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The Garden of Paradise
There was once a king's son, no one had so
many beautiful books as he. In them he could read of everything that
had ever happened in this world, and he could see it all pictured in
fine illustrations. He could find out about every race of people and
every country, but there was not a single word about where to find
the Garden of Paradise, and this, just this, was the very thing that
he thought most about.
When he was still very young and was about to
start his schooling, his grandmother had told him that each flower
in the Garden of Paradise was made of the sweetest cake, and that
the pistils were bottles full of finest wine. On one sort of flower,
she told, history was written, on another geography, or
multiplication tables, so that one only had to eat cake to know
one's lesson, and the more one ate, the more history, geography, or
arithmetic one would know.
At the time he believed her, but when the boy
grew older and more learned and much wiser, he knew that the glories
of the Garden of Paradise must be of a very different sort.
"Oh, why did Eve have to pick fruit from the
tree of knowledge, and why did Adam eat what was forbidden him? Now
if it had only been I, that would never have happened, and sin would
never have come into the world." He said it then, and when he was
seventeen he said it still. The Garden of Paradise was always in his
He went walking in the woods one day. He
walked alone, for this was his favorite amusement. Evening came on,
the clouds gathered, and the rain poured down as if the sky were all
one big floodgate from which the water plunged. It was as dark as it
would be at night in the deepest well. He kept slipping on the wet
grass, and tripping over the stones that stuck out of the rocky
soil. Everything was soaking wet, and at length the poor Prince
didn't have a dry stitch to his back. He had to scramble over great
boulders where the water trickled from the wet moss. He had almost
fainted, when he heard a strange puffing and saw a huge cave ahead
of him. It was brightly lit, for inside the cave burned a fire so
large that it could have roasted a stag. And this was actually being
done. A magnificent deer, antlers and all, had been stuck on a spit,
and was being slowly turned between the rough-hewn trunks of two
pine trees. An elderly woman, so burly and strong that she might
have been taken for a man in disguise, sat by the fire and threw log
after log upon it.
"You can come nearer," she said. "Sit down by
the fire and let your clothes dry."
"There's an awful draft here," the Prince
remarked, as he seated himself on the ground.
"It will be still worse when my sons get
home," the woman told him. "You are in the cave of the winds, and my
sons are the four winds of the world. Do I make myself clear?"
"Where are your sons?" the Prince asked.
"Such a stupid question is hard to answer,"
the woman told him. "My sons go their own ways, playing ball with
the clouds in that great hall. "And she pointed up toward the sky.
"Really!" said the Prince. "I notice that you
have a rather forceful way of speaking, and are not as gentle as the
women I usually see around me."
"I suppose they have nothing better to do. I
have to be harsh to control those sons of mine. I manage to do it,
for all that they are an obstinate lot. See the four sacks that hang
there on the wall! They dread those as much as you used to dread the
switch that was kept behind the mirror for you. I can fold the boys
right up, let me tell you, and pop them straight into the bag. We
don't mince matters. There they stay. They aren't allowed to roam
around again until I see fit to let them. But here comes one of
It was the North Wind who came hurtling in,
with a cold blast of snowflakes that swirled about him and great
hailstones that rattled on the floor. He was wearing a bear-skin
coat and trousers; a seal-skin cap was pulled over his ears; long
icicles hung from his beard; and hailstone after hailstone fell from
the collar of his coat.
"Don't go right up to the fire so quickly,"
the Prince warned him. "Your face and hands might get frostbite."
"Frostbite!" the North Wind laughed his
loudest. "Frostbite! Why, frost is my chief delight. But what sort
of 'longleg' are you? How do you come to be in the cave of the
"He is here as my guest," the old woman
intervened. "And if that explanation doesn't suit you, into the sack
you go. Do I make myself clear?"
She made herself clear enough. The North Wind
now talked of whence he had come, and where he had traveled for
almost a month.
"I come from the Arctic Sea," he told them. "I
have been on Bear Island with the Russian walrus hunters. I lay
beside the helm, and slept as they sailed from the North Cape. When
I awoke from time to time the storm bird circled about my knees.
There's an odd bird for you! He gives a quick flap of his wings, and
then holds them perfectly still and rushes along at full speed."
"Don't be so long-winded," his mother told
him. "So you came to Bear Island?"
"It's a wonderful place! There's a dancing
floor for you, as flat as a platter! The surface of the island is
all half-melted snow, little patches of moss, and outcropping rocks.
Scattered about are the bones of whales and polar bears, colored a
moldy green, and looking like the arms and legs of some giant.
"You'd have thought that the sun never shone
there. I blew the fog away a bit, so that the house could be seen.
It was a hut built of wreckage and covered with walrus skins, the
fleshy side turned outward, and smeared with reds and greens. A love
polar bear sat growling on the roof of it.
"I went to the shore and looked at bird nests,
and when I saw the featherless nestlings shrieking, with their beaks
wide open, I blew down into their thousand throats. That taught them
to shut their mouths. Further along, great walruses were wallowing
about like monstrous maggots, with pigs' heads, and tusks a yard
"How well you do tell a story, my son," the
old woman said. "My mouth waters when I hear you!"
"The hunt began. The harpoon was hurled into
the walrus's breast, and a streaming blood stream spurted across the
ice like a fountain. This reminded me of my own sport. I blew my
sailing ships, those towering icebergs, against the boats until
their timbers cracked. Ho! how the crew whistled and shouted. But I
outwhistled them all. Overboard on the ice they had to throw their
dead walruses, their tackle, and even their sea chests. I shrouded
them in snow, and let them drift south with their broken boats and
their booty alongside, for a taste of the open sea. They won't ever
come back to Bear Island." "That was a wicked thing to do," said the
mother of the winds.
"I'll let others tell of my good deeds," he
said. "But here comes my brother from the west. I like him best of
all. He has a seafaring air about him, and carries a refreshing
touch of coolness wherever he goes."
"Is that little Zephyr?" the Prince asked.
"Of course it's Zephyr," the old woman
replied, "but he's not little. He was a nice boy once, but that was
He looked like a savage, except that he wore a
broad-rimmed hat to shield his face. In his hand he carried a
mahogany bludgeon, cut in the mahogany forests of America. Nothing
less would do!
"Where have you come from?" his mother asked.
"I come from the forest wilderness," he said,
"where the thorny vines make a fence between every tree, where the
water snake lurks in the wet grass, and where people seem
"What were you doing there?"
"I gazed into the deepest of rivers, and saw
how it rushed through the rapids and threw up a cloud of spray large
enough to hold the rainbow. I saw a wild buffalo wading in the
river, but it swept him away. He swam with a flock of wild ducks,
that flew up when the river went over a waterfall. But the buffalo
had to plunge down it. That amused me so much that I blew up a
storm, which broke age-old trees into splinters."
"Haven't you done anything else?" the old
woman asked him.
"I turned somersaults across the plains,
stroked the wild horses, and shook cocoanuts down from the palm
trees. Yes indeed, I have tales worth telling, but one shouldn't
tell all he knows. Isn't that right, old lady?" Then he gave her
such a kiss that it nearly knocked her over backward. He was
certainly a wild young fellow.
Then the South Wind arrived, in a turban and a
Bedouin's billowing robe.
"It's dreadfully cold in here," he cried, and
threw more wood on the fire. "I can tell that the North Wind got
here before me."
"It's hot enough to roast a polar bear here,"
the North Wind protested.
"You are a polar bear yourself," the South
"Do you want to be put into the sack?" the old
woman asked. "Sit down on that stone over there and tell me where
you have been."
"In Africa, dear Mother," said he. "I have
been hunting the lion with Hottentots in Kaffirland. What fine grass
grows there on the plains. It is as green as an olive. There danced
the gnu, and the ostrich raced with me, but I am fleeter than he is.
I went into the desert where the yellow sand is like the bottom of
the sea. I met with a caravan, where they were killing their last
camel to get drinking water, but it was little enough they got. The
sun blazed overhead and the sand scorched underfoot. The desert was
"I rolled in the fine loose sand and whirled
it aloft in great columns. What a dance that was! You ought to have
seen how despondently the dromedaries hunched up, and how the trader
pulled his burnoose over his head. He threw himself down before me
as he would before Allah, his god. Now they are buried, with a
pyramid of sand rising over them all. When some day I blow it away,
the sun will bleach their bones white, and travelers will see that
men have been there before them. Otherwise no one would believe it,
there in the desert."
"So you have done nothing but wickedness!"
cried his mother. "Into the sack with you!" And before he was aware
of it, she picked the South Wind up bodily and thrust him into the
bag. He thrashed about on the floor until she sat down on the sack.
That kept him quiet.
"Those are boisterous sons you have," said the
"Indeed they are," she agreed, "but I know how
to keep them in order. Here comes the fourth one."
This was the East Wind. He was dressed as a
"So that's where you've been!" said his
mother. "I thought you had gone to the Garden of Paradise."
"I won't fly there until tomorrow," the East
Wind said. "Tomorrow it will be exactly a hundred years since I was
there. I am just home from China, where I danced around the
porcelain tower until all the bells jangled. Officials of state were
being whipped through the streets. Bamboo sticks were broken across
their shoulders, though they were people of importance, from the
first to the ninth degree. They howled, 'Thank you so much, my
father and protector,' but they didn't mean it. And I went about
clanging the bells and sang, 'Tsing, tsang, tsu!' "
"You are too saucy," the old woman told him.
"It's a lucky thing that you'll be off to the Garden of Paradise
tomorrow, for it always has a good influence on you. Remember to
drink deep out of the fountain of wisdom and bring back a little
bottleful for me."
"I'll do that," said the East Wind. "But why
have you popped my brother from the south into the sack? Let's have
him out. He must tell me about the phoenix bird, because the
Princess in the Garden of Paradise always asks me about that bird
when I drop in on her every hundred years. Open up my sack, like my
own sweet mother, and I'll give you two pockets full of tea as green
and fresh as it was when I picked it off the bush."
"Well-for the sake of the tea, and because you
are my pet, I'll open the sack."
She opened it up, and the South Wind crawled
out. But he looked very glum, because the Prince, who was a
stranger, had seen him humbled.
"Here's a palm-leaf fan for the Princess," the
South Wind said. "It was given to me by the old phoenix, who was the
only one of his kind in the world. On it he scratched with his beak
a history of the hundred years that he lived, so she can read it
herself. I watched the phoenix bird set fire to her nest, and sat
there while she burned to death, just like a Hindoo widow. What a
crackling there was of dry twigs, what smoke, and what a smell of
smoldering! Finally it all burst into flames, and the old phoenix
was reduced to ashes, but her egg lay white-hot in the blaze. With a
great bang it broke open, and the young phoenix flew out of it. Now
he is the ruler over all the birds, and he is the only phoenix bird
in all the world. As his greetings to the Princess, he thrust a hole
in the palm leaf I am giving you."
"Let's have a bite to eat," said the mother of
As they sat down to eat the roast stag, the
Prince took a place beside the East Wind, and they soon became fast
"Tell me," said the Prince, "who is this
Princess you've been talking so much about, and just where is the
Garden of Eden?"
"Ah, ha!" said the East Wind. "Would you like
to go there? Then fly with me tomorrow. I must warn you, though, no
man has been there since Adam and Eve. You have read about them in
"Surely," the Prince said.
"After they were driven out, the Garden of
Paradise sank deep into the earth, but it kept its warm sunlight,
its refreshing air, and all of its glories. The queen of the fairies
lives there on the Island of the Blessed, where death never comes
and where there is everlasting happiness. Sit on my back tomorrow
and I shall take you with me. I think it can be managed. But now
let's stop talking, for I want to sleep."
And then they all went to sleep. When the
Prince awoke the next morning, it came as no small surprise to find
himself high over the clouds. He was seated on the back of the East
Wind, who carefully held him safe. They were so far up in the sky
that all the woods, fields, rivers, and lakes looked as if they were
printed on a map spread beneath them.
"Good morning," said the East Wind. "You might
just as well sleep a little longer. There's nothing very interesting
in this flat land beneath us, unless you care to count churches.
They stand out like chalk marks upon the green board."
What he called "the green board" was all the
fields and pastures.
"It was not very polite of me to leave without
bidding your mother and brothers farewell," the Prince said.
"That's excusable, when you leave in your
sleep," the East Wind told him, as they flew on faster than ever.
One could hear it in the tree tops. All the
leaves and branches rustled as they swept over the forest, and when
they crossed over lakes or over seas the waves rose high, and tall
ships bent low to the water as if they were drifting swans.
As darkness gathered that evening, it was
pleasant to see the great cities with their lights twinkling here
and spreading there, just as when you burn a piece of paper and the
sparks fly one after another. At this sight the Prince clapped his
hands in delight, but the East Wind advised him to stop it and hold
on tight, or he might fall and find himself stuck upon a church
The eagle in the dark forest flew lightly, but
the East Wind flew more lightly still. The Cossack on his pony sped
swiftly across the steppes, but the Prince sped still more swiftly.
"Now," said the East Wind, "you can view the
Himalayas, the highest mountains in Asia. And soon we shall reach
the Garden of paradise."
They turned southward, where the air was sweet
with flowers and spice. Figs and pomegranates grew wild, and on
untended vines grew red and blue clusters of grapes. They came down
here, and both of them stretched out on the soft grass, where
flowers nodded in the breeze as if to say: "Welcome back."
"Are we now in the Garden of Paradise?" the
"Oh, no!" said the East Wind. "But we shall
come to it soon. Do you see that rocky cliff, and the big cave,
where the vines hang in a wide curtain of greenery? That's the way
we go. Wrap your coat well about you. Here the sun is scorching hot,
but a few steps and it is as cold as ice. The bird that flies at the
mouth of the cave has one wing in summery and the other in wintry
"So this is the way to the Garden of
Paradise," said the Prince, as they entered the cave.
Brer-r-r! how frosty it was there,
but not for long. The East Wind spread his wings, and they shone
like the brighest flames. But what a cave that was! Huge masses of
rock, from which water was trickling, hung in fantastic shapes above
them. Sometimes the cave was so narrow that they had to crawl on
their hands and knees, sometimes so vast that it seemed that they
were under the open sky. The cave resembled a series of funeral
chapels, with mute organ pipes and banners turned to stone.
"We are going to the Garden of Paradise
through the gates of death, are we not?" the Prince asked.
The East Wind answered not a word, but pointed
to a lovely blue light that shone ahead of them. The masses of stone
over their heads grew more and more misty, and at last they looked
up at a clear white cloud in the moonlight. The air became
delightfully clement, as fresh as it is in the hills, and as sweetly
scented as it is among the roses that bloom in the valley.
The river which flowed there was clear as the
air itself, and the fish in it were like silver and gold. Purple
eels, that at every turn threw off blue sparks, frolicked about in
the water, and the large leaves of the aquatic flowers gleamed in
all of the rainbow's colors. The flowers themselves were like a
bright orange flame, which fed on the water just as a lamplight is
fed by oil.
A strong marble bridge, made so delicately and
artistically that it looked as if it consisted of lace and glass
pearls, led across the water to the Island of the Blessed, where the
Garden of Paradise bloomed.
The East Wind swept the Prince up in his arms
and carried him across to the island, where the petals and leaves
sang all the lovely old songs of his childhood, but far, far sweeter
than any human voice could sing. Were these palm trees that grew
there, or immense water plants? Such vast and verdant trees the
Prince had never seen before. The most marvelous climbing vines hung
in garlands such as are to be seen only in old illuminated church
books, painted in gold and bright colors in the margins or twined
about the initial letters. Here was the oddest assortment of birds,
flowers, and twisting vines.
On the grass near-by, with their brilliantly
starred tails spread wide, was a flock of peacocks. Or so they
seemed, but when the Prince touched them he found that these were
not birds. They were plants. They were large burdock leaves that
were as resplendent as a peacock's train. Lions and tigers leaped
about, as lithe as cats, in the green shrubbery which the olive
blossoms made so fragrant. The lions and tigers were quite tame, for
the wild wood pigeon, which glistened like a lovely pearl, brushed
the lion's mane with her wings, and the timid antelopes stood by and
tossed their heads as if they would like to join in their play.
Then the fairy of the garden came to meet
them. Her garments were as bright as the sun, and her face was as
cheerful as that of a happy mother who is well pleased with her
child. She was so young and lovely, and the other pretty maidens who
followed her each wore a shining star in their hair. When the East
Wind gave her the palm-leaf message from the phoenix, her eyes
sparkled with pleasure.
She took the Prince by his hand and led him
into her palace, where the walls had the color of a perfect tulip
petal held up to the sun. The ceiling was made of one great shining
flower, and the longer one looked up the deeper did the cup of it
seem to be. The Prince went to the window. As he glanced out through
one of the panes he saw the Tree of Knowledge, with the serpent, and
Adam and Eve standing under it.
"Weren't they driven out?" he asked.
The fairy smilingly explained to him that Time
had glazed a picture in each pane, but that these were not the usual
sort of pictures. No, they had life in them. The leaves quivered on
the trees, and the people came and went as in a mirror.
He looked through another pane and there was
Jacob's dream, with the ladder that went up to Heaven, and the great
angels climbing up and down. Yes, all that ever there was in the
world lived on, and moved across these panes of glass. Only Time
could glaze such artistic paintings so well.
The fairy smiled and led him on into a vast
and lofty hall, with walls that seemed transparent. On the walls
were portraits, each fairer than the one before. These were millions
of blessed souls, a happy choir which sang in perfect harmony. The
uppermost faces appeared to be smaller than the tiniest rosebud
drawn as a single dot in a picture. In the center of the hall grew a
large tree, with luxuriantly hanging branches. Golden apples large
and small hung like oranges among the leaves. This was the Tree of
Knowledge, of which Adam and Eve had tasted. A sparkling red drop of
dew hung from each leaf, as if the Tree were weeping tears of blood.
"Now let us get into the boat," the fairy
proposed. "There we will have some refreshments on the heaving
water. Though the rocking boat stays in one place, we shall see all
the lands in the world glide by."
It was marvelous how the whole shore moved.
Now the high snow-capped Alps went past, with their clouds and dark
evergreen trees. The Alpine horn was heard, deep and melancholy, and
the shepherds yodeled gaily in the valley. But soon the boat was
overhung by the long arching branches of banana trees. Jet-black
swans went swimming by, and the queerest animals and plants were to
be seen along the banks. This was new Holland and the fifth quarter
of the globe that glided past, with its blue hills in the distance.
They heard the songs of the priests and saw the savages dance to the
sound of drums, and trumpets of bone. The cloud-tipped pyramids of
Egypt, the fallen columns, and sphinxes half buried in the sands,
swept by. The Northern Lights blazed over the glaciers around the
Pole, in a display of fireworks that no one could imitate. The
Prince saw a hundred times more than we can tell, and he was
"May I always stay here?" he asked.
"That is up to you," the fairy told him.
"Unless, as Adam did, you let yourself be tempted and do what is
forbidden, you may stay here always."
"I won't touch the fruit on the Tree of
Knowledge," the Prince declared. "Here are thousands of other fruits
that are just as attractive."
"Look into your heart, and, if you have not
strength enough, go back with the East Wind who brought you here. He
is leaving soon, and will not return for a hundred years, which you
will spend as quickly here as if they were a hundred hours.
"But that is a long time to resist the
temptation to sin. When I leave you every evening, I shall have to
call, ' Come with me,' and hold out my hands to you. But you must
stay behind. Do not follow me, or your desire will grow with every
step. You will come into the hall where the Tree of Knowledge grows.
I sleep under the arch of its sweet-smelling branches. If you lean
over me I shall have to smile, but if you kiss me on the mouth this
Paradise will vanish deep into the earth, and you will lose it. The
cutting winds of the wasteland will blow about you, the cold rain
will drip from your hair, and sorrow and toil will be your destiny."
"I shall stay," the Prince said.
The East Wind kissed his forehead. "Be
strong," he said, "and in a hundred years we shall meet here again.
Farewell! farewell!" Then the East Wind spread his tremendous wings
that flashed like lightning seen at harvest time or like the
Northern Lights in the winter cold.
"Farewell! farewell!" the leaves and trees
echoed the sound, as the storks and the pelicans flew with him to
the end of the garden, in lines that were like ribbons streaming
through the air.
"Now we will start our dances," the fairy
said. "When I have danced the last dance with you at sundown, you
will see me hold out my hands to you, and hear me call. 'come with
me.' But do not come. Every evening for a hundred years, I shall
have to repeat this. Every time that you resist, your strength will
grow, and at last you will not even think of yielding to temptation.
This evening is the first time, so take warning!"
And the fairy led him into a large hall of
white, transparent lilies. The yellow stamens of each flower formed
a small golden harp, which vibrated to the music of strings and
flutes. The loveliest maidens, floating and slender, came dancing
by, clad in such airy gauze that one could see how perfectly shaped
they were. They sang of the happiness of life-they who would never
die-and they sang that the Garden of Paradise would forever bloom.
The sun went down. The sky turned to shining
gold, and in its light the lilies took on the color of the loveliest
roses. The Prince drank the sparkling wine that the maidens offered
him, and felt happier than he had ever been. He watched the
background of the hall thrown open, and the Tree of Knowledge
standing in a splendor which blinded his eyes. The song from the
tree was as soft and lovely as his dear mother's voice, and it was
as if she were saying, "My child, my dearest child."
The fairy then held out her hands to him and
called most sweetly:
"Follow me! Oh, follow me!"
Forgetting his promise-forgetting everything,
on the very first evening that she held out her hands and smiled-he
ran toward her. The fragrant air around him became even more sweet,
the music of the harps sounded even more lovely, and it seemed as
though the millions of happy faces in the hall where the Tree grew
nodded to him and sang, "One must know all there is to know, for man
is the lord of the earth." And it seemed to him that the drops that
fell from the Tree of Knowledge were no longer tears of blood, but
red and shining stars.
"Follow me! Follow me!" the quivering voice
still called, and at every step that the Prince took his cheeks
flushed warmer and his pulse beat faster.
"I cannot help it," he said. "This is no sin.
It cannot be wicked to follow beauty and happiness. I must see her
sleeping. No harm will be done if only I keep myself from kissing
her. And I will not kiss her, for I am strong. I have a determined
The fairy threw off her bright robe, parted
the boughs, and was instantly hidden within them.
"I have not sinned yet," said the Prince, "and
I shall not!"
He pushed the branches aside. There she lay,
already asleep. Lovely as only the fairy of the Garden of Paradise
can be, she smiled in her sleep, but as he leaned over her he saw
tears trembling between her lashes.
"Do you weep for me?" he whispered. "Do not
weep, my splendid maiden. Not until now have I known the bliss of
Paradise. It runs through my veins and through all my thoughts. I
feel the strength of an angel, and the strength of eternal life in
my mortal body. Let eternal night come over me. One moment such as
this is worth it all." He kissed away the tears from her eyes, and
then his lips had touched her mouth.
Thunder roared, louder and more terrible than
any thunder ever heard before, and everything crashed! The lovely
fairy and the blossoming Paradise dropped away, deeper and deeper.
The Prince saw it disappear into the dark night. Like a small
shining star it twinkled in the distance. A deathly chill shook his
body. He closed his eyes and for a long time he lay as if he were
The cold rain fell in his face, and the
cutting wind blew about his head. Consciousness returned to him.
"What have I done?" he gasped. "Like Adam, I
have sinned-sinned so unforgivably that Paradise has dropped away,
deep in the earth."
He opened his eyes and he still saw the star
far away, the star that twinkled like the Paradise he had lost-it
was the morning star in the sky. He rose and found himself in the
forest, not far from the cave of the winds. The mother of the winds
sat beside him. She looked at him angrily and raised her finger.
"The very first evening!" she said. "I thought
that was the way it would be. If you were my son, into the sack you
would certainly go."
"Indeed he shall go there!" said Death, a
vigorous old man with a scythe in his hand, and long black wings. "Yes,
he shall be put in a coffin, but not quite yet. Now I shall only
mark him. For a while I'll let him walk the earth to atone for his
sins and grow better. But I'll be back some day. Some day, when he
least expects me, I shall put him in a black coffin, lift it on my
head, and fly upward to the star. There too blooms the Garden of
Paradise, and if he is a good and pious man he will be allowed to
enter it. But if his thoughts are bad, and his heart is still full
of sin, he will sink down deeper with his coffin than Paradise sank.
Only once in a thousand years shall I go to see whether he must sink
still lower, or may reach the star-that bright star away up there."