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


Not long after this strange adventure, they reached a rising ground, from which a magnificent view burst upon them. Below, there was a large lake, surrounded by wooded hills, above which rose noble rocks fringed with stately pines, and higher ranges of mountains beyond, some of whose summits were covered with snow that glittered like purest alabaster in the azure blue of the sky. Eric gave a cry of joy; for he saw the house of one of his father’s foresters, which he had once visited with his father. “Wolf! Wolf!” he exclaimed, “look yonder, that is the house of Darkeye, the forester. We are safe!” and the thread was leading straight down in the very direction which they wished. Darkeye’s house was built on a small green island in the lake. The island was like a little fort, for on every side the rocks descended like a wall. It could only be approached by a boat, which Darkeye kept on the island, and then by a narrow stair cut out of the rock at the landing-place. No robbers could thus get near it, and Darkeye was there to give shelter to travellers, and to help any of the poor who had to pass that way. The thread led down to the shore. They forgot their fatigue, and ran down till they reached the ferry. “Boat, ahoy!” shouted Eric. By and by two boys were seen running out of the cottage, and after looking cautiously at those who were calling for the boat, they rowed off, and soon were at the shore, where stood Eric with his gold belt, and Wolf in his rough skins. “Olaf! Torquil! don’t you remember me?” asked Eric, looking at his old friends. The boys looked astonished as they recognised the young prince, and received him joyfully into their boat, he holding by the thread, which seemed to cross the ferry towards the cottage. How many questions were mutually put and answered in a few minutes! They told him their father was at home; and how he had lately seen the king; and how the king was anxiously looking for Eric’s return; and how glad all on the island would be to see him; and the younger boy, Torquil, told him how they had now a tame otter, that fished in the lake, and a fine golden eagle which they had got young in her nest, that also lived on the island with them; and how their mother had got another baby since he had been there, and how happy they all were, and so on, until they arrived at the island, and there was old Darkeye himself waiting to receive them; and when he saw who was in the boat, he ran down the stone steps and grasped the young prince’s hand, and drew him to his heart. “Welcome! welcome!” said he; “I knew you had been in the forest, but your father would not tell me anything more about you. He only said that he longed for your coming home. But who is this?” asked Darkeye, pointing to Wolf. “A friend of mine,” said Eric, with a smile. “My name is Wolf,” grunted the swineherd. “I think I have seen him before. But no! What? Yes!” said Darkeye, examining him; then added, as if he had discovered some old acquaintance, “Surely I have seen him. Tell me, my fine fellow, did you” It was evident Darkeye had seen Wolf killing his game, or in some affray with the robbers. Wolf looked sternly at Darkeye, then at Eric, but said nothing. “Oh, Darkeye, do not trouble poor Wolf,” said Eric, “but let him go into the cottage; and come you with me, as I wish to tell you all that has happened to me during these few days.” So, while the boys took Wolf to the cottage, and food was being prepared, Eric told Darkeye all his adventures; and you would have been sure that the forester was hearing something which surprised and interested him wonderfully, had you seen his face, and how he sometimes laughed, or knit his brows and looked angry, or sad and solemn, or sprung to his feet from the rock on which he was sitting beside Eric. When Eric came to speak about the old woman and her daughter, “Ah!” said Darkeye, “there are not worse people in that wicked country! They say that the old woman is a witch of some kind. But whether she poisons travellers or drowns them, I know not. No doubt she is in league with Ralph the robber, and would have robbed you or kept you fast in some way or other till you were handed over to him. You were right, my prince, in all you did. The only way of being delivered from temptation is to be brave, and do what is right, come what may.” Then, grasping Eric by the hand, he led him back to the cottage. There Darkeye’s wife received him like a mother, and all the children gathered round him in surprise and admiration, he looked so brave and lovely.

One of the walls of the cottage was reared on the edge of the rock, so that it seemed a continuation of it, and to rise up from the deep waters of the lake. The boys were thus able often to fish with a long line out of the window. A winding-stair led to a look-out on the roof, from which the whole island, called “The Green Island of the Lake,” could be seen. It was about a mile or more in circumference, and was dotted all over with the cottages of the other foresters and king’s huntsmen, each surrounded with clumps of trees, through which the curling smoke from the chimneys might be seen ascending. There were everywhere beautifully-kept gardens, with fruits, and flowers, and bee-hives; and fields, too, with their crops. On the green knolls and in the little valleys might be seen cows and sheep; while flocks of goats browsed among ivy-covered rocks. In the middle of the island was a little shallow lake, beside which the otter had his house among the rocks; and there the eagle also lived. All the children in the island were the best of friends, and they played together, and sailed their boats on the little lake, and every day met in the house of one of the foresters to learn their lessons; and on Sunday, as they were very far away from any church, old Darkeye used to read the Good Book to them, and worship with them, and did all he could to make them love God and one another. There was also in the island a house, where, by the king’s orders, all poor travellers could find refuge and refreshment. And it was a great pleasure to the boys and girls to visit them; and if they were sick and confined to bed, to attend to their wants. If the stranger had any children, the young islanders always shared their sports with them. And nothing pleased these stranger children more than to get leave to sail a boat, or to have the loan of a fishing-rod, or to hear the boys call Oscar, for that was the name of the otter, out of his den, and to play with Tor the eagle; or to see them feed Oscar with some of the fish they had caught, and Tor with a bit of meat. The dogs were so friendly, too, that they never touched Oscar, but would swim about in the same pool with him. And so all were happy in the Green Island; because Darkeye had taught them what a wicked thing selfishness was, and that the only way to be happy was by thinking about others as well as themselves, and by becoming like Him, the Elder Brother of us all, who “pleased not Himself.” He also used to say: “Now, when you work, work like men, and when you play, play like boys: be hearty at both.” And so, while there was no idleness, there was abundance of recreation. Another evil was never permitted on the island, and that was, disobedience to parents, or want of respect to the old. But, indeed, punishment for these offences was seldom needed. The young learned to like to do what was right, and were too brave and manly to give pain and trouble to others, by forcing them to find fault or to punish. I should have mentioned, also, that they had a little band of musicians. One beat the drum, a few played the fife, and others some simple instrument; while almost all could sing tolerably well in parts. Thus, many a traveller would pause and listen with delight, as he heard, on a summer’s evening, the chorus sung from many voices, or the music from the band coming from the island. “Young people,” Darkeye used to say, “have much wealth and happiness given them, for themselves and others, if they only used their gifts.”

But I am forgetting Eric and Wolf. They were both, you may be sure, ready for their dinner, and there was laid for them on a table, cream, cakes, and fresh trout, and such other good things as the kind woman could get ready.

But now the thread began to move, as if it wished Eric to move also. Before rising to depart, he told Wolf how Darkeye, for his sake, would be so glad to take care of him, until he got his fathers permission to bring him into the castle; that he would learn to be a huntsman, and be taught what was good, and to know about the Voice that spoke in his heart; and that all the boys in the island would make him their friend if he did what was right. Ralph will come here! said Wolf, hanging his head. I wish the rascal did, said Darkeye, for he would never go back. But he cannot enter my fort, and knows me and my huntsmen too well ever to try it. I have had more than one brush with the villain, and we hope soon to drive him and his brood from their bloody nest. Wolf, you are welcome and safe, for Erics sake! Then turning to Eric, he said, I shall teach him, and make a man of him, my young prince, depend upon it. And now, before we part, I have to ask a favour, continued Darkeye. You know our custom near evening? If the thread permits, remain, and be one of us. I remember it, said Eric, and will remain and be one of you, and let poor Wolf also be one. And so they entered the cottage, and all sat down round an open window which looked out upon the beautiful lake with its wooded islands, and surrounded by the noble forest, above which rose the giant peaks and precipices. The water was calm as glass, and reflected every brilliant colour from rock and tree, and, most of all, from the golden clouds, which already began to gather in the west. Darkeye read from the Good Book of one who had left his fathers house, and went to a far country, where he would fain have satisfied his hunger from the husks which the swine did eat, and could not, but who at last returned home after having suffered from his disobedience. When he closed the book, all stood up and sung these words with sweet and happy voices:

“Father! from Thy throne above,
Bless our lowly home below!
Jesus, Shepherd! in Thy love,
Guard Thy flock from every foe.

“Thine we are! for Thou hast made us;
Thine, for we’re redeem’d by Thee;
Thine, for Thou hast ever led us,
Thine, we evermore shall be!

“May we love Thee, may we fear Thee,
May Thy will, not ours, be done,
Never leave us till we’re near Thee
In the Home where all are one!”

Then they knelt down, and Darkeye spoke to God in name of them all, thanking Him for His goodness, and telling Him their wants. When they rose from their knees, the gold thread shone brilliantly, and, like a beam of light, passed out at the door in the direction of the ferry. During the singing of the verses, Wolf seemed for the first time quite overcome. He bent his head, and covered his face with his hands. He then said, in a low voice, when the short service was over, and as if speaking to himself, while all were silent listening to him, “I had a dream. Long, long ago. A carriagea lady. She was on her knees, with her hands clasped, and speaking to the sky. She had hold of me. Ralph was there and the robbers. I forget the rest.” He rose and looked out of the window, gazing vacantly. “What can he mean?” asked Eric aside to Darkeye, who was looking tenderly on Wolf. “Ah! who knows, poor boy! Singing always touches the heart of these wanderers. Perhapsyesit may be,” he said, so that Eric alone could hear him, “that he has been taken when a child by Ralph from some rich traveller, and perhaps his mother was killed! He may have been the child of good people. Was that person his mother who, he says, prayed for him? If so, her prayers are now answered, for her boy will be delivered,poor Wolf! Wolf, my boy,” said Darkeye, “come and bid farewell to your friend.” Wolf started as from a dream, and came to Eric. “Farewell, my kind Wolf, and I hope to see you some day in my father’s house.” The herd spoke not a word, but wiped his eyes with the back of his rough hand. “Cheer up, Wolf, for you will be good and happy here.” “Wolf is happy already, and he will take care of the pigs, or do anything for you all.” He then held out his stick to Eric, and said, “Take it; keep it for my sake; it is all Wolf has to give; Ralph has the gold coin.” “Thank you, good Wolf; but you will require it, and I need nothing to remember you.” “Don’t be angry, Eric, for what I did to you in the forest when we first met. My heart is sorry.” “We did not know one another then, Wolf, and I shall never forget that it is to you I owe my escape.” “Wolf loves you, and every one here.” “I am sure you do, Wolf, and I love you. God bless you, Wolf, I must go; farewell!” And thus they parted. But all gathered round Eric, and accompanied him to the boat, blessing the little prince, and wishing him a peaceful and happy journey. Eric thanked them with many smiles and tender words. Darkeye alone went with him into the boat, wondering greatly at the thread, and most of all at the prince, who shone with a beauty that seemed not of this world. The prince landed, but Darkeye knew, for many reasons, that he could not accompany him in his journey, which he must take alone. Eric embraced Darkeye, and waving his hand to all on the island, he was soon lost to their sight in the great forest.

A winding pathway, over the ridge of hills, led down to a broad and rapid but smooth river, and on its banks was a royal boat, splendid and rich to look upon. She was white as snow, with a purple seat at the end covered by a canopy, that gleamed with golden tassels and many gems. The thread led into the boat, and though no one was there, Eric entered, and sat on a purple cushion, on which the Gold Thread also laid itself down. No sooner had he gone on board of the boat, thanas if his little foot, when it touched her, had sent her from the shoreshe slowly moved into the centre of the channel, and was carried downwards by the current. On she swept on the bosom of that clear stream, between shores adorned with all that could delight the eyerocks and trees and flowers, with here and there foaming waterfalls, from mountain rivulets which poured themselves into the great river. The woods were full of song, and birds with splendid plumage flashed amidst the foliage like rainbow hues amidst the clouds. Eric knew not whither he was being carried, but his heart was sunshine and peace. On and on he swept with the winding stream, until at last, darting under a dark archway of rock, and then emerging into light, the boat grounded on a shore of pure white sand, while the thread rose and led him to the land. No sooner had he stepped on shore and ascended the green bank, than he found himself at the end of a long broad avenue of splendid old trees, whose tops met overhead. The far-off end of the avenue was closed by a great marble staircase, which ascended to a magnificent castle. Wall rose above wall, and tower over tower. He saw grand flights of stairs, leading from one stately terrace to another, with marble statues, clear gushing fountains, and flower-gardens, and every kind of lovely tree. It was his fathers castle at last! He ran on with breathless anxiety and joy. He soon reached a large gate, that seemed to be covered with glittering gold. As he looked at it, he saw the thread tied to a golden knocker upon it, shaped like the old cross in the forest. Inscribed over the gate were the words, He that persevereth to the end shall be saved. He seized the knocker, and the moment it fell, the thread broke and vanished like a flash of light. A crash of music was then heard. The door opened, and there, in the midst of a court paved with marble of purest white, and on a golden throne, sat Erics father, surrounded by his brothers and sisters. The beautiful lady was there too, and many, many more to welcome Eric. His father clasped him to his heart, and said, My son was lost, but is found! While all crowded round Eric to bid him welcome, with his weary feet and torn dress, kept together by the golden band, a chorus was heard singing,

“Home where the weary rest,
Home where the good are blest,
Home of the soul;
Glorious the race when run,
Glorious the prize when won,
Glorious the goal!”

Then there rose a swell of many young voices singing,

“Oh, be joyful, be joyful, let every voice sing!
Welcome, brothers, our brother, the son of the king;
His wanderings are past, to his father he’s come;
Little Eric, our darling, we welcome thee home!

“Oh, bless’d is the true one who follows the road,
Holding fast to his GOLD THREAD OF DUTY TO GOD,
Who, when tempted, is firm, who in danger is brave,
Who, forgetting himself, will a lost brother save.
Then be joyful, be joyful, for Eric is come;
Little Eric, our darling, we welcome thee home!”

And then the sun set, and the earth was dark, but the palace of the king shone like an aurora in the wintry sky.