IN the days of long ago there was a time when there were no emeralds on the earth. Men knew where to find other precious stones. They could get pearls and diamonds, but no one had ever seen an emerald, because the emeralds were hidden away in the bed of the sea, far down below the waves.
The king of India had many precious things, and he was always eager to get others. One day a stranger stood before his door, and when the king came out he cried, "O king, you have much that is precious. Do you wish to have the most beautiful thing in earth, air, or water?"
"Yes, in truth," said the king. "What is it?"
"It is a vase made of an emerald stone," answered the stranger.
"And what is an emerald stone?" asked the king.
"It is a stone that no one on earth has ever seen," said the stranger. "It is greener than the waves of the sea or the leaves of the forest."
"Where is the wonderful vase?" cried the king eagerly.
"Where the waves of the sea never roll," was the answer, but when the king was about to ask where that was, the stranger had gone.
The king asked his three wise men where it was that the waves of the sea never rolled. One said, "In the forest;" another said, "On the mountain; " and the last said, "In the sea where the water is deepest."
The king thought a long time about these answers of the wise men. At last he said: "If the emerald vase had been in the forest or on the mountain, it would have been found long before now. I think it is in the deepest water of the sea."
This king of India was a great magician. He went to the sea, and there he sang many a magical song, for he said to himself, "I have no diver who can go to the bed of the sea, but often magic will do what a diver cannot."
The king of the world under the water owned the beautiful vase, but when he heard the songs, he knew that he must give it up. "Take it," he said to the spirits that live in the deepest water. "Bear it to the king of India. The spirits of the air will try to take it from you, but see that it goes safely to the king whose magic has called it from the sea."
The spirits of the sea rose from the waves bearing the precious vase.
"It is ours, it is ours," cried the spirits of the air. "The king of India shall never have it." The spirits of the air and the spirits of the water fought together. "What a fearful storm!" cried the people on the earth. "See how the lightning shoots across the sky, and hear the thunder roll from mountain to mountain!" They hid themselves in terror, but it was no storm, it was only the spirits fighting for the emerald vase.
One of the spirits of the air bore it at last far up above the top of the highest mountain. "It is mine," he cried. "Never," said a spirit of the water, and he caught it and threw it angrily against the rocky top of the mountain. It fell in hundreds of pieces.
There was no vase like it in the east or the west, the north or the south, and so the king of India never had an emerald vase; but from the pieces of the vase that was thrown against the mountain came all the emeralds that are now on the earth.