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The New Paris
by [?]

A CHILD’S TALE, BY J. W. GOETHE.

[The following fanciful tale occurs in the autobiography of Goethe, to which he has given the name of “Dichtung und Wahrheit.” He is supposed to tell it, in his childhood, to a party of juvenile friends, and he introduces it thus:

“I could afford great amusement to my friend, Pylades, and other kindly-disposed acquaintance, by telling them stories. They liked them, especially when I told them in my own person, being much delighted to hear that such odd things could befall their play-fellow. As for the question when I could find time and place for such adventures–that was no matter, indeed they pretty well knew all my ingoings and outgoings, and how I employed myself. To such events, localities, taken from another spot, if not from another world, were absolutely necessary, but nevertheless I made every thing happen on the very day I told it, or the day before. My hearers, therefore, were less deluded by me, than deceived by themselves. Had I not, in conformity to my natural disposition learned to mould these aeriel nothings into something like an artistical form, such vain-glorious beginnings, would certainly have turned out badly for me in the end.

“If we duly consider this impulse, we may discover in it that assumption, with which the poet ventures to utter the greatest improbabilities in a tone of authority, and requires that every one shall acknowledge that to be real, which to him, the inventor, may appear to be true in any manner whatever.

“However, what is said above, in general terms, and in the form of reflection, may be rendered more agreeable, and at the same time more perceptible by an example. I therefore add such a tale–one, which as I used to repeat it often to my playmates, still distinctly floats before my imagination and in my memory.”]

Lately, on the night before Whit Sunday, I dreamed that I was standing before a mirror, occupying myself with my new summer suit, which my parents had had made against the approaching festival. The dress consisted, as you well know, of shoes of nice leather, with great silver buckles, fine cotton stockings, breeches of black serge, and a coat of green barracan, with gold buttons. The waistcoat, of gold-stuff, had been cut out of the one worn by my father on his wedding-day. My hair was dressed and powdered, my curls stood upon my head like little wings,–but I could not finish dressing myself; for I continually changed the articles of wearing apparel, and the first always dropped off when I was about to put on the second. While I was thus embarrassed, a handsome young man came up to me, and greeted me in the kindest manner. “Welcome,” said I, “it gives me great pleasure to see you here.”–“Do you know me then?” asked he, smiling. “Why not?” I replied, smiling in my turn. “You are Mercury, and I have often enough seen pictures of you.”–“I am, indeed,” said he, “and I have been sent to you by the gods on an important mission. Do you see these three apples?” stretching out his hand, he showed me three apples, which from their size he could scarcely hold, and which were as wonderfully beautiful as they were large. One was green, another yellow, and the third red, and they looked like precious stones, to which the shape of fruit had been given. I wished to take them, but he drew me back, saying, “You must first know, that they are not for you. You are to give them to the three handsomest young persons in the town, who will, every one according to his lot, find wives to their heart’s content. There, take them and manage the matter well,” he added, as he quitted me, and placed the apples in my open hand. They seemed to me to have become even larger than they were before. I held them against the light, and found they were quite transparent, but soon they grew taller, and at last became three pretty–very pretty little ladies, of the height of a moderate-sized doll, with dresses of the colours of the apples. In this form they glided softly up my fingers, and when I was about to make a catch at them, that I might secure one at least, they soared up far away, so that I could do nothing but look after them. There I stood quite astounded and petrified, with my hands high in the air, and still staring at my fingers, as if their was something to be seen upon them. All of a sudden I perceived upon the very tips a charming little girl, very pretty and lively, though smaller than the others. As she did not fly away, like them, but remained with me, and danced about, now on this finger, now on that, I looked at her for some time, in a state of astonishment. She pleased me so much, that I fancied I might catch her, and was just on the point of making a grasp–as I thought very cleverly–when I felt a blow on the head, that caused me to fall completely stunned, and did not awaken from the stupor it occasioned till it was time to dress and go to church.