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- The Land of the Blue Flower - 3/4 -
the King Mordreths had been evil and selfish, and he was their descendant.
When they saw that he was so tall and powerful and carried his handsome head so high, often looking upward, they feared him still more; as their own heads hung down they never saw anything but the dirt and dust beneath their feet or the quarrels about them, so their minds were full of fears and ugly thoughts, and they at once began to be afraid of him and suspect him of being proud. He could do twice as much evil as the other Kings, they said, since he was twice as strong and twice as handsome. It was their nature to first think an evil thought of anything or anybody and to be afraid of all things at the outset.
The princes and nobles who rode in the procession tried to prevent King Amor seeing the wretched-looking people and ill-kept streets. They pointed out the palaces and decorations and beautiful ladies throwing flowers in his path from the balconies. He praised all the splendors and saluted the balconies, looking up with such radiant and smiling eyes that the ladies almost threw themselves after their flowers and cried out that never, never had there been crowned such a beautiful young King before.
"Do not look at the rabble, your Majesty," the Prime Minister said. "They are an evil, ill-tempered lot of worthless malcontents and thieves."
"I would not look at them," answered King Amor, "if I knew that I could not help them. There is no time to look at dark things if one cannot make them brighter. I look at these because there is something to be done. I do not yet know what."
"There is such hatred in their eyes that they will only make you angry, Sire," said a handsome young prince who rode near.
"There is no time for anger," said Amor, holding his crowned head high. "It is a worthless thing."
After sunset there was a great banquet and after it a great ball, and the courtiers and princes were delighted by the beauty and grace of the new King. He was much brighter and more charming than any of the King Mordreths had been. His laugh was full of gaiety and the people who stood near him felt happier, though they did not know why.
But when the ball was at its height he stepped into the center of the room and spoke aloud to the splendid company.
"I have seen the broad streets and the palaces and all that is beautiful in my capital," he said. "Now I must go to the narrow streets and the dark ones. I must see the miserable people, the cripples, the wretched ones, the drunkards and the thieves."
Every one clamored and protested. These things they had hidden from him; they said kings should not see them.
"I will see them," he said with a smile which was beautiful and strange. "I go now, on foot, and unattended except for my friend the Ancient One. Let the ball go on."
He strode through the glittering throng with the gray-clad Ancient One at his side. He still wore his crown upon his head because he wished his people to know that their King had come to them.
Through dark and loathsome places they went, through narrow streets and back alleys and courts, where people scurried away like rats as the gutter children had done in the daytime. King Amor could not have seen them but that he had brought with him a bright lantern and held it up in the air above his high head. The light shining upon his beautiful face and his crown made him look more than ever like a young god and giant, and the people cowered terrified before him, asking each other what such a King would do to wretches like themselves. But just a few very little children smiled at him because he was so young and bright and splendid. No one in the black holes and corners could understand why a King should come walking among them on the night of his coronation day. Most of them thought that the next morning he would order them all to be killed, and their houses burned, because he would only think of them as vermin.
Once as he passed through a dark court a madman darted out in his path shaking his fist.
"We hate you!" he cried out. "We hate you!"
The dwellers in the court gasped with terror, wondering what would happen. But the tall young King stood holding his lantern above his head and gazing at the madman with deep thought in his eyes.
"There is no time for hatred in the world," he said. "There is no time." And then he passed on.
The look of deep thought was in his face throughout the hours in which he strode on until he had seen all he had come to see.
The next day he rode back up the mountain to his castle on the crag, and when the night fell he lay out upon the battlements under the sky as he had done on so many nights. The soft wind blew about him as he looked up at the stars.
"I do not know, my brothers," he said to them. "Tell me." And he lay silent until the great sweet stillness of the night seemed to fill his soul, and when the stars began to fade he slept in rapturous peace.
The people in his kingdom on the plain waited, wondering what he would do. During the next few days they quarreled and hated each other more than ever, the rich ones because they all wanted to gain his favor, and each was jealous of the other; the poor ones because they were afraid of him and each man feared that his neighbor would betray things he had done in the past.
Only two boys working together in a field, having stopped to wrangle and fight, one of them suddenly stood still remembering something, and said a strange thing in a strange voice:
"There is no time for anger. There is no time." And as he fell to work again his companion did the same, and when they had finished their task of weeding they talked about the thing and remembered that when they had quarreled the day before they had not finished their task at all, and had not been paid, and had gone home sore from the blows they had given each other, and had had no supper.
"No, there is no time," they decided.
At the beginning of the following week there were rumors that a strange law had been made--the strangest ever known in the world. It was something about a Blue Flower. What had flowers to do with laws, or what had laws to do with flowers? People quarreled about what the meaning of such a law might be. Those who thought first of evil things and fears began to say that in the rich people's gardens was to be planted a Blue Flower whose perfume would poison all the poor.
The only ones who did not quarrel were the two boys and their friends who had already begun to make a sort of password of "There is no time for anger." One of them who was clever added a new idea to the saying.
"There is no time for fear!" he cried out in the field. "Let us go on with our work." And they finished their task early and played games.
At last one morning it was made known that the new King was to give a feast in the open air to all the people. It was to be on the plain outside the city, and he himself was going to proclaim to them the Law of the Blue Flower.
"Now we shall know the worst," growled and shivered the Afraid Ones as they shuffled their way to the plain, and the boys who used the password heard them.
"There is no time to think of the worst!" shouted the clever one at the top of his voice. "There is no time. We shall be late for the feast."
And a number of people actually turned to listen because there was a high, strong, gay sound in his voice such as had never been heard in King Mordreth's Land before.
The plain was covered with thick green grass, and beautiful spreading trees grew on it. There was a richly draped platform for King Amor's gold and ivory chair, but when the people gathered about he stood up before them, a beautiful young giant with eyes like fixed stars and head held high. And he read his law in a voice which, wonderful to relate, was heard by every man, woman, and child--even by the little cripple crouching alone in the grass on the very outskirts of the crowd and not expecting to hear or see anything.
This is what he read:
"In my pleasaunce on the mountain top there grows a Blue Flower. One of my brothers, the birds, brought me its seed from an Emperor's hidden garden. It is as beautiful as the sky at dawn. It has a strange power. It dispels evil fortune and the dark thoughts which bring it. There is no time for dark thoughts--there is no time for evil. Listen to my Law. Tomorrow seeds will be given to every man, woman, and child in my kingdom--even to the newborn. Every man, woman, and child--even the newborn--is commanded by the law to plant and feed and watch over the Blue Flower. It is the work of each to make it grow. The mother of the newborn can hold its little hand and make it drop the seeds into the earth. As the child grows she must show it the green shoots when they pierce the brown soil. She must babble to it of its Blue Flower. By the time it is pleased by color it will love the blossoms, and the spell of happiness and good fortune will begin to work for it. It is not one person here and there who must plant the flower, but each and every one. To those who have not land about them, all the land is free. You may plant by the roadside, in a cranny of a wall, in an old box or glass or tub, in any bare space in any man's field or garden. But each must plant his seeds and watch over and feed them. Next year when the Blue Flower blossoms I shall ride through my kingdom and bestow my rewards. This is my Law."
"What will befall if some of us do not make them grow?" groaned some of the Afraid Ones.
"There is no time to think of that!" shouted the boy who was clever. "Plant them!"
When the Prime Minister and his followers told the King that larger and stronger prisons must be built for the many criminals, and that heavier taxes must be laid upon the people to rescue the country from poverty, his answer to them was: "Wait until the blooming of the Blue Flower."
In a short time every one was working in the open air, digging in the soil--tiny children as well as men and women. Drunkards and thieves and idlers who had never worked before came out of their dark holes and corners into the light of the sun. It was not a hard thing to plant a few flower seeds, and because the King Amor looked so much more powerful
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