The Magic Violin
Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess, and everybody called her the Princess of the Sea because she lived in a hummock of ice in the middle of the sea. She had light hair and up near her forehead several strands of her hair stuck out from under her crown, which was only a band of silver around her head, and at the front the silver went up in little bars, getting taller towards the center of her forehead. Her dress was white tinged with light blue, and the blue showed more in the wrinkles of her dress and at the bottom; there were some chips of gold, all the way around the dress for a little way up. There were also some chips of gold around her cuff and collar; her stockings were pearl white; her slippers were white celluloid with straps of emerald and buckles of topaz, and on all of her fingers there was a gold ring and tied on to the ring there was a gold thread, and at the end of the gold thread there was a large ruby. When she wanted to go to the shore she would flap her fingers and the stones would swish the air and make her go through the air.
One day, this princess was flitting over the sea, when she met the Princess of the Shells. She had a very simple dress on. It was all pink and she had a chain of shells around her neck with a pearl in each one. The Princess of the Shells said: “Are you looking for anything, my friend?”
“No,” said the Princess of the Sea, “I am not, but I was just thinking about looking for something.”
“And what was that something?” asked the Princess of the Shells.
“Well,” said the Princess of the Sea, “I once heard of a Magic Violin, and I was wondering whether I could get it or not.”
“It so happens,” said the Princess of the Shells, “that none but the owner of the Magic Violin can see it at all, and to own it you would have to buy it from a little old dwarf, and he values it at five hundred dollars, and you are in luck if you have the money—do you see that little dwarf over there?”
“Yes,” said the Princess of the Sea.
“Well, he has charge of it, and you go over there and ask him if you can take it,” said the Princess of the Shells. “Good-bye.”
“Good-bye,” said the Princess of the Sea.
So she went off to the dwarf, and asked if she could buy it.
“You can have it if you will give me five hundred dollars first,” said the dwarf.
So the Princess ran off again to her magic treasure box, and whenever she took any money out of it one hundred dollars more would come in. She was very smart so she made five trips for the five hundred dollars so that she didn’t lose. You see, every trip, every time she took any money out of it one more hundred dollars, so she didn’t lose any at all. She gave the dwarf five hundred dollars, and said: “There is your money, now give me the violin.”
As soon as she gave him the money the violin appeared to her, and she thanked him and thanked him and then she took the wonderful Magic Violin and went to see the Princess of the Shells and tell her that she was in good luck and had the Magic Violin. The violin was silver covered with gold chips, the chin-rest was ruby, and also the part that comes down under the strings over the the front of the violin was ruby, the G string was made of diamond, the D string was made of ruby, the A string was made of topaz, and the E string was made of pearl. Indeed it was a beautiful violin. On clear days anyone looking over the sea with operation-glasses could see the Princess of the Sea sitting very solemnly on the hummock of ice playing the Magic Violin with the hunks of ice floating all around her.
The next day an old witch came around to the Princess asking for the Magic Violin. She knew that the dwarf valued it at five hundred dollars. She brought with her a one hundred dollar bill and marked it over with a pencil as five hundred dollars and gave it to the Princess. The Princess had sharp eyes and knew that she had been cheated. So she said: “I would willingly take the hundred dollar bill but you won’t get the Magic Violin for it.” And the Princess threw the bill into her Magic treasure box. Then the old witch went away again and meanwhile, the Princess took out of the treasure box several of the pieces of money one after the other and put them all back in again, to get more money. But the witch had gone across the water by magic, and had left her boat rocking around in the water by the Princess’s feet. The Princess wouldn’t have that for a minute so she took the boat and put it in her house in the hummock of ice and then she left some sea-weed out to dry in the sun, and when it was dry she took it and wove a case out of it for the Magic Violin, and put it in the boat. Of course the witch couldn’t see the Violin anyway, and the Princess with a Magic power made the boat so the witch couldn’t see it. The boat was green, with brass oar-locks, and a brass edge. Pretty soon the witch came back again and asked the Princess where her boat was. The Princess said: “I have got your old boat, and the violin, too, but you won’t get the boat back again until you can pay me for the Magic Violin, that you want, and if you want it and pay for it you can have your boat, and if you don’t want it why you can have the boat back again.”
“I don’t want the old violin,” said the witch, “I should rather have something worthwhile like the boat.”
But the Princess knew by the look in her eye that the witch did want the Violin and was only cheating again, so she said: “You would do me a great favor if you would take the violin and give me the five hundred dollars.” So the witch went home and got five hundred dollars and went back again and gave it to the Princess and took the violin under her arm and took the boat. But the Princess had taken care not to give the case to the witch because it was a very good one and she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to make such a good one as that again.
She ran off to the dwarf, and he said that most people couldn’t get the Magic Violin, because they didn’t have the money, but she had been kind and had given him the money, and that he would try so hard to get the violin from the witch.
“I will give you another five hundred dollars if you will take that boat and the violin, too,” said the Princess, “and I have made a case of sea-weed for the violin.”
So he told her that he would try very hard to get it, and bade her good-bye.
And the Princess started once more for home and then she stayed there, full of hope for the Magic Violin.
The next morning the Princess of the Sea was up early and found that the dwarf had left the boat and the violin by her bed inside the hummock of ice. She went right off to the dwarf and gave him five hundred dollars. The dwarf said: “Did you know that the Princess of the Shells had a Fairy Flute, and that she wants you to come and compare the Magic Violin to the Fairy Flute, and I am going to say which I think is the better of the two instruments?”
“No, I didn’t know a thing about it,” said the Princess of the Sea, “but when is it going to be?”
“Why, it is going to be tomorrow, the second of May,” said the dwarf. “Have you still got your case?”
“Yes, I have,” said the Princess of the Sea. “Why are you so anxious about the case?”
“Because you have got to carry the Magic Violin in a case,” said the dwarf, “but I have got some business to do, and I am going to say goodbye to you now.”
“Goodbye,” said the Princess. And she scampered home and changed her dress to a flying dress of silver cloth with gold chips all over it. Then she went off to see the Princess of the Shells. She said, “I am going to compare your Violin to a Fairy Flute that I got once.”
“Yes, so I heard from the dwarf,” said the Princess of the Sea.
“That dwarf is a little wretch,” said the Princess of the Shells. “A friend of mine said that she would rather have me tell you because she thought that to compare a Magic Violin to a Fairy Flute was such an exquisite thing to do, that a pretty voice ought to say so.”
“Yes, I quite agree,” said the Princess, “but, don’t you think the dwarf has a pretty voice?”
“Then,” said the Princess of the Shells, “if you like the dwarf’s voice the dwarf is in luck with you, and out of luck with me, for I never got a pretty word out of that dwarf, and my voice is considered one of the most beautiful voices in the world. I must say goodbye to you now, for I have to talk over the Shells with one of my friends.”
“Goodbye,” said the Princess of the Sea. Then she went home and took a little row, and then she went to the hummock of ice and amused herself for a while. Then she had dinner and then she amused herself till night time, then she went to bed. The next morning she was up early and went over to see the Princess of the Shells. Some people were gathering to see the two instruments compared. The case to the Fairy Flute was exquisite. It was made of oak wood lined with pink velvet, and the flute was wrapped in light blue silk.
The Flute was silver with pearls with holes right through for the holes, and around the pearls were rings of gold. First the Princess of the Shells played on the Flute, and then the Princess of the Sea played on the Violin. The dwarf said that the Violin was of more value than the Flute and the Princess of the Sea curtsied, and the Princess of the Shells went off in sober disappointment. The Princess of the Sea was crowned with artificial butterflies with a band of silver thrust through the heart of every one.
When the Princess went to bed the call kept echoing in her ears: “You have the best instrument, oh Princess, you have it!” And sure enough she had it, and she wasn’t going to lose it, either.
One Reply to “The Magic Violin (March 1922)”
I am so enjoying dipping into Barbara’s early writings. What an imagination she had. Thank you for posting, Stefan!