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- The Land of the Blue Flower - 4/4 -
than other men, and had eyes so wonderful and commanding, they did not know what punishment he would invent for them and were afraid to disobey him. But somehow, after they had worked in the sweet-scented earth for a while and had seen others working, the light of the sun and the freshness of the air made them feel in better humor; the wind blew away their evil fancies and their headaches, and because there was so much talk and wondering about the magic of the Blue Flower they became interested, and wanted to see what it would do for them when it blossomed. Scarcely any of them had ever tried to make a flower grow before and they gradually thought of it a great deal. There was less quarreling because conversation with neighbors all about a Blue Flower gave no reason for hard words. The worst and idlest were curious about it and every one tried experiments of his own. The children were delighted and actually grew happy and rosy over their digging and watering and care-taking. Gradually all sorts of curious things happened. People who were growing Blue Flowers began to keep the ground around about them in order. They did not like to see bits of paper and rubbish lying about, so they cleared them away. One quite new thing which occurred was that sometimes people even helped each other a little. Cripples and those who were weak actually found that there were stronger ones who would do things for them when their backs ached, and it was hard to carry water or dig up weeds. No one in King Mordreth's Land had ever helped another before.
The boy who was clever did more than all the rest. He gathered together all the children he could and formed them into a band using the passwords. In time it became quite like a little army. They called themselves The Band of the Blue Flower, and each boy and girl was bound to remember the passwords and apply them to all they did. So, often, when a number of people were together and things began to go wrong, a clear young voice would cry out somewhere like a silver battle cry:
"There is no time for anger!" or "There is no time for hate!" or "There is no time to fret! There is no time."
Among the great and rich people also singular things came to pass. Those who had wasted their days loitering or rioting were obliged to get up in the morning to work in their gardens, and finding that exercise and fresh air improved their health and spirits they began to like it. Court ladies found it good for their complexions and tempers; busy merchants discovered that it made their heads clearer; ambitious students found that after an hour spent evening and morning over their Blue Flower beds they could study twice as long without fatigue. The children of the princes and nobles became so full of work and talk of their soil and their seeds that they quite forgot to squabble and be jealous of each other's importance at Court. Never in one story could it be told how many unusual, interesting, and wonderful things occurred in the once gloomy King Mordreth's Land just because every person in it, rich and poor, old and young, good and bad, had to plant and care for and live every day of life with a Blue Flower. Oh! the corners and crannies and queer places it was planted in; and oh! the thrill of excitement everywhere when the first tender green shoots thrust their way through the earth! And the wave of excitement which passed over the whole land when the first buds showed themselves. By that time every one was so interested that even the Afraid Ones had forgotten to ask each other what King Amor would do to them if they had no Blue Flower. Somehow, people had gained courage and they knew the Blue Flower would grow--and they knew there was no time to stop working while they worried and said "Suppose it didn't." There was no time.
Sometimes the young King was on the mountain top with the wind and the eagle and the stars, and sometimes he was in his palace in the city, but he was always working and thinking for his people. He was not seen by the people, however, until a splendid summer day came when it was proclaimed by heralds in the streets that he would begin his journey through the land by riding through the capital city to see the blossoming of the Blue Flowers, and there would be a feast once more upon the plain.
It was a wonderful day, the air was full of golden light and the sky of such a blueness as never had been seen before. Out of the palace gates he rode and he wore his crown, and his eyes were more brilliant than the jewels in it, and his smile was more radiant than a sunrise as he looked about him, for every breath he drew in was fragrant, every ugly place was hidden, and every squalid corner filled with beauty, for it seemed as if the whole world were waving with Blue Flowers. Tumble-down houses and fences were covered with them because some of them climbed like vines; neglected fields and gardens had been made neat so that they would grow; rubbish and dirt had been cleaned away to make room for clumps and patches of them. You could not grow the Blue Flower among dirt and disorder any more than you could grow it while you were spending your time in drinking and quarreling. By the road sides, in courts, in windows, in cracks, in walls, in broken places in roofs, in great people's gardens, on the window sills, or about the doorways of poor people's hovels--fair and fragrant and waving, grew the Blue Flower. Where it waved there was no room for dirt and rubbish, and suddenly even the dullest people began to see that the face of the whole land was changed as if by some strange magic, and the whole population seemed changed with it. Everybody looked fresher and more cheerful, people had actually learned to smile and keep themselves clean, and there was not one who was not healthier. They had, in fact, been noticing this for some time, and they had said to each other that the power of the Blue Flower, of which the King had spoken, was beginning to work. The children had grown gay and rosy, and the boy who was clever and all his companions had found time to earn themselves new clothes, because they had never forgotten their passwords. All the farmers wanted them to work in their fields because they said there was no time to idle, no time to fight, no time to play evil tricks.
On the King rode, and on and on and on, and the farther he went the more splendid and joyous his smile grew.
But at no time during the day was it more beautiful than when he met the little cripple who had sat on the outside of the crowd on the first feast day, not expecting to see or hear anything.
The cripple lived in a tiny hovel on the edge of the city, and when the glittering procession drew near it the small patch of garden was quite bare and had not a Blue Flower in it. And the little cripple was sitting huddled upon his broken door-step, sobbing softly with his face hidden in his arms.
King Amor drew up his white horse and looked at him and looked at his bare garden.
"What has happened here?" he said. "This garden has not been neglected. It has been dug and kept free of weeds, but my Law has been broken. There is no Blue Flower."
Then the little cripple got up trembling and hobbled through his rickety gate and threw himself down upon the earth before the King's white horse, sobbing hopelessly and heart-brokenly.
"Oh King!" he cried. "I am only a cripple, and small, and I can easily be killed. I have no flowers at all. When I opened my package of seeds I was so glad that I forgot the wind was blowing, and suddenly a great gust carried them all away forever and I had not even one left. I was afraid to tell anybody."
And then he cried so that he could not speak.
"Go on," said the young King gently. "What did you do?"
"I could do nothing," said the little cripple. "Only I made my garden neat and kept away the weeds. And sometimes I asked other people to let me dig a little for them. And always when I went out I picked up the ugly things I saw lying about--the bits of paper and rubbish--and I dug holes for them in the earth. But I have broken your Law."
Then the people gasped for breath, for King Amor dismounted from his horse and lifted the little cripple up in his arms and held him against his breast.
"You shall ride with me today," he said, "and go to my castle on the mountain crag and live near the stars and the sun. When you kept the weeds from your bare little garden, and when you dug for others and hid away ugliness and disorder, you planted a Blue Flower every day. You have planted more than all the rest, and your reward shall be the sweetest, for you planted without the seeds."
And then the people shouted until the world seemed to ring with their joy, and somehow they knew that King Mordreth's Land had come into fair days and they thought it was the Blue Flower magic.
"But the earth is full of magic," Amor said to the Ancient One, after the feast on the plain was over. "Most men know nothing of it and so comes misery. The first law of the earth's magic is this one. If you fill your mind with a beautiful thought there will be no room in it for an ugly one. This I learned from you and from my brothers the stars. So I gave my people the Blue Flower to think of and work for. It led them to see beauty and to work happily and filled the land with bloom. I, their King, am their brother, and soon they will understand this and I can help them, and all will be well. They shall be wise and joyous and know good fortune."
The little cripple lived near the sun and the stars in the castle on the mountain crag until he grew strong and straight. Then he was the King's chief gardener. The boy who was clever was made captain of his band, which became the King's own guard and never left him. And the gloom of King Mordreth's Land was forgotten, because it was known throughout all the world as The Land of the Blue Flower.
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