As the Fairy Queen spoke, she descended from the coach and held out a hand each to Lulu and Zuzu. She led them onward through a sort of hedge of dense trees which lay before them, and beyond which there arose the flickering light, yellow and warm, that had appeared to color all the air of the Secret Valley. At length they stepped out in full view of the great source of all this light, and saw before them the most strange and wonderful thing they had ever seen in all their lives.
From directly at their feet, entirely across the Valley as far as they could see, there ran a great ledge or dam of pure gold, which yet did not seem solid, for it seemed to rise and fall and flutter as though it were almost ready to melt and flow; but it never did so. This great vein of gold was many miles in length, so far as they could tell; and how far back at each end it ran into the foot of the walls of the Valley no one could tell. Its front or face broke off like a wall, or rather like the side of a dam, perhaps fifty feet or more from top to bottom. Over this ledge or dam, a short distance out toward the wall of the valley, there flowed a broad river of clear water, white as crystal, which made a deep pool below the ledge of gold; and thrusting up through this sheet of falling water were points of rock which sparkled like diamonds, or gleamed dull and white like pearls; and such was the peculiar quality of this great ledge of seemingly living gold, that, as the water fell over it, it partly turned into a sort of vapor; and in this vapor, rising continually and floating away up into the sky, were thousands of butterflies, all gold and black and green, floating away upon many-colored bubbles, like soap bubbles, very light and fine. These came streaming up and up all the time, and danced out toward the top of the Valley as far as any one could see. So now Lulu and Zuzu knew where the butterflies come from in the spring, when they appear fluttering up from the south to play among the flowers. They come from the hidden Valley of Gold; and the gold they have upon their wings they certainly get from this great ledge of gold which lies across the Fairy Valley.
Near to the place where they stood were thousands of other Fairies working upon the linings of mother-of-pearl which lined the shells that lay along the ledge. These also made numbers of the bubbles upon which the butterflies were floating. So then the Twins knew where the bubbles come from that we see sometimes; they are made by Fairies. Again in another place very many Fairies were making all sorts of beautiful flowers—blue, and pink, and crimson, every color in the world, and both large and small. Upon trees near by, and spread out upon the rocks also, were numbers of delicate bracelets and brooches and rings and pins, and all manner of beautiful and rare things in gold and gems. So now the Twins knew whence come the bracelets and rings and ornaments of that kind, which so few people have ever seen made.
Over all this scene of beauty there arose sweet music, very peaceful and calm, as though it came from the bottom places of the earth, of which no one knows more than a very little, unless one has been in Fairy-land. All this was so beautiful and strange that the Twins sat down and hardly knew what to do. They watched the great ledge of the Mother of Gold heave and swell and sink and rise again, and saw the Fairies making these beautiful things, and saw flitting across the Valley beautiful birds with long tails, as long as one’s arm, and with crests as long as one’s hand, and with feathers which seemed of gold and pearl and green and blue; and the voices of these birds seemed to them the sweetest they had ever heard.
The Fairy Queen allowed them to sit and look as long as they liked, and bade them take up all the pieces of gold and gems and jewels which they liked—all the diamonds and other precious stones. “This, my children,” she said, “is where mortals get their gold and precious gems. These come from the Fairy Valley. Here it is that we secure all the gold required by the King whom you have left behind in the Island, and the gems in which the King and his friends delight. But since you have seen this vision of the Mother of Gold, you must not tell even the King where it is, for in that case some of his friends might make war upon us, and we should have to summon from under the earth many of these fierce warriors whose voices you have heard. For all the people who live under the earth fight to the last to conceal this gold from all the rest of the world; and that, as you may readily understand, is the reason why gold and jewels are so hard to get, and why they are by many considered so valuable.
“Now when you have seen all you wish and when you feel that you will not need to come again—for no one but myself ever twice sees the vision of the Mother of Gold—we will go back and look at other things for a time; but you need not do this until you feel that you will be very happy and contented to do so.”
“I am sure we shall be happy and contented,” said Lulu, “for now we see that what we once thought was very rare is indeed very abundant, and that to hold much of it in one’s hand does not seem to make one feel much better than before. See, my hands are full of gold, and I want no more.”
“Then,” said the Queen, “since you promise to be happy and contented, we may go.” So saying she beckoned to the coachman, and the Bumblebee Express swept up once more, the bumblebees stamping and champing at their bits. And now again the mighty gate of stone swung open, and once more it closed behind them; the savage warriors fell into place behind them; and after they had passed the gate they heard groans and murmurs from below and behind them; and then once more came the roaring of the tigers and the lions which live without the gates and which aid in the guarding of the treasure. So presently they were flying again along the crooked road between the mountains, and as they looked back, to their great surprise they could not tell which was the mountain pass out of which they had come; for now there appeared to be several, and they all looked alike.
“That is just as well,” said Zuzu, “for we have promised to be happy and contented, and not to wish to go back again to the Valley of Gold.”