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The Romance of a Moth.

“What are they, sisters?” murmured the youngest of the waterlilies lolling in her snowy bell.

“Spirits of the foamflakes,” languidly lisped a full blown beauty. “Do not notice them for they are full of mischief.”

“What a liquid splendour drips from their foreheads. They are nearly as beautiful as we,” reflected the other half regretfully. “There is that insolent fellow again,” and she began closing her curtains as a young moth circled about her, peering with ruby-lighted eyes.

“Well, dreamer, mad as ever,” greeted a voice, rich as the tone of a golden harp-string, when he settled on a bloom-laden wattle bough to stroke his saffron wings. “Still seeking the impossible? Look at me, how beautiful I am. Are you not jealous?” And she shook out a fragrance as a tiny breeze crept in among her leaves to kiss her amorously.

“Softly, my lover,” she breathed. “Ruffle not my royal raiment. Chase that ugly madcap away. He is ever boasting of a dream he has had of a being more beautiful than I. The lilies detest him. Every sunset he hovers near them, spying on their ablutions. Flick him away, he annoys me, dearest.”




  ― 199 ―

But the little madcap was already gone, heedless of everything but his dream. Through a cloud of fire-flies he fluttered, disorganising their ranks in his flurry at their freakish lights, and sank discomfited on a rock near the waterfall.

“They all think themselves beautiful,” he soliloquised. “But wait awhile, she will abash them.”

He felt uneasy, however, as he remembered his mother's injunction to be cautious, and not be dazzled by the beautiful fiends that lay in wait to lure him to sudden doom.

“Banish it, my child,” she had expostulated when he whispered his dream. “It was a fiend like that dazzling marvel that destroyed thy father.”

Nevertheless she had pondered at the strangeness of it all. Never yet had she heard of a moth possessing an aspiration like her youngest born. What was this lovely creature he had seen and yearned to embrace. So incoherent was his description that her conjecture was very vague. Then it was so unearthly and far away and shimmered so softly. She trembled for her strange offspring. He was not like other moths, content with simple joys. Ever since he was winged a wild craving for some ideal had made him restless and peculiar. Night after night he would leave his companions to return at dawn with weary wings, so wet with dew he could scarcely flutter. Even honey-juice


  ― 200 ―
failed to delight him. He had never been a cheerful, but of late he was a positively melancholy creature. He had been banned by his kindred as a useless nonentity, who could scarcely forage for himself, an incubus to the tribe. And his mother waxed fearful, pining in secret under a stigma that she gave birth to pests. Yet she loved him more than any child she had ever borne. Then mothers are so foolish!

Meanwhile the young eccentric was curiously watching the antics of the foam spirits. To and fro they sported, as in a shoot of etherealised feathers, shaking their locks of azure fire in the gathering gloom and singing together. Myriads of tiny eyes twinkled at him from a grove of purpling weed in the shallows below. Dangling from out a glaucous cavern behind the descending water could just be discerned the long tresses of some secluded nymph.

“They are very beautiful,” he mused, as a procession of sylphs in the guise of bubbles glided past, fanning their beamy wings. The gloom gradually grew soft and silky. The tinkling airs of innumerable water sprites on some mystic mission ascended from below the fall. Then the moth tightened his wings and waited, his roseate eyes shining with anticipation. Presently a faint radiance of some far-off glory appeared like a dream on the crest of the sliding water. The darkling pools dimpled with smiles when the lustre rested on


  ― 201 ―
them in a clasp of glistening silver. Then from on high, suspended as in a liquid trance, a sphere like a pearl in a tremulous opaline splendour glanced serenely down on them.

In that peerless radiance the moth was transfigured. Dazzled with beauty, reckless, forgetting everything but the dream, he spread his wings and soared towards the fair flame. Over the waterfall he quivered, an aspiring speck. Athwart the limpid beam he struggled. Shaking as with joy the sphere poured out of its magic vase a stream of such luminous splendour that his vision failed—yet he still fluttered up and up, blind, distraught, exultant. A wind blew him back, roaring: “The sea! The sea!” Hither and thither he was tossed like a mote. Still towards that perfection he toiled, as he thought. He could not see the beach besprent with foam-beardlings; he could not hear the ruffianly shouts of the waves. The gleam, the dazzling gleam—nothing else existed. He knew not the lovely glow was now illumining the pavilions of a cloud, and that along a shaft of fiercely-piercing light he was feebly fluttering. An atom overcharged with the intoxicating fluid that propels the whole universe towards the Absolute Perfection he struggled fearlessly towards the imagined glory. Into the white glare that channelled the darkness, his sightless eyes protruding like red sparks, he rushed. A smiting furnace flash, and then—a ruffled


  ― 202 ―
spot of stunned enthusiasm dropped from the light-house glass into the darkness of death to shape a moral for a famous stanza:

“The desire of the moth for the star,
The night for the morrow;
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow.”

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