In the meantime, as may be supposed, the twins Zuzu and Lulu were rapidly approaching the secret Valley of the Fairies. They did not know how far they had traveled when at length they awoke. The Bumblebee Express had stopped suddenly.
“Well,” said the Enchanted Banjo, “here we are at last at the city of Almalena.”
The Twins sat up on the carriage seat and rubbed their eyes, scarcely believing that what they saw was anything but a wonderful dream, so strange and beautiful seemed everything here in the land of the Fairies.
Before them lay the city of Almalena, shining in some strange clear light, which was strong as the light of the sun and yet soft as the light of the moon. In this radiance one could see to any distance at a glance and with perfect distinctness. The houses on the farther side of the Fairy city were as clearly visible as those close at hand.
The houses were all of some shining substance, possibly of gold, but it did not hurt the eyes to look at them, for here everything was soft and gentle. They could see long streets of these houses; and crossing the streets were boulevards and parks and open spaces filled with beautiful trees and flowers. The sweet voices of birds filled all the air, but did not prevent the hearing of every other sound distinctly. Here and there tall towers arose, and at the top of each of these was a large diamond, whose light made the radiance which was noticeable everywhere. There were very many spires and pinnacles and lace-like carvings in what seemed to be stone, but which may have been this Fairy material resembling gold.
The city of Almalena was not a city as we know it. There was no smoke anywhere at all, nor any chimneys. There was no confusion or hurry, nor any jostling nor crowding nor noise. The streets were paved with soft woven carpets, and although many wheeled vehicles were darting here and there, drawn by bees or butterflies, these made not the slightest noise, except that now and then one could hear the faint tinkling of golden harness, like that on the steeds of the Bumblebee Express. All was sweet and calm, and always arose sweet music, and always there came the feeling that here it was neither hot nor cold, but comfortable; and always there lay wide and fine the avenues of the Fairy city lined with pleasant trees; and always through the soft air came the tinkling of many little silvery bells, very sweet to hear, as unseen hands rang them in the lacy towers.
Beyond the city lay a wide lake, shining in the Fairy sunlight, and wrinkled with little ripples about as large as one’s hand. This lake was dotted here and there with little boats that sailed merrily over the tiny waves. Others went by oars, and yet others seemed to glide without being propelled in any visible way. Beyond this lake was the thin dark line of a wide forest, and at one side of this rose a high mountain, while at the other, very far away, as it seemed, rose two other mountains which came close together in a sort of gateway between the hills. Closer at hand upon the lake were floating islands upon which grew trees and flowers, and which seemed also to have people upon them, since now and then came sounds of laughter and of happy voices.
Above all in the city of Almalena there was a great feeling of happiness and content. You might look over all that valley inch by inch, and listen hour by hour and never would you hear a complaint or a cry; nothing except smiles and happy words and cheerful songs and pleasant voices, and musical instruments which spoke only of joy and pleasure. This, indeed, is the great thing about the home of the Fairies, that there everything is happy, and that such a thing as grief or unhappiness is unknown.
“This,” said Lulu, “is the most beautiful place I ever saw, and it far surpasses anything of which I have even dreamed.”
“Now since we are here safe and sound,” said the Enchanted Banjo, “it is our first duty to go to see the Fairy leader, the good Queen Zulena. I am sure you will say there was never so beautiful and good a queen in all the world. You may drive us to the royal court of the Fairies, if you please, Coachman.”
So the coachman cracked his whip, the bumblebees again champed at their bits and snorted, then broke into a gallop that fairly made the little coach fly up the main street to the Royal Court of the Fairy city of Almalena.
The coach pulled up under the wide porte-cochère and as Zuzu and Lulu arose from their seats there came out to meet them many servants who aided them to alight and ushered them into the Royal Court of the Fairy Queen Zulena. This was in the finest palace of gold and silver and jewels which can be imagined. Here presently they saw the Fairy Queen.
She was a very beautiful queen, this ruler of the secret Valley of the Fairies. This Zuzu and Lulu saw as she arose from her throne to meet them. She seemed about as tall as Lulu, although it is hard to tell just how tall any person is in the Fairy country, where measurements are not the same as with us. She was robed in white and silver, and wore a crown of shining little diamonds which glittered beautifully. Her throne was about as tall as a library chair, and was placed on a little platform raised a distance above the floor. The arms of the throne were richly carved and about the back and along the arms were set many great red stones which made a warm light. Around the foot of this throne fell the folds of the Queen’s garments, and as she rose and swept back these long robes there stepped out, from recesses in the wall, one at each side of the throne, two pages, a boy and a girl, of the same height and size and expression. Zuzu and Lulu looked at these in wonder and realized that they also were Twins. These twin pages carefully took up the robes of the Queen and stood at the edge of the platform. As Zuzu and Lulu gazed at these pages, to their great surprise they observed that they had hair of malazite blue and corazine green, just as they themselves had; only in the case of the pages, the boy, whose name they learned was Fofo, had the blue hair, and the girl, whose name was Fifi, had green, these colors being the reverse of those in their own case.
The Queen stepped down from her beautiful throne and caught Lulu and Zuzu in her arms. “My dear children!” said she. “My dear children, how glad I am to see you! And here, too, is my good Banjo, that used to play for us long ago, before we lost it. Ah! I see these new friends of mine have the royal malazite and the corazine hair, and they are the images of yourselves, my dear pages, Fofo and Fifi! These are royal children who have come to visit us, and I am sure all this is as much as any Fairy Queen could ask. I hope that my new friends will shake hands with these my pages, and that you all will be very good friends.”
So the little pages stepped forward from the foot of the throne, Lulu and Zuzu shook hands with Fofo and Fifi and soon they were very good friends.
“Now,” said the Fairy Queen, “we will have some cakes and tea, for I know you must be very weary from your long ride. And as you eat, I will have some shadows dance on the palace wall for your entertainment. I am sure the Enchanted Banjo will play for the shadows, because they can always dance very much better to the music of an Enchanted Banjo.”
So then the shadows began to dance on the wall for them, as the Banjo played:
THE DANCE OF THE SHADOWS
When the firelight flickers brightly Then we see upon the wall Shadows bowing all politely, Short and thin, and wide and tall; When the ruddy blaze is leaping And the red sparks glint and glance, Then with bows both low and sweeping Do the shadows start their dance. With a sway and a shift, and a leap and a lift, And a stride and a shuffle as they glide roundabout, And a stop and a swing, and a jump and a fling, And a twist and a twirling as they weave in and out. Thus they go in gay procession Down the wall and back again As though it were their profession To make mock of dancing men; They go swift, and swifter, wheeling In the figures made by chance, Darting from the floor to ceiling— Thus the shadows have their dance. With a leap and a whirl and a twist and a twirl And a slide and a shuffle as they weave roundabout, And a swing and a hop, and a bow and a stop, And a shift and a nodding as they wind in and out.