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Overheard in Fairyland by  Madge A. Bingham
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ORIGIN OF THE TIGER LILY, SNAPDRAGON, AND ELEPHANT-EAR OR BEGONIA

[40] ONCE upon a time there was an enchanted lake in the midst of a beautiful garden.

Over the great stone archway of the old gate, moss-grown and almost hidden from sight, one could read the words:

"Perfect Love Casteth Out All Fear."

Now only one drop of the water from this enchanted lake would cure sickness of whatever kind, and many were the travellers who came from far countries in search of the water—either for themselves or to carry to some loved one who was too ill to come.

Some who came were blind, some lame, others deaf or suffering with dreadful diseases of many kinds, but though they came full of hope, they turned away sorrowfully, because they were afraid to enter in at the old stone gate. This was because of the dreadful beasts [41] in the garden that guarded the enchanted lake. They were evil and did not wish any one to drink of the healing water.

Now the garden was laid off in three circles—one within another, and right in the very centre of the smallest circle was the wonderful lake, its waters as clear as crystal. The first circle was guarded by a terrible dragon, and to those who came to the gate he opened his great mouth, snapped his jaws and shot flames of fire from his eyes.

No wonder those who came to the old stone gate grew frightened and turned away so sorrowfully.

The second circle was guarded by a huge tiger who gnashed his sharp teeth and growled in rage, ready to tear anyone into shreds who should dare cross his pathway—so powerful were his sharp claws.

And yet even that was not all, for at the third and inner circle, where the enchanted lake lay like a sea of glory, an elephant—the largest and most powerful of any in the whole world—stood ready to seize you with his dreadful trunk and crush every bone in your body.

[42] So, you see, it took the bravest of people to enter into this beautiful garden—however much they longed for the water—even after they had read the sign over the moss-covered gate.

Now, far away across the mountain from the enchanted lake lived a little boy whose name was Lionel—perhaps because he was brave and strong like a lion.

But at this time I am telling you of, the little Lionel was very unhappy, because his dear father was very, very sick, and none of the doctors in the land could make him well.

So the dear mother sat by his bedside with tear-stained cheeks and longed and longed that he might grow strong enough to walk to the beautiful garden and drink from the enchanted lake whose waters would surely make him well.

"Let me go, Mother mine," said little Lionel, putting his arms about her neck—"only one drop of the water will make Father well, and surely I can bring you that." "Have you not heard, my little son, of [43] the terrible monsters that stand ready to devour those who enter within the gates of the beautiful garden? You, a little boy, could never even reach the brink of the enchanted lake.

"You would never come back to me, and I should be robbed of both husband and son. Oh, no, I could never let you go."

So spoke the troubled mother, but the sick father grew so much worse with the dreadful burning fever, and the little Lionel begged so hard to be allowed to go, that by and by the mother said:

"Go, and if you never come back to me, I shall surely die. But listen, my boy," and placing her hand beneath his chin, she raised his head till the blue eyes looked into hers.

"Listen, where there is no fear, there is no danger! Look the wild beasts straight in the eyes, even as I am looking into yours. Be not afraid, and the dear God will help you."

"And I shall come back to you, Mother mine," said the brave little Lionel. "When I get to the garden gate I shall think so [44] much of you and dear Father, that I shall forget all else. I shall not be afraid of anything."

Then he covered her tear-stained cheeks with kisses, and hurried away in the early morning light.

The road was rough and long across the steep mountain way, and the sharp stones cut the little Lionel's feet until they were bruised and sore, but still he climbed on and on, ever thinking of the loved ones he had left behind, and of their joy when by and by he should return with the healing water from the beautiful garden.

After travelling many hours he at last reached the top of the mountain, climbed down the side into the cool valley below, and found himself in sight of the beautiful garden.

But as he gazed in wonder on the waters of the shimmering lake in the distance, the deep growls of the wild beasts within the walls fell upon his ears, and for a moment the little Lionel was almost afraid, and felt like turning and fleeing back to the safe cottage home, beyond the mountain—the [45] little home that seemed dearer to him, just now, than ever before.

"Better run back! Better run back!" strange voices from the trees kept whispering.

But just then, over the archway of the old stone gate, the little Lionel spelled out very slowly the words:

"P-e-r-f-e-c-t L-o-v-e C-a-s-t-e-t-h O-u-t A-l-l F-e-a-r."

Then, doubling up his small fists, he shook them at the voices in the trees and said :

"Hush, I shall not go back! You cannot frighten me. I love my father, and dragons and tigers and elephants shall not drive me back until I have filled my bottle with the healing water."

Then, standing on tiptoe, he lifted the rusty latch and stepped inside the beautiful garden.

With a mighty roar the ugly dragon started toward him, but the little Lionel remembered his mother's words, looked the great beast straight in the eye and passed him by unharmed.

[46] On and on he followed the winding circular walk, never for a moment glancing behind, and just as he reached the second circle, with an angry growl the huge spotted tiger rushed at his throat.

But again the little Lionel remembered his mother's words, looked the great beast straight in the eye, and passed by him,—again unharmed.

And now with a firmer tread he followed the broad gravel walk which led him into the third and last circle, where lay the wonderful enchanted lake.

But just as he caught sight of its clear water sparkling like twinkling diamonds in the sunlight, with a roar that seemed to shake the very earth beneath him, the great powerful elephant dashed toward the little Lionel as if he would surely crush him to pieces!

But no, no! surely the dear God helped him then, for still he was un-afraid, and, keeping his eyes on those of the great elephant, he passed on his way with a steady tread, not even glancing behind him—thinking only of the sick father, the [47] anxious mother, and her last words to him.

And now, only think, he stood at the brink of the enchanted lake, by the waters so clear that they reflected back the brave, sweet face of the boy who stooped to fill his bottle there.

But the little Lionel did not linger you may be very sure, and when he had filled his bottle to the very brim with the healing water, he turned to go away, when lo! a most wonderful thing indeed had happened.

There was now no terrible elephant standing in the pathway to destroy him, no dreadful tiger, no hateful dragon,—none of these,—but in their places, strange, new flowers grew.

The elephant was changed into a beautiful begonia plant with leaves so large and cool and green that you would never think of them as being like an elephant at all—unless it were his very large ears.

And in the second circle, where the dreadful tiger had been, stood only an exquisite, crimson, tiger lily, flecked with spots of [48] black as soft and velvety as a tiger's skin—you have seen the lily since, I know.

And as he drew near to the old stone gateway, not a dragon did he see, but instead, a delicate, drooping blossom of dainty rose colour, which has a mouth, to be sure, that can open and shut, but never bite.

So the dragon flower and the crimson lily nodded their heads and wafted their fragrance on the summer breeze as the boy passed on his way down the walk and through the old stone gateway.

Such a happy, happy boy was the little Lionel now.

Birds sang from the tree tops, the sunbeams danced, and all the world seemed glad, and the song that the winds and waters sang seemed ever to be the same: "Perfect Love Casteth Out All Fear."

And now, what need have I to tell you more of my story,—of the mother's joy when her boy came back to her, of the sick father made well by the healing water, and of the brave little Lionel happiest of all? There was no more fear of the beautiful [49] garden. It was said that those who afterward visited there were made glad because of the velvety, spotted lilies, the delicate

dragon flowers and cool green leaves of the elephant-ears or begonias that were found in place of the frightful beasts, which were seen no more. And the healing water was free to all.


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