He started to run down the street, and luck was with him so that he came to the self-same gate which he had happened upon first. He dashed through it, and commenced to search for the little green copper penny which lay on the strand a while ago.
He found it too, very promptly; but when he had picked it up, and wanted to run back to the city with it—he saw only the sea before him. No city wall, no gate, no sentinels, no streets, no houses could now be seen—only the sea.
The boy couldn’t help that the tears came to his eyes. He had believed in the beginning, that that which he saw was nothing but an hallucination, but this he had already forgotten. He only thought about how pretty everything was. He felt a genuine, deep sorrow because the city had vanished.
That moment Herr Ermenrich awoke, and came up to him. But he didn’t hear him, and the stork had to poke the boy with his bill to attract attention to himself. “I believe that you stand here and sleep just as I do,” said Herr Ermenrich.
“Oh, Herr Ermenrich!” said the boy. “What was that city which stood here just now?”
“Have you seen a city?” said the stork. “You have slept and dreamt, as I say.”
“No! I have not dreamt,” said Thumbietot, and he told the stork all that he had experienced.
Then Herr Ermenrich said: “For my part, Thumbietot, I believe that you fell asleep here on the strand and dreamed all this.
“But I will not conceal from you that Bataki, the raven, who is the most learned of all birds, once told me that in former times there was a city on this shore, called Vineta. It was so rich and so fortunate, that no city has ever been more glorious; but its inhabitants, unluckily, gave themselves up to arrogance and love of display. As a punishment for this, says Bataki, the city of Vineta was overtaken by a flood, and sank into the sea. But its inhabitants cannot die, neither is their city destroyed. And one night in every hundred years, it rises in all its splendour up from the sea, and remains on the surface just one hour.”
“Yes, it must be so,” said Thumbietot, “for this I have seen.”
“But when the hour is up, it sinks again into the sea, if, during that time, no merchant in Vineta has sold anything to a single living creature. If you, Thumbietot, only had had an ever so tiny coin, to pay the merchants, Vineta might have remained up here on the shore; and its people could have lived and died like other human beings.”
“Herr Ermenrich,” said the boy, “now I understand why you came and fetched me in the middle of the night. It was because you believed that I should be able to save the old city. I am so sorry it didn’t turn out as you wished, Herr Ermenrich.”
He covered his face with his hands and wept. It wasn’t easy to say which one looked the more disconsolate—the boy, or Herr Ermenrich.