Early the next morning the glassblower’s trial began while the entire city whooped and sneered outside on the courthouse steps. The Lady had not yet returned. A witness testified falsely that the glass blower’s “little witch of an apprentice” had waved a wand to cause the vessel to disintegrate, while another swore he had chanted a spell. These and similar testimonies were heard in the court for hours, only broken by the midday meal. Still the man waited for the Lady before presenting his defense, but at the end of the day no one had come, and the court convened for the day.
Another day of trial passed, filled with derisive attacks pronouncing him a proud, seducing man who was possessed by the Devil. Four days he stood trial, the unwilling subject of scorn’s tongue; each night he was again thrown into his cell, and the Lady had not come.
The fifth and final day of the trial was in session; already the jury had condemned him. The impassioned words of the lying witnesses had swayed the public against him. Knowing that the judge—a greedy man eager to tax his business—would condemn him apart from the apprentice’s testimony, the glass blower suddenly spoke.
“Honorable judge and distinguished members of this assembly, hear me. While these witnesses have brought forth nothing but slanderous and inconsistent testimonies of my work, I have said nothing. I declare that I am innocent of their charges, and that there is no evil craft—neither sorcery, witchcraft, or devilish possession—in my methods. To prove such, I propose that you observe with your own eyes how I strengthen my creations. Bring me sand and the instruments of glassmaking.”
After some errand boys had fetched his instruments, he demonstrated before the court how he hardened his glass by heating and rapidly cooling it, which gave it resilience many times greater than regular glass. When he had concluded he took the judge’s gavel and hit it forcefully. To the court’s amazement the gavel bounced harmlessly off the glass; not the faintest crack was present in its form. Though partly satisfied with his demonstration, the court demanded an explanation of the boat’s shattering; for despite the witnesses’ inconsistencies, they all agreed it had simply vanished into thin air rather than breaking into visible shards.
As the glass blower had never attempted to break his creations he could not explain it, so he raised the gavel high to break his demonstration; but however hard he tried, he could not break the glass he had tempered before the court. Several times he smote it with heavy blows, but still the glass was unsullied. He grew nervous, for he knew the only way to prove his innocence was to destroy a tempered work, but the only other works he had tempered were his three (now two) masterworks. He bided his time for the Lady, hoping she would bring the apprentice before he destroyed the second of his greatest achievements; but after several hours of delay she did not come. The court would sentence him to the death of a sorcerer if he did nothing.
With trembling he requested to take them to his glass windmill (which they granted). He approached his masterpiece, hammer in hand. There immediately before him was a solid glass wall, whose every detail and imperfection was memorized by his sharp eye. After drawing a long breath he aimed the head at the wall to slay it, then struck it as a blacksmith hammers a sword. The hammer rebounded from the wall, impenetrable save a faint scuff. The walls of his masterpiece too were indestructible. He climbed up into the windmill and furiously hammered every surface he passed. By now the crowd was murmuring anxiously, and even a jury member whispered to the judge, “Let’s head back and have it over with!”
His frustration somewhat abated, the glass blower climbed out to the lower balcony that wrapped around the windmill’s base; he recalled from the reports how his apprentice had inadvertently shattered the boat by hitting the handrail. This balcony likewise was lined with ornate, delicate handrails—strong enough to lean against, but not enough perhaps to withstand a blow. He hammered it, and suddenly felt the entire floor give beneath him. The assembly below him broke his fall as the entire windmill dissolved into a cloud of glass dust.
With this final proof the members returned to the courthouse and were obliged to acquit him of the charges, and he was dismissed; but the frenzied mob outside the doors received him and mercilessly beat him, unchallenged by authorities. Thus satisfied with their transgression the crowd dispersed, leaving the mauled figure upon the steps of the court.
Later the Lady arrived (without the apprentice); her heart was grieved at the sight, and she wept long over his lifeless body. As she lamented, her immortality left her, and she collected her tears in a blue vial. Then, seeing tears of blood descend from the man’s senseless eyes, she mingled them with her own tears in a red vial.
The Lady bore the body away in her carriage to the man’s childhood home by the sea, where she and the town buried and mourned him. As an abiding emblem of her love for him, she forged wind chimes with the blue and red vials and installed them in the villa square. To the end of her mortal life she remained a widow, living alone until she was finally swept away in a pandemic.”
“That’s a sad story,” said the boy after the old woman had finished her tale. “How did you come by the chimes, then?”
“Well, I was told that after the Lady’s death the apprentice returned to the city of his master’s death. He claimed the glass house as rightfully his and later bartered for the wind chimes to display in the front yard.”
“How could he do such a thing?”
“True, his wicked intentions cannot be excused; but in a way he preserved his master’s work from desecration—not only did he maintain the house but he also designed the grounds that you have beautifully tended.”
“So this is the very house the glass blower built! How came you by it?”
“As I understand, the great city fell into depression shortly after he acquired the house, and he was forced to sell it to the city. The depression meanwhile continued to worsen and starvation set in—some saw it as judgment on the city for murdering an innocent man. After some time the city finally consented to auction off this house, and at that time I was well off financially. But now that my fortune has taken wing…” she laughed grimly.
“Did the Lady ever give her account to God of how she spent her heart?”
“Well, nothing is certain until we join her and the man in Heaven, but I have a happy ending of my own to add to the story.”
“When the Lady passed away, she appeared before the Father in Heaven and pleaded to marry the glass blower. Now we know from our Blessed Savior that humanity is not given in marriage after death, but I think the Father made an exception because of the potency of her love. And thus the man and Lady were truly joined together in the sight of God, as it were. But after the wedding the Lady was still remorseful about the green vial that her husband had broken when he was thrown into prison. The Father, perceiving her distress, reproduced it for her. “Why My daughter,” He said, “it has been here all along!” Thus heartened, she showed Him her chest of vials, full of tears spent on others and twice spent on her husband. Looking through her chest, the Father inquired about her musical studies on earth. “What did you learn of music while among My Creation?” “Oh,” cried the Lady like a little child, “it was all wonderful to hear, though You were right that pain and suffering accompanied it. I loved the lyre and harp and tambourine, and the human voice—but alas! I have no talent for making music myself. I am afraid I have no music to make unto You.”
“Why,” laughed the Father, “you did make music unto Me! Follow Me, and bring your chest.”
He brought the Lady to a creek just outside the Heavenly City. She remembered the place, for she had often swum into the City from this bank. The Father took the first vial from her chest, pulled out its stopper, and poured a single tear into the creek. It produced a beautiful warble. He continued to empty the vial until an entire melody effervesced from the water, then altered noticeablely as it repeated. In this manner He emptied all her vials, until the creek was filled with such a counterpoint as could never be conceived by man: a symphony of glorious proportion that ever changed as the invisible tears clinked with each other like little chimes. Presently the Lady realized that the sounds were flowing down into the City itself. From there they dispersed into the great Rivers, so that all regions quit the lonely silence, and through her tears music was made in Heaven. Thus fulfilled were the words of the Beloved Psalmist: ‘There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.’”
“That is what I like to think happened at least,” winked the old lady. “Now do you like the tale better?”
“Very much! It’s better with your ending. Would you tell me another story? They are so lovely.”
“Dear boy you flatter me! There is one actually I have not told in a long time…it concerns a father and his two children. One of them was actually the son of his brother, who had…”
The boy fell asleep in her couch before she had gotten far in her tale, but when next he awoke it was daylight. The curtains were drawn back and the house in order. The chair where the lady had told her tales was in the same spot it was the night before. And on the table was a sumptuous meal, far more splendid than what the lady normally prepared. There was however only one set of dishes set out; he guessed that perhaps she left early to run an errand. But she had trouble getting around, he remembered. He thought to see whether she was sewing in one of the other rooms, but he had forgotten that the wind chimes were still on his lap. As he got up they began to fall to the floor, and instinctively he reached out to break its fall!
The townspeople had meanwhile become troubled concerning the boy’s absence, for he no longer made trips to their houses. A spontaneous assembly followed, during which some claimed he had ventured to the glass house. “What! The poor boy!” cried a mother with two children clutching at her dress. “He long tended my younglings. What is to be done? Who will come to his rescue?” “Not I,” replied a hard-eyed spinster. “Yes, ‘poor boy!’ but death and thieving happen every day, and how should we manage if we attended every misfortune? Besides, the house is enchanted.”
“You gossiping fools!” cried a gruff old man. “Have you forgotten that it was injustice all along which has since plundered our city? If the boy is in distress, we must come to his aid!”
With one accord the entire village marched up to the house (trampling the garden) with clubs and sickles. Several put their ears to the glass door and heard a perplexing mixture of crying and singing. “Whose voice is that?” said one, “for it sounds more beautiful than the choir.” “It must be that wicked man putting a spell on the poor lad,” replied the other. “Nay! but could such a voice be of evil?” They gave a tremendous shove on the door, which to their surprise was unlocked.
There before them on the floor was the boy by himself. There was no evil man beside him, though the boy was crying and his hands were red as if bleeding. But he was also singing, very softly, with an almost angelic quality. One could not tell from this paradoxical sight whether the boy was in pain or euphoria.
While the crowd stood aloof outside the “enchanted” house, one bright-eyed girl stepped toward him. She saw that the boy’s hands were not bleeding, nor was he in pain; for beside him were the wind chimes, missing a vial, and in his little white hands shards of red glass shimmered like the jewels that crown a celestial stream. The boy finally looked up, his face graced with wet cheeks and the largest smile he could make. He motioned for her to come closer then softly whispered in her ear while her eyes grew even brighter.
But of the wonderful secrets he told her in that moment, all she remembered was this: For no one may break the vial except he who who caused the tears…