling her own. "Shall I find my like
at last, then?" cried she, and hastened to the spot. The toil of crawling
through bog and reeds gave her little thought; for though she liked best to
live in dry grassy spots of the mountains, among the clefts of rocks, and
for most part fed on spicy herbs, and slaked her thirst with mild dew and
fresh spring water, yet for the sake of this dear gold, and in the hope of
this glorious light, she would have undertaken anything you could propose
At last, with much fatigue, she reached a wee rushy spot in the swamp, where
our two Will-o'-wisps were frisking to and fro. She shoved herself along to
them; saluted them, was happy to meet such pleasant gentlemen related to her
family. The Lights glided towards her, skipped up over her, and laughed in
their fashion. "Lady Cousin," said they, "you are of the horizontal line,
yet what of that? It is true we are related only by the look; for, observe
you," here both the Flames, compressing their whole breadth, made themselves
as high and peaked as possible, "how prettily this taper length beseems us
gentlemen of the vertical line! Take it not amiss of us, good Lady; what
family can boast of such a thing? Since there ever was a Jack-o'-lantern in
the world, no one of them has either sat or lain."
The Snake felt exceedingly uncomfortable in the company of these relations;
for, let her hold her head as high as possible, she found that she must bend
it to the earth again, would she stir from the spot; and if in the dark
thicket she had been extremely satisfied with her appearance, her splendour
in the presence of these cousins seemed to lessen every moment, nay she was
afraid that at last it would go out entirely.
In this embarrassment she hastily asked: If the gentlemen could not inform
her, whence the glittering gold came, that had fallen a short while ago into
the cleft of the rock; her own opinion was, that it had been a golden
shower, and had trickled down direct from the sky. The Will-o'-wisps
laughed, and shook themselves, and a multitude of gold-pieces came clinking
down about them. The Snake pushed nimbly forwards to eat the coin. "Much
good may it do you, Mistress," said the dapper gentlemen: "we can help you
to a little more." They shook themselves again several times with great
quickness, so that the Snake could scarcely gulp the precious victuals fast
enough. Her splendour visibly began increasing; she was really shining
beautifully, while the Lights had in the meantime grown rather lean and
short of stature, without however in the smallest losing their good-humour.
"I am obliged to you forever," said the Snake, having got her wind again
after the repast; "ask of me what you will; all that I can I will do."
"Very good!" cried the Lights. "Then tell us where the fair Lily dwells?
Lead us to the fair Lily's palace and garden; and do not lose a moment, we
are dying of impatience to fall down at her feet."
"This service," said the Snake with a deep sigh, "I can not now do for you.
The fair Lily dwells, alas, on the other side of the water." "Other side of
the water? And we have come across it, this stormy night! How cruel is the
River to divide us! Would it not be possible to call the old man back?"
"It would be useless," said the Snake; "for if you found him ready on the
bank, he would not take you in; he can carry anyone to this side, none to
"Here is a pretty kettle of fish!" cried the Lights: "are there no other
means of getting through the water?" "There are other means, but not at this
moment. I myself could take you over, gentlemen, but not till noon." "That
is an hour we do not like to travel in." "Then you may go across in the
evening, on the great Giant's shadow."
"How is that?" "The great Giant lives not far from this; with his body he
has no power; his hands cannot lift a straw, his shoulders could not bear a
faggot of twigs; but with his shadow he has power over much, nay all. At
sunrise and sunset therefore he is strongest; so at evening you merely put
yourself upon the back of his shadow, the Giant walks softly to the bank,
and the shadow carries you across the water. But if you please, about the
hour of noon, to be in waiting at that corner of the wood where the bushes
overhang the bank, I myself will take you over and present you to the fair
Lily: or on the other hand, if you dislike the noontide, you have just to go
at nightfall to that bend of the rocks, and pay a visit to the Giant; he
will certainly receive you like a gentleman."
With a slight bow, the Flames went off; and the Snake at bottom was not
discontented to get rid of them; partly that she might enjoy the brightness
of her own light, partly [to] satisfy a curiosity with which, for a long time,
she had been agitated in a singular way.
In the chasm, where she often crawled hither and thither, she had made a
strange discovery. For although in creeping up and down this abyss, she had
never had a ray of light, she could well enough discriminate the objects in
it, by her sense of touch. Generally she met with nothing but irregular
productions of Nature; at one time she would wind between the teeth of large
crystals, at another she would feel the barbs and hairs of native silver,
and now and then carry out with her to the light some straggling jewels. But
to her no small wonder, in a rock which was closed on every side, she had
come on certain objects which betrayed the shaping hand of man. Smooth walls
on which she could not climb, sharp regular corners, well-formed pillars;
and what seemed strangest of all; human figures which she had entwined more
than once, and which appeared to her to be of brass, or of the finest
polished marble. All these experiences she now wished to combine by the
sense of sight, thereby to confirm what as yet she only guessed. She
believed she could illuminate the whole of that subterranean vault by her
own light; and hoped to get acquainted with these curious things at once.
She hastened back; and soon found, by the usual way, the cleft by which she
used to penetrate the Sanctuary.
On reaching the place, she gazed around with eager curiosity; and though her
shining could not enlighten every object in the rotunda, yet those nearest
her were plain enough. With astonishment and reverence she looked up into a
glancing niche, where the image of an august King stood formed of pure Gold.
In size the figure was beyond the stature of man, but by its shape it seemed
the likeness of a little rather than a tall person. His handsome body was
encircled with an unadorned mantle; and a garland of oak bound his hair
No sooner had the Snake beheld this reverend figure, than the King began to
speak, and asked: "Whence comest thou?" "From the chasms where the gold
dwells," said the Snake. "What is grander than gold?" inquired the King.
"Light," replied the Snake. "What is more refreshing than light?" said he.
"Speech," answered she.
During this conversation, she had squinted to a side, and in the nearest
niche perceived another glorious image. It was a Silver King in a sitting
posture; his shape was long and rather languid; he was covered with a
decorated robe; crown, girdle and sceptre were adorned with precious stones:
the cheerfulness of pride was in his countenance; he seemed about to speak,
when a vein which ran dimly-coloured over the marble wall, on a sudden became
bright, and diffused a cheerful light throughout the whole Temple. By this
brilliancy the Snake perceived a third King, made of Brass, and sitting
mighty in shape, leaning on his club, adorned with a laurel garland, and
more like a rock than a man. She was looking for the fourth, which was
standing at the greatest distance from her; but the wall opened, while the
glittering vein started and split, as lightning does, and disappeared.
A Man of middle stature, entering through the cleft, attracted the attention
of the Snake. He was dressed like a peasant, and carried in his hand a
little Lamp, on whose still flame you liked to look, and which in a strange
manner, without casting any shadow, enlightened the whole dome.
"Why comest thou, since we have light?" said the golden King." You know that
I may not enlighten what is dark." "Will my Kingdom end?" said the silver
King. "Late or never," said the old Man.
With a stronger voice the brazen King began to ask: "When shall I arise?"
"Soon," replied the Man. "With whom shall I combine?" said the King. "With
thy elder brothers," said the Man. "What will the youngest do?" inquired the
King. "He will sit down," replied the Man.
"I am not tired," cried the fourth King, with a rough faltering voice.
While this speech was going on, the Snake had glided softly round the
Temple, viewing everything; she was now looking at the fourth King close by
him. He stood leaning on a pillar; his considerable form was heavy rather
than beautiful. But what metal it was made of could not be determined.
Closely inspected, it seemed a mixture of the three metals which its
brothers had been formed of. But in the founding, these materials did not
seem to have combined together fully; gold and silver veins ran irregularly
through a brazen mass, and gave the figure an unpleasant aspect.
Meanwhile the gold King was asking of the Man, "How many secrets knowest
thou?" "Three," replied the Man. "Which is the most important?" said the
silver King. "The open one," replied the other. "Wilt thou open it to us
also?" said the brass King."When I know the fourth," replied the Man."What
care I" grumbled the composite King, in an undertone.
"I know the fourth," said the Snake; approached the old Man, and hissed
somewhat in his ear. "The time is at hand!" cried the old Man, with a strong
voice. The temple reechoed, the metal statues sounded; and that instant the
old Man sank away to the westward, and the Snake to the eastward; and both
of them passed through the clefts of the rock, with the greatest speed.
All the passages, through which the old Man travelled, filled themselves,
immediately behind him, with gold; for his Lamp had the strange property of
changing stone into gold, wood into silver, dead animals into precious
stones, and of annihilating all metals. But to display this power, it must
shine alone. If another light were beside it, the Lamp only cast from it a
pure clear brightness, and all living things were refreshed by it.
The old Man entered his cottage, which was built on the slope of the hill.
He found his Wife in extreme distress. She was sitting at the fire weeping,
and refusing to be consoled. "How unhappy am I!" cried she: "Did not I
entreat thee not to go away tonight?""What is the matter, then?" inquired
the husband, quite composed.
"Scarcely wert thou gone," said she, sobbing, "when there came two noisy
Travellers to the door: unthinkingly I let them in; they seemed to be a
couple of genteel, very honourable people; they were dressed in flames, you
would have taken them for Will-o'-wisps. But no sooner were they in the
house, than they began, like impudent varlets, to compliment me, and grew so
forward that I feel ashamed to think of it."
"No doubt," said the husband with a smile, "the gentlemen were jesting:
considering thy age, they might have held by general politeness."
"Age! what age?" cried the Wife: "wilt thou always be talking of my age? How
old am I, then?General politeness! But I know what I know. Look around
there what a face the walls have; look at the old stones, which I have not
seen these hundred years; every film of gold have they licked away, thou
couldst not think how fast; and still they kept assuring me that it tasted
far beyond common gold. Once they had swept the walls, the fellows seemed to
be in high spirits, and truly in that little while they had grown much
broader and brighter. They now began to be impertinent again, they patted
me, and called me their queen, they shook themselves, and a shower of
gold-pieces sprang from them; see how they are shining under the bench! But
ah, what misery! Poor Mops ate a coin or two; and look, he is lying in the
chimney, dead. Poor Pug. O well-a-day! I did not see it till they were gone;
else I had never promised to pay the Ferryman the debt they owe him.""What
do they owe him?" said the Man. "Three Cabbages," replied the Wife, "three
Artichokes and three Onions: I engaged to go when it was day, and take them
to the River."
"Thou mayest do them that civility," said the old Man; "they may chance to
be of use to us again."
"Whether they will be of use to us I know not; but they promised and vowed
that they would."
Meantime the fire on the hearth had burnt low; the old Man covered-up the
embers with a heap of ashes, and put the glittering gold-pieces aside; so
that his little Lamp now gleamed alone, in the fairest brightness. The walls
again coated themselves with gold, and Mops changed into the prettiest onyx
that could be imagined. The alternation of the brown and black in this
precious stone made it the most curious piece of workmanship.
"Take thy basket," said the old Man, "and put the onyx into it; then take
the three Cabbages, the three Artichokes and the three Onions; place them
round little Mops, and carry them to the River. At noon the Snake will take
thee over; visit the fair Lily, give her the onyx, she will make it alive by
her touch, as by her touch she kills whatever is alive already. She will
have a true companion in the little dog. Tell her, Not to mourn; her
deliverance is near; the greatest misfortune she may look upon as the
greatest happiness; for the time is at hand."
The old Woman filled her basket, and set out as soon as it was day. The
rising sun shone clear from the other side of the River, which was
glittering in the distance; the old Woman walked with slow steps, for the
basket pressed upon her head, and it was not the onyx that so burdened her.
Whatever lifeless thing she might be carrying, she did not feel the weight
of it; on the other hand, in those cases the basket rose aloft, and hovered
above her head. But to carry any fresh herbage, or any little living animal,
she found exceedingly laborious. She had travelled on for some time, in a
sullen humour, when she halted suddenly in fright, for she had almost trod
upon the Giant's shadow which was stretching towards her across the plain.
And now, lifting up her eyes, she saw the monster of a Giant himself, who
had been bathing in the River, and was just come out, and she knew not how
she should avoid him. The moment he perceived her, he began saluting her in
sport, and the hands of his shadow soon caught hold of the basket. With
dexterous ease they picked away from it a Cabbage, an Artichoke and an
Onion, and brought them to the Giant's mouth, who then went his way up the
River, and let the Woman go in peace.
She considered whether it would not be better to return, and supply from her
garden the pieces she had lost; and amid these doubts, she still kept
walking on, so that in a little while she was at the bank of the River. She
sat long waiting for the Ferryman, whom she perceived at last, steering over
with a very singular traveller. A young, noble-looking, handsome man, whom
she could not gaze upon enough, stept out of the boat.
"What is it you bring?" cried the old Man. "The greens which those two
Will-o'-wisps owe you," said the Woman, pointing to her ware. As the
Ferryman found only two of each sort, he grew angry, and declared he would
have none of them. The Woman earnestly entreated him to take them; told him
that she could not now go home, and that her burden for the way which still
remained was very heavy. He stood by his refusal, and assured her that it
did not rest with him. "What belongs to me," said he, "I must leave lying
nine hours in a heap, touching none of it, till I have given the River its
third." After much higgling, the old Man at last replied: "There is still
another way. If you like to pledge yourself to the River, and declare
yourself its debtor, I will take the six pieces; but there is some risk in
it." "If I keep my word, I shall run no risk?" "Not the smallest. Put your
hand into the stream," continued he, "and promise that within
four-and-twenty hours you will pay the debt."
The old Woman did so; but what was her affright, when on drawing out her
hand, she found it black as coal! She loudly scolded the old Ferryman;
declared that her hands had always been the fairest part of her; that in
spite of her hard work, she had all along contrived to keep these noble
members white and dainty. She looked at the hand with indignation, and
exclaimed in a despairing tone: "Worse and worse! Look, it is vanishing
entirely; it is grown far smaller than the other."
"For the present it but seems so," said the old Man; "if you do not keep
your word, however, it may prove so in earnest. The hand will gradually
diminish, and at length disappear altogether, though you have the use of it
as formerly. Everything as usual you will be able to perform with it, only
nobody will see it." "I had rather that I could not use it, and no one could
observe the want," cried she: "but what of that, I will keep my word, and
rid myself of this black skin, and all anxieties about it." Thereupon she
hastily took up her basket, which mounted of itself over her head, and
hovered free above her in the air, as she hurried after the Youth, who was
walking softly and thoughtfully down the bank. His noble form and strange
dress had made a deep impression on her.
His breast was covered with a glittering coat of mail; in whose wavings
might be traced every motion of his fair body. From his shoulders hung a
purple cloak; around his uncovered head flowed abundant brown hair in
beautiful locks: his graceful face, and his well-formed feet were exposed to
the scorching of the sun. With bare soles, he walked composedly over the hot
sand; and a deep inward sorrow seemed to blunt him against all external
The garrulous old Woman tried to lead him into conversation; but with his
short answers he gave her small encouragement or information; so that in the
end, notwithstanding the beauty of his eyes, she grew tired of speaking with
him to no purpose, and took leave of him with these words: "You walk too
slow for me, worthy sir; I must not lose a moment, for I have to pass the
River on the green Snake, and carry.this fine present from my husband to the
fair Lily." So saying she stept faster forward; but the fair Youth pushed on
with equal speed, and hastened to keep up with her. "You are going to the
fair Lily!" cried he; "then our roads are the same. But what present is this
you are bringing her?"
"Sir," said the Woman, "it is hardly fair, after so briefly dismissing the
questions I put to you, to inquire with such vivacity about my secrets. But
if you like to barter, and tell me your adventures, I will not conceal from
you how it stands with me and my presents." They soon made a bargain: the
dame disclosed her circumstances to him; told the history of the Pug, and
let him see the singular gift.
He lifted this natural curiosity from the basket, and took Mops, who seemed
as if sleeping softly, into his arms. "Happy beast!" cried he; "thou wilt be
touched by her hands, thou wilt be made alive by her; while the living are
obliged to fly from her presence to escape a mournful doom. Yet why say I
mournful? Is it not far sadder and more frightful to be injured by her look,
than it would be to die by her hand? Behold me," said he to the Woman; "at
my years, what a miserable fate have I to undergo! This mail which I have
honourably borne in war, this purple which I sought to merit by a wise
reign, Destiny has left me; the one as a useless burden, the other as an
empty ornament. Crown, and sceptre, and sword are gone; and I am as bare and
needy as any other son of earth; for so unblessed are her bright eyes, that
they take from every living creature they look on all its force, and those
whom the touch of her hand does not kill are changed to the state of shadows
Thus did he continue to bewail, nowise contenting the old Woman's curiosity,
who wished for information not so much of his internal as of his external
situation. She learned neither the name of his father, nor of his kingdom.
He stroked the hard Mops, whom the sunbeams and the bosom of the youth had
warmed as if he had been living. He inquired narrowly about the Man with the
Lamp, about the influences of the sacred light, appearing to expect much
good from it in his melancholy case.
Amid such conversation, they descried from afar the majestic arch of the
Bridge, which extended from the one bank to the other, glittering with the
strangest colours in the splendours of the sun. Both were astonished; for
until now they had never seen this edifice so grand. "How!" cried the
Prince, "was it not beautiful enough, as it stood before our eyes, piled out
of jasper and agate? Shall we not fear to tread it, now that it appears
combined, in graceful complexity of emerald and chrysopras and chrysolite?"
Neither of them knew the alteration that had taken place upon the Snake: for
it was indeed the Snake, who every day at noon curved herself over the
River, and stood forth in the form of a bold-swelling bridge. The travellers
stept upon it with a reverential feeling, and passed over it in silence.
No sooner had they reached the other shore, than the bridge began to heave
and stir; in a little while, it touched the surface of the water, and the
green Snake in her proper form came gliding after the wanderers. They had
scarcely thanked her for the privilege of crossing on her back, when they
found that, besides them three, there must be other persons in the company,
whom their eyes could not discern. They heard a hissing, which the Snake
also answered with a hissing; they listened, and at length caught what
follows: "We shall first look about us in the fair Lily's Park," said a pair
of alternating voices; "and then request you at nightfall, so soon as we are
anywise presentable, to introduce us to this paragon of beauty. At the shore
of the great Lake you will find us." "Be it so," replied the Snake; and a
hissing sound died away in the air.
Our three travellers now consulted in what order they should introduce
themselves to the fair Lady; for however many people might be in her
company, they were obliged to enter and depart singly, under pain of
suffering very hard severities.
The Woman with the metamorphosed Pug in the basket first approached the
garden, looking round for her Patroness; who was not difficult to find,
being just engaged in singing to her harp. The finest tones proceeded from
her, first like circles on the surface of the still lake, then like a light
breath they set the grass and the bushes in motion. In a green enclosure,
under the shadow of a stately group of many diverse trees, was she seated;
and again did she enchant the eyes, the ears and the heart of the Woman, who
approached with rapture, and swore within herself that since she saw her
last, the fair one had grown fairer than ever. With eager gladness, from a
distance, she expressed her reverence and admiration for the lovely maiden.
"What a happiness to see you! what a Heaven does your presence spread around
you! How charmingly the harp is leaning on your bosom, how softly your arms
surround it, how it seems as if longing to be near you, and how it sounds so
meekly under the touch of your slim fingers! Thrice-happy youth, to whom it
were permitted to be there!"
So speaking she approached; the fair Lily raised her eyes; let her hands
drop from the harp, and answered: "Trouble me not with untimely praise; I
feel my misery but the more deeply. Look here, at my feet lies the poor
Canary-bird, which used so beautifully to accompany my singing; it would sit
upon my harp, and was trained not to touch me; but today, while I, refreshed
by sleep, was raising a peaceful morning hymn, and my little singer was
pouring forth his harmonious tones more gaily than ever, a Hawk darts over
my head; the poor little creature, in affright, takes refuge in my bosom,
and I feel the last palpitations of its departing life. The plundering Hawk
indeed was caught by my look, and fluttered fainting down into the water;
but what can his punishment avail me? my darling is dead, and his grave will
but increase the mournful bushes of my garden."
"Take courage, fairest Lily!" cried the Woman, wiping off a tear, which the
story of the hapless maiden had called into her eyes; "compose yourself; my
old man bids me tell you to moderate your lamenting, to look upon the
greatest misfortune as a forerunner of the greatest happiness, for the time
is at hand; and truly," continued she, "the world is going strangely on of
late. Do but look at my hand, how black it is! As I live and breathe, it is
grown far smaller: I must hasten, before it vanish altogether! Why did I
engage to do the Will-o'-wisps a service, why did I meet the Giant's shadow,
and dip my hand in the River? Could you not afford me a single cabbage, an
artichoke and an onion? I would give them to the River, and my hand were
white as ever, so that I could almost show it with one of yours."
"Cabbages and onions thou mayest still find; but artichokes thou wilt search
for in vain. No plant in my garden bears either flowers or fruit; but every
twig that I break, and plant upon the grave of a favourite, grows green
straightway, and shoots up in fair boughs. All these groups, these bushes,
these groves my hard destiny has so raised around me. These pines stretching
out like parasols, these obelisks of cypresses, these colossal oaks and
beeches, were all little twigs planted by my hand, as mournful memorials in
a soil that otherwise is barren."
To this speech the old Woman had paid little heed; she was looking at her
hand, which, in presence of the fair Lily, seemed every moment growing
blacker and smaller. She was about to snatch her basket and hasten off, when
she noticed that the best part of her errand had been forgotten. She lifted
out the onyx Pug, and set him down, not far from the fair one, in the grass.
"My husband," said she, "sends you this memorial; you know that you can make
a jewel live by touching it. This pretty faithful dog will certainly afford
you much enjoyment; and my grief at losing him is brightened only by the
thought that he will be in your possession."
The fair Lily viewed the dainty creature with a pleased and, as it seemed,
with an astonished look. "Many signs combine," said she, "that breathe some
hope into me: but ah! is it not a natural deception which makes us fancy,
when misfortunes crowd upon us, that a better day is near?
What can these many signs avail me?
My Singer's Death, thy coal black Hand?
This Dog of Onyx, that can never fail me?
And coming at the Lamp's command?
From human joys removed forever,
With sorrows compassed round I sit:
Is there a Temple at the River?
Is there a Bridge? Alas, not yet!
The good old dame had listened with impatience to this singing, which the
fair Lily accompanied with her harp, in a way that would have charmed any
other. She was on the point of taking leave, when the arrival of the green
Snake again detained her. The Snake had caught the last lines of the song,
and on this matter forthwith began to speak comfort to the fair Lily.
"The prophecy of the Bridge is fulfilled" cried the Snake: "you may ask this
worthy dame how royally the arch looks now. What formerly was untransparent
jasper or agate, allowing but a gleam of light to pass about its edges, is
now become transparent precious stone. No beryl is so clear, no emerald so
beautiful of hue."
"I wish you joy of it," said Lily; "but you will pardon me if I regard the
prophecy as yet unaccomplished. The lofty arch of your bridge can still but
admit foot passengers; and it is promised us that horses and carriages and
travellers of every sort shall, at the same moment, cross this bridge in
both directions. Is there not something said, too, about pillars, which are
to arise of themselves from the waters of the River?"
The old Woman still kept her eyes fixed on her hand; she here interrupted
their dialogue, and was taking leave. "Wait a moment," said the fair Lily,
"and carry my little bird with you. Bid the Lamp change it into topaz; I
will enliven it by my touch; with your good Mops it shall form my dearest
pastime: but hasten, hasten; for, at sunset, intolerable putrefaction will
fasten on the hapless bird, and tear asunder the fair combination of its
The old Woman laid the little corpse, wrapped in soft leaves, into her
basket, and hastened away.
"However it may be," said the Snake, recommencing their interrupted
dialogue, "the Temple is built."
"But it is not at the River," said the fair one.
"It is yet resting in the depths of the Earth," said the Snake; "I have seen
the Kings and conversed with them."
"But when will they arise?" inquired Lily.
The Snake replied: "I heard resounding in the Temple these deep words, The
time is at hand. "
A pleasing cheerfulness spread over the fair Lily's face: " 'Tis the second
time," said she, "that I have heard these happy words today: when will the
day come for me to hear them thrice?"
She arose, and immediately there came a lovely maiden from the grove, and
took away her harp. Another followed her, and folded-up the fine carved
ivory stool, on which the fair one had been sitting, and put the silvery
cushion under her arm. A third then made her appearance, with a large
parasol worked with pearls; and looked whether Lily would require her in
walking. These three maidens were beyond expression beautiful; and yet their
beauty but exalted that of Lily, for it was plain to every one that they
could never be compared to her.
Meanwhile the fair one had been looking, with a satisfied aspect, at the
strange onyx Mops. She bent down and touched him, and that instant he
started up. Gaily he looked around, ran hither and thither, and at last, in
his kindest manner, hastened to salute his benefactress. She took him in her
arms, and pressed him to her. "Cold as thou art," cried she, "and though but
a half-life works in thee, thou art welcome to me; tenderly will I love
thee, prettily will I play with thee, softly caress thee, and firmly press
thee to my bosom." She then let him go, chased him from her, called him
back, and played so daintily with him, and ran about so gaily and so
innocently with him on the grass, that with new rapture you viewed and
participated in her joy, as a little while ago her sorrow had attuned every
heart to sympathy.
This cheerfulness, these graceful sports were interrupted by the entrance of
the woeful Youth. He stepped forward, in his former guise and aspect; save
that the heat of the day appeared to have fatigued him still more, and in
the presence of his mistress he grew paler every moment. He bore upon his
hand a Hawk, which was sitting quiet as a dove, with its body shrunk, and
its wings drooping.
"It is not kind in thee," cried Lily to him, "to bring that hateful thing
before my eyes, the monster, which today has killed my little singer."
"Blame not the unhappy bird!" replied the Youth; "rather blame thyself and
thy destiny; and leave me to keep beside me the companion of my woe."
Meanwhile Mops ceased not teasing the fair Lily; and she replied to her
transparent favourite, with friendly gestures. She clapped her hands to
scare him off; then ran, to entice him after her. She tried to get him when
he fled, and she chased him away when he attempted to press near her. The
Youth looked on in silence, with increasing anger; but at last, when she
took the odious beast, which seemed to him unutterably ugly, on her arm,
pressed it to her white bosom, and kissed its black snout with her heavenly
lips, his patience altogether failed him, and full of desperation he
exclaimed: "Must I, who by a baleful fate exist beside thee, perhaps to the
end, in an absent presence; who by thee have lost my all, my very self; must
I see before my eyes, that so unnatural a monster can charm thee into
gladness, can awaken thy attachment, and enjoy thy embrace? Shall I any
longer keep wandering to and fro, measuring my dreary course to that side of
the River and to this? No, there is still a spark of the old heroic spirit
sleeping in my bosom; let it start this instant into its expiring flame! If
stones may rest in thy bosom, let me be changed to stone; if thy touch
kills, I will die by thy hands."
So saying he made a violent movement; the Hawk flew from his finger, but he
himself rushed towards the fair one; she held out her hands to keep him off,
and touched him only the sooner. Consciousness forsook him; and she felt
with horror the beloved burden lying on her bosom. With a shriek she started
back, and the gentle Youth sank lifeless from her arms upon the ground.
The misery had happened! The sweet Lily stood motionless gazing on the
corpse. Her heart seemed to pause in her bosom; and her eyes were without
tears. In vain did Mops try to gain from her any kindly gesture; with her
friend, the world for her was all dead as the grave. Her silent despair did
not look round for help; she knew not of any help.
On the other hand, the Snake bestirred herself the more actively; she seemed
to meditate deliverance; and in fact her strange movements served at least
to keep away, for a little, the immediate consequences of the mischief. With
her limber body, she formed a wide circle round the corpse, and seizing the
end of her tail between her teeth, she lay quite still.
Ere long one of Lily's fair waiting-maids appeared; brought the ivory
folding-stool, and with friendly beckoning constrained her mistress to sit
down on it. Soon afterwards there came a second; she had in her hand a
fire-coloured veil, with which she rather decorated than concealed the fair
Lily's head. The third handed her the harp, and scarcely had she drawn the
gorgeous instrument towards her, and struck some tones from its strings,
when the first maid returned with a clear round mirror; took her station
opposite the fair one; caught her looks in the glass, and threw back to her
the loveliest image that was to be found in Nature. Sorrow heightened her
beauty, the veil her charms, the harp her grace; and deeply as you wished to
see her mournful situation altered, not less deeply did you wish to keep her
image, as she now looked, forever present with you.
With a still look at the mirror, she touched the harp; now melting tones
proceeded from the strings, now her pain seemed to mount, and the music in
strong notes responded to her woe; sometimes she opened her lips to sing,
but her voice failed her; and ere long her sorrow melted into tears, two
maidens caught her helpfully in their arms, the harp sank from her bosom,
scarcely could the quick servant snatch the instrument and carry it aside.
"Who gets us the Man with the Lamp, before the Sun set?" hissed the Snake,
faintly, but audibly: the maids looked at one another, and Lily's tears fell
faster. At this moment came the Woman with the Basket, panting and
altogether breathless. "I am lost, and maimed for life!" cried she, "see how
my hand is almost vanished; neither Ferryman nor Giant would take me over,
because I am the River's debtor; in vain did I promise hundreds of cabbages
and hundreds of onions; they will take no more than three; and no artichoke
is now to be found in all this quarter."
"Forget your own care," said the Snake, "and try to bring help here; perhaps
it may come to yourself also. Haste with your utmost speed to seek the
Will-o'-wisps; it is too light for you to see them, but perhaps you will
hear them laughing and hopping to and fro. If they be speedy, they may cross
upon the Giant's shadow, and seek the Man with the Lamp, and send him to
The Woman hurried off at her quickest pace, and the Snake seemed expecting
as impatiently as Lily the return of the Flames. Alas! the beam of the
sinking Sun was already gliding only the highest summits of the trees in the
thicket, and long shadows were stretching over lake and meadow; the Snake
hitched up and down impatiently, and Lily dissolved in tears.
In this extreme need, the Snake kept looking round on all sides; for she was
afraid every moment that the Sun would set, and corruption penetrate the
magic circle, and the fair youth immediately moulder away. At last she
noticed sailing high in the air, with purple-red feathers, the Prince's Hawk,
whose breast was catching the last beams of the Sun. She shook herself for
joy at this good omen; nor was she deceived; for shortly afterwards the Man
with the Lamp was seen gliding towards them across the Lake, fast and
smoothly, as if he had been travelling on skates.
The Snake did not change her posture; but Lily rose and called to him: "What
good spirit sends thee, at the moment when we were desiring thee, and
needing thee, so much?"
"The spirit of my Lamp," replied the Man, "has impelled me, and the Hawk has
conducted me. My Lamp sparkles when I am needed, and I just look about me in
the sky for a signal; some bird or meteor points to the quarter towards
which I am to turn. Be calm, fairest Maiden! Whether I can help, I know not;
an individual helps not, but he who combines himself with many at the proper
hour. We will postpone the evil, and keep hoping. Hold thy circle fast,"
continued he, turning to the Snake; then set himself upon a hillock beside
her, and illuminated the dead body. "Bring the little Bird hither too, and
lay it in the circle!" The maidens took the little corpse from the basket,
which the old Woman had left standing, and did as he directed.
Meanwhile the Sun had set; and as the darkness increased, not only the Snake
and the old Man's Lamp began shining in their fashion, but also Lily's veil
gave-out a soft light, which gracefully tinged, as with a meek dawning red,
her pale cheeks and her white robe. The party looked at one another,
silently reflecting; care and sorrow were mitigated by a sure hope.
It was no unpleasing entrance, therefore, that the Woman made, attended by
the two gay Flames, which in truth appeared to have been very lavish in the
interim, for they had again become extremely meagre; yet they only bore
themselves the more prettily for that, towards Lily and the other ladies.
With great tact and expressiveness, they said a multitude of rather common
things to these fair persons; and declared themselves particularly ravished
by the charm which the gleaming veil spread over Lily and her attendants.
The ladies modestly cast down their eyes, and the praise of their beauty
made them really beautiful. All were peaceful and calm, except the old
Woman. In spite of the assurance of her husband, that her hand could
diminish no farther, while the Lamp shone on it, she asserted more than
once, that if things went on thus, before midnight this noble member would
have utterly vanished.
The Man with the Lamp had listened attentively to the conversation of the
Lights; and was gratified that Lily had been cheered, in some measure, and
amused by it. And, in truth, midnight had arrived they knew not how. The old
Man looked to the stars, and then began speaking: "We are assembled at the
propitious hour; let each perform his task, let each do his duty; and a
universal happiness will swallow-up our individual sorrows, as a universal
grief consumes individual joys."
At these words arose a wondrous hubbub; for all the persons in the party
spoke aloud, each for himself, declaring what they had to do; only the three
maids were silent; one of them had fallen asleep beside the harp, another
near the parasol, the third by the stool; and you could not blame them much,
for it was late. The Fiery Youths, after some passing compliments which they
devoted to the waiting-maids, had turned their sole attention to the
Princess, as alone worthy of exclusive homage.
"Take the mirror," said the Man to the Hawk; "and with the first sunbeam
illuminate the three sleepers, and awake them, with light reflected from
The Snake now began to move; she loosened her circle, and rolled slowly, in
large rings, forward to the River. The two Will-o'-wisps followed with a
solemn air: you would have taken them for the most serious Flames in Nature.
The old Woman and her husband seized the Basket, whose mild light they had
scarcely observed till now; they lifted it at both sides, and it grew still
larger and more luminous; they lifted the body of the Youth into it, laying
the Canary-bird upon his breast; the Basket rose into the air and hovered
above the old Woman's head, and she followed the Will-o'-wisps on foot. The
fair Lily took Mops on her arm, and followed the Woman; the Man with the
Lamp concluded the procession; and the scene was curiously illuminated by
these many lights.
But it was with no small wonder that the party saw, when they approached the
River, a glorious arch mount over it, by which the helpful Snake was
affording them a glittering path. If by day they had admired the beautiful
transparent precious stones, of which the Bridge seemed formed; by night
they were astonished at its gleaming brilliancy. On the upper side the clear
circle marked itself sharp against the dark sky, but below, vivid beams were
darting to the centre, and exhibiting the airy firmness of the edifice. The
procession slowly moved across it; and the Ferryman, who saw it from his hut
afar off, considered with astonishment the gleaming circle, and the strange
lights which were passing over it
No sooner had they reached the other shore, than the arch began, in its
usual way, to swag up and down, and with a wavy motion to approach the
water. The Snake then came on land, the Basket placed itself upon the
ground, and the Snake again drew her circle round it. The old Man stooped
towards her, and said: "What hast thou resolved on?"
"To sacrifice myself rather than be sacrificed," replied the Snake; "promise
me that thou wilt leave no stone on shore."
The old Man promised; then addressing Lily: "Touch the Snake," said he,
"with thy left hand, and thy lover with thy right." Lily knelt, and touched
the Snake and the Prince's body. The latter in the instant seemed to come to
life; he moved in the Basket, nay he raised himself into a sitting posture;
Lily was about to clasp him; but the old Man held her back, and himself
assisted the Youth to rise, and led him forth from the Basket and the
The Prince was standing; the Canary-bird was fluttering on his shoulder;
there was life again in both of them, but the spirit had not yet returned;
the fair Youth's eyes were open, yet he did not see, at least he seemed to
look on all without participation. Scarcely had their admiration of this
incident a little calmed, when they observed how strangely it had fared in
the meanwhile with the Snake. Her fair taper body had crumbled into
thousands and thousands of shining jewels: the old Woman reaching at her
Basket had chanced to come against the circle; and of the shape or structure
of the Snake there was now nothing to be seen, only a bright ring of
luminous jewels was lying in the grass.
The old Man forthwith set himself to gather the stones into the Basket; a
task in which his wife assisted him. They next carried the Basket to an
elevated point on the bank; and here the man threw its whole lading, not
without contradiction from the fair one and his wife, who would gladly have
retained some part of it, down into the River. Like gleaming twinkling stars
the stones floated down with the waves; and you could not say whether they
lost themselves in the distance, or sank to the bottom.
"Gentlemen," said he with the Lamp, in a respectful tone to the Lights, "I
will now show you the way, and open you the passage; but you will do us an
essential service, if you please to unbolt the door, by which the Sanctuary
must be entered at present, and which none but you can unfasten."
The Lights made a stately bow of assent, and kept their place. The old Man
of the Lamp went foremost into the rock, which opened at his presence; the
Youth followed him, as if mechanically; silent and uncertain, Lily kept at
some distance from him; the old Woman would not be left, and stretched-out
her hand, that the light of her husband's Lamp might still fall upon it. The
rear was closed by the two Will-o'-wisps, who bent the peaks of their flames
towards one another, and appeared to be engaged in conversation.
They had not gone far till the procession halted in front of a large brazen
door, the leaves of which were bolted with a golden lock. The Man now called
upon the Lights to advance; who required small entreaty, and with their
pointed flames soon ate both bar and lock.
The brass gave a loud clang, as the doors sprang suddenly asunder; and the
stately figures of the Kings appeared within the Sanctuary, illuminated by
the entering Lights. All bowed before these dread sovereigns, especially the
Flames made a profusion of the daintiest reverences.
After a pause, the gold King asked: "Whence come ye?" "From the world," said
the old Man. "Whither go ye?" said the silver King. "Into the world,"
replied the Man. "What would ye with us?" cried the brazen King. "Accompany
you," replied the Man.
The composite King was about to speak, when the gold one addressed the
Lights, who had got too near him: "Take yourselves away from me, my metal
was not made for you." Thereupon they turned to the silver King, and clasped
themselves about him; and his robe glittered beautifully in their yellow
brightness. "You are welcome," said he, "but I cannot feed you; satisfy
yourselves elsewhere, and bring me your light." They removed; and gliding
past the brazen King, who did not seem to notice them, they fixed on the
compounded King. "Who will govern the world?" cried he, with a broken voice.
"He who stands upon his feet," replied the old Man. "I am he," said the
mixed King. "We shall see," replied the Man; "for the time is at hand."
The fair Lily fell upon the old Man's neck, and kissed him cordially. "Holy
Sage!" cried she, "a thousand times I thank thee; for I hear that fateful
word the third time." She had scarcely spoken, when she clasped the old Man
still faster; for the ground began to move beneath them; the Youth and the
old Woman also held by one another; the Lights alone did not regard it.
You could feel plainly that the whole temple was in motion; as a ship that
softly glides away from the harbour, when her anchors are lifted; the depths
of the Earth seemed to open for the Building as it went along. It struck on
nothing; no rock came in its way.
For a few instants, a small rain seemed to drizzle from the opening of the
dome; the old Man held the fair Lily fast, and said to her: "We are now
beneath the River; we shall soon be at the mark." Ere long they thought the
Temple made a halt; but they were in an error; it was mounting upwards.
And now a strange uproar rose above their heads. Planks and beams in
disordered combination now came pressing and crashing in at the opening of
the dome. Lily and the Woman started to a side; the Man with the Lamp laid
hold of the Youth, and kept standing still. The little cottage of the
Ferryman, for it was this which the Temple in ascending had severed from the
ground and carried up with it, sank gradually down, and covered the old Man
and the Youth.
The women screamed aloud, and the Temple shook, like a ship running
unexpectedly aground. In sorrowful perplexity, the Princess and her old
attendant wandered round the cottage in the dawn; the door was bolted, and
to their knocking no one answered. They knocked more loudly, and were not a
little struck, when at length the wood began to ring. By virtue of the Lamp
locked up in it, the hut had been converted from the inside to the outside
into solid silver. Ere long too its form changed; for the noble metal shook
aside the accidental shape of planks, posts and beams, and stretched itself
out into a noble case of beaten ornamented workmanship. Thus a fair little
temple stood erected in the middle of the large one; or if you will, an
Altar worthy of the Temple.
By a staircase which ascended from within, the noble Youth now mounted
aloft, lighted by the old Man with the Lamp, and, as it seemed, supported by
another, who advanced in a white short robe, with a silver rudder in his
hand; and was soon recognised as the Ferryman, the former possessor of the
The fair Lily mounted the outer steps, which led from the floor of the
Temple to the Altar; but she was still obliged to keep herself apart from
her Lover. The old Woman, whose hand in the absence of the Lamp had grown
still smaller, cried: "Am I, then, to be unhappy after all? Among so many
miracles, can there be nothing done to save my hand?" Her husband pointed to
the open door, and said to her: "See, the day is breaking; haste, bathe
thyself in the River." "What an advice!" cried she; "it will make me all
black; it will make me vanish together; for my debt is not yet paid." "Go,"
said the man, "and do as I advise thee; all debts are now paid."
The old Woman hastened away; and at that moment appeared the rising Sun, upon
the rim of the dome. The old Man stept between Virgin and the Youth, and
cried with a loud voice: "There are three which have rule on Earth; Wisdom,
Appearance and Strength." the first word, the gold King rose; at the second,
the silver one; and at the third, the brass King slowly rose, while the mixed
King on a sudden very awkwardly plumped down.
Whoever noticed him could scarcely keep from laughing, solemn as the moment
was; for he was not sitting, he was not lying, he was — leaning, but
shapelessly sunk together.
The Lights, who till now had been employed upon him, drew to side; they
appeared, although pale in the morning radiance, yet the more well-fed, and
in good burning condition; with their peaked tongues, they had dexterously
licked-out the gold veins of the colossal figure to its very heart. The
irregular vacuities which this occasioned had continued empty for a time, and
the figure had maintained its standing posture. But when at last the very
tenderest filaments were eaten out, the image crashed suddenly together; and
then, alas, in the very parts which continue unaltered when one sits down;
whereas the limbs, which should have bent, sprawled themselves out unbowed and
stiff. Whoever could not laugh was obliged to turn away his eyes; this
miserable shape and no-shape was offensive to behold.
The Man with the Lamp now led the handsome Youth, who still kept gazing
vacantly before him, down from the Altar, and straight to the brazen King.
At the feet of this mighty Potentate lay a sword in a brazen sheath. The young
man girt it round him. "The sword on left, the right free!" cried the brazen
voice. They next proceeded to the silver King; he bent his sceptre to the
Youth; the latter seized it with his left hand, and the King in a pleasing
voice said: "Feed the sheep!" On turning to the golden King, he stooped with
gestures of paternal blessing, and pressing his oaken garland on the young
man's head, said: "Understand what is highest!"
During this progress, the old Man had carefully observed the Prince. After
girding-on the sword, his breast swelled, his arms waved, and his feet trod
firmer; when he took the sceptre in his hand, his strength appeared to
soften, and by an unspeakable charm to become still more subduing; but as
the oaken garland came to deck his hair, his features kindled, his eyes
gleamed with inexpressible spirit, and the first word of his mouth was
"Dearest Lily!" cried he, hastening up the silver stairs to her, for she had
viewed his progress from the pinnacle of the Altar; "Dearest Lily! what more
precious can a man, equipt with all, desire for himself than innocence and
the still affection which thy bosom brings me? O my friend!" continued he,
turning to the old Man, and looking at the three statues; "glorious and
secure is the kingdom of our fathers; but thou hast forgotten the fourth
power, which rules the world, earlier, more universally, more certainly, the
power of Love." With these words, he fell upon the lovely maiden's neck; she
had cast away her veil, and her cheeks were tinged with the fairest, most
Here the old Man said with a smile: "Love does not rule; but it trains, and
that is more."
Amid this solemnity, this happiness and rapture, no one had observed that it
was now broad day; and all at once, on looking through the open portal, a
crowd of altogether unexpected objects met the eye. A large space surrounded
with pillars formed the forecourt, at the end of which was seen a broad and
stately Bridge stretching with many arches across the River. It was
furnished, on both sides, with commodious and magnificent colonnades for
foot-travellers, many thousands of whom were already there, busily passing
this way or that. The broad pavement in the centre was thronged with herds
and mules, with horsemen and carriages, flowing like two streams, on their
several sides, and neither interrupting the other. All admired the splendour
and convenience of the structure; and the new King and his Spouse were
delighted with the motion and activity of this great people, as they were
already happy in their own mutual love.
"Remember the Snake in honour," said the Man with the Lamp; "thou owest her
thy life; thy people owe her the Bridge, by which these neighbouring banks
are now animated and combined into one land. Those swimming and shining
jewels, the remains of her sacrificed body, are the piers of this royal
bridge; upon these she has built and will maintain herself."
The party were about to ask some explanation of this strange mystery, when
there entered four lovely maidens at the portal of the Temple. By the Harp,
the Parasol, and the Folding-stool, it was not difficult to recognise the
waiting-maids of Lily; but the fourth, more beautiful than any of the rest,
was an unknown fair one, and in sisterly sportfulness she hastened with them
through the Temple, and mounted the steps of the Altar.
"Wilt thou have better trust in me another time, good wife?" said the Man
with the Lamp to the fair one: "Well for thee, and every living thing that
bathes this morning in the River!"
The renewed and beautified old Woman, of whose former shape no trace
remained, embraced with young eager arms the Man with the Lamp, who kindly
received her caresses. "If I am too old for thee," said he, smiling, "thou
mayest choose another husband today; from this hour no marriage is of force,
which is not contracted anew."
"Dost thou not know, then," answered she, "that thou too art grown younger?"
"It delights me if to thy young eyes I seem a handsome youth: I take thy
hand anew, and am well content to live with thee another thousand years."
The Queen welcomed her new friend, and went down with her into the interior
of the Altar, while the King stood between his two men, looking towards the
Bridge, and attentively contemplating the busy tumult of the people.
But his satisfaction did not last; for ere long he saw an object which
excited his displeasure. The great Giant, who appeared not yet to have awoke
completely from his morning sleep, came stumbling along the Bridge,
producing great confusion all around him. As usual, he had risen stupefied
with sleep, and had meant to bathe in the well-known bay of the River;
instead of which he found firm land, and plunged upon the broad pavement of
the Bridge. Yet although he reeled into the midst of men and cattle in the
clumsiest way, his presence, wondered at by all, was felt by none; but as
the sunshine came into his eyes, and he raised his hands to rub them, the
shadows of his monstrous fists moved to and fro behind him with such force
and awkwardness, that men and beasts were heaped together in great masses,
were hurt by such rude contact, and in danger of being pitched into the
The King, as he saw this mischief, grasped with an involuntary movement at
his sword; but he bethought himself, and looked calmly at his sceptre, then
at the Lamp and the Rudder of his attendants. "I guess thy thoughts," said
the Man with the Lamp; "but we and our gifts are powerless against this
powerless monster. Be calm! He is doing hurt for the last time, and happily
his shadow is not turned to us."
Meanwhile the Giant was approaching nearer; in astonishment at what he saw
with open eyes, he had dropt his hands; he was now doing no injury, and came
staring and agape into the fore-court.
He was walking straight to the door of the Temple, when all at once in the
middle of the court, he halted, and was fixed to the ground. He stood there
like a strong colossal statue, of reddish glittering stone, and his shadow
pointed out the hours, which were marked in a circle on the floor around
him, not in numbers, but in noble and expressive emblems.
Much delighted was the King to see the monster's shadow turned to some
useful purpose; much astonished was the Queen, who, on mounting from within
the Altar, decked in royal pomp, with her virgins, first noticed the huge
figure, which almost closed the prospect from the Temple to the Bridge.
Meanwhile the people had crowded after the Giant, as he ceased to move; they
were walking round him, wondering at his metamorphosis. From him they turned
to the Temple, which they now first appeared to notice, and pressed towards
At this instant the Hawk with the mirror soared aloft above the dome; caught
the light of the Sun, and reflected it upon the group, which was standing on
the Altar. The King, the Queen, and their attendants, in the dusky concave
of the Temple, seemed illuminated by a heavenly splendour, and the people
fell upon their faces. When the crowd had recovered and risen, the King with
his followers had descended into the Altar, to proceed by secret passages
into his palace; and the multitude dispersed about the Temple to content
their curiosity. The three Kings that were standing erect they viewed with
astonishment and reverence; but the more eager were they to discover what
mass it could be that was hid behind the hangings, in the fourth niche; for
by some hand or another, charitable decency had spread over the
resting-place of the fallen King a gorgeous curtain, which no eye can
penetrate, and no hand may dare to draw aside.
The people would have found no end to their gazing and their admiration, and
the crowding multitude would have even suffocated one another in the Temple,
had not their attention been again attracted to the open space.
Unexpectedly some gold-pieces, as if falling from the air, came tinkling
down upon the marble flags; the nearest passers-by rushed thither to pick
them up; the wonder was repeated several times, now here, now there. It is
easy to conceive that the shower proceeded from our two retiring Flames, who
wished to have a little sport here once more, and were thus gaily spending,
ere they went away, the gold which they had licked from the members of the
sunken King. The people still ran eagerly about, pressing and pulling one
another, even when the gold had ceased to fall. At length they gradually
dispersed, and went their way; and to the present hour the Bridge is
swarming with travellers, and the Temple is the most frequented on the whole