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

: Boys And Girls Bookshelf


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
ondering 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