Once upon a time . . . . . from
our fabulous collection of Fairy Tales for children . . . they lived
happily ever after . . .
The Philosopher's Stone - Part 2
The birds in their flight towards the east, carried the
tidings, and the news reached the castle in the Tree of the
'I will try now,' said the third brother; 'I have a keen
nose.' Now that was not a very elegant expression, but it was
his way, and we must take him as he was. He had a cheerful
temper, and was, besides, a real poet; he could make many
things appear poetical, by the way in which he spoke of them,
and ideas struck him long before they occurred to the minds of
others. 'I can smell,' he would say; and he attributed to the
sense of smelling, which he possessed in a high degree, a
great power in the region of the beautiful. 'I can smell,' he
would say, 'and many places are fragrant or beautiful
according to the taste of the frequenters. One man feels at
home in the atmosphere of the tavern, among the flaring tallow
candles, and when the smell of spirits mingles with the fumes
of bad tobacco. Another prefers sitting amidst the
overpowering scent of jasmine, or perfuming himself with
scented olive oil. This man seeks the fresh sea breeze, while
that one climbs the lofty mountain-top, to look down upon the
busy life in miniature beneath him.'
As he spoke in this way, it seemed as if he had already
been out in the world, as if he had already known and
associated with man. But this experience was intuitive- it was
the poetry within him, a gift from Heaven bestowed on him in
his cradle. He bade farewell to his parental roof in the Tree
of the Sun, and departed on foot, from the pleasant scenes
that surrounded his home. Arrived at its confines, he mounted
on the back of an ostrich, which runs faster than a horse, and
afterwards, when he fell in with the wild swans, he swung
himself on the strongest of them, for he loved change, and
away he flew over the sea to distant lands, where there were
great forests, deep lakes, lofty mountains, and proud cities.
Wherever he came it seemed as if sunshine travelled with him
across the fields, for every flower, every bush, exhaled a
renewed fragrance, as if conscious that a friend and protector
was near; one who understood them, and knew their value. The
stunted rose-bush shot forth twigs, unfolded its leaves, and
bore the most beautiful roses; every one could see it, and
even the black, slimy wood-snail noticed its beauty. 'I will
give my seal to the flower,' said the snail, 'I have trailed
my slime upon it, I can do no more.
'Thus it always fares with the beautiful in this world,'
said the poet. And he made a song upon it, and sung it after
his own fashion, but nobody listened. Then he gave a drummer
twopence and a peacock's feather, and composed a song for the
drum, and the drummer beat it through the streets of the town,
and when the people heard it they said, 'That is a capital
tune.' The poet wrote many songs about the true, the
beautiful, and the good. His songs were listened to in the
tavern, where the tallow candles flared, in the fresh clover
field, in the forest, and on the high-seas; and it appeared as
if this brother was to be more fortunate than the other two.
But the evil spirit was angry at this, so he set to work
with soot and incense, which he can mix so artfully as to
confuse an angel, and how much more easily a poor poet. The
evil one knew how to manage such people. He so completely
surrounded the poet with incense that the man lost his head,
forgot his mission and his home, and at last lost himself and
vanished in smoke.
But when the little birds heard of it, they mourned, and
for three days they sang not one song. The black wood-snail
became blacker still; not for grief, but for envy. 'They
should have offered me incense,' he said, 'for it was I who
gave him the idea of the most famous of his songs- the drum
song of 'The Way of the World;' and it was I who spat at the
rose; I can bring a witness to that fact.'
But no tidings of all this reached the poet's home in
India. The birds had all been silent for three days, and when
the time of mourning was over, so deep had been their grief,
that they had forgotten for whom they wept. Such is the way of
'Now I must go out into the world, and disappear like the
rest,' said the fourth brother. He was as good-tempered as the
third, but no poet, though he could be witty.
The two eldest had filled the castle with joyfulness, and
now the last brightness was going away. Sight and hearing have
always been considered two of the chief senses among men, and
those which they wish to keep bright; the other senses are
looked upon as of less importance.
But the younger son had a different opinion; he had
cultivated his taste in every way, and taste is very powerful.
It rules over what goes into the mouth, as well as over all
which is presented to the mind; and, consequently, this
brother took upon himself to taste everything stored up in
bottles or jars; this he called the rough part of his work.
Every man's mind was to him as a vessel in which something was
concocting; every land a kind of mental kitchen. 'There are no
delicacies here,' he said; so he wished to go out into the
world to find something delicate to suit his taste. 'Perhaps
fortune may be more favorable to me than it was to my
brothers. I shall start on my travels, but what conveyance
shall I choose? Are air balloons invented yet?' he asked of
his father, who knew of all inventions that had been made, or
would be made.
Air balloons had not then been invented, nor steam-ships,
'Good,' said he; 'then I shall choose an air balloon; my
father knows how they are to be made and guided. Nobody has
invented one yet, and the people will believe that it is an
aerial phantom. When I have done with the balloon I shall burn
it, and for this purpose, you must give me a few pieces of
another invention, which will come next; I mean a few chemical
He obtained what he wanted, and flew away. The birds
accompanied him farther than they had the other brothers. They
were curious to know how this flight would end. Many more of
them came swooping down; they thought it must be some new
bird, and he soon had a goodly company of followers. They came
in clouds till the air became darkened with birds as it was
with the cloud of locusts over the land of Egypt.
And now he was out in the wide world. The balloon
descended over one of the greatest cities, and the aeronaut
took up his station at the highest point, on the church
steeple. The balloon rose again into the air, which it ought
not to have done; what became of it is not known, neither is
it of any consequence, for balloons had not then been
There he sat on the church steeple. The birds no longer
hovered over him; they had got tired of him, and he was tired
of them. All the chimneys in the town were smoking.
'There are altars erected to my honor,' said the wind, who
wished to say something agreeable to him as he sat there
boldly looking down upon the people in the street. There was
one stepping along, proud of his purse; another, of the key he
carried behind him, though he had nothing to lock up; another
took a pride in his moth-eaten coat; and another, in his
mortified body. 'Vanity, all vanity!' he exclaimed. 'I must go
down there by-and-by, and touch and taste; but I shall sit
here a little while longer, for the wind blows pleasantly at
my back. I shall remain here as long as the wind blows, and
enjoy a little rest. It is comfortable to sleep late in the
morning when one had a great deal to do,' said the sluggard;
'so I shall stop here as long as the wind blows, for it
And there he stayed. But as he was sitting on the
weather-cock of the steeple, which kept turning round and
round with him, he was under the false impression that the
same wind still blew, and that he could stay where he was
But in India, in the castle on the Tree of the Sun, all
was solitary and still, since the brothers had gone away one
after the other.
'Nothing goes well with them,' said the father; 'they will
never bring the glittering jewel home, it is not made for me;
they are all dead and gone.' Then he bent down over the Book
of Truth, and gazed on the page on which he should have read
of the life after death, but for him there was nothing to be
read or learned upon it.
His blind daughter was his consolation and joy; she clung
to him with sincere affection, and for the sake of his
happiness and peace she wished the costly jewel could be found
and brought home.
With longing tenderness she thought of her brothers. Where
were they? Where did they live? How she wished she might dream
of them; but it was strange that not even in dreams could she
be brought near to them. But at last one night she dreamt that
she heard the voices of her brothers calling to her from the
distant world, and she could not refrain herself, but went out
to them, and yet it seemed in her dream that she still
remained in her father's house. She did not see her brothers,
but she felt as it were a fire burning in her hand, which,
however, did not hurt her, for it was the jewel she was
bringing to her father. When she awoke she thought for a
moment that she still held the stone, but she only grasped the
knob of her distaff.
During the long evenings she had spun constantly, and
round the distaff were woven threads finer than the web of a
spider; human eyes could never have distinguished these
threads when separated from each other. But she had wetted
them with her tears, and the twist was as strong as a cable.
She rose with the impression that her dream must be a reality,
and her resolution was taken.
It was still night, and her father slept; she pressed a
kiss upon his hand, and then took her distaff and fastened the
end of the thread to her father's house. But for this, blind
as she was, she would never have found her way home again; to
this thread she must hold fast, and trust not to others or
even to herself. From the Tree of the Sun she broke four
leaves; which she gave up to the wind and the weather, that
they might be carried to her brothers as letters and a
greeting, in case she did not meet them in the wide world.
Poor blind child, what would become of her in those distant
regions? But she had the invisible thread, to which she could
hold fast; and she possessed a gift which all the others
lacked. This was a determination to throw herself entirely
into whatever she undertook, and it made her feel as if she
had eyes even at the tips of her fingers, and could hear down
into her very heart. Quietly she went forth into the noisy,
bustling, wonderful world, and wherever she went the skies
grew bright, and she felt the warm sunbeam, and a rainbow
above in the blue heavens seemed to span the dark world. She
heard the song of the birds, and smelt the scent of the orange
groves and apple orchards so strongly that she seemed to taste
it. Soft tones and charming songs reached her ear, as well as
harsh sounds and rough words- thoughts and opinions in strange
contradiction to each other. Into the deepest recesses of her
heart penetrated the echoes of human thoughts and feelings.
Now she heard the following words sadly sung,-
'Life is a shadow that flits away
In a night of darkness and woe.'
But then would follow brighter thoughts:
'Life has the rose's sweet perfume
With sunshine, light, and joy.'
And if one stanza sounded painfully-
'Each mortal thinks of himself alone,
Is a truth, alas, too clearly known;'
Then, on the other hand, came the answer-
'Love, like a mighty flowing stream,
Fills every heart with its radiant gleam.'
She heard, indeed, such words as these-
'In the pretty turmoil here below,
All is a vain and paltry show.
Then came also words of comfort-
'Great and good are the actions done
By many whose worth is never known.'
And if sometimes the mocking strain reached her-
'Why not join in the jesting cry
That contemns all gifts from the throne on
In the blind girl's heart a stronger voice repeated-
'To trust in thyself and God is best,
In His holy will forever to rest.'
But the evil spirit could not see this and remain
contented. He has more cleverness than ten thousand men, and
he found means to compass his end. He betook himself to the
marsh, and collected a few little bubbles of stagnant water.
Then he uttered over them the echoes of lying words that they
might become strong. He mixed up together songs of praise with
lying epitaphs, as many as he could find, boiled them in tears
shed by envy; put upon them rouge, which he had scraped from
faded cheeks, and from these he produced a maiden, in form and
appearance like the blind girl, the angel of completeness, as
men called her. The evil one's plot was successful. The world
knew not which was the true, and indeed how should the world
'To trust in thyself and God is best,
In his Holy will forever to rest.'
So sung the blind girl in full faith. She had entrusted the
four green leaves from the Tree of the Sun to the winds, as
letters of greeting to her brothers, and she had full
confidence that the leaves would reach them. She fully
believed that the jewel which outshines all the glories of the
world would yet be found, and that upon the forehead of
humanity it would glitter even in the castle of her father.
'Even in my father's house,' she repeated. 'Yes, the place in
which this jewel is to be found is earth, and I shall bring
more than the promise of it with me. I feel it glow and swell
more and more in my closed hand. Every grain of truth which
the keen wind carried up and whirled towards me I caught and
treasured. I allowed it to be penetrated with the fragrance of
the beautiful, of which there is so much in the world, even
for the blind. I took the beatings of a heart engaged in a
good action, and added them to my treasure. All that I can
bring is but dust; still, it is a part of the jewel we seek,
and there is plenty, my hand is quite full of it.'
She soon found herself again at home; carried thither in a
flight of thought, never having loosened her hold of the
invisible thread fastened to her father's house. As she
stretched out her hand to her father, the powers of evil
dashed with the fury of a hurricane over the Tree of the Sun;
a blast of wind rushed through the open doors, and into the
sanctuary, where lay the Book of Truth.
'It will be blown to dust by the wind,' said the father,
as he seized the open hand she held towards him.
'No,' she replied, with quiet confidence, 'it is
indestructible. I feel its beam warming my very soul.'
Then her father observed that a dazzling flame gleamed
from the white page on which the shining dust had passed from
her hand. It was there to prove the certainty of eternal life,
and on the book glowed one shining word, and only one, the
word BELIEVE. And soon the four brothers were again with the
father and daughter. When the green leaf from home fell on the
bosom of each, a longing had seized them to return. They had
arrived, accompanied by the birds of passage, the stag, the
antelope, and all the creatures of the forest who wished to
take part in their joy.
We have often seen, when a sunbeam burst through a crack
in the door into a dusty room, how a whirling column of dust
seems to circle round. But this was not poor, insignificant,
common dust, which the blind girl had brought; even the
rainbow's colors are dim when compared with the beauty which
shone from the page on which it had fallen. The beaming word
BELIEVE, from every grain of truth, had the brightness of the
beautiful and the good, more bright than the mighty pillar of
flame that led Moses and the children of Israel to the land of
Canaan, and from the word BELIEVE arose the bridge of hope,
reaching even to the unmeasurable Love in the realms of the
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