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things that seem to be true, are not true. I wonder whether he believes in the sun and the stars? He can hardly have touched them! And I wonder why he wears spectacles??
"Why do I wear spectacles?' repeated Kanker; for Oscar had spoken the last sentence aloud. 'To see with, of course! Nobody can see without spectacles; and not only that, but nobody can see with any other spectacles than these I have on.'
Oh, you are mistaken there!' exclaimed Oscar; for I have never worn spectacles, and I have always been able to see.'
'You never saw anything in your life,' replied Kanker, very confidently. You only think you see. That is your hallucination. An hallucination is when you think a thing is so, and it isn't. You are blind, and probably deaf and dumb as well. What books do you read?'
I have only one book,' said Oscar: and then he told what a wonderful book it was; how it could only be opened by repeating certain mystic words, and how its pages were full of living pictures representing things which had been done in the world, and which were being done now. Kanker burst out laughing.
'I don't believe it!' he said. It's an hallucination. There is no such book, in the first place, and if there were, it couldn't be what you say it is.'
This made Oscar angry. 'There is such a book,' said he, and if you don't believe it, I can show it to you.'
Kanker went on laughing, and wagging his great hands up and down. Oh! show it to me-show it to me!' he spluttered. me touch it with my fingers, and then perhaps I'll believe.'
'Come into the house, then, and you shall touch it!' exclaimed Oscar. He sprang up, and went into the house, and Kanker followed him readily enough. Let me put my fingers on it-that's all I ask,' he kept repeating. Let me touch it! "There!' said Oscar, 'there it is on that shelf. Do you believe
Kanker took the book down from the shelf, and felt it all over. 'I believe that this is something that feels like a book,' he said at last. 'But I don't believe it is a book, until I see it opened; and then I sha'n't believe it has the pictures you talk about, unless I see them, and can put my finger on them; and I don't believe you can open it.'
'I can open it!' cried Oscar.
'If you can do it, then why don't you?' Kanker replied.
Now Oscar knew that the mystic words which undid the clasp were a secret which he had no right to disclose. But he wanted so much to show Kanker the inside of the book, and make him acknowledge that he was wrong, that everything else seemed of little account in comparison. He took the book from Kanker's hands. As he did so, a strange feeling came over him. A voice, that seemed to speak not to his ears, but within him, bid him pause. Did he care so much
for this Kanker, with his flat face and his great red hands, as to betray the secret which his mother had confided to him? Oscar hesitated.
'Ha! I knew you were lying!' said Kanker, with his disagreeable laugh.
You shall see that I am not!' retorted Oscar, becoming angrier than ever. Then he began to repeat the mystic words. But he found it hard to pronounce them, and some of them he could scarcely remember. His teeth chattered as he went on, and his heart beat painfully. But Kanker was watching him askance with his pale spectacled eyes, and Oscar would not stop. At last he had spoken all the words; the clasp flew back; the book opened!
'There!' said Oscar, thrusting it into Kanker's hands. It is open: now look for yourself!' Then he turned away, and hid his face in his hands.
All of a sudden he heard again Kanker's hateful spluttering laugh. He looked up in astonishment. Kanker was pointing con
temptuously to the page.
'No pictures here!' he was saying. Show me your pictures! Here's nothing but printing here, and very stupid commonplace printing too!
Oscar fixed his eyes upon the book; but they were darkened, and at first he could see nothing. At length his sight cleared; but, alas! it was as Kanker had said: there were no pictures in the book, no beauty, no life, and no mystery. It was just like any other bookordinary pages printed with ordinary print. There had been some terrible loss, but whether the loss were in Oscar or in the book, Oscar could not tell. He stood there unable to speak, and almost to think. It is just as I knew it was,' said Kanker, throwing down the book. 'Another of your absurd hallucinations. You dream about things until you think they are real. You had much better do as I dowear spectacles, make up your mind that everything is a lie, and trust to your fingers. By doing that you might, in the course of time, come to know something. Look here, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll make an exchange with you. It isn't a fair exchange, for what I give you is worth a great deal, and what you give me is worth nothing. You give me your book, and I'll give you mine.'
'What is your book?' Oscar asked.
'An arithmetic, to be sure!' replied Kanker, pulling it out of his pocket. See, here is the multiplication table. And here are addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. And here are vulgar fractions. And here are examples. And here is the Rule of Three. That's what I call a book worth having.'
But if you think my book is not worth having, why do you want it?'
To make a fire to warm myself with,' Kanker replied.
'If you are cold, will not the sun warm you?' asked Oscar.
'No one has been able to prove that there is any warmth in the
sun,' said Kanker. It only seems to be warm. fire is warm, because I can burn my fingers in it.'
'But if the sun feels warm, is not that as good as if it were really warm?' For you it may be,' answered Kanker, but not for me. e. I care only for truth, and I don't choose to be warmed by anything I don't believe in. That is the reason I carry a sun-umbrella. Well, will you let me have your book?'
I do not care
'It is no more use to me,' said Oscar, gloomily. whether you take it or not, or what becomes of it.'
'You will find my arithmetic much more useful,' returned Kanker. 'Come outside and see me make my fire.'
But Oscar turned sullenly away.
But I know that a
Kanker went outside the cottage, with the book in his arms. After a moment, Oscar could not help going to the window to see what was being done.
Kanker had laid the book across two stones, and had gathered some bits of driftwood from the shore for kindlings to put underneath. Now he struck a match, and held it to the kindlings. But at that there was a sudden and mighty sound, like thunder, and also like a great voice speaking some solemn and awful word. And the book seemed to dissolve, and in its place arose a tall pillar of light, more dazzling than the lightning, which hung for a moment near the earth, and, to Oscar's amazed eyes, took on the likeness of a glorious and majestic figure, which bent upon him a look that made his heart tremble. Then the figure moved away through the air seaward, casting a radiance across the waters, and making the sun look red and dim. It drifted slowly away over the sea, and at last became as a bright star, further and further off, until it vanished in the depths of the sky. Then a great coldness fell upon Oscar, and the daylight became dusky to him, as if it were already evening; and he knew that the dazzling face which he had seen was the face of his father. Now he understood what the book had been; but it was too late.
THE SECRET OF THE WAVES.
Ir seemed to Oscar that many hours passed away while he remained crouched down on his knees in a dark corner, shivering and miserable. At last he looked up. It was evening, and a bitter wind was blowing outside; heavy clouds were driving across the sky, and rain was beating on the roof. Kanker was sitting in the middle of the room, with his chin upon his hands, staring at him.
"You had better go,' Oscar said. "What other harm do you want to do me?'
It is you who have done harm to me,' replied Kanker, by giving
me a box of gunpowder to make a fire with. The explosion has cracked my spectacles. However, I bear no malice. What do you keep that jar of sea-water for?
Ah! that is where Theeda lives,' exclaimed Oscar, rising, with some cheerfulness in his face. I had forgotten her.' 'Theeda? what is Theeda?' demanded Kanker. 'She is my playmate and companion,' Oscar said. to me than anything else in the world, and nothing in lovely as she.'
She is dearer the world is so
And do you mean to say she lives in the water? Pray, how big is she?'
'She is not so tall as your hand is long.'
'No such creature ever existed,' said Kanker, positively. In the first place, no one ever was made of that size, and in the second place, it is impossible for anyone to live under water. It is another of your hallucinations. There is no use in your denying it. I shall believe in her when I see her, and not before.'
'I will not let you see her,' replied Oscar.
'Just what I expected! When did you see her last yourself?' 'Just before your shadow fell across the vase.'
'What language does she talk?'
'She does not talk at all, but I know all she thinks.'
'This is really too absurd! Have you ever touched her?' 'No. It is enough for me to look at her.'
'I'll tell you what it is,' said Kanker, lifting up one of his ugly fingers and holding it at the side of his little sharp nose. • You are crazy-quite crazy! You have lived here by yourself until you don't know what is real from what isn't. Now, I will make this bargain with you. If you will let me put my finger on this Theeda of yours, and I thereby prove to my own satisfaction that she exists, I will let you use me for your servant the rest of my life. Do you agree?'
Oscar waited a little while before answering. He hated Kanker, and he thought that if Kanker became his servant, he should be able to make him as miserable as Kanker had made him. He did not stop to think whether Theeda would like to be touched or not it seemed to him an easy way of being revenged on his enemy, and that was all. 'Yes, I agree!' he said.
'Very well!' returned Kanker. And of course, if I prove that Theeda does not exist, you are to become my servant for the rest of your life?"
'There is no danger in my promising that,' said Oscar. Let it be so if you wish.'
'Very well!' said Kanker again; and then they both went to the
'Where is she?' asked Kanker.
I don't see her.'
'Oh, she has gone into her shell; it is late-she must be asleep by this time,' answered Oscar. You must wait until to-morrow.'
No. 608 (No. CXXVIII. N. s.)
That won't do!' said Kanker. The agreement was for this evening. If you back out, you become my servant.'
It shall be this evening, then,' replied Oscar; but you will regret it more than I!' And stooping over the vase, he called, 'Theeda! Theeda! wake up! come out!'
They waited a moment. There was no movement in the great pearl shell, and Theeda did not appear.
'Come! there's enough of this nonsense!' Kanker exclaimed. "You may as well make up your mind at once to being my servant.' 'Not yet!' said Oscar, scornfully, and he called in a louder voice, 'Come out, Theeda! Come out-I want you!'
The shell stirred slightly, but still Theeda did not appear. Kanker laughed.
Then Oscar grew angry, and in a harsh tone he cried, 'Theeda, · come out! or I shall not love you or believe in you any more!'
The sun had set long ago, and the room was almost dark; but now, through a break in the clouds, the moon shone down, white and clear, into the crystal vase. It gleamed upon the pearly shell; and in its cold lustre Oscar saw the tiny water-maiden, whom he had loved better than anything else in the world, and who was the most precious thing that the world contained, come slowly out of her shell, and stand downcast and drooping before him. Then he felt that, in his anger, and in his desire to be revenged on his enemy, he had done a wicked thing, which could not be forgiven. He had shown what was most sacred and dear to his own soul, to one who could neither believe in her nor reverence her. His heart was filled with bitter sorrow and repentance; but again it was too late.
For, as Theeda stood there in the moonlight, drooping amidst her shadowy mist of hair, Kanker put out his hideous red hand, that was less like a hand than like a crab's claw, and plunging it into the water, he tried to grasp Theeda round the waist. But his fingers met together, and behold! no Theeda was there. She had faded into nothingness where she stood; or else the shadow of a cloud which at that moment passed across the moon, and made the vase and the room dark again, had caused her to become invisible. Before she disappeared, however, she bent one sad reproachful look upon Oscar, and he knew that he had seen his mother's spirit in her eyes. He understood all then; but it was too late indeed!
'I told you how it would be!' said the harsh voice of Kanker, with his spluttering laugh, and now you are my servant !'
Yes, for I have lost my Theeda!' answered Oscar, with a heavy
But even as he spoke, he chanced to turn his eyes towards the sea. Beyond the moon he saw a pure white cloud drifting down the sky. To Oscar's fancy it took on the likeness of a female form-the form of someone whom he knew and loved. She seemed to beckon him to follow her to a far-off country, whither Kanker could not come, where he would be free.