THE PRINCE OF THE GLOW-WORMS (Fairy Tales From All Nations) by Friedrich von Sallet

No! I’ll bear it no longer, you good-for-nothing vagabond!” screamed the old woman to little Julius. “When you should be sitting with your book in your hand trying to learn somewhat, if I do but turn my back off goes the dunce to the wood, and stays there for whole days, frightening me out of my wits! What business have you in the wood, pray? You ought to stay at home and learn your book or help me in my work. And then you let one have no peace by night either. What’s the use of my telling you ten times over all the stories I know about the black man and the grim wolf? You godless child you! You care for none of the things that frighten good pious children almost to death; but in the dead of the night off you go into the dark forest, through hedges and brambles, making me fine work to wash and patch your clothes. This is the last day I’ll put up with it. The very next time I’ll turn you out of doors; and then you may go far enough before you’ll find anybody to take pity on you, you lazy foundling, and feed you, as I have done, out of sheer humanity!”

“I cannot say much for your food,” replied the boy shortly and carelessly, as he sat dreamily in a corner playing with a wild flower.

“What!” shrieked the old woman in a still sharper key; “you ungrateful viper! Is that the thanks I get for so often cooking something on purpose, because our nice savoury potatoes and nourishing black bread are not good enough for you? And so, forsooth, the gentleman must have milk porridge and honey cakes,—and even these he pecks at as if they were not delicate enough for him, the beggarly ingrate!”

“One might as well eat mill-stones and wood-choppers as your vile hard potatoes and sour bread,” said Julius in the same tone of indifference.

The old woman fell into such a rage that her breath failed her for further utterance; so her husband, who was making bird-traps at the table, began in his turn.

“You rascal! do you dare to blaspheme God’s good gifts, when, if we did not feed you out of charity—you must starve! And what return do you make us, you stray vagabond? When the fellow wants to slip out at night, truly he can be as sharp and cunning as any fox; but place a book before him, that he may learn to be pious and wise, and he loses his senses at once, and stares as stupidly at the letters as a cow at a new gate. Does he suppose I picked him off the road for love of his paltry flaxen hair and his blue goggle eyes? Fool that I was for my pains! Mark my words, and let every one beware of having anything to do with a child that is not his own flesh and blood! Why was I such a goose as not to let the child lie where I found him, kicking and screaming in the forest?”

“Well, why did you not?” said Julius. “I should have fared much better beneath God’s bright sky, than in your nasty smoky hovel.”

At this, the old pair—he with a stick, and she snatching up a broom—rushed furiously on the boy, screaming and scolding as if they had a wager who should make most noise. But the child, light and active as a roebuck, bounded away. He fled to the wood; and when at last the old people had calmed down a little they heard him singing in the distance—

“You ill-favoured couple, adieu to you now!
I’m off to the forest where waves the green bough.
The bees, they know neither to read nor to write,
Yet they gather sweet honey in sunshine bright;
Though the little birds never were taught how to spell,
Full many a blithe song they warble right well;
The flowers are not fed on potato-roots vile,
Yet through the long summer’s day sweetly they smile.
The butterfly, he has no tailor to pay,
Yet he never feels cold,—and who dresses so gay?
The glow-worms at eve show a lovelier light
Than the dim lamps that mortals consume through the night.
So adieu, ye vile pair, whom no more I shall see,—
To the wood! to the wood! there I’m wealthy and free!”

Fearlessly ran Julius about in the forest, and the further he penetrated into it the lighter grew his heart. The dark night came on; and many a child would have been frightened, and fancied the tall dark trees with their strangely contorted branches were giants with long arms, or black dragons with twisted tails. But Julius was accustomed to wander by night, and went gaily on. When, however, it began to rain, and it was so dark that he found difficulty in walking, he sang in a clear sweet voice:—

“You glow-worms bright,
You leaf-clad trees,
That shine in the night,
And that bend in the breeze;
Hither I came, for I trusted that you
Would lighten my darkness and shelter me too.
Come, glow-worms! light me to my mossy bed,—
Branches! keep off the rain-drops from my head!”

Then, a light shone suddenly through the thick tangled bushes and wild plants; and a multitude of glow-worms came clustering round his footsteps like little torch-bearers, and guided him along a smooth and pleasant path to a retired spot, where the bushes and trees were entwined so as to form a little airy cave, the ground of which was covered with soft moss. Julius, being very tired, stretched himself on the moss; and the branches closed over his head, making such a thick covering with their leaves that not the smallest rain-drop could penetrate it. Then, he sang:—

“Now, glow-worms, let your tiny torches gleam
To light my chamber with their emerald beam;
In mazy dances round and round me sweep,
Shedding your radiance o’er me whilst I sleep,
That I may gaze in slumber’s vision fair
On heaven’s bright stars and breathe earth’s perfumed air!”

At these words, a thousand glow-worms at the very least came from all sides. Some hung themselves on the leaves like little coronets of lamps. Others lay like scattered gems on the moss; whilst others again circled round him executing the most intricate figures. A great number fixed themselves in the boy’s fair hair,—so that he seemed to wear a starry crown. So, in the gold green twilight, sat Julius on the soft green moss, amongst flitting lamps, and concealed by arches and columns from which streamed forth a green radiance, whilst the mild and perfumed air played around him, and he heard the rain drip and the wind murmur mysteriously—but neither could approach him. He gazed smilingly around; when he suddenly heard a murmuring sound that soon formed itself into whispered words. It proceeded from a glow-worm that had perched on the rim of his ear, and spoke to him thus:—

“If thy thoughts are pure and mild,
Such as beseem a holy child,
A wondrous tale will please thee well,—
And such a tale I now can tell.”

To this Julius replied:

“I seem to myself like some legend strange,
So thy tale I shall gladly hear:
So it be but one of wild chance and change,
Come whisper it in mine ear.”

Then, the glow-worm began her story:—

“As glow-worms bright we now appear, but little nimble elves we were; in form and in figure much like unto thee, but many hundred times less were we. In India was our dwelling-place, far—oh how far!—away; where midst green leaves and blossoms bright we sported all the day. We scaled the petals of the flowers, within their cups to lie: and rocked by zephyrs, passed the hours in dreamy phantasy. Our food was the Aroma sweet exhaled by blossoms fair; and to and fro we darted fleet, light as the ambient air. ‘Twas thus in careless mood we lived, nor good nor ill did we; when lo! an earnest man arrived, and a holy tale told he.

“He told us how Creation’s Lord had with His own made peace; because His son His blood had poured, to make His anger cease. For that life-blood, He willing gave, had slaked the flames of hell; and His hard-wrung victory o’er the grave had broken its fierce spell. And not the human race alone,—all things that breathe and move, and e’en the insensate-seeming stone, were rescued by such love. Hence, through all nature’s vast domain a universal tremor ran; a thrill like that of death’s fierce pain shot through the ransomed race of man.

“‘Twas thus the old man daily urged, in high and holy speech, and gently led us to accept the creed he came to teach:—till at length we let him sprinkle us with pearly drops of dew; and he hailed us then a Christian race, and blessed us all anew. And in token of that blessing, as we bent before him low, he gently laid his finger light upon each fairy brow; and as the consecrating sign his finger traced,—lo! there up sprang on each a brilliant star like that which now I bear. Then did the old man in the ground a cross of pure white place,—and calling us around him, spake in words of truth and grace.

“‘Revere this holy symbol; and as ye have lived for pleasure and ease, without a creed,—by some good deed henceforward strive your Lord to appease. There are men living in this land who still in sin and blindness stand; they lay their dead in the forest’s shade, and scatter o’er them flowers fair, but seek not their poor souls to aid by holy song or prayer. Wherefore, in night’s still secresy, for the service of the dead, be ready aye to watch and pray and your little light to shed. That ye this pious work may do, lo! this fair star is given you!’—And many more high words he spake ere his departure he did take. Thenceforth we led a holy life, as he command had given; and often in the silent night, we prayed that through our song and light, the cleansed soul might win its way to heaven.”

“How could you do that? You cannot sing, surely,” interrupted Julius. To which the glow-worm answered:

“Thou canst no other voices hear but such as thundering reach thy ear. Thou little dull-eared earth-bound wight, thou canst not e’en perceive by night the stars’ majestic music sounding, through the azure vaults rebounding, with such a full and mighty voice, that though we listen and rejoice, our delicate nerves shrink tremblingly beneath that storm of harmony. Think’st thou ’tis without sense and feeling, that in our spark-twined dances wheeling, some of us darting radiance throw, whilst others burn with steady glow? But thou knows’t not how closely bound by mystic tie are light and sound.

“Now hear my story on.—

“Not all of us became Christians; and one of our orders in particular, which had learnt from a Greek the philosophy of Epicurus, still held to its doctrines. This was the butterfly-tribes,—who like ourselves were also elves. A light and godless race they were, thinking nothing worth their care but how to appear in colours gay; and to their sensual maxims true, they would drink deep of ambrosial dew, and then for hours would sleep; whilst we, the star-adorned nation, sucked of the flowers’ sweet exhalation just so much from the humid air as for our nourishment we needed. But those light creatures far exceeded. The fragrance-breathing rose they courted, and with the young field-lilies sported, till at length of their strength and their perfume bereft, the poor wasted flowers to perish were left. By their uncertain zig-zag flight, dear child, thou well may’st see, that they have drunk more than is right and their senses clouded be.

“We wore a garb of simple green; but they were ever to be seen in jackets with ribbons all gay bedight, and in every idle fashion light,—so that we sometimes laughed to see their folly and their vanity.

“That is evident enough if you only look at their patch-work clothing put together without the slightest taste. The foolish fellow with the swallow-tails thought he had done a vastly clever thing when he appended to each wing a tail like that the swallows have; and after all, this monstrous affectation is but a trumpery imitation of that which nature to the swallows gave. Then, that insufferable ass, the Peacock’s Eye, must copy him in his folly, and wear great spectacles of coloured glass, which are so far from helping him to see that his own clear eyes look dim, owing to that fantastic whim. Thou thinkest, perhaps, the one who wears a mantle grave like a funeral pall is far above such senseless airs,—but he’s the greatest fool of all! That garb of sorrow is but worn wonder and pity to excite, to seem as if condemned to mourn—a sorrow-stricken wight. Others there are who on their jackets gay, cause numbers to be traced; no doubt, you’ll say, to mind them that the years unheeded go and teach them how to value time. But no! Those youths are your Don Juans, and the numbers show in pride how many flowers by them brought low have pined and died.

“The king who then did o’er us reign thought of a method somewhat strange, by which their licence to restrain and work a beneficial change. He caused to be enforced throughout the nation, a most peculiar kind of education. He shut the youthful butterflies within a narrow case of skin, wherein they were so tightly bound they could not turn their bodies round—and there close prisoners they remained till they a certain age attained. I must confess, the principle to me seemed very wrong,—and so it proved to be; for so far from the matter being mended, we had just the reverse of what the king intended. The closer they were mewed in prison, the more they longed for liberty,—and only waited to be free, to plunge in deepest revelry.

“But angry thoughts are leading me astray,—I’ve wandered from my theme too far away. To speak of many things I am beguiled which must be meaningless to such a child.

“Thou now shalt hear the sequel of my tale. There was one set amongst the butterflies more worthless than all the rest. These were the confirmed old topers, who had imbibed so much of the ambrosial dew that their bodies had grown fat and unwieldy, and had very large stomachs. Such clumsy butterflies as these had little chance the flowers to please; and so whenever one approached, each bent aside its calyx bright in mockery of the uncouth wight. Or if by chance one clambered up to reach the blossom’s nectar-cup, its stem would bend beneath his weight, and down the awkward creature straight would go, and all its members dislocate. So then their evil deeds they did under the cover of the night. When every flower was soundly sleeping, they came like midnight robbers creeping,—then drew them softly to the ground, and sucked from their lips their nectar breath; so that many a flower at morn was found, lying pale in death and sinfully robbed of all its wealth, that had closed its leaves in rosy health.

“Now, my child, thou may’st be sure, full little could those elves endure that we, on our holy mission bound, the silence and darkness should chase away by our song, and our prayer, and our emerald ray,—hoping by that solemn sound to give the dead repose.

“Those who had drunk deep by day, roused by it could not sleep away the ill effects of their carouse, so they with aches and fevers rose. But those deceitful spoilers of the flowers, who trusted by night’s shade protected to work their purpose undetected, had now to fast,—for as we passed, the flowers who loved to hear our song saw by our light, that pierced the night, their foes come creeping stealthily along. This with the jealousy within their hearts that glowed, because the star had not on them, too, been bestowed, between our tribes raised feud and jar,—whence bitter grief has grown. They had a king, to whom was known full many a spell of gramarye; ’twas said, that he a league had made with spirits lost, and by their aid could read the scroll of destiny. And there he found this dread decree, which told our coming misery:—

“‘When the star-adorned race, shall fall from innocence and grace,—when their first murder shall be done,—when their monarch’s first-born son by the waves of the sea shall swallowed be;—then vain shall be rendered their song and their prayer,—from amongst them the white cross shall disappear,—and to insects transformed they shall flutter and creep, doomed far from their own land to wander and weep. The fatal spell may be undone only by their king’s lost son; but ere even he can set them free, he must their chosen sovereign be.’

“The king of the butterflies, when he heard this, began to consider how he might contrive to bring us to endless wretchedness; and as by magic he could appear in any form he chose to wear, an angel’s guise he took one day, and neared the spot where our king lay deep sleeping in a tulip’s cup. He by the rustling wakened up, was struck with wonder and pious awe, when he the angel near him saw; who thus in wicked words began:—

“‘Thy loving wife shall bear a son to thee, of whom ’tis written in the Book of Fate, that if he be not whelmed beneath the sea, the elfin nation shall be desolate, and from their native country driven:—such is the mysterious will of Heaven. Therefore must thou this offering make for the elfin nation’s sake; else thy people’s love for thee, will turn to hatred when they see thou wilt not save them from their misery; and thou thyself a shameful death shalt die.’

“This said, the guilty wretch departed. No longer slept the king; but heavy hearted, he musing lay, till break of day. And lo! just as the sun his radiance bright o’er earth began to shed, the queen gave birth unto a child, lovely and innocent and mild, and small as a pin’s head!

“The king looked on it, but no pleasure glowed in his heart at this new treasure; and as he gazed, an icy chill through all his members seemed to thrill; for love of his people, and desire to save his own life, did inspire his thoughts with a ferocious plan.

“He had a faithful serving-man, to whom his secret he confided; and to him command he gave to plunge the child beneath the wave, there to find a watery grave. The boy, however, did not perish:—how he escaped I shall tell thee hereafter.


“Thus no murder yet had stained the nation; and the white cross still remained amongst us, and we dwelt unchanged in our accustomed spot. But the servant, by remorse urged on, revealed the murder he had done. Then, loyal as was hitherto the nation, the crime so raised our indignation, that our duty we forgot.

“In the first tumult of their ire some of our fiercest spirits did conspire their monarch’s blood to spill. They tore the thorns from the stem of the rose, and the strongest and longest and sharpest they chose to work their wicked will. Beneath their mantles green they hid the spears; and sought their king, the curse-beladen one, who again in the tulip lay alone in sorrow and in tears. Wildly they the stem ascended, and in their rage they struck the deadly blow; they pierced him till his heart’s blood forth did flow,—and with his life, his sorrow ended.

“Now the sinful deed was done,—now our innocence was gone! Heaven withdrew its sheltering hand. The white cross the old man had given, the token of our bond with heaven,—vanished from the land! And as we flocked together trembling, we heard a rushing through the air, as if fierce winds in conflict were. Devouring grief our hearts distracted; our delicate limbs all suddenly contracted, and into ugly worms we turned!

“Yet as we were not guilty all of the vile crime that caused our fall, the fair light still upon our foreheads burned. And as we sat in fear and gloom, a shrill voice thus pronounced our doom.

“Henceforth as homeless worms, away, away!—wander and stray, here and there, and up and down, until at length ye place the crown on the brow of the child who by your king’s decree was sunk amid the waves of the foaming sea. Far, far from hence is his dwelling-place, and he seems like a child of the human race,—but him ye shall know by the star on his brow.

“‘Your lost cross, too, ye must find once more, which he is destined to restore; when your king and your cross shall again be found, your penance shall end and the spell be unbound.’

“The gay-dressed elves who had their king deceived by treachery and lies, were, like ourselves, transformed, and became butterflies.

“Soon as we heard our melancholy doom, we fled, and traversed many a distant land,—ever peering through the gloom, into each little sleeping-room; peeping about us all the night, in hope to see the twinkling light on the brow of some fair boy. And we looked on many a blessed child, who in his sleep so sweetly smiled, that we would have chosen him with joy,—but the star was wanting still.”

“Poor worms!” said Julius; “and thus you still are seeking now, the boy with the star upon his brow?”

“Oh! no my child! by Heaven led, we have found the child with the light on his head; and now I will tell what him befel.

“In his death-struggle with the waves, unto a leaflet green he clung which floated on the tide, and with a lightsome bound he sprang upon its upturned side. Contented thus he lay at rest, swayed by the billows here and there, safely housed and free from care, in the leaflets’ soft green breast. His only food was the radiance bright which the stars shed down on him by night, and by that delicate food sustained he made a voyage long.

“But why dost thou stare so fixedly?—why dreamily gaze before thee so?”

Then Julius said:—

“A dreamy sense is o’er me stealing, of moments long gone by:—when I in a green leaf thus was laid, gazing upwards on the sky, whilst the dancing waves around me played. I was rocked by the sea as it rippled lightly,—fed by the stars which shone o’er me brightly; and on I sailed right merrily! And feeding thus on the delicate light by the bright stars downward shed, my nature grew unfit to live by the grosser human bread.”

“Now that the light is o’er thee breaking, now that thy memory is awaking,—hear me further,” said the glow-worm.—”For four long months the billows bore the child, until he reached the shore of a far and distant land, where they left him on the strand. A stork came proudly stalking by,—well pleased when he such prize did spy; for by the garment green deceived, a tree-frog he the child believed. And he resolved the morsel rare to carry home unto his wife, who loved almost as her life, such choice and tender fare. He took him in his fine long beak, and with him mounted in the air; but had not travelled far nor long, when he beheld an eagle strong flying towards him in might; and being somewhat of a coward, surprised at this event untoward, his bill he opened in a fright,—and down the elfin child from high fell to the earth again.

“Why dost thou start as if some pain shot through thee? Why on thy breast are thy small hands pressed?”

The boy replied:—

“I feel an icy chill through all my members thrill. It must have been a dream, but unto me doth seem that I had such a fall one day,—and such a piercing blast right through my breast then passed, its very memory takes my breath away.”

Then the glow-worm said:—

“Oft we mistake some vision vain for life’s reality,—and view the wild creations of our brain as things long past but true. But listen, now, while I conclude my tale. Thou think’st perhaps the child, in falling, his limbs would break or dislocate; but as a feather would descend, light fell that child on the foliage green, and not a tender leaf was seen beneath his weight to bend. Giddy with spinning through the air, and breathless for awhile he lay; but soon to sense he did awaken, and found that he no harm had taken. Above his head, full, bright, and red, a strawberry hung, green leaves among, and its fragrance o’er him shed. Whether the child was of wit bereft, or that, deprived of the starry spark, he had fasted so long in the stork’s bill dark, that hunger did his sense betray, is more than I can think or say; but the berry to him seemed ruddy and bright, as if woven with a web of light. This when the foolish elf-child saw, he strove with all his might to draw the unwholesome earth-fruit to the ground, which he no easy labour found; then round his little arms he threw, and to his lips the fruit he drew and sucked its ruby juice. A weary task the boy did find, to penetrate the tough hard rind; then for a second’s space he drained the nectar which the fruit contained,—one hundredth part at least he drank,—and mastered by its potency, upon the earth he sank.

“But alas! all was now lost, that earthly food was unto him fell poison. Soon each little limb unseemly swelled and spread. His floating golden locks, as fine as the slight thread that spiders twine, became as coarse as hay; and every nerve and sinew grew thick and unsightly to the view. The berry’s power had changed him into a child of man; and he now began to scream and cry and make such direful noises, as would have drowned the united sound of a thousand elfin voices.”

“Ah woe is me!” exclaimed Julius, sobbing; “if I had not so madly sucked the deadly juice of that coarse berry, I still should feed on the perfumed air, and never have known vile human fare.”

Then the glow-worm, greatly excited, whispered to him:—

“Know, child beloved, I am thy mother:—the elfin queen, entranced with joy at finding thee, dear human boy! Alas! that thou shouldst so gigantic be and I so very small, that we cannot rush into each other’s arms to seal the charms of meeting by a kiss! Thou bearest the light upon thy brow that dull-eyed mortals cannot see; but we have found thee, child, and now from the magic thrall both we and those shall soon be free.

“List, and hear me, while I tell how thou may’st unbind the spell. First, thou must the white cross find; which, when withdrawn from us by Heaven, was to a holy hermit given. Wandering in the north, he bore it,—toiling in the south, he wore it,—whilst many a wonder by its power he wrought: and when his pious mission the holy man had ended, he took it to a church where as a relic ’tis suspended. The church full often hast thou seen when wandering in the forest green; and thither must thou go this night, nor sound nor sight must thy heart affright, and nought must make thee in thy purpose falter,—but boldly take the cross from the high altar. Nought of evil shall come to thee—’tis only fear that can undo thee; for the Butterfly King will strive, from fright, to make thee turn again, and all thy hopes our race to right, by magic to render vain. The cross hangs to a rosary, and a lamp burns before it unceasingly. Now, off to thy work without delay, and to the chapel gate on thy steps we will wait, to light thee on thy way.”

Then up sprang Julius joyously. “How light feels my bosom, my heart how strong!—’tis as if I had known this all along. Hurrah! I’m the Elfin King. Little care I for the false butterfly. The white cross from the church I’ll quickly bring. Come, light me, light me on the track!—triumphant soon you will see me back!”

Then his mother, attended by all the other glow-worms, lighted him on his way, and he followed with bounding steps. They drew up outside the church-door whilst he entered alone; cold blasts blowing down upon him from the lofty, pale, glimmering dome. Onward he went without fear. A great hideous bat fluttered round his head twittering: “Return; go not to the altar high, for if to spurn my threat thou dare, I will stick my claws into thy hair, and tear thy locks out one by one, until with pain thou shalt cry and moan, and thy curly head shall be bald as a stone.”

“For this coarse straw I little care, soon I shall have much finer hair,” said Julius;—and on he went cheerfully.

Next came a great black owl, with very sharp beak and claws, and sparkling eyes. He also fluttered round Julius, till the tips of his frightful wings scratched the boy’s forehead, whilst he screeched aloud: “Return, return, go quickly back, else thy blue eyes I will claw and hack till thou shalt cry in agony, and blinded thou shalt be.”

“My eyes are not so very fine; I shall soon have some that will softer shine,” answered Julius, as he approached the altar before which stood the undying lamp.

Then suddenly up rose a pale rattling skeleton, round whose scraggy neck hung the rosary with the white cross; and as the spectre glared at him from its eyeless sockets, it said with a hollow voice: “Forbear, forbear, audacious boy! Ere that cross thy prize can be, thou must conquer it from me. I am Death, the strong, the mighty; no mortal yet has vanquished me.”

Julius shrank, and for a moment hesitated; but he heard his mother whisper from the church-door: “Away with fear, ’tis all delusion, magic art and vain illusion. Fearlessly upon him look—thy gaze the phantom cannot brook; by thy mild look and gentle eye, thou shalt win the victory. Seize the cross and banish fear, the spectre so shall disappear.”

Julius then regained courage; he rushed up to the skeleton and grasped the cross! Instantly the phantom vanished, and all was still around him. He returned thoughtfully and without running. The elves were waiting for him at the door, and lighted him back to the place whence they had come. He then set up the cross on a little mossy hillock; and all the glow-worms formed themselves into a circle round it, and prayed and sang songs of gratitude,—which, however, were inaudible to Julius.

His mother then seated herself on the tip of his ear, and whispered: “Ere our deliverance full can be, thou must once more become as we. The charmed drink already in thy veins is working. Four elements it contains: the sound of my voice, the forest’s cool air, the fragrance of the flowers by night, and the brightly-coloured light which thou didst so eagerly inhale whilst we were dancing round thee. If that thou dost desire once more thy coarse fat body to restore to its once delicate form, then know, thou must henceforth to eat forego, save of the rays from the bright stars beaming, save of the sweets from the young flowers streaming. Now, sleep in peace, and by to-morrow’s light thy limbs will be more delicate and slight.”

Julius stretched himself on the moss, and slept. The next morning he did not waken until it was late; and then he felt himself so wonderfully light that he fancied he must be able to jump as high as the heavens. In order to try his strength, he made a spring, intending to clear a little ant-heap which he mistook for a hill; but he fell in the midst of it, and had great difficulty in extricating himself, so small had he already become. He ate nothing all that day; and at night, was lighted to bed by the glow-worms who danced round him whilst he slept.

On the second day he had already become so diminutive that he was obliged to stand on tip-toe to smell a yellow primrose. When he awoke on the third morning, he saw high in the heavens the sun with its golden disk surrounded by silver-white rays. But it did not dazzle him in the least, let him look at it as steadfastly as he would; and, to his great surprise, he observed an entirely green rainbow which stretched down from it to the earth. He went close to it; and then discovered that the rainbow was only a thick stem, which he grasped with both hands, and by a great effort shook,—when behold! the sun moved a little out of its place. He could not help laughing at himself; for he now perceived that what he had taken for the yellow sun with the white rays and the green rainbow, was only a large daisy on its stalk.

He had now diminished to the proper dimensions of an elf. When evening came, therefore, all the glow-worms assembled round him on the moss to swear fealty to him. The peers of the realm brought with them a crown of pure star-light ore, very delicately and tastefully wrought, with which they solemnly crowned Julius, and no sooner was the crown placed on his head, than in a moment, as if by magic touch, they were all changed into little graceful elves, and on the brow of each was a star. They then took the oath of fidelity, and Julius swore to maintain the constitution. This done, the rejoicings began, and they shouted and huzzaed until the noise was as great as that which the grass makes when it is growing in the sweet spring time.

Julius and his mother embraced and kissed each other. She could not repeat too often how pretty and slight he was, and how very much he resembled his father:—and then she shed oceans of tears for her murdered husband.

The elves rejoiced the whole night through; but when the morning dawned, they said to each other with some uneasiness: “How are we to get back to India, to our beautiful native land?” Then a light breeze murmured amongst the branches, and shook down a hundred-leaved rose, so that all its delicate curved petals were scattered to the ground—and a voice was heard, saying:

“There your carriages, light as air, you to the spicy east shall bear,—and the cross you shall find in your own bright land, already borne there by an unseen hand.”

All the elves now seated themselves in the rose leaves,—Julius and his mother and the court occupying the finest. Then a gentle zephyr sprang up; which raised all the rose leaves into the air, and wafted them softly in the morning dawn home to the east,—the elves singing:—

To India, to India, the land of our birth!
Where the zephyrs blow lightly,
And the flowers glow brightly,
And the atmosphere scent-laden floats o’er the earth;
Where under the wide-spreading leaves we find shelter,
Nor care how winds whistle, nor how the storms pelter.
Over our heads
Their green roof spreads—[70]
And safe within their vernal bowers
We elfin spirits dance and play,
While some soft and holy lay
Is sung by the tall and fragrant flowers
On their green stems bending,
And heavenward sending
Angel hymns of joyous blending.
In solemn pomp again we’ll tread,
By our tapers’ light,
In the still dark night,
To bring to their resting-place the dead!
—Away then, away! carried swift by the wind,
At the dawning of day to our native Ind!

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