by Mary Stewart
This book is very dear to my heart for many reasons. When it was first published in 1970, I eagerly added it to my fledgling collection of King Arthur legend writings. As each subsequent book in the trilogy was published, I greedily snatched them up and reread them many times. Our oldest son discovered the joy of reading about King Arthur in the early 1980's and read these books so many times they fell apart! Now, I ask you -- can anyone not love a book that turns a young man onto reading in such a manner?
The Crystal Cave tells the story of Merlin as a young boy and his journey to discovering who he is and ends with the begetting of King Arthur. I have chosen to illustrate the moment when Merlin, at the age of seven, discovers the Crystal Cave. While trespassing in a large cave, the boy tries to avoid discovery by hiding in a small space in the rock wall as the cave's owner comes home.
I heard the quick hiss and chime of flint and iron, and then the flare of light, intense in the darkness, as the tinder caught hold. Then the steady, waxing glow as he lit the candle.
Or rather, it should have been the slow-growing beam of a candle flame that I saw, but instead there was a flash, a sparkle, a conflagration as if a whole pitch-soaked beacon was roaring up in flames. Light poured and flashed, crimson, golden, white, red, intolerable into my cave. I winced back from it, frightened now, heedless of pain and cut flesh as I shrank against the sharp walls. The whole globe where I lay seemed to be full of flame.
It was indeed a globe, a round chamber floored, roofed, lined with crystals. They were as fine as glass, and smooth as glass, but clearer than any glass I had ever seen, brilliant as diamonds. This, in fact, to my childish mind, was what they first seemed to be. I was in a globe lined with diamonds, a million burning diamonds, each face of each gem wincing with the light, shooting it to and fro, diamond to diamond and back again, with rainbows and rivers and bursting stars and a shape like a crimson dragon clawing up the wall, while below it a girl's face swam faintly with closed eyes, and the light drove right into my body as if it would break me open.
This page is heavily encrusted with beading, black jet, and polished stones and rocks from my personal rock collection. Vintage red, gold, and clear rivolis are surrounded by silver beads and various sizes of AB crystals and flat crystal rondelles -- April's birthstone is the diamond, after all.