WE are travelling to Paris to the Exhibition.
Now we are there. That was a journey, a flight without
magic. We flew on the wings of steam over the sea and across
Yes, our time is the time of fairy tales.
We are in the midst of Paris, in a great hotel. Blooming
flowers ornament the staircases, and soft carpets the floors.
Our room is a very cosy one, and through the open balcony
door we have a view of a great square. Spring lives down
there; it has come to Paris, and arrived at the same time with
us. It has come in the shape of a glorious young chestnut
tree, with delicate leaves newly opened. How the tree gleams,
dressed in its spring garb, before all the other trees in the
place! One of these latter had been struck out of the list of
living trees. It lies on the ground with roots exposed. On the
place where it stood, the young chestnut tree is to be
planted, and to flourish.
It still stands towering aloft on the heavy wagon which
has brought it this morning a distance of several miles to
Paris. For years it had stood there, in the protection of a
mighty oak tree, under which the old venerable clergyman had
often sat, with children listening to his stories.
The young chestnut tree had also listened to the stories;
for the Dryad who lived in it was a child also. She remembered
the time when the tree was so little that it only projected a
short way above the grass and ferns around. These were as tall
as they would ever be; but the tree grew every year, and
enjoyed the air and the sunshine, and drank the dew and the
rain. Several times it was also, as it must be, well shaken by
the wind and the rain; for that is a part of education.
The Dryad rejoiced in her life, and rejoiced in the
sunshine, and the singing of the birds; but she was most
rejoiced at human voices; she understood the language of men
as well as she understood that of animals.
Butterflies, cockchafers, dragon-flies, everything that
could fly came to pay a visit. They could all talk. They told
of the village, of the vineyard, of the forest, of the old
castle with its parks and canals and ponds. Down in the water
dwelt also living beings, which, in their way, could fly under
the water from one place to another- beings with knowledge and
delineation. They said nothing at all; they were so clever!
And the swallow, who had dived, told about the pretty
little goldfish, of the thick turbot, the fat brill, and the
old carp. The swallow could describe all that very well, but,
'Self is the man,' she said. 'One ought to see these things
one's self.' But how was the Dryad ever to see such beings?
She was obliged to be satisfied with being able to look over
the beautiful country and see the busy industry of men.
It was glorious; but most glorious of all when the old
clergyman sat under the oak tree and talked of France, and of
the great deeds of her sons and daughters, whose names will be
mentioned with admiration through all time.
Then the Dryad heard of the shepherd girl, Joan of Arc,
and of Charlotte Corday; she heard about Henry the Fourth, and
Napoleon the First; she heard names whose echo sounds in the
hearts of the people.
The village children listened attentively, and the Dryad
no less attentively; she became a school-child with the rest.
In the clouds that went sailing by she saw, picture by
picture, everything that she heard talked about. The cloudy
sky was her picture-book.
She felt so happy in beautiful France, the fruitful land
of genius, with the crater of freedom. But in her heart the
sting remained that the bird, that every animal that could
fly, was much better off than she. Even the fly could look
about more in the world, far beyond the Dryad's horizon.
France was so great and so glorious, but she could only
look across a little piece of it. The land stretched out,
world-wide, with vineyards, forests and great cities. Of all
these Paris was the most splendid and the mightiest. The birds
could get there; but she, never!
Among the village children was a little ragged, poor girl,
but a pretty one to look at. She was always laughing or
singing and twining red flowers in her black hair.
'Don't go to Paris!' the old clergyman warned her. 'Poor
child! if you go there, it will be your ruin.'
But she went for all that.
The Dryad often thought of her; for she had the same wish,
and felt the same longing for the great city.
The Dryad's tree was bearing its first chestnut blossoms;
the birds were twittering round them in the most beautiful
sunshine. Then a stately carriage came rolling along that way,
and in it sat a grand lady driving the spirited, light-footed
horses. On the back seat a little smart groom balanced
himself. The Dryad knew the lady, and the old clergyman knew
her also. He shook his head gravely when he saw her, and said:
'So you went there after all, and it was your ruin, poor
'That one poor?' thought the Dryad. 'No; she wears a dress
fit for a countess' (she had become one in the city of magic
changes). 'Oh, if I were only there, amid all the splendor and
pomp! They shine up into the very clouds at night; when I look
up, I can tell in what direction the town lies.'
Towards that direction the Dryad looked every evening. She
saw in the dark night the gleaming cloud on the horizon; in
the clear moonlight nights she missed the sailing clouds,
which showed her pictures of the city and pictures from
The child grasps at the picture-books, the Dryad grasped
at the cloud-world, her thought-book. A sudden, cloudless sky
was for her a blank leaf; and for several days she had only
had such leaves before her.
It was in the warm summer-time: not a breeze moved through
the glowing hot days. Every leaf, every flower, lay as if it
were torpid, and the people seemed torpid, too.
Then the clouds arose and covered the region round about
where the gleaming mist announced 'Here lies Paris.'
The clouds piled themselves up like a chain of mountains,
hurried on through the air, and spread themselves abroad over
the whole landscape, as far as the Dryad's eye could reach.
Like enormous blue-black blocks of rock, the clouds lay
piled over one another. Gleams of lightning shot forth from
'These also are the servants of the Lord God,' the old
clergyman had said. And there came a bluish dazzling flash of
lightning, a lighting up as if of the sun itself, which could
burst blocks of rock asunder. The lightning struck and split
to the roots the old venerable oak. The crown fell asunder. It
seemed as if the tree were stretching forth its arms to clasp
the messengers of the light.
No bronze cannon can sound over the land at the birth of a
royal child as the thunder sounded at the death of the old
oak. The rain streamed down; a refreshing wind was blowing;
the storm had gone by, and there was quite a holiday glow on
all things. The old clergyman spoke a few words for honorable
remembrance, and a painter made a drawing, as a lasting record
of the tree.
'Everything passes away,' said the Dryad, 'passes away
like a cloud, and never comes back!'
The old clergyman, too, did not come back. The green roof
of his school was gone, and his teaching-chair had vanished.
The children did not come; but autumn came, and winter came,
and then spring also. In all this change of seasons the Dryad
looked toward the region where, at night, Paris gleamed with
its bright mist far on the horizon.
Forth from the town rushed engine after engine, train
after train, whistling and screaming at all hours in the day.
In the evening, towards midnight, at daybreak, and all the day
through, came the trains. Out of each one, and into each one,
streamed people from the country of every king. A new wonder
of the world had summoned them to Paris.
In what form did this wonder exhibit itself?
'A splendid blossom of art and industry,' said one, 'has
unfolded itself in the Champ de Mars, a gigantic sunflower,
from whose petals one can learn geography and statistics, and
can become as wise as a lord mayor, and raise one's self to
the level of art and poetry, and study the greatness and power
of the various lands.'
'A fairy tale flower,' said another, 'a many-colored
lotus-plant, which spreads out its green leaves like a velvet
carpet over the sand. The opening spring has brought it forth,
the summer will see it in all its splendor, the autumn winds
will sweep it away, so that not a leaf, not a fragment of its
root shall remain.'
In front of the Military School extends in time of peace
the arena of war- a field without a blade of grass, a piece of
sandy steppe, as if cut out of the Desert of Africa, where
Fata Morgana displays her wondrous airy castles and hanging
gardens. In the Champ de Mars, however, these were to be seen
more splendid, more wonderful than in the East, for human art
had converted the airy deceptive scenes into reality.
'The Aladdin's Palace of the present has been built,' it
was said. 'Day by day, hour by hour, it unfolds more of its
The endless halls shine in marble and many colors. 'Master
Bloodless' here moves his limbs of steel and iron in the great
circular hall of machinery. Works of art in metal, in stone,
in Gobelins tapestry, announce the vitality of mind that is
stirring in every land. Halls of paintings, splendor of
flowers, everything that mind and skill can create in the
workshop of the artisan, has been placed here for show. Even
the memorials of ancient days, out of old graves and
turf-moors, have appeared at this general meeting.
The overpowering great variegated whole must be divided
into small portions, and pressed together like a plaything, if
it is to be understood and described.
Like a great table on Christmas Eve, the Champ de Mars
carried a wonder-castle of industry and art, and around this
knickknacks from all countries had been ranged, knickknacks on
a grand scale, for every nation found some remembrance of
Here stood the royal palace of Egypt, there the
caravanserai of the desert land. The Bedouin had quitted his
sunny country, and hastened by on his camel. Here stood the
Russian stables, with the fiery glorious horses of the steppe.
Here stood the simple straw-thatched dwelling of the Danish
peasant, with the Dannebrog flag, next to Gustavus Vasa's
wooden house from Dalarne, with its wonderful carvings.
American huts, English cottages, French pavilions, kiosks,
theatres, churches, all strewn around, and between them the
fresh green turf, the clear springing water, blooming bushes,
rare trees, hothouses, in which one might fancy one's self
transported into the tropical forest; whole gardens brought
from Damascus, and blooming under one roof. What colors, what
Artificial grottoes surrounded bodies of fresh or salt
water, and gave a glimpse into the empire of the fishes; the
visitor seemed to wander at the bottom of the sea, among
fishes and polypi.
'All this,' they said, 'the Champ de Mars offers;' and
around the great richly-spread table the crowd of human beings
moves like a busy swarm of ants, on foot or in little
carriages, for not all feet are equal to such a fatiguing
Hither they swarm from morning till late in the evening.
Steamer after steamer, crowded with people, glides down the
Seine. The number of carriages is continually on the increase.
The swarm of people on foot and on horseback grows more and
more dense. Carriages and omnibuses are crowded, stuffed and
embroidered with people. All these tributary streams flow in
one direction- towards the Exhibition. On every entrance the
flag of France is displayed; around the world's bazaar wave
the flags of all nations. There is a humming and a murmuring
from the hall of the machines; from the towers the melody of
the chimes is heard; with the tones of the organs in the
churches mingle the hoarse nasal songs from the cafes of the
East. It is a kingdom of Babel, a wonder of the world!