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- The Wagner Story Book - 1/24 -


THE WAGNER STORY BOOK

[Illustration: "AT LAST WE CAN SEE SOMETHING IN THE FIRE."]

THE WAGNER STORY BOOK

FIRELIGHT TALES OF THE GREAT MUSIC DRAMAS

BY WILLIAM HENRY FROST

ILLUSTRATED BY SYDNEY RICHMOND BURLEIGH

To

Helen Krebbier

CONTENTS

THE STOLEN TREASURE

THE DAUGHTER OF THE GOD

THE HERO WHO KNEW NO FEAR

THE END OF THE RING

THE KNIGHT OF THE SWAN

THE PRIZE OF A SONG

THE BLOOD-RED SAIL

THE LOVE POTION

THE MINSTREL KNIGHT

THE KING OF THE GRAIL

THE ASHES

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"AT LAST WE CAN SEE SOMETHING IN THE FIRE"

"THE GOLD SHINES OUT SO BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL"

"THE DAUGHTER OF THE GOD"

"THE SUNLIGHT FOLLOWS HIM STRAIGHT INTO THE CAVE"

"THEIR TREASURE IS THEIR OWN AGAIN"

"THE KNIGHT OF HER DREAM"

"HE SAW HER EYES BRIGHTER THAN THE STARS"

"THROUGH THE BLACK STORM AND HIS OWN BLACKER DESPAIR"

"AS IF THEY COULD NEVER GAZE ENOUGH"

"THE STRANGEST FLOWERS GROW UP UNDER THEIR FEET"

"THE KING OF THE GRAIL"

THE STOLEN TREASURE

There is a certain little girl who sometimes tries to find out when I am not over busy, so that she may ask me to tell her a story. She is kind enough to say that she likes my stories, and this so flatters my vanity that I like nothing better than telling them to her. One reason why she likes them, I suspect, is that they are not really my stories at all, the most of them. They are the stories that the whole world has known and loved all these hundreds and thousands of years, tales of the gods and the heroes, of the giants and the goblins. Those are the right stories to tell to children, I believe, and the right ones for children to hear--the wonderful things that used to be done, up in the sky, and down under the ocean, and inside the mountains. If the boys and girls do not find out now, while they are young, all about the strange, mysterious, magical life of the days when the whole world was young, it is ten to one that they will never find out about it at all, for the most of us do not keep ourselves like children always, though surely we have all been told plainly enough that that is what we ought to do.

This little girl's mother is rather a strange sort of woman. I do not know that she exactly disagrees with us about these stories that we both like so much, but she seems to have a different way of looking at them from ours. I sometimes suspect that she does not even believe in fairies at all, that she never so much as thought she saw a ghost, that, if she heard a dozen wild horses galloping over the roof of the house and then flying away into the sky, she would think it was only the wind, and that she is no more afraid of ogres than of policemen. Still she is a woman whom one cannot help liking, in some respects.

But one day she said something to the little girl that surprised me, and made me think that perhaps I had done her injustice. The child came to me with a face full of perplexity and said: "What do you suppose mamma just told me?"

"I am sure I can't guess," I replied; "your mother tells you such ridiculous things that I am always afraid to think what will be the next. Perhaps she says that William Tell didn't shoot an apple off his little boy's head, or that the baker's wife didn't box King Alfred's ears for letting the cakes burn."

"Oh, no," said the child, "it isn't a bit like that; she says that you can see pictures in the fire sometimes--men and horses and trees and all kinds of things."

"Does she, indeed? And how does your mother know what I can see in the fire or what I can't see?"

"Oh, I don't mean just you--yourself, I mean anybody. Now can you? I mean can anybody?"

"Why, yes, if that is what you mean; I think some people can. It is the most sensible thing I have known your mother to say in a long time."

"But how can anybody see such things? Can you see them? I have been looking at the fire ever so long, and I can't see anything at all but just the fire, the wood, and the ashes."

"Let us look at it together," I said; and I put a chair that was big enough to hold both of us before the fireplace. "Just see how bright the fire is; look down into those deep places under the sticks, and see how it glows and shines like melted gold. Now, you know when you look into a mirror you can see pictures of the things in front of it--your own face, the walls of the room, the furniture. That is because the mirror is so bright that it reflects these things; yet the mirror is not bright enough to reflect anything except what is there before it, such things as you can see with your eyes and touch with your hands. But the fire can do better than that, for it is a great deal brighter than the mirror, and it is so bright that it can reflect thoughts. So you must think of the pictures first, and then, if you know just how to look for them in the fire, you will find them reflected there, and after a little while you will be surprised at the wonderful things you will see."

"I don't know what you mean at all," said the child; "tell me what you can see in the fire now."

"Very well. Suppose, then, first, that you almost close your eyes, but not quite, so that you will not see the fire so plainly, and it will all run together and look dim and misty. When I look at it in that way it seems to me to be fire no more, but water. It is as if we were down under a broad, deep river, and could see all the mass of water slowly eddying and whirling and flowing on above us, with just the little glow and glimmer of brightness that come down from the daylight and the air above. But there is one little spot that is brighter, right in the middle of the fire, where you see that one little yellow flame all by itself. In my picture, it is like a big lump of pure gold, resting on a point of rock that stands straight up from the bottom of the river. It is really gold, and magic gold at that, for you know wonderful treasures often lie at the bottoms of rivers. One of the wonderful things about this gold is that, if anybody could have a ring made of it, he could compel everybody else to obey him and serve him, and could rule the whole world.

"Three forms I can see now moving backward and forward, and up and down, and around and around about the gold. Now they grow a little clearer. They are river nymphs, or something of the sort, and they are here to guard the gold, lest anybody should try to steal it. It would not be easy to steal, even if it had no guard, and knowing this has perhaps made these pretty keepers a little careless about it, so that now, instead of watching it very closely, they are swimming and diving and circling about, trying to catch one another, having the jolliest time in the world, and never thinking that there may be danger near."

"And you can see all those things in the fire?" said the little girl. "I can't see any of them. How do you see them?"

"Just as I told you at first, by thinking of them and then seeing the thoughts reflected there."

"Well, tell me some more."

"Look at that little dark spot under the fire. When I look at it in the way I have told you, it is the form of a dwarf. He is ugly and rough- looking, he is crooked, and he has a wicked face. He slips and tumbles slowly along, till he catches sight of the water nymphs, and they look so pretty and graceful and happy, as they chase one another about and up and down and around, that his cruel little eyes light up with pleasure, and he calls to them that he should like to come up and play with them too."

"Oh, now I don't believe any of it at all," said the child; "I thought


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