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The Legend of the Bleeding-Heart-BY ANNIE FELLOWS JOHNSTON-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:The Legend Of The Bleeding Heart

Written by:Annie Fellows Johnston

Category:Fiction, Classisc, FANTASY

PAGE 1:

(1900)

 

~

In days of old, when all things in the Wood had speech, there lived within its depths a lone Flax-spinner. She was a bent old creature, and ill to look upon, but all the tongues of all the forest leaves were ever kept a-wagging with the story of her kindly deeds. And even to this day they sometimes whisper low among themselves (because they fain would hold in mind so sweet a tale) the story of her kindness to the little orphan, Olga.

‘Twas no slight task the old Flax-spinner took upon herself, the day she brought the helpless child to share the shelter of her thatch. The Oak outside her door held up his arms in solemn protest.

“Thou dost but waste thyself,” he said. “Thy benefits will be forgot, thy labours unrequited. For Youth is ever but another title for Ingratitude.”

“Nay, friend,” the old Flax-spinner said. “My little Olga will not be ungrateful and forgetful.”

All hedged about with loving care, the orphan grew to gracious maidenhood, and felt no lack of father, mother, brother or sister. In every way the old Flax-spinner took their places. But many were the sacrifices that she made to keep her fed and warmly clad, and every time she went without herself that Olga might receive a greater share, Wiseacre Oak looked down and frowned and shook his head.

Then would the old dame hasten to her inner room, and there she pricked herself with her spindle, until a great red drop of her heart’s blood fell into her trembling hand. With witchery of words she blew upon it, and rolled it in her palm, and muttering, turned and turned and turned it. And as the spell was laid upon it, it shrivelled into a tiny round ball like a seed, and she strung it on a thread where were many others like it, saying, “By this she will remember. She will not be ungrateful and forgetful.”

So years went by, and Olga grew in goodness and in beauty, and helped the old Flax-spinner in her tasks as blithely and as willingly as if she were indeed her daughter. Every morning she brought water from the spring, gathered the wild fruits of the woods, and spread the linen on the grass to bleach. At such times would the bent old foster-mother hold herself erect, and call up to the Oak, “Dost see? Thou’rt wrong! Youth is not another title for Ingratitude.”

“Thou hast not lived as long as I,” would be the only answer.

One day as Olga was wandering by the spring, searching for watercresses, the young Prince of the castle rode by on his prancing charger. A snow-white plume waved in his hat, and a shining silver bugle hung from his shoulder, for he had been following the chase.

He was thirsty and tired, and asked for a drink, but there was no cup with which to dip the water from the spring. But Olga caught the drops as they bubbled out from the spring, holding them in the hollow of her beautiful white hands, and reaching up to where he sat, offered him the sparkling water. So gracefully was it done, that the Prince was charmed by her modest manner as well as her lovely face, and baring his head when he had slaked his thirst, he touched the white hands with his lips.

Before he rode away he asked her name and where she lived. The next day a courier in scarlet and gold stopped at the door of the cottage and invited Olga to the castle. Princesses and royal ladies from all over the realm were to be entertained there, seven days and seven nights. Every night a grand ball was to be given, and Olga was summoned to each of the balls. It was because of her pleasing manner and her great beauty that she had been bidden.

The old Flax-spinner courtesied low to the courier and promised that Olga should be at the castle without fail.

“But, good dame,” cried Olga, when the courier had gone, “prithee tell me why thou didst make such a promise, knowing full well this gown of tow is all I own. Wouldst have me stand before the Prince in beggar’s garb? Better to bide at home for aye than be put to shame before such guests.”

“Have done, my child!” the old dame said. “Thou shalt wear a court robe of the finest. Years have I toiled to have it ready, but that is naught. I loved thee as my own.”

Then once more the old Flax-spinner went into her inner room, and pricked herself with her spindle till another great red drop of her heart’s blood fell into her trembling hand. With witchery of words she blew upon it, and rolled it in her palm, and muttering, turned and turned and turned it. And as the spell was laid upon it, it shrivelled into a tiny round ball like a seed, and she strung it on to a thread, where were many others like it. Seventy times seven was the number of beads on this strange rosary.

When the night of the first ball rolled around, Olga combed her long golden hair and twined it with a wreath of snowy water-lilies, and then she stood before the old dame in her dress of tow. To her wonderment and grief she saw there was no silken robe in waiting, only a string of beads to clasp around her white throat. Each bead in the necklace was like a little shrivelled seed, and Olga’s eyes filled with tears of disappointment.

“Obey me and all will be well,” said the old woman.

“When thou reachest the castle gate clasp one bead in thy fingers and say:

“‘For love’s sweet sake, in my hour of need, Blossom and deck me, little seed.’

Straightway right royally shalt thou be clad. But remember carefully the charm. Only to the magic words, ‘For love’s sweet sake’ will the necklace give up its treasures. If thou shouldst forget, then thou must be doomed always to wear thy gown of tow.”

Filed in: Fantasy, Fiction

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