The parents were abed and sleeping. The clock on the wall ticked loudly and lazily, as if it had time to spare. Outside the rattling windows there was a restless, whispering wind. The room grew light, and dark, and wondrous light again, as the moon played hide-and-seek through the clouds. The boy, wide-awake and quiet in his bed, was thinking of the Stranger and his stories.
"It was not what he told me about the treasures," he said to himself, "that was not the thing which filled me with so strange a longing. I am not greedy for riches. But the Blue Flower is what I long for. I can think of nothing else. Never have I felt so before. It seems as if I had been dreaming until now--or as if I had just slept over into a new world.
"Who cared for flowers in the old world where I used to live? I never heard of anyone whose whole heart was set upon finding a flower. But now I cannot even tell all that I feel--sometimes as happy as if I were enchanted. But when the flower fades from me, when I cannot see it in my mind, then it is like being very thirsty and all alone. That is what the other people could not understand.
"Once upon a time, they say, the animals and the trees and the flowers used to talk to people. It seems to me, every minute, as if they were just going to begin again. When I look at them I can see what they want to say. There must be a great many words that I do not know; if I knew more of them perhaps I could understand things better. I used to love to dance, but now I like better to think after the music."
Gradually the boy lost himself in sweet fancies, and suddenly he found himself again, in the charmed land of sleep. He wandered in far countries, rich and strange; he traversed wild waters with incredible swiftness; marvellous creatures appeared and vanished; he lived with all sorts of men, in battles, in whirling crowds, in lonely huts. He was cast into prison. He fell into dire distress and want. All experiences seemed to be sharpened to an edge. He felt them keenly, yet they did not harm him. He died and came alive again; he loved to the height of passion, and then was parted forever from his beloved. At last, toward morning, as the dawn was stealing near, his soul grew calm, and the pictures showed more clear and firm.
It seemed as if he were walking alone through the deep woods. Seldom the daylight shimmered through the green veil. Soon he came to a rocky gorge in the mountains. Under the mossy stones in the bed of the stream, he heard the water secretly tinkling downward, ever downward, as he climbed upward.
The forest grew thinner and lighter. He came to a fair meadow on the slope of the mountain. Beyond the meadow was a high cliff, and in the face of the cliff an opening like the entrance to a path. Dark was the way, but smooth, and he followed easily on till he came near to a vast cavern from which a flood of radiance streamed to meet him.
As he entered he beheld a mighty beam of light which sprang from the ground, shattering itself against the roof in countless sparks, falling and flowing all together into a great pool in the rock. Brighter was the light-beam than molten gold, but silent in its rise, and silent in its fall. The sacred stillness of a shrine, a never-broken hush of joy and wonder, filled the cavern. Cool was the dripping radiance that softly trickled down the walls, and the light that rippled from them was pale blue.
But the pool, as the boy drew near and watched it, quivered and glanced with the ever-changing colours of a liquid opal. He dipped his hands in it and wet his lips. It seemed as if a lively breeze passed through his heart.
He felt an irresistible desire to bathe in the pool. Slipping off his clothes he plunged in. It was as if he bathed in a cloud of sunset. A celestial rapture flowed through him. The waves of the stream were like a bevy of nymphs taking shape around him, clinging to him with tender breasts, as he floated onward, lost in delight, yet keenly sensitive to every impression. Swiftly the current bore him out of the pool, into a hollow in the cliff. Here a dimness of slumber shadowed his eyes, while he felt the pressure of the loveliest dreams.
When he awoke again, he was aware of a new fulness of light, purer and steadier than the first radiance. He found himself lying on the green turf, in the open air, beside a little fountain, which sparkled up and melted away in silver spray. Dark-blue were the rocks that rose at a little distance, veined with white as if strange words were written upon them. Dark-blue was the sky, and cloudless.
All passion had dissolved away from him; every sound was music; every breath was peace; the rocks were like sentinels protecting him; the sky was like a cup of blessing full of tranquil light.
But what charmed him most, and drew him with resistless power, was a tall, clear-blue flower, growing beside the spring, and almost touching him with its broad, glistening leaves. Round about were many other flowers, of all hues. Their odours mingled in a perfect chord of fragrance. He saw nothing but the Blue Flower.
Long and tenderly he gazed at it, with unspeakable love. At last he felt that he must go a little nearer to it, when suddenly it began to move and change. The leaves glistened more brightly, and drew themselves up closely around the swiftly growing stalk. The flower bent itself toward him, and the petals showed a blue, spreading necklace of sapphires, out of which the lovely face of a girl smiled softly into his eyes. His sweet astonishment grew with the wondrous transformation.
All at once he heard his mother's voice calling him, and awoke in his parents' room, already flooded with the gold of the morning sun.
From the German of Novalis.