The Queen of Roumania's Fairy Book - Chapter 2


THE SHEPHERD AND THE PRINCESS


RAZVAN the shepherd loved a princess, and this is how it had come to pass.

Ever since he could remember, it had been Razvan's occupation to guard sheep. At first together with his father, and later when he grew bigger, all by himself.

A shepherd leads a lonely life, and often he becomes sullen and silent. Accustomed to the wilds and to the stillness of lonely places, he seems more in communion with Nature than with men. He is, therefore, seldom a good companion, and words in his mouth become few.

There was nothing sulky or sullen about Razvan, however, and Razvan loved a princess!

One day Razvan, leading his flock back to the succulent "lunca"1 where they grazed, took a road he was not in the habit of taking, and it led him past a curious white house.

High, square, with immensely thick walls, it somewhat resembled a tower, but it had a big "shindrilla" roof, and beneath this roof there was an open gallery with stumpy white columns, right, right up at the top.

Otherwise only two small windows interrupted the even surface of the white walls.

There was one door, a tiny door with a heavy, heavy lock.

As Razvan passed this strange-looking "cula"2 he heard a sweet voice singing a sad little song.

The voice was quite young and Razvan, who himself was always singing whilst he guarded his sheep, knew the words of the "doina"3 and it came quite naturally to him to finish the song when the sweet voice died away.

This was what it was singing:

From over the hills there came a song,
And the song was a song of love;
The winds and the waves they swept it along,
The song that was sung of love.

Yet up in her tower the maiden wept,
For the song was not for her heart;
But at dead o' night, when the whole world slept,
It stole, oh, it stole to her heart!

But from that night on, no more peace she knew,
For love had filled her with pain;
Yet the sun shone bright and the sky was blue,
But love was as great as the pain.

But when her love came, oh! he knew the song,
The song that was sung of love;
But the road he made, oh! 'twas too long . . .
For the maid had died of love. . . .

Then Razvan's voice broke in:

The boy he wept for what might have been,
Such a sweet, sweet song of love;
For she could have been his heart's own queen,
If she had not died of love. . . . !

Oh! and then Razvan saw such a lovely, lovely face peeping down upon him, from the gallery right, right up there, and as he stood gazing up at that face, a tear, yes, a tear, large and warm fell flop! on his cheek, the tear the little captive princess had wept!

For she was captive, that little princess, of that Razvan never doubted for a moment; nor that she was a princess. Otherwise why should she be up there all alone in a tower, and why should she weep?

With that tear which fell flop! on his cheek, the little princess had quite stolen Razvan's heart, and he could not imagine how he had not found out before all about her and her troubles.

Now, this was simply because Razvan, being a shepherd, never mixed with anybody's lives, nor did he hear the talk of the neighbourhood. All day long he was with his sheep, dreaming it away and spending most nights outside in his "lunca" beneath the stars.

He knew more about the stars and the trees, about the water in the river and the stones it flowed over, than about his neighbours and their business. Razvan was a dreamer, and both the stars and the running water had told him many things, and all these things he put into song, or made of them the sweet melancholy "doinas" he played on his flute.

I have forgotten to mention that Razvan was a very beautiful boy, with curly brown locks and great dark eyes which looked both shy and tender. Each time he turned his gaze upon your face, it was as though he were bringing it back from very far, from some world of his own, where he had seen things only seen by those who live in close touch with Nature and her mysteries.

Well, Razvan found out that the maiden up there in the forbidding-looking "cula" really was a princess, and that she was held captive by a wicked step-mother, who was jealous of her because she was the daughter of the King's first wife, whom he had loved very dearly. One day the King had said that little Marioara had her dead mother's eyes, and when he said this, his own eyes had filled with tears. This had much angered the second wife, for she was a jealous and unkind woman, vain and foolish, loving power, fine clothes, and loud amusements.

Now the King had gone to war, and his wicked Queen had shut poor Marioara up in the high, strong "cula" where no one could get at her, only because she did not want the lovely maiden to be seen by the young princes, who often came to visit their court.

Marioara was more beautiful, much more beautiful than Safta the Queen; Safta knew this, and it made her very jealous and very cross. She did not want any rivals. She was especially envious of Marioara's wonderful golden hair. Queen Safta's own hair was black as sin.

One day she had seen Marioara drying her hair in the sunshine, and it had resembled a real river of light, so bright that it pierced the eyes; it also pierced the bad Queen's heart with fiery darts of jealousy.

Since that day when Razvan had seen the lovely face peep down at him from between the "cula" columns, and the warm tear had dropped flop! on his cheek, he found no end of pretexts to pass beneath the forbidding white walls.

Razvan had suddenly awakened to a quite new conception of life.

That spring his sheep had a rather absent-minded master, and although there were innumerable lambs amongst his flock—and Razvan loved the lambs—he paid little attention to them, and his songs, which had at all times been full of desire and yearning, became so sad and heavy with longing, that the river itself felt ready to weep.

One day Razvan, hidden behind a rose bush, saw the wicked Queen! She had come on horseback with many followers.

She was all dressed in red with a heavy golden girdle about her waist. Over her white veil she wore a circlet of gold in which a large ruby flashed. Her horse was beautiful and all shiny like a shield. Her eyes flashed even more than the ruby and her lips were set in a line, hard as hate.

Dismounting from her horse, she waved her companions aside and began opening the locked door with a key she drew from her own pocket. The key was very large and glittered in the sunshine, but not as much as the wicked Queen's eyes.

No one followed her into the house, she went alone, and her embroidered robe rustled like wind amongst dead leaves.

"Oh! what will she do to poor Marioara!" was Razvan's anxious thought, and he was quite desperate.

"If I could only peep into the fortress, if I could be there, if I could sing a song which would fly into her heart as consolation or encouragement or as a sign that someone loves her!"

Then Razvan suddenly noticed that a poplar tree grew right up against the wall, half hiding with its branches one of the small windows. "If I climb into that tree," thought the shepherd, "perhaps I shall be able to see what is going on inside."

No sooner thought than done. From a dreamer Razvan suddenly turned into a man of action, love filled him with unknown energy. He was nimble, his muscles were strong as new cords, and although the branches were high up, Razvan managed to swing himself amongst them; from bough to bough he climbed till he found himself quite close to the small window, and he could actually peep right into the house!

Luck was with him, for this window was just the window of Marioara's own room, and there she was and her wicked step-mother with her!

The poor little princess was on her knees beside the bed, her fair hair streaming over the floor, her face hidden away in her hands.

Beside her stood Queen Safta, her face flushed, looking very angry. Razvan saw that she too was a beautiful woman, but hate made her face hard and cruel. The window was shut, so Razvan could not hear what the Queen was saying, but certainly she was scolding poor Marioara, whose shoulders shook with sobs. Once Safta actually lifted her hand as though to strike the defenceless maiden. She was holding a whip and all the time Razvan was afraid that she would use it. This, however, she did not do. Once, though, she bent over the crouching figure and tugged at the princess's wonderful locks. Razvan nearly screamed.

After that she suddenly left the room and Razvan saw how the captive lifted a tear-stained face to look after her such a lovely face, but all shadowy with fear and grief.

Then, overcome by the deep desire to help, Razvan tapped at the window. Perhaps she would hear him, perhaps he could say some words to her; he did not know what he would say, he had never spoken to a princess, nor to any other maiden either, for Razvan was a lonesome fellow, but now his heart was all heavy with love and pity.

Tap, tap! but the princess was weeping again, all flooded by her golden hair, which shut out both sight and sound.

Tap, tap! but Marioara did not hear!

"What shall I, what shall I do!" despaired Razvan. Beneath him he heard the stamping of horses' hoofs and the sound of many voices; the wicked Queen no doubt was preparing to depart. "If they only do not discover me," thought Razvan, but luckily for him the window was not on the front side of the house.

Again Razvan tapped, but with no better result.

"She will not look up," sighed the shepherd. "Perhaps, though, it is better that she should not; she might be frightened if she saw my dark face peeping in upon her; she might be angry. But what can I do for her, in what way can I prove her my love? If only I could leave her some little sign."

Then Razvan remembered that he was wearing in his girdle a tiny bunch of fragrant pinks, light as feathers, plucked that morning, the sweetest-smelling flower of the fields. This little bunch of pale pinks the boy laid upon the princess's window-sill, then, afraid of discovery, he quickly climbed off his tree to the ground.

His waiting sheep greeted him with lamentable bleating; they had been lonely, for sheep without a shepherd are quite lost.

*               *               *               *               *               *

That night Razvan's heart nearly burst with sadness. He always saw Marioara's face, tear-stained and desperate—what could he do to help her, what could he do?

Razvan could not sleep and one "doina" after another did he sing to the stars, words flowed from his lips. The river rippled over the small stones, and her voice was like a sob. The leaves sighed on the branches, the wind sighed as it stirred them; sometimes the sheep sighed in their sleep, but deepest of all sighed Razvan the shepherd who loved the princess.

Flow, little river, flow, flow, flow right away,
Long's the night as my grief is long, so long, so long;
And the stars are all waiting
For my grief to be stilled.
Flow, little river, flow, flow, flow right away.
Beyond the hills there is peace,
Peace and the sad sea's tale;
Of slow ships that sail,
Of sad souls that wail,
Of fair stars that pale
Beyond the rim of the world.
Flow, little river, flow, flow, flow right away,
For the gull knows the dell
Where the lost star fell,
Where the four winds met,
Where the great sun set,
Where the wild waves fret
Beyond the rim of the world.
Flow, little river, flow, flow, flow right away.

The little river loved the shepherd's song, and answered him thus:

Listen, sad heart,
To the tale I've to tell;
My waters all carry
The pale moon's light,
And the moon's a maiden
Who died long ago;
Died because her lover,
Who's the great sun, you know,
Rises at dawn, when she sets.

Listen, sad heart,
All the love in the world
It passeth away;
Winter may frown,
And sweet summer smile,
But the tale of woe
Is told 'neath each clime,
And told by each heart
'Neath moon or sunshine.
Sad heart, this I know,
As my waters all know
Of the tears that flow
At the dead of night,
When the world is sleeping.

Go, sad heart, go
To the old witch, go
To the one who can tell thee
How to still thy pain;
A dagger she can give thee,
Or she can give thee a rose,
She can teach the secrets
Of herbs, words, or woes
From thy heart she can take
The cruel pain that kills.
Two wings she can give thee,
Or the draught that'll bring thee
Face to face with thy soul.

Razvan suddenly sat up. "The old witch," he cried. "Where is the old witch, where can I find her? Perhaps she can help me, perhaps she can tell me how I can deliver the captive princess," and leaning close to the river's edge, he listened for her answer:

Go, sad heart, go,
Go along my green banks,
Where my white waters flow;
Listen to their whisper,
And when suddenly they sigh,
Look up and thou'lt espy
An old oak like a spectre,
With three arms that are dead;
An old oak with a shadow
Dark as man's sin.
There where it's darkest
Sits the one who came,
The wise one who came
From the very ends of the earth,
Came with the world's white dust on her feet,
Came with the wisdom
Of those who can see
The four winds meet,
Of those who can see pain
'Neath the smile on man's lips.
Who came from a land
Which none of us know,
From a land where the sun
Dips into the sea;
Where the stars all know
The long road which leads
To the tower of silence
Which few have seen,
From the land of wild wastes
Where black birds scream
From mountains of glass
Which are borders of the world.
Go, sad heart, go,
Go along my green banks
Where my white waters flow,
Go, sad heart, go.

When Razvan heard this, he jumped up, forgetting all about his sheep, and ran along the whispering stream, the waters of which were so bleached by the moon that it was but the ghost of a river.

He ran, ran, stumbling over the roots of the willows which grew on the banks, till suddenly there where the stream made a curve, he actually saw the gaunt old oak with the three dead arms, rising like the spectre of a giant from out of the weird moonlight. And verily its shadow lay over the ground, dark as ink, and in that shadow sat a woman, old as the hills.

She sat crouching over a small fire which lit up the lower part of her face with lurid reflections, whilst the moonlight lay like frost on her head, and upon the ground all around her. Pale was her face as that of the dead, except there where the glare reddened it. Her eyes were as black coals. She was whispering strange words into the flames over which her hands hovered like huge moths. At her feet squatted a monstrous toad, and from one of the dead branches, just above her head, hung the skeleton of a crow swaying lightly in the breeze.

Almost frozen with fright, Razvan nevertheless advanced towards her and stood, he too like a ghost in the moonlight, staring at the uncanny old being.

"Where have you left your heart?" asked the witch in a harsh voice. She did not seem in the least astonished to see him. "My heart?" stammered the astonished boy.

"Yes, your heart," insisted the witch.

"At this moment it is choking me in my throat," whispered the shepherd.

"It's a lie," snapped the old creature. "I see it lying with a bunch of pale pinks on a window-sill."

"Oh, my heart!" cried Razvan, pressing both hands to his bosom.

"Yes, perhaps at the 'cula' . . . on Marioara's window-sill."

"Well, you see, you see, it's no good hiding things from me," chuckled the old woman.

"But then," faltered Razvan, "what can I do? How can I live without a heart?"

"You cannot live without a heart," declared the uncanny one.

"Then I must die!" gasped Razvan with pale lips.

"Die or get your heart back again," grinned the witch.

"But how can I get it back again?" asked the boy.

"You can take it away from the princess's window, but then she'll pine away."

"Oh, that must not be!" cried the youth.

"You can also rejoin your heart," declared the witch.

"Can you help me to do so?" asked the boy.

"I might," nodded the terrible one.

"Then, please, please do!" implored Razvan.

"But nothing is to be had for nothing," declared the old hag.

"I'll give you anything you want, if you'll only help me," promised Razvan, throwing himself on his knees and clasping his hands. "But I have not much to give."

"You have your youth," said the witch.

"My youth? But how can I give you my youth?"

"You can also give me your illusions," grinned the hag.

"My illusions, what are they?" asked Razvan in a blank voice.

"The song of youth," answered the old one.

"Take it," said Razvan, but his voice shook with fear.

"You can also give me your hope," continued the terrible one.

"I don't know what is my hope," whispered the boy.

"You can also give me your belief in God!" said the hag in a hollow voice.

"No, no, that I cannot give you!" cried Razvan, as one who has been shot through the heart.

Then the terrible old hag laughed. "And what if the princess dies?" she asked.

"It would not make her live if I gave you my belief in God!" protested Razvan. "I know she would not wish me to give you that!"

"Nor do I particularly want to have it," declared the witch, snapping her fingers in the moonlight. "Verily, I see you have not much to give."

After that there was a long silence; only the little stream could be heard sobbing, sobbing, as it rushed along. To Razvan it was as though he were dreaming. With eyes filled with fear, he kept staring at the witch's hands as they hovered over the flames.

Then suddenly out of the silence the witch lifted her voice and spoke these words:

"The princess will never love you, but you can be a pleasure and solace to her grief all the same."

"Tell me in what way," pleaded Razvan; now there were tears in his voice.

"I can turn you into a nightingale," said the witch. "You'll fly to her window, there your heart will become one with you again, and your songs, your beautiful songs, will ease her grief."

"But could I not sing her my 'doinas' with my human voice? Is it not as sweet as the sweetest bird's voice?"

"I'll turn you into a nightingale," repeated the terrible one, "and to pay me for doing so, you'll give me your hope!"

"But my sheep!" cried Razvan, "what about my sheep and all the little lambs that depend upon me?"

"They'll call for you night and day," said the hag; "their bleating will be heard on the wind like weeping waves on a desert shore."

"Will I be able to return to them?" asked Razvan, and now tears were running down his cheeks.

"You'll never return to them any more," spoke the woman.

"What shall I do? What shall I decide?" cried the youth, wringing his hands.

"You'll give me your hope," quoth the witch, "and I'll turn you into a nightingale for all the days of your life."

Razvan was quite desperate, not knowing what to do. Throwing himself on the ground he wept bitterly, torn between his love for the princess and his care for his sheep.

The old witch watched him with her coal-black eyes and on the face of the monstrous toad beside her there was an ugly grin. Then Razvan stumbled to his feet.

"Turn me into a nightingale," he said with a voice that trembled, "and I am ready to pay you with my hope."

"Then drink this," said the witch, handing him a small glass phial which glowed like a star, and Razvan the shepherd lifted the philtre to his lips and drank it to the last drops. . . .

There was a sound like a sob, the fluttering of wings . . . and the old woman and her toad looking up at the sky saw high, high up, against the moon's white face, a tiny brown bird whose sweet voice reached them like the echo of a song of love. .. .

When at dawn Razvan's sheep awoke and saw that their shepherd was no more with them, they began dolefully to bleat, and the voices of the lambs were like the voices of little children lost in the night.

The small stream tried to give them a message, but they were too accustomed to the sound of her voice, and they would not listen to what she had to say. . . .

*               *               *               *               *               *

That evening the captive princess, sadder than ever, her heart almost breaking with grief, found a small bunch of pale pinks on her window-sill. Their heads were drooping, but the perfume was so sweet, that when she buried her face amongst them all the longing of the world seemed to rise out of them and fill her room.

With a sob, Marioara pressed the flowers to her lips, but she did not know that the shepherd's heart was concealed amongst them. In a glass beside her bed she placed them, and all night their exquisite fragrance filled her dreams with thoughts of love. Although the tears still hung like dew on the princess's lashes, she smiled in her sleep.

Next morning a wondrous-sweet song awoke her. The first rays of the sun were dancing in through the narrow window on to her bed, and there, on the sill, sat a small brown bird, not at all a beautiful bird, in fact it looked almost shabby, but the song it was singing was so rapturous that Marioara pressed both hands to her bosom, as though there were a great pain inside it.

The little bird sang, sang, as though its throat would burst, and its melody seemed to mingle with the pale pinks' fragrance, turning the princess's prison into a palace of sweetness, for such was the power of poor Razvan's love.

Carefully Marioara approached the window, afraid of frightening the bird away, but to her astonishment it hopped nearer to her, and when she laid her hand down upon the sill, palm upwards, the little creature fluttered on to it, and throwing back its head sang in such melting notes so gloriously, so passionately, that the tears began to stream down the sad princess's cheeks.

Each morning and each evening the little brown bird came to Marioara's window, and gave her the wonder of its song. But the princess knew not that Razvan's voice sang in the bird's throat.

She never guessed—and how could she?—the simple shepherd's sacrifice, but she was grateful to the little brown bird, for its songs sweetened both her awakening and her going to rest, and above all her nights of sleeplessness, because, especially at night, when all is still, does the nightingale sing most sweetly.

But down in the green shady "lunca" Razvan's sheep and lambs bleated, bleated piteously, with the voices of little children lost in the night. . . .

One evening a great event took place in the princess's "cula," something unexpected . . . something . . . but listen.

When the bird alighted as usual on the window-sill to sing its evening song, it discovered that the princess was not alone—someone was with her.

The room was dark and at first the nightingale could not see at all. For a moment it feared that the wicked Queen might have come back to torture the one it loved—but then suddenly it heard . . . a soft sound . . . a happy sound, the sound of a kiss. . . .

The little brown bird's heart gave a great thump, so great a thump it was, that it nearly burst through its breast. . . . Two voices were whispering together, there was a sound of hushed laughter .. . of another kiss, then getting up from where she sat the princess lit a light near her bed. . . .

Now the nightingale could see Marioara's visitor, a beautiful youth in rich apparel, a circlet of gold upon his fair locks and a jewelled sword at his side!

"Făt Frumos"4 the beautiful prince! . . . oh! . . . indeed a fit lover for the captive princess. Here was no shepherd with black hair and poor clothing spun out of rough common hemp, but a splendid fair-haired youth, whose clothes were all embroidered with gold. A large blue cloak hung from his shoulders in grand folds to the ground . . . yes, beautiful he was, beautiful with the same sort of beauty as that of the princess.

"They suit each other—they really do," thought the humble brown bird, and Razvan's soul fluttered in the nightingale's body, his heart beat stormily in its narrow breast.

"Oh! but I must rejoice, rejoice that someone has come at last to deliver the princess, to carry her off into happiness, to love her, kiss her, bring colour back to her pale, pale cheeks, a smile back to her sad lips."—Oh! but why did the nightingale's heart ache so badly, why could he not rejoice?

Marioara lay in the prince's arms, and on her window-sill sang the small brown bird . . . sang in melting tones for their joy, for their love . . . sang, sang, till the stars in the heavens trembled, and till joy became almost pain in the lovers' two hearts. . . .

Next morning the prince came back with many followers. A snow-white palfrey with gold and red trappings had he brought for his bride—for now the princess was free, was free!

The King, returning from war, had discovered Queen Safta's wickedness, and she in her turn had been shut up, and "Făt Frumos" sent to take away the princess as a bride to his own castle. But the nightingale knew none of these details, and kept wondering what had come to pass. . . .

Just as the princess was leaving the "cula" she remarked the nightingale still sitting on her window-sill.

"Oh, dear little brown singer!" she cried, "I was forgetting all about you; you were the consolation of my days of captivity. I'll make of you my court-singer, your beautiful voice will intensify my happiness; I am sure no other man, nor bird, will ever sing more sweetly than you do," and Marioara had a small cage brought to her, into which she shut poor Razvan, and herself carried him thus all the way to her new home. . . .

Now Razvan was the captive, and the princess was free!

Her new home was a beautiful white castle, with gardens all around it, and as background a dark forest of pine—and all was joy, sunshine, and good-will upon this sad old earth.

Marioara changed the small cage for a larger golden one, understanding naught of what Razvan was trying to tell her. "I do not need a cage, fair princess!" he sang, "it is love that keeps me beside you; love, only love, that made me sing you such lovely songs; if you really want me, I will remain with you always, no prison bars do I need." This was what the poor nightingale was trying to explain to her, but Marioara did not understand bird-language; besides she was now so happy that she could not believe that anybody could be sad, and strangest of all, she, who had been freed from prison, did not realize that she was making a prisoner of the bird.. . .

She hung the cage up beside her window, there where Razvan could see into her great white chamber, and where he also had an unlimited view out upon the beautiful world. Upon the flowers in the garden, upon the splashing fountains, upon the distant blue hills; but beat his wings as he would, he was captive, captive, a golden cage was his home, and the princess whom he loved, loved a prince! . . .

Then suddenly Razvan remembered that he had paid the old witch with his hope! That is what she had meant, now he understood, and all his songs were now hopeless songs, songs like tears falling, falling at the dead of night.

The whole court marvelled at the wondrous singer the princess had brought with her in a cage. "It is an enchanted bird," they said; "its notes stir the heart in a special way, there is something almost human in its voice."

Proudly the princess would show off her captive; she only regretted that he had quite such a shabby-coloured plumage, but as his singing was sweeter at night, really this detail was but of small importance.

On moonlit nights she would have the lights extinguished, assemble all her followers in the great white hall, and thus, surrounded by a merry party, many hours would she listen to the nightingale's singing.

"Had ever queen, sultan, or tyrant a singer such as this?" she would ask with pardonable pride. "Verily, nay," the courtiers would answer; "neither the great Emperor of the East, nor the Shah of Persia, nor the Maharajah of the Indian Empire possesses such a marvel." How they knew this so surely, I do not know, but they said it in good faith, and of course the princess liked to hear it.

But sweetest of all did the brown bird sing when the princess lay in the arms of her prince, for then its songs were a blending of love and pain.

Autumn had set in. The dahlias were ablaze in Marioara's gardens, the trees were all of flaming gold, but the nightingale sang more rarely, and ever more sadly sounded his songs. His feathers had lost their lustre, scarcely did he touch the food dealt out to him, and his head had a melancholy droop.

Too busy with her many joyous occupations, too busy with love, Marioara neglected the bird. When he did not sing, she did not think of him at all; besides the prince had brought her such a comical little monkey. Oh, such a funny little creature; the grimaces he made were so ludicrous that the princess would laugh till her sides ached.

Razvan hated the monkey, hated him with all the strength of his bleeding heart, and since it had come to the white castle Razvan sang no more.

One day the princess was bored, and also a little cross—even princesses are cross sometimes. Going to the window, she threw it wide open, and leaning out gazed with dreamy eyes towards the far mountains, which lay all hazy blue in the distance.

Above her head hung the captive bird in its cage. Feeling its love so close beside it, the nightingale tried to lift its voice and sing, but something seemed to break in its throat, and only a few hoarse little twitters reached Marioara's ears!

"Oh, are you still there?" she exclaimed. "I had actually forgotten all about you," and unlocking the cage, she stood it upon the sill.

"Oh, how ugly you have become!" she cried, clapping her hands together; "so thin, with such draggled feathers, and you have not even got any voice left."

The nightingale fluttered its weak wings, and beat its poor little head against its prison bars.

"Oh, you want to get out, do you?" said the princess. "Well, I really do not know why I should keep you any longer, now that you have lost your voice—and you are so shabby to look at, you are not at all fitly dressed for a court," and with a quick movement Marioara opened the cage door.



Marioara and the Nightingale


"Fly away, little bird!" she cried; "fly to the blue hills yonder, perhaps you will be happier free; and if in the spring-time you find your voice again, you can come back to sing to me!"

Razvan hesitated a moment on the edge of the window, took a last look at his love, tried once more to break into song . . . failed . . . then spreading his wings flew lightly away towards the far blue hills. . . .

*               *               *               *               *               *

The leaves were falling, falling; everywhere the ground was strewn with their wilting beauty. Mists, like moving veils, were slowly stealing in and out amongst the trees of the "lunca," whilst the stream, the busy little stream, was hurrying along, holding converse with the stones as it went.

"Hark! 'tis the note of a nightingale," it whispered; "a nightingale at this season! What a strange, strange thing!"

A shepherd piping on his flute looked up.

"A nightingale," he said, "or do my ears play me a trick?" and, indeed, there upon a bare branch sat a small brown bird, all lonesome and sodden-looking, and the notes it sang were but weary, sad notes, with none of the raptures of spring therein.

"Come, my sheep!" cried the shepherd; "it is time we were starting on our way home."

The sheep all looked up at their master and bleated. Upon its bough the nightingale beat its small wings, as though in pain, for the sheep were Razvan's sheep. . . .

Within the dark shadow of the oak tree with the three dead arms, sat the horrible old witch. She was blowing soap-bubbles. One of the transparent globes rose huge and many-coloured in the air—for a moment it hung suspended, a frail, glorious thing, reflecting on its curved surface all the world's light. Then silently it burst, and it was as though it had never been!

"There goes Razvan's Hope," chuckled the hag, "and the princess loves a prince. . . ."

Beside her the monstrous toad sat grinning, and the grey autumn mists, creeping up the old tree-trunk, curled in wisps through the crow's skeleton that was still hanging there, till it appeared to be smoking.

Lifting her head to look at it, the uncanny old hag laughed a mirthless laugh. . . .

It was spring-time again, the shepherds were leading their sheep back to the pastures by the cool rivers, and many lambs there were amongst the flocks.

In her great white chamber sat Marioara, the fair princess, the princess whom Razvan had loved, and in her arms she held a babe. . . .

Wide open was the window. The balmy air of spring fanned through the room, its breath was full of the fragrance of spring.

Marioara's eyes were all shiny with joy. Like a stream of light her fair hair flooded her shoulders, a vision of beauty was she!

Suddenly a song, rapturous beyond words, the sweetest song upon earth, a nightingale's song, reached the young mother's ears.

Looking up from her child, she espied a small brown bird seated on her sill. With head thrown back, throat throbbing as though it would burst, the bird was putting heart and soul into its song.

"Hark, baby, hark!" whispered the mother. "Once upon a time, baby mine, when I was a poor captive, a little brown bird, exactly like that one, used to come to my prison and sing me to sleep. I wonder if it is the same brown bird, little baby, but I hardly think it can be, for that poor little bird I put in a cage till it nearly died of grief, and one day I opened the cage door and the bird flew away . . . away. . . ."

The baby with a crooning sound stretched out its arms towards the window; its wee fingers were pink, like crumpled rose petals.

The bird sang, sang, sang, as though it had some message to give.

"Strange," murmured the princess, "strange; oh! my bonny babe, that song which sounds so joyful is really full of tears. . . ."

At that the little bird beat its wings and flew away . . . away. . . .

*               *               *               *               *               *

In the "lunca" by the river sat a young shepherd boy, but the shepherd was not Razvan, though the sheep were Razvan's sheep.

The small river rippled over the stones, and her voice was like a sob—she sang as she hurried along:

Listen, sad heart:
All the love in the world
It passeth away. . . .
Winter may frown,
And sweet summer smile,
But the tale of woe
Is told 'neath each clime,
And told by each heart
Till one day, oh! one day,
It passeth away and is gone. . . .




1 "Lunca," the flat wooded borders of a river, or small meadow with trees in neighbourhood
   of a river.
2
"Cula," square tower with shingled roof.
3 "Doina," a popular song.
4 "Făt Frumos," the traditional fairy-prince.