By Hans Christian Andersen
We are travelling to the Paris Exhibition.
Now we are there ! it was a flight, a rush,
but quite without witchcraft ; we came by
steam, in a ship and on a high road.
Our time is the fairy-tale time.
We are in the midst of Paris, in a great
hotel, all the staircase is decorated with
flowers, and soft carpets cover the steps.
Our room is comfortable, the balcony door is
standing open to a big square. Down there
the spring lives. It has driven to Paris,
arriving at the same time as we ; it has
come in the shape of a big, young chestnut
tree, with fine, newly -opened leaves. How
it is clothed in all the glory
of spring, far beyond all the other trees in
the square ! One of these has gone out of
the number of the living trees, and lies
prostrate on the ground, torn up by the
roots. There, where it stood, the new
chestnut tree shall be planted and grow.
As yet it stands high up in the heavy cart
which brought it to Paris this morning from
the country, several miles away. There it
had stood for years, close beside a mighty
oak, under which sat often the kindly old
priest, who told stories to the listening
children. The young chestnut tree
listened with them : the Dryad inside it,
who was still a child, could remember the
time when the tree was so small that it only
reached a little higher than the ferns and
long blades of grass. They were then as big
as they could be, but the tree grew and
increased every year, drank air and sunshine,
received dew and rain, and was shaken and
lashed by the rough winds : this is
necessary for education.
The Dryad rejoiced in her life and
experiences, in the sunshine and the song of
birds, but happy most of all at the voices
of men ; she understood their language quite
as well as she understood that of animals.
Butterflies, dragon-flies, and common flies
everything that could fly, paid her a visit
; they all gossipped together ; told about
the village, the vineyard, the wood, the old
castle with the park, in which were canals
and dams ; down there in the water, dwelt
also living things, which
in their own way could also fly from place
to place under the water, beings with
thought and knowledge ; they said nothing,
so wise were they.
And the swallow, which had dipped down into
the water, told about the lovely gold-fish,
about the fat bream, the thick tench, and
the old, moss-grown carp. The swallow gave a
very good description, ' but one can see
better for oneself,' she said ; but how
should the Dryad
ever get to see these beings ? She must
content herself with being able to look out
over the beautiful landscape and see the
busy activity of men. That was lovely, but
most lovely of all, when the old priest
stood here under the oak, and told about
France, and about the great deeds of men and
women, whose names are named with admiration
throughout all times. The Dryad heard of the
shepherdess Joan of Arc, of Charlotte Corday
; she heard of olden times, of the times of
Henry IV, and of Napoleon I, and of
greatness and talent, right up to the
present day. She heard names, each of which
rang in the hearts of the people. France is
a world-wide land ; a soil of intellect with
a crater of freedom.
The village children listened devoutly, and
the Dryad not less so ; she was a
school-child like the others. She saw in the
forms of the sailing clouds picture after
picture of what she had heard told. The
cloudy sky was her picturebook.
She felt herself so happy in the lovely
France ; but had still a feeling that the
birds, and every animal which could fly,
were much more favoured than she. Even the
fly could look about himself, far and wide,
much farther than the Dryad's horizon.
France was so extensive and so glorious, but
she could only see a little bit of it ; like
a world, the country stretched out with
vineyards, woods, and great towns, and of
all of these Paris was the mightiest, and
the most brilliant ; thither the birds could
go, but never she.
Amongst the village children was a little
girl, so poor and so ragged, but lovely to
look at ; she was always laughing and
singing, and wreathing red flowers in her
' Do not go to Paris ! ' said the old priest.
' Poor child ! if you go there, it will be
your ruin ! '
And yet she went.
The Dryad often thought about her, for they
had both the same desire and longing for the
great city. Spring came, summer, autumn,
winter ; two or three years passed.
The Dryad's tree bore its first chestnut
blossoms, the birds twittered about it in
the lovely sunshine. Then there came along
the road a grand carriage with a stately
lady ; she, herself, drove the beautiful
prancing horses ; a smart little groom sat
behind her. The Dryad knew her
again, the old priest knew her again, shook
his head, and said sorrowfully,
' You did go there ! it was your ruin ! Poor
Marie ! '
' She poor ! ' thought the Dryad. ' Why,
what a change ! she is dressed like a
duchess ! she became like this in the city
of enchantment. Oh, if I were only there in
all the splendour and glory ! it even throws
a light up into the clouds at night, when I
look in the direction where I know
the city is.'
Yes, thither, towards that quarter, the
Dryad looked every evening, every night. She
saw the glimmering mist on the horizon ; she
missed it in the bright, moonlight nights ;
she missed the floating clouds which showed
her pictures of the city and of history.
The child grasps at its picture-book ; the
Dryad grasped at the cloud world, her book
The warm summer sky, free from clouds, was
for her a blank page, and now for several
days she had seen such a sky.
It was the warm summer-time, with sultry
days without a breath of air. Every leaf,
every flower, lay as in a doze, and men were
like that too. Then clouds arose, and that
in the quarter where at night the glimmering
mist announced, Here is Paris.
The clouds arose, forming themselves like a
whole mountain range, and scudded through
the air, out over the whole landscape as far
as the Dryad could see.
The clouds lay like enormous purple rocks,
layer on layer, high up in the sky. Flashes
of lightning darted forth ; they also are
servants of God the Lord,' the old priest
had said. And there came a bluish dazzling
flash, a blaze as if the sun itself had
burst the purple rocks, and the lightning
came down, and splintered the mighty old oak
tree to the roots ; its crown was rent, its
rent, it fell split asunder as if it spread
itself out to embrace the messenger of
light. No metal cannon can boom through the
air and over the land at the birth of a
royal child, as the thunder rumbled here at
the death of the old oak tree. The rain
streamed down : a refreshing breeze blew,
the storm was past, and a Sunday calm fell
on everything. The village people gathered
round the fallen old oak ; the venerable
priest spoke words in its praise, and an
artist made a sketch of the tree itself as a
' Everything passes away ! ' said the Dryad,
' passes away like the clouds, and returns
no more.' The old priest came there no more
; the school roof had fallen, and the
teachers' chair was gone. The children came
no more, but the autumn came, winter came,
and the spring came too,
and in all the changing seasons the Dryad
gazed towards the quarter where every
evening and night, far away on the horizon,
Paris shone like a shimmering mist. Out from
it sped engine after engine, the one train
after the other, rushing and roaring, at all
hours ; in the evening and at
midnight, in the morning, and through the
whole of the daytime came the trains, and
from every one and into every one crowded
people from all the countries in the world ;
a new wonder of the world had called them to
Paris. How did this wonder reveal itself ?
' A splendid flower of art and industry,'
they said, has sprung up on the barren soil
of the Field of Mars ; a gigantic sunflower,
from whose leaves one can learn geography
and statistics, get the learning of a
guild-master, be elevated in art and poetry,
and learn the size and greatness of
' A fairy-blossom,' said others, ' a
many-coloured lotusplant, which spreads its
green leaves over the sand, like a velvet
carpet, which has sprung forth in the early
spring.The summer shall see it in all its
glory ; the autumn storms will sweep it away
; neither root nor leaf shall be left.'
Outside the military school stretches the
arena of war in times of peace ; the field
without grass and stalk, a piece of sandy
plain cut out of the African desert, where
Fata Morgana shows her strange castles in
the air and hanging gardens ; on the Field
of Mars they now stand more brilliant
and more wonderful, because genius had made
' The present-day Palace of Aladdin is
reared,' it was said. Day by day, and hour
by hour, it unfolds its rich splendour more
and more. Marble and colours adorn its
endless halls. ' Master Bloodless ' here
moves his steel and iron limbs in the great
machinery -hall. Works of art in
metal, in stone, in weaving, proclaim the
mental life which is stirring in all the
countries of the world. Picture-galleries,
masses of flowers, everything that intellect
and hand can create in the workshops of the
craftsman is here displayed to view. Even
relics of ancient days from old castles and
peat-mosses have met here.
The overwhelmingly great and varied sight
must be reduced and condensed to a toy in
order to be reproduced, understood, and seen
as a whole.
The Field of Mars, like a great Christmas
table, had on it an Aladdin's Palace of
industry and art, and round about it were
little articles from all countries ; every
nation found something to remind it of home.
Here stood the Egyptian royal palace, here
the caravanserai of the desert ; the Bedouin
coming from his sunny land swung past on his
camel ; here extended Russian stables with
magnificent fiery steeds from the steppes.
The little thatched farm-house from Denmark
stood with its ' Dannebrog ' flag beside
Gustav Vasa's beautifully carved wooden
house from Dalarne in Sweden ; American huts
; English cottages, French pavilions,
kiosks, churches, and theatres lay oddly
strewn about, and amidst all that, the fresh
green turf, the clear, running water,
flowering shrubs, rare trees, glass-houses
where one could imagine oneself in a
tropical forest ; whole rose-gardens, as if
brought from Damascus, bloomed under the
roof ; what colours, what
fragrance ! Stalactite caves, artificially
made, enclosing fresh and salt lakes, gave
an exhibition from the kingdom of fish. One
stood down on the bottom of the sea among
fish and polypi.
All this, they said, the Field of Mars now
bears and presents to view, and over this
great richly-decked table moves, like a busy
swarm of ants, the whole crowd of people,
either on foot or drawn in little carriages
; all legs cannot stand such an exhausting
They come here from early morning until late
in the evening. Steamer after steamer, full
of people, glides down the Seine. The number
of carriages is constantly increasing, the
crowds of people both on foot and on
horseback are increasing, omnibuses and
tramcars are stuffed
and filled and covered with people, all
these streams move to one goal, ' The Paris
Exhibition ! ' All the entrances are
decorated with the French flag ; round about
the bazaar-buildings wave the flags of all
nations ; from the machinery-hall there is a
whirring and humming ; the bells chime in
melody from the towers ; the organs play
inside the churches ; hoarse, snuffling
songs from the
Oriental cafes mingle with the music. It is
like the kingdom of Babel, the language of
Babel, a Wonder of the World. It was such
indeed so the reports about it said ; who
did not hear them ? The Dryad knew
everything that has been said here about the
' new wonder ' in the city of cities.
' Fly, ye birds ! fly thither to look, come
again and tell ' was the prayer of the
The longing swelled to a wish, and became a
life's thought ; and then one still silent
night, when the full moon was shining, there
flew out from its disk the Dryad saw it a
spark, which fell glittering like a meteor ;
and before the tree, whose branches shook as
in a blast of wind, stood
a mighty, radiant figure. It spoke in tones
so soft and yet as strong as the trump of
the Last Day, which kisses to life and calls
1 Thou shalt enter that place of enchantment,
thou shalt there take root, feel the rushing
currents, the air and the sunshine there.
But thy lifetime shall be shortened, the
series of years which awaited thee out here
in the open, will shrink there to a small
number of seasons. Poor Dryad ; it will be
thy ruin ! thy longing will grow, thy
yearning and thy craving will become
stronger ! The tree itself will become a
prison for thee ; thou wilt forsake thy
dwelling, forsake thy nature, and fly away
and mix with human beings, and then thy
years will dwindle down to half the lifetime
of the ephemeral fly, only a single night ;
thy life shall be extinguished, the leaves
of the tree shall
wither and be blown away, to return no
more.' Thus it sounded, thus it sang, "and
vanished, but not the longing and desire of
the Dryad ; she trembled with expectation,
in a fever of wild anticipation.
' I shall go to the city of cities ! ' she
exultingly cried. ' Life begins, gathers
like the cloud, and no one knows where it
In the grey dawn, when the moon grew pale
and the clouds red, the hour of fulfilment
struck, and the promise was redeemed.
People came with spades and poles ; they dug
round the roots of the tree, deep down,
right under it. Then a cart was brought up,
drawn by horses, the tree, with the roots
and clods of earth hanging to them, was
lifted, wrapped in matting which made a warm
foot-bag for it, then it
was placed on the cart and bound fast. It
was to go on a journey to Paris, to grow and
remain there in the grandest city of France
the city of cities.
The leaves and branches of the chestnut tree
trembled in the first moment of motion ; the
Dryad trembled in the delight of expectation.
' Away ! away 1 ' rang in every pulse-beat.
Away ! away ! ' came the echo in trembling,
fluttering words. The Dryad forgot to say '
Farewell ' to her native place, to the
waving grasses and the innocent daisies,
which had looked up to her as to a great
lady in our Lord's garden, a young Princess
who played the shepherdess out in the
The chestnut tree was on the cart, it nodded
with its branches ' Farewell ', or
Away , the Dryad knew not which ; she
thought and dreamt of the wonderful, new,
and yet so familiar scenes which should be
unfolded before her. No childish heart in
innocent delight, no passionfilled soul, has
ever begun its journey to Paris more full of
thought than she. ' Farewell ! ' became '
Away ! away ! '
The wheels of the cart went round, the
distant became near and was left behind ;
the country changed, as the clouds change ;
new vineyards, forests, villages, villas,
and gardens sprang up, came in sight, and
rolled away again. The chestnut tree moved
forward, the Dryad forward with
it, engine after engine rushed close past
each other and crossed each other ; the
engines sent out clouds, which formed
figures that told of the Paris they came
from, and to which the Dryad was bound.
Everything round about knew and must
understand whither her way led ; she thought
that every tree she went past stretched out
its branches to her, and begged : ' Take me
with you ! take me with you I ' In every
tree there was also a Dryad full of longing.
What changes ! What a journey ! It seemed as
if houses shot up out of the earth, more and
more, closer and closer. Chimneys rose like
flower-pots, placed above each other and
side by side along the roofs ; great
inscriptions with letters a yard long,
painted figures on the walls from the
ground-floor to the
cornice shone forth.
' Where does Paris begin, and when shall I
be in it ?' the Dryad asked herself. The
crowds of people increased, the noise and
bustle grew greater, carriage followed
carriage, men on foot followed men on horse,
and all round was shop upon shop, music and
song, screaming and talking.
The Dryad in her tree was in the midst of
The great, heavy cart stopped in a little
square, planted with trees, surrounded by
high houses, where every window had its
balcony. People looked down from there upon
the young, fresh chestnut tree which was
driven up, and which was now to be planted
here, in place of the worn-out, uprooted
tree, which lay stretched along the ground.
People stood still in the square, and looked
at the spring verdure, smiling and delighted
; the older trees, still only in bud,
greeted her with rustling branches, '
Welcome ! welcome ! ' and the fountain which
threw its jets of water into the air,
letting them splash again into the broad
basin, allowed the wind to carry drops over
to the newly-arrived tree, as if it would
offer it a cup of welcome.
The Dryad felt that its tree was lifted from
the cart and placed in its future position.
The tree's roots were hidden in the earth,
fresh turf was laid over them ; blossoming
shrubs and pots of flowers were planted like
the tree ; here was a whole garden plot
right in the middle of the square. The dead,
uprooted tree, killed by gas-fumes,
kitchenfumes, and all the plant-killing
vapours of a town, was laid on the cart and
driven away. The crowd looked on, children
and old people sat on benches on the grass,
and looked up among the leaves of the
And we, who tell about it, stood on the
balcony, looked down on the young spring
verdure just come from the fresh country
air, and said, as the old priest would have
said : ' Poor Dryad ! '
How happy I am ! ' said the Dryad, ' and yet
I cannot quite realize it, nor quite express
what I feel ; everything is as I expected it
! and yet not quite as I expected ! '
The houses were so high, and so close : the
sun shone properly only upon one wall, and
it was pasted over with posters and placards,
before which the people stood and made the
place crowded. Vehicles went past, light and
heavy ; omnibuses, those over-filled houses
rolled along, riders trotted ahead, carts
and carriages claimed the right to do the
same. The Dryad wondered whether the tall
houses, which stood so close, would also
flit away, change their shapes like the
clouds and glide aside, so that she could
see into Paris, and out over it.
Notre-Dame must show itself, and the Vendome
Column, and the Wonder which had called and
was calling so many strangers hither. But
the houses did not move.
It was still day, when the lamps were
lighted, the gasrays shone out from the
shops and up among the branches of the tree
; it was like summer sunshine. The stars
came out overhead, the same ones the Dryad
had seen in her native place ; she thought
she felt a breeze from there, so
pure and mild. She felt herself elevated and
strengthened, and found she had the power of
seeing right out through all the leaves of
the tree, and had feeling to the farthest
tips of the roots. She felt herself in the
living human world, looked at with kindly
eyes ; round about were bustle and music,
colours and lights.
From a side street sounded wind-instruments,
and the dance-inspiring tunes of the
barrel-organ. Yes, to the dance, to the
dance ! it sounded to gladness and the
pleasure of life.
It was a music that must set men, horses,
carriages, trees, and houses dancing, if
they could dance. An intoxicating joy arose
in the Dryad's breast.
' How delightful and beautiful ! ' she cried
joyfully, 1 1 am in Paris ! '
The day which came, the night which followed,
and again the next day, offered the same
sights, the same stir, the same life,
changing and yet always the same.
1 Now I know every tree and every flower in
the square here I I know every house,
balcony and shop here, where I am placed in
this little cramped corner which hides the
great, mighty town from me. Where are the
triumphal arches, the boulevards, and the
Wonder of the World ?
None of all these do I see ! I am imprisoned
as in a cage amongst the tall houses, which
I now know by heart, with their placards,
and posters, and sign-boards, all these
plaster sweetmeats, which I have no taste
for any longer. Where is all that I heard
about, know about, longed for,
and for the sake of which I wished to come
here ? What have I grasped, won, or found !
I am longing as before, I see a life which I
must grasp and live in ! I must enter the
ranks of the living ! I must revel there,
fly like the birds, see and understand,
become wholly human, seize half a day
of that in place of years of life in
everyday fatigue and tediousness, in which I
sicken and droop, and vanish like the mist
on the meadow. I must shine like the cloud,
shine in the sunlight of life, look out over
everything like the cloud, and pass away
like it, no one knows whither ! '
This was the Dryad's sigh, which lifted
itself in prayer.
Take my lifetime, and give me the half of
the Ephemera's life ! Free me from my
imprisonment, give me human life, human joy
for a short space, only this single night,
if it must be so, and punish me thus for my
presumptuous spirit, my longing for life !
Annihilate me ; let the fresh, young tree
that encloses me then wither and fall,
become ashes, and be scattered to the winds/
A rustling passed through the branches of
the tree ; there came a titillating feeling,
a trembling in every leaf, as if fire ran
through it or out of it, a blast went
through the crown of the tree, and in the
midst of it arose a woman's form, the Dryad
herself. In the same instant she sat under
the gas-illumined, leafy branches, young and
beautiful, like poor Marie, to whom it was
said, ' The great city will be thy ruin '
The Dryad sat by the foot of the tree, by
the door of her house, which she had locked
and of which she had thrown away the key. So
young, so beautiful ! The stars saw her and
twinkled. The gaslamps saw her and beamed
and beckoned ! How slender she was and yet
child and yet a full-grown maiden. Her
clothes were fine as silk, and green as the
fresh, newly- unfolded leaves in the crown
of the tree ; in her nut-brown hair hung a
half -blown chestnut blossom ; she looked
like the goddess of Spring.
Only a short minute she sat motionless and
still, then she sprang up, and ran like a
gazelle from the place, and disappeared
round the corner. She ran, she sprang like
the light from a mirror which is carried in
the sunshine, the light which with every
motion is cast now here and now
there ; and if one had looked closely, and
been able to see what there was to see, how
wonderful ! At every place where she stopped
for a moment, her clothes and her figure
were changed according to the character of
the place, or the house whose lamp shone
She reached the Boulevards ; a sea of light
streamed from the gas in the lamps, shops,
and cafes. Young and slender trees stood
here in rows ; each one hid its Dryad from
the beams of the artificial sunlight. The
whole of the long, never-ending pavement was
like one great assembly-
room ; tables stood spread with refreshments
of all kinds, from champagne and chartreuse
down to coffee and beer. There was a display
of flowers, of pictures, statues, books, and
coloured fabrics. From the throng under the
tall houses she looked out over the alarming
stream under the rows of trees : there
rushed a tide of rolling carriages,
cabriolets, coaches, omnibuses, and cabs,
gentlemen on horseback, and marching
regiments, it was risking life and limb to
cross over to the opposite side. Now shone a
blue light, then the gas-lights were supreme,
and suddenly a rocket shot up ; whence and
whither ? Certainly, it was the highway of
the great city of the world.
Here sounded soft Italian melodies, there
Spanish songs, accompanied by the beating of
castanets, but strongest, and swelling above
all, sounded the musical-box melodies of the
moment, the tickling can-can music, unknown
to Orpheus, and never heard by beautiful
Helen ; even the wheelbarrow must have
danced on its one wheel if it could have
danced. The Dryad danced, floated, flew,
changing in colour like the honey-bird in
the sunshine ; each house
and the world within it gave fresh tints to
her. As the gleaming lotus-flower, torn from
its root, is borne by the stream on its
eddies, she drifted ; and wherever she stood,
she was again a new shape, therefore no one
could follow her, recognize and watch her.
Like cloud-pictures everything flew past
her, face after face, but not a single one
did she know ; she saw no form from her own
home. There shone in her thoughts two bright
eyes, and she thought of Marie, poor Marie I
the happy, ragged child with the red flower
in her black hair.
She was in the city of the world, rich, and
dazzling, as when she drove past the
priest's house, the Dryad's tree, and the
old oak. She was here, no doubt, in the
deafening noise ; perhaps she had just got
out of that magnificent coach waiting yonder
; splendid carriages stood here with
laced coachmen, and silk-stockinged footmen.
The grand people alighting were all women,
richly dressed ladies. They went through the
open lattice-door, up the high, broad stairs,
which led to a building with white marble
columns. Was this perhaps the ' Wonder of
the World ' ? Then certainly Marie was there
' Sancta Maria ! ' they sang within ; the
clouds of incense floated under the lofty
painted and gilded arches, where twilight
reigned. It was the Church of the Madeleine.
Dressed in black, in costly materials made
after the latest fashion, ladies of the
highest society glided over the polished
floor. Coats of arms were on the silver
clasps of the prayer-books bound in velvet,
and on the fine, strongly-scented
handkerchiefs trimmed with costly Brussels
lace. Some of the ladies knelt in silent
prayer before the altars, others sought the
confessionals. The Dryad felt a restlessness,
a fear, as if she had entered a place where
she ought not to have set foot. Here was the
home of silence, the palace of secrets ; all
was whispered and confided without a sound
The Dryad saw herself disguised in silk and
veil, resembling in form the other rich and
high-born ladies ; was each of them a child
of longing like herself . There sounded a
sigh, so painfully deep ; did it come from
the confessional corner, or from the breast
of the Dryad ? She drew her veil closer
round her. She breathed the incense and not
the fresh air. Here was no place for her
Away ! away ! in flight without rest ! The
Ephemera has no rest ; its flight is its
She was again outside under the blazing
gas-lamps by the splendid fountain. ' All
the streams of water will not be able to
wash away the innocent blood which has been
shed here.' So it has been said.
Foreigners stood here and talked loudly and
with animation, as no one dared to do in the
High Court of Mystery, from which the Dryad
A large stone-slab was turned and lifted up
; she did not understand this ; she saw an
open entrance to the depths of the earth ;
into this people descended from the starlit
sky, from the sunshiny gas-flames, from all
the stirring life.
' I am afraid of this ! ' said one of the
women who stood there ; I dare not go down ;
I don't care either about seeing the sight !
Stay with me ! '
' And go back home,' said the man, ' go from
Paris without having seen the most
remarkable thing, the real wonder of the
present time, called into being by the
talent and will of a single man !
I shall not go down there/ was the answer.
' The wonder of the present age,' they said.
The Dryad heard and understood it ; the goal
of her greatest longing was reached, and
here was the entrance, down in the depths
under Paris ; she had not thought of this,
but when she heard it now, and saw the
foreigners going down, she
followed them. The spiral staircase was of
cast iron, broad and commodious. A lamp
gleamed down there, and another one still
They stood in a labyrinth of endlessly long
intersecting halls and arched passages ; all
the streets and lanes of Paris were to be
seen here, as in a dim mirror, the names
could be read, every house above had its
number here, its root, which struck down
under the empty, macadamized
footway, which ran along by a broad canal
with a stream of rolling mud. Higher up,
along the arches, was led the fresh running
water, and above all hung, like a net,
gas-pipes and telegraph wires. Lamps shone
in the distance, like reflected images from
the metropolis above. Now and then was heard
a noisy rumbling overhead ; it was the heavy
wagons which drove over the bridges above.
Where was the Dryad ?
You have heard of the catacombs ; they are
but the faintest of outlines compared to
this new subterranean world, the wonder of
the present day, the drains of Paris. Here
stood the Dryad and not out in the world's
exhibition on the Field of Mars. She heard
exclamations of astonish-
ment, admiration and appreciation.
' From down here/ they said, ' health and
years of life are growing for thousands and
thousands up above ! Our time is the time of
progress with all its blessings.
That was the opinion and the talk of the
people, but not of the creatures who lived
and dwelt and had been born here, the rats ;
they squeaked from the rifts in a piece of
old wall, so clearly, distinctly and
intelligibly to the Dryad.
A big old he-rat, with his tail bitten off,
piercingly squeaked his feelings, his
discomfort, and his honest opinion, and the
family gave him support for every word.
' I am disgusted with this nonsense, this
human nonsense, this ignorant talk ! Oh yes,
it is very fine here now with gas and
petroleum ! I don't eat that kind of thing !
It has become so fine and bright here that
one is ashamed of oneself, and does not know
why. If we only lived in the time
of tallow-candles ! it isn't so far back
either ! That was a romantic time, as they
call it ! '
' What is that you are talking about ? '
said the Dryad. I did not see you before.
What are you talking about ? '
' The good old days/ said the rat, ' the
happy days of great-grandfather and
great-grandmother rats ! In those days it
was something to come down here. It was a
rat's nest different from the whole of Paris
! Mother Plague lived down here ; she killed
people, but never rats. Robbers
and smugglers breathed freely down here.
Here was the place of refuge for the most
interesting personages, who are now only
seen in melodramas in the theatre up above.
The time of romance is gone in our rat's
n,est too ; we have got fresh air and
petroleum down here.'
So squeaked the rat ! squeaked against the
new times in favour of the old days with
A carriage stood there, a kind of open
omnibus with swift, little horses ; the
party got into it, and rushed along the
Boulevard Sebastopol, the subterranean one :
right above stretched the well-known
Parisian one full of people.
The carriage disappeared in the dim light ;
the Dryad also vanished, rose up into the
gas-light and the fresh free air ; there,
and not down in the crossing arches and
their suffocating air, could the wonder be
found, the Wonder of the World, that which
she sought in her short night of life ; it
must shine stronger than all the gas-lights
up here, stronger than the moon which now
glided forth. Yes, certainly ! and she saw
it yonder, it beamed before her, it twinkled
and glittered like the star of Venus in the
She saw a shining gate, opening into a
little garden, full of light and dancing
melodies. Gas-jets shone here as borders
round little quiet lakes and pools, where
artificial water-plants, cut out of
tin-plate bent and painted, glittered in the
light, and threw jets of water yard-high out
chalices. Beautiful weeping-willows, real
weeping-willows of the spring-time, drooped
their fresh branches like a green
transparent yet concealing veil.
Here, amongst the bushes, blazed a bonfire ;
its red glow shone over small, half -dark,
silent arbours, permeated with tones, with a
music thrilling to the ear, captivating,
alluring, chasing the blood through the
She saw young women, beautiful in festal
attire, with trusting smiles, and the light
laughing spirit of youth, a ' Marie ', with
e rose in the hair, but without carriage and
footmen. How they floated, how they whirled
in the wild dance ! As if bitten by the
Tarantella, they sprang and laughed and
smiled, blissfully happy, ready to embrace
the whole world.
The Dryad felt herself carried away in the
dance. About her slender little foot fitted
the silken shoe, chestnut-brown, like the
ribbon which floated from her hair over her
uncovered shoulders. The green silk garment
waved in great folds, but did not conceal
the beautifully formed limb with
the pretty foot, which seemed as if it
wished to describe magic circles in the air.
Was she in the enchanted garden of Armida ?
What was the place called ? The name shone
outside in gas-jets,
Sounds of music and clapping of hands,
rockets, and murmuring water, popping of
champagne corks mingled here. The dance was
wildly bacchanalian, and over the whole
sailed the moon, with a rather wry face, no
doubt. The sky was cloudless, clear and
serene ; it seemed as if
one could see straight into Heaven from '
A consuming desire of life thrilled through
the Dryad ; it was like an opium trance.
Her eyes spoke, her lips spoke, but the
words were not heard for the sound of flutes
and violins. Her partner whispered words in
her ear, they trembled in time to the music
of the can-can ; she did not understand them,
we do not understand them either. He
stretched his arms out towards her and about
her, and only embraced the transparent,
The Dryad was carried away by the stream of
air, as the wind bears a rose-leaf. On high
before her she saw a flame, a flashing
light, high up on a tower. The light shone
from the goal of her longing, from the red
lighthouse on the ' Fata Morgana ' of the
Field of Mars. She fluttered about the tower
; the workmen thought it was a butterfly
which they saw dropping down to die in its
all too early arrival.
The moon shone, gas-lights and lamps shone
in the great halls and in the scattered
buildings of all lands, shone over the
undulating greeneward, and the rocks made by
the ingenuity of men, where the waterfall
poured down by the strength of ' Mr.
Bloodless '. The depths of the ocean
and of the fresh water, the realms of the
fishes were opened here ; one was at the
bottom of the deep pool, one was down in the
ocean, in a diving-bell. The water pressed
against the thick glass walls above and
around. The polypi, fathom-long, flexible,
winding, quivering, living
arms, clutched, heaved, and grew fast to the
bottom of the sea.
A great flounder lay thoughtfully close by,
stretched itself out in comfort and ease :
the crab crawled like an enormous spider
over it, whilst shrimps darted about with a
haste, a swiftness, as if they were the
moths and butterflies of the sea.
In the fresh water grew water-lilies, sedges,
and rushes. The gold-fishes had placed
themselves in rows, like red cows in the
field, all with the heads in the same
direction, so as to get the current in their
mouths. Thick fat tench stared with stupid
eyes towards the glass walls ; they
knew that they were at the Paris Exhibition
; they knew that they had made the somewhat
difficult journey hither, in barrels filled
with water, and had been land -sick on the
railway, just as people are sea-sick on the
sea. They had come to see the Exhibition,
and so they saw it from their own fresh or
salt water box, saw the throng of men which
moved past from morning to night. All the
countries of the world had sent and
exhibited their natives, so that the old
tench and bream, the nimble perch and the
mossgrown carp should see these beings and
give their opinions
upon the species.
' They are shell-fish ! ' said a muddy
little bleak. ' They change their shells two
or three times in the day, and make sounds
with their mouths talking, they call it. We
don't change, and we make ourselves
understood in an easier way ; movements with
the corners of the mouth, and a stare with
the eyes ! We have many points of
superiority over mankind ! '
'They have learnt swimming, though/ said a
little freshwater fish. ' I am from the big
lake ; men go into the water in the hot
season there, but first they put off their
shells, and then they swim. The frogs have
taught them that, they push with the hind
-legs, and paddle with the fore-legs ; they
can't keep it up long. They would like to
imitate us, but they don't get near it. Poor
men I '
And the fishes stared ; they imagined that
the whole crowd of people they had seen in
the strong daylight was still moving here ;
yes, they were convinced that they still saw
the same forms which, so to speak, first
struck their nerves of apprehension.
A little perch, with beautifully striped
skin, and an enviable round back, asserted
that the human mud ' was there still ; he
I also see it ; it is so distinct ! ' said a
jaundice-yellow tench. I see plainly the
beautiful well-shaped human figure, "
high-legged lady " or whatever it was they
called her; she had our mouth and staring
eyes, two balloons behind, and an umbrella
let down in front, a great quantity of
hanging duck-weed dingling and dangling. She
should put it all off, go like us in the
guise of nature, and she would look like a
respectable tench, as far as human beings
can do so ! '
' What became of him he on the string, the
male they dragged ? '
' He rode in a bath-chair, sat with paper,
pen and ink, and wrote everything down. What
was he doing ? They called him a reporter.'
He is riding about there still,' said a
moss-grown maiden carp, with the trials of
the world in her throat, so that she was
hoarse with it ; she had once swallowed a
fish-hook, and still swam patiently about
with it in her throat.
A reporter,' she said, that is, speaking
plainly and fishily, a kind of cuttle-fish
So the fishes talked in their own manner.
But in the midst of the artificial grotto
sounded the blows of hammers and the songs
of the work-people ; they must work at night,
so that everything might be finished as soon
as possible. They sang in the Dryad's summer
she herself stood there, ready to fly and
' They are gold-fish ! ' said she, and
nodded to them. ' So I have managed to see
you after all ! I know you ! I have known
you a long time ! The swallow has told me
about you in my home country. How pretty you
are, how glittering and charming ! I could
kiss each and all of you !
I know the others also ! That is certainly
the fat tench ; that one there, the dainty
bream ; and here, the old moss- grown carp !
I know you ! but you don't know me ! '
The fish stared and did not understand a
single word ; they stared out into the dim
light. The Dryad was there no longer, she
stood out in the open air, where the world's
' wonder-blossoms ' from the different
coi,mtries gave out their fragrance, from
the land of rye-bread, from the coast
of the stock-fish, the empire of russia
leather, the riverbanks of Eau-de-Cologne,
and from the eastern land of the essence of
When, after a ball, we drive home, half
-asleep, the tunes we have heard still sound
distinctly in our ears ; we could sing each
and all of them. And as in the eye of a
murdered man, the last thing the glance
rested on is said to remain photographed on
it for a time, so here in the night the
bustle and glare of the day was not
extinguished. The Dryad felt it and knew
that it would roll on in the same way
through the coming day. The Dryad stood
amongst the fragrant roses, thinking that
she recognized them from her home, roses
from the park of the castle and from the
priest's garden. She also saw the red
pomegranate flower here ; Marie had worn one
like it in her coal-black hair.
Memories from the home of her childhood out
in the country flashed through her mind ;
she drank in the sights round about her with
greedy eyes, whilst feverish restlessness
possessed her, and carried her through the
She felt tired, and this tiredness increased.
She had a longing to rest upon the soft
Eastern cushions and carpets spread around,
or to lean against the weeping- willow down
by the clear water, and plunge herself into
But the Ephemera has no rest. The day was
only a few minutes from the end.
Her thoughts trembled, her limbs trembled,
she sank down on the grass, by the rippling
' Thou springest from the earth with lasting
life ! ' said she ; ' cool my tongue, give
me refreshment ! '
' I am not the living fountain ! ' answered
the water. ' I flow by machinery ! '
' Give me of thy freshness, thou green grass,'
begged the Dryad. ' Give me one of the
fragrant flowers ! '
1 We die when we are broken off ! ' answered
the grass and flowers.
' Kiss me, thou fresh breeze ! only one
single kiss of life ! '
' Soon the sun will kiss the clouds red ! '
said the wind, ' and then wilt thou be
amongst the dead, passed away, as all the
splendour here will pass away, before the
year is gone, and I can again play with the
light, loose sand in the square here, and
blow the dust along over the ground,
dust in the air, dust ! all dust ! '
The Dryad felt a dread, like that of the
woman who in the bath has cut an artery and
is bleeding to death, but while bleeding
wishes still to live. She raised herself,
came some steps forward, and again sank down
in front of a little church. The door stood
open, candles burned on the altar, and the
What music ! such tones the Dryad had never
heard, and yet she seemed to hear in them
well-known voices. They came from the depths
of the heart of the whole creation. She
thought she heard the rustling of the old
oak tree, she thought she heard the old
priest talking about great deeds, and about
famous names, and of what God's creatures
had power to give as a gift to future times,
and must give it in order to win, by that
means, eternal life for itself.
The tones of the organ swelled and pealed,
and spoke in song : ' Thy longing and desire
uprooted thee from thy God -given place. It
became thy ruin, poor Dryad ! '
The organ tones, soft and mild, sounded as
if weeping, dying away in tears.
The clouds shone red in the sky. The wind
whistled and sang, ' Pass away, ye Dead, the
sun is rising ! '
The first beam fell on the Dryad. Her form
shone in changing colours, like the
soap-bubble when it breaks, vanishes and
becomes a drop, a tear which falls to the
ground and disappears.
Poor Dryad ! a dew-drop, only a tear, shed,
The sun shone over the ' Fata Morgana ' on
the Field of Mars, shone over the Great
Paris, over the little square with the trees
and the splashing fountain, amongst the tall
houses, where the chestnut tree stood, but
with drooping branches, withered leaves, the
tree which only yesterday
lifted itself as fresh and full of life as
the spring itself. Now it was dead, they
said. The Dryad- had gone, passed away like
the cloud, no one knew whither.
There lay on the ground a withered, broken
chestnut flower ; the holy water of the
Church had no power to call it to life. The
foot of man soon trod it down into the dust.
The whole of this actually happened, we saw
it ourselves at the Paris Exhibition in
1867, in our own time, in the great,
wonderful, time of fairy-tale.