The Princess Learns Humility
MANY centuries had already passed away, since Ilsee first set foot on the mill-wheel, when a noble family took possession of the valley.
For years they prospered and bore rule over the Ilsenberg, and little Ilsee served them and their dependants, as faithfully as she bad.
formerly served the millers and smiths.
But when the castle began to fall into ruin, and the Counts of Stolberg chose another place for their residence, they took care that the Princess and her beloved valley should not suffer from this change.
They constantly sent fresh work-people to dwell by the reservoir, and, with Ilsee's assistance, to extract the solid iron (that noble marrow of the mountains), and to temper and mould it into the various forms in which it is of such essential service to man.
Little Ilsee might be seen incessantly working the livelong day, without ever evincing weariness or fatigue from her irksome task.
But whoever chanced to meet her in the valley, at the moment when she emerged from the forest, pure and radiant, instinctively recognised in her a princess of the first water, a true daughter of the light, and paid her the deepest homage of his heart.
Nevertheless, for all this, little Ilsee had not become a saint ; and when Providence allowed a severe storm to burst over her, which stirred up her waters to their very depths, and brought to light all the little failings, all the secret faults, from which no inhabitant of earth is free, however highly born, poor Ilsee was deeply shocked to perceive how sullied her little waves were; but she profited from the storm, as every one should profit from the storms of life; that is to say, she learned to know herself and to seek to purify herself; and when she had examined and cleansed all that was foul, she flowed on, more beautiful, more vigorous than ever, and reflected the light of heaven with new strength and.
Little Ilsee met with another great trial, when, in more modern days, in consequence of the ever-increasing progress of Civilization, a public road was made through the valley, turning up the green sods of the forest with pickaxe and spades, knocking down numbers of magnificent trees, and, by means of these sharp instruments, taking possession of the path it could.
only win by violence.
"I cannot endure this," cried Ilsee, "it is too much to bear! Is this stupid thing to be allowed to, drag along by my side, with her tortoise-like" step, from one year's end to another, and attempt to govern me?"
I fancy I can already hear her say, in a pedantic tone, "Softly, Ilsee, softly! do not run so fast; do not jump so high; just look at me; see in how much more dignified a way I move.’
Ah! the good old forest pathway is a very different companion, when, turning the corner of the rocks, he signals to me to join him under the shady green of the oaks."
The little’ Princess, in her rage and petulance, threw herself, all covered with foam, against the blocks of rock that protected the road.
She even tried to loosen them and throw them down on her enemy.
"Ilsee, Ilsee," cried the Pine from the summit of his rock, "what can you mean by such childishness?
Have you yet to learn that we must put up with whatever is useful and profitable to man?
If we trees do not complain of the high-road, you have still less right to do so In fact, it rather amuses me to see this lady ascending the valley, with her trailing dress of dust-colour.
You ought to feel ashamed of yourself little Ilsee; look how the witches at the other side of the mountain are laughing at you."
I must tell you that the Demon had ceased to ramble over the Brockenberg, since man had dwelt there; and the little imps and witches, being scattered abroad, wandered through the country under various disguises, taking the most charming and seductive forms, to deceive poor people, and draw them under their dominion.
A troop of these young witches, who had preserved a feeling of spite against Ilsee for having eclipsed them all on the Brockenberg by her rank and charms, used to visit the valley every summer, to watch poor Ilsee, and strive to alienate her friends, if they could play her no other bad turn.
Dressed in magnificent crimson robes, adorned with flowers of the nightshade, they coquettishly grouped themselves on the sunny sides Of the mountain, and signalled to the ferns to join them, and called out to the blue-bells to explain to them the near relationship existing between the blue-bells and the deadly nightshade.
But the blue-bells, seeing the poisonous drops secreted in the depths of their brilliant cup, gently shook their heads, and gathered round Ilsee, imploring the ferns to raise their faces high enough to obstruct all view of these wicked beings.
The Princess Ilsee raised her eyes towards the witches with a timid air, and murmuring her prayers to herself, pursued her way tranquilly.
She praised and caressed the faithful ferns and blue-bells; and when she thought the wet pebbles that she met on the road cast too eager a look towards the deadly flowers on the mountain, she threw her silvery veil briskly over their heads, and blinded them by showering in their faces the dazzling rays of light she had caught for her own amusement.
As to the high-road, if the Princess Ilsee was unable to prevent it passing through the valley, she wished to have as little to do with it as possible.
She endeavoured to conceal herself from its view, by winding through tortuous paths into the most shady depths of the forest; but when, at last, she impetuously threw herself over ‘the rocks, thinking she would thus quite escape her dusty companion, she found herself face to face with her enemy.
The high-road then threw a bridge over her, and the poor little Princess, concealing her vexation, and burdened with this yoke, rushed on as fast as she could, to reach the fresh air and open sky.
But Ilsee's ill-humour was of short duration; she calmly flows lower down in the valley by the side of the high-road, and humbly kisses the foot of the Ilsenstein, on whose summit a cross is erected.
Little Ilsee is not dead; she still lives, and daily follows her modest task amongst the mills and factories in the village.
On Sunday, when labour ceases, and the active inhabitants of the valley assemble for prayer in the old chapel of Schlossberg, Ilsee's silvery voice mingles with the sounds of the bells and organ, which escape through the walls and float down the valley.