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Wonder Stories Told for Children by  Hans Christian Andersen
Table of Contents


 

 

THE DRYAD:

A WONDER STORY OF THE TIME OF THE EXHIBITION IN PARIS, 1867.

[8]

W
E are going to Paris to see the Exhibition. Now we are there! It was a journey performed without witchcraft—we went by steam, in a ship, and on a country road. Our time is the time of wonder stories.

Now we are in the midst of Paris, in a large hotel. Flowers adorn the staircase, and soft carpets are spread over the steps. Our room is a pleasant one; the door to the balcony stands open, and we look out upon an open square. Down there lives Spring, who was driven to town in a wagon. He arrived at the same time with us; he came in the shape of a slender young chestnut-tree, with opening leaves. Look, how beautifully the tree is dressed in spring's elegant robe, finer than all the other trees on the square; one of them, I see, has just stepped out of the row of living trees, and there it lies with its roots torn up and thrown mercilessly upon the ground; here where this tree stood will the chestnut-tree be planted, and there it will grow.

As yet, the chestnut-tree stands erect upon the heavy cart which brought it here this very morning from the country, a distance of a good many miles. There it grew, and lived its young life close to an old oak. To this old oak was the pious old pastor wont to come and sit under its shading branches, and tell over and over again his stories to the listening children. The young chestnut-brown tree was, of course, among the listeners.

The Dryad within this tree was then yet a child; she could remember so far back, when the chestnut-tree was so small that it scarcely could peep over the grass-bladers and other small plants. These were then as large as they would ever be, but the tree grew and became bigger every year, drinking air, and sunshine, and dew, and rain. Many times was it shaken and bent hither and thither by the powerful winds. This was a part of its education.

[9] The Dryad was pleased with her life, and the company of the sunshine, and the songs of birds; yet the human voice she liked best, for she knew the language of men as well as that of the animals, butterflies, cock-chafers, and bumble-bees. Everything that could fly or creep paid her a visit, and every one of them that came would gossip. They talked about the farms, the village, the woods, the old castle, with its park: in that were dikes and canals, and down in their waters dwelled also living beings, that could fly, in their own way, under water from place to place, beings with a will and with skill, but they never said anything: they were too wise. The swallow, which had dived down into the water, told her of the pretty goldfishes, the fat bream, the sturdy perch, and the old moss-grown crucian. The swallow gave a very fair description, but it is always much better to go and look for one's self.

But how could the Dryad ever be able to see all these things with her own eyes? She had to be satisfied with her view of the beautiful landscape, and to listen to the buzz of human industry as it passed by her. Charming as all this was, there was something better; and that was when the old pastor told of France there under that oak-tree, and of the great deeds done by men and women whose names are remembered through all time with admiration. The Dryad thus heard of the shepherdess Joan of Arc, of Charlotte Corday; she heard of times much farther back, and of Henry the Fourth and Napoleon I., yes, she even heard of the ability and greatness of our own time; she heard of names, every one of which resounded deep in the heart of the people. France is the world's country, the world's gathering-place of genius, with the Crater of Liberty in its midst.

The village of children listened attentively, the Dryad not less so; she was a schoolmate of them all. In the shapes of the sailing clouds, she would see picture after picture of those things that she had heard about.

The cloud-heaven was her picture-book. She thought she was very happy in this beautiful France, yet she began to think that the birds and everything that could fly were much more favored by fate than she was. Even a fly could look far beyond our Dryad's horizon. Beautiful France was so exten- [10] sive, yet she could only see a very small portion of it. World wide was the extent of her lands, with their meadows, forests, and cities, and of the last, Paris was the most glorious, the mighties! Thither the birds could fly, but not she.

There was then among the village children a little girl. She was very ragged and poor, but very fair to look upon for all that. And she was always singing and laughing, and she tied red flowers in her black hair.

"Don't go to Paris," said the good old pastor; "poor child, if you do go there, it will be your ruin!"

And yet she went. The Dryad thought very often of her; they both had the same longing and desire to see the great city.

Spring came, and summer came, autumn and winter passed by, and thus a few years went. The Dryad's tree produced its first chestnut blossoms, the birds were chirping and chatting about them in the brilliant sunlight.

Once it so happened that a grand carriage, with a noble lady in it, came driving that way: she herself drove the beautiful and fiery horses. A little footman in livery sat behind. The Dryad recognized her; the old pastor recognized her: he shook his head and said mournfully,—"Thou didst go there; it proved thy ruin, poor Mary!"

"She poor!" thought the Dryad; "it cannot be! What a change! She is dressed like a duchess: that's what she came to in the city of enchantment. O if I could only get there and live in all that splendor and magnificence! the light and glory of that city reaches even up to the skies—just above there where I know the city stands." And in that direction would the Dryad look every evening, all night. There she saw the brilliant streak of light along the horizon. In the bright and clear moonlight night she missed it very much, and missed the sailing clouds that pictured to her the great city and its history.

Children take to their picture-books. The Dryad took to her cloud-book—that was her book of thoughts. The balmy, cloudless sky was to her a blank leaf, and at this time she had not seen such a one for several days; it was summer time, with hot, sultry days, without a cooling breeze; every flower, [11] every leaf was drooping, and men hung their heads. The clouds drew together and were lifted up, as it happened, at that corner where the night announced, with a brilliant sheen, "Here is Paris."

The clouds rolled up and above each other, forming themselves into mountains; they made their way through the air and spread themselves over the whole landscape as far as the Dryad could see. They were heaped in mightly blue-black boulders, layer above layer, rising high in the air, and then flashes of light came flying out from them. "These are also God our master's servants," had the old pastor said. And forth came a great, blue, brilliant light, a blaze of lightniing that tried to look like the sun himself; it shattered the boulders.

The lightning had struck down—struck the mightly old oak-tree, splitting it to the very roots,—shattered the crown, parted its stem. The old tree fell down: it fell as if spreading itself to receive the messenger of light. Not even the biggest gun could so roar through the air and over the land at the birth of a king's child, as the thunder did there at the decease of the old oak-tree, the king of the forest. Now the rain poured down, a refreshing breeze sprang up, the storm had passed, a sacred calm rested upon the country. The village people came gathering around the old oak, the venerable pastor spoke a few words in its praise, a painter drew a sketch of the old tree for a memento.

"Everything goes away," said the Dryad, "goes away, as the clouds go, never to return."

Never again came the pastor there. The roof of the schoolhouse had fallen, the pulpit was broken. The children came no more, but autumn came, and winter came, and then also spring. During the whole of this time were the Dryad's eyes directed towards the spot where, every evening and night, far away on the horizon, Paris shone like a radiant belt. Out of Paris leaped locomotive after locomotive, one train after another, whistling and thundering, and that at all times. At all times of the day, in the evening, at midnight, did trains arrive, and out of these and into them did people from all the lands of the world crowd. A new wonder of the world had called them to Paris. How did this wonder exhibit itself?

[12] "A gorgeous flower of art and industry," they said, "has spring up from the barren sands of the Champ de Mars. It is a giant sunflower, out of the leaves of which one can study geography, statistics, general information; become inspired by art and poetry, learn the greatness and products of every country." "A marvelous flower it is," said others; "a large lotus-plant, that spreads its green leaves shot up in early spring, as widely as a threshing-floor. Summer will see it in all its glory, and the autumn storms will blow it away, that neither leaves nor roots will remain. In front of the military school stretches the arena of war in time of peace—a field without grass or flower, a piece of the desert cut out from a wilderness in Africa, where Fata Morgana shows her mysterious air castles and suspended gardens. There, upon the Champ de Mars, were they still more brilliant, more strange, than as visions only." "The palace of the modern Aladdin is erected," said others. "Day after day, hour after hour, does it unfold more and more of its new splendor."

The boundless halls shine in marble and colors. The giant with no blood in his veins, moves his steel and iron limbs here in that great outer circle. Works of art, in metal and stone, loudly proclaim the powerful life of the mind that labors in all the lands of the world. Here is picture-gallery and flower-show; and everything that hand and mind can create in the workshops of the mechanic is here placed on exhibition. Even old castles and peat-bogs have contributed their relics of antiquity. The overpowering, gorgeous show must be picture in miniature and squeezed into the compass of a toy before we can comprehend and see it in its entirety.

Upon the Champ de Mars stood, upon a big Christmas table, Aladdin's castles of art and industry; around these castles were placed toys from every country, toys of grandeur; every nation found a memento of its home.

Here was the palace of the Egyptian king; there, a caravanserai from the desert. The Bedouin rode past: he came from the land of the sun; and here was a Russian stable, with beautiful, fiery horses, brought from the plains. There stood [13] the small, straw-thatched Danish peasant-house, with its Danebrog's flag, neighbor to Gustavus Vasa's neat wooden cottage from Dalarne. American block-houses, English cottages, French pavilions, kiosks, churches, and theatres, were all spread about in a wonderful manner. And then, in the middle of all this, there was the green turf, there was clear running water, there were flowering shrubs, rare trees, glass houses, where one might imagine one's self to be in a tropic forest. Complete rose-gardens, brought here from Damascus, bloomed in their glory under glass roofs. What colors, what fragrance! Stalactite caverns, artificially made, containing in fresh and salt water ponds specimens of various fishes, and reptiles, and polyps.

So they talked, and said that all things were now exhibited on the Champ de Mars, and that all over this festive board crawled an immense crowd of human beings, like a swarm of ants on a journey; they either went on foot or were drawn in little wagons. Not every man's legs can stand the fatigues of such endless wandering.

From the earliest rays of dawn till late at night they are wandering to that field. Steamer after steamer, crowded full with men, glides down the river Seine. The crowd of carriages increases continually, the multitude of people on foot and on horseback increases, all public conveyances are crammed, are stuffed, are fringed over the human beings; and all these various streams move towards one goal—the Paris Exhibition.

Every entrance is decorated with a French flag, and all around the walls of the great bazaar for all countries float the flags of the different nations. A burring and a buzzing continually sounds from the hall of machines; down from the towers come the ring of chimes; organs sounds their voices in the churches, mingled with the hoarse and nasal strains from the Oriental coffee-houses. It is all a Babel empire, a Babel language, a world's wonder.

I assure you that all this was really so; at least so the story goes, and who has not heard of it? The Dryad knew it all, she knew all that has here been said of the wonder of the [14] world in the great city of cities. "Hurry, all ye birds, fly thither and see, and then come back and tell me all about it," was the Dryad's prayer.

The longing grew till it became a wish, and that grew to be the thought of her life, and then—

The full moon was shining on that silent, solemn night, and from her dial there came forth (this the Dryad saw) a spark, bright, like a falling star, and it fell at the foot of the tree whose branches began to shiver as if shaken by a gust of wind, and then there stood a shining being. It spoke with a voice as clear and loud as a dooms-day's trumpet, which kisses to life and calls to judgement. "Thou shalt become free to go to the city of enchantments; thou shalt there take root, get acquainted with the buzzing streams, the air, and the sunshine there, but thy life-time will be shortened; the long row of years that were awaiting thee here in God's open fields will shrink to a small sum. Poor Dryad, it will be thy ruin. Thy longing will grow, thy desire, thy craving become louder, the tree itself will become a prison to thee. Thou wilt leave thy shelter, cast off thy nature; thou wilt fly out and mix with men, and then thy years will shrivel into the half of a day-fly's life-time, to one night only. The light of thy life will be blown out, the tree will pine away, the leaves will wither, never to return."

Thus rang the words, thus sang the voice, and the shining being disappeared, but not the Dryad's longing and desire; she trembled in expectation, in a violent fever of anticipated enjoyment. With exultation she exclaimed,—

"Life is going to commence, floating, like the clouds, which no one knows." At early dawn, when the moon grew pale and the skies red, came the time of fulfillment; the words of promise were to be verified. There came people armed with spades and pickaxes; they dug clear around the roots of the tree, they dug down right under them; then there came a cart drawn by two horses, and they lifted the tree with its roots and the earth they clung to out of the ground, and wound mats around them, making a warm foot-bag, and then they put the tree upon the cart and tied it securely, because it was now to go on a journey to Paris, and it was to stay there and grow in the great city of France, in the city of cities.

[15] The branches and leaves of the chestnut-tree shook and trembled when they commenced digging. The Dryad trembled, but with the rapture of expectation.

"Forward, forward!" sounded every pulse beat. "Forward, forward!" rang the trembling words of desire. The Dryad forgot, in her happiness, to take leave of her homestead's surroundings, of the swaying grass-blades and the innocent daisies that had looked up to her as to a great lady in our Father's garden, a young princess that played shepherdess in the country.

At last the chestnut-tree was upon the cart, nodding with its branches "farewell," or "forward." The Dryad knew it not; she only thought of and dreamed about the new unknown, and yet well-known, which should now unfold itself. No guileless heart of an innocent child was ever more filled with thought than she was on her journey to Paris.

No farewell, but always, "Forward, forward!" The cartwheels turned ceaselessly round and round, the far away grew into the near by, and then was left behind. The country changed as her clouds changed. New fields, woods, farms, villas, and gardens came in sight. The chestnut-tree moved on, the Dryad moved forwards with it. Locomotive after locomotive went dashing by her. The locomotives blew clouds that took shapes of beings who spoke of Paris, the place they came from, whither the Dryad was going.

As a matter of course, everything around her knew what way she was going. She was aware that every tree that she passed stretched out its branches toward her and begged, "Take me along with you: take me also." There lives in every tree a longing Dryad.

What wonderful changes! It seemed as if the houses came springing right out of the ground, more and more, closer and closer. Chimney-pots came up, as if so many flower-pots had been placed behind one another and alongside each other upon the houseroofs. Large inscriptions, with letters a yard long, had the sorceress painted upon the walls; they reached to the roof and glittered brightly.

"Where does Paris begin, and when will I come to it?" thought the Dryad. Soon the crowd of people increased, the [16] tumult and noise grew louder. Carriage followed carriage, people went on foot and rode on horseback, and on each side of her were shops, and all about sounded music, song, talking, and screeching.

Now the Dryad, in her tree, had arrived in the middle of Paris.

The heavy cart stopped in an open place where some trees were planted; all around were high houses; every window had a balcony of its own, from which people looked down upon that young, fresh chestnut-tree which came driving in a cart; it was destined to be planted there in the place of a dying, uprooted tree that lay outstretched upon the ground. People that came passing by stopped awhile, smiling upon that fresh, green piece of early spring. The older trees, whose leaves were yet scarcely budding, nodded their welcome to her with rustling branches: "Welcome, welcome!" said they; and the fountain which played with its water in the air, that fell prattling down again into the wide basin, permitted the wind to carry a few drops to the newly arrived tree, offering her a welcome drink.

Then the Dryad perceived how its tree was taken down from the cart and put in its place of destination. After that the roots were carefully covered with earth, and covered with fresh green sward. Shrubs were also planted, and earthen plots dug down with flowers in them.

And thus quite a nice garden appeared in the centre of the square. The uprooted and dying tree, filled with bad-smelling gas and drainage air, and all the rest of the plant-torturing air of the city, was thrown upon a cart and carried away. The crowd looked on, children and old people sat about in the green, looking through the fresh leaves. And we, that talk all about this, stood on the balcony, looking down upon the young tree just arrived from the fresh country air, and said what the pastor would have said, had he been there, "Poor Dryad!"

"Happy am I, and thrice happy," said the Dryad; "and yet I cannot quite comprehend it. I cannot speak what I feel; it seems all to be as I imagined it, and yet it is not quite what I thought it would be."

The houses were so high, so near. The sun only shone [17] upon one wall, and that was covered with handbills and placards, around which the people would crowd and throng. Carriages drove by, big and small, light and heavy: omnibuses, like moving houses, filled to overflowing, came rattling by. Drays and gigs insisted upon having the same right.

"But will not," thought the Dryad,—"will not these overgrown houses that stand so oppressively near, also take themselves off and make room for other shapes and forms, as the clouds of heaven do? Why don't they slip aside, that I may get a glimpse into Paris, and far beyond Paris?" She wanted to see Notre Dame, the Vendome Column, and the many works of wonder, that had called and were calling so many people there. But the houses would not move from their places. The lanterns were lit when it was yet quite daylight. Brilliant rays of gas came bursting forth from all the shop windows, and lighting up the trees and their branches, so that it almost looked like summer's sunlight. But the stars above looked exactly the same as the Dryad had seen them at home. She thought she felt a breeze, so pure and balmy. A feeling of new strength came over her, and she felt it communicated to the very tips of the leaves and roots. Now she knew that she was within the living world of men, looked upon with tender eyes; there were tumult, tones, colors, and light all around her.

Wind instruments sent their tones to her from the cross streets; hand-organs, with feet-stirring melodies, were infatigable. Yes, to dance, to dance to pleasures and amusement did they invite. It was a music that might make men, horses, carriages, trees, and houses dance, if they only knew how. All this created an intoxicating desire for enjoyment in the Dryad's heart.

"What a blessed life I lead! how beautiful this all is!" exclaimed she in the highest glee: "I am in Paris."


The day that came, the night that followed, and then the next day, brought the same show, the same turmoil, the same life, changing, but always the same changes.

"By this time I really know every tree, every flower, on this place; I know every house, balcony, and shop here, where [18] they have stuck me, in this little corner, in which I can see nothing of the great city. Where are the arches of triumph, the Boulevards, and that world's wonder? Nothing of all this am I able to see. I am imprisoned here among these high houses, which I know by heart, with their inscriptions, placards, handbills, and all the painted dainties, for which I have lost all appetite. Where is that of which I heard them speak, which I have known and longed for, and for which I wanted to come here? What have I got, what gained, what found? I long as I did before. I have a consciousness of a life I wish to lead. I want to be among the living and move with them; I want to fly like a bird, see and feel, and become like a human being: I would rather live but the half of a day, than spend a life of years in daily idleness, in which I sicken, sink, and fall, like a rush in a meadow. I want to sail along like the clouds, bathe in the sun of life, look down upon all below as the clouds do, and go away as they do, nobody knows whither."

This was the Dryad's sigh, going up in a prayer:—

"Take all my years of life; give me but the half of a day; set me free from my prison; grant me human life, human happiness, though it be but for a short time—for only this night, and punish me if thou wilt for my longing—for my inexpressible longing for life. Give me freedom, give me liberty, even if this dwelling of mine, this fresh and youthful tree, wither, be cut down, be converted into ashes, and blown about by the winds."

A rustling went through the branches of the tree; a strange sensation crept over it; the leaves shivered: it was as if sparks of fire were leaping forth from them; a gust of wind shook the crown of the tree; and then issued forth a being—the Dryad herself. Amazed, she found herself sitting beneath the green boughs, rich with leaves and lit up by a thousand gas flames from all around—sitting there, young and handsome as poor Mary, to whom it had been said,—"Alas! The great city will be thy ruin."


The Dryad sat at the foot of the tree, at the door of her house, which she had locked and then had thrown the key [19] away. So young, so handsome! The stars saw her, the stars were twinkling; the gas flames saw her, they were beaming, beckoning to her; how slender she was, and yet so strong; a child, and yet a young woman. Her dress was glossy like silk, green as the fresh leaves on top of the tree. In her nut-brown hair stuck a half-opened flower of the chestnut-tree. She looked a very goddess of spring.

A moment there, and then she bounded off like a gazelle, off around the corner; she danced and skipped like the ray that is darted from a mirror, like the sunbeam thrown, now here, now there, according to the motion of the glass; and if one looked sharp, and was able to see what could be seen, he would have thought it marvelous. Whenever she rested awhile, the color of her dress and of her form was changed, according to the nature of the place where she stood and the lights that fell upon her.

She arrived on the Boulevards; there was a complete ocean of light from gas lamps, stores, and cafes. Here were rows of trees, young and slender, whose Dryads received their share of the artificial sunlight. The sidewalk seemed to be one large parlor, with tables containing all sorts of refreshments from Champagne and Chartreux down to coffee and beer; here too were exhibitions of flowers, statues, and pictures, and there were books and many other interesting things.

From the steps of the high houses she looked down upon the streams roaring along under the rows of trees. There was an ever-swelling and ebbing tide of rolling wagons, cabriolets, chariots, omnibuses, coaches, of men riding on horseback, and of marching regiments. Life and limb were in danger if any one attempted to cross to the other side. Now a blue light was shining brightest, then the gas-lights were most brilliant, and suddenly a rocket went up—whence? whither?

This must be the great highway of the world's great city. Now she listened to some delightful Italian music. Now to Spanish songs, accompanied by castanets; but the melodies from Minutet's musical box drowned every other sound, that stirring Cancan music which Orpheus never knew and the beautiful Helen never heard. I think the very wheelbarrows would have danced on their one wheel had they known how. [20] But the Dryad did dance; she whirled and soared, changing colors like a humming-bird in sunlight, for every house, with its interior, was reflected upon her.

As the glorious flower of the lotus, torn from its roots, is carried away by the river in its whirls, so was the Dryad rushed along, and when she stopped she changed into another form; therefore, nobody could follow, none recognize her. Everything passed by like cloud-pictures, face after face, of which she recognized none, and no familiar being of home appeared to her.

Before her mind came two beaming eyes: she thought at once of Mary, poor Mary! the handsome, gay child, with the red flowers in her black hair—was she not in the world's great city, rich and charming as she passed in the carriage the house of the pastor, the Dryad's own tree, and the old oak? Surely, she must be in this deafening uproar, perhaps had just alighted from that magnificent carriage waiting there. Brilliant carriages, with richly gallooned coachmen and servants, were drawn up in a row. The great folks alighting from them were all ladies—beautifully dressed ladies. They went through the open, trellised porch, ascended the broad and high steps that led into that imposing building with marble columns. Was this, perhaps, the great wonder of the world? And there Mary must surely be!

Sancta Maria! she heard singing there; clouds of frankincense were rolling forth from under the high arch, painted and gilt, where twilight reigned. It was the Church of Madeleine.

Dressed all in black of the most costly material, made after the finest and latest fashion. the ladies of the aristocracy stepped over the polished floor. Coats of arms blazed forth from the clasps of magnificent prayer-books, and were embroidered upon strongly perfumed handkerchiefs lined with costly Brussels lace. A few of the women bent kneeling in silent prayers before the high altar, others went to the confessor's box. The Dryad felt very uneasy, as if she ought not to be in this place. It was the house of silence, the great hall of mystery and secrecy. Everything was spoken in whispers and confided in soundless words.

[21] The Dryad became aware that she also was wrapped up in a black silken veil, resembling the other noble ladies of the empire. Was every one of them a child of longing and desire like herself?

A deep sigh was heard through the silence—deep and fraught with pain; whence came it—from the confessional, or from the bosom of the Dryad? She drew the veil closer about her. The breath she drew was church incense, not the fresh and moist air. She felt that this was not the place she longed for.

"Forward, forward! without rest; the insect of a day's life has no rest: her flight is her life."


The Dryad was out again under the gas chandeliers and fountains.

"Not all the jets from the fountain can wash away the blood of innocents slain here."

These words were spoken. Here she heard strangers speak very loud and lively, which nobody dared to do in the great hall of secrecy from which the Dryad had just come.

She saw a big stone slab being turned—why, she did not understand; but she went near and looked down an opening into the depth of the earth. Down the descent they went, leaving the starlit sky, the brilliant gas flames, and all the living life.

"I am afraid! I dare not go down. I care little to see all the wonders there; stay here with me!"

"And go home?" said a man; "leave Paris without having seen the most remarkable thing, the wonder-work of modern times?" she heard voices say.

The Dryad heard and understood it. Now the goal of her greatest longing was reached at last, and here was the entrance, down to the deep, down, under Paris. This she could never have thought, but she saw it, and saw the strangers descend, and she followed.

The steps were made of cast-iron, spiral-shaped, broad, and comfortable; a lamp gave a dim light, and deeper down another. She found herself in the labyrinth of endless halls and vaults, crossing each other. All the streets and lanes of Paris [22] were clearly seen there, as if reflected in a looking-glass. One could read the names of them, and every house above had here its number, its root, that shot down under the lonely macadamized sidewalk, and was squeezing its course along a wide canal with its onward rolling drainage. Above this was the aqueduct of the fresh and running water, and again, above this, hung, like a net-work, gas pipes and telegraph wires. Further on shone lamps, as if they were refracted images from the world's city above. Now and then a rumbling noise was heard overhead; it came from the heavy wagons that drove over the bridges of descent.

Where was the Dryad?

You have heard of the catacombs: they are nothing compared to this world under ground, this wonder of our times, the Cloacas of Paris. There was the Dryad, and not in the World's Exhibition on the Champ de mars.

Exclamations of astonishment, admiration, approbation, were heard all around.

"Out of the deep here," they said, "grows now health and long life for thousands above. Our time is the time of progress with all its blessings."

This was the opinion of men, men's talk, but not that of the scavengers that built, lived, and fed here—the rats; they piped from cracks in a piece of an old stone wall so distinctly as to be understood by the Dryad. A tall and old tail-bitten rat piped in a shrill voice his misgivings, his afflictions, and the only idea his mind held; and his whole family approved of every word he said.

"I am deeply oppressed by the miau, the human miau, of intolerable ignorance. No doubt everything is fine now, with gas and petroleum; I do not eat such things. It has become so clean here now, and so light, that one sits and it ashamed, and don't know what one is ashamed of. I wish we lived in the good old times of the goblins; they are not so far back, those time,—those romantic times as they are called."

"What are you talking about?" asked the Dryad; "I have never seen you before. What are you speaking of?"

"Of the glorious old days!" said the rat; "great-grandfather and great-grandmother rat's time of youth. In those [23] times it was a great undertaking to come down here. That was the time for rats all over Paris! Pestmother used to dwell down here then: she killed men, but never rats. Robbers and smugglers hatched their plans here unmolested. Then this was the asylum for the most interesting characters I ever saw, personages that one only sees now upon the melodramatic stages. The romantic time has passed away, even with us rats; we have got fresh air—and petroleum."

In this strain did the rats pipe.—piped over the new times, piped in honor of the good old time with its pestmother.

By this time they came to a carriage, a sort of omnibus, drawn by two ponies. The company entered and drove along the Boulevard Sebastopol—that is, upon the one underground; right above in Paris was the well-known Boulevard, always overflowing with human beings.

The wagon disappeared in the twilight; the Dryad disappeared also, but came to light again under the glare of the gas flames in the open air. Here was the wonder to be found, and not in the crossing and recrossing vaults and their damp atmosphere; here she found the world's wonder which she had looked for during her short life-time. There it was, bursting forth in far richer glory than all the gas-lights above, much stronger than the moon, which was silently gliding along.

And she saw it greeting her, winking and twinkling, like Venus in the vault of heaven.


She observed a brilliant porch opening into a garden, filled with light and dance music. She saw artificial lakes and ponds, surrounded by water-plants artistically made of tinsel, bent and painted; they threw water-jets up in the air from their chalices, that sparkled like diamonds in the brilliant light. Graceful weeping willows—real, spring-clad, weeping willows—let their fresh green branches, like a transparent veil, hang in curving waves. A burning bowl among the shrubbery threw its red light over half-lit love bowers, through which magic tones of music rushed, thrilling the ears, fooling and alluring and chasing the blood through the limbs of human beings.

Young women did she see, beautiful, and in evening dress [24] with confiding smiles on their lips, and with the carelessness of youth and laughing mirth. A "Mary," with roses in her hair, but without carriage or footman. How they rolled and swung in that wild dance! what was up, and what was down? They jumped, they laughed and smiled, as if bitten by a tarantula; they looked so happy, so gay, as if ready to embrace the whole world out of pure enjoyment.

The Dryad felt herself irresistibly drawn into the dance. Her small, delicate foot was encased in a silken shoe, chestnut-brown, like the ribbon that came fluttering from her hair, down her uncovered shoulders. The green skirt enveloped her in large folds, but did not hide the beautifully shaped legs and her pretty feet, that seemed intent upon describing the magic circle in the air, in front of her dancing cavalier's head. Was she in Armida's enchanted garden? What was the name of this palace? In blazing jets the gas flames outside said,—Mabille.

With shouts, clapping of hands, rockets, running water, together with popping of champagne bottles, the dance was bacchanalian; and then, above all this, in the serene sky, sailed the moon, a shining ship in the shape of a face. The sky was clear and pure, without a cloud, and one though of looking right into heaven from Mabille.

A consuming, intoxicating sensation seized the Dryad, like the effect from opium. Her eyes talked, her lips spoke, but her words were not heard, drowned by the tones of flute and violin. Her cavalier whispered words in her ears, that rolled on with the time of the cancan; she understood them not, we do not understand them. He stretched his arms out toward her, around her,—and embraced only the transparent, gas-filled air. The Dryad was carried away by the wind, as he carries a rose-leaf; and when high in the air she saw a flame right ahead, a brilliant light, at the top of a tower. This light now surely came from the goal of her longing, shining from the red fire-tower upon the "Fata Morgana" of the Champ de Mars, and thither was she carried by the spring breeze. She whirled several times around that tower; the workmen thought it was a butterfly that came fluttering down to die, having left its chrysalis too early in spring.

[25] The moon was shining, and so were the gas-lights and the lanterns in the large halls of the outspread buildings; they were shining upon the grass-covered hills, and upon the rocks put there by human skill, where waterfalls were precipitated by "Bloodless's" power. The depth of the ocean, and the fresh-water rivers, the empire of the fishes, were laid open here. One imagined oneself to be down at the bottom of the deep,—down in the ocean in a diving-bell. The water pressed hard toward the thick glass walls. Polyps, fathom long, flexible, eel-like, quivering living thorns, whose arms took hold, swaying up and down, grown fast to the bottom of the sea.

A large flounder was lying close by in deep thought, spreading himself with great comfort. A crab was crawling over him, like a hideous monster-head; but the shrimps moved about swiftly and restlessly, as if they were ocean's moths and butterflies.

In the fresh-water aquaria grew many beautiful plants; gold fishes had arranged themselves in rows, like red cows on a pasture; they all poked their heads in one direction, for the purpose of getting the flow of the stream in their mouth. The thick and fat tenches were staring with their dull eyes at the glass walls; they knew they were in the Paris Exhibition; they knew they had made a fatiguing journey in vessels filled with water; that they had been on a railroad, had become land-sick, as men become sea-sick upon the ocean. They had also come to see the Exhibition, and they saw it from their own salt or fresh water, and looked upon the swarms of men, that passed by all day long, from morning to night. All the lands of the world had sent their human specimen there, in order that the old bream, the strong perch, and the moss-grown carps, might see these creatures, and give their opinion about these different tribes.

"Man is a scale-fish," said a small fish, "and changes his scales two or three times a day; they give mouth sounds,—speak, they call it. We do not change, and we make ourselves understood in a much easier way, by the motions of the corners of our mouths, and a stare with our eyes. We have many advantages over men."

[26] "Yet they have learned how to swim," said a fresh-water fish. "I hail from the great inland lake, and there men go into the water during hot summer days; but before they do this, they strip off their scales, and then they swim. The frogs have taught them to do that; the hind-legs push and the fore-legs row; but they cannot stand it long. They think they can resemble us, poor things; but it wouldn't do."

And the fishes stared; they imagined that the same crowd of people that they had seen come in at daylight, was still there; they really thought that those shapes were the same that beat upon their nerves of observation from the very first day.

A small perch, with a pretty tiger-skin, and an enviable round back, said he was assured that the mother of men was there; he had seen her.

"I have seen her also, and that very plainly," said a gold-colored tench. "She was a beautiful, well-shaped human being; she had our mouth-corners and staring eyes, two balloons in the back, a down hanging umbrella in front, a breathing curtain, and dingle dangle. I think, verily, she ought to throw off all that stuff, and go as we do, according to Nature's command; and then she would look like an honorable tench, that is, so far as man can be like us."

"What has become of him—that laced one—the he-man?" they asked.

"He drove about in a chair, he sat there with paper, ink, and pen in his hands, and wrote everything down. What was he about? They called him a journalist."

"Look! there he is, driving yet," said a moss-grown old maid crucian, with a bit of the world's temptation sticking in her throat, so that she was quite hoarse. She once swallowed a fish-hook, and since that she is swimming about in humility, with the hook in her throat.

"Journalist!" said she: "that is said like a fish, and properly understood, it's a sort of cuttle-fish among men."

And thus the fishes went on talking in their own way. But within this artificial and water-filled cove, sounded yet the [27] blows of hammer and the songs of artisans; they had to make use of the night, in order to get everything ready soon. These were songs in the Dryad's summer night dreams; she herself stood there, again to fly away and disappear.

"There are gold-fishes!" she exclaimed, nodding at them. "I am glad to have been allowed to see them. Yes, I do know you, and have known you a long while! The swallow told me about you in my own country home. How pretty and shiny, and how charming you are! I could kiss you, every one of you! I know the others also; this must be a crucian, and that is the delicate bream, and there swims the old moss-covered carp. I know you, but you do not know me!"

The fishes stared; they understood her not; they gazed in their dim twilight.

The Dryad was gone; she was in the open air, where the wonder-flower of the world exhaled its fragrance from many lands: from the rye-bread land, from the cod-fish coast, the Russia-leather country, the eau de cologne river-bed, and rose-oil orient.


When, after a ball, we drive home in our carriage, the melodies we have heard continue to ring in our ears for some time; we may sing every one of them again, and, as in the slain man's eye the last impression which the eye had received remains photographed for some time, so remained yet the impress of the day's tumult and brilliancy upon the eye of night; it was neither absorbed nor blown away. The Dryad perceived it, and knew that it would thus continue to buzz quite into the morrow.


Now the Dryad was in the midst of fragrant roses; she thought she knew them, and that they were all from her own country; the roses from the castle's park and the pastor's garden.

She also recognized the red pomegranate; just such a one had Mary worn in her coal-black hair. The memory of her childhood's home in the country came twinkling in her thoughts; eagerly she drank in with her eyes the wonderful sights around her, while a feverish longing seized her, and [28] carried her through the marvelous halls. She felt tired, and the fatigue increased. She felt a strong desire to rest upon the soft, outspread oriental cushions, or dive into the pure water, as the branches of the weeping willows did.

But the insect of a day has no rest; a few minutes, and the day would close. Her thoughts quivered, her limbs trembled, she sank down in the grass beside the babbling water.

"Though springest from the earth with true life," she said; "cool my tongue, give me a refreshing drink."

"I am no living brook," said the water. "I run by machine."

"Give me some of thy freshness, thou green grass," begged the Dryad; "give me one of thy fragrant flowers."

"We shall die, if we are torn from our plant," answered grass-blade and flower.

"Give me a kiss, thou cooling breeze; only a single kiss upon my lips!"

"The sun will soon kiss the clouds red," said the wind, "and then thou shalt be dead, gone, as all this magnificence will be gone before the year is out. And then I can again play with the light, loose sand upon this place, blow the dust all over the earth, dust in the air, and nothing but dust."

The Dryad felt an anguish coming over her, like the woman that, in a bath, having severed an artery, and bleeding to death, wishes still to live, while her strength, from loss of blood, leaves her. She got up, advanced a few paces, fell down again in front of a little church. The gate was open, light was burning on the altar, and the organ sang. What heavenly music! such tones had the Dryad never heard before, and yet she seemed to recognize well-known voices. They came from the depth of creation's great heart. She thought she heard the humming in the old oak-tree, and heard the old pastor talk of great deeds of men of great fame, and what God's creations might give to the coming time, would give, and therewith itself win eternal life. The organ's tones became stronger and louder; they sang, and spoke in the song:—

"Thy longing and desire tore thy roots from the place God had given them: it became thy ruin, poor Dryad!"

[29] The organ's tones grew soft, and gentle; they sang plaintively, and died away weeping. The clouds in the sky began to redden. The wind whispered and sang: "Go away, ye dead, the sun is rising."

His first ray fell upon the Dryad; her figure was radiant, changing colors, like a soap-bubble just before it bursts, vanishes, becomes a drop, a tear, that falls upon the earth, and leaves nothing behind.

Poor Dryad, a dew-drop, only a tear, wept, and dried up!

The sun shone upon the Champ de Mars; Fata Morgana shone over great Paris, over the little square, with a few trees and a prattling fountain; over the high houses, where the chest-nut tree stood, its branches hanging, its leaves dried up,—the tree that only yesterday stood erect and fresh, resembling spring himself. "Now it is dead," said people; the Dryad had left it, passed away like the clouds, none know whither.

And low upon the earth there lay a withered, broken chest-nut flower. The holy water of the church could not recall it to life again. Man's foot soon stepped upon it, and crushed it in the dust.


All this has happened and been lived through. We ourselves have seen it, at the time of the Paris Exhibition, in 1867,—in our time, in the great and wonderful time of Fairy.


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