copyright, Kellscraft Studio
1999-2002                                             
(Return to Web Text-ures)                                             
Click Here to return to
Children's Blue Bird
Content Page

Click Here to return to
the previous section

(HOME)

CHAPTER V

THE KINGDOM OF THE FUTURE

TYLTYL and Mytyl woke up next morning, feeling very gay; with childish carelessness, they had forgotten their disappointment. Tyltyl was very proud of the compliments which Light had paid him: she seemed as happy as though he had brought the Blue Bird with him:

She said, with a smile, as she stroked the lad's dark curls:

"I am quite satisfied. You are such a good, brave boy that you will soon find what you are looking for."

Tyltyl did not understand the deep meaning of her words; but, for all that, he was very glad to hear them. And, besides, Light had promised him that to-day he would have nothing to fear in their new expedition. On the contrary, he would meet millions and millions of little children who would show him the most wonderful toys of which no one on earth had the least idea. She also told him that he and his little sister would travel alone with her this time and that all the others would take a rest while they were gone.

That is why, at the moment when our chapter opens, they had all met in the underground vaults of the temple. Light thought it as well to lock up the Elements and Things. She knew that, if they were left to do as they pleased, they might escape and get into mischief. It was not so very cruel of her, because the vaults of her temple are even lighter and lovelier than the upper floors of human houses; but you cannot get out without her leave. She alone has the power of widening, with a stroke of her wand, a little cleft in an emerald wall at the end of the passage, through which you go down a few crystal steps till you come to a sort of cave, all green and transparent like a forest when the sunlight sweeps through its branches.

Usually, this great hall was quite empty; but now it had sofas in it and a gold table laid with fruits and cakes and creams and delicious wines, which Light's servants had just finished setting out. Light's servants were very odd! They always made the Children laugh: with their long white satin dresses and their little black caps with a flame at the top, they looked like lighted candles. Their mistress sent them away and then told the Animals and Things to be very good and asked them if they would like some books and games to play with; they answered, with a laugh, that nothing amused them more than eating and sleeping and that they were very glad to stay where they were.


A wonderful garden lay before him, a dream-garden filled with flowers that shone like stars

Tylô, of course, did not share this view. His heart spoke louder than his greed or his laziness; and his great dark eyes turned in entreaty on Tyltyl, who would have been only too pleased to take his faithful companion with him, if Light had not absolutely forbidden it:

"I can't help it," said the boy, giving him a kiss. "It seems that dogs are not admitted where we are going."

Suddenly, Tylô sprang up with delight: a great idea had struck him. He had not left his real, doggy life long enough to forget any part of it, especially his troubles. Which was the greatest of these? Was it not the chain? What melancholy hours Tylô had spent fastened to an iron ring! And what humiliation he endured when the woodcutter used to take him to the village and, with unspeakable silliness, keep him on the lead in front of everybody, thus depriving him of the pleasure of greeting his friends and sniffing the smells provided for his benefit at every street-corner and in every gutter:

"Well," he said to himself, "I shall have to submit to that humiliating torture once again, to go with my little god!"

Faithful to his traditions, he had, in spite of his fine clothes, kept his dog-collar, but not his lead. What was to be done? He was once more in despair, when he saw Water lying on a sofa and playing, in an absent-minded sort of way, with her long strings of coral. He ran up to her as prettily as he could and, after paying her a heap of compliments, begged her to lend him her biggest necklace. She was in a good temper and not only did what he asked, but was kind enough to fasten the end of the coral string to his collar. Tylô gaily went up to his master, handed him this makeshift chain and, kneeling at his feet, said:

"Take me with you like this, my little god! Men never say a word to a poor dog when he is on his chain!"

"Alas, even like this, you cannot come!" said Light, who was much touched by this act of self-sacrifice; and, to cheer him up, she told him that fate would soon provide a trial for the Children in which his assistance would be of great use.

As she spoke these words, she touched the emerald wall, which opened to let her pass through with the Children.

Her chariot was waiting outside the entrance to the temple. It was a lovely shell of jade, inlaid with gold. They all three took their seats; and the two great white birds harnessed to it at once flew off through the clouds. The chariot travelled very fast; and they were not long on the road, much to the regret of the Children, who were enjoying themselves and laughing like anything; but other and even more beautiful surprises awaited them.

The clouds vanished around them; and, suddenly, they found themselves in a dazzling azure palace. Here, all was blue: the light, the flagstones, the columns, the vaults; everything, down to the smallest objects, ,sas of an intense and fairy-like blue. There was no seeing the end of the palace; the eyes were lost in the infinite sapphire vistas.

"How lovely it all is!" said Tyltyl, who could not get over his astonishment. "Goodness me, how lovely!... Where are we?"

"We are in the Kingdom of the Future," said Light, "in the midst of the children who are not yet born. As the diamond allows us to see clearly in this region which is hidden from men, we shall perhaps find the Blue Bird here. . . Look! Look at the children running up!"

From every side came bands of little children dressed from head to foot in blue; they had beautiful dark or golden hair and they were all exquisitely pretty. They shouted gleefully:

"Live Children! . . Come and look at the little Live Children!"

"What do they call us the little Live Children for?" asked Tyltyl, of Light.

"It is because they themselves are not alive yet. They are awaiting the hour of their birth, for it is from here that all the children come who are born upon our earth. When the fathers and mothers want children, the great doors which you see over there, at the back, are opened; and the little ones go down .... "

"What a lot there are! What a lot there are!" cried Tyltyl.

"There are many more," said Light. "No one could count them. But go a little further, you will see other things."

Tyltyl did as he was told and elbowed his way through; but it was difficult for him to move, because a crowd of Blue Children pressed all around them. At last, by mounting on a step, our little friend was able to look over the throng of inquisitive heads and see what was happening in every part of the hall. It was most extraordinary! Tyltyl had never dreamt of anything like it! He danced with joy; and Mytyl, who was hanging on to him and standing on tiptoe so that she might see too, Mytyl clapped her hands and gave loud cries of wonder.

All around were millions of Children in blue, some playing, others walking about, others talking or thinking.

Many were asleep; many also were at work; and their instruments, their tools, the machines which they were building, the plants, the flowers and the fruits which they were growing or gathering were of the same bright and heavenly blue as the general appearance of the palace. Among the Children moved tall persons also dressed in blue they were very beautiful and looked just like angels. They came up to Light and smiled and gently pushed aside the Blue Children, who went back quietly to what they were doing, though still watching our friends with astonished eyes.

One of them, however, remained standing close to Tyltyl. He was quite small. From under his long silk sky-blue dress peeped two little pink and dimpled bare feet. His eyes stared in curiosity at the little Live Boy; and he went up to him as though in spite of himself.

"May I talk to him?" asked Tyltyl, who felt half-glad and half-frightened.

"Certainly," said Light. "You must make friends .... I will leave you alone; you will be more at ease by yourselves .... "

So saying, she went away and left the two Children face to face, shyly smiling. Suddenly, they began to talk:

"How do you do?" said Tyltyl, putting out his hand to the Child.

But the Child did not understand what that meant and stood without moving.

"What's that?" continued Tyltyl, touching the Child's blue dress.

The Child, who was absorbed in what he was looking at, did not answer, but gravely touched Tyltyl's hat with his finger:

"And that?" he lisped.

"That?.... That's my hat," said Tyltyl. "Have you no hat?"

"No; what is it for?" asked the Child.

"It's to say How-do-you-do with," Tyltyl answered. "And then for when it's cold .... "

"What does that mean, when it's cold?" asked the Child. "When you shiver like this? Brrr! Brrr!" said Tyltyl. "And when you go like this with your arms," vigorously beating his arms across his chest.

"Is it cold on earth?" asked the Child.

"Yes, sometimes, in winter, when there is no fire."

"Why is there no fire?....."

"Because it's expensive; and it costs money to buy wood .... "

The Child looked at Tyltyl again as though he did not understand a word that Tyltyl was saying; and Tyltyl in his turn looked amazed:

"It's quite clear that he knows nothing of the most everyday things," thought our hero, while the child stared with no small respect at "the little Live Boy" who knew everything.

Then he asked Tyltyl what money was.

"Why, it's what you pay with!" said Tyltyl, scorning to give any further explanation.

"Oh!" said the Child, seriously.

Of course, he did not understand. How could he know, a little boy like that, who lived in a paradise where his least wishes were granted before he had learnt to put them into words?

"How old are you?" asked Tyltyl, continuing the conversation.

"I am going to be born soon," said the Child. "I shall be born in twelve years .... Is it nice to be born?"

"Oh, yes," cried Tyltyl, without thinking. "It's great fun!"

But he was very much at a loss when the little boy asked him "how he managed." His pride did not allow him to be ignorant of anything in another child's presence; and it was quite droll to see him with his hands in his breeches-pockets, his legs wide apart, his face upturned and his whole attitude that of a man who is in no hurry to reply. At last, he answered, with a shrug of the shoulders:

"Upon my word, I can't remember! It's so long ago!" "They say it's lovely, the earth and the Live People!" remarked the Child.

"Yes, it's not bad," said Tyltyl. "There are birds and cakes and toys... Some have them all; but those who have none can look at the others!"

This reflection shows us the whole character of our little friend. He was proud and inclined to be rather high-and-mighty; but he was never envious and his generous nature made up to him for his poverty by allowing him to enjoy the good fortune of others.

The two Children talked a good deal more; but it would take too long to tell you all they said, because what they said was sometimes only interesting to themselves. After a while, Light, who was watching them from a distance, hurried up to them a little anxiously: Tyltyl was crying! Big tears came rolling down his cheeks and falling on his smart coat. She understood that he was talking of his grandmother and that he could not keep back his tears at the thought of the love which he had lost. He was turning away his head, to hide his feelings; but the inquisitive Child kept asking him questions:

"Do the grannies die?... What does that mean, dying?''

"They go away one evening and do not come back."

"Has yours gone?"

"Yes," said Tyltyl. "She was very kind to me."

And, at these words, the poor little fellow began to cry again.

The Blue Child had never seen any one cry. He lived in a world where grief did not exist. His surprise was great; and he exclaimed:

"What's the matter with your eyes?... Are they making pearls?"

To him those tears were wonderful things.

"No, it's not pearls," said Tyltyl, sheepishly. "What is it then?"

But our poor friend would not admit what he looked upon as a weakness. He rubbed his eyes awkwardly and put everything down to the dazzling blue of the palace. The puzzled Child insisted: "What's that falling down?"

"Nothing; it's a little water," said Tyltyl, impatiently, hoping to cut short the explanation.

But that was out of the question. The Child was very obstinate, touched Tyltyl's cheeks with his finger and asked, in a tone of curiosity:

"Does it come from the eyes?...."

"Yes, sometimes, when one cries."

"What does that mean, crying?'' asked the Child.

"I have not been crying," said Tyltyl proudly. "It's the fault of that blue!... But, if I had cried, it would be the same thing .... "

"Do you often cry on earth?...."

"Not little boys, but little girls do ....Don't you cry here?"

"No, I don't know how..."

"Well, you will learn..."

At that moment, a great breath of wind made him turn his head and he saw, at a few steps away from him, a large piece of machinery which he had not noticed at first, as he was taken up with his interest in the little Child. It was a grand and magnificent thing, but I cannot tell you its name, because the inventions of the Kingdom of the Future will not be christened by Man until they reach the earth. I can only say that Tyltyl, when he looked at it, thought that the enormous azure wings that whizzed so swiftly before his eyes were like the windmills in his part of the world and that, if he ever found the Blue Bird, its wings would certainly be no more delicate, dainty or dazzling. Full of admiration, he asked his new acquaintance what they were.


Light's servants were very odd

"Those?" said the Child. "That's for the invention which I shall make on earth."

And, seeing Tyltyl stare with wide-open eyes, he added: "When I am on earth, I shall have to invent the thing that gives happiness... Would you like to see it?... It is over there, between those two columns .... "

Tyltyl turned round to look; but all the Children at once rushed at him, shouting:

"No, no, come and see mine!..."

"No, mine is much finer!..."

"Mine is a wonderful invention!..."

"Mine is made of sugar!..."

"His is no good!..."

"I’m bringing a light which nobody knows of!..."

And, so saying, the last Child lit himself up entirely with a most extraordinary flame.

Amid these joyous exclamations, the Live Children were dragged towards the blue workshops, where each of the little inventors set his machine going. It was a great blue whirl of disks and pulleys and straps and fly-wheels and driving-wheels and cog-wheels and all kinds of wheels, which sent every sort of machine skimming over the ground or shooting up to the ceiling. Other Blue Children unfolded maps and plans, or opened great big books, or uncovered azure statues, or brought enormous flowers and gigantic fruits that seemed made of sapphires and turquoises.

Our little friends stood with their mouths wide open and their hands clasped together: they thought themselves in paradise. Mytyl bent over to look at a huge flower and laughed into its cup, which covered up her head like a hood of blue silk. A pretty Child, with dark hair and thoughtful eyes, held it by the stalk and said, proudly:

"The flowers will all grow like that, when I am on earth!"

"When will that be?" asked Tyltyl.

"In fifty-three years, four months and nine days." Next came two Blue Children bending under the weight of a pole from which was slung a bunch of grapes each larger than a pear.

"A bunch of pears!" cried Tyltyl.

"No, they are grapes," said the Child. "They will all be like that when I am thirty: I have found the way ...."

Tyltyl would have loved to taste them, but another Child came along almost hidden under a basket which one of the tall persons was helping him to carry. His fair-haired, rosy face smiled through the leaves that hung over the wicker-work.

"Look!" he said. "Look at my apples...."

"But those are melons!" said Tyltyl.

"No, no!" said the Child. "They are my apples! They will all be alike when I am alive! I have discovered the process!..."

I should never have done if I were to try and describe to my little readers all the wonderful and incredible things that appeared before our hero's eyes. But, suddenly, a loud burst of laughter rang through the hall. A Child had spoken of the King of the Nine Planets; and Tyltyl, very much puzzled and perplexed, looked on every side. All the faces, bright with laughter, were turned to some spot which Tyltyl could not see; every finger pointed in the same direction; but our friend looked in vain. They had spoken of a king! He was looking for a throne with a tall, dignified personage on it, wielding a golden sceptre.

"Over there... over there... lower down... behind you!" said a thousand little voices together.

"But where is the King?" Tyltyl and Mytyl repeated, greatly interested.

Then, suddenly, a louder and more serious voice sounded above the silvery murmur of the others:

"Here I am!" it said proudly.

And, at the same time, Tyltyl discovered a chubby baby which he had not yet remarked, for it was the smallest and had kept out of the way till then, sitting at the foot of a column in an attitude of indifference, seemingly rapt in contemplation. The little King was the only one who had taken no notice of the "Live Children." His beautiful, liquid eyes, eyes as blue as the palace, were pursuing endless dreams; his right hand supported his head, which was already heavy with thought; his short tunic showed his dimpled knees; and a golden crown rested on his yellow locks. When he cried, "Here I am!" the baby rose from the step on which he was sitting and tried to climb on to it at one stride; but he was still so awkward that he lost his balance and fell upon his nose. He at once picked himself up with so much dignity that nobody dared make fun of him; and, this time, he scrambled up on all fours and then, putting his legs wide apart, stood and eyed Tyltyl from top to toe.

"You're not very big!" said Tyltyl, doing his best to keep from laughing.

"I shall do great things when I am!" retorted the King, in a tone that admitted of no reply.

"And what will you do?" asked Tyltyl.

"I shall found the General Confederation of the Solar Planets," said the King, in a very pompous voice.

Our friend was so much impressed that he could not find a word to say; and the King continued:

"All the Planets will belong to it, except Uranus, Saturn and Neptune, which are too ridiculously far away."

Thereupon, he toddled off the step again and resumed his first attitude, showing that he had said all that he meant to say.

Tyltyl left him to his meditations; he was eager to know as many more of the Children as he could. He was introduced to the discoverer of a new sun, to the inventor of a new joy, to the hero who was to wipe out injustice from the earth and to the wiseacre who was to conquer Death ....

There were such lots and lots of them that it would take days and days to name them all. Our friend was rather tired and was beginning to feel bored, when his attention was suddenly aroused by hearing a Child's voice calling him:

"Tyltyl! . . Tyltyl!... How are you, Tyltyl, how are you?...."

A little Blue Child came running up from the back of the hall, pushing his way through the crowd. He was fair and slim and bright-eyed and had a great look of Mytyl.

"How do you know my name?" asked Tyltyl.

"It's not surprising," said the Blue Child, "considering that I shall be your brother!"

This time, the Live Children were absolutely amazed. What an extraordinary meeting! They must certainly tell Mummy as soon as they got back! How astonished they would be at home!

While they were making these reflections, the Child went on to explain:

"I am coming to you next year, on Palm Sunday," he said.

And he put a thousand questions to his big brother: was it comfortable at home? Was the food good? Was Daddy very severe? And Mummy?

"Oh, Mummy is so kind!" said the little ones.

And they asked him questions in their turn: what was he going to do on earth? What was he bringing?

"I am bringing three illnesses," said the little brother.

"Scarlatina, whooping-cough and measles...."

"Oh, that's all, is it?'' cried Tyltyl.

He shook his head, with evident disappointment, while the other continued:

"After that, I shall leave you!"

"It will hardly be worth while coming!" said Tyltyl, feeling rather vexed.

"We can't pick and choose!" said the little brother, pettishly.

They would perhaps have quarrelled, without waiting till they were on earth, if they had not suddenly been parted by a swarm of Blue Children who were hurrying to meet somebody. At the same time, there was a great noise, as if thousands of invisible doors were being opened at the end of the galleries.

"What's the matter?" asked Tyltyl.

"It's Time," said one of the Blue Children. "He's going to open the doors."

And the excitement increased on every side. The Children left their machines and their labours; those who were asleep woke up; and every eye was eagerly and anxiously turned to the great opal doors at the back, while every mouth repeated the same name. The word, "Time! Time!" was heard all around; and the great mysterious noise kept on. Tyltyl was dying to know what it meant. At last, he caught a little Child by the skirt of his dress and asked him.

"Let me be," said the Child, very uneasily. "I'm in a hurry: it may be my turn to-day.... It is the Dawn rising. This is the hour when the Children who are to be born to-day go down to earth... You shall see....Time is drawing the bolts....”

"Who is Time?" asked Tyltyl.

"An old man who comes to call those who are going," said another Child. "He is not so bad; but he won't listen or hear. Beg as they may, if it's not their turn, he pushes back all those who try to go.... Let me be! It may be my turn now!"

Light now hastened towards our little friends in a great state of alarm:

"I was looking for you," she said. "Come quick: it will never do for Time to discover you.”

As she spoke these words, she threw her gold cloak around the Children and dragged them to a corner of the hall, where they could see everything, without being seen.

Tyltyl was very glad to be so well protected. He now knew that he who was about to appear possessed so great and tremendous a power that no human strength was capable of resisting him. He was at the same time a deity and an ogre; he bestowed life and he devoured it; he sped through the world so fast that you had no time to see him; he ate and ate, without stopping; he took whatever he touched. In Tyltyl's family, he had already taken Grandad and Granny, the little brothers, the little sisters and the old blackbird! He did not mind what he took: joys and sorrows, winters and summers, all was fish that came to his net!...


Other Blue Children opened great big books

Knowing this, our friend was astonished to see everybody in the Kingdom of the Future running so fast to meet him:

"I suppose he doesn't eat anything here," he thought. There he was! The great doors turned slowly on their hinges. There was a distant music: it was the sounds of the earth· A red and green light penetrated into the hall; and Time appeared on the threshold. He was a tall and very thin old man, so old that his wrinkled face was all grey, like dust. His white beard came down to his knees. In one hand, he carried an enormous scythe; in the other, an hour-glass. Behind him, some way out, on a sea the colour of the Dawn, was a magnificent gold galley, with white sails·

"Are they ready whose hour has struck?" asked Time. At the sound of that voice, solemn and deep as a bronze gong, thousands of bright children's voices, like little silver bells, answered:

"Here we are!... Here we are!... Here we are!…"

And, in a moment, the Blue Children were crowding round the tall old man, who pushed them all back and, in a gruff voice, said:

"One at a time!... Once again, there are many more of you than are wanted!... You can't deceive me!"

Brandishing his scythe in one hand and holding out his cloak with the other, he barred the way to the rash Children who tried to slip by him. Not one of them escaped the horrid old man's watchful eye:

"It's not your turn!" he said to one. "You're to be born to-morrow!... Nor yours either, you've got ten years to wait .... A thirteenth shepherd?.... There are only twelve wanted; there is no need for more... More doctors?.... There are too many already; they are grumbling about it on earth.... And where are the engineers?.... They want an honest man; only one, as a phenomenon!…”

Thereupon, a poor Child, who had hung back, until then, came forward timidly, sucking his thumb. He looked pale and sad and walked with tottering footsteps; he was so wretched that even Time felt a moment's pity:

"It's you!" he exclaimed. "You seem a very poor specimen.'"

And, lifting his eyes to the sky, with a look of discouragement, he added:

"You won't live long!"

And the movement went on. Each Child, when denied, returned to his employment with a downcast air. When one of them was accepted, the others looked at him with envy. Now and then, something happened, as when the hero who was to fight against injustice refused to go. He clung to his playfellows, who called out to Time: "He doesn't want to, Sir!"

"No, I don't want to go," cried the little fellow, with all his might. "I would rather not be born."

"And quite right too!" thought Tyltyl, who was full of common-sense and who knew what things are like on earth.

For people always get beatings which they have not deserved; and, when they have done wrong, you may be sure that the punishment will fall on one of their innocent friends.

"I wouldn't care to be in his place," said our friend to himself. "I would rather hunt for the Blue Bird, any day!"

Meanwhile, the little seeker after justice went away sobbing, frightened out of his life by Mr. Time.

The excitement was now at its height. The Children ran all over the hall: those who were going packed up their inventions; those who were staying behind had a thousand requests to make:

"Will you write to me?"

"They say one can't!"

"Oh, try, do try!"

"Announce my idea!"

"Good-bye, Jean.... Good-bye, Pierre!"

"Have you forgotten nothing?"

"Don't lose your ideas!"

"Try to tell us if it's nice!"

"Enough! Enough!" roared Time, in a huge voice, shaking his big keys and his terrible scythe. "Enough! The anchor's weighed…”

Then the Children climbed into the gold galley, with the beautiful white silk sails. They waved their hands again to the little friends whom they were leaving behind them; but, on seeing the earth in the distance, they cried out, gladly:

"Earth! Earth!… I can see it!…”

"How bright it is!…"

"How big it is!..."

And, at the same time, as though coming from the abyss, a song rose, a distant song of gladness and expectation.

Light, who was listening with a smile, saw the look of astonishment on Tyltyl's face and bent over him:

"It is the song of the mothers coming out to meet them," she said.

At that moment, Time, who had shut the doors, saw our friends and rushed at them angrily, shaking his scythe at them.

"Hurry!" said Light. "Hurry! Take the Blue Bird, Tyltyl, and go in front of me with Mytyl."

She put into the boy's arms a bird which she held hidden under her cloak and, all radiant, spreading her dazzling veil with her two hands, she ran on, protecting her charges from the onslaught of Time.

In this way, they passed through several turquoise and sapphire galleries. It was magnificently beautiful, but they were in the Kingdom of the Future, where Time was the great master, and they must escape from his anger which they had braved.

Mytyl was terribly frightened and Tyltyl kept nervously turning round to Light.

"Don't be afraid," she said. "I am the only person whom Time has respected since the world began. Only mind that you take care of the Blue Bird. He's gorgeous! He is quite, quite blue!"

This thought enraptured the boy. He felt the precious treasure fluttering in his arms; his hands dared not press the pretty creature's soft, warm wings; and his heart beat against its heart. This time, he held the Blue Bird! Nothing could touch it, because it was given to him by Light herself. What a triumph when he returned home!…

He was so bewildered by his happiness that he hardly knew where he was going; his joy rang a victorious peal in his head that made him feel giddy; he was mad with pride; and this, worse luck, made him lose his coolness and his presence of mind! They were just about to cross the threshold of the palace, when a gust of wind swept through the entrance-hall, lifting up Light's veil and at last revealing the two Children to the eyes of Time, who was still pursuing them. With a roar of rage, he darted his scythe at Tyltyl, who cried out. Light warded off the blow; and the door of the palace closed behind them with a thud. They were saved!... But alas, Tyltyl, taken by surprise, had opened his arms and now, through his tears, saw the Bird of the Future soaring above their heads, mingling with the azure sky its dream-wings so blue, so light and so transparent that soon the boy could make out nothing more ....


Click Here to continue to the next chapter of The Children's Blue Bird.