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The Golden Spears

When Connla and Nora reached the strand they saw the nine little pipers marching out towards the sea, and they wondered where they were going to. And they could hardly believe their eyes when they saw them stepping out upon the level ocean as if they were walking upon the land; and away the nine little pipers marched, treading the golden line cast upon the waters by the setting sun. And as the music became fainter and fainter as the pipers passed into the glowing distance, the children began to wonder what was to become of themselves. Just at that very moment they saw coming towards them from the sinking sun a little white horse, with flowing mane and tail and golden hoofs. On the horse’s back was a little man dressed in shining green silk. When the horse galloped on to the strand the little man doffed his hat, and said to the children:

“Would you like to follow the nine little pipers?” The children said, “yes.”

“Well, then,” said the little man, “come up here behind me; you, Nora, first, and Connla after.”

Connla helped up Nora, and then climbed on to the little steed himself; and as soon as they were properly seated the little man said “swish,” and away went the steed, galloping over the sea without wetting hair or hoof. But fast as he galloped the nine little pipers were always ahead of him, although they seemed to be going only at a walking pace. When at last he came up rather close to the hindmost of them the nine little pipers disappeared, but the children heard the music playing beneath the waters. The white steed pulled up suddenly, and wouldn’t move a step further.

“Now,” said the little man to the children, “clasp me tight, Nora, and do you, Connla, cling on to Nora, and both of you shut your eyes.”

The children did as they were bidden, and the little man cried:

“Swish! swash!”

And the steed went down and down until at last his feet struck the bottom.

“Now open your eyes,” said the little man.

And when the children did so they saw beneath the horse’s feet a golden strand, and above their heads the sea like a transparent cloud between them and the sky.

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