Table of Contents
The Marsh-King's Daughter
The Wicked Prince
Pen and Inkstand
Little Claus and Big Claus
The Girl Who Trod upon Bread
The Emperor's new Clothes
The Little Sea-maid
The Farm-yard Cock and the Weather-cock
The Elfin Mound
Soup made of a Sausage-stick
The Wild Swans
The Galoshes of Fortune
Twelve by the Mail
The Garden of Paradise
The Constant Tin Soldier
The Stone of the Wise Men
The Snow Man
The Silver Shilling
The Naughty Boy
The Nis and the Dame
The Neighboring Families
The Happy Family
The Old House
In the Duck-yard
In the Nursery
The Red Shoes
The Snail and the Rose-tree
Little Ida's Flowers
The False Collar
The Flying Trunk
A WONDER STORY OF THE TIME OF THE EXHIBITION IN PARIS, 1867.
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
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.
 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-  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
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
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,
 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 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?
 "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.
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
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
 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
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
 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
"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
 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,
 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
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
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
"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
 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
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
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
 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
 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
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.
 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
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
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.
 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
"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
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
 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
 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
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
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
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
Young women did she see, beautiful, and in evening
 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
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
 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
 "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
"Journalist!" said she: "that is said like a fish, and
properly understood, it's a sort of cuttle-fish among
And thus the fishes went on talking in their own way.
But within this artificial and water-filled cove,
sounded yet the
 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
"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
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
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
 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
"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
"Give me some of thy freshness, thou green grass,"
begged the Dryad; "give me one of thy fragrant
"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!"
 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
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
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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