Claribel lived in peace and happiness with her father and mother, from the time she was a little baby till when, at ten years old, she went to school.
Her parents were good, kind people, who loved truth and tried ever to walk in the paths of the just. They taught Claribel all good things, and her mother, Fridolina, used to bring her when every day she went to visit and comfort the sick.
When Claribel went to school, she was even happier, for not only had she her home as it was ever, but there were many new friends also who were of her own age and whom she came to know and love. The school-mistress was very good and very nice and very old, with beautiful white hair and a sweet gentle face that never looked hard or stern, except when some one told a lie. Then the smile would fade from her face; and it was like the change in the sky when the sun has gone down, and she would look grave, and cry silently. If the child who had been wicked came and confessed the fault and promised never never to tell a lie again, the smile would come back like sunshine. But if the child persisted in the lie her face would look stern, and afterwards the stern look would be in the memory of the liar, even when she was not there.
Every day she told all the children of the beauty of Truth and how a lie was so black and terrible a thing. She would also tell them stories from the Great Book; and one that she loved, and that they loved too, was of the Beautiful City where the good people shall live hereafter.
The children never tired of hearing of that City, like a jasper stone clear as crystal, with its twelve gates with names written thereon, and they used to ask the Mistress questions about the Angel who measured the City with a golden reed. Always towards the end of the story, the Mistresse’s voice would become very grave, and a hush would steal over the children and they would draw closer together in awe as she told them that outside that beautiful city were for ever condemned to stand “whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”
Then the good Mistress would tell them what a terrible thing it would be to stand there without, and lose all the beauty and eternal glory that lay within. And all for a fault which no human being need ever commit – for telling a lie. People are not very much angry even when a fault has been done, when the truth is told at once; but if a fault is made worse by a lie then everyone is justly angry. If men and women, even fathers and mothers who love their little children very tenderly, are angry, how much more will God be angry against whom the sin of a lie is made.
Claribel loved this story and often cried as she thought of the poor people who will have to stand without the Beautiful City for ever, but she never thought that she would tell a lie herself. Indeed, she never did till temptation came. When people think themselves very good they are in danger of sin, for if we are not ever on the watch against evil we surely do some wrong thing; and as Claribel feared no evil, she was easily led into sin.
The children were all at their sums. A few of them knew their arithmetic and got out their answers and proved them; but some could not get out the answer right, and others stuck and could not get out any answer at all. A couple of naughty ones did not even try to get out the answers, but drew pictures on their slates and wrote their names. Claribel tried to do her sum, but she could not remember 9 times 7, and instead of beginning at “twice one are two” and going on up, she grew idle and lazy and gave up the sum and drew the beginnings of pictures and gave them up too. She looked up at the window thinking of something to draw and saw on the lower panes coloured flowers painted there so as to prevent the children looking at the people outside during lesson time. Claribel fixed on one of these flowers, a lily, and began to draw it.
Skooro saw her looking up and began his evil work. In order to help her to do what she ought not to do he took the shape of a lily and lay on the slate very faintly, so that she had only to draw round his edges and then there was a lily drawn. Now it is not a wrong thing to draw a lily, and if Claribel had drawn it well at a proper time she would have got praise; but a good thing may become a bad thing if it is wrongly done – and so it was with Claribel’s lily.
Presently the Mistress asked for the slates. When Claribel brought hers up she knew that she had done wrong and was sorry; but she was only sorry because she was afraid of being punished. When the Mistress asked for the answer she hung down her head and said she could not get it.
To read the rest of this story visit:
“Lies and Lilies” at bramstoker.org