In 1923 Barbara’s goal was to finish her long story, The Adventures of Eepersip, by her ninth birthday, on March 4; she wanted it as a reverse birthday present for her mother. (She fell ill in February and also fell short of her goal, finishing her story a few days late.) Her father had the idea of teaching Barbara about printing, so he advised Barbara to carefully revise her story during her summer at Sunapee in preparation for printing up a few copies and binding them for friends. This she did, but the day after the family returned to New Haven, on October 6, the kitchen stove exploded, destroying the house and its contents, including Eepersip.
On November 12 Barbara wrote to Mr. Oberg:
After my books had arrived at the house that we were taken into through kindness we discovered that Eepersip, my long story, had been destroyed in the fire. For many days I tried to rewrite it and could not, but after a while I got a sudden inspiration, and I am now working on it like fire. Every little while I think of rewriting all those exciting adventures, seventy-two pages of them, and when I think of that I almost give it up again. But, as Daddy thought before I began it it is going to be a much better story than the first one and that is partly what keeps me going on it. Before I had this inspiration I had started on a new story, an entirely different one and I had gotten far ahead in that one. But now Eepersip seems to me far more important now and so stopped The Great Labyrinth of Sarbea, as I call my new story, and have gotten Eepersip still longer.
Here, then, is Barbara’s first story after losing Eepersip, and as explained above she abandoned it after 19 pages to work on what would become The House Without Windows & Eepersip’s Life There.
The Great Labyrinth of Sarbea
By the shore of the sea there lived a man and his wife. They were very poor, but they were very happy for they had one treasure which might make them rich if they had cared to part with it. This treasure was a pearl, a single solitary pearl, but a remarkable pearl it was, being about the size of a hen’s egg of a deep blue colour, and it shimmered with all the blues in the world. This pearl was proof to everything except what might crush it, even fire could not tarnish it in the least. The only thought that concerned them was about that pearl after their death. They did not want wicked people to have it; they wanted to have a child to pass it down to.
Day after day went by and at last a little son was born to them and oh how glad they were! A long time passed and the boy was playing in the sand on the beach, and watching the little hermit crabs playing in the tide pools at high tide. There was never a happier boy.
When he was eleven years old his father thought that it would be best to tell him a little about the great pearl that had for so long been their dearest treasure, only excepting his son himself. They told him that when they were dead he must always keep it very carefully, and sometime before he was too [word missing: old?] to defend it properly he must build it a hiding-place, where until its walls rotted away no one might get it. Thus they told the boy Sarbea, for that was his name. “And if you would marry,” said his Mother, Mrs. Labina, “you had better marry a woman younger than you are.”
Sarbea ran out on the beach to hunt up shells and pebbles, and as he hunted he thought over all that his parents had told him, and what they had said seemed good to him.
Week after week went by, and the boy grew happier every day. He was not lonely as one might think, but the sea, with its storms, its thunder and lightning, its little pebbly beaches where there were more shells with every tide, held an endless fascination for him. At low tide too he loved the little pools full of hermit crabs and things, and he always liked to fix the pools up with green, brown, and red marine plants. Every day he would see the great white gulls with their long, narrow wings sweeping and swirling in great zigzagging circles over the water. But the words of Mr. and Mrs. Labina inspired him with a new interest. He was thinking all the time what kind of hiding place he was going to make for that pearl.
Month after month passed and Mr. and Mrs. Labina died; then Sarbea knew that his time had come. So he took the blue pearl in his hand and away he went to the palace of the king. A richly clothed servant let him in, and, after Sarbea had told him that he wished to see the king, the servant led him through the great hall, up a flight of crimson-carpeted steps, and at last to the feet of the king and queen. “May it please Your Majesty,” said he to the queen, “I would talk with you in private. Would you allow me that favor?” The queen spoke not a word, but rose and taking Sarbea by the hand led him into a little room and bade him say what he would. Sarbea told the queen what his parents had said to him before they died. “Firstly,” he said, “I would have a ship, and a crew of superior constructors. Secondly, I would have provisions for a long, long journey, and lastly I would talk with an enchantress. Have you any idea how I could obtain these things?”
“Good youth,” said the queen, “I myself am able to give you your ship, provisions, and constructors. But as for enchantresses (here she shook her head slowly), in that Sarbea I am powerless to aid you. But why an enchantress?”
“Well,” said Sarbea, “I will see what I can do.”
The next day a ship was being built, provisions were being gathered, and great constructors were being told about their job. The king had sent for a great enchantress, and after Sarbea had told his story she gathered a troop of dragons whom she taught to know Sarbea, but to fight everybody else that came for that blue pearl. She got an enormous spider to spin webs around the pearl when the labyrinth was made.
When the ship was finished and loaded with provisions, the constructors, the dragons, the enchantress, and Sarbea, they all set sail for the island, the uninhabited island of Sabeera, and set to work as soon as they arrived there. But before they arrived another ship from the queen overtook them loaded with more provisions and started back. On the third week they sighted Sabeera, but a storm arose and drove them out of their course sadly. After a couple of days they saw Sabeera once more, and started afresh with good hopes. They still had a lot of provisions and they did not worry about that in the least; besides very near Sabeera there was another island where they might get food.
The day after they had landed the constructors began the work of building a great labyrinth. And very large it was, for it covered a square half-mile of land. They felled great trees which disappeared like lightning. At last, in about three years of heavy work the great labyrinth was finished. Meanwhile, the men had been getting their dinners at the close island of Myrolon. According to Sarbea’s orders the constructors had built in the very middle of the great building a little tiny room, with four doors and at each door a dragon was to stand. Each door had a long passage leading to it from the outside. Three of these passages had doors without keys, but the fourth passage was the way Sarbea was to visit his beloved treasure which of course was in the little room. The doors from the outside of the building of the tiny room were all locked, and a terrible dragon stood at each door of that passage. The four doors of the little room were also locked. From the outside of the labyrinth there were at least a hundred and twenty doors, but only one of these was locked; this was the door which led into Sarbea’s passage. But a dragon stood at every one of the outside entrances. At last the great building was finished, the dragons stood in their places, a dragon guarding nearly every main passage, the pearl was in the little room, and the enchantress had a great spider spin webs around it. It was all passages passages, doors doors. Almost all of the outside entrances led into a big room with doors all around it. Some of these doors led into passages and some into rooms, all surrounded with doors. There were over a million doors in the labyrinth, and one would never know whether or when one was going to meet one of those dread dragons, against whom no four people could stand. But they were always nice to Sarbea when he came down his passage to look at his beloved pearl.
After the labyrinth was finished and the pearl stowed away in the room that belonged to it, and after he had received the key that unlocked the doors that were locked, he and the constructors set sail leaving the enchantress in charge of the labyrinth back to see the king and queen once more.
He knew that his pearl was in a safe place, and he had no worries about it since the labyrinth was built. Yet he shuddered to think of the dread dragons. This one thought concerned him: would they ever fail to know him? If he ever had a wife could she never visit the pearl by herself? He shook his head sadly. Yet while these thoughts were whirling in his puzzled head, he was on the deck of the selfsame ship, with no land in sight, on the way to the palace of the king. Yet one more thought kept speaking itself over and over in his mind. While he had been staying with the king, he had seen their beautiful daughter, Chrysothemis, and even as he thought about her he fell in love with her and longed to wed her. And then he fell asleep and dreamed about her, how lovely she was and how she had loved him when he had seen her. And even while he slept he was nearing land, and when he woke he was a day’s trip from the palace of the king.
So they sailed on and on, while Sarbea slept and how refreshed he felt when he woke. In that day they reached land, and after a couple of miles of hard walking they came to the palace of the king once more. One constructor, to be sure had been killed by a falling tree at Sabeera, and four others had come to their homes before they had come to the palace, but Sarbea and his remaining ones walked up to the main entrance of the palace, where the constructors parted from him and went their several ways.
But a servant led Sarbea in and brought him to the king and queen once more. Said Sarbea to the queen as he knelt before her: “This time I would speak a word with Chrysothemis.”
“Ah, ha,” thought the queen, “I can guess your errand.” But she said nothing and rose, taking Sarbea by the hand. She led him through the great hall, down a little passageway, and knocked on the door on one side. Hearing no answer she said to Sarbea: “You may go in and speak with her when she wakes from her nap. That is why she did not answer. She is asleep.” So saying she left him at the door of the room.
Very gently he opened the door and walked in, and oh, what a glorious sight met his eyes. The door revealed a large room the walls of which were pure ivory. The ceiling was curved and two great ivory pillars were ornamented with jewels. On the floor was spread a great fleecy white rug. Most of the furniture was white but not ivory. There were several chairs, a bureau on which was set a bouquet of purple and white violets, and a large couch on which lay Chrysothemis, the beautiful princess. Sarbea stared all around him in amazement of what he saw. Then, when he recovered his wits a little, he drew a small chair up to the couch, sat down upon it, and watched over Chrysothemis.
For three quarters of an hour Sarbea sat there motionless, drinking in her sheer beauty, but at last she woke and started for joy when she saw him. “Ah,” she said, “you were the one I loved.”
“So were you,” said Sarbea, “and I came back from Sarbeera to wed you, ah, would you enjoy this?”
“With all my heart,” she said. “But Sarbea,” she said falling back, “this must be kept secret from my father for he has never consented to my marriage.”
“Does your mother?” asked Sarbea anxiously. “Does she consent?”
“Yes,” answered the beautiful daughter, “and that has always been one of their arguments. We must tell the queen and not the king.”
“I’m—um,” said Sarbea, “that’s easier said than done. But I should think that if the queen wants you to wed, to wed me in fact, I should think that if we told her she would boss it her own way, to tell the king or not as she chose. Do you see my point Chrysothemis?”
“Yes,” said she again, “only the king being more powerful than my mother, I should think that if she told him he would prevent our marriage.”
“Yes,” said Sarbea, “but the queen is, as you know, a very sensible woman, and she would not tell the king unless there was some trick in it. For example, she might persuade the king to go somewhere else, saying that you were going to marry some unmarried friend of yours, and while he was gone we could get a priest to marry us and then before the king came back to quickly gather a crew of good men and beat it in my ship back to Sabeera, where we should be perfectly safe.”
“Ah,” said beautiful Chrysothemis, “but why not gather our crew now, then hide them in my room? In that way we may be sure of setting sail before the king returns?”
“Better and better,” cried Sarbea, leaping aloft for joy, “and it was only an example that turned out to be an excellent plan.”
“Yes,” said Chrysothemis, “I quite agree with you.”
“But,” said Sarbea, jumping up, “have you not two intelligent horses, which will go from the shore back to the castle at your bidding? For after the king finds out the trick he will be terribly angered, and who knows but that he will send a swift ship after us. It would be well to do everything as fast as possible. I mean we can get there faster on horses than we can on foot, and every gained moment is worth a lot.”
“Yes,” said the princess again, “I have the horses. Come let us tell my mother and gather a crew now.”
“Even so,” said Sarbea, “you go and consult your Mother, telling her to persuade the king to go to some friend’s house a long distance from here to see you married to the friend, while I go fetch the crew and the priest.”
“I will,” said Chrysothemis, and went to fetch her mother, the royal queen, whom she consulted about their plan, the queen consenting heartily.
Meanwhile Sarbea had wandered through the town and had at last found a crew of eighteen good men. After collecting them he wandered some more until he found a good priest that would do his bidding.
Sarbea brought this company of nineteen men back to the palace without the king’s seeing him, and hid them in the room of Chrysothemis. Meanwhile the queen had persuaded the king to go to the house of a certain friend of Chrysothemis, and made Chrysothemis act as if she was going. She went a few steps on her horse, then made believe she had forgotten something and telling the king to go on she went back to the castle. With the help of the queen they were married at last; during the marriage a servant had gotten out the two most intelligent horses that were in the stable, harnessed them and fixed them up to be ready for Chrysothemis and Sarbea. As soon as they were married they dismissed the priest, and quickly gathering up the crew they quickly departed. It wasn’t the plan that the crew should go on foot to the shore; the plan was that they were to take eighteen more swift horses, and when they got to the shore to let the most intelligent lead them home, to the palace. So they got out eighteen more horses, and away they went at a swift gallop. In half an hour of heavy riding they reached the ship, but just at that moment they saw the king approaching from a great distance.
They knew that the king hadn’t seen them yet, for otherwise he would have broken into a gallop, so they made haste to hide Chrysothemis and Sarbea and to get away from land as quickly as possible. When the king was a little nearer, he sighted this ship with a large crew working vigorously at the oars and rowing away from land as fast as possible. He straightaway guessed that he had been tricked, and his anger was more than he could bear, when he saw his own daughter, Chrysothemis, stand up on the deck and wave to him.
Immediately he bade his servants gallop back to the castle as fast as possible and get the fastest ship they had ready, with a strong crew of men to, if possible, overtake Sarbea’s ship before it reached Sabeera, where he knew that they should be perfectly safe, for he thought that if they saw him coming they could just slip into the labyrinth and huddle up to one of the awful dragons.
Of course Sarbea had told Chrysothemis never to be frightened at the dragons, for the enchantress had trained them carefully not to kill Sarbea or anyone with him unless he bade them do so. So Chrysothemis was never alarmed at the thought of having to pass by twenty of them to get to the pearl.
Before much time had passed the king himself got to the palace, and when he found that his servants had already rigged up a ship and collected a crew of twenty men he was highly pleased. So they launched the ship and the king with his twenty companions set sail as fast as possible to overtake Sarbea and his ship. They rowed hard for twenty awful miles then when they saw that there were gaining on Sarbea rapidly, they settled down to a reasonable pace. But here Sarbea was wise. While the king and his crew had been rapidly exhausting their strength and straining every muscle, Sarbea and his crew had been rowing at a good pace, but saving some of their strength for the time when the king’s ship should be dangerously near. Meanwhile Sarbea had been watching the sort of strokes that the king’s crew called their fastest, no, it would be easy to overtake them, and reach Sabeera first. He waited until the king’s ship was a bare twenty feet behind, then he signaled to his men to row hard and use the strength they had been saving. So with a terrific speed they shot ahead, twenty feet to a stroke. Until the king’s men having to rest they were a long distance behind, then again they saved their strength. Then when the king’s crew got rested they shot after Sarbea, who in turn made his men row their hardest, though not until the king had come dangerously close. Another thing that hindered the king’s men were the waves produced by the vigorous rowing of Sarbea’s crew. Such was this grand race between the king and Sarbea. Now all the time the king was getting angrier and angrier, and all the time Chrysothemis was shouting at him calling his crew slowpokes and saying that they could never catch her.
Now the king had one hope of catching Sarbea, for he knew that his servants had not forgotten to provide the ship with good lanterns for the night, and he also knew that Sarbea had departed in great haste and might, therefore, have forgotten this important point. Not so. When the night came on, and the king looked forward more than ever of catching Sarbea, he pulled out lanterns of astonishing size and brightness. But Sarbea was not confused. He pulled out from the cupboards still larger lanterns and shot ahead no slower than he had in the daytime. So the king’s crew lost almost their last chances of catching Sarbea, but still they kept bravely ahead. They had been sailing about a week now, and Sarbea’s crew took the chase almost like a joke. Once the king’s crew had been so close as a yard behind. One man in the king’s crew had just started to jump to the deck of the other ship when Sarbea’s men began using the strength they had saved up. Just at that moment the man sprang. He managed to just land on the deck but, reeling, fell backwards into the sea and drowned. The king managed to keep up with Sarbea for twenty feet but then dropped behind, grieving over the loss of his man.
After several days the two crews sighted Sabeera. The king’s men then knew that they must catch Sarbea very shortly or never, for once they set foot upon the island they would be safe. As for Sarbea’s crew, the moment they saw Sabeera they plucked up courage again, for they had been rather losing it during the last few days. And they rowed out with brave, bold strokes while the king’s men (in comparison) were helplessly floundering behind. Nearer and nearer they were to Sabeera, and every moment they were gaining on the king’s men. But vigorous rowing cannot go on forever, and pretty soon Sarbea’s men felt that they must rest. Anyhow they saw no harm in resting for a few minutes while the king’s men almost caught them, and every moment that they rested they gained new vigour, so that when the king’s men came dangerously close again, they felt ready to exert every muscle to the utmost. So they worked away vigorously at the oars and the large waves they produced almost whirled the following ship around. That selfsame evening they arrived at Sabeera, but some rather exciting things happened in the race before they got there. It was now early morning and Sabeera was very near. Sarbea’s men had gained new vigour, but so had the king’s men. Every moment they rowed the ship harder, and the waves produced by the ship ahead hardly hindered them, though if there had been none they could have whirled ahead a lot faster. Dusk came on, they were within a half-mile of Sabeera. When they landed an exciting thing happened. The instant they put a foot out of their ship the king’s landed also, close to Sarbea’s. There was nothing to do but run! Fortunately they landed in a part of the island near to the labyrinth (Sarbea had wisely done this on purpose). Even as it was, Sarbea and his comrades had just time to put one foot outside the ship when the king’s crew landed. Five men were out of the ship immediately and the others followed close behind. While Sarbea ran he was all the time getting the labyrinth key out of his pocket. But there was no time to open any of the outside entrances. Chrysothemis just had time to duck under the outstretched arm of the captain dragon, the dragon that guarded Sarbea’s passage, while Sarbea and the eighteen men leant up against the walls and prepared to fight. Chrysothemis was guarding this dragon and the dragon was guarding her. This is the way in which she succeeded in saving him from many a hard thrust with an enemy’s sword. She drew her own bright silver glistening little blade and made thrusts around the dragon in all directions so that it was difficult for any man to come too close. But for quite a while she began to think her strokes were of little use and stopped using her sword. But before long the men succeeded in wounding the dragon and would have [killed him?] if the other dragons had not come rushing to his assistance. Then Chrysothemis saw that her strokes were of use after all and began using her blade more vigorously than before, and many a king’s man that came to tackle in real earnest that captain dragon was wounded in the leg. At last the remainder of the king’s men were sorry that they had tackled Sarbea at all, and all ran away except seven who went into the dragons’ stomachs. Not one of the latter were slain and only one of Sarbea’s men.
The dragons’ wounds were bound and not many days after they were as well and strong as ever. Sarbea was exceedingly proud of them, for he knew that after his day had passed they would guard the pearl for years and years, the dragons that could not die a natural death. The next thing they did was to go into the labyrinth and visit the pearl, and Chrysothemis was fascinated by its beauty and colour. She too was indeed satisfied with its safety.
The next day Sarbea’s men began to build a little cottage in the pine grove near the water, but also near the labyrinth. It was a little brown cottage with casement windows. It had six rooms not counting the bathrooms: three bedrooms upstairs, and a living-room, dining-room, and kitchen downstairs.
They were, of course, planning to get their meals at Myrolon, which was scarcely a quarter of a mile row from Sabeera. When the little cottage was finished Sarbea and his beautiful wife moved in immediately. They didn’t have any furniture to move in, but Sarbea fashioned about seven chairs and set some in the living-room and some in the dining-room. He also fashioned a small table and two beds of balsam. Whenever Sarbea went on a day’s trip with Chrysothemis, the inhabitants of Myrolon put their heads together for a chance to steal that pearl. But most of them went for the dragons’ dinners.
Chrysothemis had, on their wedding day, decked herself out in all the jewels she owned. And all of these except her wedding ring (which really belonged to Sarbea’s mother) went into the labyrinth to be guarded by the dragons. One pearl she was very fond of, for her great-grandfather who had been a sailor as well as a king had fished it out from a great oyster shell that he himself found. The shell as well as the pearl she had, but the pearl she treasured more. She left it in charge of the captain of the dragons to guard beneath his tongue. And keep it warm. And indeed there must have been something magic about this extraordinary care, for one day, as Chrysothemis was going into the labyrinth to see the pearl a little tiny snow-white bird flew out of the dragon’s mouth and nestled in Chrysothemis’s hand. For years she kept this bird and then it laid a single egg and died. This egg looked just like Chrysothemis’s pearl, but even if it was it had some extraordinary magic about it for a week later there came a dove out of it who in turn gave birth to an eagle. The eagle helped defend the captain dragon, but the enchantress dismissed the spider, and cleared out the room which was now practically filled with webs, and made the dove keep the pearl under her wings. A few days later the captain dragon lifted up his tongue before Chrysothemis and lo, there was her pearl, just as it had been before. The magic didn’t come out of Chrysothemis’s pearl after all then, and the enchantress made the spider help the dove guard the pearl again, and spun webs around it, but didn’t fill the room with gossamer until six days later when the enchantress made her. Chrysothemis thought that it was great fun living in the woods this way, unlike some people who are used to the city. It was always so cool and green with the blue sky overhead, and the blue sea underneath it was really a lovely landscape. It was now midsummer, and the lovely little butterflies flew overhead with astonishing speed and vigour. Now I must tell you that this island was not the size of the “little lazy islet” in Shelley’s poem, but was an isle of extraordinary size to be uninhabited. Quite far from the labyrinth there was a place of wonderful beauty. It showed that the island had not always been uninhabited. This place was an enormous field of flowers of every hue and on the edge of it was a beautiful pool, with a great mossy boulder overhanging it and iris growing by its sides. All around this field were woodlands and on the opposite side of the field there was a great marble archway which looked like the remains of a Grecian temple, exceedingly beautiful. Under this archway the rabbits would frolic on a moonlit night. This field was the favorite haunt of Chrysothemis, who would, on a clear day, lie by the pool and gaze at the sky.
Before long Chrysothemis had a garden of her own. Two white lilac trees which Sarbea transplanted from Myrolon stood one on either side of her front door. In back was a small garden entirely devoted to early spring flowers, crocuses and narcissus. On one side of the cottage was a small lawn, and on the other was a rose garden with an arch in the middle over which ramblers climbed. Though Chrysothemis knew that it would take a long time to make a really good garden she would not give up. One day when Sarbea was returning from Myrolon he was surprised to find Chrysothemis working vigorously at something which she was trying to train over the cottage. It was a morning glory vine, but as that stunt did not succeed Chrysothemis took it down in despair. Tall ferns stood around the cottage, hiding its foundations. In back there was a regular tangle of rhododendrons, covering thirty square feet of ground. Apart from this there was also a tangle of honeysuckle, but the rhododendrons were Chrysothemis’s special pride. For she had only three paths through them, and all the twenty-five bushes looked like one great bush. In another place, quite far from the house, she had six huge fire-blossom trees, and a long hedge of quince bordered the little lawn. Chrysothemis is the kind of person Sarbea could not think of as working diligently in her garden every day, and so was quite surprised to find his great envelopes of seeds disappeared and reappear later in blossoms. Of course he helped her with the larger plants, the rhododendrons and the fire-blossoms, but most of the small flowers she planted herself. So in the course of a few years that part of Sabeera was a perfect Fairyland. But Sarbea and Chrysothemis both protested vigorously against anyone else trying to live there also for certain reasons. For instance they might be bad people, but the dragons might think they meant no harm and sometimes fail to tackle them at the entrances of the labyrinth. For this reason Chrysothemis, when she was alone, generally took a dragon with her, if she went out on the shore.
Once the great eagle was wounded by a stone. A single drop of blood fell from her breast, right in the centre of the little lawn of Chrysothemis. Three years afterwards something astonishing happened. Where the drop fell a tree sprang up. It grew until it was a tall tree and then the most beautiful blossoms began to come on it. They looked exactly like apple-blossoms, and Chrysothemis thought they were, but late in the season the blossoms didn’t drop and no fruit came. And Sarbea knew that it must be a magic tree, for it had grown to a good size in three weeks exactly. There were hardly any leaves, just blossoms, beautiful pink and white blossoms. The day the first blossom grew seven butterflies lit on it and now it was flocked with them. In the winter Chrysothemis expected the blossoms to fall, but they remained the same, though everything else withered and faded. Every day in summer Chrysothemis would come out and lie under that tree, and she never grew tired of gazing into that pinkness of blossoms. And the longer she gazed, the deeper she could see into the heart of those blossoms. Sarbea rejoiced in that tree as much as she did, and the two together would gaze and gaze until they could see through the blossoms into the open air. And though it would seem that the garden of Chrysothemis was finished, she kept adding little finishing touches to it and, like magic, each touch made this Fairyland more beautiful. When Sarbea looked on Chrysothemis it seemed as if every time he saw her she was more beautiful, and she was made to make that garden. The two went together—garden and Chrysothemis.
Oftentimes Sarbea would come home from Myrolon hot and tired. The mere look of Chrysothemis wandering amongst the beds of flowers would make him feel as fresh as when he started.
There were thousands of millions of butterflies in the garden, and hundreds of birds, especially hummingbirds, who year after year built their nests in the rhododendrons and honeysuckle. But one bird lived there that Chrysothemis loved above all the others. That bird was a bluebird, but such a beautiful little creature was never seen before. The back was a rich blue, the throat and breast were softer blue, but the wings and tail were tipped and outlined with a golden band. He and his mate had built a nest there for seven years now, and Chrysothemis grew more fond of them each year.
How Sarbea loved Chrysothemis, and how Chrysothemis loved Sarbea. How they both loved the life that they were living, and how they loved their fairylike garden with its birds and butterflies. Not often did Sarbea go far from her for her safety was uncertain in her mind. But of course several days he had to go to Myrolon to earn his living, which he did by selling flowers made of shells and pots of ferns, which Chrysothemis made for him. He always rejoiced to see her safe whenever he got home. The side of the cottage on which the wonderful rose garden was was the eastern side, and directly east of that was where the beautiful field was. At the eastern corner of the rose garden there was a large green gate, adorned with a vine of ramblers. This gate opened on to a path which went in ziggzaggs around to the rhododendron field in back, and from there it went east directly to the field where there was another green gate. On each side of this path, except where it went through the rhododendrons there were great tall ferns on each side. Sarbea was so delighted at this beautiful garden that he praised his sweet wife greatly for working at it so vigorously.
But now some exciting adventures are introduced. A band of robbers from Satrushia, another neighboring island, had heard of the wonderful labyrinth and the pearl. They decided to visit Sabeera, kill Sarbea and his wife, get all the people on their side that they could find, overcome the dragons, and find the pearl. After a little sneaking around, usually not in one band, but in companies of twos and threes they discovered some of the favorite hiding-places and resting-places of Chrysothemis. They learned how she loved the great field. So they got together one day, and hiding behind the great arch they waited for Chrysothemis to appear. They saw a sight that almost put them out of spirits. They waited a long time, then the green gate was slowly opened. And two great scaly arms reached inside, then a great face with enormous black eyes peered inside. Then the whole dragon appeared, all covered with handsome golden scales. Afterward came Chrysothemis kindly patting the neck of the dragon. It was a dreadful sight and as soon as possible the robber band ran off. As for Sarbea, he was at Myrolon and happened to land at Sabeera just at the time when the robber band was nearing the very same place. Chrysothemis and the dragon were also approaching in that direction, for, as Sarbea had told her when and where he was going to land she had walked down to the shore to meet him. Sarbea was just embracing her when he heard a crackling in the bushes. Then he saw the head of the captain robber emerging from the bushes. He made a sign to Chrysothemis to go back quickly and bring more dragons, which she did. She ran fleetly back to the cottage (fortunately it was not far from there) and brought fifteen more dragons. When she arrived she found that Sarbea was engaged in an angry wrestling match with two of the strongest robbers, while the other twenty managed the captain dragon. Sarbea threw one of his foes as Chrysothemis came back with the dragons, but the other had almost thrown him. All the dragons immediately rushed at this wrestling match and one of them bore Sarbea, who was wounded sorely, out of the fight while they rushed after the robbers. The captain dragon was also engaged in a wrestling match. Every robber was at him now. The dragon that stood by the captain at the labyrinth flew at this struggling knot immediately. Three men went down before him instantly and a fourth he bent backwards with all his strength until he was forced to the ground. Another dragon flew at the robbers who were now scattering. He took one man in each of his arms and killed a third with a single bite. It seems that twenty-two was the number of robbers in the band, but two had sneaked out when all the other dragons came rushing upon them. They went around to the great labyrinth, found a dragonless entrance, and had almost broken through when a dragon came rushing upon them and had overcome them both in one second.
The robber band was now absolutely ruined except for four people who gladly ran off into the bushes during the fight.
Chrysothemis and Sarbea on the back of the captain dragon went back to the little cottage, and the dragon licked Sarbea’s wound with his tongue and magic saliva, so that in exactly seven hours he was well again.
But now the most stirring adventures yet come into this story. The four robbers which escaped from the fight, announced to the king of Satrushia all about their adventures, and the king, being very wicked indeed, agreed to give the youth that brought him the pearl a reward of five million dollars and his exquisite daughter Liassa for a wife. Immediately great bands of youths from everywhere came to win the proclaimed reward, bringing with them horrible creatures and great dogs, or fierce wild animals that they had tamed. One youth indeed seemed the most promising to win for he brought with him an enchantress. One after another experimented for two companies were not allowed to go together for certain reasons. One person, Alararmus, had tamed a great lion with four heads, which Alararmus thought could stand against one of the dragons.
Alararmus with his lion went to the labyrinth, while Chrysothemis and Sarbea watched them. The lion fought toughly with a dragon and almost had him overcome when more dragons came rushing around them. Alararmus bolted for one of the dragonless outside entrances, but this was Sarbea’s entrance and it was locked too strongly with a great double lock. As he was trying to break through a dragon came panting up, tore him from the door and threw him upon the ground. Then all the dragons went at the three-headed [sic] lion. They soon had him overcome and went back to their places while Chrysothemis and Sarbea rejoiced. All the other youths tried, but all of them went to ruin with their companies.
But now it came to be the turn of the youth that had brought with him an enchantress. He had waited until the very last of the other youths were gone. He and his enchantress came along to the labyrinth entrance. But before they got there the enchantress gave him a little bottle of liquid he must keep on his hands. “Use just one drop at a time,” she said. “Rub it well over your hands and you must alone make battle for the dragons.”
“What, alone?” cried the youth, Talahemia, in despair.
“Yes,” said the enchantress, “but I will tell you how you can do it. After you have rubbed a drop of this liquid on your hands, put the bottle back into your pocket. When you fight the dragons be sure and get your hands on the nose, for if the dragon sniffs at it he will fall asleep and will stay asleep for two and a half years eighteen months.”
“Ah,” said Talahemia, “I will make battle for them now!” and he did so while the enchantress floated up on to the roof of the labyrinth, for they had now got there. Talahemia rushed at the captain dragon, held his hands under his nostrils, whereupon he fell asleep. He held his hands under the first of the dragons that came rushing up and he fell down, too. The crowd of dragons from the entrances were now all asleep and Talahemia began to pound at the door, always expecting a dragon to come at him. At last he got through the door, and what a sight met his eyes. It was a small room all surrounded with doors, but he didn’t see a dragon. He opened one of the doors, came into a passageway which was also surrounded with doors, but in the middle of the passage stood another dragon who rushed at Talahemia immediately. Talahemia put his hands under the dragon’s nose and he immediately fell asleep. But now the part of the enchantress of Sarbea came in. She stupified Talahemia. So instead of going ahead to the end entrance as he would have done if he had been in his right senses, he took the first right-hand door of the passage that he came to. Anyhow he came into another room all surrounded with doors. The part of the enchantress of Talahemia must have been stronger than that of Sarbea for the door he now opened led into Sarbea’s passage straight to the pearl. But the part of Sarbea’s enchantress stupified him so much that instead of following it straight he forgot the magic liquid that his enchantress had put on his fingers, and when he saw a dragon way down at the farther end of the passage that hadn’t yet seen him, he bolted into one of the side entrances and came into the same difficulty. There was another room entirely surrounded with doors. He put another dragon asleep, but he didn’t dare to lie down himself and sleep, for a dragon might come upon him. Then he heard his enchantress whispering something to him, that the dragons never moved out of their places unless they had to fight. So Talahemia lay down almost beside the dragon he had put to sleep and when he woke again the night had passed and dawn was coming on. He got up immediately and continued his search, opening a door of the room which led him into another room which led him into another passage. He was now almost going crazy. But the thought of the praise which he would get when he showed his find to the king and of the five million dollars and the lovely Liassa kept whirling in his head and he was bound to find it. Then he came into another passageway which he followed to the end where he put another dragon to sleep. Then he came into more rooms, more passages, and had more uses for the liquid and often had to put another drop on his hands. He certainly hoped that he would find the pearl before the liquid was all used. At last, after he had hunted around a long time he came into Sarbea’s passage once more, he put another dragon to sleep, but he didn’t need to bolt into one of the side doors which he did again. “I have gone through here before,” he kept saying to himself, “but if only I was sure, if only I was sure.” He went through too many passages and rooms, and doors, doors, doors. His mind was completely confused and he really lost his sense of direction. At last he came upon another great long passage, and kept saying to himself: “I will follow it, I will follow it.” And this time he really did, and after putting to sleep three of the dragons, he followed it down to a door where he put to sleep another dragon. Then he pounded hard on the door and at last it broke and he stepped in. But oh! what a sight met his eyes. There at last was his reward. The room was filled with gossamer; a speck of blue was peeping out from underneath the wings of a dove who was sitting in the middle of the floor. He scared the dove and the spider away and, clutching the pearl in his hand, he ran down the same long passage again. This time he knew enough to follow it and getting out of the labyrinth was easy, for he only had to put asleep two dragons when he came to the outside entrances where the dragons he had put to sleep were still as sound as ever. The youth Talahemia fled from the labyrinth and came to the shore where he encountered his enchantress again who was very much pleased with his success. Together they launched the ship, and Talahemia, with the blue pearl in his hand, set sail for Satrushia.
Talahemia, with the blue pearl in his hand, came to the palace of the king of Satrushia. A servant led him in to the feet of the king and his daughter. Talahemia spoke not a word at first, only opened his hand and let the king take the pearl from him. “So you have had success,” said the king in a deep voice, “and I give you here your reward. Liassa, go with him and marry him whether you love him or not. And here, Talahemia, is your five million dollars. You have earned it well.”
Talahemia bowed his head and went out with Liassa, though now that he had seen the pearl he would rather have it alone than the five million dollars and Liassa. But he had agreed and though Liassa loved him not, she married him.
Sarbea and Chrysothemis from the window saw Talahemia running from the labyrinth, but never suspected he had taken the pearl until he went with Chrysothemis to the labyrinth where he found so many dragons lying and where he failed to find the pearl in the little room. Then he sadly lamented and said: “Ah, miserable man that I am. How wicked I was to go away from my own country at all. The enchantress will kill me for losing her dear dragons and if I had never come here I should still have the pearl. Would that I had buried it with my poor mother and father.” Chrysothemis shared his grief, but as they flung their arms around each other they heard sounds and rumbling noises. Not looking, Sarbea felt a strong arm grasp his neck and Chrysothemis felt the same, and turning suddenly they saw the captain dragon with them and all the other dragons rising, for eighteen months was by. And Sarbea and Chrysothemis wept for joy. The dragons then prepared for a serious adventure.