RIPPLE, THE WATER-SPIRIT.





DOWN in the deep blue sea lived Ripple, a happy little Water-Spirit;

all day long she danced beneath the coral arches, made garlands

of bright ocean flowers, or floated on the great waves that sparkled

in the sunlight; but the pastime that she loved best was lying

in the many-colored shells upon the shore, listening to the low,

murmuring music the waves had taught them long ago; and here

for hours the little Spirit lay watching the sea and sky, while

singing gayly to herself.



But when tempests rose, she hastened down below the stormy billows,

to where all was calm and still, and with her sister Spirits waited

till it should be fair again, listening sadly, meanwhile, to the cries

of those whom the wild waves wrecked and cast into the angry sea,

and who soon came floating down, pale and cold, to the Spirits'

pleasant home; then they wept pitying tears above the lifeless forms,

and laid them in quiet graves, where flowers bloomed, and jewels

sparkled in the sand.



This was Ripple's only grief, and she often thought of those who

sorrowed for the friends they loved, who now slept far down in the dim

and silent coral caves, and gladly would she have saved the lives

of those who lay around her; but the great ocean was far mightier than

all the tender-hearted Spirits dwelling in its bosom. Thus she could

only weep for them, and lay them down to sleep where no cruel waves

could harm them more.



One day, when a fearful storm raged far and wide, and the Spirits saw

great billows rolling like heavy clouds above their heads, and heard

the wild winds sounding far away, down through the foaming waves

a little child came floating to their home; its eyes were closed as if

in sleep, the long hair fell like sea-weed round its pale, cold face,

and the little hands still clasped the shells they had been gathering

on the beach, when the great waves swept it into the troubled sea.



With tender tears the Spirits laid the little form to rest upon its

bed of flowers, and, singing mournful songs, as if to make its sleep

more calm and deep, watched long and lovingly above it, till the storm

had died away, and all was still again.



While Ripple sang above the little child, through the distant roar

of winds and waves she heard a wild, sorrowing voice, that seemed to

call for help. Long she listened, thinking it was but the echo of

their own plaintive song, but high above the music still sounded

the sad, wailing cry. Then, stealing silently away, she glided up

through foam and spray, till, through the parting clouds, the sunlight

shone upon her from the tranquil sky; and, guided by the mournful

sound, she floated on, till, close before her on the beach, she saw

a woman stretching forth her arms, and with a sad, imploring voice

praying the restless sea to give her back the little child it had

so cruelly borne away. But the waves dashed foaming up among the

bare rocks at her feet, mingling their cold spray with her tears,

and gave no answer to her prayer.



When Ripple saw the mother's grief, she longed to comfort her;

so, bending tenderly beside her, where she knelt upon the shore,

the little Spirit told her how her child lay softly sleeping, far down

in a lovely place, where sorrowing tears were shed, and gentle hands

laid garlands over him. But all in vain she whispered kindly words;

the weeping mother only cried,--



"Dear Spirit, can you use no charm or spell to make the waves bring

back my child, as full of life and strength as when they swept him

from my side? O give me back my little child, or let me lie beside

him in the bosom of the cruel sea."



"Most gladly will I help you if I can, though I have little power

to use; then grieve no more, for I will search both earth and sea,

to find some friend who can bring back all you have lost. Watch daily

on the shore, and if I do not come again, then you will know my search

has been in vain. Farewell, poor mother, you shall see your little

child again, if Fairy power can win him back." And with these

cheering words Ripple sprang into the sea; while, smiling through her

tears, the woman watched the gentle Spirit, till her bright crown

vanished in the waves.



When Ripple reached her home, she hastened to the palace of the Queen,

and told her of the little child, the sorrowing mother, and the

promise she had made.



"Good little Ripple," said the Queen, when she had told her all,

"your promise never can be kept; there is no power below the sea

to work this charm, and you can never reach the Fire-Spirits' home,

to win from them a flame to warm the little body into life. I pity

the poor mother, and would most gladly help her; but alas! I am a

Spirit like yourself, and cannot serve you as I long to do."



"Ah, dear Queen! if you had seen her sorrow, you too would seek to

keep the promise I have made. I cannot let her watch for ME in

vain, till I have done my best: then tell me where the Fire-Spirits

dwell, and I will ask of them the flame that shall give life to the

little child and such great happiness to the sad, lonely mother:

tell me the path, and let me go."



"It is far, far away, high up above the sun, where no Spirit ever

dared to venture yet," replied the Queen. "I cannot show the path,

for it is through the air. Dear Ripple, do not go, for you can

never reach that distant place: some harm most surely will befall;

and then how shall we live, without our dearest, gentlest Spirit?

Stay here with us in your own pleasant home, and think more of this,

for I can never let you go."



But Ripple would not break the promise she had made, and besought

so earnestly, and with such pleading words, that the Queen at last

with sorrow gave consent, and Ripple joyfully prepared to go. She,

with her sister Spirits, built up a tomb of delicate, bright-colored

shells, wherein the child might lie, till she should come to wake him

into life; then, praying them to watch most faithfully above it,

she said farewell, and floated bravely forth, on her long, unknown

journey, far away.



"I will search the broad earth till I find a path up to the sun,

or some kind friend who will carry me; for, alas! I have no wings,

and cannot glide through the blue air as through the sea," said Ripple

to herself, as she went dancing over the waves, which bore her swiftly

onward towards a distant shore.



Long she journeyed through the pathless ocean, with no friends

to cheer her, save the white sea-birds who went sweeping by, and

only stayed to dip their wide wings at her side, and then flew

silently away. Sometimes great ships sailed by, and then with

longing eyes did the little Spirit gaze up at the faces that looked

down upon the sea; for often they were kind and pleasant ones, and

she gladly would have called to them and asked them to be friends.

But they would never understand the strange, sweet language that

she spoke, or even see the lovely face that smiled at them above the

waves; her blue, transparent garments were but water to their eyes,

and the pearl chains in her hair but foam and sparkling spray; so,

hoping that the sea would be most gentle with them, silently she

floated on her way, and left them far behind.



At length green hills were seen, and the waves gladly bore the little

Spirit on, till, rippling gently over soft white sand, they left her

on the pleasant shore.



"Ah, what a lovely place it is!" said Ripple, as she passed through

sunny valleys, where flowers began to bloom, and young leaves rustled

on the trees.



"Why are you all so gay, dear birds?" she asked, as their cheerful

voices sounded far and near; "is there a festival over the earth,

that all is so beautiful and bright?"



"Do you not know that Spring is coming? The warm winds whispered it

days ago, and we are learning the sweetest songs, to welcome her

when she shall come," sang the lark, soaring away as the music gushed

from his little throat.



"And shall I see her, Violet, as she journeys over the earth?" asked

Ripple again.



"Yes, you will meet her soon, for the sunlight told me she was near;

tell her we long to see her again, and are waiting to welcome her

back," said the blue flower, dancing for joy on her stem, as she

nodded and smiled on the Spirit.



"I will ask Spring where the Fire-Spirits dwell; she travels over

the earth each year, and surely can show me the way," thought Ripple,

as she went journeying on.



Soon she saw Spring come smiling over the earth; sunbeams and breezes

floated before, and then, with her white garments covered with

flowers, with wreaths in her hair, and dew-drops and seeds falling

fast from her hands the beautiful season came singing by.



"Dear Spring, will you listen, and help a poor little Spirit,

who seeks far and wide for the Fire-Spirits' home?" cried Ripple; and

then told why she was there, and begged her to tell what she sought.



"The Fire-Spirits' home is far, far away, and I cannot guide you

there; but Summer is coming behind me," said Spring, "and she may know

better than I. But I will give you a breeze to help you on your way;

it will never tire nor fail, but bear you easily over land and sea.

Farewell, little Spirit! I would gladly do more, but voices are

calling me far and wide, and I cannot stay."



"Many thanks, kind Spring!" cried Ripple, as she floated away on the

breeze; "give a kindly word to the mother who waits on the shore, and

tell her I have not forgotten my vow, but hope soon to see her again."



Then Spring flew on with her sunshine and flowers, and Ripple went

swiftly over hill and vale, till she came to the land where Summer

was dwelling. Here the sun shone warmly down on the early fruit,

the winds blew freshly over fields of fragrant hay, and rustled with

a pleasant sound among the green leaves in the forests; heavy dews

fell softly down at night, and long, bright days brought strength

and beauty to the blossoming earth.



"Now I must seek for Summer," said Ripple, as she sailed slowly

through the sunny sky.



"I am here, what would you with me, little Spirit?" said a musical

voice in her ear; and, floating by her side, she saw a graceful form,

with green robes fluttering in the air, whose pleasant face looked

kindly on her, from beneath a crown of golden sunbeams that cast

a warm, bright glow on all beneath.



Then Ripple told her tale, and asked where she should go; but

Summer answered,--



"I can tell no more than my young sister Spring where you may find

the Spirits that you seek; but I too, like her, will give a gift to

aid you. Take this sunbeam from my crown; it will cheer and brighten

the most gloomy path through which you pass. Farewell! I shall carry

tidings of you to the watcher by the sea, if in my journey round the

world I find her there."



And Summer, giving her the sunbeam, passed away over the distant

hills, leaving all green and bright behind her.



So Ripple journeyed on again, till the earth below her shone

with yellow harvests waving in the sun, and the air was filled

with cheerful voices, as the reapers sang among the fields or in

the pleasant vineyards, where purple fruit hung gleaming through

the leaves; while the sky above was cloudless, and the changing

forest-trees shone like a many-colored garland, over hill and plain;

and here, along the ripening corn-fields, with bright wreaths of

crimson leaves and golden wheat-ears in her hair and on her purple

mantle, stately Autumn passed, with a happy smile on her calm face,

as she went scattering generous gifts from her full arms.



But when the wandering Spirit came to her, and asked for what she

sought, this season, like the others, could not tell her where to go;

so, giving her a yellow leaf, Autumn said, as she passed on,--



"Ask Winter, little Ripple, when you come to his cold home; he knows

the Fire-Spirits well, for when he comes they fly to the earth,

to warm and comfort those dwelling there; and perhaps he can tell you

where they are. So take this gift of mine, and when you meet his

chilly winds, fold it about you, and sit warm beneath its shelter,

till you come to sunlight again. I will carry comfort to the

patient woman, as my sisters have already done, and tell her you are

faithful still."



Then on went the never-tiring Breeze, over forest, hill, and field,

till the sky grew dark, and bleak winds whistled by. Then Ripple,

folded in the soft, warm leaf, looked sadly down on the earth,

that seemed to lie so desolate and still beneath its shroud of snow,

and thought how bitter cold the leaves and flowers must be; for the

little Water-Spirit did not know that Winter spread a soft white

covering above their beds, that they might safely sleep below till

Spring should waken them again. So she went sorrowfully on, till

Winter, riding on the strong North-Wind, came rushing by, with

a sparkling ice-crown in his streaming hair, while from beneath his

crimson cloak, where glittering frost-work shone like silver threads,

he scattered snow-flakes far and wide.



"What do you seek with me, fair little Spirit, that you come

so bravely here amid my ice and snow? Do not fear me; I am warm

at heart, though rude and cold without," said Winter, looking kindly

on her, while a bright smile shone like sunlight on his pleasant face,

as it glowed and glistened in the frosty air.



When Ripple told him why she had come, he pointed upward, where the

sunlight dimly shone through the heavy clouds, saying,--



"Far off there, beside the sun, is the Fire-Spirits' home; and the

only path is up, through cloud and mist. It is a long, strange path,

for a lonely little Spirit to be going; the Fairies are wild, wilful

things, and in their play may harm and trouble you. Come back with

me, and do not go this dangerous journey to the sky. I'll gladly

bear you home again, if you will come."



But Ripple said, "I cannot turn back now, when I am nearly there.

The Spirits surely will not harm me, when I tell them why I am come;

and if I win the flame, I shall be the happiest Spirit in the sea,

for my promise will be kept, and the poor mother happy once again.

So farewell, Winter! Speak to her gently, and tell her to hope still,

for I shall surely come."



"Adieu, little Ripple! May good angels watch above you! Journey

bravely on, and take this snow-flake that will never melt, as MY

gift," Winter cried, as the North-Wind bore him on, leaving a cloud

of falling snow behind.



"Now, dear Breeze," said Ripple, "fly straight upward through the air,

until we reach the place we have so long been seeking; Sunbeam shall

go before to light the way, Yellow-leaf shall shelter me from heat and

rain, while Snow-flake shall lie here beside me till it comes of use.

So farewell to the pleasant earth, until we come again. And now away,

up to the sun!"



When Ripple first began her airy journey, all was dark and dreary;

heavy clouds lay piled like hills around her, and a cold mist

filled the air but the Sunbeam, like a star, lit up the way, the leaf

lay warmly round her, and the tireless wind went swiftly on. Higher

and higher they floated up, still darker and darker grew the air,

closer the damp mist gathered, while the black clouds rolled and

tossed, like great waves, to and fro.



"Ah!" sighed the weary little Spirit, "shall I never see the light

again, or feel the warm winds on my cheek? It is a dreary way indeed,

and but for the Seasons' gifts I should have perished long ago; but

the heavy clouds MUST pass away at last, and all be fair again.

So hasten on, good Breeze, and bring me quickly to my journey's end."



Soon the cold vapors vanished from her path, and sunshine shone

upon her pleasantly; so she went gayly on, till she came up among

the stars, where many new, strange sights were to be seen. With

wondering eyes she looked upon the bright worlds that once seemed dim

and distant, when she gazed upon them from the sea; but now they moved

around her, some shining with a softly radiant light, some circled

with bright, many-colored rings, while others burned with a red,

angry glare. Ripple would have gladly stayed to watch them longer,

for she fancied low, sweet voices called her, and lovely faces

seemed to look upon her as she passed; but higher up still, nearer

to the sun, she saw a far-off light, that glittered like a brilliant

crimson star, and seemed to cast a rosy glow along the sky.



"The Fire-Spirits surely must be there, and I must stay no longer

here," said Ripple. So steadily she floated on, till straight

before her lay a broad, bright path, that led up to a golden arch,

beyond which she could see shapes flitting to and fro. As she drew

near, brighter glowed the sky, hotter and hotter grew the air, till

Ripple's leaf-cloak shrivelled up, and could no longer shield her from

the heat; then she unfolded the white snow-flake, and, gladly wrapping

the soft, cool mantle round her, entered through the shining arch.



Through the red mist that floated all around her, she could see

high walls of changing light, where orange, blue, and violet flames

went flickering to and fro, making graceful figures as they danced

and glowed; and underneath these rainbow arches, little Spirits

glided, far and near, wearing crowns of fire, beneath which flashed

their wild, bright eyes; and as they spoke, sparks dropped quickly

from their lips, and Ripple saw with wonder, through their garments

of transparent light, that in each Fairy's breast there burned a

steady flame, that never wavered or went out.



As thus she stood, the Spirits gathered round her, and their

hot breath would have scorched her, but she drew the snow-cloak

closer round her, saying,--



"Take me to your Queen, that I may tell her why I am here, and ask

for what I seek."



So, through long halls of many-colored fire, they led her to

a Spirit fairer than the rest, whose crown of flames waved to and fro

like golden plumes, while, underneath her violet robe, the light

within her breast glowed bright and strong.



"This is our Queen," the Spirits said, bending low before her,

as she turned her gleaming eyes upon the stranger they had brought.



Then Ripple told how she had wandered round the world in search

of them, how the Seasons had most kindly helped her on, by giving

Sun-beam, Breeze, Leaf, and Flake; and how, through many dangers, she

had come at last to ask of them the magic flame that could give life

to the little child again.



When she had told her tale, the spirits whispered earnestly

among themselves, while sparks fell thick and fast with every word;

at length the Fire-Queen said aloud,--



"We cannot give the flame you ask, for each of us must take a part

of it from our own breasts; and this we will not do, for the brighter

our bosom-fire burns, the lovelier we are. So do not ask us for this

thing; but any other gift we will most gladly give, for we feel kindly

towards you, and will serve you if we may."



But Ripple asked no other boon, and, weeping sadly, begged them

not to send her back without the gift she had come so far to gain.



"O dear, warm-hearted Spirits! give me each a little light from your

own breasts, and surely they will glow the brighter for this kindly

deed; and I will thankfully repay it if I can." As thus she spoke,

the Queen, who had spied out a chain of jewels Ripple wore upon her

neck, replied,--



"If you will give me those bright, sparkling stones, I will bestow on

you a part of my own flame; for we have no such lovely things to wear

about our necks, and I desire much to have them. Will you give it me

for what I offer, little Spirit?"



Joyfully Ripple gave her the chain; but, as soon as it touched her

hand, the jewels melted like snow, and fell in bright drops to the

ground; at this the Queen's eyes flashed, and the Spirits gathered

angrily about poor Ripple, who looked sadly at the broken chain,

and thought in vain what she could give, to win the thing she longed

so earnestly for.



"I have many fairer gems than these, in my home below the sea;

and I will bring all I can gather far and wide, if you will grant

my prayer, and give me what I seek," she said, turning gently to

the fiery Spirits, who were hovering fiercely round her.



"You must bring us each a jewel that will never vanish from our hands

as these have done," they said, "and we will each give of our fire;

and when the child is brought to life, you must bring hither all the

jewels you can gather from the depths of the sea, that we may try them

here among the flames; but if they melt away like these, then we shall

keep you prisoner, till you give us back the light we lend. If you

consent to this, then take our gift, and journey home again; but

fail not to return, or we shall seek you out."



And Ripple said she would consent, though she knew not if the jewels

could be found; still, thinking of the promise she had made, she

forgot all else, and told the Spirits what they asked most surely

should be done. So each one gave a little of the fire from their

breasts, and placed the flame in a crystal vase, through which

it shone and glittered like a star.



Then, bidding her remember all she had promised them, they led her

to the golden arch, and said farewell.



So, down along the shining path, through mist and cloud, she

travelled back; till, far below, she saw the broad blue sea she left

so long ago.



Gladly she plunged into the clear, cool waves, and floated back

to her pleasant home; where the Spirits gathered joyfully about her,

listening with tears and smiles, as she told all her many wanderings,

and showed the crystal vase that she had brought.



"Now come," said they, "and finish the good work you have so bravely

carried on." So to the quiet tomb they went, where, like a marble

image, cold and still, the little child was lying. Then Ripple placed

the flame upon his breast, and watched it gleam and sparkle there,

while light came slowly back into the once dim eyes, a rosy glow shone

over the pale face, and breath stole through the parted lips; still

brighter and warmer burned the magic fire, until the child awoke

from his long sleep, and looked in smiling wonder at the faces bending

over him.



Then Ripple sang for joy, and, with her sister Spirits, robed the

child in graceful garments, woven of bright sea-weed, while in

his shining hair they wreathed long garlands of their fairest flowers,

and on his little arms hung chains of brilliant shells.



"Now come with us, dear child," said Ripple; "we will bear you safely

up into the sunlight and the pleasant air; for this is not your home,

and yonder, on the shore, there waits a loving friend for you."



So up they went, through foam and spray, till on the beach, where

the fresh winds played among her falling hair, and the waves broke

sparkling at her feet, the lonely mother still stood, gazing wistfully

across the sea. Suddenly, upon a great blue billow that came rolling

in, she saw the Water-Spirits smiling on her; and high aloft, in their

white gleaming arms, her child stretched forth his hands to welcome

her; while the little voice she so longed to hear again cried gayly,--



"See, dear mother, I am come; and look what lovely things the

gentle Spirits gave, that I might seem more beautiful to you."



Then gently the great wave broke, and rolled back to the sea, leaving

Ripple on the shore, and the child clasped in his mother's arms.



"O faithful little Spirit! I would gladly give some precious gift

to show my gratitude for this kind deed; but I have nothing save

this chain of little pearls: they are the tears I shed, and the sea

has changed them thus, that I might offer them to you," the happy

mother said, when her first joy was passed, and Ripple turned to go.



"Yes, I will gladly wear your gift, and look upon it as my fairest

ornament," the Water-Spirit said; and with the pearls upon her breast,

she left the shore, where the child was playing gayly to and fro,

and the mother's glad smile shone upon her, till she sank beneath

the waves.



And now another task was to be done; her promise to the

Fire-Spirits must be kept. So far and wide she searched among

the caverns of the sea, and gathered all the brightest jewels

shining there; and then upon her faithful Breeze once more went

journeying through the sky.



The Spirits gladly welcomed her, and led her to the Queen,

before whom she poured out the sparkling gems she had gathered

with such toil and care; but when the Spirits tried to form them

into crowns, they trickled from their hands like colored drops of dew,

and Ripple saw with fear and sorrow how they melted one by one away,

till none of all the many she had brought remained. Then the

Fire-Spirits looked upon her angrily, and when she begged them

to be merciful, and let her try once more, saying,--



"Do not keep me prisoner here. I cannot breathe the flames that

give you life, and but for this snow-mantle I too should melt away,

and vanish like the jewels in your hands. O dear Spirits, give me

some other task, but let me go from this warm place, where all is

strange and fearful to a Spirit of the sea."



They would not listen; and drew nearer, saying, while bright sparks

showered from their lips, "We will not let you go, for you have

promised to be ours if the gems you brought proved worthless; so fling

away this cold white cloak, and bathe with us in the fire fountains,

and help us bring back to our bosom flames the light we gave you

for the child."



Then Ripple sank down on the burning floor, and felt that her life

was nearly done; for she well knew the hot air of the fire-palace

would be death to her. The Spirits gathered round, and began to lift

her mantle off; but underneath they saw the pearl chain, shining with

a clear, soft light, that only glowed more brightly when they laid

their hands upon it.



"O give us this!" cried they; "it is far lovelier than all the rest,

and does not melt away like them; and see how brilliantly it glitters

in our hands. If we may but have this, all will be well, and you

are once more free."



And Ripple, safe again beneath her snow flake, gladly gave

the chain to them; and told them how the pearls they now placed

proudly on their breasts were formed of tears, which but for them

might still be flowing. Then the Spirits smiled most kindly on her,

and would have put their arms about her, and have kissed her cheek,

but she drew back, telling them that every touch of theirs was

like a wound to her.



"Then, if we may not tell our pleasure so, we will show it in a

different way, and give you a pleasant journey home. Come out with

us," the Spirits said, "and see the bright path we have made for you."

So they led her to the lofty gate, and here, from sky to earth,

a lovely rainbow arched its radiant colors in the sun.



"This is indeed a pleasant road," said Ripple. "Thank you,

friendly Spirits, for your care; and now farewell. I would gladly

stay yet longer, but we cannot dwell together, and I am longing sadly

for my own cool home. Now Sunbeam, Breeze, Leaf, and Flake, fly back

to the Seasons whence you came, and tell them that, thanks to their

kind gifts, Ripple's work at last is done."



Then down along the shining pathway spread before her, the happy

little Spirit glided to the sea.





"Thanks, dear Summer-Wind," said the Queen; "we will remember the

lessons you have each taught us, and when next we meet in Fern Dale,

you shall tell us more. And now, dear Trip, call them from the lake,

for the moon is sinking fast, and we must hasten home."



The Elves gathered about their Queen, and while the rustling leaves

were still, and the flowers' sweet voices mingled with their own,

they sang this





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