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THE GREAT BLUE WATER
There was not in all that land, nor perhaps in all the wide world, a
happier little boy than Martin, when after waking from his sleep and
dream he dressed himself for the first time in that new suit, and
went out from the cave into the morning sunlight. He then felt the
comfort of such clothes, for they were softer than the finest,
softest down or silk to his skin, and kept him warm when it was cold,
and cool when it was hot, and dry when it rained on him, and the
earth could not soil them, nor the thorns tear them; and above
everything they were the most beautiful clothes ever seen. Their
colour was a deep moss green, or so it looked at a little distance,
or when seen in the shade, but in the sunshine it sparkled as if
small, shining, many-coloured beads had been sewn in the cloth; only
there were no beads; it was only the shining threads that made it
sparkle so, like clean sand in the sun. When you looked closely at
the cloth, you could see the lovely pattern woven in it--small leaf
and flower, the leaves like moss leaves, and the flowers like the
pimpernel, but not half so big, and they were yellow and red and
blue and violet in colour.
But there were many, many things besides the lovely clothes to make
him contented and happy. First, the beautiful woman of the hills who
loved and cherished him and made him call her by the sweet name of
"mother" so many times every day that he well nigh forgot she was
not his real mother. Then there was the great stony hill-side on
which he now lived for a playground, where he could wander all day
among the rocks, overgrown with creepers and strange sweet-smelling
flowers he had never seen on the plain below. The birds and
butterflies he saw there were different from those he had always seen;
so were the snakes which he often found sleepily coiled up on the
rocks, and the little swift lizards. Even the water looked strange
and more beautiful than the water in the plain, for here it gushed
out of the living rock, sparkling like crystal in the sun, and was
always cold when he dipped his hands in it even on the hottest days.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing was the immense distance he could
see, when he looked away from the hillside across the plain and saw
the great dark forest where he had been, and the earth stretching far,
far away beyond.
Then there was his playmate, the great yellow-spotted cat, who
followed him about and was always ready for a frolic, playing in a
very curious way. Whenever Martin would prepare to take a running
leap, or a swift run down a slope, the animal, stealing quietly up
behind, would put out a claw from his big soft foot--a great white
claw as big as an owl's beak--and pull him suddenly back. At last
Martin would lose his temper, and picking up a stick would turn on
his playmate; and away the animal would fly, pretending to be afraid,
and going over bushes and big stones with tremendous leaps to
disappear from sight on the mountain side. But very soon he would
steal secretly back by some other way to spring upon Martin unawares
and roll him over and over on the ground, growling as if angry, and
making believe to worry him with his great white teeth, although
never really hurting him in the least. He played with Martin just as
a cat plays with its kitten when it pretends to punish it.
Whenever Martin began to show the least sign of weariness the Lady
of the Hills would call him to her. Then, lying back among the ferns,
she would unbind her long silky tresses to let him play with them,
for this was always a delight to him. Then she would gather her hair
up again and dress it with yellow flowers and glossy dark green
leaves to make herself look more lovely than ever. At other times,
taking him on her shoulders, she would bound nimbly as a wild goat up
the steepest places, springing from crag to crag, and dancing gaily
along the narrow ledges of rock, where it made him dizzy to look down.
Then when the sun was near setting, when long shadows from rocks and
trees began to creep over the mountain, and he had eaten the fruits
and honey and other wild delicacies she provided, she would make him
lie on her bosom. Playing with her loose hair and listening to her
singing as she rocked herself on a stone, he would presently fall
In the morning on waking he would always find himself lying still
clasped to her breast in that great dim cavern; and almost always
when he woke he would find her crying. Sometimes on opening his eyes
he would find her asleep, but with traces of tears on her face,
showing that she had been awake and crying.
One afternoon, seeing him tired of play and hard to amuse, she took
him in her arms and carried him right up the side of the mountain,
where it grew so steep that even the big cat could not follow them.
Finally she brought him out on the extreme summit, and looking round
he seemed to see the whole world spread out beneath him. Below,
half-way down, there were some wild cattle feeding on the mountain
side, and they looked at that distance no bigger than mice. Looking
eastwards he beheld just beyond the plain a vast expanse of blue
water extending leagues and leagues away until it faded into the
blue sky. He shouted with joy when he saw it, and could not take his
eyes from this wonderful world of water.
"Take me there--take me there!" he cried.
She only shook her head and tried to laugh him out of such a wish;
but by-and-by when she attempted to carry him back down the mountain
he refused to move from the spot; nor would he speak to her nor look
up into her pleading face, but kept his eyes fixed on that distant
blue ocean which had so enchanted him. For it seemed to Martin the
most wonderful thing he had ever beheld.
At length it began to grow cold on the summit; then with gentle
caressing words she made him turn and look to the opposite side of
the heavens, where the sun was just setting behind a great mass of
clouds--dark purple and crimson, rising into peaks that were like
hills of rose-coloured pearl, and all the heavens beyond them a pale
primrose-coloured flame. Filled with wonder at all this rich and
varied colour he forgot the ocean for a moment, and uttered an
exclamation of delight.
"Do you know, dear Martin," said she, "what we should find there,
where it all looks so bright and beautiful, if I had wings and could
fly with you, clinging to my bosom like a little bat clinging to its
mother when she flies abroad in the twilight?"
"What?" asked Martin.
"Only dark dark clouds full of rain and cutting hail and thunder and
lightning. That is how it is with the sea, Martin: it makes you love
it when you see it at a distance; but oh, it is cruel and treacherous,
and when it has once got you in its power then it is more terrible
than the thunder and lightning in the cloud. Do you remember, when
you first came to me, naked, shivering with cold, with your little
bare feet blistered and bleeding from the sharp stones, how I
comforted you with my love, and you found it warm and pleasant lying
on my breast? The sea will not comfort you in that way; it will
clasp you to a cold, cold breast, and kiss you with bitter salt lips,
and carry you down where it is always dark, where you will never
never see the blue sky and sunshine and flowers again."
Martin shivered and nestled closer to her; and then while the
shadows of evening were gathering round them, she sat rocking
herself to and fro on a stone, murmuring many tender, sweet words to
him, until the music of her voice and the warmth of her bosom made
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