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   Chapter 2 AT THE FAIRY'S

The Hollow Needle; Further adventures of Arsene Lupin By Maurice Leblanc Characters: 17713

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The Fairy Bérylune's Palace stood at the top of a very high mountain, on the way to the moon. It was so near that, on summer nights, when the sky was clear, you could plainly see the moon's mountains and valleys, lakes and seas from the terrace of the palace. Here the Fairy studied the stars and read their secrets, for it was long since the Earth had had anything to teach her.

"This old planet no longer interests me!" she used to say to her friends, the giants of the mountain. "The men upon it still live with their eyes shut! Poor things, I pity them! I go down among them now and then, but it is out of charity, to try and save the little children from the fatal misfortune that awaits them in the darkness."

This explains why she had come and knocked at the door of Daddy Tyl's cottage on Christmas Eve.

And now to return to our travellers. They had hardly reached the high-road, when the Fairy remembered that they could not walk like that through the village, which was still lit up because of the feast. But her store of knowledge was so great that all her wishes were fulfilled at once. She pressed lightly on Tyltyl's head and willed that they should all be carried by magic to her palace. Then and there, a cloud of fireflies surrounded our companions and wafted them gently towards the sky. They were at the Fairy's palace before they had recovered from their surprise.

"Follow me," she said and led them through chambers and passages all in gold and silver.

They stopped in a large room surrounded with mirrors on every side and containing an enormous wardrobe with light creeping through its chinks. The Fairy Bérylune took a diamond key from her pocket and opened the wardrobe. One cry of amazement burst from every throat. Precious stuffs were seen piled one on the top of the other: mantles covered with gems, dresses of every sort and every country, pearl coronets, emerald necklaces, ruby bracelets.... Never had the Children beheld such riches! As for the Things, their state was rather one of utter bewilderment; and this was only natural, when you think that they were seeing the world for the first time and that it showed itself to them in such a queer way.

The Fairy helped them make their choice. Fire, Sugar and the Cat displayed a certain decision of taste. Fire, who only cared for red, at once chose a splendid bright red dress, with gold spangles. He put nothing on his head, for his head was always very hot. Sugar could not stand anything except white and pale blue: bright colors jarred on his sweet nature. The long blue and white dress which he selected and the pointed hat, like a candle extinguisher, which he wore on his head made him look perfectly ridiculous; but he was too silly to notice it and kept spinning before the glass like a top and admiring himself in blissful ignorance.

The Cat, who was always a lady and who was used to her dusky garments, reflected that black always looks well, in any circumstance, particularly now, when they were travelling without luggage. She therefore put on a suit of black tights, with jet embroidery, hung a long velvet cloak from her shoulders and perched a large cavalier hat, with a long feather, on her neat little head. She next asked for a pair of soft kid boots, in memory of Puss-in-Boots, her distinguished ancestor, and put a pair of gloves on her fore-paws, to protect them from the dust of the roads.

Thus attired, she took a satisfied glance at the mirror. Then, a little nervously, with an anxious eye and a quivering pink nose, she hastily invited Sugar and Fire to take the air with her. So they all three walked out, while the others went on dressing. Let us follow them for a moment, for we have already grown to like our brave little Tyltyl and we shall want to hear anything that is likely to help or delay his undertaking.

After passing through several splendid galleries, hung like balconies in the sky, our three cronies stopped in the hall; and the Cat at once addressed the meeting in a hushed voice:

"I have brought you here," she said, "in order to discuss the position in which we are placed. Let us make the most of our last moment of liberty...."

But she was interrupted by a furious uproar:

"Bow, wow, wow!"

"There now!" cried the Cat. "There's that idiot of a Dog! He has scented us out! We can't get a minute's peace. Let us hide behind the balustrade. He had better not hear what I have to say to you."

"It's too late," said Sugar, who was standing by the door.

And, sure enough, Tyl? was coming up, jumping, barking, panting and delighted.

The Cat, when she saw him, turned away in disgust:

"He has put on the livery of one of the footmen of Cinderella's coach.... It is just the thing for him: he has the soul of a flunkey!"

She ended these words with a "Fft! Fft!" and, stroking her whiskers, took up her stand, with a defiant air, between Sugar and Fire. The good Dog did not see her little game. He was wholly wrapped up in the pleasure of being gorgeously arrayed; and he danced round and round. It was really funny to see his velvet coat whirling like a merry-go-round, with the skirts opening every now and then and showing his little stumpy tail, which was all the more expressive as it had to express itself very briefly. For I need hardly tell you that Tyl?, like every well-bred bull-dog, had had his tail and his ears cropped as a puppy.

Poor fellow, he had long envied the tails of his brother dogs, which allowed them to use a much larger and more varied vocabulary. But physical deficiencies and the hardships of fortune strengthen our innermost qualities. Tyl?'s soul, having no outward means of expressing itself, had only gained through silence; and his look, which was always filled with love, had become very eloquent.

To-day his big dark eyes glistened with delight; he had suddenly changed into a man! He was all over magnificent clothes; and he was about to perform a grand errand across the world in company with the gods!

"There!" he said. "There! Aren't we fine!... Just look at this lace and embroidery!... It's real gold and no mistake!"

He did not see that the others were laughing at him, for, to tell the truth, he did look very comical; but, like all simple creatures, he had no sense of humour. He was so proud of his natural garment of yellow hair that he had put on no waistcoat, in order that no one might have a doubt as to where he sprang from. For the same reason, he had kept his collar, with his address on it. A big red velvet coat, heavily braided with gold-lace, reached to his knees; and the large pockets on either side would enable him, he thought, always to carry a few provisions; for Tyl? was very greedy. On his left ear, he wore a little round cap with an osprey-feather in it and he kept it on his big square head by means of an elastic which cut his fat, loose cheeks in two. His other ear remained free. Cropped close to his head in the shape of a little paper screw-bag, this ear was the watchful receiver into which all the sounds of life fell, like pebbles disturbing its rest.

He had also encased his hind-legs in a pair of patent-leather riding-boots, with white tops; but his fore-paws he considered of such use that nothing would have induced him to put them into gloves. Tyl? had too natural a character to change his little ways all in a day; and, in spite of his new-blown honours, he allowed himself to do undignified things. He was at the present moment lying on the steps of the hall, scratching the ground and sniffing at the wall, when suddenly he gave a start and began to whine and whimper! His lower lip shook nervously as though he were going to cry.

"What's the matter with the idiot now?" asked the Cat, who was watching him out of the corner of her eye.

But she at once understood. A very sweet song came from the distance; and Tyl? could not endure music. The song drew nearer, a girl's fresh voice filled the shadows of the lofty arches and Water appeared. Tall, slender and white as a pearl, she seemed to glide rather than to walk. Her movements were so soft and graceful that they were suspected rather than seen. A beautiful silvery dress waved and floated around her; and her hair decked with corals flowed below her knees.

When Fire caught sight of her, like the rude and spiteful fellow that he was, he sneered:

"She's not brought her umbrella!"

But Water, who was really quite witty and who knew that she was the stronger of the two, chaffed him pleasantly and said, with a glance at his glowing nose:

"I beg your pardon?... I thought you might be speaking of a great red nose I saw the other day!..."

The others began to laugh and poke fun at Fire, whose face was always like a red-hot coal. Fire angrily jumped to the ceiling, keeping his revenge for later

. Meanwhile, the Cat went up to Water, very cautiously, and paid her ever so many compliments on her dress. I need hardly tell you that she did not mean a word of it; but she wished to be friendly with everybody, for she wanted their votes, to carry out her plan; and she was anxious at not seeing Bread, because she did not want to speak before the meeting was complete:

"What can he be doing?" she mewed, time after time.

"He was making an endless fuss about choosing his dress," said the Dog. "At last, he decided in favour of a Turkish robe, with a scimitar and a turban."

They all looked at her with a bewildered air.

They understood that it was a solemn moment.

The words were not out of his mouth, when a shapeless and ridiculous bulk, clad in all the colours of the rainbow, came and blocked the narrow door of the hall. It was the enormous stomach of Bread, who filled the whole opening. He kept on knocking himself, without knowing why; for he was not very clever and, besides, he was not yet used to moving about in human beings' houses. At last, it occurred to him to stoop; and, by squeezing through sideways, he managed to make his way into the hall.

It was certainly not a triumphal entry, but he was pleased with it all the same:

"Here I am!" he said. "Here I am! I have put on Blue-beard's finest dress.... What do you think of this?"

The Dog began to frisk around him: he thought Bread magnificent! That yellow velvet costume, covered all over with silver crescents, reminded Tyl? of the delicious horse-shoe rolls which he loved; and the huge, gaudy turban on Bread's head was really very like a fairy bun!

"How nice he looks!" he cried. "How nice he looks!"

Bread was shyly followed by Milk. Her simple mind had made her prefer her cream dress to all the finery which the Fairy suggested to her. She was really a model of humility.

Bread was beginning to talk about the dresses of Tyltyl, Light and Mytyl, when the Cat cut him short in a masterful voice:

"We shall see them in good time," she said. "Stop chattering, listen to me, time presses: our future is at stake...."

They all looked at her with a bewildered air. They understood that it was a solemn moment, but the human language was still full of mystery to them. Sugar wriggled his long fingers as a sign of distress; Bread patted his huge stomach; Water lay on the floor and seemed to suffer from the most profound despair; and Milk only had eyes for Bread, who had been her friend for ages and ages.

The Cat, becoming impatient, continued her speech:

"The Fairy has just said it, the end of this journey will, at the same time, mark the end of our lives. It is our business, therefore, to spin the journey out as long as possible and by every means in our power...."

Bread, who was afraid of being eaten as soon as he was no longer a man, hastened to express approval; but the Dog, who was standing a little way off, pretending not to hear, began to growl deep down in his soul. He well knew what the Cat was driving at; and, when Tylette ended her speech with the words, "We must at all costs prolong the journey and prevent Blue Bird from being found, even if it means endangering the lives of the Children," the good Dog, obeying only the promptings of his heart, leapt at the Cat to bite her. Sugar, Bread and Fire flung themselves between them:

"Order! Order!" said Bread pompously. "I'm in the chair at this meeting."

"Who made you chairman?" stormed Fire.

"Who asked you to interfere?" asked Water, whirling her wet hair over Fire.

"Excuse me," said Sugar, shaking all over, in conciliatory tones. "Excuse me.... This is a serious moment.... Let us talk things over in a friendly way."

"I quite agree with Sugar and the Cat," said Bread, as though that ended the matter.

"This is ridiculous!" said the Dog, barking and showing his teeth. "There is Man and that's all!... We have to obey him and do as he tells us!... I recognise no one but him!... Hurrah for Man!... Man for ever!... In life or death, all for Man!... Man is everything!..."

But the Cat's shrill voice rose above all the others. She was full of grudges against Man and she wanted to make use of the short spell of humanity which she now enjoyed to avenge her whole race:

"All of us here present," she cried, "Animals, Things and Elements, possess a soul which Man does not yet know. That is why we retain a remnant of independence; but, if he finds the Blue Bird, he will know all, he will see all and we shall be completely at his mercy.... Remember the time when we wandered at liberty upon the face of the earth!..." But, suddenly her face changed, her voice sank to a whisper and she hissed, "Look out! I hear the Fairy and Light coming. I need hardly tell you that Light has taken sides with Man and means to stand by him; she is our worst enemy.... Be careful!"

But our friends had had no practice in trickery and, feeling themselves in the wrong, took up such ridiculous and uncomfortable attitudes that the Fairy, the moment she appeared upon the threshold, exclaimed:

"What are you doing in that corner?... You look like a pack of conspirators!"

Quite scared and thinking that the Fairy had already guessed their wicked intentions, they fell upon their knees before her. Luckily for them, the Fairy hardly gave a thought to what was passing through their little minds. She had come to explain the first part of the journey to the Children and to tell each of the others what to do. Tyltyl and Mytyl stood hand in hand in front of her, looking a little frightened and a little awkward in their fine clothes. They stared at each other in childish admiration.

The little girl was wearing a yellow silk frock embroidered with pink posies and covered with gold spangles. On her head was a lovely orange velvet cap; and a starched muslin tucker covered her little arms. Tyltyl was dressed in a red jacket and blue knickerbockers, both of velvet; and of course he wore the wonderful little hat on his head.

Delighted with the importance of his duty, undid the top of his robe, drew his scimitar and cut two slices out of his stomach

The Fairy said to them:

"It is just possible that the Blue Bird is hiding at your grandparents' in the Land of Memory; so you will go there first."

"But how shall we see them, if they are dead?" asked Tyltyl.

Then the good Fairy explained that they would not be really dead until their grandchildren ceased to think of them:

"Men do not know this secret," she added. "But, thanks to the diamond, you, Tyltyl, will see that the dead whom we remember live as happily as though they were not dead."

"Are you coming with us?" asked the boy, turning to Light, who stood in the doorway and lit up all the hall.

"No," said the Fairy. "Light must not look at the past. Her energies must be devoted to the future!"

The two Children were starting on their way, when they discovered that they were very hungry. The Fairy at once ordered Bread to give them something to eat; and that big, fat fellow, delighted with the importance of his duty, undid the top of his robe, drew his scimitar and cut two slices out of his stomach. The Children screamed with laughter. Tyl? dropped his gloomy thoughts for a moment and begged for a bit of bread; and everybody struck up the farewell chorus. Sugar, who was very full of himself, also wanted to impress the company and, breaking off two of his fingers, handed them to the astonished Children.

As they were all moving towards the door, the Fairy Bérylune stopped them:

"Not to-day," she said. "The children must go alone. It would be indiscreet to accompany them; they are going to spend the evening with their late family. Come, be off! Good-bye, dear children, and mind that you are back in good time: it is extremely important!"

Sugar also wanted to impress the company and, breaking off two of his fingers, handed them to the astonished Children

The two Children took each other by the hand and, carrying the big cage, passed out of the hall; and their companions, at a sign from the Fairy, filed in front of her to return to the palace. Our friend Tyl? was the only one who did not answer to his name. The moment he heard the Fairy say that the Children were to go alone, he had made up his mind to go and look after them, whatever happened; and, while the others were saying good-bye, he hid behind the door. But the poor fellow had reckoned without the all-seeing eyes of the Fairy Bérylune.

"Tyl?!" she cried. "Tyl?! Here!"

And the poor Dog, who had so long been used to obey, dared not resist the command and came, with his tail between his legs, to take his place among the others. He howled with despair when he saw his little master and mistress swallowed up in the great gold staircase.

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