|Chapter Number||PART II. III|
|Chapter Title||WITHIN THE ENCHANTED CAVERN.|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||The Magic Rose: A Story of Fact and Fancy|
The Magic Rose. A STORY OF FACT AND FANCY. [WRITTEN FOR THE QUEENSLANDER.]
(Continued from last week.) PART II.-"FANCY." CHAPTER III.-WITHIN THE ENCHANTED CAVERN.
BY H. M.GARRAWAY (A. N. C).
As the door of rock closed behind Gillian and her guide the mysterious little lady, still holding Gillian's hand, led her forward into a magnificent hall with walls, floor, and ceiling
of pure yellow gold, and brilliantly lighted by great crystal lamps which hong by golden chains from the lofty roof. The hall was folly a quarter of a mile in length, bat the lower half was divided from the upper by curtains of deep crimson velvet, whiob were drawn on a rod of gold across the middle of the room. As Gillian stood gazing about her, her mantle of for slipped from her to the ground, thus leaving her patched and tattered gown and small, slender, bare feet exposed to view beneath the gleaming Bun-like rays of the crystal lamps. From the opposite side of the velvet partition proceeded the sounds of musio and singing which Gillian had at first heard. Soon the curtains were drawn back, and a curious prooession advanced towards where Gillian stood as if spellbound. It was formed of young and lovely ladies, none of whom appeared to be more than Bft. high. They seemed to be attired in some kind of ball dress, as their beautiful snow-white arms were bare from the shoulder and their dainty bodioes of cream satin and lace were cot low, bat the skirts of their gowns looked very odd and not at all pretty. These consisted of a stiff, short, white petticoat which stood oat all round and looked as if made of white kid; quite plain, though lined and delicately fluted underneath with some soft staff of a dark chocolate-brown colour. On they came over the glittering floor, while the musio continued playing from the lower end of the hall. Their way of walking was so strange that it made Gillian feel quite giddy. It was not, indeed, a walk, bat a twirl ing, waltiing sort of movement; and then, as they came nearer still, Gillian saw to her grief and horror that each and all of these lovely little creatures had but one leg— one thick, straight, white leg—and no foot I For, alas! in the same way that a mermaid's body ter minates in a fish's tail, so these hapless young ladies were from their waists downwards nothing more nor less than mushrooms. They now stood in a row before Gillian and sang, in voices of great sweetness— Thirty muhroom maiden* we, Mushroom all again*! our will, Gillian, theu wilt let at free— Thou wilt break the cruel spell. After which they all said: " Welcome, a hundred times, to thee, fair maiden. Long and wearily have we awaited thy coming." GilHan was at a loss to understand their meaning, and she felt very gigantic and much embarrassed. £fowever, the managed to murmur shyly: " Thank you," in return for the mushroom maidens' greeting. Then the pleasant voice of the lady who had conducted her thither said: ••Yes, we are all delighted to welcome Gillian, and rejoice that she has really come at last, but we must not be selfish; for she, poor girl, has had much to endure of late, ana to day has been working very hard. So the first thing to be thought of is—bed. Stay, though, Gillian, what have you had for your supper?" Gillian turned to answer the speaker, but the words died on her lips as she taw what her companion's fur mantle nad till now concealed —namely, that the most graceful, elegant figure imaginable, robed in dark violet velvet and costly old laoe, was surmounted by the head of a huge lizard instead of that of a human being. "What have you had for your supper, dear child?" repeated the voice in a tone of gentle dignity. "Gold rice, madam," stammered Gillian in great confusion. "In that case," remarked the lizard-lady cheerfully, " supper is the first thing;" upon which away spun a couple of mushroom maidens, and speedily returned, one pushing a little ivory-topped table with silver legs mounted on wheels, and the other carrying a tray con taining delioious and wholesome food, which they set temptingly before their ragged, bare footed guest. They all then dispersed about the hall till Gillian had finished her repast. When she rose from the table the lizard-lady approached and said: "And now, would you like to go to bed? I am sure you must be tired." " Yes, please," replied Gillian; and then she hesitated, and glanced at the little table whereon stood the dainty china plates, cups, Ac, which she had used during her meal. " What is it, dear ?" inquired her friend. " May I ?—Would you be so kind as to let me clear this table and wash up ?" said Gillian. "It isn't right that those ladies should wait upon me." " Nay," rejoined the lizard-lady, " here you are a welcome and an honoured guest. It will be our maidens' chief pleasure to wait upon you in every way. Gome, I myself will conduct you to your room." So Gillian said no more, and obediently fol lowed the lizard-lady into » room leading |out
of the hall. Gillian was undeniably very tired, but she thought sleep, on so eventful a night as this, and amid snoh extraordinary scenes and people, would be utterly out of the question. The room in which she now found herself was quite small, but perfectly charming, It was completely lined with mother-of-pearl, which gleamed radiantly though softly in the subdued light shed around by the crystal lamp overhead, whioh was globed with pole green glass. A carpet of dark moss-green plush ran across the golden floor, and in one corner stood a little bed which looked like a great soft snow drift. " And now good night, dear child," said the lizard-lady, "rest well and dream sweetly. To morrow I shall have much to explain to you," and so saying she left Gillian to her repose. Our heroine was very soon in the depths of the snowdrift-like bed. No sooner had her tired golden head sunk into the downy pillows than, with the distant sound of sweet lulling music in her ears, Gillian foil into a deep slumber. When she awoke, and, after some moments of intense bewilderment, recollected all that had happened, Gillian did not know whether it was yet night, or whether another day had dawned, for the crystal lamp was still burning. How ever, she was soon enlightened by one of the mushroom-maidens who appeared at her bed side and cheerfully wished her good morning. ?•Her Majesty," added this young lady, " sends her love, and hopes that you slept well, and she will be very pleased if you will break fast with her presently, whenever you are in clined to rise." " Goodness me!" thought Gillian in great consternation, " who can * her Majesty' bo 1" But she sprang from her couoh at once, and found a golden bath filled with delicately per fumed water awaiting her, while in place of her own poor rags beautiful clothes had been pro vided for her which fitted her exactly. There were also rare and costly jewels of every description for Gillian to select from whatever she pleased to adorn herself with. But these she put aside, preferring her own little silver locket to any of them. And now she was ready, and looking very fresh and happy as, indeed, she felt, after her splendid sleep and invigorating bath. So the mushroom maiden twirled on before as she led the way to her Majesty's boudoir, where breakfast was awaiting Gillian. "If it is morning," said Gillian rather timidly, addressing her conductor, " why are all the lamps burning ?" " Ah, you know, we never see the beautiful sunlight, shut up within this gloomy cavern," sadly replied the mushroom maiden. "But," she added joy fully, " now that you have come we shall all soon be free and happy again! Here is her Majesty's boudoir." Gillian shyly entered as the mushroom maiden lifted a curtain of pale blue silk—for there were no doors to any of the rooms. She quite expected to behold a very grand royal personage, but the lizard lady was the only occupant of the room. She rose with friendly, out-stretched hands to greet Gillian, and she said, " Now, while you eat your break fast I will briefly relate to you our sad story. But first tell me who, or what, you think I am." " I think you must be a fairy—the queen of the fairies," replied Gillian. "Well, Gillian," said the lizard lady, "I am no more a fairy than you yourself are. It is owing, however, to the cruel and malicious act of a wicked fairy named EviUa that I have been ohanged from my own form into that of a lizard. The hardest part of what I have to bear is to know that others—innocent victims —have been doomed to suffer with me for what was, I suppose, my own fault—but such a fault I However, I will toll you the cause of it all." Accordingly, after a minute's pause, the unhappy lizard lady told her wondering and sympathetic listener the tale of misfortune which is narrated in the next chapter.
[WIIX ?? COMTINtBD Kin WMK.]