“He fell asleep, and this is what he dreamed.
“The long golden rays seemed to turn into the bars of a cage. Yes, he was in a huge cage! He tried frantically to get out! He beat against the bars! Then he saw what looked like the roots of trees, and brown tree trunks, a grove all around the cage. But the trees moved and stepped about, and, looking up the trunks, instead of leaves he saw feathers, and still farther, sharp beaks, and then bright eyes looking at him. They were birds!
“What he had thought were the roots of trees were their claws, and the trunks of the trees were their legs. But what enormous birds! They were as big as men, while he was as small as a bird.
“‘Let me out!’ he shouted. ‘Don’t you know I am the Emperor, and every one must obey me? Let me out, I say!’
“‘Ah, he is beginning to sing,'” said one bird to another.
“‘Not a very musical song. Too shrill by far! Take my advice, wring his neck and roast him. He would make a tender, juicy morsel for our supper.’
“‘Oh, let me out! Please, please let me out!’ cried the poor Little Emperor in terror.
“He is singing more sweetly now,” remarked one of the birds.
“‘Too loud! Quite ear-splitting!’ said a lady bird, fluffing out her breast feathers and lifting her wings to show how sensitive she was.
“‘If he were mine I should pluck him. His little yellow silk trousers would line my nest so softly.’
“‘Oh, please, please set me free!’
“‘Really, his song is growing quite charming! But one can’t stand listening to it all day.’
“And with a great whir and flap and rustle of wings the birds flew away and left him in his cage, alone.
“He called for help and threw himself against the bars until he was exhausted. Then bruised, panting, his heart nearly breaking out of his body, he lay on the floor of the cage. Finally, growing hungry and thirsty, he looked in his seed and water cups, drank a little lukewarm water, and ate a dry bread crumb. Now and then birds came and looked at him. Some of them tried to catch his pigtail with their beaks or claws.
“Next day the Little Emperor was thoughtful. Could it be, he wondered, that a little bird’s nest was as dear to it as his own bed with its rainbow coverlets and its moon and stars was to him? That a little bird liked ripe berries and cold brook water as much as he liked ripe peaches and tea with jasmine flowers? That a little bird was as frightened when he tried to catch its tail in his fingers as he was when the birds tried to catch his pigtail?
“And then he thought of how he had felt when the lady bird had wanted his pantaloons to line her nest, and, hot with shame, he remembered his glistening jewel-bright blue cloak made of thousands of kingfishers’ feathers. It had made him miserable to think of their taking his clothes, but suppose his clothes grew on him as their feathers did on them? How would he have felt then, hearing the bird say: “I should pluck him. His little silk trousers would line my nest so softly’?”
“He went to bed thinking about his little brown bird, and before he shut his eyes he made up his mind to set it free in the morning.
“Then he fell asleep, and once again he dreamed that he was in the golden cage.
“Whir-rr! One of the great birds flew down by the cage door. With his claw he unfastened it – opened it!
“Oh, how exciting! The Little Emperor tore out, so afraid he would be stopped and put back in the cage!
“Oh, how he ran across the room and through the open door! Free! He was free! Tears rushed to his eyes, and his heart felt as if it would burst with happiness.
“But it was winter…”
cited: The Dream Coach
by Anne Parrish, 1888-1957 and Dillwyn Parrish, 1894-1941.
New York: The Macmillan company, 1924. Copyright not renewed.
68th day of self isolation
Skyscape photograph Nikon D750 f/8 1/400s 135 mm 400 ISO edited: Capture One 20
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