Rex and Zendah stood before the Gate of the Lion for some time and admired it, in fact they could never quite make up their minds which was the more beautiful, this or the Gate of the Balance.
It was formed of gold; some parts were dull, and some parts were polished until they glittered, and reflected every ray of light. On each side was a tall tower, the gate hung between them with a portcullis over the top. A golden sun formed the gate, while the rays from it made the bars. There was a small door in each of the towers with a knocker in the shape of a lion's head.
Rex went up to one of these and knocked; a small wicket opened in the top of the door and a face appeared and demanded: "Who goes there?"
"Rex and Zendah," they replied.
"Give the Password."
"Faith," said both the children together.
A fanfare of trumpets sounded and the portcullis drew up, the gate opened, and they found themselves on the drawbridge leading to another portal.
They went on toward this next door, which opened slowly before them, but there they stopped suddenly--for barring their way were two very fierce looking lions, one with a black mane and the other with a brown one. The worst of it was, the lions were not chained and appeared to be able to jump at them if they desired. They could not go back, for the drawbridge behind them was raised; they must go forward.
Zendah had an inspiration--the bread that Hermes had given them in the Land of the Virgin--she had just a few crumbs left, so putting her hand in her pocket, she took them out, and timidly offered them to the lions.
You can imagine how great was her surprise when the lions took the bread, started to purr, and put their heads down to be patted. To be sure their purr was rather alarming for it was more like distant thunder as compared with the purr of their cat at home.
"They are quite tame, if you are brave, but they would prevent any cowards coming into this land," said a voice.
Looking up, they saw a knight dressed in golden armour over which hung a white linen cloak, and on this was sewn a red heart above a red cross.
He took the children by the hand and cried:
"In the name of the King, open the gates."
The further door flew open, and they stood at the beginning of a broad highway lined with people, all dressed in beautiful robes of gold, crimson and purple.
Knights in armour, page boys with trumpets, attendants with flags, and a band composed of all kinds of musical instruments, formed themselves in ordered rows.
A magnificent coach drew up before them, and they were invited to step inside.
The drum major gave the signal to the crowd, the band started to play, and the whole procession went off down the road, with the coach containing Rex and Zendah in their midst.
On each side of the road as they passed, the people cheered and waved flags.
Looking out of the coach windows as they rode along, they noticed that there were no small houses anywhere. Each one stood in a park or large garden of its own, and everywhere grew hundreds of sunflowers and marigolds; and celandines made a sheet of gold for one's feet. Coming at last to the palace itself, they saw that this park was circular, and the boundary was a wide walk lined with magnificent cedar trees. At equal intervals were twelve entrances, from which twelve drives went up to the palace, each of which was shaded with cedar trees. The shade was needed, as the Sun shone very fiercely down upon them for it was always summer in the Land of the Lion!
Dismounting from the coach at one of the gates they walked upon a fine purple carpet to the main entrance, escorted by several pages.
Two heralds met them there, and preceding them to the throne room, blew a fanfare on their trumpets; the curtains were flung back--they stood and looked round with astonishment, for the hall was circular like the park and all the walls were made of gold, while the floor was one large red ruby.
Leading out of this great hall were five smaller ones, also with walls made of gold.
Hanging from the ceiling in front of the throne were burning seven, red lamps. At the side of the throne were braziers, scenting the air with perfumed smoke, like those in the land of the Scorpion-Eagle.
The attendants and the great lords alike had hearts embroidered on their cloaks or tunics in red and gold.
A chime of bells struck twelve; immediately everyone in the hall turned toward the golden throne with its arms formed by two lions. A sun was carved on the back of the seat similar to that on the entrance gate.
The scented clouds swirled and swayed until the children imagined they could see weird animals and mountains and giants--but gradually shining through them all, right up near the roof of the hall was a brilliant star. The mist of smoke cleared and they saw the star shining on the forehead of an Angel with golden wings; so tall was he that he reached from the floor to the ceiling.
Then the cloud of incense settled over the throne itself and as it slowly cleared, a bright light appeared, so bright that Rex and Zendah covered their eyes. Not every one can look at the Sun! A kind, deep voice bade them welcome, and looking up, they saw a beautiful young man sitting on the throne.
He was young, and yet he looked so wise and kind too. His curly hair reminded them of the Sun's rays. His dress was of shining yellow, something like chain armour, but made of little leaves of gold, and he wore a massive chain, from which hung a heart-shaped ruby. In one hand he held a crystal ball with a cross on the top, and in the other a golden sceptre.
As they were being escorted to seats near the throne, they noticed curtains at the far end of the hall gradually drawn on one side, behind which was a stage.
A hidden orchestra played an overture and this was followed by a play showing the adventures of a young man seeking for hidden treasure.
Difficulties met him wherever he went; in gloomy caverns the gnomes opposed his passage; on the sea furious storms caused the waves to delay him, and many times he was nearly wrecked. The air fairies blew mighty winds to prevent his landing on the Golden Treasure Island, and when he did land, he must pass through a circle of fire before he could even start to climb the Treasure Mountain.
On his way up the mountain, fierce animals barred his progress and though he had to fight his way through, he did not come to any harm so long as he pressed on fearlessly.
Reaching the top, he discovered a dragon coiled across the entrance to the cave. After a fearful fight he conquered it and, entering the secret chamber, found the Ruby Heart, which is the treasure of the Land of the Sun. A burst of music and voices chorusing a song of rejoicing greeted the victor, the curtains closed, and the play was ended.
After this two pages conducted them into one of the side halls where they saw children studying maps of the worlds, and drawing many plans. They had to work very hard, so one of the pages told them, for they were learning to be rulers and kings, and they must know and understand how everything was done before they would be able to show others.
Rex thought that it was rather hard work learning to be a king. He thought so still more when he saw how these children spent their play time in learning to run and jump, and how to use all kinds of weapons so that they could protect their subjects if they were attacked, though they never fought unless they had to protect someone.
The pages escorted them back into the great hall, and once again they stood in front of the King.
From a cushion held by an attendant, he took a gold chain from which hung a ruby and placed it around Zendah's neck. This chain resembled the one he himself wore.
"You know the watchword of this land," he said, "keep your heart kind to all, and look for the best in everyone. So will your ruby always shine brightly."
Turning to Rex, he placed in his hand a golden rod also tipped with a ruby. "This will give you power to organize and rule wherever you are placed, but remember you must never order anyone to do anything that you cannot do yourself. Now you must go and this being the land of the Third Guardian of the Winds, you will travel swiftly to the gates."
Everyone rose, and silence fell on the great hall--they heard whispered another strange word that they did not know. Voice after voice joined in, until there was a chord of beautiful music chanted by hundreds of voices. As each one joined in, a wind began to sweep round the hall, becoming swifter and swifter, as more and more voices were added to the chorus.
Last of all the King rose and sang one Word in a wonderful tone and then the song of the others sank into a whisper.
The hall shook as it did in the Land of the Scorpion-Eagle--and without any more warning, they found themselves outside the gate.
"The third earthquake," said Rex.
Rex and Zendah sat down to recover their breaths after their sudden removal from the Land of the Lion.
Earthquakes rather take your breath away if you are not used to them, even if they do sometimes save time.
After a few minutes they got up, and turned round to look for the Gate of the Crab.
At first they both rubbed their eyes hard, for though they could see faintly where the gate stood, it was very misty. It was like trying to see their hill on a foggy morning.
As they looked, however, the mist cleared and a shining silver gate was seen. The tall pillars on either side were two silver candles and the gate between was a circle of silver; in the centre of this was a gigantic crab holding between its claws a crescent moon, which shone as the real Moon. On its shell were two queer signs like notes of music, side by side.
All round the outside of the gate were words, difficult to read because the whole gate revolved incessantly.
At one moment the crescent moon was at the top of the gate, and very soon after the crescent was at the bottom of the gate.
There were curious shaped pieces of silver, rather like the claws of a crab where the lock and hinges should have been--with a groove between them, in which the gate ran smoothly round and round. A keyhole showed in the centre of each, so that the children felt puzzled, not knowing which was likely to unlock the gate. But first they had to find a key.
Zendah was the first to see a little door in one of the pillars engraved with a crab; on touching this with her fingers, it opened. Inside was a silver key.
Rex tried this in the right hand keyhole, and found it fit, but though he turned the key this way and that, and heard the lock click, the gate did not move. He found it would not fit the other keyhole, which had the word "Try" engraved over it.
Zendah suddenly cried out, "Why! that is one of the words on the Gate of the Sea-Goat!" and pulling out of her pocket the leaden key she had found there, she put it into the left-hand keyhold, and found it fit.
In a moment the Crab stood still with the crescent moon upward and around the gate they saw the motto which they had been unable to read while it had been moving.
"East, West, Home is Best."
A soft voice spoke to them from a long, long way off: "Dear children, do you know the Password?"
They looked startled, for it sounded so much like their mother's voice, but they replied:
They were still more surprised when the Crab climbed down from the gate and waving his claws, showed them the way through the hole he had left. When they had jumped through, he climbed up into his usual place, and cried in a queer, grating voice:
"Revolve again, oh circle of the night Moon!"
Wondering how it worked, they stood for a short time and watched the dance of the Crab and the Moon recommence.
At the entrance of this land, not a soul could they see. It was night, and very, very misty, but as they were wondering which way to go, they heard whispering.
"Yes, it is." "No, it isn't." "No, you go first and see." "There is no hurry," until they wondered what it was all about, and who really was there.
Slowly their eyes became accustomed to the mist and they saw in front of them a path winding through a forest of large trees; little streams of water gurgled over mossy stones, or fell with a splash over rocks in miniature waterfalls.
A large yellow Moon rose slowly behind the trees, and finally they could see everything as well as if it were daylight.
The voices grew nearer and nearer, and at last Zendah turned to Rex and said in a quiet, little voice, "I am sure I saw some children hiding behind the trees."
Yes, there they were, first one face peeped round a tree trunk and disappeared again, and then another peeped and vanished. Rex became impatient. "Oh do come out and make friends," he cried. "Don't be so shy, we shall not hurt you!"
In a moment or two they were surrounded by a number of children, some dressed in shining silvery dresses and some in violet or green. They were most of them very pale, with hair that was almost white, and they all moved rather slowly.
The leader, a girl, said to Zendah, "I am sorry we were so slow, but we don't have many visitors here, and we were not sure who you were. We are all so shy, until we know people very well."
Taking their hands, they led them down the path to where there were two great stones with a third one on the top, so large that Rex wondered who ever had been strong enough to place them like that.
They all danced around the stones, singing a queer little song, that seemed to be something about the sacred hearth fire, so far as Rex and Zendah could catch the words.
So busy were they trying to find out what they were singing about, that they did not notice a tall figure come up to the circle, and stand smiling and watching from the outskirts of the ring. Suddenly they looked up, broke through the ring, and throwing their arms around the lady's neck, exclaimed, "Mother, mother, how did you come here? We never expected to see you in the stars."
How the other children did stare! "Is she your own mother?" asked one. "Why Lady Mary comes to see us nearly every night and tells us tales."
Mother nodded. "Yes, this is my land, as the Land of the Archer is yours, Zendah. But you must now be very quiet, for this is the special night, Midsummer Eve, when all the fairies collect for their revels, and they start just before the Moon is full."
Very, very quietly, they all tip-toed to a bank of willow trees that overlooked a smooth patch of grass, and sat down behind some bushes.
A faint, clear note was heard--a fairy horn, and then four large bats flew across the Moon, each with a tiny fairy on its back. Circling round and round, they were soon near enough for the fairies to jump to the ground, while the bats hung themselves up by their hooked wings on to the trees near by.
From a wild rose bush a little brown bird burst into a wonderful song of trills and runs. To its music the four fairies danced round and round the green patch, waving wands of water iris, and where they trod hundreds of mushrooms and toadstools sprang up. Again the fairy horn sounded, the trunks of trees around the circle opened, and the green and the brown nymphs of the forest came out and took their places on the grass under the trees.
Then in the distance, ever drawing nearer and nearer, could be seen hundreds of fairies headed by Queen Titania and King Oberon, preceded by a queer procession of crabs and crayfish, all walking on their back claws. When all were inside the ring, they took seats on the toadstools while the four smallest fairies went into the centre, and played on strange musical instruments made of shells with strings of cobwebs.
Rex and Zendah were quite certain they had heard this music before, when they had been in the woods at home, but they had not known that it was fairy music.
They had to watch the fairies very carefully as they danced to the music, for they did not look the same two minutes together; sometimes they were large, sometimes very small, sometimes they looked like flowers, and sometimes like crabs.
At the far end of the glade was a bank of very fine moss, and on each side there grew bushes of white roses and hundreds of moon daisies. In front of the bank was a small pool in which were growing water violets and white water lilies.
Early in the evening, the Moon shone behind the willow trees on the left side of the pool, but it gradually rose until it stood exactly overhead, and reflected itself in the middle of the pool. The moment this happened, rays seemed to come shooting down from the Moon to the reflection and up again from it, and then back and forth, weaving a gigantic web of moonbeams showing all the colours of the rainbow after a shower, only much paler than you ever see in the daytime.
When this was complete, there appeared an oval of thicker mist in the centre that gradually became bigger and bigger until the form of a beautiful woman with a crown of silver stood on the surface of the pond. She had hair the colour of a primrose and pale blue eyes.
All the fairies turned toward her and bowed, and as she stepped on to the bank, they sang a quaint little song of greeting:
In a voice that sounded like the summer breeze murmuring through the trees, the spirit of the Moon spoke:
"Hail, children of the woods and trees and streams! Has all gone well since our last meeting? And have you any requests to make?"
"All is well, great Queen," replied many tiny voices.
She continued: "Come forth, human children, you have seen my land, now come and receive the gifts of remembrance that we have to give to those who love it."
Quite astonished, for they did not know they had been seen, Rex and Zendah stepped out into the moonlight, holding their mother's hand.
"I need not remind you, for you have a good teacher at home," said the Moon, smiling, "what this land means to all who love home, but you must remember kindness and patience make it beautiful; so I give to you, Rex, a silver shield to protect all those weaker than yourself; and remember the sweetest kernel is found within the hardest shell.
"To you, Zendah, I give the silver bracelet set with many moonstones. Once every year you will be able to come and watch the fairies play, and learn what they and the Moon can teach you."
Waving her silver wand, a large, greeny-purple crab bowed in front of them and showed them a tiny chariot drawn by white cats, just large enough for the two of them.
Their mother kissed them, and whispered, "I shall see you presently," and off they went back to the entrance. Again the gate stopped its spinning and the silver crab descended from the crescent Moon to let them through.
They were just preparing to jump over, when a jolly laugh greeted them, and King Jupiter came in.
"So you have finished your visit to the Land of the Crab," he said. "I am just a little late, but I shall see the last of the revels." And he stood to one side and waved his hand to them as they went through the gate.
The crab resumed his post of holding up the crescent Moon, and the gate started to spin once more.
"Whoever would have thought of seeing mother in the Land of the Crab?" said Zendah. "I wonder if she will remember when we get home?"
"I suspect she will," replied Rex, "she always seems to remember everything."
The Land of the Twins
The gate of the Twins was so delicate and airy, almost as thin as a cobweb, that it seemed as if you could walk through it, but it barred your way just the same. The most bewildering thing about it was that it moved slightly all the time, so that you did not know at which part you were looking.
Right in the middle of the gate was a winged
surrounded by butterflies, whose wings were so wonderfully enamelled, that they almost looked like real ones, yet they were only metal. The pillars of this gate were odd, one was dark and capped with the head of a frowning child, and the other was golden, capped with the head of a child with a smll1ng face.
Rex and Zendah peeped through the gate, as well as they could because of its constant movement, and wondered how this was to be entered. They were very anxious to get in, for it seemed, even from the outside, such a merry land.
"I cannot see anything to use here," said Rex, "so we had better look at the book of Hermes again."
They opened the scroll, and by the symbol of the Land of the Twins they found written: "Look on the right-hand side of the gate and you will find a silver pipe; on the left-hand side you will find a golden bowl full of a liquid. Rex must blow a perfect bubble, and Zendah must waft it with her breath to a point just above the question mark on the gate; then the Wardens will see the sign and demand the password."
"What fun!" exclaimed Rex. "We have to blow bubbles, that is easy."
"I don't expect it is quite as easy as it sounds, replied Zendah, shaking her head.
They soon found the silver pipe and the golden bowl, and Rex sat down on the ground near the gate, while Zendah stood near to try and blow the bubble in the right direction as soon as Rex was ready. It was not easy. At first none of the bubbles was perfect and then when Rex did get one, it ran along the ground and they could not get it to rise into the air before it burst. Time after time they tried, and at last a beauty flew swiftly up; but it only rose to the left side of the gate. A second perfect one wafted suddenly to the right side of the gate, but it was not until the third one that Zendah managed to blow straight in the right direction. Up and up it went, shining with all the colours of the rainbow, both children watching anxiously until it reached the point above the question mark where it burst with a bang-bang. Immediately a laugh was heard and two voices cried:
"Tell us the names of this gate."
"Joy and Swiftness," replied the children.
"Enter Zendah with Joy and Rex with swiftness," cried the voices.
The gate divided in the middle and flew open with a sudden swing. A crowd of boys and girls rushed at them and pulled them inside, all talk1ng at once.
"Come with me." "Where have you come from?" "What are your names?" "Let me show you our school." "No, let me take them to ours," said another child. And they were pulled first one way and then another until they really did not know which way to go. Certainly none of these children was shy!
At last a tall, thin youth with a merry twinkle in his eye pushed the others on one side, and taking Rex and Zendah by the hands, cried, "For shame, children, you will bewilder our visitors and give them the impression that we do not know our own minds at all. Though it is true that anyone in this land does have some difficulty in making up his mind!"
Turning to Rex and Zendah he said, "Have you your wings yet?" They shook their heads, "Which wings?"
"Oh I expect then you will have to wait until you see Hermes," replied the youth, "but meantime I will get the butterflies to lend you some until you do see him."
He held in his hand a hazel twig, and this he waved twice round his head, and at once hundreds of yellow and blue butterflies and dragonflies surrounded them. The largest of them all, as big as a bird, held in its mouth two spare pairs of dragonflies wings. The youth took these and fastened them somehow on to their feet. "Now you will be able to travel in the Land of the Twins and as fast backward as forward. What do you wish to know first?" he asked, for he could see that they both were greatly desiring to ask questions.
"Why, there do not seem to be any old people here!" said Rex.
The boy laughed. "For one reason we do not worry, and are all so merry that we always remain young, but also because everyone who comes to live here, even for a short time, bathes in the pool of the waters of youth. Come and see."
Swiftly through the air they went, passing beautiful forests where bluebells and cowslips grew, and over them all hovered thousands of butterflies of all colours. At last they came to a thicket of hazel trees, within which was a pool of some liquid that shone like silver. It was moving slowly backward and forward in heavy ripples, though there was no breeze here. The air was perfectly still within the hazel thicket yet everywhere else there had been a wind all the time.
The guide motioned them to sit down and watch.
Presently two children flew up with an old woman, who had no wings on her feet, and put her gently down at the side of the pool, and held her hands as she stepped in. Then, to their great surprise, the further she went in the younger she became, until when she reached the other side she was old no longer, and wings had grown on her feet. When she realized what had happened, she rose in the air with a cry of joy, and joined the other young people who were waiting for her on the farther side of the pool.
"There are no really old people here," said their guide as he arose and they started forward on their travels. "All inhabitants pass through the pool of youth, and so long as they live here, they are always young. Only they often forget when they go to live in other lands."
From the forest they flew to the City of Hermes, where they saw the inhabitants occupied in different ways, always busy with their brains or their hands. As in the Land of the Water Carrier, they found some who were clever sculptors; many were painting pictures or playing with skill on musical instruments. There were others writing, or illuminating manuscripts, or engraving on copper. But whichever thing they were doing, they all seemed able to leave their own work to go and do someone else's work as well as their own.
Everywhere different work was being done.
In one hall a young man was speaking about his travels all over the stars. The children were told this was a land of many lecturers and everyone wanted to be able to speak well, though people from the other lands sometimes said they talked too much.
Everywhere they went they noticed hundreds of tiny bubbles floating about in the air. In the lecture hall they saw coloured lights and queer shaped forms, some, triangles, some, cubes, and their guide explained that these were thoughts and that they were easier to see here than in other places because everything here was so swift, and the air so clear.
At last they came to the palace of Hermes. It was indeed well that they had some special wings on their feet, for otherwise they could never have reached lt. It consisted of two circular towers, very tall and narrow, joined by a wonderful span-bridge which swayed with every breeze that blew. In the middle of the bridge was built the main hall.
The whole castle was poised on a sea of quicksilver, and was moving about this sea incessantly. Only at exactly midday and exactly midnight was it where one would expect it to be--in the middle, and that was the only time you could fly up to the entrance. Never could you walk there.
"Now," said their guide, "watch carefully, and follow me the moment the castle is in the centre, otherwise you will not be able to see Hermes while you are in this land."
A peal was heard from bells that hung in the top of the left-hand tower--to be answered at its finish by two deep notes from the bells in the right-hand tower; and the moment had arrived.
They had to fly to the entrance with the quickness of thought, and were quite out of breath as they reached the steps. The castle had started moving again; but from where they stood on the steps, it seemed as if the country was moving and not the castle.
On the porch two pages drew back the curtains--a boy and a girl, so much alike that the children exclaimed, "Why you must be twins1" They looked at each other and smiled.
"Only twins are employed in the Quicksilver Palace."
Everything was in pairs, even the walls were hung with mirrors so that if you stood still for a moment, you saw two of yourself.
Passing over the swaying bridge and climbing to the top of one of the towers, they entered the throne room, which was hung with yellow curtains attached to rods high up on the walls. The pages told them that these curtains were constantly changed, and had a different design for each day, for who in this land would want to see the same thing all the time? In between, there were mirrors, as in the corridors, and statues of running or flying men. Above, hung rows and rows of silvery bells.
At the end of the hall were two raised platforms and a throne on each, a yellow and a purple one.
Hermes was seated on the yellow one. He smiled and greeted them.
"You wonder, I suppose, why I have two thrones. When everyone in this land does the right thing, I use this yellow throne, but when I have to find fault which I must sometimes do, then I use the purple throne.
"Ring the joy bells of welcome," he cried, raising his wand in the air, and the bells above rang a merry tune.
"Everything here is youth, activity, and pleasure, but there is a lesson to be learned too."
He took them into a small room at the side of the hall, where they saw a basket on a table surrounded by curious instruments. On the walls themselves were painted the words
"Speak no slander, no, nor listen to it."
"The casket is Pandora's. Long ago the gods gave a casket to men, which they told them would bring luck so long as it never was opened. But Pandora was too curious and opened it, when out came all the troubles and illnesses that the gods had shut up in the box, and only hope was left behind.
"So when my children get too restless, or too curious, or too talkative, as they do sometimes, they come here to be reminded of the old story. See these instruments? Men made these on Earth to cover up people's mouths when they talked too much. We keep copies here also, as a warning against too much talking."
Back again in the hall, pages were constantly coming to Hermes with letters and messages, so it was difficult to understand how he ever managed to attend to them all.
At last a page brought two beautiful pairs of wings such as Hermes himself wore on his feet, and he gave these to the children instead of the wings of the dragonflies that they were wearing.
"Now, you have the shoes of swiftness. They will answer many purposes as you will find out, but always use them in the service of other people. The butterflies' wings would be of no use for hard work, though many of my children think they are enough, and then they find they cannot fly far.
"The jewel I give to you is the chalcedony; and this and the password will remind you to be true messengers of the gods and take hope and joy everywhere you go. At the last gate I shall meet you and take you home, but now I cannot wait any longer, for our Lord the Sun has sent for me."
Over the swinging bridge, by way of the quicksilver lake, they returned to the entrance, and past the City of Hermes, where some of the children were on their way to what seemed to be their schools. Through the butterfly woods, past the pool of youth, and so to the entrance gate, the same group of children saw them off, shouting to them as the gates closed:
"Don't forget how to blow joy bubbles!"