Read CHAPTER III of The Gold Thread A Story for the Young , free online book, by Norman Macleod, on


Eric knew not how long he slept, but, as in a dream, he heard a sweet voice singing these words:

“Rest thee, boy, rest thee, boy, lonely and dreary,
Thy little heart breaking from losing the way;
Thy father has not left thee friendless, though weary,
When learning through suffering to fear and obey.”

Eric opened his eyes, but moved not a limb, as if under some strange fascination. It was early morning. High over head a lark was singing like an angel in the clouds. The mysterious voice went on in the same beautiful and soothing strain

“Oh, sweet is the lark as she sings o’er her nest,
And warbles unseen in the clear morning light;
But sweeter by far is the song in the breast
When in life’s early morning we do what is right!”

Eric could neither move nor speak; but in his heart he confessed with sorrow that he had done what was wrong. And again the voice sang

“Now, darling, awaken, thou art not forsaken!
The old night is past and a new day begun;
Let thy journey with love to thy father be taken,
And at evening thy father will welcome thee home.”

“I will arise and go to my father!” said Eric, springing to his feet. He saw beside him a beautiful lady, who looked like a picture he once saw of his mother, or like one of those angels from heaven about whom he had often read. And the lady said, “Fear not! I know you, Eric, and how it came to pass that you are here. Your father sent you for a wise and good purpose through the forest, and gave you hold of a gold thread to guide you, and told you never to let it go. It was your duty to him to have held it fast; but instead of doing your duty, trusting and obeying your father, and keeping hold of the thread, you let it go to chase butterflies, and gather wild-berries, and to amuse yourself. This you did more than once. You neglected your father’s counsels and warnings, and because of your self-confidence and self-pleasing, you lost your thread, and then you lost your way. What dangers and troubles have you thus got into through disobedience to your father’s commands, and want of trust in his love and wisdom! For had you only followed your father’s directions, the gold thread would have brought you to his beautiful castle, where there is to be a happy meeting of your friends, with all your brothers and sisters.” Poor little Eric began to weep! “Listen to me, child,” said the lady, kindly, “for you cannot have peace but by doing what is right. Know, then, that all your brothers and sisters made this very journey by help of the gold thread, and they are at home with great joy.” “Oh, save me! save me!” cried Eric, and caught the lady’s hand. “Yes, I will save you,” said she, “if you will learn obedience. I know and love you, dear boy. I know and love your father, and have been sent by him to deliver you. I heard what you said, and know all you did, last night, and I was very glad that you proved, in trial, your love to your father, your love of truth, and your love of others, and this makes me hope all good of you for the future. Come now with me!” And so the beautiful woman took him by the hand. The storm had passed away, and the sun was shining on the green leaves of the trees, and every drop of dew sparkled like a diamond. The birds were all warbling their morning hymns, and feeding their young ones in their nests. The streams were dancing down the rocks and through the glens. “The mountains broke forth into singing, and all the trees clapped their hands with joy.” Everything thus seemed beautiful and happy to Eric, for he himself was happy at the thought of doing what was right, and of going home. The lady led him to a sunny glade in the wood, covered with wild flowers, from which the bees were busy gathering their honey, and she said, “Now, child, are you willing to do your father’s will?” “Oh, yes!” “Will you do it, whatever dangers may await you?” “Yes!” “Well, then, I must tell you that your father has given me the gold thread which you lost; and he bids me again tell you, with his warm love, that if you keep hold of it, and follow it wherever it leads, you are sure to come to him at sunset; but if you let it go, you may wander on in this dark forest till you die, or are again taken prisoner by robbers. Know, also, that there is no other possible way of saving you, but by your following the gold thread.” “I am resolved to do my duty, come what may,” said Eric. “May you be helped to do it!” said the lady. She then gave him a cake, to support him in his journey. “And now, child,” she added, “one advice more I will give you, and it was given you by your father, though you forgot it; it is thisif ever you feel the thread slipping from your hands, or are yourself tempted to let it go, pray immediately, and you will get wisdom and strength to find it, to lay hold of it, and to follow it. Before we part, kneel down and ask assistance to be good and obedient, brave and patient, until you meet your father.” The little boy knelt down and repeated the Lord’s Prayer; and as he said, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven,” he felt calm and happy as he used to do when he knelt at his mother’s knee, and he thought her hand was waving over him, as if to bless him. When he lifted up his head there was no one there but himself; but he saw an old gray cross, and a gold thread was tied to it, and passed away, away, shining through the woods.

With a firm hold of his gold thread, the boy began his journey home. He passed along path-ways on which the brown leaves of last year’s growth were thickly strewn, and from among which flowers of every colour were springing. He crossed little brooks that ran like silver threads, and tinkled like silver bells. He passed under trees with great trunks, and huge branches that swept down to the ground, and waved far up in the blue sky. The birds hopped about him, and looked down upon him from among the green leaves, and they sang him songs, and some of them seemed to speak to him. He thought one large bird like a crow cried, “Good boy! good boy!” and another whistled, “Cheer up! cheer up!” and so he went merrily on, and very often he gave the robins and blackbirds that came near him bits of his cake. After awhile, he came to a green spot in the middle of the wood, without trees, and a footpath went direct across it, to the place where the gold thread was leading him, and there he saw a sight that made him wonder and pause. It was a bird about the size of a pigeon, with feathers like gold and a crown like silver, and it was slowly walking near him, and he saw gold eggs glittering in a nest among the grass a few yards off. Now, he thought, it would be such a nice thing to bring home a nest with gold eggs! The bird did not seem afraid of him, but stopped and looked at him with a calm blue eye, as if she said, “Surely you would not rob me?” He could not, however, reach the nest with his hand, and though he pulled and pulled the thread, it would not yield one inch, but seemed as stiff as a wire. “I see the thread quite plain,” said the boy to himself, “and the very place where it enters the dark wood on the other side. I will just leap to the nest, and in a moment I shall have the eggs in my pocket, and then spring back and catch the thread again. I cannot lose it here, with the sun shining; and, besides, I see it a long way before me.” So he took one step to seize the eggs; but he was in such haste that he fell and crushed the nest, breaking the eggs to pieces, and the little bird screamed and flew away, and then suddenly the birds in the trees began to fly about, and a large owl swept out of a dark glade, and cried, “Whoowhoowhoo-oo-oo;” and a cloud came over the sun! Eric’s heart beat quick, and he made a grasp at his gold thread, but it was not there! Another, and another grasp, but it was not there! and soon he saw it waving far above his head, like a gossamer thread in the breeze. You would have pitied him, while you could not have helped being angry with him for having been so silly and disobedient when thus tried, had you only seen his pale face, as he looked above him for his thread, and about him for the road, but could see neither! And he became so confused with his fall, that he did not know which side of the open glade he had entered, nor to which point he was travelling. But at last he thought he heard a bird chirping, “Seekseekseek!” and another repeating, “Try againtry againtrytry!” and then he remembered what the lady had said to him, and he fell on his knees and told all his grief, and cried, “Oh, give me back my thread! and help me never, never, to let it go again!” As he lifted up his eyes, he saw the thread come slowly, slowly down; and when it came near, he sprang to it and caught it, and he did not know whether to laugh, or cry, or sing, he was so thankful and happy! “Ah!” said he, “I hope I shall never forget this fall!” That part of the Lord’s Prayer came into his mind which says, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” “Who would have thought,” said he to himself, “that I was in any danger in such a beautiful, green, sunny place as this, and so very early, too, in my journey! Oh! shame upon me!” As he proceeded with much more thought and caution, a large crow up a tree was hoarsely croaking, and seemed to say, “Beware, beware!” “Thank you, Mr Crow,” said the boy, “I shall;” and he threw him a bit of bread for his good advice. But now the thread led him through the strangest places. One was a very dark, deep ravine, with a stream that roared and rushed far down, and overhead the rocks seemed to meet, and thick bushes concealed the light, and nothing could Eric see but the gold thread, that looked like a thread of fire, though even that grew dim sometimes, until he could only feel it in his hand. And whither he was going he knew not. At one time he seemed to be on the edge of a precipice, until it seemed as if the next step must lead him over, and plunge him down; but when he came to the very edge, the thread led him quite safely along it. At another, a rock which looked like a wall rose before him, and he said to himself, “Well, I must be stopped here! I shall never be able to climb up!” But just as he touched it, he found steps cut in it, and up, up, the thread guided him to the top! Then it would bring him down, down, until he once stood beside a raging stream, and the water foamed and dashed. “Now,” he thought, “I must be drowned; but come what may, I will not let my thread go.” And so it was, that when he came so near the stream as to feel the spray upon his cheek, and was sure that he must leap in if he followed his thread, what did he see but a little bridge that passed from bank to bank, and by which he crossed in perfect safety; until at last he began to lose fear, and to believe more and more that he would always be in the right road, so long as he did not trust mere appearances, but kept hold of his thread!