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Stories, Dreams and Allegories. Schreiner, Olive, 1855–1920.
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page: 123

DREAMS AND ALLEGORIES

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A SOUL’S JOURNEY—TWO VISIONS

“There is no light in earth or heaven, But the cold white light of stars.”

A SOUL was born down in the deep and dark where all souls are, in a cavern under the earth. And it crept along the floor, and it saw a glow‐worm and it went after it. And when it got to the door of the cave it put out its hand to take it; and the glow‐worm crept into a little hole in the ground; and the soul sat down in the dark, at the door of the cavern, and cried.

And after a while it looked up, and over its head in the darkness it saw a light moving; and it got up and walked after it. And the light went on, and on, and on, and at last the soul caught it. And it sat down on the ground, and parted its finger and thumb to see what it had got. And there was a little damp matter on its finger‐tips; because it was a firefly, and it had crushed it.

And the soul sat on the ground, and screamed and flung itself on the ground, and all was dark, and the soul was young. And after a while it looked up, and, in the dark on the heights above, it saw a light that burnt bright and clear. It began to climb. page: 126 This light did not move. When the soul came to it, it found a house of pure gold, with windows of crystal, and through them the fierce, iridescent light burst; for the house was full of fire. And the soul walked round and round it. And it said, “This is light; this is warmth. How dark it all is elsewhere!” And it went round the house tyrol‐leer‐ing; tyrol‐leer‐ing; tyrol‐leer‐ing! And it went round the house and it sang. And it said, “Oh, I wish the door would open, that I might go in!” And at last it went to the door and knocked softly: and the door opened and it went in. And the door was shut behind it. And the fire burnt inside.

And afterwards the soul came out of that house of fire, with its arms above its head. And it went and lay down in the dark. And there was an odour as of burnt flesh: but the soul was quiet.

And at last the soul looked up. And above it on the height it saw a light burning, still, without flickering. And the soul stood up and began to climb. And it got to the top of the height at last and it came to the light. And the light was a tallow candle in a tin lamp and behind it was a reflector and on the lamp was written “Fame.” And the soul looked at the lamp. And it went a long way off; and sat upon a rock, with its elbows on its knees. And after a while it looked up, and it saw a light burning on the height above its head. Then again it rose up page: 127 and climbed. And when it had got to the top of the hill, the last range, it found the light burning. It was a great fire of logs, laid across and across; and on the logs was written “Friendship.” And the steady blaze went up straight to heaven. It did not flicker or turn; it sent out a steady warmth. And the soul said, “This is truth! This is reality! For this I climbed!” And it held out its hand to the blaze. And over its head were the stars shining, but it looked at the firelight. And it went to sleep there by the fire. And at last the soul woke up. And the fire had gone out. And the soul groped among the ashes with its hands. And there was one tiny coal left; and it clung to its forefinger, and it ate the flesh away, till it had eaten to the bone. And the soul laid its hand in its breast, and it lay down on the ground by the ashes.

And the soul said, “There is now no light more. I have reached the last height. There is now no light to strive for!”

And it lay still with its face on the ground.

And after a while the soul looked up. And over its head were the stars, they that neither rise nor set: that shine not for the individual, but for the whole; they looked down on it.

And the soul rose to its feet.

It knew why it had climbed.

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GOD’S GIFTS TO MEN

THE angels stood before God’s throne to take down his gifts to men.

One said, “What shall I take to the little child?”

God said, “A long cloudless day in which there shall be no rain, to play in.”

And one said, “What shall I take to the woman?”

And God said, “The touch of a little child upon her breast.”

And one said, “For the man?”

God said, “He has all things, let him enjoy.”

“And what shall I take for the poet?”

And there was silence for a little while.

And God said, “For the poet, a long sleep in which there shall be no dream, and to which there shall be no waking: his eyes are heavy.”

And the angels went down.

Alassio, Riviera, Italy.
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THEY HEARD . . .

THE Poet and the Thinker sought for truth.

God bent and held a hand to either.

To the poet he put out his hand from a cloudless vault of blue; the Poet saw it, and climbed.

To the Thinker God stretched his hand from the heart of a mighty cloud; the man looked up and saw it move: he mounted.

On far‐off mountain sides they laboured, looking upwards.

Then he who looked into the blue, cried: “Brother, you are wrong! What lies above you is but dark cloud; reach it—you will find it cold mist. In it you will wander for ever. Over me in the blue sky is that which calls me; I rise to it!”

The Thinker answered: “Fellow, you are dazed. The sun has shone too long upon your head. What lies above you is an empty vault of blue. Enter it, you will find it empty space; you will grasp—air! Over me in that dark storm cloud lives that which calls me: when the lightning flashes and the thunder rolls and the cloud is riven, I see illuminated that which beckons. I mount to it.”

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The Poet cried—“Fool!”

The Thinker—“Blind!”

They both mounted.

At last, when they were very tired, they reached their mountain summits.

God bent, and took his Poet in his left hand, and his Thinker in his right, and laid them in his breast. When they awoke, they were side by side upon the heart of God. One whispered, “By the left hand, I!”; the other, “By the right!” ... and they heard the truth beat.

Mentone, Riviera.
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LIFE’S GIFTS

LIFE came to me, and she gave me a flower; and I wore it in my breast.

Life came to me, and she gave me a jewel; and I set it in a diadem and wore it in my hair.

Life came to me, and she gave me a draught of water when I was thirsty unto death; and I drank it up.

Life came to me, and shot a ray of light on me; and I did not try to catch it. I cried, “Shine on! Thou art not to be held within the hand. Thy mission is to go forward. Shine on!”

London, 1887.
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THE FLOWER AND THE SPIRIT

A FLOWER grew by the roadside.

A spirit passed.

It said: “Beautiful white flower, let me take you in my hands and carry you home. I will take you up with all the soil about you, and carry you safe.”

And the flower said: “No. Your hands will disturb me. Your hot breath will curl my leaves. I grow here by the roadside in my beauty, and all look at me. Go; your hot hands will curl my roots.”

So the spirit went.

And many days after it passed that way: and it was winter now, and all the ground was bare and white with frost. And the flower stood alone in the cold: and it said: “Oh, spirit, take me up, carry me home in your warm hands. I am freezing to death.”

And the spirit said: “No, my hands are full with other flowers. It cannot be now. See, this is all I can do ”—and it bent over the flower and wept page: 133 into its frozen cup burning tears; and for a moment they melted it.

Then the spirit went its way, and the flower stood alone in the cold.

Alassio, Italy, April 2, 1887.
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THE RIVER OF LIFE

A SOUL stood on the bank of the River of Life, and it had to cross it.

And first it found a reed, and it tried to cross with it. But the reed ran into its hand at the top in fine splinters and bent when it leaned on it. Then the soul found a staff and it tried to cross with it: and the sharp end ran into the ground, and the soul tried to draw it, but it could not; and it stood in the water by its staff.

Then it got out and found a broad thick log, and it said, “With this I will cross.” And it went down into the water. But the log was too buoyant, it floated, and almost drew the soul from its feet.

And the soul stood on the bank and cried: “Oh, River of Life! How am I to cross; I have tried all rods and they have failed me!”

And the River answered, “Cross me alone.”

And the soul went down into the water, and it crossed.

Amsteg, Thursday Night, May 1887.
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THE BROWN FLOWER

THE angel who guards the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven left them open one evening by chance, and a man wandered in.

As he looked at the silvery light a holy one came up to him.

“What are you doing here, friend?” it asked. “You have no pass from the Angel of Death; you must go out again.”

And the man answered: “Oh, I am willing to go. I do not wish to stay here” (for the woman he loved was below and his heaven was there). “But let me only gather a few of these flowers of heaven to place on the heart of one I love.”

And the angel said, “Gather them.” For it knew he was in the rapture of first love, and the Angels of God look down with pitying eyes when they see soul fiercely knit to soul.

And the man gathered from their beds crimson, silver, and golden Flowers of Heaven; Rapturous‐joy, Hope‐in‐the‐future, Sweet‐touch‐of‐hands, Union‐in‐daily‐life; these he took and turned to go.

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But the angel called him back.

“You have left the best of all,” she said. “See that small brown flower growing close to the root of the tree; take that. For the flowers you have got, they are only immortal in heaven; on the earth they fade.”

So he gathered the brown flower, and went.

And it came to pass after thirty years that Death went to visit a lonely woman who was at the end of her journey. And Death, Death the all‐seeing, before whom all things are laid bare, looked into the lonely woman’s bosom. Once there had been brilliant flowers laid there, by the hand of a man: Rapturous‐Joy—but that had been nipped by a cruel frost; Sweet‐union‐in‐daily‐life—that she had given up to another; the Sweet‐touch‐of‐hands—it had dropped from her while she was still young; Hope‐in‐the‐future—it had faded and faded slowly away from her. But when Death looked into her bosom, lying against the old shrivelled breast was still one small brown flower, fresh and tender as on the day the man laid it there, and the name of the flower was Trust.

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THE TWO PATHS

A SOUL met an angel and asked of him: “By which path shall I reach heaven quickest—the path of knowledge or the path of love?” The angel looked at him wonderingly and said: “Are not both paths one?”

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A DREAM OF PRAYER

I STOOD on the footstool of God’s throne, I, a saved soul, and I saw the prayers that rose up to heaven go up before him.

And they floated up ever in new shapes and forms. And one prayed for the life of her son, and the sufferer prayed for rest, and the wronged for redress, and the poor for food, and the rich for happiness, and the lonely for love, and the loved for faith. And amid them all I saw a prayer go up that was only this: “Give me power to forgive,” and it passed like a cloud of fire.

And years passed and I stood on the footstool of God’s throne again and saw the prayers go up, and all were changed: he who prayed for love prayed now for power, he who prayed for ease prayed now for strength, she who had prayed for her son prayed now for his child; but I noted one prayer that went up unchanged: “Give me power to forgive.”

Again years passed and I stood on the footstool of God’s throne once more, and saw the prayers go up. Then among them all I noted one I knew; it said only: “Give me power to forgive.”

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And years passed and I stood there again. And the prayers ascended, and were all changed. And I heard a prayer faint and low, which said: “Teach me to forgive.” And I said, “Surely this may be granted now,” for the voice grew weak.

And God said: “It is answered; even now I have sent Death with the message.”

Gersau, Switzerland. May 20, 1887.
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WORKERS

IN a far‐off world, God sent Two Spirits to work. The work he set them to do was to tunnel through a mountain. And they stood side by side and looked at it. And they began to work. They found that the place they had to work in was too narrow; their wings got interlocked. They saw they would never get through the mountain if they worked at it only from that one place.

And one spirit said to the other, “You stay here; I will go and work from the other side.”

And it flew away. And they worked on, each from his side of the mountain. And after years in the dark, each one heard the sound of the other’s axe, picking, and they knew they were getting near— that the other was at work.

But before they got to the centre, these spirits’ sleep‐time came; and God sent other spirits to take their work and place.

But they had heard each other’s axes picking, in the dark; that was enough for them.

Alassio, Riviera, Italy. April 1887.
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THE CRY OF SOUTH AFRICA

GIVE back my dead! They who by kop and fountain First saw the light upon my rocky breast! Give back my dead, The sons who played upon me When childhood’s dews still rested on their heads. Give back my dead Whom thou hast riven from me By arms of men loud called from earth’s farthest bound To wet my bosom with my children’s blood! Give back my dead, The dead who grew up on me!
Wagenaar’s Kraal, Three Sisters. May 9, 1900.
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SEEDS A‐GROWING

I SAT alone on the kopje side; at my feet were the purple fig‐blossoms, and the yellow dandelion flowers were closing for the night. The sun was almost sinking; above him in the west the clouds were beginning to form a band of gold. The cranes were already beginning to fly homeward in long straight lines. I leaned my head against the rock upon the kopje, and I think I slept.

Then it seemed that in the sky above me moved a great white figure, with wings outstretched.

And I called, “Who and what are you, great white Spirit?”

And the Spirit answered, “I am the Spirit of Freedom!”

And I cried, “What do you do here, in this sad land, where no freedom is?”

And he answered me, “I am watching my seeds a‐sowing.”

And I said, “What is there a‐sowing here? Our cornfields are down‐trodden; at day the flames from page: 143 burning farm‐houses rise into the sky, and at night the stars look down on homeless women and young children. Here the walls have ears; we look round to see if no man is following us to listen to the very beating of our hearts. What place is left for you here?”

And he said, “I have watched my seeds a‐sowing. At the foot of every scaffold which rises in town or village, on every spot in the barren veld where men with hands tied and eyes blindfolded are led out to meet death, as the ropes are drawn and the foreign bullets fly, I count the blood drops a‐falling; and I know that my seed is sown. I leave you now, and for a while you shall know me no more; but the day will come when I will return and gather in my harvest.”

And I cried, “Great Spirit, when shall that time be?”

But his wings were spread, and it seemed they covered all the sky as he passed.

And I cried, “Spirit, beware, lest even in the sky they shoot up at you and you be killed for ever in this strange sad land.”

But he cried as he fled from me, “I cannot die! ... Mors janua vitæ!”

And I started up. I saw no spirit, but the sun was sinking. The west was gold and crimson. The last line of cranes with their heads stretched forward page: 144 and their wings outspread were flying homeward. I heard their long, strange cry.

I glanced around me on the kopje, fearing one holding by English gold might have followed me. But the kopje was silent. As I passed back into the village, the barbed‐wire gates were not yet closed; only the dark‐skinned guards scowled at me as I passed them with their rifles at the gate, and armed white men jeered as I went by them; but not one of them knew that I had been speaking with their great enemy on the kopje!

Hanover October 25, 1901.
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THE GREAT HEART OF ENGLAND

I HAVE had a dream; again and again it comes to me, till I fear the night for its return.

I dream that in the war I have lost all my clothes. That they have shot to pieces the old dress that I wore so long and love so. And I go to have a new dress made, and I take the only stuff I can find, and the skirt is of three colours, red, white, and blue, and the body is a strip of green.

And when I have got it on I go down the street, dancing, dancing, dancing. And the people stop me and they say, “Why have you got that dress on?” And I say, “Do you not see it is the four colours? They shot all my old dresses to pieces in the war, the old dresses that I loved so. Now I could get nothing else but this.” And they say, “Why are you dancing so?” And I say, “Because my heart, my heart, is broken.”

And all the time, as I dance, the tune that I dance to, and the words that I sing, are the words of an old song I heard long ago when I was a child: “They are hanging men and women now, For the wearing of the Green.”
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And then there is a sudden stop, there is a gleam of bayonets, and a sound of guns firing; and then all is silence.

“They are hanging men and women now, For the wearing of the Green.”

And I wake, and the cold drops are hanging on my forehead, and I cry aloud in my anguish, “Who will save me from this nightmare? Can nothing break it?”

And then I know that one thing only can break it: if I could hear the beat of a great heart, the heart that has loved justice and hated oppression, that has sought after righteousness rather than gold, “That strikes as soon for a trodden foe, As it does for a soul‐bound friend,” —the great heart of England.

And in the dark I lean forward listening, that across six thousand miles of sea I may perchance hear that heart beat.

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WHO KNOCKS AT THE DOOR?

I LAY upon my couch. Outside for days heavy snow had fallen, and the long trails of the roses that grew over the balcony were weighted with balls of frozen snow, and the wind blew them hither and thither. They tapped upon the window panes and against the woodwork of the balcony.

I had grown weary of looking at that dreary world outside; and I rose and drew the curtains across the windows and lit the light at the head of my couch, and lay down again to read the evening newspaper.

It was the old, old story, such as one read every night: Death and destruction; “heavy losses of the enemy ”—always that; and then the long straight list of names, which one followed holding oneself tight, lest one among them should stab one to the very heart; then columns of hatred and abuse; then statements which men in calm hours would never make, or balanced men listen to; omissions and suppressions, till, amid it all, the mind groped like a small animal under a pile of decaying mould seeking to find the way to one ray of light; one judged page: 148 what might be truth only by what was left out, and the reality by what was denied. It was an old, old story; one read it every day. There was nothing new in it.

I was going to drop the newspaper on to the floor, and try to turn my thoughts to other matters, and then my eye caught sight of a paragraph, in very small type, at the left‐hand corner on the inside page. It was printed in type so fine and the paragraph was so short that many reading might not notice it, and if they did, might not trouble to decipher it. Yet, it was something new; it seemed to have crept into the corner of the paper by chance. Having read it once, one read it over, and then again. It set one’s thoughts travelling far.

Holding the paper in my hands, I think I must have fallen fast asleep, for I thought I found myself in a great forest. On every side the stems of the trees towered up above me like the aisles of some vast cathedral, and high above my head the wind struck their mighty branches together. I wrapped my mantle tight about my head and struggled on in the darkness: there was no path, and the dead branches cracked beneath my feet. It seemed to be one of those primeval forests, such as sheltered the forbears of our peoples—Suevi and Alamanni, Goth and Visigoth, Frank and Saxon, Lombard and Burgundian, before we spread ourselves out over Europe from the shores page: 149 of the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay to Gothland, from the wet Tin Islands of the North Sea to the blue waters of the Mediterranean; who followed Ruric into the frozen steppes of the north, and Theodoric into Italy; and drank Sicilian wines with our Northmen leaders under the slopes of Mount Etna.

As I wandered in that impenetrable darkness, at last it seemed to me as though, from far off, I saw a gleam of light, and it almost seemed to me I heard distant sounds which were not those of the forest and the storm. I struggled onward, and, at last, I came to a place where through the darkness, under the over‐arching trees, I could see looming a mighty building; light streamed from its windows of many‐coloured glass, and from within came sounds of song and music, and loud laughter and shouts, as of those who applaud and rejoice.

I crept close up to the building, and pressed my face against a pane in a small window and looked in. It was a wonderful scene that met my eyes. Within was a vast hall built of richly carved woods, and the pillars that supported it were shaped in every lovely form, and sprang upwards into the groined roof, from which hung thousands of glittering lights; and along the walls golden torches were flaming; and beneath stood works of art, and scattered about the Hall were large tables, covered with glittering crystal and gold and silver vessels; and upon the tables were loaded page: 150 all of rich and rare of viands and wines that the earth produces.

Around the tables sat men and women clad in gorgeous robes; some had golden crowns on their heads and sceptres in their hands, and others paid court to them; and the women wore jewels of gold set heavily with precious stones, till they seemed weighted with them.

And I saw that from table to table they passed the rare viands and wines, exchanging them with one another; and men and women sang and danced now before this table and then before that, and the feasters showered gold and jewels upon them; and I saw men take ornaments from their own breasts and pass them on to men at other tables. And I noticed that though there were differences between those who sat at the different tables, yet they were all really of one garb and one appearance. And I said to myself, “Surely this is some vast banqueting house, where a great kindred are holding high festival together.” And I thought, “Surely never since earth was earth has so much of richness, of rarity, been gathered together in one spot.” And I marvelled when I thought of the labour which had brought all these things together, where once only the trees of the forest stood.

And then, as I looked, I noticed that all the men wore daggers fastened at their sides: and as I watched, page: 151 I thought I saw that though their lips were smiling sometimes their brows lowered; and I thought that some cast looks of envy as the viands passed from table to table; and it even seemed to me some whispered behind their hands as they glanced at one another: and though dance and song and feasting went on, the feeling came to me that, perhaps, all was not so well with that great company.

And then, I hardly seemed to know what happened, but at a table at the far end some drew their daggers and a man and woman fell dead upon the floor. Then from other tables others arose and stabbed at one another, and flung one another to the earth; and more and more arose, till from end to end of that great Hall blood flowed and men fell wounded and dying to the ground. And the tables were overturned; and the rare viands and the rich wines and glittering crystals and costly ornaments and rare works of art fell scattered and broken on the ground. And I saw that, in their mad rage, men seized broken fragments from the floor and hurled them at one another, till the glass in every door and window was shattered and the very walls were indented. And I saw women, who, with wild, hoarse voices, called on the men to stab and kill yet more; and some passed on to the men fragments to hurl at one another, though they themselves fell often buried beneath the heaps of killed and wounded.

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And I, looking on through the shattered window, wrung my hands and cried, “Stop it! Stop it! Can you not see, you are destroying all?” But it might have been two small leaves in the forest trees overhead clapping themselves together, for any sound the feeble words made in that vast tumult.

And in their madness I saw men drag down the great glittering lights that hung from the centre of the Hall, and fling the fragments at one another; and tear down the lighted torches that were fastened to the walls, and strike one another with them. And as the lights fell down on that seething mass that covered the floor, they set fire to the garments of the fallen, and smoke began to rise. And outside the window where I stood came the stench of burning human flesh.

And I was silent with horror; for surely never since man was man upon the earth was there such a great and horrible destruction in any Hall where a great human kindred were gathered together.

And then, as I stood gazing in, it almost seemed to me, though I could not tell surely, that, from the far end of the Hall, where the great shattered doorway stood, I heard—three, slow, clear, distinct knocks! I listened; and then again I heard the sounds, and this time I knew I was not mistaken—slow, clear, distinct! And as I looked across that fallen mass of ruin, it seemed to me, I saw, page: 153 through a broken pane in the great shattered doorway at the far end, a human face looking in! The smoke came in between it and me; but I know I saw it.

And as I gazed, the flames began to creep up the walls of the Hall, and up the carved pillars, towards the roof itself.

And I wrapped my mantle tight about my head, and turned away into the darkness and the night. For my heart was wae for the great desolation had seen—that men with their own hands should tear down that which with so much toil they had reared, and should consume that which with so much labour they had gathered, and that so much of the rare and beautiful should be no more! I sorrowed me over that great, brave company which had wrought so much. It might be, I knew well, that those whose knock I had heard might enter in, and take possession of that great Banquet House, and might even rebuild it in a nobler and fairer form: might build it so wide that not only one kindred but all kindreds might gather in it; and that the wine which they drank might give no madness, and the weapons be no more found at the sides of those who banqueted.

But for me, I was sore sorrowful over the destruction of that great kindred, and I wept as I stumbled onwards in the dark.

And the trees of that primeval forest, as they knocked page: 154 their vast branches together over my head, cried: “Mad—MAD!—MAD!”

I woke: I was still lying stretched on the couch with the electric light burning at my head: the paper I had held up in my hand had fallen down on my breast. Outside the wild wind that had raged had grown silent, and the rose branches no longer tapped on the woodwork. I listened to the silence.

Then again I took up the evening paper and re‐read the small paragraph at the left‐hand corner on the inside page. And one’s thoughts travelled far into the future.

London, 1917.
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THE WINGED BUTTERFLY

THE insects lived among the flowers. They were all soft, lovely little creatures without wings.

By and by one little caterpillar began to have tiny lumps upon his shoulders that grew out and out. “Ah,” said the others, “he is ugly, see, he is deformed.” And the little caterpillar hid behind the leaves, and the lumps grew more and more, and at last they came out lovely little wings. Then he came back to his fellows, and they all said, “Oh, lovely little brother. Oh, lovely brother.” And he shook little wings, and he said, “It was for this I went away, for this to grow I was deformed.” And he flew round. And he came to one that he loved and he said, “Come, climb with me and let us go and sit on that flower.” And his comrade said, “I cannot climb; it tires me; I have no wings like you. Go alone.” And he said, “No, I will go with you.” And the other said, “I am going here in this little hole in the earth.” And the butterfly tried to fold his wings and creep in after him, but he could not; and he almost tore his wings off in the door, but he could not. Then he went away, and he said to another, “Come, let us be companions.” And the other said, page: 156 “Yes, I like your wings, but you must walk by me; you must not use your wings and fly.” And he said, “Yes, I will only wrap them down.” And they walked a little way together. Then the other said, “You are going too fast; your wings blow you on; do go slower.” And the butterfly held his little wings as still as he could. And the other said, “They stick up so; couldn’t you lay them against your side?” And he said “Yes.” But when he held them against his side they ached so they nearly fell off. They ached, and ached, and ached. And the other said: “What are you so slow for? I thought one with wings would go faster than another. I thought you were so beautiful when you were up in the air. You are very ugly now. What are wings for? They only draggle in the mud.”

Then the little butterfly spread his wings and flew away, away, away; and he kept far from the others and flew about by himself among the flowers.

And then the others said, “See how happy he is flying about there among the flowers, he’s so proud of his wings.”

And one day the little butterfly sat on a rose, and died there. And the others thought it died of drinking too much honey. None of them knew that it died of a broken heart.

Harpenden, August 27, 1888.

Printed in Great Britain by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.

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