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The boy was captivated by the Lady and would often ask her silly questions while she worked at her crafts. One day she showed him different ways to shape molten glass by rolling it on a metal surface. “It’s called marvering,” she explained. “We roll the glass along the table to make the sides even as we shape it.”
The boy did not reply, for he was absorbed in thought. “Is something troubling you?” she asked. The boy suddenly straightened up and asked her, “Are you an angel?” She did not grimace at the boy’s blunt question. “No,” she said, “though I have lived with them as a youth. The Father has made me a little lower than them and a little higher than man.” The Lady’s answer was sensible to the young lad, and after his artless interrogation he badgered her to help him make a set of glass bowls for his family.
But having thought over her answer one night, he could not help wondering what a Lady from Heaven would be doing on the earth. He saw her singing outside the old church one Sabbath. “Why are you singing when you sound so bad?” he asked in his plain manner. The Lady laughed and replied, “Like all who love God, I sing to make my Father happy. It was the reason I came to earth—to make music for Him.”
The boy was puzzled. “But why would you come to the earth to sing where He cannot hear you? Why would you abandon Heaven for a place where people starve and are rude to each other?”
The Lady paused thoughtfully. “Well, dear one, you must know that before I came here I had not heard music.”
“There’s no music in Heaven?”
“No…at least not now. Ever since Lucifer the Music Master was thrown down, no music has been heard in the Heavenly realms. I was born long after his overthrow. I remember the Father asking me one day what I thought of His kingdom. “Oh, all Your works are lovely!” said I, “and there is nothing more beautiful than Your City, but…I have always longed to hear music, even just a little, as in the days before the Enemy was thrown down.” Said the Father, “It grieves Me to have lost his music too; perhaps you may amend the silence. How would you like to learn to make music, my child? There is so much music on earth, though pain and suffering accompany it.” This proposition excited me greatly, and to that end I have come here. And yet…” the Lady blushed, “I seem to have no faculty for it, as you perceive. Still, I have been able to hear many wonderful musicians during my travels.” Before the Lady could continue the boy’s mother called him away.
Having shown the villagers how to turn the humble presents of nature into beautiful works of art, the Lady helped them establish trade with the neighboring villages; most of the villagers by now had given up gathering altogether, since food was delivered from regions of more abundance. The poor slum had become a thriving center for business.
The boy especially excelled in glassmaking and spent most of his time creating pieces to put on the trading wagons. One night in particular he crafted a vase to give to the Lady; far into the early morning he worked, and after a deep slumber he was awoken by his mother. “It’s very late, my son! You had better hurry to the square if you are going to catch the lesson.” The boy threw on his clothes and bolted out the door with his present wrapped in tree bark. The sun was nearly atop the village, and he could see the assembly silently gathered around the square.
The boy planned to present his gift to the Lady immediately, and so made his way through the crowd to the center of the square; but the Lady was not there, nor had anyone seen her yet. While he mused over her absence, he heard above him the telltale rattling sound from the mountain overlooking the village.
He immediately darted from the square to the mountain road. The carriage was long up the lane and seemed to quicken its pace at his chase. With doubled determination he pursued and ascended the mountain, slowly gaining on it; but when he had come within shouting distance, he tripped over a stone and fell on his little chest. He heard the carriage stop and shoes softly patter toward him—the Lady had seen him fall. She helped him up, and thankfully he was only a little bruised; but the vase he made had collapsed under his weight.
The Lady wiped the dirt from his face while he sobbed wildly. “What’s wrong, dearest?” she asked soothingly while kissing his forehead. His voice only broke into another cry, but when he had finally calmed down he asked, “Do you not love me enough to stay?” He pled with her again and again not to leave. The Lady did not answer him, but embraced him tightly and wiped away his tears; she shed tears herself. But instead of wiping hers away, she produced a bright green glass vial and put it against her cheek to let the tears fall into it; she sealed the vial with a stopper and gave it to the boy.
“When men shed tears,” she explained to him, “the Father wipes them away; but He has charged me to collect my tears in glass vials as an account of how I spent my heart. I am forbidden to spend them on myself, but I may on others. When loneliness sojourns your heart and grief is nigh, look upon this vial I have given you and remember my love. And when the darkest moments of life blind your way, open the vial and pour a single drop upon the floor. I will come to you wherever you may be. Be careful with the vial, for no one may break it except the one who caused the tears, and it must be preserved for when I return to my Father for accounts. I cannot cry over you again and make you another vial, for then I should become mortal.” With one last embrace she returned to her carriage and ascended the mountain.
The next day he awoke to the sound of rattling and ran outdoors. “It’s the Glass Lady!” he cried, only to startle a stranger who was inquiring about the inn. Many visitors now came to survey the town’s handiwork, but the Lady was never among them.
Years passed by, and the boy grew into a handsome young man. He became greatly renowned for his work with glass, and faithfully he preserved the Lady’s vial in his breast pocket—though the recollection of her gentility, patience, and industrious vigor had all but darkened in his memory. His insatiable appetite for wonder had drawn near those with like curiosity, and the contentment to illuminate wonder in others budded into the satisfaction of self-praise, and then that thorn, pride, which bruises all humanity.
The man became boastful of his accomplishments and belittled the poor, for none of his lowly past humbled him from atop the hollow wings of fame. He moved into the city and installed his workshop in its richest district next to the shore. To further build a name for himself, he fashioned three works of impossible strength: a glass windmill, a glass house, and a glass ship. These marvelous pieces attracted scores of inquisitive tourists and brought revelry and drunkenness to the city’s lodgings. While the inhabitants despised the commotion, those in the political circle saw the glassblower’s amusements as a profitable enterprise to tax.
Because of the many projects with which the glassblower was engaged, he hired on an apprentice to learn his trade and help him with his work. To his surprise the youth learned quickly, as he had long ago; the boy excelled in everything his master taught. So impressed was his master that he kept nothing from him, even the secret to the strength of his three works.
It was evident that his apprentice’s diligence was educed by his supervisor’s masterworks, and after some persuasion the glass blower permitted him to oversee the attractions while he focused on other projects. The apprentice was elated and immediately began to oversee the business.
It happened that one day while the apprentice was taking a large group aboard the glass boat, he took guesses as to how the boat was made so strong. A variety of answers were given, both reasonable and ridiculous, and to each he nodded with a dry, provocative expression. Presently one irritated gentleman suddenly cried, “I am affronted by your audacity, young rascal. Do you take us for a crowd of silly spectators watching a magic show? If your boat is so strong, why don’t you hammer it and cease your boasting!”
The apprentice turned red and curled his lips; he did not want to appear the fool before his guests. He could not imagine that his master would make anything breakable, and so producing a mallet, struck the handrail of the boat. All at once the entire vessel disintegrated into a fine powder, and he and his guests plunged into the water. No one was injured, but after the incident word spread that the glassblower used sorcery to strengthen his glass, and that a simple command could undo it. Terrified of the trouble he had brought upon his master, the apprentice fled the city.
Soon the entire city was incited against the glassblower, and he was arrested (for sorcery and witchcraft were expressly forbidden in that region). He was led by guards to the city prison and thrown facedown into his cell. Getting onto his cot he instinctively felt his chest: the Lady’s green vial had shattered in his breast pocket. Be careful not to break the vial, he recalled, for none except he who caused the tears may break it, and I cannot make you another one, else I shall become mortal. Bitterly he remembered his humble past and saw how arrogance had sprung up in his heart. He remembered the Lady and her patient instruction; if not for her, he would have continued to be a poor gatherer. Once he had knocked over one of her creations, and yet she did not turn him away; and when she left she gave him her tears as proof of her love. Then he remembered the power of her tears—they were magical, he thought—what else had she instructed him that solemn day of her departure?
A wetness suddenly chilled him, for some of the tears from the broken vial had collected into the corner of his breast pocket. Let but one drop fall upon the floor he half-recited, then he squeezed the damp corner until a single drop swelled and fell to the floor.
Instantly the Lady herself appeared outside his cell. The man gaped dumbly at her appearance: she was the same lovely, ageless woman, but he was now a handsome man. But instead of reaching through the bars to embrace her, he hung his head low with mortification.
“Why sir,” she said with concern, “why are you so downcast?”
“I—” the man started but choked. “I…I did not mean to summon your presence, my Lady. That part of your instruction I forgot.”
“Did you call for me in error then?”
“No! for I am a man now in lowest states.”
“What do you wish for me to do?”
The man explained to her his misfortunes, not withholding the faults that had indirectly caused them. “Take me from this prison to which I am unlawfully confined, and restore my reputation which is lost.”
“Sir,” she laughed gravely, “Though I can no longer call you a ‘little one,’ I perceive that same guileless manner with which you addressed me all those years ago. That childish faith pleases me, but I do not have the authority to set a Paul or Silas free, nor to undo what mischief has done to your good name. I am but a little higher than man, not an angel.”
Though the man knew as much he was sorely dismayed at her answer.
“Nevertheless,” she continued, “if I can find your apprentice, his testimony could clear your name.”
The man agreed and sent the Lady off in search of the youth.