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Nursery Rhymes . . . for children.

Once upon a time . . . . .  from our fabulous collection of Fairy Tales for children . . .  they lived happily ever after . . .

What The Moon Saw - Part 4


'It was yesterday, in the morning twilight'- these are the
words the Moon told me- 'in the great city no chimney was yet
smoking- and it was just at the chimneys that I was looking.
Suddenly a little head emerged from one of them, and then half
a body, the arms resting on the rim of the chimney-pot.
'Ya-hip! ya-hip!' cried a voice. It was the little
chimney-sweeper, who had for the first time in his life crept
through a chimney, and stuck out his head at the top. 'Ya-hip!
ya-hip' Yes, certainly that was a very different thing to
creeping about in the dark narrow chimneys! the air blew so
fresh, and he could look over the whole city towards the green
wood. The sun was just rising. It shone round and great, just
in his face, that beamed with triumph, though it was very
prettily blacked with soot.

''The whole town can see me now,' he exclaimed, 'and the
moon can see me now, and the sun too. Ya-hip! ya-hip!' And he
flourished his broom in triumph.'


'Last night I looked down upon a town in China,' said the
Moon. 'My beams irradiated the naked walls that form the
streets there. Now and then, certainly, a door is seen; but it
is locked, for what does the Chinaman care about the outer
world? Close wooden shutters covered the windows behind the
walls of the houses; but through the windows of the temple a
faint light glimmered. I looked in, and saw the quaint
decorations within. From the floor to the ceiling pictures are
painted, in the most glaring colours, and richly gilt-
pictures representing the deeds of the gods here on earth. In
each niche statues are placed, but they are almost entirely
hidden by the coloured drapery and the banners that hang down.
Before each idol (and they are all made of tin) stood a little
altar of holy water, with flowers and burning wax lights on
it. Above all the rest stood Fo, the chief deity, clad in a
garment of yellow silk, for yellow is here the sacred colour.
At the foot of the altar sat a living being, a young priest.
He appeared to be praying, but in the midst of his prayer he
seemed to fall into deep thought, and this must have been
wrong, for his cheeks glowed and he held down his head. Poor
Soui-Hong! Was he, perhaps, dreaming of working in the little
flower garden behind the high street wall? And did that
occupation seem more agreeable to him than watching the wax
lights in the temple? Or did he wish to sit at the rich feast,
wiping his mouth with silver paper between each course? Or was
his sin so great that, if he dared utter it, the Celestial
Empire would punish it with death? Had his thoughts ventured
to fly with the ships of the barbarians, to their homes in far
distant England? No, his thoughts did not fly so far, and yet
they were sinful, sinful as thoughts born of young hearts,
sinful here in the temple, in the presence of Fo and the other
holy gods.

'I know whither his thoughts had strayed. At the farther
end of the city, on the flat roof paved with porcelain, on
which stood the handsome vases covered with painted flowers,
sat the beauteous Pu, of the little roguish eyes, of the full
lips, and of the tiny feet. The tight shoe pained her, but her
heart pained her still more. She lifted her graceful round
arm, and her satin dress rustled. Before her stood a glass
bowl containing four gold-fish. She stirred the bowl carefully
with a slender lacquered stick, very slowly, for she, too, was
lost in thought. Was she thinking, perchance, how the fishes
were richly clothed in gold, how they lived calmly and
peacefully in their crystal world, how they were regularly
fed, and yet how much happier they might be if they were free?
Yes, that she could well understand, the beautiful Pu. Her
thoughts wandered away from her home, wandered to the temple,
but not for the sake of holy things. Poor Pu! Poor Soui-hong!

'Their earthly thoughts met, but my cold beam lay between
the two, like the sword of the cherub.'


'The air was calm,' said the Moon; 'the water was
transparent as the purest ether through which I was gliding,
and deep below the surface I could see the strange plants that
stretched up their long arms towards me like the gigantic
trees of the forest. The fishes swam to and fro above their
tops. High in the air a flight of wild swans were winging
their way, one of which sank lower and lower, with wearied
pinions, his eyes following the airy caravan, that melted
farther and farther into the distance. With outspread wings he
sank slowly, as a soap bubble sinks in the still air, till he
touched the water. At length his head lay back between his
wings, and silently he lay there, like a white lotus flower
upon the quiet lake. And a gentle wind arose, and crisped the
quiet surface, which gleamed like the clouds that poured along
in great broad waves; and the swan raised his head, and the
glowing water splashed like blue fire over his breast and
back. The morning dawn illuminated the red clouds, the swan
rose strengthened, and flew towards the rising sun, towards
the bluish coast whither the caravan had gone; but he flew
alone, with a longing in his breast. Lonely he flew over the
blue swelling billows.'


'I will give you another picture of Sweden,' said the
Moon. 'Among dark pine woods, near the melancholy banks of the
Stoxen, lies the old convent church of Wreta. My rays glided
through the grating into the roomy vaults, where kings sleep
tranquilly in great stone coffins. On the wall, above the
grave of each, is placed the emblem of earthly grandeur, a
kingly crown; but it is made only of wood, painted and gilt,
and is hung on a wooden peg driven into the wall. The worms
have gnawed the gilded wood, the spider has spun her web from
the crown down to the sand, like a mourning banner, frail and
transient as the grief of mortals. How quietly they sleep! I
can remember them quite plainly. I still see the bold smile on
their lips, that so strongly and plainly expressed joy or
grief. When the steamboat winds along like a magic snail over
the lakes, a stranger often comes to the church, and visits
the burial vault; he asks the names of the kings, and they
have a dead and forgotten sound. He glances with a smile at
the worm-eaten crowns, and if he happens to be a pious,
thoughtful man, something of melancholy mingles with the
smile. Slumber on, ye dead ones! The Moon thinks of you, the
Moon at night sends down his rays into your silent kingdom,
over which hangs the crown of pine wood.'


'Close by the high-road,' said the Moon, 'is an inn, and
opposite to it is a great waggon-shed, whose straw roof was
just being re-thatched. I looked down between the bare rafters
and through the open loft into the comfortless space below.
The turkey-cock slept on the beam, and the saddle rested in
the empty crib. In the middle of the shed stood a travelling
carriage; the proprietor was inside, fast asleep, while the
horses were being watered. The coachman stretched himself,
though I am very sure that he had been most comfortably asleep
half the last stage. The door of the servants' room stood
open, and the bed looked as if it had been turned over and
over; the candle stood on the floor, and had burnt deep down
into the socket. The wind blew cold through the shed: it was
nearer to the dawn than to midnight. In the wooden frame on
the ground slept a wandering family of musicians. The father
and mother seemed to be dreaming of the burning liquor that
remained in the bottle. The little pale daughter was dreaming
too, for her eyes were wet with tears. The harp stood at their
heads, and the dog lay stretched at their feet.'


'It was in a little provincial town,' the Moon said; 'it
certainly happened last year, but that has nothing to do with
the matter. I saw it quite plainly. To-day I read about it in
the papers, but there it was not half so clearly expressed. In
the taproom of the little inn sat the bear leader, eating his
supper; the bear was tied up outside, behind the wood pile-
poor Bruin, who did nobody any harm, though he looked grim
enough. Up in the garret three little children were playing by
the light of my beams; the eldest was perhaps six years old,
the youngest certainly not more than two. 'Tramp, tramp'-
somebody was coming upstairs: who might it be? The door was
thrust open- it was Bruin, the great, shaggy Bruin! He had got
tired of waiting down in the courtyard, and had found his way
to the stairs. I saw it all,' said the Moon. 'The children
were very much frightened at first at the great shaggy animal;
each of them crept into a corner, but he found them all out,
and smelt at them, but did them no harm. 'This must be a great
dog,' they said, and began to stroke him. He lay down upon the
ground, the youngest boy clambered on his back, and bending
down a little head of golden curls, played at hiding in the
beast's shaggy skin. Presently the eldest boy took his drum,
and beat upon it till it rattled again; the bear rose upon his
hind legs, and began to dance. It was a charming sight to
behold. Each boy now took his gun, and the bear was obliged to
have one too, and he held it up quite properly. Here was a
capital playmate they had found; and they began marching- one,
two; one, two.

'Suddenly some one came to the door, which opened, and the
mother of the children appeared. You should have seen her in
her dumb terror, with her face as white as chalk, her mouth
half open, and her eyes fixed in a horrified stare. But the
youngest boy nodded to her in great glee, and called out in
his infantile prattle, 'We're playing at soldiers.' And then
the bear leader came running up.'


The wind blew stormy and cold, the clouds flew hurriedly
past; only for a moment now and then did the Moon become
visible. He said, 'I looked down from the silent sky upon the
driving clouds, and saw the great shadows chasing each other
across the earth. I looked upon a prison. A closed carriage
stood before it; a prisoner was to be carried away. My rays
pierced through the grated window towards the wall; the
prisoner was scratching a few lines upon it, as a parting
token; but he did not write words, but a melody, the
outpouring of his heart. The door was opened, and he was led
forth, and fixed his eyes upon my round disc. Clouds passed
between us, as if he were not to see his face, nor I his. He
stepped into the carriage, the door was closed, the whip
cracked, and the horses gallopped off into the thick forest,
whither my rays were not able to follow him; but as I glanced
through the grated window, my rays glided over the notes, his
last farewell engraved on the prison wall- where words fail,
sounds can often speak. My rays could only light up isolated
notes, so the greater part of what was written there will ever
remain dark to me. Was it the death-hymn he wrote there? Were
these the glad notes of joy? Did he drive away to meet death,
or hasten to the embraces of his beloved? The rays of the Moon
do not read all that is written by mortals.'


'I love the children,' said the Moon, 'especially the
quite little ones- they are so droll. Sometimes I peep into
the room, between the curtain and the window frame, when they
are not thinking of me. It gives me pleasure to see them
dressing and undressing. First, the little round naked
shoulder comes creeping out of the frock, then the arm; or I
see how the stocking is drawn off, and a plump little white
leg makes its appearance, and a white little foot that is fit
to be kissed, and I kiss it too.

'But about what I was going to tell you. This evening I
looked through a window, before which no curtain was drawn,
for nobody lives opposite. I saw a whole troop of little ones,
all of one family, and among them was a little sister. She is
only four years old, but can say her prayers as well as any of
the rest. The mother sits by her bed every evening, and hears
her say her prayers; and then she has a kiss, and the mother
sits by the bed till the little one has gone to sleep, which
generally happens as soon as ever she can close her eyes.

'This evening the two elder children were a little
boisterous. One of them hopped about on one leg in his long
white nightgown, and the other stood on a chair surrounded by
the clothes of all the children, and declared he was acting
Grecian statues. The third and fourth laid the clean linen
carefully in the box, for that is a thing that has to be done;
and the mother sat by the bed of the youngest, and announced
to all the rest that they were to be quiet, for little sister
was going to say her prayers.

'I looked in, over the lamp, into the little maiden's bed,
where she lay under the neat white coverlet, her hands folded
demurely and her little face quite grave and serious. She was
praying the Lord's prayer aloud. But her mother interrupted
her in the middle of her prayer. 'How is it,' she asked, 'that
when you have prayed for daily bread, you always add something
I cannot understand? You must tell me what that is.' The
little one lay silent, and looked at her mother in
embarrassment. 'What is it you say after our daily bread?'
'Dear mother, don't be angry: I only said, and plenty of
butter on it.''



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