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THE MOST INCREDIBLE THING

 

 THE one who could do the most incredible thing should have the king's daughter and the half of his kingdom

The young menand even the old onesstrained all their thoughtssinewsand musclestwo ate themselves to deathand one drank until he diedto do the most incredible thing according to their own tastebut it was not inthis way it was to be doneLittle boys in the streets prac-tised spitting on their own backsthey considered that the most incredible thing

On a certain day an exhibition was to be held of what each had to show as the most incredibleThe judges who were chosen were children from three years old to people upin the sixtiesThere was a whole exhibition of incredible thingsbut all soon agreed that the most incredible was ahuge clock in a case marvellously designed inside and out

On the stroke of every hour living figures came outwhich showed what hour was strikingthere were twelverepresentations in allwith moving figures and with musicand conversation

"That was the most incredible thing"the peoplesaid

The clock struck oneand Moses stood on the mountain and wrote down on the tables of the law the first com-mandment"There is only one true God"

The clock struck twoand the garden of Eden appearedwhere Adam and Eve methappy both of themwithout having so much as a wardrobethey did not needone either

On the stroke of threethe three kings from the Eastwere shownone of them was coalblackbut he could nothelp that,—the sun had blackened himThey came withincense and treasures

On the stroke of four came the four seasonsspringwith a cuckoo on a budding beech-boughsummer with agrasshopper on a stalk of ripe cornautumn with an emptystork's nestthe birds were flownwinter with an oldcrow which could tell stories in the chimneycorneroldmemories

When the clock struck fivethe five senses appearedsight as a spectacle-makerhearing as a coppersmithsmell sold violets and woodrufftaste was cookandfeeling was an undertaker with crape down to his heels

The clock struck sixand there sat a gambler whothrew the diceand the highest side was turned up andshowed six

Then came the seven days of the weekor the sevendeadly sinspeople were not certain whichthey belongedto each other and were not easily distinguished

Then came a choir of monks and sang the eighto'clock service

On the stroke of nine came the nine musesone wasbusy with astronomyone with historical archivesthe oth-ers belonged to the theatre

On the stroke of tenMoses again came forward withthe tables of the lawon which stood all God's command-mentsand they were ten

The clock struck againthen little boys and girlsdanced and hopped aboutThey played a gameand sang"Two and two and seventhe clock has struck eleven"

When twelve struck the watchman appeared with hisfur cap and halberdhe sang the old watch verse

"'Twas at the midnight hour Our Saviour He was born"

And while he sangroses grew and changed into angelheads borne on rainbow-coloured wings

It was charming to hearand lovely to seeThe wholewas a matchless work of artthe most incredible thingevery one said

Tile designer of it was a young mangoodheartedand happy as a childa true friendand good to his oldparentshe deserved the Princess and the half of thekingdom

The day of decision arrivedthe whole of the townhad a holidayand the Princess sat on the thronewhichhad got new horsehairbut which was not any more comfortableThe judges round about looked very knowingly atthe one who was to winand he stood glad and confidenthis good fortune was certainhe had made the most incredible thing

"NoI shall do that now"shouted just then a longbony fellow"I am the man for the most incrediblething"and he swung a great axe at the work of art

"Crashcrash"and there lay the whole of itWheels and springs flew in all directionseverything wasdestroyed

"That I could do"said the man"My work hasovercome his and overcome all of youI have done themost incredible thing"

"To destroy such a work of art"said the judges"Yescertainly that is the most incredible thing"

All the people said the sameand so he was to havethe Princess and the half of the kingdomfor a promise isa promiseeven if it is of the most incredible kind

It was announced with trumpet-blast from the ram- parts and from all the towers that the marriage should becelebratedThe Princess was not quite pleased about itbut she looked charming and was gorgeously dressedThechurch shone with candlesit shows best late in theeveningThe noble maidens of the town sang and led thebride forwardthe knights sang and accompanied thebridegroomHe strutted as if he could never be broken

Now the singing stopped and one could have heard apin fallbut in the midst of the silence the great churchhdoor flew open with a crash and clatterand boomboomthe whole of the clockwork came marching up thepassage and planted itself between the bride and bridegroomDead men cannot walk againwe know that verywellbut a work of art can walk againthe body wasknocked to piecesbut not the spiritthe spirit of thework walkedand that in deadly earnest

The work of art stood there precisely as if it werewhole and untouchedThe hours struckthe one after theotherup to twelveand the figures swarmed forwardfirst Mosesflames of fire seemed to flash from hisforeheadhe threw the heavy stone tables down on the feetof the bridegroom and pinned them to the church floor

"I cannot lift them again"said Moses"you haveknocked my arm offStand as you stand now"

Then came Adam and Evethe wise men from the Eaetand the four Seasonseach of these told him un-pleasant truthsand said"For shame"

But he was not in the least ashamed

All the figures which each stroke of the clock had toexhibit came out of itand all increased to a terrible sizethere seemed scarcely to be room for the real peopleandwhen at the stroke of twelve the watchman appeared withhis fur cap and halberdthere was a wonderful commotionthe watchman walked straight up to the bridegroom andstruck him on the forehead with his halberd

"Lie there"he said"like for likewe are avengedand our master as wellwe vanish"

And so the whole work disappearedbut the candlesround about in the church became great bouquetsand thegilded stars on the ceiling of the church sent out longclear beamsand the organ played of itselfAll the peoplesaid it was the most incredible thing they had ever experi-enced

"Will you then summon the right one"said thePrincess"the one who made the work of artlet him bemy lord and husband"

And he stood in the church with the whole of the people for his retinueAll were glad and all blessed himthere was not one who was jealousand that was the mostincredible thing of all

 


 

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