The Baldwin Library
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES
D. LOTHROP AND COMPANY
D. LOTHROP & COMPANY.
PRESS OF L. N. FREDERICKS,
31 Hawley St. Boston.
How the Rain Sprites Were Freed.
IT was such a hot summer 1 In the
Black Forest, where my story begins, not
a drop of rain had fallen for six long
weeks. All the bright little brooks where
the children had enjoyed sailing their boats,
had dried up, and left bare their muddy
channels winding in and out of the mead-
ows like long snakes. The ground was so
parched that most of the flowers had died,
and the grass was brown and shrivelled.
8 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
Scorching sunshine poured down upon the
heads of all unlucky people who happened
to be out of doors, and ended in giving
them a sunstroke, if they were not wise
enough to hurry in. Sister Lischen, in the
wood-cutter's cottage, lay sick with the fever;.
and the doctor shook his head as they asked
when she would get well, and said, "When
the cool weather comes." But the days
lengthened into weeks, and the cool weather
seemed farther off than ever.
Max and Greta stood at the door of the
cottage, looking out into the forest. It was
sunset, and the sky was all covered with
the daintiest pink clouds, seeming so peace-
ful and smiling that you would suppose
HO W THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 9
all the little boys and girls would want to
be like them; and yet Max's forehead was
all gathered into a frown as he stretched
his neck to look straight into the sky, and
I am afraid he stamped his foot as he
"It's going to be just as hot and just
as dry to-morrow. There's not a rain-cloud
in the sky."
Greta never liked to look up. It made
her head ache, she said; and beside, there
were so many pretty things to be seen on
the ground, and you were sure to miss
them if you spent your time staring into
the sky. Just now shle was standing on
tiptoe, peering down into a deep, deep well,
zo HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
the only place that looked cool on that hot
evening. A very tearful little face it was.
that she saw reflected in the far-away water,
framed by soft green maidenhair fern.
"The water grows lower every day," said
The children stood gazing, one at the
clouds, the other at the water. Suddenly
Max said- it was always Max who pro-
posed things, but usually Greta was the
one to do them-:
Greta Why don't we go to hunt
for the rain?"
Greta opened her mouth and eyes and
looked at him, thinking how clever he
was; and indeed he was far cleverer than
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. n
she; but that was partly natural, for he
was nine, and she was only seven.
"You see," went on Max, "it must be
stored somewhere; it isn't all used up;
and of course, if we could only find the
storehouse, we could tell the people who
keep it about Sister Lischen, and they
would let us have all we need to bring
home. It is only that they don't know
how much we want it." And he took
her hand and began to run.
Max," panted Greta, after they had
been running some time; "Max Where
are we going?"
Max stopped, a trifle sheepishly. He
had not thought of that; in fact, when he
I2 HOW THE RAINSPRITES WERE FREED.
got a new idea into his head, he seldom did
stop to think, and that was how prudent
little Greta, who wasn't half so clever,
used to get ahead of him so often.
"I don't- know," said Max.
"You see," reflected Greta, "if we only
knew where the storehouse was, it would
be so much easier; we could go straight
instead of wandering all round. Where do
you think the rain comes from, Max?"
You little goose I Of course rain always
falls from the clouds; come along to the
hill- as near them as we can get;" and
he tried to pull her on, but Greta held
"No," she said thoughtfully; "I know
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 13
it comes from the sky, but I don't believe
it belongs there. You see it is too heavy
for the clouds to keep, and so it falls
down; I believe the storehouse is some-
where on the earth."
Stuff, Greta!" began Max impatiently;
and I am almost afraid there would have
been a quarrel if something had not made
the children look up just then. They had
run some distance into the forest before
they stopped, for it always took Greta a
good while to think a thing out; and the
twilight was coming on fast. They could
not see very plainly, and at first they
thought there was a big green bush stand-
ing before them; but when they rubbed
14 HO W THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
their eyes, they saw quite distinctly a little
old woman in a poke bonnet. They could
not see her face, for it was hidden, but
when she spoke, her voice was very sweet,
though a trifle cracked.
"How came you here so late, my dears?"
said the old lady.
The children both began to explain at
once; but of course Max was a little gen-
tleman, and let Greta finish. So she told
the whole story of Lischen and the rain,
and when she was through,
"Oh! please'm," said she, "if you would
only tell us where the storehouse is, we
needn't waste time in looking."
I can tell you," said the lady, "but you
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 15
won't be able to remember, for that is one
of the things which you must find out for
yourselves. You don't believe me? Well,
then, listen I"
And she told them just how to go. But
somehow, though it all seemed quite plain
while she was talking, it faded out of the
children's minds afterward, the way a dream
does when one is waking; and in a few
minutes they could not tell a single word
that she had said.
"You see you forget as soon as I stop
talking," said the Lady; "and I can't go
with you, for I am a Holly Bush, and
must stay here for the fairies to dance
around. So you must e'en find out for
16 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
yourselves, as is the way with most things
worth knowing in this world. I'll give you
some advice, though. You'll get on better
if you believe that you are trying the right
way; so Max may look for the storehouse
in the clouds, and Greta on the earth;
and you'd better start at midnight, for
that's the favorable hour. Now go home
and get your supper, and when you have
found the rain, come and tell me which of
you did it, for I should like to know."
IT was midnight, and the children stood
hand in hand outside the cottage. They
were both very sober, for it was a long
journey on which they were starting; but
neither of them thought for a minute of
giving up their plan.
"Where are you going first, Greta ?"
"I am going down the well," said Greta.
"I think the water-nixies there would be
friendlier to us than those who lived farther
18 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
away. Besides, I know them a little. I
used to talk to them when I was a baby,
and I remember it quite well, though aunt
Karin laughs when I tell her so. I am
sure they will tell me the way. Good-by,
They kissed each other solemnly. Then
Greta clambered over the edge of the well,
and began climbing down the sides. It
was quite easy, for there were quantities
of rough stones sticking out. Max watched
her till she reached the maiden-hair, and
then the tall ferns waved over and covered
her, until he could not see even the gleam
of her red kerchief; and then he turned
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 19
It was ferns to Max; but to Greta it
was the finest, softest, silkiest hair. It
blinded her eyes; it wound itself round
her in a tight, fine net, and pulled her
down; and the more she struggled, the
more hair blew into her face, and the
sleepier she grew. Then a voice began
singing, very low and sweet, and everything
was cool and dark; and just as she reached
the. surface of the water, she fell asleep.
When she waked up, she was in the
very nicest place she had ever seen. She
could not tell where it began or ended;
but it did not seem very large. The ceiling
was all covered with little waves and ripples
of soft light that danced and sparkled;
20 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED
and there was a great lamp of shining
silver, shaped like a crescent, in the middle,
only somehow when you watched the cres-
cent it all broke up into tiny ripples, and
you were only certain it was there when
you were looking somewhere else. The
walls, too, had something queer about them.
They were of deep, translucent green,
covered with the prettiest patterns in fern-
leaves, which shifted and waved every
second. Their edges were tremulous; and
if you looked a while, you saw that they
were not real ferns at all, but only shadows.
As for the floor, something- for once in
her life-kept Greta from looking down.
And it was just as well, for she might
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 21
have been dizzy and frightened; and when
one is frightened in fairy-land, one usually
comes to grief. You see, the floor in that
country is what is usually called the sky
in ours; for of course Greta was at the
bottom of the well, and it was a far deeper
well than was usually supposed. Indeed,
it went through to the other side.
Where was the little girl herself, that
she did not fall through? Very safe, you
may be sure; so safe and contented that
she forgot to wonder for a little while,
and thought she was. in her mother's lap.
For a beautiful lady was holding her, and
singing the same song that Greta had
heard when she fell asleep. And the lady's
22 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
hair floated away, and mingled itself with
the walls and the ceiling, till the room
seemed to dance and sway with the move,
ment of her song; and Greta, growing
giddy, looked away from it all, into the
only steadfast thing there the deep, deep
eyes of the water-nixie -and remembered
what a hurry she was in.
Let me go, please," she said, sitting
straight up. "I must start right away to
find the store-house."
But the lady only clasped Greta tighter,
and went on singing, and the sparkles of
light, and the waving fern-shadows and the
floating hair kept time to the song; and
she sang till she had finished it every word.
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 23
"There!" she said and her voice was
almost as sweet in talking as in singing -
" There! I had to finish it, you know,
because we always finish things here.
Now, my dear, what is it about the
So Greta told her the story eagerly.
"And please," she said when she had fin-
ished, "if you are the Nixie of the Well,
you must have come from there; so you
can surely tell me how to go."
"Ah!" said the lady, "I will manage
your getting there; that isn't hard, if only
you will do as you are told. But the
trouble is, when you're there you can't
let out the rain sprites."
24 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
Surely the rain-king won't be cruel
enough to refuse me, if I tell him why
I want itl"
"Oh! King Pluvius would be glad
enough to let them out himself, but that's
just it; he can't, any more than you. Come,
I see I must tell you the whole story.
You always supposed, didn't you, that the
rain-king managed things all his own way,
and that he was unkind when he kept it
from raining? Well, that isn't so. The
rain-king only has charge of half the
business; the other half is in the hands
of his brother, King Ignis, and there
can't possibly be a storm unless they both
work hard to make it. Now, strangely
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 25
enough, although both the kings are help-
less alone, they never can work heartily
together. King Pluvius is always thinking
his dignity insulted, and King Ignis is
always losing his temper; and while they
are quarreling, not a drop of rain can fall.
That is what has happened now. They
disagreed six weeks ago-I forget why-
and have had nothing to do with each
other since. I'm sure they're heartily tired
of being offended, only they're too proud
to own it; for King Pluvius sits all frozen
stiff in his throne at the North Pole, and
King Ignis is a good-hearted old fellow at
bottom, and doesn't like to see the earth
so parched and uncomfortable; but they
26 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
will neither of them be the first to give in.
So, my little girl, if you want to get at the
rain, you must go to King Pluvius, where-
he sits beside the store-house at the North
Pole, and ask him for an apology to take
to King Ignis. If you get it, you must
go down to the fire-court and present it,
and then Ignis will free the rain sprites.
I wish I could go with you; but since
the drouth, my road has dried up. I will
give you a token, though, to the river-
fairies, and they will help you on your
Then she kissed Greta on the mouth
and eyes, and pushed open a little door in
the wall. A blast of cold air came rushing
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 27
out. The way was very dark, and Greta
shuddered; but she marched boldly in, and
the Nixie called after her -
"That's right; only don't be frightened,
and be sure not to look back."
Yes; the passage was certainly very dark.
It was damp, too, and clammy; and once
in a while a great bat flapped his wings
in Greta's face. Once she trod on some-
thing slimy, and thought she saw a snake
gliding away. Then, indeed, it was of no
use to tell herself not to be frightened.
She began to shake all over with terror;
and the worse she felt, the worse things
happened. Horrid grinning things peered at
her through the darkness; she heard goblin
28 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
laughs; and something kept pulling at her
flaxen pigtails. Then her heart went thump,
thumpl And although she was a brave girl,
and would not look back, she began to fear
she should fall, she was so bewildered. But
just then, as her eyes filled with tears, she
heard the Nixie singing far away; and the
minute she heard her, she forgot the ugly
things about her, and thought only of the
Holly Bush Lady. Then the faces and
sounds ceased to torment her, and although
it was still dark, she went on quietly, till at
last the passage broadened, and suddenly she
came out on the wide river.
On, I said, but I should have said under;
for she was at the bottom, and looked up at
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 29
the stream, flowing, a great blue ceiling,
over her head. As it flowed, it sang the
Nixie's song; and underfoot there was a
carpet of fine grass, with all the blades
pointing the same way. The light was not
sunlight nor moonlight, but something
clearer and less dazzling than either.
Greta never could tell much about what
came next. She knew that, as she stood at
the entrance of the cavern, a tall lady with
fair hair wreathed in water-lilies, came and
spoke to her. Greta gave her the Nixie's
token; and she smiled, and spoke in a voice
that sounded very far off.
"You are in a hurry, my dear," said she;
" and so I would like to take you the short-
30 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
est way. But if I do, you must promise
not to open your eyes, for we shall go
through the World-cauldron, and it is
against rules for you to see anything there.
Can you be a brave girl, and keep your
lids tight shut ? If you were to open them,
we should both be in great peril."
Greta thought it would be easy enough
just to keep her eyes shut, and wondered
why the lady was so solemn about it. she
promised readily, and the fairy took her in
Now began the hardest part of Greta's
journey. Of course she could not see any-
thing they were passing, but she could hear,
and never had she supposed that there were
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 33
so many sounds in the world. She decided
that they must be going through the place
where the earth-noises were made. There
was all about them and above them a
confused hum. Sometimes separate voices
would make themselves heard. Now it was
a mother singing her baby to sleep, and
now a mistress scolding her servant; now
a king consulting his Prime Minister, and
now two young lovers whispering together.
Once she was sure her mother's voice cried
close to her: Greta, my little girl!" She
stretched out her arms, and called Mamma!
mamma!" But the fairy only pressed her
closer, and they left the cry behind. Now
all separate voices were lost, and she heard
34 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
the hum of great cities and the rushing of
waters, and many a sound that she could
not call by name, and under them all
coming nearer and nearer, was a muffled
roar that made Greta tremble, she knew
not why. They were under the ocean now,
as she knew by the cold sweep of the
water against her cheek. Once they heard
a snatch of a mermaid's song. Once a
great creature went by that Greta was sure
must be a whale, and it murmured hoarsely
"Take care of the whirl; it's rushing
Still faster on they went, till the breath
was almost blown out of their bodies.
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 35
Then Greta began to be very cold. Icy
spray dashed in her face, and the roar grew
louder, till it deafened her. Then a mighty
wind struck them, and suddenly they fell
down, down -would there never be an end?
Round and round they whirled, and all the
time the waters roared and the wind blew.
We are in the whirlpool," thought
Greta. I must see, oh! I must see," she
shrieked, and from far over her head came
the fairy's voice, Hush Hush f" But it
was too late. Greta had opened her eyes.
In an instant she had shut them again
in terror. Far away she heard the fairy's
despairing cry. All the tumult and motion
around her suddenly ceased, and it was
36 HO W THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
deathly still. The life died out of the air,
and it became like flame. How long that
silence and that heat lasted Greta never
knew; neither could she tell what she saw
when she opened her eyes. But at last,
she must have fainted; for the next thing
she knew, she was lying on something
hard and cold, and the fairy's voice was
saying, gravely and sadly:
'"You may look, now, my child."
So she opened her eyes and looked up,
and shut them again and began to sob,
for the lilies in the fairy's hair were scorched
and dried from intense heat, and her face
was pale, and scarred, and wrinkled-the face
of an old woman.
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 37
"It is all my fault," sobbed Greta.
"Yes," said the fairy; "if you had only
been obedient, we should both have been
spared great suffering. In another instant
we should have been here; and now I
have had a hard struggle to keep you from
being scorched alive. But I have saved
you, dear, and I know that you were sorely
tried. I must leave you now; there sits
King Pluvius on his throne, in front of
you. Good-by, little girl l"
SShe smiled so sweetly that it made her
look quite young again, and Greta kissed
her over and over. Then the lady turned
back, and as Greta was only allowed to look
forward, she could not see where she went.
GRETA rubbed her eyes and looked around;
but at first she could see nothing for the
thick mist. By degrees, her eyes became
accustomed to it, and she found that the
cold thing she was sitting on was an ice-
berg; then she distinguished dimly other
icebergs all around her, with dark water
between. Far away, was one bigger than
the others; and on it-no-yes-was it
the ice, that had taken a strange shape,
or was it a stately old man, sitting quite
still, his beard, and his hair, and his robes
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 41
all white as snow? Greta began clamber-
ing towards him over the frozen ridges,
and as she drew nearer she was sure it
was none other than King Pluvius himself.
His hair and his beard were icicles, and
his robes the driven snow. He looked in
a kind and stately way at the little girl
as she drew nearer.
Suddenly Greta remembered the store-
house, and looked around for it. When
she had found it, she gave a little start
of surprise; for it was not at all what
she had expected. It was a great ice-
palace, reaching so high that she could not
see the top. But the ice was transparent,
and pressing her little nose against it, she
42 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
gazed in. At first everything was dim, but
by degrees she distinguished crowds and
crowds of stiff little figures -so droll that
Greta burst out into a merry laugh as she
watched them. How many there were
Companies on companies of the stiff little
fellows, and still more companies, as far
as she could see They were all dressed
exactly alike, in rubber coats, frozen stiff
and shiny, and tiny peaked hats, each
with an icicle standing up straight on the
top. They were the tiniest little fellows
you ever saw, apparently taken by sur-
prise, and frozen in all sorts of queer atti-
tudes; one was standing on his head, with
his small black heels sticking out; others
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 43
were in the very act of turning summer-
saults. A good many, I am sorry to say,
had been fighting with their neighbors, and
the rueful expression on one little fellow's
face, as he stood expecting the box on the
ear which another urchin had his hand all
raised to give, amused Greta immensely.
Of course she knew in a minute that they
were the rain-drops, frozen stiff because cruel
King Ignis had taken away all the warmth
that kept them liquid; and those shadowy
Forms in the four corners of the hall, sit-
ting so listlessly, each with his mighty
head bowed upon his breast, they must be
the Storm Winds. Now Greta knew exactly
what to do next. She must go and beg
44 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
King Pluvius to make up his quarrel with
the fire-king; for she saw quite well that
the ice-palace was all frozen hard, and that
there was no possible way for the rain
and the winds to get free. So she turned
to seek the king's throne, but stopped all
of a sudden, and stood with her mouth
and eyes wide open. No wonder; for there,
right beside her, so busy in watching the
goblins that he had not even seen her,
stood her own little brother, Max Oh,
how pleased Greta was! And you may
guess how Max jumped when he saw herl
When they had kissed each other they sat
down and began telling their adventures;
and while they are doing it, we will find
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 45
out wirat Max had been about all this
When Greta had disappeared down the
well, he felt very lonely for a few minutes;
besides, he had not an idea what to do,
and he was half tempted to go home to
bed. But that would have been cowardly;
besides, it was really fine fun to be out
there in the middle of the night, with every
one else asleep, if only you looked at it
in that light. So he put his hands in his
pockets, and trudged cheerily along to the
top of the nearest hill. When he was
there, he saw rocking gently on the ground,
the most beautiful boat, all of pure silver.
It was the moon, of course, and Max
46 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
jumped in; for is not a boat meant to carry
people? In a few minutes they began to
rise from the ground. Max was frightened
at first; but he soon found that they were
going quite steadily. Slowly they sailed
up into the clear air; in a few minutes
the hut where the children lived had van-
ished, and soon the forest looked like a
tiny blot. Now they could see great oceans
and mountain-ranges spread out below them,
all shining in the moonlight, and they
began to go so fast that the wind almost
blew Max's hair off. Ahl that was famous,
certainly But Max did not lose his wits,
not he. He would have liked very well
to ride in the moon-boat all night; but he
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 49
knew that he should never get to the
store-house that way; for the moon would
quickly have risen far above all the region
of cloud and rain. So Max looked for his
chance, and just as they were passing a
lovely bank of white fleecy clouds, out he
jumped into it, thereby causing the moon to
rock frightfully, and disturbing the minds of
the Astronomers-Royal of China and Japan,
who quarrelled for a year and a day about
When Max landed on the cloud, he
rubbed his eyes. Was it only a mist-
wreath? Or was it really a White Lady,
lying pillowed on the cloud, at whose feet
he had fallen? It was a lady Her drapery
50 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
was all white and floated away from her
so that you could not see where it ended,
and her face was covered with a misty
veil that fell in soft folds, and hid all her
features, except her great dark eyes. Max
took off his hat to her and bowed low;.
but she kept still for so long without say-
ing anything, that he began to think she
was only a cloud after all.
At last she spoke, in a sleepy, listless.
"You are very energetic," she said; "you
tire me by moving so quickly. Do rest
yourself;" and she made room for him at
her side. Max thought it would not be
polite to refuse, although he was in a
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 5r
great hurry; so he let himself sink into
the soft cloud-cushions, and waited for her
to speak again; but she said nothing, only
stroked his curly head languidly with her
cool white hand. Max grew sleepier and
sleepier, but he knew he must keep awake;
so he said, to make conversation:
Do you always lie here, Madam."
Yes, always," she said. "It is so vulgar
to be in a hurry like those low fellows
the thunder-clouds down yonder, who are
never contented unless they are rushing
round and making a noise. I find it much
pleasanter to float slowly along the sky,
and watch the sun drawing up mist-wreaths
to feed me. I was only a tiny wreath a
52 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
few hours ago, but ever since I have been
growing, till I am the loveliest cloud in
the sky. I shall lie quietly here, and grow,
and every one will say: 'What a glorious
cloud I' I shall certainly not be foolish
enough to tear myself into shreds like
those silly storm-clouds below."
And she shut her eyes and leaned back
luxuriously. Max knew quite well that
she could not live long, as her drapery
was already more transparent; but he would
not tell her so, and for a time contented
himself with watching the stars dance.
But by and by it began to grow a trifle
monotonous. The cloud-lady was certainly
kind, but she was so exceedingly quiet l
HO W THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 53
So he politely told her that he really must
go. She was very good, and hailed a little
cloud-chariot that was passing, and Max
jumped in; and when he was gone, she
sank back on her pillows, and murmured:
"After all, it is rather a relief to be alone
it is such an exertion to entertain com-
As for Max, he certainly enjoyed the
change. His new companion, the chariot-
driver, was a bright little fellow as merry
as a cricket. Soon quantities of other
chariots joined them, and they scudded
through the air at a great rate, as you
may see for yourself, if you look up the next
time there is a mackerel sky. A lively com-
54 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
pany they were, and played all kinds of
merry pranks; but by degrees it began to
grow chilly, and the chariots dropped off,
one by one, till only that of Max and
his friend was left. They were going down
now, and it was growing very misty. At
last they saw a bank of fog beneath them,
and the driver pulled in his steed, and
There I can't go any lower, for if I
did, I should dissolve in mist, and then
freeze. But there's the store-house; you can
jump right down into the middle of it."
Max shivered a little; it certainly looked
unpleasant down there; but he did not
mean to have come all this way for nothing.
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 55
So he balanced himself for a minute on
the edge of the chariot, and then took a
He landed, a trifle shaken, but not hurt
a bit, just beside the ice-palace; and there
he stood, so much amused by what he saw
that he never thought of stirring, till he
heard his sister's voice. Pleased enough
he was to see her, and eagerly they told
each other all their adventures. When
they had finished, Greta took Max by the
hand, and they. hurried to King Pluvius'
throne. They had hard times climbing the
steps which were of sheer ice, and slip-
pery; but at last they reached the top
stair, and made him a low reverence. They
56 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
were rather doubtful how to address him,
for they had never spoken to a king before;
but at last Max said, rather loud, for
Pluvius' head looked a great way off:
If you please, your Majesty "- and
then stopped, a little frightened at the
sound of his own voice.
The king slowly bent his stately head,
and looked kindly at the little boy and
girl before him.
"What do you wish of me, my children?
It is long since I have beheld the face
of a mortal," said he benignantly, but with
Greta nudged Max and Max nudged
Greta; and at last Max told their story; how
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 57
they had travelled all this way to find
some rain for their poor sick sister.
Pluvius was very sad and stately as he
Ah, my children, there is nothing I
should like better than to help you, were
it in my power; but alas I, as you see
me here, a king upon my throne, am feeble
as you yourselves; for I have angered
the cruel Ignis, and he has taken away
all the heat that made it possible for me
to move, and has locked my subjects up.
It is six weeks now since our difference,
and I cannot compromise my dignity by
an apology; so here I sit."
But it must be very stupid," said Max,
58 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
"to sit there so long,"--sulking, he was
going to say, but remembered whom he
was addressing, and changed it to "pre-
serving your dignity."
Why, yes," admitted the king. "It is
stupid: but it cannot be helped. I should
like to aid you, though," he went on
thoughtfully. "It would be a shame for
you to have come all this way for nothing.
" My dear," turning to Max, "go to King
Ignis (the crater is the shortest way), and
tell him, with my compliments, that I take
the greatest interest in you, and should be
sorry to have your trouble wasted; and
that it caused me great pain to be
obliged to insult him. As for the little
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 59
girl, she may stay and talk to me. Be
sure that you neglect none of the cere-
monies of an ambassador."
MAX would have been glad of a rather
humbler apology to take the fire-king; but
Pluvius had evidently made his utmost
concession. So the little boy turned away
to the volcano that the king had pointed
out. "There's one comfort," he murmured
to himself as he clambered down the sides
of the crater, "I shall get warm in here."
At last he reached a place where there
was only a dark hole, red-hot at the bot-
tom. "Here goes," said Max gayly, and
plunged in. Ah yes I It certainly was
HO W THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 61
warm; but he had been so thoroughly
chilled in his talk with King Pluvius, who
radiated cold in all directions, that the
heat didn't harm him. On he fell, for
several minutes, and at last landed on his
head, where do you think? In front of
the Fire-king's throne I
He was a grand old fellow, this Ignis,
very different from the icy Pluvius. His
clothes were all of quivering fire, and his
throne of molten brass. On his head was
a crown of forked tongues of flame, and
his eyes flashed like the lightning. Max
was rather dismayed at his unceremonious
entrance, but managed to remember the
speech that he had been making.
62 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
"Sire," said he grandiloquently, making
a low reverence. "I come as an emissary
to your Majesty from the no-less-mighty
King Pluvius, Ruler of the Waters "-
"Stop there," thundered Ignis with a
terrific frown. "We receive no emissaries
from that arch-deceiver. Take him to the
red-hot dungeon, and bind him with cords
Max was struck dumb with astonishment
and terror, and dared not say a word
when two grinning goblins, whose hot breath
scorched his cheeks, dragged him away,
pinching him and tweaking his curly hair
out of pure malice. It was only when he
was finally shut up in the awful dungeon,
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 63
that he fairly realized what had happened.
It was a dreadful place. The walls were
all of solid flame, and the cell was filled
with lurid light that blinded one. The
floor was of burning coals, and poor Max
tried in vain to draw his toes up under
him. He sat down on a block of charred
wood in a corner, and waited, in utter
misery. What would he not have given
for a breath of cool air from Pluvius'
throne! He thought about his long journey
all in vain; about the cool soft clouds,
about his two sisters and the rain-king:
and in time the heat made him stupid,
and he began talking aloud without know-
64 HO W THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
Now the dungeon was right behind the
king's throne, and the flame-wall let sound
pass perfectly well; so Ignis, who was
sitting in state surrounded by his court,
heard poor little Max murmuring to him-
self. The Fire-king was really quite kind-
hearted, and he heard enough to make him
fear he had been a little hasty; so he
ordered Max to be brought before him
again. The little boy was dazed at first
and hardly knew where he was; and when
King Ignis thundered, "Come, my fine
sir, what have you been talking about in
there?" Max forgot all about his being
an emissary and having his dignity to
maintain, and sobbed:
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 65
"Lischen is sick with the fever, and I
came all this way to get her some rain;
every one has helped me but you; you
have locked me up in that dungeon. Now
she will die, I shall be roasted, and Greta
will be frozen waiting for me at the
"Why didn't you tell me all this before,
instead of putting on airs?" growled Ignis.
"Come, let us hear what this Pluvius has
to say;" and he drew himself up with
He sent word," said Max, amid pro-
found silence, "that he takes great interest
in us and wishes for us a favorable hear-
ing; and that that," here Max's voice
66 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
trembled, for he expected Ignis to burst
out into another paroxysm -" that he is
sorry you obliged him to insult you."
To Max's surprise, Ignis turned with a
How say you, my lords? Is not that
like the slippery Pluvius? However, we
must overlook his tricks for once, for the
sake of this brave lad. Tell the king" he
added, turning to Max, "that he may thank
his stars that your story has excited my com-
passion; otherwise, I should have kept him
chained for a year and a day. There is
He picked up a handful of liquid fire,
poured it into a hollow stone, and handed
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 67
it to Max, who lost no time in making
So ended the mighty quarrel between
Pluvius and Ignis; and it is my private
opinion that they were both of them glad
of the excuse to make up.
Max clambered up the crater as best
he might, and when he had reached the
top, began running towards Pluvius' throne.
The fire he held in his hand was so hot
that you could trace his path by the
green grass and flowers springing up in
his foot-prints. He soon reached the king
and Greta, both of whom were heartily
glad to see him. Greta had had quite
enough of amusing the king, and besides
68 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
she was so cold As for Pluvius, he saw
at once that the mission had succeeded
as Max laid the fire at his feet with a
Then a strange thing happened. The king
began to melt. All his ice robes changed
into soft wreaths of rain and mist, and as
he stood up, his hair and beard floated
away into the dim background. Streams
of water flowed from his finger-tips, and
he looked like nothing so much as a
great waterfall. Slowly and with dignity
he descended the steps of the throne, and
as he drew near the ice-palace, all the
solid walls melted away and vanished.
The little sprites within woke up, very much
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 69
astonished, and proceeded to finish what they
were about, tumbling over each other, till
you could see nothing but a confused
mass of little gray arms and legs and
hats. The fetters that had bound the
"Winds dropped off, and they arose, mighty,
shadowy forms, whose garments floated
behind them in vast folds. At the word
of command, Boreas, tallest of them all,
stepped forward to the king; and the
little rain-drops, tumbling head over heels,
hurried to hide in his long hair, or in his
drapery, till thousands of their merry little
faces peeped out from every fold. The
king himself found a snug refuge for the
children, right in the softest place, and
7o HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
bade them good-by very affectionately.
Then he waved his sceptre, and the
great Wind rushed forth. As he went, he
grew and grew, until the children, peeping
out, could see nothing but darkness and
mist covering the whole sky. Tumult-
uously they whizzed along, and the merry
little rain sprites grew more and more
boisterous every instant. Sometimes three
or four of them would think they couldn't
keep still another minute, and throw them-
selves down with a joyful shout, head
over heels; but for the most part they
contented themselves with clambering round
Boreas, playing hide and seek together;
and Max and Greta took courage, and
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 71
played with them, and had a jolly frolic.
But by degrees, more and more of the
sprites said good-by and jumped down;
it was raining quite hard on the earth.
At last the children saw beneath them
their own little cottage; and they caught
hold of the Wind's mantle and swung
down to earth, landing in front of their door.
"Children, come to supper," called their
mother's voice cheerily. Max and Greta
rubbed their eyes. Had they been dream-
ing? No; the air was cool and fresh, and
all around them fell the rain sprites, pitter,
patter; to be sure they looked like water-
drops, but the children would never forget
again what they really were.
72 HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED.
"Hurrah We did it, Greta," cried Max.
"Yes," said Greta; "and now let us go
and see how Lischen is."
So they tumbled into the house, and
there, yes, there sat Lischen in her own
little chair; and every one was saying
what a mercy the cool weather was, that
had made such a sudden change. Don't
you suppose the children felt rewarded for
all their trouble? No one thanked them,
however; for no one knew what they had
done. After all, they had only been gone
since midnight of the night before, and
every one supposed they had been at one
of the neighbors. Max and Greta decided
not to say anything about their adventures;
HOW THE RAIN SPRITES WERE FREED. 73
it was so much better fun to have a
secret. But two days later, when the rain
had stopped, they hurried into the forest
to see the Holly-Bush Lady.
Ah, my dears," she said, as soon as
she saw them, so you found the rain I
And where is the store-house? On land,
or in the clouds?" The children looked
at each other. It was the first time that
they had remembered their difference.
"Why, it is where they join" they
"And which of you found it first?"
"We met there," laughed the children.
The provoking fairy nodded her head wisely;
but not another word would she say.