Flower Fables by Louisa May Alcott

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

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Categories: Alcott, Louisa May