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AT evening, in the narrow streets of the great city, when the sun went down and the clouds shone like gold among the chimneys, there was frequently heard, sometimes by one, and sometimes by another, a strange tone, like the sound of a church bell; but it was only heard for a moment at a time, for in the streets there was a continualrattle of carriages , and endless cries of men and women----and that is a sad interruption. Then people said, “Now the evening bell sounds , now the sun is setting . ”

Those who were walking outside the city, where the houses stood farther from each other, with gardens and little fields between, saw the evening sky looking still moreglorious , and heard the sound of the bell far more clearly . It was as though the tones came from a church , deep in the still quiet fragrant wood, and people looked in that direction, and became quite meditative.

Now a certain time passed, and one said to another, “Is there not a church out yonder in the wood? That bell has a peculiarly beautiful sound ! Shall we not go out and look at it more closely?” And rich people drove out, and poor people walked; but the way seemed marvellously long to them; and when they came to a number of willow trees that grew on the margin of the forest, they sat down and looked up to the long branches, and thought they were now really in the green wood. The pastrycook from the town came there too, and pitched his tent; but another pastrycook came and hung up a bell just over his own tent , a bell , in fact , that had been tarred so as to resistthe rain, but it had no clapper.And when the people went home again, they declared the whole affair had been very romantic, and that meant much more than merely that they had taken tea . Three persons declared that they had penetrated into the wood to where it ended, and that they had always heard the strange sound of bells, but it had appeared to them as if it came from the town . One of the three wrote a song about it , and said that the sound was like the voice of a mother singing to a dear good child; no melody could be more beautiful than the sound of that bell .

The Emperor of that country was also informed of it, and promised that the person who could really find out whence the sound came should have the title of The World's Bell-ringer, even if it should turn out not to be a bell .

Many went to the forest , on account of the good entertainment there; but there was only one who came back with a kind of explanation. No one had penetrated deep enough into the wood, nor had he; but he said that the sound came from a very great owl in a hollow tree; it was an owl of wisdom, that kept knocking its head continually against the tree, but whether the sound came from the owl's head, or from the trunk of the tree, he could not say with certainty . He was invested with the title of The World's Bell-ringer, and every year wrote a short treatise upon the owl; and people were just as wise after reading his works as they were before.

On a certain day a confirmation was held. The old clergyman had spoken well and impressively, and the candidates for confirmation were quite moved. It was an important day for them; for from being children they became grown-up people, and the childish soul was as it were to be transformed to that of a more sensible person . The sun shone gloriously as the confirmed children marched out of the town , and from the wood the great mysterious bell sounded with peculiar strength. They at once wished to go out to it, and all felt this wish except three. One of these desired to go home, to try on her ball dress, for it was just on account of that dress and that ball that she was being confirmed at that time, otherwise she would not have been so; the second was a poor boy, who had borrowed the coat and boots in which he was confirmed from the son of his landlord, and he had to give them back at an appointed time ; the third said he never went to a strange place unless his parents went with him, that he had always been an obedient son, and would continue to be so, even after he was confirmed, and they were not to laugh at him. But they did laugh at him, nevertheless.

So these three did not go, but the others trotted on. The sun shone, and the birds sang, and the young people sang too, and held each other by the hand, for they had not yet received any office, and were all alike before Heaven on that day . But two of the smallest soon became weary and returned to the town, and two little girls sat down to bind wreaths, and did not go with the rest. And when the others came to the willow trees where the pastrycook lived, they said, “Well, now we are out here, the bell does not really exist----it is only an imaginary thing.”

Then suddenly the bell began to ring in the forest with such a deep and solemn sound that four or five determined to go still deeper into the wood . The leaves hung very close, and it was really difficult to get forward; woodruff and anemones grew almost too high to go, and blooming convolvulus and blackberry bushes stretched in long garlands from tree to tree, where the nightingales sang and the sunbearns played . It was splendid ; but the path was not one for girls to go, they would have torn their clothes. There lay great blocks of stone covered with mosses of all colours; the fresh spring water bubbled forth, and it sounded strangely , almost like “cluck , cluck . ”

“Can that possibly be the bell?” said one of the party , and he laid himself down and listened . “That should be properly studied ! ”

And he remained there, a............

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