IN a beautiful distant kingdom, of which there is a saying, that the sun on its everlasting green gardens never goes down, ruled, from the beginning of time even to the present day, Queen Phantasie. With full hands, she used to distribute for many hundred years, the abundance of her blessings among her subjects, and was beloved and respected by all who knew her. The heart of the Queen, however, was too great to allow her to stop at her own land with her charities; she herself, in the royal attire of her everlasting youth and beauty, descended upon the earth; for she had heard that there men lived, who passed their lives in sorrowful seriousness, in the midst of care and toil. Unto these she had sent the finest gifts out of her kingdom, and ever since the beauteous Queen came through the fields of earth, men were merry at their labor, and happy in their seriousness.
Her children, moreover, not less fair and lovely than their royal mother, she had sent forth to bring happiness to men. One day Märchen, the eldest daughter of the Queen, came back in haste from the earth. The mother observed that Märchen was sorrowful; yes, at times it would seem to her as if her eyes would be consumed by weeping.
“What is the matter with thee, beloved Märchen?” said the Queen to her. “Ever since thy journey, thou art so sorrowful and dejected; wilt thou not confide to thy mother what ails thee?”
“Ah! dear mother,” answered Märchen, “I would have kept silence, had I not known that my sorrow is thine also.”
“Speak, my daughter!” entreated the fair Queen. “Grief is a stone, which presses down him who bears it alone, but two draw it lightly out of the way.”
“Thou wishest it,” rejoined Märchen, “so listen. Thou knowest how gladly I associate with men, how cheerfully I sit down before the huts of the poor, to while away a little hour for them after their labor; formerly, when I came, they used to ask me kindly for my hand to salute, and looked upon me afterwards, when I went away, smiling and contented; but in these days, it is so no longer!”
“Poor Märchen!” said the Queen as she caressed her cheek, which was wet with a tear. “But, perhaps, thou only fanciest all this.”
“Believe me, I feel it but too well,” rejoined Märchen; “they love me no more. Wherever I go, cold looks meet me; nowhere am I any more gladly seen; even the children, who ever loved me so well, laugh at me, and slyly turn their backs upon me.”
The Queen leaned her forehead on her hand, and was silent in reflection. “And how, then, Märchen,” she asked, “should it happen that the people there below have become so changed?”
“See, O Queen Phantasie! men have stationed vigilant watchmen, who inspect and examine all that comes from thy kingdom, with sharp eyes. If one should arrive who is not according to their mind, they raise a loud cry, and put him to death, or else so slander him to men, who believe their every word, that one finds no longer any love, any little ray of confidence....