the way. On they went, and after a while, reached a path lit up by
bright jewels hung upon the walls. Here Downy-Back, and Glimmer,
the glow-worm, left him, saying,–
“We can lead you no farther; you must now go on alone, and the music
of the Spirits will guide you to their home.”
Then they went quickly up the winding path, and Thistle, guided
by the sweet music, went on alone.
He soon reached a lovely spot, whose golden halls were bright
with jewels, which sparkled brightly, and threw many-colored shadows
on the shining garments of the little Spirits, who danced below
to the melody of soft, silvery bells.
Long Thistle stood watching the brilliant forms that flashed and
sparkled round him; but he missed the flowers and the sunlight,
and rejoiced that he was not an Earth Spirit.
At last they spied him out, and, gladly welcoming him, bade him join
in their dance. But Thistledown was too sad for that, and when he
told them all his story they no longer urged, but sought to comfort
him; and one whom they called little Sparkle (for her crown and robe
shone with the brightest diamonds), said: “You will have to work
for us, ere you can win a gift to show the Brownies; do you see
those golden bells that make such music, as we wave them to and fro?
We worked long and hard ere they were won, and you can win one of
those, if you will do the task we give you.”
And Thistle said, “No task will be too hard for me to do for dear
Then they led him to a strange, dark place, lit up with torches;
where troops of Spirits flew busily to and fro, among damp rocks, and
through dark galleries that led far down into the earth. “What do
they here?” asked Thistle.
“I will tell,” replied little Sparkle, “for I once worked here
myself. Some of them watch above the flower-roots, and keep them
fresh and strong; others gather the clear drops that trickle from the
damp rocks, and form a little spring, which, growing ever larger,
rises to the light above, and gushes forth in some green field or
lonely forest; where the wild-birds come to drink, and wood-flowers
spread their thirsty leaves above the clear, cool waves, as they go
dancing away, carrying joy and freshness wherever they go. Others
shape the bright jewels into lovely forms, and make the good-luck
pennies which we give to mortals whom we love. And here you must toil
till the golden flower is won.”
Then Thistle went among the Spirits, and joined in their tasks;
he tended the flower-roots, gathered the water-drops, and formed the
good-luck pennies. Long and hard he worked, and was often sad and
weary, often tempted by unkind and selfish thoughts; but he thought
of Lily-Bell, and strove to be kind and loving as she had been; and
soon the Spirits learned to love the patient Fairy, who had left his
home to toil among them for the sake of his gentle friend.
At length came little Sparkle to him, saying, “You have done enough;
come now, and dance and feast with us, for the golden flower is won.”
But Thistle could not stay, for half his task was not yet done; and
he longed for sunlight and Lily-Bell. So, taking a kind farewell,
he hastened through the torch-lit path up to the light again; and,
spreading his wings, flew over hill and dale till he reached the
forest where Lily-Bell lay sleeping.
It was early morning, and the rosy light shone brightly through the
lily-leaves upon her, as Thistle entered, and laid his first gift
at the Brownie King’s feet.
“You have done well,” said he, “we hear good tidings of you from
bird and flower, and you are truly seeking to repair the evil
you have done. Take now one look at your little friend, and then
go forth to seek from the Air Spirits your second gift.”
Then Thistle said farewell again to Lily-Bell, and flew far and wide
among the clouds, seeking the Air Spirits; but though he wandered till