308 THE BELL
Now a certain time passed, and one said to another, ' Is there not a church out yonder in the wood ? That bell has a peculiarly beautiful sound ! Shall we not go out and look at it more closely ? ' And rich people drove out, and poor people walked ; but the way seemed marvellously long to them ; and when they came to a number of willow trees that grew on the margin of the forest, they sat down and looked up to the long branches, and thought they were now really in the green wood. The pastrycook from the town came there too, and pitched his tent; but another pastrycook came and hung up a bell just over his own tent, a bell, in fact, that had been tarred so as to resist the rain, but it had no clapper. And when the people went home again, they declared the whole affair had been very romantic, and that meant much more than merely that they had taken tea. Three persons declared that they had penetrated into the wood to where it ended, and that they had always heard the strange sound of bells, but it had appeared to them as if it came from the town. One of the three wrote a song about it, and said that the sound was like the voice of a mother singing to a dear good child ; no melody could be more beautiful than the sound of that bell.
The Emperor of that country was also informed of it, and promised that the person who could really find out whence the sound came should have the title of The World's Bell-ringer, even if it should turn out not to be a bell.
Many went to the forest, on account of the good entertainment there; but there was only one who came back with a kind of explanation. No one had penetrated deep enough into the wood, nor had he ; but he said that the sound came from a very great owl in a hollow tree ; it was an owl of wisdom, that kept knocking its head continually against the tree, but whether the sound came from the owl's head, or from the trunk of the tree, he could not say with certainty. He was invested with the title of The World's Bell-ringer, and every year wrote a short treatise upon the owl; and people were just as wise after reading his works as they were before.
On a certain day a confirmation was held. The old