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CHAPTER IX

THE LEAVE-TAKING 

WEEKS and months had passed since the children's departure on their journey; and the hour of separation was at hand. Light had been very sad lately; she had counted the days in sorrow, without a word to the Animals and Things, who had no idea of the misfortune that threatened them.

On the day when we see them for the last time, they were all out in the gardens of the temple. Light stood watching them from a marble terrace, with Tyltyl and Mytyl sleeping by her side. Much had happened in the past twelve months; but the life of the Animals and Things, which had no intelligence to guide it, had made no progress: on the contrary! Bread had eaten so much that he was now not able to walk: Milk, devoted as ever, dragged him along in a Bath chair. Fire's nasty temper had made him quarrel with everybody and he had become very lonely and unhappy in consequence. Water, who had no will of her own, had ended by yielding to Sugar's sweet entreaties: they were now married; and Sugar presented a most piteous sight. The poor fellow was reduced to a shadow of his former self, shrank visibly day by day and was sillier than ever, while Water, in marrying, had lost her principal charm, her simplicity. The Cat had remained the liar that she always was; and our dear friend Tylô had never been able to overcome his hatred for her.

"Poor things!" thought Light, with a sigh. "They have not gained much by receiving the benefit of life! They have travelled and seen nothing of all the wonders that surrounded them in my peaceful temple; they were either quarrelling with one another or over-eating themselves until they fell ill. They were too foolish to enjoy their happiness and they will recognize it for the first time presently, when they are about to lose it .... "

At that moment, a pretty dove, with silver wings, alighted on her knees. It wore an emerald collar round its neck, with a note fastened to the clasp. The dove was the Fairy Bérylune's messenger. Light opened the letter and read these few words:

"Remember that the year is over."

Then Light stood up, waved her wand and everything disappeared from sight.


Closely pursued by the Dog, who overwhelmed her with bites, blows and kicks

A few seconds later, the whole company were gathered together outside a high wall with a small door in it. The first rays of the dawn were gilding the tree-tops. Tyltyl and Mytyl, whom Light was fondly supporting with her arms, woke up, rubbed their eyes and looked around them in astonishment.

"What?" said Light to Tyltyl. "Don't you know that wall and that little door?"

The sleepy boy shook his head: he remembered nothing. Then Light assisted his memory:

"The wall," she said, "surrounds a house which we left one evening just a year ago to-day..."

"Just a year ago?... Why, then..." And, clapping his hands with glee, Tyltyl ran to the door. "We must be near Mummy!... I want to kiss her at once, at once, at once?”

But Light stopped him. It was too early, she said: Mummy and Daddy were still asleep and he must not wake them with a start.

"Besides," she added, "the door will not open till the hour strikes."

"What hour?" asked the boy.

"The hour of separation," Light answered, sadly.

"What!" said Tyltyl, in great distress. "Are you leaving us?"

"I must," said Light. "The year is past. The Fairy will come back and ask you for the Blue Bird."

"But I haven't got the Blue Bird!" cried Tyltyl. "The one of the Land of Memory turned quite black, the one of the Future flew away, the Night's are dead, those in the Graveyard were not blue and I could not catch the one in the Forest!... Will the Fairy be angry?.... What will she say?...."

"Never mind, dear," said Light. "You did your best. And, though you did not find the Blue Bird, you deserved to do so, for the good-will, pluck and courage which you showed."

Light's face beamed with happiness as she spoke these words, for she knew that to deserve to find the Blue Bird was very much the same thing as finding it; but she was not allowed to say this, for it was a beautiful mystery, which Tyltyl had to solve for himself. She turned to the Animals and Things, who stood weeping in a corner, and told them to come and kiss the Children.

Bread at once put down the cage at Tyltyl's feet and began to make a speech:

"In the name of all, I crave permission..."

"You sha'n't have mine” cried Fire.

"Order!" cried Water.

"We still have tongues of our own!" roared Fire.

"Yes! Yes!" screamed Sugar, who, knowing that his end was at hand, kept kissing Water and melting before the others' eyes.

Poor Bread in vain tried to make his voice heard above the din. Light had to interfere and command silence. Then Bread spoke his last words:

"I am leaving you," he said, between his sobs. "I am leaving you, my dear Children, and you will no longer see me in my living form .... Your eyes are about to close to the invisible life of Things; but I shall be always there, in the bread-pan, on the shelf, on the table, beside the soup, I who am, if I may say so, the most faithful companion, the oldest friend of Man .... "

"Well, and what about me?" shouted Fire, angrily.

"Silence!" said Light. "The hour is passing ....Be quick and say good-bye to the Children .... "

Fire rushed forward, took hold of the Children, one after the other, and kissed them so violently that they screamed with pain:

"Oh! Oh!… He's burning me!..."

"Oh! Oh!… He's scorched my nose!..."

"Let me kiss the place and make it well," said Water, going up to the children gently. This gave Fire his chance:

"Take care," he said, "you'll get wet."

"I am loving and gentle," said Water. "I am kind to human beings.... "

"What about those you drown?" asked Fire.

But Water pretended not to hear:

"Love the wells, listen to the brooks," she said. "I shall always be there. When you sit down in the evening, beside the springs, try to understand what they are trying to say....

Then she had to break off, for a regular waterfall of tears came gushing from her eyes, flooding all around her. However, she resumed:

"Think of me when you see the water-bottle.... You will find me also in the ewer, the watering-can, the cistern and the tap.... "

Then Sugar came up, with a limping walk, for he could hardly stand on his feet. He uttered a few words of sorrow, in an affected voice and then stopped, for tears, he said, were not in harmony with his temperament.

"Humbug!" cried Bread.

"Sugar-plum! Lollipop! Caramel!" yelped Fire.

And all began to laugh, except the two children, who were very sad:

"Where are Tylette and Tylô gone to?" asked our hero. At that moment, the Cat came running up, in a terrible state: her hair was on end and dishevelled, her clothes were torn and she was holding a handkerchief to her cheek, as though she had the tooth-ache. She uttered terrible groans and was closely pursued by the Dog, who overwhelmed her with bites, blows and kicks. The others rushed in between them to separate them, but the two enemies continued to insult and glare at each other. The Cat accused the Dog of pulling her tail and putting tin tacks in her food and beating her. The Dog simply growled and denied none of his actions:

"You've had some," he kept saying, "you've had some and you're going to have some more!"

But, suddenly, he stopped and, as he was panting with excitement, it could be seen that his tongue turned quite white: Light had told him to kiss the Children for the last time.

"For the last time?" stammered poor Tylô. "Are we to part from these poor Children?"

His grief was such that he was incapable of understanding anything.

"Yes," said Light. "The hour which you know of is at hand .... We are going to return to silence .... "

Thereupon the Dog, suddenly realizing his misfortune, began to utter real howls of despair and fling himself upon the Children, whom he loaded with mad and violent caresses:

"No! No!" he cried. "I refuse!... I refuse!... I shall always talk!... And I shall be very good....You will keep me with you and I shall learn to read and write and play dominoes!... And I shall always be very clean.... And I shall never steal anything in the kitchen again..."

He went on his knees before the two Children, sobbing and entreating, and, when Tyltyl, with his eyes full of tears, remained silent, dear Tylô had a last magnificent idea: running up to the Cat, he offered, with smiles that looked like grins, to kiss her. Tylette, who did not possess his spirit of self-sacrifice, leapt back and took refuge by Mytyl's side. Then Mytyl said, innocently:

"You, Tylette, are the only one that hasn't kissed us yet."

The Cat put on a mincing tone:

"Children," said she, "I love you both as much as you deserve."

There was a pause.

"And now," said Light, "let me, in my turn, give you a last kiss…."

As she spoke, she spread her veil round them as if she would have wrapped them for the last time in her luminous might. Then she gave them each a long and loving kiss. Tyltyl and Mytyl hung on to her beseechingly:

"No, no, no, Light!" they cried. "Stay here with us!... Daddy won't mind.... We will tell Mummy how kind you have been.... Where will you go all alone?....

"Not very far, my Children," said Light. "Over there to the Land of the Silence of Things."

"No, no," said Tyltyl. "I won't have you go.... " But Light quieted them with a motherly gesture and said words to them which they never forgot. Long after, when they were a grandfather and grandmother in their turn, Tyltyl and Mytyl still remembered them and used to repeat them to their grandchildren.

Here are Light's touching words:

"Listen, Tyltyl. Do not forget, child, that everything that you see in this world has neither beginning nor end. If you keep this thought in your heart and let it grow up with you, you will always, in all circumstances, know what to say, what to do and what to hope for."

And, when our two friends began to sob, she added, lovingly:

"Do not cry, my dear little ones.... I have not a voice like Water; I have only my brightness, which Man does not understand.... But I watch over him to the end of his days... Never forget that I am speaking to you in every spreading moonbeam, in every twinkling star, in every dawn that rises, in every lamp that is lit, in every good and bright thought of your soul.... "

At that moment, the grandfather's clock in the cottage struck eight o'clock. Light stopped for a moment and then, in a voice that grew suddenly fainter, whispered:

"Good-bye!... Good-bye!... The hour is striking!…. Good bye!”

Her veil faded away, her smile became paler, her eyes closed, her form vanished and, through their tears, the children saw nothing but a thin ray of light dying away at their feet. Then they turned to the others..., but these had disappeared ....


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