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The Line Of Golden Light Or The Little Blind Sister[i]

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - MODERN FAIRY TALES


Once upon a time there lived a child whose name was Avilla; she was
sweet and loving, and fair to look upon, with everything in the world to
make her happy--but she had a little blind sister, and Avilla could not
be perfectly happy as long as her sister's eyes were closed so that she
could not see God's beautiful world, nor enjoy His bright sunshine.
Little Avilla kept wondering if there was not something that she could
do which would open this blind sister's eyes.

At last, one day, she heard of an old, old woman, nobody knew how old,
who had lived for hundreds of years in a dark cave, not many miles away.
This queer, old woman knew a secret enchantment, by means of which the
blind could receive their sight. The child Avilla asked her parents'
permission to make a journey to the cave, in order that she might try to
persuade the old woman to tell her this secret. "Then," exclaimed she,
joyfully, "my dear sister need sit no longer in darkness." Her parents
gave a somewhat unwilling consent, as they heard many strange and wicked
stories about the old woman. At last, however, one fine spring morning,
Avilla started on her journey. She had a long distance to walk, but the
happy thoughts in her heart made the time pass quickly, and the soft,
cool breeze seemed to be whispering a song to her all the way.

When she came to the mouth of the cave, it looked so dark and forbidding
that she almost feared to enter it, but the thought of her little blind
sister gave her courage, and she walked in. At first she could see
nothing, for all the sunshine was shut out by the frowning rocks that
guarded the entrance. Soon, however, she discerned the old woman sitting
on a stone chair, spinning a pile of flax into a fine, fine thread. She
seemed bent nearly double with age, and her face wore a look of worry
and care, which made her appear older.

The child Avilla came close to her side, and thought, she is so aged
that she must be hard of hearing. The old woman did not turn her head,
nor stop her spinning. Avilla waited a moment, and then took fresh
courage, and said, "I have come to ask you if you will tell me how I can
cure my blind sister?" The strange creature turned and stared at her as
if she were very much surprised; she then spoke in a deep, hollow voice,
so hollow that it sounded as if she had not spoken for a very long time.
"Oh," said she with a sneer, "I can tell you well enough, but you'll not
do it. People who can see, trouble themselves very little about those
who are blind!" This last was said with a sigh, and then she scowled
at Avilla until the child's heart began to beat very fast. But the
thought of her little blind sister made her brave again, and she cried
out, "Oh please tell me. I will do anything to help my dear sister!" The
old woman looked long and earnestly at her this time. She then stooped
down and searched in the heap of the fine-spun thread which lay at her
side until she found the end of it. This she held out to the child,
saying, "Take this and carry it all around the world, and when you have
done that, come to me and I will show you how your blind sister may be
cured." Little Avilla thanked her and eagerly seized the tiny thread,
and wrapping it carefully around her hand that she might not lose it,
turned and hastened out of the close, damp cave.

She had not traveled far before she looked back to be sure the thread
had not broken, it was so thin. Imagine her surprise to see that instead
of its being a gray thread of spun flax, it was a thread of golden
light, that glittered and shone in the sunlight, as if it were made of
the most precious stuff on earth. She felt sure now that it must be a
magic thread, and that it somehow would help her to cure her blind
sister. So she hastened on, glad and happy.

Soon, however, she approached a dark, dense forest. No ray of sunlight
seemed ever to have fallen on the trunks of its trees. In the distance
she thought she could hear the growl of bears and the roar of lions. Her
heart almost stopped beating. "Oh, I can never go through that gloomy
forest," said she to herself, and her eyes filled with tears. She turned
to retrace her steps, when the soft breeze which still accompanied her
whispered: "Look at the thread you have been carrying! Look at the
golden thread!" She looked back, and the bright, tiny line of light
seemed to be actually smiling at her, as it stretched across the soft
greensward, far into the distance, and, strange to say, each tiny blade
of grass which it had touched, had blossomed into a flower. So, as the
little girl looked back, she saw a flowery path with a glittering line
of golden light running through it. "How beautiful!" she exclaimed. "I
did not notice the flowers as I came along, but the enchanted thread
will make the next traveler see them."

This thought filled her with such joy that she pushed forward into the
dark woods. Sometimes she knocked her head against a tree which stood in
her way; sometimes she almost feared she was lost, but every now and
then she would look back and the sight of the tiny thread of golden
light always renewed her courage. Once in a while she felt quite sure
that she could see the nose of some wild beast poking out in front of
her, but when she came nearer it proved to be the joint in a tree trunk,
or some strange fungus which had grown on a low branch. Then she would
laugh at her own fear and go on. One of the wonderful things about the
mysterious little thread which she carried in her hand was, that it
seemed to open a path behind it, so that one could easily follow in her
footsteps without stumbling over fallen trees, or bumping against living
ones. Every now and then a gray squirrel would frisk by her in a
friendly fashion, as if to assure her that she was not alone, even in
the twilight of the dark woods. By and by she came to the part of the
forest where the trees were less dense, and soon she was out in the glad
sunshine again.

But now a new difficulty faced her. As far as she could see stretched a
low, swampy marsh of wet land. The mud and slime did not look very
inviting, but the thought of her little blind sister came to her again,
and she bravely plunged into the mire. The dirty, dripping mud clung to
her dress and made her feet so heavy that she grew weary lifting them
out of it. Sometimes she seemed to be stuck fast, and it was only with
a great effort that she could pull out, first one foot, and then the
other. A lively green frog hopped along beside her, and seemed to say,
in his funny, croaking voice, "Never mind the mud, you'll soon be
through it." When she had at last reached the end of the slippery,
sticky marsh, and stood once more on firm ground, she looked back at the
tiny thread of golden light which trailed along after her. What do you
think had happened? Wherever the mysterious and beautiful thread had
touched the mud, the water had dried up, and the earth had become firm
and hard, so that any other person who might wish to cross the swampy
place could walk on firm ground. This made the child Avilla so happy
that she began to sing softly to herself.

Soon, however, her singing ceased. As the day advanced, the air grew
hotter and hotter. The trees had long ago disappeared, and now the grass
became parched and dry, until at last she found herself in the midst of
a dreary desert. For miles and miles the scorching sand stretched on
every side. She could not even find a friendly rock in whose shadow she
might rest for a time. The blazing sun hurt her eyes and made her head
ache, and the hot sand burned her feet. Still she toiled on, cheered by
a swarm of yellow butterflies that fluttered just ahead of her. At last
the end of the desert was reached, just as the sun disappeared behind a
crimson cloud. Dusty and weary, the child Avilla was about to throw
herself down on the ground to rest. As she did so, her eyes turned to
look once more at the golden thread which had trailed behind her all day
on the hot sand. Lo, and behold! What did she see? Tall shade trees had
sprung up along the path she had traveled, and each tiny grain of sand
that the wonderful thread had touched was now changed into a diamond, or
ruby, or emerald, or some other precious stone. On one side the pathway
across the desert shone and glittered, while on the other the graceful
trees cast a cool and refreshing shade.

Little Avilla stood amazed as she looked at the beautiful trees and the
sparkling gems. All feeling of weariness was gone. The air now seemed
mild and refreshing, and she thought that she could hear in the distance
some birds singing their evening songs. One by one the bright stars came
out in the quiet sky above her head, as if to keep guard while she slept
through the night.

The next morning she started forward on her long journey round the
world. She traveled quite pleasantly for a while, thinking of how cool
and shady the desert path would now be for any one who might have to
travel it, and of the precious jewels she had left for some one else to
gather up. She could not stop for them herself, she was too anxious to
press forward and finish her task, in order that her little blind sister
might the sooner see.

After a time she came to some rough rocks tumbled about in great
confusion, as if angry giants had hurled them at each other. Soon the
path grew steeper and steeper, and the rocks sharper and sharper, until
they cut her feet. Before her she could see nothing but more rocks until
they piled themselves into a great mountain, which frowned down upon
her, as much as to say, "How dare you attempt to climb to my summit?"
The brave child hesitated. Just then two strong eagles with outspread
wings rose from their nest of sticks on the side of a steep cliff near
by, and soared majestically and slowly aloft. As they passed far above
her head they uttered a loud cry which seemed to say, "Be brave and
strong and you shall meet us at the mountain-top."

Sometimes the ragged edges of the rocks tore her dress, and sometimes
they caught the tiny golden thread, and tangled it so that she had to
turn back and loosen it from their hold. The road was very steep and she
was compelled to sit down every few minutes and get her breath. Still
she climbed on, keeping the soaring eagles always in sight. As she
neared the top, she turned and looked back at the enchanted thread
of golden light which she had carried through all the long, strange
journey. Another marvelous thing had happened! The rugged path of sharp,
broken rocks had changed into broad and beautiful white marble steps,
over which trailed the shining thread of light. She knew that she had
made a pathway up this difficult mountain and her heart rejoiced.

She turned again to proceed on her journey, when, only a short distance
in front of her, she saw the dark cave in which lived the strange old
woman who had bidden her carry the line of light around the world. She
hastened forward, and on entering the cave, she saw the old creature,
almost bent double, still spinning the mysterious thread. Avilla ran
forward and cried out, "I have done all you told me to do, now give
sight to my sister." The old woman sprang to her feet, seized the thread
of golden light and exclaimed, "At last! at last! I am freed! The spell
has now been broken."

Then came so strange and wonderful a change that Avilla could hardly
believe her own eyes. Instead of the ugly, cross-looking old crone,
there stood a beautiful princess, with long golden hair, and tender blue
eyes, her face radiant with joy. Her story was soon told. Hundreds of
years ago she had been changed into the bent old woman, and shut up in
the dark cave on the mountain-side, because she, a daughter of the King,
had been selfish and idle, thinking only of herself, and her punishment
had been that she must remain thus disguised and separated from all
companions and friends until she could find someone who would be
generous and brave enough to take the long, dangerous journey around the
world for the sake of others. Her mother had been a fairy princess and
had taught her many things which we mortals have yet to learn. She
showed the child Avilla how, by dipping the golden thread into a spring
of ordinary water, she could change the water into golden water, which
glittered and sparkled like liquid sunshine. Filling a pitcher with this
they hastened together to where the little blind sister sat in darkness
waiting for some one to come and lead her home. The beautiful princess
told Avilla to dip her hands into the bowl of enchanted water, and then
press them upon the closed eyes of her sister. They opened! And the
little blind girl could see!

After that the fairy princess came and lived with little Avilla and her
sister, and taught them how to do many wonderful things, of which I have
not time to tell you to-day.

[I] From "In Story-Land," by Elizabeth Harrison; used by
permission of the publishers, the National Kindergarten and Elementary
College, 2944 Michigan Boulevard, Chicago, Ill.



The Mermaids and the Sea-gulls were collected in crowds upon the shore.
There was hardly a sound except the monotonous splash of little waves
breaking, and the rippling rattle of the shingle as it followed the
water returning. Thousands of eyes were fixed upon the piece of rocky
land that jutted out into the sea, where the Philosopher's magnificent
castle stood, or had stood, for there was now very little of it left.
No wonder the Mermaids and the Mer-babies and the Sea-gulls were
astonished. Even the sea was speckled with fish who were putting their
heads out of the water to watch. For the Philosopher's castle was fading
away, melting like mist before the sun!

The Philosopher himself could be seen rushing about, tearing his
scanty white hair. That was another equally astonishing thing, for only
yesterday the Philosopher had been young and handsome, as well as the
richest and greatest man in all the land--so rich and great that he was
to have married the Princess very soon.

Now he was old and wild and gaunt. A tattered brown cloak with rents and
holes in it hung from his thin shoulders, flapping as he ran about, and
all his dingy dress was dirty and ragged. He looked like a wandering
peddler. What had become of his many servants? Where were his horses and
chariots, and the strange beasts from foreign lands which had wandered
in the beautiful gardens--the gardens with the pavilions, where all the
flowers had been in bloom for the Princess?

There was only one tower standing now, and the top of that was growing
more and more flimsy. Presently, through the walls, rooms could be seen.
In one of them there stood a golden cage, and in it was a Parrot.

Very soon the bars of the cage were like cobwebs, and the Parrot began
to tear them apart. Then he spread his wings with a joyful scream, and
flew on to the rocks, above the heads of the crowds upon the shore.

Immediately every one called a different question to the Parrot, who
smoothed his feathers and took no notice until, when the noise and
excitement were rather less, an old Sea-gull spoke for them all. Then
the new-comer consented to tell what he knew of the events of the day.

It was due, he said, to the Philosopher's having lost the Magic Stone.
Upon this stone his youthful appearance, and everything that he owned,
had depended.

Early that morning a great tumult had suddenly arisen. The Philosopher
went out walking. Soon an old man had rushed in, crying that he had lost
the Magic Stone. He commanded every slave in the castle instantly to
leave whatever work he was doing, and help to find it. At first no one
heeded him, for they could not any of them be persuaded that he was
their master. Then the confusion had grown rapidly worse, for each one
found he was fading away, growing every moment more pale and thin. As
the hours passed all the servants became white ghosts, and they floated
away in companies together.

The furniture was melting now in the same manner. The tables were
sinking down, and all the vessels used for cooking, and what not, were
falling softly and noiselessly upon the floors--where there were any
floors to hold them. Everything was blowing gently about, so that the
air seemed filled with bits of cloud. Presently the remnants would be
swept into the sea by the passing breezes.

"And how have you escaped?" asked the Sea-gull.

The Parrot raised his crest and looked very much offended.

"Because I am real," he said with dignity. "I was the only real thing
in the castle. The Philosopher stole me at the same time that he stole
the Magic Stone."

"Stole it?" cried the Mermaids and the Mer-babies and the Sea-gulls.

"Yes," said the Parrot; "he stole it in a far-off land, and he stole me.
I was to be a present to the Princess; for he thought of marrying the
Princess even at that time, and the Philosopher knew there was not in
all the world another parrot like me."

He opened his wings and puffed up every feather. He certainly was a
magnificent creature. The grown-up Sea-gulls felt quite ashamed of their
homely dresses of black and white; but the young ones only gaped, and
crowded open-mouthed to the front to look.

The Parrot's snowy coat shaded different colors like opals when he
moved, and each feather was edged with gold. The crest upon his head
sparkled as if there were diamonds in it, and under his wings he was

"But I am free!" he cried, as the diamonds glittered and flashed,--"free
to go home where the palm-trees grow, and the sun shines as it never
shines in this chilly land! Look well at me while you can, for you will
never see me again."

With that he poised a moment above them, then sailed away to the South,
like a gorgeous monster butterfly. And they never did see him again.

When they had watched him out of sight, and turned again, there was
nothing remaining of the castle, and the Philosopher, too, had
disappeared. The sun was setting, and the Mermaids and the Mer-babies
went to their homes in the sea, while the Sea-gulls put their little
gulls to bed in the nests among the rocks high above the restless

* * *

Now all the talk was of the Philosopher's Magic Stone, and who should
find it. And at court every one was discussing how this unexpected turn
of events would affect the Princess's marriage. It was to have taken
place in a very short time. The King was very angry. He considered that
a slight had been cast upon the Princess and upon himself by the
carelessness of the Philosopher. He was not well pleased, either,
to know that the great wealth of the man who was to have been his
son-in-law was all due to magic influences. Neither did he like what
he heard of the Philosopher's appearance when last he was seen. He
announced that the Princess's wedding would take place at the time
fixed, and that she should be married to the first Prince, or other
suitable candidate, who arrived on that day. And even the Philosopher
might take his chance of being the first, if he were then in a position
to support the Princess in the luxury to which she had been accustomed.

As for the Princess herself, what did she think of it all? No one knew,
for she did not say. She sat at her palace window, and looked out over
the distant mountains, and dreamed of her wedding day.

"Do you think the Philosopher will find the Stone?" she asked of the
Eldest Lady-in-Waiting, who was in attendance.

"We may well hope so, your Royal Highness," said the Eldest Lady. "He is
a great man and wise. I hear, too, that he had been walking only a short
distance from the castle when he lost the Stone. It can hardly fail to
be found very soon."

The Princess sat still and looked over toward the mountains.

"Do you think the Philosopher will find the Stone?" she asked presently
of the Youngest and Favorite Lady-in-Waiting.

"Alas! your Royal Highness, I fear it is not likely," said the Favorite
Lady. "All the Sea-people have been searching day and night, I hear, and
nothing has been heard of it yet."

The Princess smiled. She still sat and smiled when the Favorite Lady
wrapped a cloak about herself, and took a letter that lay by the
Princess's hand. Then, without permission or instruction, she set out
toward the mountains. The Princess rested her elbows on the
window-ledge, and watched her out of sight, and perhaps wondered who
would be the earliest to arrive, and so fill the place of bridegroom, on
her wedding-day.

And all this time, as the Lady-in-Waiting had said, the Sea-people had
been searching day and night.

The Mer-babies and the little Sea-gulls were quite neglected, and did
no lessons; for every one was too busy to attend to them. They played
about and romped on the shore when they grew tired of hunting for the
Philosopher's Stone. The Sea-gulls had told the land-birds, who were
searching the woods and the fields, while the fresh-water fish knew of
it from their relatives in the sea, and they were searching the lakes
and the rivers. Then the Sea-gulls determined to consult the Great
Albatross of the Southern Seas, the King among all sea-fowl. They
arrived one sunny morning, and found him expecting them, for he had
heard what had happened--in the first place from the Parrot, who had
passed that way. So he was prepared with his answer. It did not satisfy
the Sea-gulls at all. They went away very much disappointed, for the
Albatross was in a bad temper, and said only:

"Go home and attend to the children."

They waited about until late, but he would say nothing more. So they
were obliged to return and confess their want of success to the
Mermaids, who sympathized with them, and agreed that it was very
ill-natured of the Albatross. They proposed to go to the Sea-serpent and
ask his advice, which the Sea-gulls thought a good plan. They set off at
once for the deep seas, where he lived, inquiring of the fish they met
whether any news had been heard. But the fish had nothing to tell, and
the Mermaids came to the Sea-serpent's home.

He was curled on his great rock throne, with giant seaweeds of all
colors waving round him, and the stars of the anemones gleaming out from
dark corners.

The Sea-serpent listened to the request of the Mermaids; but they met
with no better luck than the Sea-gulls, for he said exactly the same:
"Go home and attend to the children."

Then he retired into the great caves, and would not come out again.

So the Mermaids went home disconsolate. They began to think they might
have to give up the hope of finding the Magic Stone.

Of course the Mer-babies heard all that was going on. They discussed
the situation, as usual. They did not mean to be left behind in this
business, though they were not considered to be of any consequence. It
was evidently correct to consult somebody who lived at a distance, and
they thought of the Wise White Bear. He was farther off, too, than
either the Albatross or the Sea-serpent, for he lived at the north pole;
but when he was mentioned the very young Mer-babies for once suggested
that it was nearly bedtime, and they found that they were sleepy. Some
one whispered that the White Bear ate the poor seals, and the youngest
Mer-babies crept into holes in the rocks to rest, they said, while the
little Sea-gulls went walking home, one behind the other, right across
the sands, without having been called. But the older Mer-babies set off
for the north pole.

They arrived home next morning, very tired and very cross. When the
sleepy ones who had stayed behind asked what the Wise Bear had said,
they would not tell, and for the first time the Mer-babies quarreled.
They declared in the end that they would none of them look for the
"Philosopher's ugly Stone ever any more."

So if the Princess really wanted to marry the Philosopher, that day she
lost some of her helpers. But no one knew what she wished, for she never
mentioned him. She sat at her window that looked out over the mountains,
and she gazed ever outward.

It was the night before her wedding. She had been there all day, and for
many days. It was very quiet, and the lamps were lighted. The Eldest
Lady-in-Waiting spread out the lovely robes, ready for the morrow, where
the Princess might see them; but she never moved nor spoke. As midnight
approached she leaned out and let the soft wind blow upon her face.

The hour of midnight was striking from all the belfries, when a great
clatter sounded down below in the courtyard. Horses neighed, and men ran
about. The Princess leaned more forward, and listened. Then a horseman,
whose jewels sparkled in the moonlight, looked up and kissed a hand to
her, and she kissed hers to him. It was one minute past midnight, and
the morning of her wedding-day! She dropped the curtains and turned to
greet the Favorite Lady-in-Waiting, who had come in. The Princess threw
her arms round her Lady's neck to welcome her back, she was so glad and

So it came about that the Prince of the City Over the Mountains was the
first to arrive on that eventful morning; for, though through all the
rest of the night, and up to the very hour of the wedding, noble Princes
and their retinues were received in state by the King, all of them had
to be told that they were too late, and most of them rode off again at
once. Some who had never seen the Princess, but who had been attracted
by reports of her beauty and her stateliness, waited to attend her
marriage feast, and to regret that they had not hurried themselves a
little more.

As for the Philosopher, who should have been one of the chief persons of
interest on that important occasion, no one even thought of him, unless
the Princess did. But she looked too well pleased for any one to suppose
she missed him--which was fortunate, for he was never heard of any more.

When the eventful day was past, the Mermaids and the Sea-gulls covered
the shore once again, talking it over, and the Mer-babies and the little
Sea-gulls stood around listening.

Presently the Mer-mothers said: "No more holidays. Lessons to-morrow!"
and the Mer-babies sighed, and the little Sea-gulls looked gloomy.

One of the Mer-babies stepped forward, holding something.

"Please take care of our pretty ball for us," she said, "until holidays
come again."

As she was speaking the Mermaids sprang up, and they and all the
grown-up Sea-gulls cried with one accord:

"The Philosopher's Stone!"

And, sure enough, it was. It lay in the Mermaid's hand, all glowing with
its magic blue, pale and dark by turns, its wonderful veins panting as
if it were a living thing, its threads of gold moving and twining
underneath, round the red heart burning deep in the midst of it.

"That!" cried every one of the Mer-babies and every one of the little
Sea-gulls. "Why, we have had that all the time! We found it on the
sand, and we have played with it every day since!"

Then the Sea-gulls remembered what the Albatross had said, and the
Mermaids remembered what the Sea-serpent had said, and the Mer-babies
remembered what the Wise White Bear had said, and they all looked at one

Now arose the question, What should be done with the Stone?

It needed no long discussion to settle. Every one agreed that it should
be given to the Youngest Lady-in-Waiting; for she had done for the
Princess what no one else had thought of doing, in carrying her letter
to her true love so that he might be in time to win her. The happy day
just past was entirely owing to her devotion.

The Stone was duly presented to her, and, accordingly, she became the
richest and most beautiful woman in the land, as she was already the
kindest, while the Sea-folks generally, and the Mer-babies in
particular, gained great fame and distinction; for had they not found
the Magic Stone when it was lost, and given it to the nation's favorite?
And they do say that the Favorite Lady-in-Waiting married a charming
Prince almost (but not quite!) as captivating as the husband of the

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