1042 THE MOST INCREDIBLE THING
The day of decision arrived ; the whole of the town had a holiday, and the Princess sat on the throne, which had got new horse-hair, but which was not any more comfortable. The judges round about looked very knowingly at the one who was to win, and he stood glad and confident; his good fortune was certain, he had made the most incredible thing.
' No, I shall do that now ! ' shouted just then a long bony fellow. ' I am the man for the most incredible thing,' and he swung a great axe at the work of art.
* Crash, crash ! ' and there lay the whole of it. Wheels and springs flew in all directions ; everything was destroyed.
' That I could do !' said the man. ' My work has overcome his and overcome all of you. I have done the most incredible thing.'
' To destroy such a work of art! ' said the judges. ' Yes, certainly that is the most incredible thing.'
All the people said the same, and so he was to have the Princess and the half of the kingdom, for a promise is a promise, even if it is of the most incredible kind.
It was announced with trumpet-blast from the ramparts and from all the towers that the marriage should be celebrated. The Princess was not quite pleased about it, but she looked charming and was gorgeously dressed. The church shone with candles ; it shows best late in the evening. The noble maidens of the town sang and led the bride forward ; the knights sang and accompanied the bridegroom. He strutted as if he could never be broken.
Now the singing stopped and one could have heard a pin fall, but in the midst of the silence the great church door flew open with a crash and clatter, and boom ! boom ! the whole of the clock-work came marching up the passage and planted itself between the bride and bridegroom. Dead men cannot walk again, we know that very well, but a work of art can walk again; the body was knocked to pieces, but not the spirit; the spirit of the work walked, and that in deadly earnest.
The work of art stood there precisely as if it were whole and untouched. The hours struck, the one after the other, up to twelve, and the figures swarmed forward ; first Moses : flames of fire seemed to flash from his forehead;