1815: Spain's Mysterious Mt. Moncayo - Equal of Mt. Shasta


Similar to Mount Shasta in California
...

 

Mount Moncayo  has a wealth of folklore telling of underground, glittering cavern worlds. This folklore reinforces the modern phenomenon of underground abductions. It sits on the border of the Spanish provinces of Castile and Aragon, located about 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Zaragoza and 200 kilometers (120 miles) northeast of Madrid. The mountain is 2,332 meters (7,695 feet) high and towers over the nearby city of Soria.

The people of Soria have many stories about strange disappearances on the mountain. One of these took place in the early Nineteenth Century, after the Napoleonic wars, and it involved a young shepherd named Gregorio Murillo.

Murillo "following some stray of his flock, penetrated into the mouth of one of those caves whose entrances are covered by thick growths of bushes and whose outlets no man has ever seen."

"Going on along that cavern, he had come at last to vast subterranean galleries lighted by a fitful, fantastic splendour shed from the phosphorescence in the rocks, which there were great boulders of quartz crystallized into a thousand strange fantastic forms. The floor, the vaulted ceiling and the walls of those immense halls, the work of nature, seemed variegated like the richest marble; but the veins which crossed them were of gold and silver, and among those shining veins, as if encrusted in the rock, were seen jewels, a multitude of precious stones of all colors and sizes."

"No noise of the outer world reached the depth of that weird cavern; the only perceptible sounds were, at intervals, the prolonged and pitiful groans of the air which blew through that enchanted labyrinth, a vague roar of subterranean fires furious in their prison, and murmurs of running water which flowed on not knowing whither they went."
"The shepherd, alone and lost in that immensity, wandered I know not how many hours without finding any outlet, until at last he chanced upon the source of a spring whose murmur he had heard."

"This broke from the ground like a miraculous fountain, a leap of foam-covered water that fell in an exquisite cascade, singing a silver song as it slipped away through the crannies in the rocks."

"About him grew plants he had never seen, some with wide thick leaves, and others delicate and long like floating ribbons. Half hidden in that humid foliage were running about a number of extraordinary creatures, some of them manlike, some reptilian, or both at once."

"There, darting in all directions, running across the floor in the form of repugnant, hunchbacked dwarves (aliens?) scrambling up the walls, running along...So there they were keeping stored up in heaps all manner of rare and precious things. There were jewels of inestimable worth; chains and necklaces of peals and exquisite gems, golden jars of classic form, full of rubies; chiseled cups; armor richly wrought; coins with images and superscriptions that it is no longer possible to recognize or decipher...And all glittered together, flashing out such vivid sparks of light and color that it seemed as if the whole hoard were on fire."

Immediately Murillo dipped his hands into the mounds of jewels, gasping as the cool stones trickled past his fingers. And then he paused, the short hairs on the back of his neck bristling. He experienced a sudden sense of dread, of a lurking doom that was growing closer and closer.

All at once, he heard the pealing of the bell in the monastery of Nuestra Senora del Moncayo. "On hearing the bell, which was ringing the Ave Maria, the shepherd fell to his knees, calling on the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ."

"And instantly, without knowing the means nor the way, he found himself on the outside of the mountain, near the road that leads to the village, thrown out on a footpath and overwhelmed by a great bewilderment as if he had just been startled out of a dream."

Disoriented, Murillo stumbled back down the mountain road to Soria. "When he came back to the village, he was as pale as death; he had surprised the secret of the gnomes; he had breathed their poisonous atmosphere, and he paid for his rashness with his life. But before he died he related marvelous things."

 (An excerpt from the chapter entitled The Gnome from the book Romantic Legends of Spain by Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., New York, N.Y. 1909, pages 199 to 202.)

Read the entire story as follows:

THE GNOME

The young girls of the village were returning from the
fountain with their water-jars on their heads; they were
returning with song and laughter, a merry confusion of sound
comparable only to the gleeful twitter of a flock of swallows
when, thick as hail, they circle around the weather-vane of
a belfry.

Just in front of the church porch, seated at the foot of a
juniper tree, was Uncle Gregorio. Uncle Gregorio was the
patriarch of the village ; he was nearly ninety years old, with
white hair, smiling lips, roguish eyes and trembling hands.
In childhood he had been a shepherd ; in his young man-
hood, a soldier ; then he tilled a little piece of fruitful land
inherited from his parents, until at last his strength was
spent and he sat tranquilly awaiting death which he neither
dreaded nor longed for. Nobody retailed a bit of gossip
more spicily than he, nor knew more marvellous tales, nor
could bring so neatly to bear an old refrain, proverb or adage.

The girls, on seeing him, quickened their steps, eager for
his talk, and when they were in the porch they all began to
tease him for a story to pass away the time still left them
before nightfall not much, for the setting sun was slanting
his rays across the earth, and the shadows of the mountains
grew larger moment by moment all along the plain.

Uncle Gregorio smiled as he listened to the pleading of
the lasses, who, having once coaxed from him a promise to
tell them something, let down their water-jars upon the
ground, and sitting all about him, made a circle with the
patriarch in the centre ; then he began to talk to them after
this fashion :

"I will not tell you a story, for though several come into
my mind this minute, they have to do with such weighty
matters that the attention of a group of giddypates, like you,
would never hold out to the end ; besides, with the afternoon
so nearly gone, I would not have time to tell them through.
So I will give you instead a piece of good counsel."

"Good counsel ! " exclaimed the girls with undisguised
vexation. "Bah ! it isn't to hear good counsel that we are
stopping here ; when we have need of that, his Reverence
the priest will give it to us."

"But perhaps," went on the old man with his habitual
smile, speaking in his broken, tremulous voice, " his Rev-
erence the priest will not know how to give you, this once,
such timely advice as Uncle Gregorio ; for the priest, busy
with his liturgies and litanies, will not have noticed, as I
have noticed, that every day you go earlier to the fountain
and come back later."

The girls looked at one another with hardly perceptible
smiles of derision, while some of those who were placed
behind Uncle Gregorio touched finger to forehead, ac-
companying the action with a significant gesture.

"And what harm do you find in our lingering at the-
fountain to chat a minute with our friends and neighbors?"
asked one of them. "Do slanders, perhaps, go about the
village because the lads step out on to the road for a pleasant
word or two, or come offering to carry our water-jars till we
are in sight of the houses?"

"Ay, people talk," replied the old man to the girl who
had asked him the question for them all. "The old dames
of the village murmur that to-day the girls resort for fun and
frolic to a spot whither they used to go swiftly and in fear
to draw the water, since only there can water be had ; and
I find it much amiss that you are losing little by little the
dread which the vicinity of the fountain inspires in all your
elders, for so it might come to pass that some time the
night should overtake you there."

Uncle Gregorio spoke these last words in a tone so full
of mystery that the lasses opened wide their frightened eyes
to look at him, and with blended curiosity and mischief,
again pressed their questions :

"The night 1 But what goes on in that place by night
that you should scare us so and throw out such dark and
dreadful hints of what might befall ? Do you think the
wolves will eat us?"

"When the Moncayo is covered with snow, the wolves,
driven from their dens, come down in packs and range over
its slope; more than once we have heard them howling in
horrible concert, not only in the neighborhood of the fountain,
but in the very streets of the village; yet the wolves are
not the most terrible tenants of the Moncayo; in its deep
and dark caverns, on its wild and lonely summits, in its
hollow heart there live certain diabolical spirits that, during
the night, pour down its cascades in swarms and people the
empty spaces, thronging like ants upon the plain, leaping
from rock to rock, sporting in the waters and swinging on
the bare boughs of the trees. It is these spirits that cry
from the clefts of the crags, that roll up and push along
those immense snowballs which come rolling down from the
lofty peaks and sweep away and crush whatever they find
in their path, theirs are the voices calling in the hail at
our windows on stormy nights, theirs the forms that flit
like thin, blue flames over the marshes. Among these
spirits who, driven from the lowlands by the sacred services
and exorcisms of the Church, have taken refuge on the in-
accessible crests of the mountains, are those of diverse
natures, that on appearing to our eyes clothe themselves in
varied forms. Yet the most dangerous, those who with
sweet words win their way into the hearts of maidens and
dazzle them with magnificent promises, are the gnomes.
The gnomes live in the inner recesses of the mountains;
they know their subterranean roads aad, eternal guardians
of the treasures hidden in the heart of the hills, they keep
watch day and night over the veins of metal and the precious
stones. Do you see "continued the old man, pointing
with the stick which served him for a prop to the summit
of the Moncayo, that rose at his right, looming dark and
gigantic against the misted, violet sky of twilight "do you
see that mighty mass still crowned with snow ? In its deep
cavities these diabolical spirits have their dwellings. The
palace they inhabit is terrible and glorious to see. Many
years ago a shepherd, following some stray of his flock,
penetrated into the mouth of one of those caves whose
entrances are covered by thick growths of bushes and whose
outlets no man has ever seen. When he came back to the
village, he was pale as death; he had surprised the secret
of the gnomes ; he had breathed their poisonous atmosphere,
and he paid for his rashness with his life; but before he died
he related marvellous things. Going on along that cavern,
he had come at last to vast subterranean galleries lighted by
a fitful, fantastic splendor shed from the phosphorescence
in the rocks, which there were like great boulders of quartz
crystallized into a thousand strange, fantastic forms. The
floor, the vaulted ceiling and the walls of those immense
halls, the work of nature, seemed variegated like the richest
marbles; but the veins which crossed them were of gold
and silver, and among those shining veins, as if incrusted in
the rock, were seen jewels, a multitude of precious stones of
all colors and sizes. There were jacinths and emeralds in
heaps, and diamonds and rubies, and sapphires and how
should I know? many other gems unrecognized more
than he could name but all so great and beautiful that his
eyes dazzled at the sight. No noise of the outer world
reached the depths of that weird cavern ; the only per-
ceptible sounds were, at intervals, the prolonged and pitiful
groans of the air which blew through that enchanted laby-
rinth, a vague roar of subterranean fire furious in its prison,
and murmurs of running water which flowed on not knowing
whither they went. The shepherd, alone and lost in that
immensity, wandered I know not how many hours without
finding any outlet, until at last he chanced upon the source
of a spring whose murmur he had heard. This broke from
the ground like a miraculous fountain, a leap of foam-crowned
water that fell in an exquisite cascade, singing a silver song
as it slipped away through the crannies of the rocks. About
him grew plants that he had never seen, some with wide,
thick leaves, and others delicate and long like floating rib-
bons. Half hidden in that humid foliage were running
about a number of extraordinary creatures, some of them
manlike, some reptilian, or both at once, changing shape
continually, at one moment appearing like human beings,
deformed and tiny, the next like gleaming salamanders or
fugitive flames that danced in circles above the tip of the
fountain-jet. There, darting in all directions, running across
the floor in form of repugnant, hunchbacked dwarfs, scram-
bling up the walls, wriggling along, reptile-shaped, in their
slime, dancing like will-o-the-wisps on the pool of water,
went the gnomes, the lords of those recesses, counting over
and shifting from place to place their fabulous riches.
They know where misers store those treasures which, after-
wards, the heirs seek in vain ; they know the spot where
the Moors, before their flight, hid their jewels; and the
ornaments which are lost, the money that is missing, every-
thing that has value and disappears, they search for, find
and steal, to hide in their caves, for they know how to go
to and fro through all the world by secret, unimagined paths
beneath the earth. So there they were keeping stored up in
heaps all manner of rare and precious things. There were
jewels of inestimable worth ; chains and necklaces of pearls
and exquisite gems ; golden jars of classic form, full of rubies ;
chiseled cups, armor richly wrought, coins with images and
superscriptions that it is no longer possible to recognize or
decipher ; treasures, in short, so fabulous and limitless that
scarcely may imagination picture them. And all glittered
together, flashing out such vivid sparks of light and color
that it seemed as if the whole hoard were on fire, quivering
and wavering. At least, the shepherd said that so it had
seemed to him. "At this point the old patriarch paused a
moment. The girls, who in the beginning had hearkened
to Uncle Gregorio's story with a mocking smile, now main-
tained unbroken silence, hoping that he would go on, wait-
ing with frightened eyes, with lips slightly parted, and with
curiosity and interest depicted on their faces. One of them
finally broke the hush, and unable to control herself, ex-
claimed, fascinated with the account of the fabulous riches
which had met the shepherd's view:

"And what then ? Did he take away nothing out of all
that?"

"Nothing," replied Uncle Gregorio.

"What a silly! "the girls exclaimed in concert.

"Heaven helped him in that moment of peril," continued
the old man," for at the very instant when avarice, the
ruling passion, began to dispel his fear and, bewitched by the
sight of those jewels, one alone of which would have made
him wealthy, the shepherd was about to possess himself of
some small share of that treasure, he says he heard listen
and marvel clear and distinct in those profound abodes,
despite the shouts of laughter and harsh voices of the gnomes,
the roar of the subterranean fire, the murmur of running
water and the laments of the imprisoned air, he heard, I say,
as if he had been at the foot of the hill where it stands, the
pealing of the bell in the hermitage of Our Lady of the
Moncayo.

"On hearing the bell, which was ringing the Ave Maria
the shepherd fell to his knees, calling on the Mother of Our
Lord Jesus Christ; and instantly, without knowing the
means nor the way, he found himself on the outside of the
mountain, near the road which leads to the village, thrown
out on a footpath and overwhelmed by a great bewilder-
ment as if he had just been startled out of a dream.

"Since then everybody has understood why our village
fountain sometimes has in its waters a glint as of very fine
gold-dust; and when night falls, vague words are heard
in its murmur, flattering words with which the gnomes,
that defile it from its source, try to entice the foolhardy who
lend them ear, promising them riches and treasures that are
bound to be the destruction of their souls."

When Uncle Gregorio had reached this point in his re-
lation, night had fallen and the church bell commenced to
call to prayer. The girls crossed themselves devoutly,
repeating in low voices an Ave Maria, and after bidding
good-night to Uncle Gregorio, who again counselled them
not to tarry at the fountain, each picked up her water-jar
and all went forth, silent and musing, from the churchyard.
They were already far from the spot where they had found
the old man, and had, indeed, reached the central square of
the village whence they were to go their several ways,
before the more resolute and decided of them all broke out with
the question:

"Do you girls believe any of that nonsense Uncle Gregorio
has been telling us ? "

"Not I," said one.

"Nor I," exclaimed another.

"Nor I ! nor I "chimed in the rest, laughing at their
momentary credulity.

The group of lasses melted away, each taking her course
toward one or another side of the square. Last of all, when
the others had disappeared down the better streets that led
out from this market-place, two girls, the only ones who had
not opened their lips to make fun of Uncle Gregorio's
veracity, but who, still musing on the marvellous tale, seemed
absorbed in their own meditations, went away together, with
the slow step natural to people deep in thought, by a dismal,
narrow, crooked alley.

Of those two girls, the elder, who seemed to be some
twenty years old, was called Marta; and the younger, who
had not yet finished her sixteenth year, Magdalena.

As long as the walk lasted, both kept complete silence ;
but when they reached the threshold of their home and had
set down their water-jars on the stone bench by the door,
Marta said to Magdalena: And do you believe in the
marvels of the Moncayo and the spirits of the fountain?"
"Yes," answered Magdalena simply, "I believe it all. But
you, perhaps, have doubts?" "Oh, no!" Marta hastily
interrupted. "I, too, believe everything, everything that
I wish to believe."

II.

Marta and Magdalena were sisters. Orphans from
early childhood, they were living wretchedly under the pro-
tection of a kinswoman of their mother, a kinswoman who
had taken them in for charity and who at every step made
them feel, by her taunting and humiliating words, the weight
of their obligation. Everything would seem to tend toward
tightening the knot of love between those two sister souls,
not merely the bond of blood, but those of poverty and
suffering, and yet there existed between Marta and Magda-
lena a mute rivalry, a secret antipathy explicable only by a
study of their characters, as utterly contrasted as were their
physical types.

Marta was overbearing, strong in her passions and of
a rough directness in the expression of her feelings ; she did
not understand either laughter or tears, and so had never
wept nor laughed. Magdalena, on the other hand, was
gentle, affectionate, kind, and more than once had been
seen to laugh and weep together, as children do.

Marta's eyes were blacker than night and from under her
dark lashes there sometimes seemed to leap fiery sparks as
from a burning coal.

The blue eyes of Magdalena appeared to swim in liquid
light behind the golden curve of her blond lashes. And
everything in them was in keeping with the different ex-
pression of their eyes. Marta, thin, pale, tall, stiff of move-
ment, her dark, crisp hair shading her brow and falling upon
her shoulders like a velvet mantle, formed a singular con-
trast to Magdalena, white and pink, petite, with the rounded
face and figure of babyhood, and with golden tresses encir-
cling her temples like the gilded halo about the head of an
angel.

Despite the inexplicable repulsion which each felt for the
other, the two sisters had lived up to this time on terms of
indifference that might have been mistaken for peace and
affection; there had been no caresses to quarrel over, nor
partialities to envy; equal in misfortune and affliction, Marta,
withdrawn into herself, had borne her troubles in a proud,
self-centered silence; and Magdalena, finding no response
in her sister's heart, would weep alone when the tears in-
voluntarily rushed into her eyes.

They had not a sentiment in common ; they never con-
fided to one another their joys and griefs, and yet the only
secret which each had striven to hide in the depths of her
soul had been divined by the other with the marvelous in-
stinct of love and jealousy. Marta and Magdalena had in
fact set their hearts on one and the same man.

The passion of the one was a stubborn desire, born of a
wilful and indomitable character; in the other, love was
manifest in that vague, spontaneous tenderness of youth,
which, needing an object on which to spend itself, takes the
first that comes. Both guarded the secret of their love, for
the man who had inspired it would perchance have made
mock of a devotion which could be interpreted as an absurd
ambition in penniless girls of lowly birth. Both, despite the
distance which separated them from their idol, cherished a
faint hope of winning him.

Hard by the village, and above a height which dominated
the country round about, there was an ancient castle aban-
doned by its owners. The old women, in their evening
gossips, would relate a marvellous story about its founders.
They told how the King of Aragon, finding himself at war
with his enemies, his resources exhausted, forsaken by his
allies and on the point of losing the throne, was sought out
one day by a shepherdess of those parts, who, after reveal-
ing to him the existence of certain subterranean passages by
means of which he could go through the Moncayo without
being perceived by his enemies, gave him a treasure in fine
pearls, precious stones of the richest, and bars of gold and
silver; with these the king paid his troops, raised a mighty
army and, marching beneath the earth one whole night long,
fell the next day upon his adversaries and routed them,
establishing the crown securely on his head.

After he had won so distinguished a victory, the story goes
that the king said to the shepherdess: "Ask of me what
thou wilt, and even though it be the half of my kingdom, I
swear I will give it thee on the instant."

"I wish no more than to go back to the keeping of my
flock," replied the shepherdess. "Thou shalt keep only
my frontiers," rejoined the king, and he gave her lordship
over all the boundary, and bade her build a stronghold in
the town nearest the borders of Castile; here dwelt the
shepherdess, married to one of the king's favorites, a hus-
band noble, gallant, valiant and, as well, lord over many for-
tresses and many fiefs.

The astonishing account given by Uncle Gregorio of the
Moncayo gnomes, whose secret haunt was in the village
fountain, set soaring anew the wild dreams of the two
enamored sisters, for it formed a sequel, so to speak, to the
hitherto unexplained tradition of the treasure found by the
fabled shepherdess treasure whose remembered gleam
had troubled more than once their wakeful, embittered
nights, flashing before their imaginations like a fragile ray
of hope.

The evening following their afternoon meeting with Uncle
Gregorio, all the other girls of the village chatted in their
homes about the wonderful story he had told them. Marta
and Magdalena preserved an unbroken silence, and neither
that evening, nor throughout the following day, did they
exchange a single word on this matter, the theme of all the
talk throughout the hamlet and text of all the neighbors'
commentaries.

At the usual hour, Magdalena took "her water-jar and said
to her sister : "Shall we go to the fountain ? "Marta did
not answer, and Magdalena said again: "Shall we go to the
fountain? If we do not hurry, the sun will have set before
we are back." Marta finally replied shortly and roughly:
"I don't care about going today." "Neither do I," re-
joined Magdalena after an instant of silence during which
she kept her eyes fastened on those of her sister, as if she
would read in them the cause of her resolution.

III.

For nearly an hour the village girls had been back in
their homes. The last glow of sunset had faded on the
horizon, and the night was beginning to close in more and
more darkly, when Marta and Magdalena, each avoiding
the other, left the hamlet by different paths in the direction
of the mysterious fountain. The fountain welled up in a
hidden nook among some steep, mossy rocks at the further
end of a deep grove. Now that the sounds of the day had
ceased little by little, and no longer was heard the distant
echo of voices from the laborers who return home in
knightly fashion, mounted on their yoked oxen and trolling
out songs to the accompaniment of the beam of the plough
they were dragging over the ground, now that the mon-
otonous clang of the sheep-bells had gone beyond hearing,
together with the shouts of the shepherds and the barking
of their dogs gathering the flocks together, now that there
had sounded in the village-tower the last peal of the call to
prayers, there reigned august that double silence of night
and solitude, a silence full of strange, soft murmurs making
it yet more perceptible.

Marta and Magdalena slipped through the labyrinth of
the trees and, sheltered by the darkness, arrived without
seeing each other at the far end of the grove. Marta knew
no fear ; her steps were firm and unfaltering. Magdalena
trembled at the mere rustle made by her feet as they trod
upon the dry leaves carpeting the ground. When the two
sisters were close to the fountain, the night wind began to
stir the branches of the poplars, and to their uneven, sighing
whispers the springing water seemed to make answer with
a steady, regular murmur.

Marta and Magdalena lent attention to those soft noises
of the night, those that flowed beneath their feet like a con-
tinuous ripple of laughter, and those that floated above their
heads like a lament rising and falling only to rise again and
spread through the foliage of the grove. As the hours went
on, that unceasing sound of the air and of the water began
to produce in them a strange exaltation, a kind of dizziness
that, clouding the eyes and humming in the ears, seemed to
confuse them utterly. Then as one hears in dreams the far,
vague echo of speech, they seemed to perceive, amid those
nameless noises, inarticulate sounds as of a child who would
call his mother and cannot; then words repeated over and
over, always the same; then disconnected, inconsequent
phrases, without order or meaning, and at last at last the
wind wandering among the trees, and the water leaping from
rock to rock, commenced to speak.
And they spoke thus:

The Water.

Woman ! woman ! hear me ! hear me and draw near
that thou mayst hear me, and I will kiss thy feet while I
tremble to copy thine image in the shadowy depth of my
waves. Woman ! hear how my murmurs are words.

The Wind.

Maiden ! Gentle maiden, lift thine head, let me give thy
brow the kiss of peace, while I stir thy tresses. Gentle
maiden, listen to me, for I, too, know how to speak and I
will murmur in thine ear phrases of tenderness.

Marta.

Oh, speak 1 Speak, and I will understand, for my mind
floats in a dizzy maze, as float those dim words of thine.
Speak, mysterious stream.

Magdalena.

I am afraid. Air of night, air of perfumes, refresh my
burning brow ! Tell me what may inspire me with courage,
for my spirit wavers.

The Water.

I have crossed the dark hollow of the earth, I have sur-
prised the secret of its marvellous fecundity, and I know the
phenomena of its inner parts, whence springs the life to be.

My murmur lulls to sleep and awakens. Awaken thou
that thou mayst comprehend it.

The Wind.

I am the air which the angels, as they traverse space, set
in motion with their mighty wings. 1 mass up in the west
the clouds that offer to the sun a bed of purple, and I shed
at dawn, from the mists that vanish into drops, a pearly dew
over the flowers. My sighs are a balm : open thine heart
and I will flood it with bliss.

Marta.

When for the first time I heard the murmur of a subter-
ranean stream, not in vain did I bow myself to the earth,
lending it ear. With it there went a mystery which at last
it should be mine to understand.

Magdalena.

Sighs of the wind, I know you well: you used to caress me,
a dreaming child, when, spent with weeping, I gave myself
up to slumber, and your soft breathings would seem to me
the words of a mother who sings her child to sleep.

The water ceased from speech for a few moments and
made no other noise than that of water breaking on rocks.
The wind was voiceless, too, and its sound was no other
than the sound of blowing leaves. So passed some time,
and then they spoke again, and thus they spoke:

The Water.

Since I came filtering, drop by drop, through the vein of
gold in an inexhaustible mine; since I came running along
a bed of silver and leaping, as over pebbles, amid innumer-
able sapphires and amethysts, bearing on with me, in lieu of
sands, diamonds and rubies, I have joined myself in mystic
union to a spirit of the earth. Enriched by his power and
by the occult virtues of the precious stones and metals,
saturated with whose atoms I come, I can offer thee the
utmost reach of thine ambitions. I have the force of an in-
cantation, the power of a talisman, and the virtue of the seven
stones and the seven colors.

The Wind.

I come from wandering over the plain, and as the bee that
returns to the hive with its booty of sweet honey, I bring
with me woman's sighs, children's prayers, words of chaste
love, and aromas of nard and wild lilies. I have gathered
in my journey no more than fragrances and echoes of har-
monies ; my treasures are not material, but they give peace
of soul and the vague happiness of pleasant dreams.

While her sister, drawn on and on as by a spell, was lean-
ing over the margin of the fountain to hear better, Mag-
dalena was instinctively moving away, withdrawing from the
steep rocks in whose midst bubbled the spring.

Both had their eyes fixed, the one on the depth of the
waters, the other on the depth of the sky.

And Magdalena exclaimed, seeing the astral splendors
overhead : "These are the halos of the invisible angels who
have us in their keeping."

At the same instant Marta was saying, seeing the reflection
of the stars tremble in the clear waters of the fountain:
"These are the particles of gold which the stream gathers
in its mysterious course."

The fountain and the wind, after a second brief period of
silence, spoke again and said :

The Water - Trust thyself to my current, cast from thee fear as a coarse
garment, and dare to cross the threshold of the unknown.
I have divined that thy soul is of the essence of the higher
spirits.

Envy perchance hath thrust thee out of heaven to plunge
thee into the mire of mortal misery. Yet I see in thy
darkened brow a seal of pride that renders thee worthy of us,
spirits strong and free. Come; I am going to teach thee
magic words of such virtue that as thou speakest them the
rocks will open and allure thee with the diamonds that are
in their hearts, as pearls are in the shells which fishermen
bring up from the bottom of the sea. Come! I will give
thee treasures that thou mayst live in joy, and later, when
the cell that imprisons thee is shattered, thy spirit shall be
made like unto our own, which are human spirits, and all in
one we shall be the motive force, the vital ray of the universe,
circulating like a fluid through its subterranean arteries.

The Wind.

Water licks the earth and lives in the mud; I roam the
ether and fly in limitless space. Follow the impulses of
thy heart; let thy soul rise like flame and the azure spirals
of smoke. Wretched is he who, having wings, descends to
the depths to seek for gold, while he might mount to the
heights for love and sympathy.

Live hidden as the violet, and I will give thee in a fruit
ful kiss the living seed of another, sister flower, and I will
rend the clouds that there may not be lacking a sunbeam to
illume thy joy. Live obscure, live unheeded, and when
thy spirit is set free, I will lift it on a rosy cloud up to the
world of light.

Wind and wave were hushed, and there appeared the
gnome.

The gnome was like a transparent pigmy, a sort of dwarf
all made of light, as a will-o-the-wisp; it laughed hugely,
but without noise, and leapt from rock to rock, making one
dizzy with its giddy antics. Sometimes it plunged into the
water and kept on shining in the depths like a precious stone
of myriad colors; again it leapt to the surface, and tossed
its feet and its hands, and swung its head from one side to
the other with a rapidity that was little short of prodigious.

Marta had seen the gnome and was following him with a
bewildered gaze in all his extravagant evolutions ; and when
the diabolical spirit darted away at last into the craggy wilds
of the Moncayo, like a running flame, shaking out sparks
from its hair, she felt an irresistible attraction and rushed
after it in frantic chase.

Magdalena at the same instant called the breeze, slowly
withdrawing; and Magdalena, moving step by step like a
sleep-walker guided in slumber by a friendly voice, followed
the zephyr, which was softly blowing over the plain.

When all was done, again there was silence in the dusky
grove, and the wind and the water kept on, as ever, with
sounds as of murmuring and sighing.

IV.

Magdalena returned to the hamlet pale and full of amaze-
ment. They waited in vain for Marta all that night.

On the afternoon of the following day, the village girls
found a broken water-jar at the margin of the fountain in
the grove. It was Marta's water-jar; nothing more was ever
known of her. Since then the girls go for water so early
that they rise with the sun. A few have assured me that by
night there has been heard, more than once, the weeping of
Marta, whose spirit lives imprisoned in the fountain. I do
not know what credit to give to this last part of the story,
for the truth is that since that night nobody has dared pene-
trate into the grove to hear it after the ringing of the Ave
Maria.
 

The End

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