The Garden of Health

By José Muñoz Escamez

Illustrated by W. Matthews

A boy of twelve years, named Enrique, was taking a walk one day in the outskirts of his village. He was very sad because his little sister was ill and the doctors said she would soon die.

“Poor Luisa!” exclaimed the boy sobbing. “So pretty and to have to leave this world so soon!”

Enrique sat down on some stones to weep over his sorrow, and there prayed to heaven for his sister’s life. A kid which was gracing near the spot heard the sound of his lamentations and drawing near the disconsolate boy said:

“Calm yourself and I will try and save Luisa.”

“How?” asked Enrique, startled at hearing the kid speak.

“You have the remedy within reach of your hand. Look there, to the right in that spring, and you will see a ring which was left there and forgotten by the magician Agrajes. Put it on and ask to go to the Garden of Health, and immediately it will take you there. Ask there for the Blue Ivy whose juice will cure your sister, and if they deny it to you, use the ring and you will see.”

“Ay, little kid, anything to please you. Will you tell me who you are?”

“Well, you can see: a kid with its horns and all.”

“But kids don’t speak, and you do.”

“That is because I am a well-bred and compassionate kid. Anyway, I cannot tell you who I am. If you are grateful you will know. Meanwhile, don’t lose time, and do what I tell you.”

Enrique saw, indeed, a gold ring which was on the edge of the spring: he seized it and on it saw certain mysterious signs engraved.

He put it on the ring finger of his left hand, and said in a loud voice: “To the Garden of Health.”

Scarcely had he finished saying these words than a cloud descended and carried him through the air at lightning speed.

In a few minutes he found himself at the gates of a beautiful garden surrounded by a silver fence with golden ornaments. At the gate there were two maidens, one in white and the other in black. The one in white had a fresh and smiling face; the other was sad and taciturn. The former carried an apple in her hand, the latter bore a scythe.

“Who are you?” asked Enrique.

“I am Life,” said the first.

“I, Death,” replied the second in dismal tones.

“What have you come here for?” they asked the boy.

“I have come for a branch of Blue Ivy to cure my sister with.”

“I cannot give it to you without the permission of this maiden,” said Life, motioning towards Death.

“I will not permit it, because Luisa belongs to me. She is a prize which I will not give up,” growled Death angrily.

Life smiled sadly and turning to Enrique said:

“I cannot give you what you wish, but bear in mind that you can take it without my giving it to you.”

“Well, then, I will enter, cost what it may,” exclaimed the boy.

From Fairy Tales from Spain, by J. Muñoz Escamez.
London: J. M. Dent and Sons limited. New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1913.

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