Once upon a time there lived a Tinkle-Tinkle. I cannot tell you what he was like, because no man knows, not even the Tinkle-Tinkle himself. Sometimes he lived on the ground, sometimes in a tree, sometimes in the water, sometimes in a cave; and I can't tell you what he lived on, for no man knows, not even the Tinkle-Tinkle himself.
One day the Tinkle-Tinkle was going through a wood, when he heard a piteous weeping. He stopped, for he was a kindly Tinkle-Tinkle, and found two small dormice sobbing under a tree because they had been cruelly deserted by their parents. He wiped their eyes tenderly and took them to his cave home; but I cannot tell you how he went, for no man knows, not even the Tinkle-Tinkle. However, when he got there he put the dormice to bed in his grandmother's boots, for which he had never found any use before, and fed them on periwinkles and tea, and was very kind to them; and when they grew older he bought them caps and aprons, and they became the Tinkle- Tinkle's housemaid and parlourmaid.
Now I must tell you that it was a great grief to the Tinkle-Tinkle not to know what he was, or how he lived, or where he was going to; and it often made him depressed, but he always concealed it from the dormice, appearing a most cheerful and contented creature.
One day he found a poor green bird lying on the ground with its leg broken. Fortunately Tinkle-Tinkle had his grandmother's black silk reticule with him which had never been of any service to him before. He gently placed the green bird in the bottom and carried it to the cave.
The dormice laid the poor sufferer on a soft bed and put the broken leg up carefully in plaster of Paris; and they nursed the green bird with the greatest attention so that it was soon well enough to hop about on crutches; and it sang so beautifully that all the inhabitants round gave it money, and its fame spread abroad; but it was so tenderly attached to the Tinkle-Tinkle and the dormice that it would not leave them.
Now it happened on a certain evening that the Tinkle-Tinkle was travelling over the sea, when suddenly in the depths he caught sight of a most beautiful Creature. It was all sorts of colours-- white, rosy pink, and deep crimson, and pale blue fading into white and gold. It had no face but a bright light; and it had quantities of beautiful iridescent wings, like the rainbow; and the most lovely voice you ever heard, like the sighing of the waves in the hollow of the sea.
The Tinkle-Tinkle was so astonished and entranced that he stopped, and the beautiful Creature cried out to him, and its voice made Tinkle-Tinkle remember a dream he had once had of sunshine, and forest trees, and the song of birds; and the Creature said, "Ah, Tinkle-Tinkle! you are lonely and perplexed and sad, and you do not know whence you came nor why you are here; but the dormice know and the green bird knows, and I know, and we are glad for your being. Go on, Tinkle-Tinkle, and do not sorrow, for some day you shall come back to me, and I will wrap you in my wings and take you where you belong, and then you will understand."
When the Tinkle-Tinkle heard this he was glad with a new strange gladness, and he went back to his cave; but not alone, for the spirit of hope went with him.
The Tinkle-Tinkle had one gift--he could sing--how, no man knew, not even the Tinkle-Tinkle himself; and this is how he discovered his gift.
One day in a secluded spot in the forest he found a dying stag, and the Tinkle-Tinkle was moved with great compassion and yet could do nothing.
The great stag's head drooped lower and lower till even the sun melted in a mist of pity, and the trees sighed, and the breezes hushed their voices. Then suddenly the Tinkle-Tinkle crept close and began to sing, why or how he knew not. As he sang, the birds and the stream were silenced and the breezes ceased, and the great stag's breathing grew less and less laboured, and his eyes brightened, and presently he rose slowly to his feet and paced away to join the rest of the herd, and the Tinkle-Tinkle went with him.
When the stag's companions heard the story, they wept for all that had befallen their leader, but rejoiced also and blessed the Tinkle-Tinkle; and he sang once more for them, and the Star-spirits leaned out of their bright little windows to listen, and the night was glad.
Many were the adventures of the Tinkle-Tinkle, and countless the creatures he cheered and helped, yet he never fancied himself any use or knew why he was in the world. He brought home a poor old crab without a claw, and the green bird and the dormice found a hook and screwed it in, and the poor old crab used to carry parcels for the neighbours; but he still lived with the Tinkle-Tinkle.
Another time it was a snail with a broken shell; for him they built a beautiful little house, and he made little rush brooms and sold them to the passers-by; but he lived ever after close to the Tinkle-Tinkle's front door.
So it went on till all the Tinkle-Tinkle's homes were full of strange occupants, and he began to feel very old and worn and weary. Then he remembered the promise of the beautiful Creature, and went slowly over the sea hoping the time had come for it to be fulfilled, and it had. The beautiful Creature stretched out its lovely rose and purple wings and wrapped the Tinkle-Tinkle in their warm soft greatness, and bore him down and down through the depths till they came to the Great Gate. At the beautiful Creature's voice it swung slowly back, and they passed down the Blue Pathway, which is all ice, cut and carved into lovely pinnacles and spires, very blue with the blue of the summer sky and the southern seas. The Tinkle-Tinkle could just see it from between the beautiful Creature's wings, stretching away in the blue distance, and at the end one star.
Presently--and though the time had been one thousand years it had not seemed long to the Tinkle-Tinkle--they came out into a beautiful place that was nothing but light, and the beautiful Creature set the Tinkle-Tinkle down; he looked around him and saw many other Tinkle-Tinkles, and he knew them for what they were and loved their beauty; and the Creature gently swept one of its purple pinions across him, and the Tinkle-Tinkle took form. He had many, many little soft, strong hands and many little white feet, and long sweeping wings and a face which shone with something of the light of the beautiful Creature; and the Tinkle-Tinkle saw and understood and sang for joy.