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Lona and I, who walked below, heard at last a great shout overhead, and in a moment or two the Little Ones began to come dropping down from the foliage with the news that, climbing to the top of a tree yet taller than the rest, they had descried, far across the plain, a curious something on the side of a solitary mountain--which mountain, they said, rose and rose, until the sky gathered thick to keep it down, and knocked its top off.
"It may be a city," they said, "but it is not at all like Bulika."
I went up to look, and saw a great city, ascending into blue clouds, where I could not distinguish mountain from sky and cloud, or rocks from dwellings. Cloud and mountain and sky, palace and precipice mingled in a seeming chaos of broken shadow and shine.
I descended, the Little Ones came with me, and together we sped on faster. They grew yet merrier as they went, leading the way, and never looking behind them. The river grew lovelier and lovelier, until I knew that never before had I seen real water. Nothing in this world is more than LIKE it.
By and by we could from the plain see the city among the blue clouds. But other clouds were gathering around a lofty tower--or was it a rock?--that stood above the city, nearer the crest of the mountain. Gray, and dark gray, and purple, they writhed in confused, contrariant motions, and tossed up a vaporous foam, while spots in them gyrated like whirlpools. At length issued a dazzling flash, which seemed for a moment to play about the Little Ones in front of us. Blinding darkness followed, but through it we heard their voices, low with delight.
"Did you see?"
"What did you see?"
"The beautifullest man."
"I heard him speak!"
"I didn't: what did he say?"
Here answered the smallest and most childish of the voices--that of Luva:--
"He said, `'Ou's all mine's, 'ickle ones: come along!'"
I had seen the lightning, but heard no words; Lona saw and heard with the children. A second flash came, and my eyes, though not my ears, were opened. The great quivering light was compact of angel-faces. They lamped themselves visible, and vanished.
A third flash came; its substance and radiance were human.
"I see my mother!" I cried.
"I see lots o' mothers!" said Luva.
Once more the cloud flashed--all kinds of creatures--horses and elephants, lions and dogs--oh, such beasts! And such birds!--great birds whose wings gleamed singly every colour gathered in sunset or rainbow! little birds whose feathers sparkled as with all the precious stones of the hoarding earth!--silvery cranes; red flamingoes; opal pigeons; peacocks gorgeous in gold and green and blue; jewelly humming birds!--great-winged butterflies; lithe-volumed creeping things--all in one heavenly flash!
"I see that serpents grow birds here, as caterpillars used to grow butterflies!" remarked Lona.
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