Flower Fables by Louisa May Alcott

as he stood upon the shore, watching the billows dancing and sparkling

in the sun.

“How shall I find the Spirits in this great sea, with none to help or

guide me? Yet it is my last task, and for Lily-Bell’s sake I must not

fear or falter now,” said Thistle. So he flew hither and thither

over the sea, looking through the waves. Soon he saw, far below,

the branches of the coral tree.

“They must be here,” thought he, and, folding his wings, he plunged

into the deep, cold sea. But he saw only fearful monsters and dark

shapes that gathered round him; and, trembling with fear, he struggled

up again.

The great waves tossed him to and fro, and cast him bruised and faint

upon the shore. Here he lay weeping bitterly, till a voice beside him

said, “Poor little Elf, what has befallen you? These rough waves are

not fit playmates for so delicate a thing as you. Tell me your

sorrow, and I will comfort you.”

And Thistle, looking up, saw a white sea-bird at his side, who tried

with friendly words to cheer him. So he told all his wanderings,

and how he sought the Sea Spirits.

“Surely, if bee and blossom do their part to help you, birds should

aid you too,” said the Sea-bird. “I will call my friend, the

Nautilus, and he will bear you safely to the Coral Palace where the

Spirits dwell.”

So, spreading his great wings, he flew away, and soon Thistle saw

a little boat come dancing over the waves, and wait beside the shore

for him.

In he sprang. Nautilus raised his little sail to the wind, and the

light boat glided swiftly over the blue sea. At last Thistle cried,

“I see lovely arches far below; let me go, it is the Spirits’ home.”

“Nay, close your eyes, and trust to me. I will bear you safely down,”

said Nautilus.

So Thistle closed his eyes, and listened to the murmur of the sea,

as they sank slowly through the waves. The soft sound lulled him

to sleep, and when he awoke the boat was gone, and he stood among

the Water Spirits, in their strange and lovely home.

Lofty arches of snow-white coral bent above him, and the walls

of brightly tinted shells were wreathed with lovely sea-flowers, and

the sunlight shining on the waves cast silvery shadows on the ground,

where sparkling stones glowed in the sand. A cool, fresh wind swept

through the waving garlands of bright sea-moss, and the distant murmur

of dashing waves came softly on the air. Soon troops of graceful

Spirits flitted by, and when they found the wondering Elf, they

gathered round him, bringing pearl-shells heaped with precious stones,

and all the rare, strange gifts that lie beneath the sea. But Thistle

wished for none of these, and when his tale was told, the kindly

Spirits pitied him; and little Pearl sighed, as she told him of the

long and weary task he must perform, ere he could win a crown of

snow-white pearls like those they wore. But Thistle had gained

strength and courage in his wanderings, and did not falter now, when

they led bim to a place among the coral-workers, and told him he must

labor here, till the spreading branches reached the light and air,

through the waves that danced above.

With a patient hope that he might yet be worthy of Lily-Bell,

the Fairy left the lovely spirits and their pleasant home, to toil

among the coral-builders, where all was strange and dim. Long, long,

he worked; but still the waves rolled far above them, and his task was

not yet done; and many bitter tears poor Thistle shed, and sadly he

pined for air and sunlight, the voice of birds, and breath of flowers.

Often, folded in the magic garments which the Spirits gave him, that

he might pass unharmed among the fearful creatures dwelling there,

he rose to the surface of the sea, and, gliding through the waves,

gazed longingly upon the hills, now looking blue and dim so far away,

or watched the flocks of summer birds, journeying to a warmer land;

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Categories: Alcott, Louisa May