it was a spirit, and I WAS so frightened! But I looked back, and it
was not coming; so I leaned against a rock and rested and panted,
and let my limps go on trembling until they got steady again;
then I crept warily back, alert, watching, and ready to fly if there
was occasion; and when I was come near, I parted the branches
of a rose-bush and peeped through–wishing the man was about,
I was looking so cunning and pretty–but the sprite was gone.
I went there, and there was a pinch of delicate pink dust in the hole.
I put my finger in, to feel it, and said OUCH! and took it
out again. It was a cruel pain. I put my finger in my mouth;
and by standing first on one foot and then the other, and grunting,
I presently eased my misery; then I was full of interest, and began
I was curious to know what the pink dust was. Suddenly the name of it
occurred to me, though I had never heard of it before. It was FIRE!
I was as certain of it as a person could be of anything in the world.
So without hesitation I named it that–fire.
I had created something that didn’t exist before; I had added
a new thing to the world’s uncountable properties; I realized this,
and was proud of my achievement, and was going to run and find him
and tell him about it, thinking to raise myself in his esteem–
but I reflected, and did not do it. No–he would not care for it.
He would ask what it was good for, and what could I answer? for if it
was not GOOD for something, but only beautiful, merely beautiful–
So I sighed, and did not go. For it wasn’t good for anything;
it could not build a shack, it could not improve melons, it could
not hurry a fruit crop; it was useless, it was a foolishness
and a vanity; he would despise it and say cutting words.
But to me it was not despicable; I said, “Oh, you fire, I love you,
you dainty pink creature, for you are BEAUTIFUL–and that is enough!”
and was going to gather it to my breast. But refrained.
Then I made another maxim out of my head, though it was so nearly
like the first one that I was afraid it was only a plagiarism:
“THE BURNT EXPERIMENT SHUNS THE FIRE.”
I wrought again; and when I had made a good deal of fire-dust I emptied
it into a handful of dry brown grass, intending to carry it home
and keep it always and play with it; but the wind struck it and it
sprayed up and spat out at me fiercely, and I dropped it and ran.
When I looked back the blue spirit was towering up and stretching
and rolling away like a cloud, and instantly I thought of the name
of it–SMOKE!–though, upon my word, I had never heard of smoke before.
Soon brilliant yellow and red flares shot up through the smoke,
and I named them in an instant–FLAMES–and I was right, too,
though these were the very first flames that had ever been
in the world. They climbed the trees, then flashed splendidly
in and out of the vast and increasing volume of tumbling smoke,
and I had to clap my hands and laugh and dance in my rapture,
it was so new and strange and so wonderful and so beautiful!
He came running, and stopped and gazed, and said not a word for
many minutes. Then he asked what it was. Ah, it was too bad that he
should ask such a direct question. I had to answer it, of course,
and I did. I said it was fire. If it annoyed him that I should know
and he must ask; that was not my fault; I had no desire to annoy him.
After a pause he asked:
“How did it come?”
Another direct question, and it also had to have a direct answer.
“I made it.”
The fire was traveling farther and farther off. He went to the edge
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