236 THE NIGHTINGALE
to stare at the Emperor with his great hollow eyes, and it was quiet, fearfully quiet.
Then there sounded from the window, suddenly, the most lovely song. It was the little live Nightingale, that sat outside on a spray. It had heard of the Emperor's sad plight, and had come to sing to him of comfort and hope. And as it sang the spectres grew paler and paler ; the blood ran quicker and more quickly through the Emperor's weak limbs ; and even Death listened, and said,
' Go on, little Nightingale, go on ! '
'But will you give me that splendid golden sword ? Will you give me that rich banner ? Will you give me the Emperor's crown ? '
And Death gave up each of these treasures for a song. And the Nightingale sang on and on ; and it sang of the quiet churchyard where the white roses grow, where the elder-blossom smells sweet, and where the fresh grass is moistened by the tears of survivors. Then Death felt a longing to see his garden, and floated out at the window in the form of a cold white mist.
1 Thanks ! thanks ! ' said the Emperor. * You heavenly little bird ! I know you well. I banished you from my country and empire, and yet you have charmed away the evil faces from my couch, and banished Death from my heart ! How can I reward you ? '
1 You have rewarded me ! ' replied the Nightingale. ' I have drawn tears from your eyes, when I sang the first time—I shall never forget that. Those are the jewels that rejoice a singer's heart. But now sleep and grow-fresh and strong again. I will sing you something.' . And it sang, and the Emperor fell into a sweet slumber. Ah ! how mild and refreshing that sleep was ! The sun shone upon him through the windows, when he awoke refreshed and restored : not one of his servants had yet returned, for they all thought he was dead ; only the Nightingale still sat beside him and sang.
You must always stay with me,' said the Emperor. You shall sing as you please ; and I'll break the artificial bird into a thousand pieces.'
* Not so,* replied the Nightingale. ' It did well as long as it could ; keep it as you have done till now. I cannot