THE FAIRY GODMOTHERS AND OTHER TALES.
BY MRS. ALFRED GATTY.
Col miele, e non coll' aceto si piglian le mosche.
To My Children
These tales are most affectionately dedicated. They were written in hours of sickness, but are intended to be read by the healthy and joyous young: and to illustrate some favourite and long cherished convictions.
Ecclesfield Vicarage, 27th March, 1851.
The Fairy Godmothers
Joachim the Mimic
Darkness and Light
The Love of God
The design for the Frontispiece which adorns this volume is by the pencil of the writer's kind and highly gifted friend, Miss Lucette E. Barker.
THE FAIRY GODMOTHERS.
In one of the beautiful bays on the coast of Fairy Land, a party of Fairies was assembled on a lovely evening in July. There are many beautiful bays on the coast of England, and there is one especially, my dear little readers, which you and I know of, where a long line of grand old rocks stretches far into the sea on the left-hand extremity, while in the distance to the right a warning lighthouse with its changing lights gives an almost solemn beauty to the scene; for one cannot help thinking, at the sight of it, of the poor storm-driven mariner, whom even that friendly light may fail to save from a sad and sudden death. But beautiful as this little bay is, of which I speak, and fond as we are of it, it is nothing, I do assure you, compared to the bays in Fairy Land! There, there are no light-houses reminding one painfully of danger and destruction near, but all is loveliness and peace; and even the rocks would be turned into soft pillows by the good-natured Fairies who inhabit the country, should any strange accident drive a mortal ship on that shore.
Also the bays in Fairy Land face to the west, which is a great advantage, for in an evening there you may sit and watch the golden sun dipping behind the waves; and the rich red tints he sends out upon the rocks before he sets, are beyond measure beautiful and attractive. Especially, I believe, the Fairies enjoy this time of day, for they are odd little creatures, rather conceited, and fond of everything pretty; consequently they like to be floating about the rocks in their white dresses when the crimson and golden hues of sunset shine on them, knowing very well they look like so many bright flowers on the occasion.
The day I speak of however had been very hot, and at the time I speak of, the Fairies felt a little lazy and were reclining on some rocks covered with sea-weed and amusing themselves by talking. In general the conversation of these little creatures is rather light and frivolous and gay; but it is really a fact that they were just then all serious together and all were engaged in a very profound conversation on human happiness.
I am sorry to have so many explanations to give, but I think it quite necessary to tell you the reason of so uncommon an event as a party of Fairies being serious. Well then, there were going to be, very shortly, several extremely gay christenings in the world, and some of the Fairies had been invited to attend at them as Godmothers, in order that they might bestow Fairy gifts on the different infants.
Four or five of the christenings were to take place the next day, and the Fairies who were going were discussing with each other what gifts they should bestow, and as their only object was to ensure the happiness of the children for whom they were interested, they naturally fell into a discourse as to what gifts were most likely to have so charming an effect. "Your Godchild is a girl too, I believe," said Euphrosyne to Ianthe [Fairies are privileged, you know, to have romantic names] "what do you think of bestowing upon her?" "Why," answered Ianthe, "the old story, I suppose—BEAUTY: at least such was my intention, but if you can any of you show me I am wrong in supposing it a cause of happiness to the mortal race, why, I suppose I must give her ugliness instead."
"Sister, I hope you will do no such thing," murmured a young Fairy who lay near twining seaweeds into a wreath. "I never until this evening heard a doubt upon the subject, and to tell you the truth the only time I ever envy a mortal is when I see a regular beauty enter a large assembly. Oh, the triumph of that moment! Every eye turned upon her; murmurs of admiration, not unmixed with envy, greeting her as she sweeps along; everyone courting her acquaintance; a word, a smile of hers more valued than a pearl or a ruby. A sort of queen of Nature's own making, reigning royally in undisputed sway, let her circumstances of life be what they may! Look how mean the richest woman who is ugly looks by the side of her! No no, dear Ianthe, make your little lady handsome, and you have done the best that Fairy can do for her. I declare I envy her beforehand! Here where we are all so beautiful together there is no interest or excitement about it—it is quite flat." And so saying the young fairy Leila laid herself down to her wreath again. "Why, Leila, you are absolutely eloquent!" observed Ianthe, "Beauty it certainly must be."
"Oh, I declare," pursued Ianthe, rousing up again, "I have sometimes really wished myself ugly, that I might some day have the pleasure of suddenly finding myself beautiful!"
"Oh, but then," said a Fairy from behind, "is there no danger of your regular beauty, as you call her, getting as tired of being beautiful as you are, and wishing herself ugly too?"
"Certainly, not," answered Ianthe, "for, for an earthly beauty there would always be the excitement of being envied."
"Come, come," persisted the former speaker, "then the gift of being envied would be the best thing to bestow, at all events a necessary addition."
"Oh," cried Leila, stopping her ears, "I can't argue, I never could—I can't hear any more, I am quite satisfied that I am right; you can't argue away the pleasure of being a beauty in a ball-room. Ask any of them themselves."
"Well," said Ianthe, "we need pursue the subject no further. I am resolved. My baby is to be beautiful, beautiful as the dawn of the morning; they shall call her Aurora!"
"I shall not follow your example," observed Euphrosyne, "I don't at all like that notion of the necessity of envy to make the beauty's joy complete. Besides, I'm not at all sure beauty is not much more charming in idea than in possession. Nobody spend their lives in entering a ball-room, and one gets sadly tired of one's own face. I'm sure I do, beautiful as it is;" and as she spoke the Fairy stooped over a clear tide pool which mirrored her lovely countenance; "and yet look what a nose I have! It is absolutely exquisite! And this hair!" and she held up her long silken curling tresses and looked at them reflected in the water as she spoke. A musical laugh rang through the fairy group. Euphrosyne resumed her seat. "There isn't a mortal damsel in the world who would not go into raptures to resemble me," pursued she, "and yet—but, oh dear, I am getting quite prosy, and it is quite useless, for Ianthe has decided. I, on the contrary, am thinking of something far less romantic and interesting, but I suspect far more necessary to the happiness of mortals than beauty—I mean RICHES."
"Men are horribly fond of them, certainly," observed the Fairy from behind, whose name was Ambrosia. "I can't endure men on that very account. Look at the grubby wretched lives they lead in counting-houses and banks, and dreadful dingy holes and corners of great towns, where we wouldn't set the soles of our feet, and this for forty or fifty years, perhaps, in order that in the fifty-first, or perhaps later still, they may turn into butterflies for the little bit of life that is left to them. And such butterflies, too! not knowing what to do with their gay coats and fine wings when they get them at last."
"I think you are putting an extreme case," observed Euphrosyne. "Though the grubs themselves may not thoroughly enjoy the riches they have so laboriously acquired, their children or grandchildren may, and live at ease and enjoy them. I should not think of bestowing great riches on uneducated paupers. But it is another matter to give them to people whom education has refined, and who would know how to enjoy and employ them."
"I wonder," suggested a very little Fairy, scarcely grown to her full size, "why you don't just give your Godchildren moderate good health, and enough money to make them quite comfortable without puzzling them?"
"You are a complete Solomon," observed Euphrosyne, "but you must know, my dear, that moderate good health and a mere comfortable competency would hardly be considered Fairy gifts by our friends in the lower world. These things are, as it were, the absolute necessities of a happy life; they are the beef and mutton (to borrow an earthly simile) of the entertainment. Fairy gifts form the somewhat unnecessary (and questionably wholesome) second course, the sweets, the bonbons, the luscious luxuries of the repast.
"Very few, by comparison, get them. Very few infants you know have Fairy Godmothers, but we make it a rule that those who have, shall always be distinguished from the crowd. Other-wise our power would not be believed in. No, my little Aglaia, all our Godchildren start from the point you spoke of—'caeteris paribus,' as those dingy black lawyers say—all other things being equal—it is a question now of bestowing extra superfine Fairy gifts."
Aglaia tittered—"I know Sister Euphrosyne is thinking of the christening suppers, and the whipped creams, and the syllabubs!" and away she tripped to the other end of the bay, lest the older Fairies should scold her for impertinence.
"Certainly," pursued Euphrosyne, "I have a great contempt for riches myself. Bah! the idea of all the troublesome as well as wicked things men do in order that they may be able to keep a lumbering thing they call a carriage, to drive them round a dirty town. Just think of that one thing alone! It is hardly credible." And Euphrosyne laid her head by the side of Leila's, and looked up into the deep blue sky.
"Remember," said Ambrosia, from behind, "it is a choice with poor mortals between heavy foot-walking, and the lumbering vehicles you talk of. Perhaps when their legs ache terribly, the carriages are not such bad things. We can hardly judge dispassionately in such a matter, we who can float and fly!" and the delicate Ambrosia, springing up, floated softly round the bay, and then returned smiling to her companions. "It made me almost ill to think of aching legs," observed she, "how I do pity the mortal race!"
"How pretty you looked as the sun shone golden upon your white robe," exclaimed Leila, "It was a sight for a mortal painter to die of!"
"A genius for painting would be a grand Fairy gift," observed Ianthe.
"Too doubtful of success," answered Euphrosyne, "and the Musician's power the same; besides musicians always die young and with exhausted minds. The art is too much for mortal nerves."
"Their atmosphere is too thick," said Leila. "How tired I am of your discussions! Let us sing! Whatever music may be to them, it is food to us."
Then all those beautiful Fairies arose and joining hands on the rocks they sang to the now dying Sun a chorus of Fairy Land! Now and then these ravishing melodies are permitted to reach to mortal ears: chiefly in dreams to the sick and sorrowful, for Fairies have great compassion on such, and allow them a distant taste of this, the most exquisite of their enjoyments.
There was no more discussion that night, nor did they argue much the next morning. There was the rising sun to welcome from the sleeping caves on the eastern side of their country, and the bath to be enjoyed, and their wings to plume, and sweet odours to gather from the early flowers; and the time passed so quickly, they only met to take a hurried leave. "We must understand each other however, before we separate," said Euphrosyne.
"Dear Ianthe, your Gift is Beauty?" "It is." "And mine is Riches," said Euphrosyne. "All the pleasures of life shall be at my Godchild's feet," said another Fairy, laughing. "If that will not ensure happiness, I know not what will." Ambrosia held back—"Your choice, dear Sister?" asked Euphrosyne.
"Come! we have no time to lose."
"It must remain a secret," was the reply. "Our discourse yesterday evening was so thoughtful, so sad, I could not sleep. I arose hours before you this morning, ere daylight streaked the sky. Dear Sisters, how shocked you will be to hear I wept; but now I have determined. If my gift succeed I will tell you all about it, or you shall guess it yourselves; for I now propose that our Fairy Gifts this year shall be a sort of experiment on human happiness. Let us from time to time visit in company our young charges, and let the result—that is, which of our Gifts is proved to confer the greatest amount of happiness, be written in the archives of our kingdom for the future benefit of the mortal race."
A murmur of approbation rose, sweet as the vibration of a harp-chord through the assembly.
There was no time for enquiry about the other gifts: the travelling Fairies arose and beat their gauzy wings upon the western breeze. A melodious rushing was just audible; the distant murmurs of the earthly sea the most resemble that sweet dream of sound. In a few moments the departing sisters became invisible, and those who remained returned to float by the sea shore, or make sweet music in the bowers of their enchanted land.
* * * * *
Time is a very odd sort of thing, dear readers. We neither know whence it comes nor whither it goes;—nay we know nothing about it in fact except that there is one little moment of it called the present, which we have as it were in our hands to make use of—but beyond this we can give no account of, even that little moment. It is ours to use, but not to understand. There is one thing in the world, however, quite as wonderful, and quite as common, and that is, the Wind. Did it never strike you how strange it was that the strongest thing in the world should be invisible? The nice breezes we feel in summer and the roughest blasts we feel in winter in England are not so extremely strong you will say: but I am speaking, besides these, of the winds called hurricanes that arise in the West Indian Islands, and in other places in the world. These dreadful hurricanes have at times done as much mischief as earthquakes and lightning. They tear down the strongest trees, overthrow the firmest houses and spread ruin and desolation around, and yet this terrible power, so tremendous, and against which the cleverest contrivances can provide no defence, is as invisible as the great Maker of Heaven and Earth. How unbelieving many people would look if you told them of a dreadful creature that was coming to the world, which could be heard to roar, be felt to knock down every thing in its path—men, women and children, houses, churches, towers, castles, cities, and trees the most firmly rooted—and yet which you could never catch the faintest glimpse of, for it was always invisible, even when it roared the loudest! As invisible then, as when in its mildest moods, it, as it were, purred softly over the country like a cat. How the good people would laugh, and tell you you were very silly to believe in such a thing. Yet I think this is not at all an incorrect description of the great invisible Power WIND. Now the lesson we may learn from this is to be humble-minded; for since we live in the constant presence of a Power we cannot see, we ought to feel it is equally possible other Powers may exist of which our other senses cannot take cognizance. There is an old proverb—"Seeing is believing"—but you perceive, dear readers, we are forced to believe in the wind though we never see him at all.
To return to Time who is travelling fast on while I am rambling after the wind, he has puzzled the artists a good deal I should say, for with all their skill at representation they have never hit upon any better idea of him than an old Man with wings. An old man with wings! Can you fancy anything so unnatural! One can quite understand beautiful young Angels with wings. Youth and power and swiftness belong to them. Also Fairies with wings are quite comprehensible creatures; for one fancies them so light and airy and transparent, living upon honey dew and ambrosia, that wings wherewith to fly seem their natural appendages. But the decrepitude of old age and the wings of youth and power are a strange mixture:—a bald head, and a Fairy's swiftness!—how ridiculous it seems, and so I think I may well say Time is a very odd sort of thing.
Among those who have to deal with Time, few are more puzzled how to manage him than we story-tellers. In my first chapter, for instance, I gave you a half-hour's conversation among some Fairies, but I think you would be very angry with me were I to give you as exactly every half-hour that passed over the heads of the little girls with Fairy Godmothers, till they grew up. How you would scold, dear little readers, if I were to enter into a particular description of each child's Nurse, and tell whether Miss Aurora, Miss Julia, Miss Hermione, &c. &c. &c. were brought up on baked flour, groat-gruel, rusks, tops and bottoms, or revalenta food! Whether they took more castor-oil, or rhubarb and magnesia; whether they squalled on those occasions or were very good. When they cut their teeth and how, together with all the &c. and ups and downs of Nursery life which large families, such as you and I belong to, go through daily.
Well then, suppose I altogether pass over a period of ten years, and enter into no minute particulars respecting that portion of Time. You must know that the Fairies had agreed that all the children should have the same (and rather a large) amount of intellect, or what you would call cleverness: that is to say, they were all equally capable of learning anything they chose to learn: also they had all fair health, plenty to eat and drink, and all the so called "necessary" comforts of life.
Now then to our story.
At the end of ten years the Fairies agreed to go and have a peep how their charges were going on. They quite knew that nothing decisive could be found out, till the children had come to years of discretion and were their own mistresses. Still they thought it would amuse them just to go and see how the charms were working, as it were; so, away they went.
Now picture to yourselves a nice large nursery, much such a one as your own, in which several children are playing. The eldest, a girl of ten, you may see yonder lounging—gracefully perhaps—but still lounging in a rocking chair which she is swinging backwards and forwards, having set it in motion by the action of her foot on the floor. What a lovely face! I do not think you ever saw one so handsome except in a print in one of Mamma's best picture books. All the features are perfectly good and in proportion, and the dark blue eyes are fringed by the longest eyelashes ever seen. The hair of this little girl too—look at it, as the soft chestnut ringlets wave about on her shoulders as she swings, and show the round richness of the curls.
Now if you ask about the expression on her face, I must tell you it was rather languid and "pensieroso." Pensieroso is an Italian word really meaning thoughtful—but this little girl was not thinking, for then the expression of her face would have been much stronger and firmer and less languid; but the word has got to be used for a sort of awake-dreamy state when one lets thoughts float lazily along without having any energy to dwell upon them, and see whether they are good or bad.
The thought that was passing through this little girl's head at the time I mention and which made her look so languid and pensieroso, was
"I wish it was 6 o'clock."
Now here you are ready to laugh, I know, for there was nothing to look so languid about, in "I wish it was six o'clock!" but the fact was this: at half-past six the little girl's Mamma was expecting a large party to dinner and the little girl was to dress at six and be ready to go down and see the company:—I might add and to be seen by them; for the little girl was, as you will have guessed, the beautiful Aurora herself, and there had been plenty of foolish people, though her good Mamma was not one of them, to tell her how pretty she was and how much people admired her.
It is a very pleasant thing to be admired, both for children and grown up people. "The love of approbation," as it is called, i.e. the wish to be approved of and admired is a feeling which is very strong in most people; not in quite all, perhaps, but in most people certainly. But like all other powers of the mind considered apart from the influence of the heart and conscience, it is capable of being used to a very bad or a very good purpose. Thus you may remember what our Saviour says of the Pharisees who stood praying at the corners of the streets that they might be seen of men: Verily, they had their reward—viz: that men admired them: whereas those who do good deeds and pray privately, i.e. unseen and unadmired by men, should verily have their reward in that day when God who seeth in secret himself shall reward them openly.
Here you see is the same strong feeling,—love of approbation, exercised in a wrong and a right direction. The Pharisees wish for the approbation of men, good people wish for the approbation of God.
Now, love of approbation exists about much smaller matters than I have just been mentioning. But I would warn my young readers, that, to be always thinking, and bothering yourselves as to what other people are thinking about you, is one of the most uncomfortable and injurious habits a person can get into. It makes them so selfish and egotistical. And here was one of Aurora's dangers. Because she knew she was pretty, she was always wondering what other people were thinking about her, a habit which so far from contributing to what the good Fairy had wished, viz. her happiness, was constantly spoiling her comfort from hour to hour. And here, at ten years old, was this little lady swinging languidly and idly on the rocking chair, wishing it was six o'clock, instead of enjoying, as she might so well have done, that small portion of time, time present, which is, as I told you before, the only bit of him we can ever lay hold of, as it were. Of time present, just then, she thought nothing. She would have said, (had she been asked), that the old gentleman moved very slowly in spite of his wings, for her eye was fixed on that delightful time future, six o'clock. Well! at last the clock struck, and Aurora sprang from her chair,—her whole face altered in a moment. "Now, Nurse, I may dress, may I not?" she exclaimed, radiant with animation, and all the languor and dreaminess gone over like a cloud from before the sun. And it is true that just then Aurora was happy. It was a pleasant task to her to arrange and smooth that curling hair, and to put on the simple white dress she knew set off her beauty so well. But alas! for the happiness caused by thoughts of one's self! The toilet over, she ran down to her Mamma, and was welcomed with a smile of fondness and approbation. Indeed, when she was happy, a sweeter face could not be seen, for she was not a naughty child, and if it had not been for the Fairy gift, I do think she would have been a very nice one.
The Fairies who invisibly had witnessed all I have described to you, were not so loud in their admiration of Aurora as you or I might have been. They are so handsome themselves, they think but little of earthly beauty, and even Ianthe could not conscientiously say, "What a happy looking little girl she is." That was just the one thing that was wanting: ay, and it continued wanting even after the room was filled with company, and she was petted, and caressed, and praised on every side. Her spirits became very high, however, and she enjoyed herself much; and it is perhaps only very very critical folk, bent on spying out a fault, that could have detected the little clouds of anxiety that now and then shot across her face. A thought of whether her curls were all right, or her dress untumbled, &c. just now and then disturbed the charm, and prevented her forgetting herself sufficiently to allow her to be quite at ease and happy, and she would glance at herself in the mirror, and put back the hair from her brow, lest Mrs. I-know-not-who, who was just then entering the room, should not think her quite as lovely as Mrs. Somebody-else did, who had very foolishly been saying so rather in a loud tone to her Mamma.
At last the fatal time arrived to go to bed. Aurora was much too sensible to cry, or be cross, you must know, but as she closed the door of the drawing-room and left the gay company, a sigh very heavy for so young a heart to have breathed, escaped her, and it was slowly she retraced her steps up stairs. She was in reality tired, for it was later than her usual bed-time, and when she went into her room she threw herself on the chair and yawned. The young Nurse who attended to undress her, asked her if she had enjoyed herself. "Oh yes!" was her ready answer. "All is so bright, and gay, and entertaining among those ladies, and they are so good-natured to me,"—(another sigh coupled with the recollection of, and how much they admire me!)—"But I do so hate being a little girl, and having to go to bed. I wish the time would come quicker for me to be grown up, and be down stairs altogether, and talk, and enjoy myself all the evening!" Oh, Aurora, Aurora, with that dissatisfied face where is your beauty? with that discontented mind where is your happiness?
"Your charm is not working perfectly, Sister," observed Euphrosyne to Ianthe.
"Her's is not the age for perfect happiness and enjoyment as a beauty, remember," replied Ianthe, "and she feels this herself."
"Man never is but always to be blest," cried Ambrosia laughing. "You see I can quote their own poets against them."
"You are prejudging now, Ambrosia, wait till another ten years is over; but we must see our little beauty through the twenty-four hours." Ianthe now waved a tiny wand in a circle around Aurora's head,—the long eyelashes sank over her eyes, and the beautiful child fell into a sweet and placid sleep.
Morning, which awakens all young creatures to life, enjoyment, and action, awoke Aurora among the rest, and she arose in health and strength, and the full glow of animal spirits. "This is happiness, however," exclaimed Ianthe to her companions, as the young girl sprang about, carolling to herself the while. And so it was, for at that moment no forecastings into futurity disturbed the comfort of present pleasure: but an accidental glimpse of her face caught in a looking-glass as she passed, recalled Aurora to the recollection of HERSELF! and the admiration she had obtained the evening before. At first some pleasure attended the remembrance, and she gazed with a childish triumph at her pretty face in the glass. In a few minutes, however, the voice of her Governess calling her to lessons disturbed the egotistical amusement, and the charming Aurora frowned—yes, frowned! and looked cross at the looking-glass before she quitted the apartment.
And now, dear little readers, let me remind you that Aurora was a clever little girl, for the Fairy had taken care of that. She had every faculty for learning, and no real dislike to it; but this unlucky Fairy gift was in the way of every thing she did, for it took away her interest in every thing but herself; and so, though she got through her lessons respectably, it was with many yawns, and not a few sighs, and wonderings what Mamma was doing; and did the Governess think there would soon be another dinner party? and didn't the Governess, when she was a little girl, wish very much she was a grown up woman? and, finally, she wished she had been able to talk when she was a baby at her christening, because then me would have begged the Fairy Godmother to give her the gift of growing up to be a young lady very quick indeed, and of learning every thing without any trouble at all! And so saying, Aurora yawned and laid down her book, and the poor Governess could hardly keep her temper at such repeated interruptions to the subject in hand.
"My dear," she exclaimed, "Fairies have no power to counteract what God, has ordained, and he has ordained that we enjoy but little what we get at without labour and trouble."
"Ah taisez-vous donc ma chere!" cried Aurora, flopping her ears with her hands, and running round the room shaking her long curls furiously. "Vous me faites absolument fremir! Excuse my French, but I am certain you are the eldest daughter of the old woman in the wood, and you are just now dropping vipers, toads, newts, and efts from your mouth at every word you utter!"
The good-natured Governess laughed heartily at the joke, for they had just been reading the old French fairy tale of "Les deux Fees," and the application amused her; but she shook her head gravely at Aurora afterwards, and reminded her that no serious truth was well answered by a joke, however droll.
A bell rings, a carriage is at the door. Miss Aurora is wanted. Visiters! Ah! here is happiness again! But it lasts but a short time, and the reaction is the same as before—drooping eyes, languid eyelids, and a sigh.
Books, drawing, music, work, even domestic recreations, all deprived of their charm through this idolatry of self!
The curtain closed over this scene.
"A charming child, Ianthe, but for your Fairy Gift, which is spoiling her."
"I repeat to you we are no judges yet. Now for riches, Euphrosyne!"
* * * * *
At the same hour of evening, and under the same circumstances, of a party about to assemble, let me introduce you to a beautiful little boudoir or up-stairs sitting-room adjoining an equally pretty sleeping apartment in a magnificent house in a town. The passages are carpeted all over, and so are the boudoir and the sleeping-room, and they are furnished with sofas, easy chairs, and every description of luxurious comfort; and all this for the accommodation of a little girl of ten years old, who in one of the easy chairs is lying back in front of the fire, with her tiny feet on a bright brass fender. She has a gold watch in her hand, which is suspended round her neck by a chain of the same material, and she is playing with it, and with the seals, and pretty ornaments hung to it, that jingle as she moves her hand. Ever and anon she glances at the face of the watch.
But life is very easy to her, and the chair is very soft, and her feet are very warm. At last, however, she gets up and rings a silver bell that is on the mantel-piece. A servant answers the summons. "It is time for me to dress, I believe, Annette; the company are expected to-day at half past six. Has my new frock come home?"
"Let me look at it."
A delicate blue satin, trimmed with the finest lace, is produced from a band-box.
"It is very pretty, I think, Annette."
"It is downright beautiful, Miss."
"And so expensive," pursued the little girl whose name was Julia, "that I don't think any one else I know is likely to imitate it, which is my greatest comfort!"
And so saying, the rich Miss Julia —— (an only daughter), whose comfort seemed to depend on no one else being as comfortable as herself, commenced her toilet, i.e. her maid both commenced and finished it for her, for those who can command the unlimited assistance of servants are apt to be very idle in helping themselves.
"Your Julia looks self-satisfied enough," observed Ianthe, "but I do not see that this is more like real happiness than my Aurora's face before the party."
"Perhaps," returned Euphrosyne, "the same remark applies to her as to Aurora—the age for thoroughly enjoying riches is hardly arrived. You smile, Ambrosia! Well, we do not yet know your experiment, and you yourself do not know how it has answered. Take care that our turn for laughing at you does not soon come!"
Julia was dressed at the end of the half-hour, but not sooner. Her toilet occupied more time than Aurora's. She could not decide what ornaments she would wear, and at last getting out of humour with the "embarras des richesses" she fixed on a necklace which, though extremely handsome, was scarcely fit for a child. She was neither pretty nor otherwise, but when good humoured and happy her face, like that of all other creatures of her innocent time of life, was attractive and pleasant to behold. Oh, that children did but know wherein the secret of being loveable and beloved lies! In holding fast the innocence and simplicity of their infant years; in the cheerful spirit, the universal kindheartedness, the open honesty, the sweet teachableness and readiness of belief, which are the real characteristics of childhood and which we so love to trace in their faces. It was these things our Saviour called upon grown-up people to imitate, and so to receive the kingdom of Heaven as little children. And oh, that grown-up people would imitate these things; for if they would become in these respects as little children, the sweet cast of mind would be reflected in their faces too, and the ugly looks given by envious discontent, deceitful thoughts, unkind intention and restless want of faith and hope would all be washed out of the world.
But now, my dear readers, can you call that the best of Fairy gifts, which had so great a tendency to bring the naughty passions of grown-up life into the heart, and therefore on to the face, of a little girl? Well, but riches have a tendency that way; and though Julia was not a very naughty girl she was being led into very sad feelings by the Fairy gift. When she went down to the company, her secret anxiety was to examine all the dresses of her Mamma's friends and resolve some day to surpass them all. Even as it was she received much pleasure from knowing that her own dress was far beyond the reach of ordinary folk. She thought too of her necklace with secret satisfaction, when the ladies were talking to her, for she perceived their eyes frequently attracted by its brilliancy and beauty. Then her mind rambled into futurity, to the day when she would astonish these very ladies far more than now by the richness of her costume. Ah, dear readers, would our Saviour if present have called this little child to him, and said, "Of such is the kingdom of Heaven?" But all these selfish thoughts made her conversation less pleasant and cheerful than it would otherwise have been; for you may be sure she was not listening with any interest to what was said to her, while she was thus planning silly schemes about herself.
And not having listened with any interest to what was said to her, you may guess that her answers were dull and stupid; for when people are talking of one thing and thinking of another they become very flat companions. At times when she could forget herself she became natural and then was both pleasant and pleased, and asked some ladies to let their children come and see her next day, to which they consented. But now came a sad drawback. One of the ladies told her that her little girl should bring to shew her a most beautiful gold fillagree work-box set with precious stones, which one of the maids of honour about court, who was her godmother, had given her a few days before. This lady had saved a few of the queen's hairs very carefully, and had had them placed in a little circle of crystal in the middle of the box, and they were set round with the most beautiful rubies. It was a present worthy of a Fairy Godmother, and certainly the donor was the daughter of a duchess, which perhaps is the nearest thing to being a fairy.
You will be shocked, my dear readers, to hear that the account of this box was as disagreeable as a dose of physic to poor Julia. Nay it was worse than physic, for a peppermint-drop can take the taste of that away in a minute. But not all the peppermint-drops in a chymist's shop could take away the taste of the fillagree-box from Julia. She had been thinking before of showing all the treasures of her boudoir to her little friends next day; but this horrid box was like a great cloud closing over her sunshine. She knew she was naughty, but she was so in the habit of being selfish she could not conquer her peevish vexation. Annette wondered what could be the matter, and her Governess sighed as she perceived her face clouded, even when she was repeating her evening prayer; but no questioning could extract from her what was amiss.
Oh, what a condition for a child to go to sleep in! Euphrosyne was greatly annoyed. "They are not correcting her evil dispositions," cried she. "I do not allow that this has anything to do necessarily with being very rich."
Ah, good Fairies, you do not know "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of Heaven."
Look now at that young face, asleep on a downy pillow, in a bed richly hung with crimson drapery, in a room filled with luxuries, glowing with warmth and comfort. You are shocked that the heart within should be disturbed by nasty little envyings, that made the good things she possessed of no value to her. 'Tis well; but remember we are all rich by comparison. Go to the poor frost-bitten wayside beggar-child, my little readers; bring him into your comfortable drawing-room, which you sit in every day and think nothing about, and he will fancy he has got into Paradise. It is a luxurious palace to him. Take him to your snug bed and let him sleep there, and it will be to him what a state apartment in Windsor Castle would be to you. Do not then let you and me scold too much at Julia, but let us keep on the watch to drive away from ourselves the discontented grumbling thoughts that are apt to make us all ungrateful to God. Julia did not sleep well. The fillagree box was a fort of night-mare to her. She dreamt of its growing up into a great giant, and thumping her on the head, and calling out that she ought to be ashamed of herself. Do you know, I think this dream was owing to her Godmother, Euphrosyne, for she lingered behind the other Fairies as they vanished, and shook, not waved, her wand over the sleeping child, with a very angry face.
In the morning Julia, like Aurora, awoke in a temporary forgetfulness of her troubles. The morning air is so refreshing and sleep does one so much good, and the sun shining through the windows looks so gay, and all things speak of hope so loudly in a morning, who can be sullen? Certainly not little girls full of life and expectation. But the thought of the fillagree box by degrees took possession of her mind and rankled there as before. She too had a Governess, and many lessons to learn and much to do, and she did them; but neither English history nor French fairy tales could quite drive away the fillagree box. Indeed it introduced its horrid face before her into the midst of a multiplication sum, and Mademoiselle thought she was bewitched to have grown so stupid over her arithmetic all at once. She spent a half hour over that one sum, and when it was done she was so much tired she gave up lessons for the day. Besides, she had to prepare for her friends. She went into her boudoir, opened her cabinets and unfolded her treasures of various sorts—oh I can't tell you what beautiful things! besides interesting collections of foreign and English shells, and stuffed humming birds, which you and I should be charmed to possess. And Julia was in general most happy when she was looking over her property, but rather more because she possessed valuable curiosities than because she cared about them, I fear. For my part, I wonder very much that the humming birds and shells did not teach her to be more humble-minded; for no art or jewellery can imitate or come up to their glorious beauty. Well, she amused herself tolerably in spite of the visions of the fillagree box and the queen's hair, which now and then came between her and her usual feeling of self-satisfaction.
Presently her young friends came—several little girls of various ages, and now nature once more revived in poor Julia. The children felt and expressed such hearty pleasure at the sight of her treasures. There were such joyous exclamations; such bursts of delight; such springing and jumping about, that Julia became infected with the general pleasure, and was a happy child herself. Yes! even though the fillagree box had been shown off and admired. But what do children in general know about the value of things and how much they cost? Ah, much more just in their judgments than we elders are apt to be, a bird of Paradise such as adorned the top of Julia's cabinet, or a peacock's tail, such as she had in a drawer, is to their unprejudiced eyes more desirable than the gold of Ophir itself!
So now you see this triumph of simplicity over art, despoiled the fillagree box of all its horrors, for the innocent children admired her shells yet more—unsophisticated, and insensible to the long story about the value of the rubies, the maid of honour, and even the queen's hairs.
Still the Fairies felt and saw that it was not Euphrosyne's gift, but rather the forgetfulness of it which caused these hours of happiness to Julia, and somewhat puzzled as to the result they left the votary of riches, not quite without a sensation that little Aglaia's proposal of moderate health and enough riches to be "comfortable without being puzzled," was about the best thing after all, though not much of a Fairy gift. And now, my little readers, I am beginning to get rather tired of my story, and to feel that you may do so too. I think I am getting rather prosy, so I must try and cut the matter short. Four out of the five Fairy gifts were like beauty and riches, worldly advantages. For instance, there was the little girl who was to have every earthly pleasure at her feet—i.e. she was to have every thing she wished for—why she was fifty times worse off than either Aurora or Julia, for I will tell you whom she was like. She was like the fisherman's wife in Grimm's German popular fairy tales, who had every thing she wished, and so at last wished to be king of the sun and moon. I doubt not you remember her well, and how she was in consequence sent back to her mud cottage. I think, therefore, I need not describe the young lady who had that Fairy gift.
There was another who was to be loved wherever she went; but nothing is worth having that is had so easily, and this child got so sick of being kissed and fondled and loved, that it was the greatest nuisance to her possible, for disagreeable people loved her just as much as nice ones, and for her part she hated them all alike. It was a very silly Fairy gift.
Come with me then to Ambrosia's God-daughter, whom they visited last, and whose Fairy gift the other Fairies were to guess at!
Neither you nor I, my dears, ever heard a fairy-laugh. Doubtless it is a sweet and musical sound. You can perhaps fancy it? Well then, do fancy it, and how it rang in silver peals when our fairy friends, on entering the last nursery they had to visit, found Ambrosia's protegee in a flood of angry tears, stamping her foot on the ground in a passion! "You naughty naughty girl!" exclaimed the old Nurse, "you'll wake the baby and make your own eyes so red you won't be fit to be seen to night by the company!"
"I don't care about my eyes being red, tho' I don't want to wake the poor baby," sobbed the little girl, slightly softening her wrath: "but the cat has unravelled all the stocking I have been knitting at for so many days, and I had nearly just finished it, and now it's all spoilt;" and she roared with vexation. "Miss Hermione, if you go on so I shall certainly send for your Mamma, and the baby will be quite poorly, he will! and we shall know who made him so," added Nurse triumphantly. "I can't make the baby poorly with crying, Nurse, so that's nonsense you know," observed Hermione; "but I didn't mean to disturb him; only my stocking is gone, and I don't know what to do." And here she sobbed afresh.
"Do! why ain't you going down to the ladies, and can't you be brushing your hair and washing your face and getting ready?" "But it isn't time." "Well, but can't you get ready before the time a little? and then, when you're dressed and look so clean and nice and pretty, you can sit in the chair and we can look at you!" and here the good old Nurse gave a knowing smile and nodded her head.
Hermione caught sight of the comical coaxing glance, and, in spite of her misfortune, burst into a fit of laughter. "Hum, hum, hum! now you'll wake the poor thing by laughing, Miss Hermione. I do wish you'd be quiet:" and here the Nurse rocked the child on her knee more vigorously than ever.
"Then why don't you tell me what I am to do with my stocking," cried Hermione. "Oh well, I know what I will do—something quite as quiet as a mouse. I will wind up my poor worsted." Hereupon the little girl picked up the puckered remains of her luckless grey stocking which a facetious young cat had spent at least a quarter of an hour in ingeniously unravelling with his claws. It was a tiresome tedious job we must admit, and required a strong effort of patient perseverance, but Hermione soon became engrossed in its difficulties and a dead silence ensued. At last Nurse who had while rocking the sleeping baby on her knee, been watching the child's proceedings, suddenly exclaimed, "Well to be sure, Miss Hermione, you have such patience as I never before did see."
[The Fairies exchanged glances.
"It is Patience, Ambrosia."
"What a hurry you are in!" was the reply.]
"No I haven't, Nurse, indeed," answered Hermione. "I had no patience at all when I was in a passion with the cat just now."
"Well, I suppose there are two or three sorts of Patiences, Miss, then," persisted Nurse, "for I'm certain you have some sorts. But, dear me, its ever so much past six o'clock, and you have to be dressed by half-past. Do put away the worsted and get yourself ready, Miss, and call Jane to help you."
Here the Nurse and Hermione nearly had a scuffle over the worsted. Hermione declared the cat had spoilt her stocking; and the only comfort left to her now was to roll it comfortably up into a ball. Nurse on the contrary insisted that it didn't signify a bit what became of the worsted; she must dress and go down. The dispute ended by Hermione running off with the half finished ball and its untidy remains, and cramming the whole concern into the pocket of her best frock. "The people will soon be tired of talking to me," muttered she to herself, "and then I can finish my ball quietly in the corner behind Mamma's chair."
The thought of this ingenious plan for her private amusement down stairs so tickled Hermione's fancy that she was on the giggle the whole time she was being dressed. "If Nurse did but know what was in the pocket of my best frock and how fat it is! how she would scold, and what a fight we should have." And she could hardly refrain from loud laughter at the thought. When she had got her frock on she sat down, and laying her arm over the fat pocket asked Jane to touch up her curls: and while this operation was going on she began to talk to the nurse.
"Nurse, should you think it a very nice thing to go to a dinner party and sit in chairs all round a large room, where the coloured covers are taken away and everything looks very gay, and so tidy, nobody is allowed to do anything but smile, and talk, and wear white kid gloves?"
"Very nice, Miss, it's so like a lady," was the Nurse's ready reply.
"Well then, I don't think it's nice at all, Nurse—I think it's very nasty and stupid."
"Dear, Miss Hermione, how you do talk; I hope you won't tell the ladies so when you get down stairs."
"Oh dear no, that would be rude, and it's wrong to be rude, but to tell you the truth I don't know what I shall do when I grow up if I am obliged to be so dull as that is, very often."
"Goodness, Miss Hermione, to hear you talk one would think you'd better be a housemaid at once, instead of a lady with nothing to do."
"Nurse, I should see no objection to be a housemaid at all, only that I am learning so many things that wouldn't suit a housemaid; but without being a housemaid there are many pleasanter things to do than to sit in that stupid sort of way. I like the room when all Papa's books and papers are about, and when he is scribbling away so busy, and when Mamma has got her microscope out looking at seaweeds or curiosities. I have a chance then myself. I don't like ladies who say nothing but 'Pretty little dear, what a nice colour she has,' just to please Mamma."
What Nurse in England could be expected to enter into so philosophical an investigation of the habits of society?
Hermione's did nothing but assure her it was time to be off, and she only hoped she would sit still and talk prettily, and never trouble her head whether it was stupid or not.
When Hermione got into the drawing room and saw the company seated as she had described to her Nurse, she felt very much disposed to laugh again, but made an effort and composed herself. Still her face was beaming with mirth and fun, and when some ladies said "What a happy looking little girl," they were quite sincere. That sort of face too worked wonders, and her Mamma's friends liked her much and talked pleasantly to her, and she was pleased and happy and quite forgot the ball of worsted, as well as the ladies' white kid gloves. A young lady however who had her arm round Hermione's waist and was playing with her, suddenly felt the round protuberance in her pocket. "Ah you little rogue, what have you here?" "Its a secret," cried Hermione. "I think I can unravel your mysterious secret, little girl, you are a favourite with the housekeeper," added she, whispering in Hermione's ear, "and she has just given you an orange."
"You are a very bad guesser of secrets," whispered Hermione in return. "It's no such thing!"—"Then it's an apple." "No, nor an apple."—"Then it's a peach, and your new frock will be spoilt." "No it isn't a peach either, and it's a secret." The young lady loved fun, and a playful struggle ensued between her and Hermione; in the course of which the large grey worsted ball and its long ravelled tail were drawn from the little pocket.
Hermione had now to tell the history of the ball, which she did naturally and honestly, but when she added, quite seriously, that she intended, when they had done talking to her, to go behind her Mamma's chair and finish winding it up, you may guess how they laughed.
"Come here, my little dear, and let me look at you," cried an elderly lady in spectacles, putting out her hand and laying hold of Hermione's. "Why what an industrious little soul you must be! a perfect pattern! There now! you may go behind my chair and finish your ball of worsted; nobody wants to talk to you any longer."
This old lady was rather crabbed, and had not quite believed Hermione sincere, so she did this to try her, and expected to see her pout and refuse. To her surprize, Hermione only said "Oh thank you, ma'am," with a quite smiling face, and going behind the chair, sat down on the floor to her worsted. For a few moments the old lady kept thinking "It won't last long: she'll soon be glad of an excuse to come out:" but no such thing happened; and just what Hermione expected did happen. The ladies fell to talking among themselves, and in a very short time the presence of the little girl was quite forgotten, even by the old lady, who was handed out to dinner, without once remembering whom she had left behind her chair.
Hermione stayed in the room till her task was over, and then rushed up stairs to the nursery, and stopping at the door, half opened it and rolled the great grey worsted ball so cleverly in, that it hit the old Nurse's foot as she sat (once more rocking the baby) over the fire. "Goodness, bless me! what ever is that?" Then, spying a laughing face at the door, "Oh dear heart, it's you I declare, Miss Hermione! will you never leave off waking the baby? I thought a great black dog was laying hold of my foot."
"Nurse," said Hermione, "your baby is always and always going to sleep; why doesn't he go, and then I could have a bit of fun? You don't know where I finished winding the worsted ball!"
"Why goodness me, Miss Hermione, where?"
"Down in the drawing-room among all the fine ladies; so good night!" and off she ran to avoid further explanation. A few words with her Governess; a sober time of evening prayer; and the happy child laid her head on her pillow, and needed no Fairy wand to lull her to sleep. She had been some time with her Governess in the morning before her Mamma coming to her there, heard a loud discussion going on within. The voices, however, were those of good-humour. "Hermione," said her Mother, "I am come to say that your Governess told me yesterday you had been so very good for a long time over all that you have had to do, that I have arranged for your having a holiday and a treat to-day, and several of your young friends are coming to see you. Among them is Aurora, the granddaughter of the old lady in spectacles, who, just before she was going away at night, recollected you, and began to look for you behind her chair."
"Oh what a goose, Mamma!" "No, not a goose, my dear—only an oddity, but a very kind one too—for she desired me to find out whether you really did roll up the whole of the ravelled worsted last night; and if you really persevered till it was finished, I have something to give you from her, but not otherwise. How was it?" "Oh, it's finished, Mamma; ask Nurse; for when I rolled it against her foot last night, she took it for a great black dog." "Well then, I suppose this is yours, Hermione; but, I must say, I never knew a gold thimble earned so easily." Yes, dear little readers, it was a pretty gold thimble, and round the bottom of it there was a rim of white enamel, and on the enamel were gold letters.
"L'industrie ajoute a la beaute."
"Mamma," said Hermione, looking at it in delight, as she found it exactly fitted her finger, "it's lovely; but, do you know, I think the old lady ought to have given it to her granddaughter, Aurora, with such a motto." "My dear, she has had it, she told me, some months in her pocket secretly, for the purpose you mention, but she cannot ever satisfy herself that Aurora has got the spirit of real industry in her, and to bribe her to earn the thimble is not her object, so you see it has accidentally fallen to your share."
And as she said this, Hermione's mother turned round to leave the room; but before she had reached the door, her little girl stopped her—"Mamma, do turn back."
"What is the matter, Hermione?"
"I've something I want to say to you."
"I am all attention, my dear, particularly as your face looks so unusually grave."
"Why, you and my Governess are always calling me good for doing my lessons well, and now you are rewarding me for being good and all that, and I don't see that I am good at all."
"Upon my word this is a very serious matter, Hermione; who or what has put this into your head?"
"I read in a serious book lately, that nobody could be good without practising self-denial; and that, to be really good, one must either do something that one does not like, or give up something that one does; so that I am quite sure I cannot be good and deserve a reward when I do French and music and drawing and work well, because I am so very fond of doing every thing I do do, that every thing is a pleasure to me. And there is no struggle to do what is tiresome and no other wish to give up. The only time when I have to try to be good at all, is when I have to leave off one thing and go to another. That is always a little disagreeable at first, but unfortunately the disagreeableness goes off in a very few minutes, and I like the new employment as well as the last. This is what I was talking about to my Governess when you came, and she laughed so loud I felt quite vexed."
"My dear Hermione," said her Mamma, "you have quite misapplied what you have read in the book. Self-denial is always required of us, when we feel inclined to do any thing that is wrong, but it does not apply to any aptitude you may have for enjoying the occupations I require of you. That is only a piece of good fortune for you; for to many little girls, doing lessons is a very great act of self-denial, as they want to be doing something else. But now, as you are so lucky in liking every thing you do, you must practise your self-denial in some other way."
"In not being vexed when your Governess laughs, and in not being in a passion with the cat next time he unravels your stocking."
Hermione blushed. "Oh, Mamma, I understand the difference now."
"But this is not all, Hermione."
"Why, as you are so fortunate as to be always happy when employed, and as therefore there is no goodness strictly speaking, in your doing your business so cheerfully and well, you must do this, you must spend some portion of time every day in making your energy of use to other people, and then you will be doing active good if not practising self-denial."
"Oh, Mamma, what a nice idea! Perhaps you will give me some needlework to do for the poor women you give money to; and, besides, just now I can do something actively useful and still a little really disagreeable,—really it is, Mamma,—what makes you laugh?"
"Your resolution to do something you don't like. What is it, Hermione?"
"To knit up again the stocking the cat pulled out. I quite dislike the idea."
"Then set to work by all means, Hermione. You will at least have the comfort of 'beginning by a little aversion;' but I warn you beforehand, not to set your heart upon the disagreeableness lasting very long, and if you find yourself shortly, as happy as ever over the stocking, do not be puzzled and vexed any more, but thank God as I do, that, so far at least, you are spared one of the troubles of life. The trouble of an indolent, discontented mind."
An affectionate embrace was exchanged between Mother and Daughter; and the latter, with the assistance of her Governess, recommenced the unlucky grey stocking, and was working assiduously at it when her young friends arrived.
It was a curious sight to the Fairies to see two of their god-daughters together, as they now did. But the conviction was forced upon them, that, for the present at least, Hermione had the balance of happiness in her favour. Whatever their amusements were,—whether looking over curiosities, playing with dolls, or any of the numerous games invented for the entertainment of the young, Hermione's whole heart and attention were in the matter, and she was as much engrossed as over learning at other times, and quite happy. With poor Aurora it was not so; the childishness of the play every now and then annoyed her; there was no food for her vanity, in playing with children; they cared nothing about her beauty; the gayest and most good-natured face has always the most charms for them, and this did not suit Aurora at all, and ever and anon her thoughts wandered, and her wishes too.
For ever straining into the future!
"I cannot make out your Fairy gift at all, Ambrosia," said Euphrosyne, "and I begin to suspect you have not given her one."
"We are all growing philosophical, I perceive," said Ambrosia, smiling. "Who could think you would have guessed that my happy child has had no Fairy gift at all. But she has, I assure you. What do you say to the Philosopher's Stone? It is quite clear that me has got something which TURNS EVERY THING SHE TOUCHES INTO GOLD."
* * * * *
What is the Philosopher's Stone? I hear my little readers exclaim. There is no such thing, my dears, nor ever was; but the chymists in old times, who were very ignorant, and yet knew that many wonderful things had been done by the mixture of minerals and metals, and the curious effects some had upon others, guessed that yet more wonderful things might be found out by searching, and they got into their heads that it might be possible to find, or make, a stone that would have the power of turning every thing it touched into gold. In the same manner, the doctors of those times fancied there might be such a thing made as a draught that would turn old people into young ones again. This was called "The Elixir of Life." But I do assure you these old fellows never did discover either a Philosopher's Stone, or an Elixir of Life.
So this was only a joke of Ambrosia's.
Now to go on and finish my story. It was ten years more before the Fairies revisited their Godchildren in the lower world, and this time they were to decide who had given the best Fairy gift.
And I dare say you expect me to give you as long an account of their visits to the young ladies of twenty, as I did of their peeps at the little girls of ten. But I really do not think it worth while. I would do so indeed in a minute if there were anything quite fresh and new to describe. But on the faith of a story-teller I assure you, it would be "the old story over again," only on an enlarged scale.
Did you ever look at any interesting object first with your natural eyes, and then through a microscope or magnifying glass? If so, you will remember that through the magnifying glass you saw the same thing again, only much bigger.
In the same manner the ten years acted as a sort of magnifying glass over Aurora, Julia, and Hermione. Everything was the same, but increased in size and made clearer and plainer.
Aurora's triumphant joy as she entered the ball-room as a beauty, was much greater certainly than her pleasure at her Mamma's dinner party. But the weariness and anxiety afterwards were increased also. She was still getting away from our friend Time present, and forecasting into some future delight. "The good time coming, Boys," was her, as well as many other people's bugbear. She never could feel that (with God's blessing) the good time is always come.
The only time she ever thoroughly enjoyed was the moment of being excessively admired. But judge for yourselves how long that can last. Could you sit and look at a pretty picture for an hour together? No, I know you could not. You cannot think how short a time it takes to say "Dear me, what a beautiful girl!" and then, perhaps, up comes somebody who addresses the admiring gazer on the subject of Lord John Russel's last speech, and the "beautiful girl," so all important in her own eyes, is as entirely forgotten as if she had never been seen. And then, to let you into another secret, Aurora was by no means a very entertaining companion: nobody can be, with their heads full of themselves: and she had often the mortification, even in that scene of her triumph, a ball-room, of feeing her admirers drop off, to amuse themselves with other people; less handsome perhaps, but more interesting than herself.
And so the Fairies, having accompanied her through a day of Triumphs, mixed with mortifications, followed by languors, unsettled by hopes of future joy, clouded with anxieties that all but spoilt those hopes:—came one and all to the conclusion that Aurora could not be considered as a model of human happiness.
Nor could they say much more for Julia. Perhaps, indeed, there is more equanimity in the pleasures of a very rich person, than in those of a very beautiful one: but, oh dear, they are of such a mean sort! Still, there is a good deal of impertinent comfort in money I do admit. Life rolls on, upon such well oiled hinges! The rich say, "Do this," to people around them; and the people, "do it." But the Fairies had no sympathy with such an unnatural fault as the pride of wealth. They saw Julia reclining in one of those "lumbering things" they so much despised: and driving round the "dirty town" they so much disliked: and along a park a great deal too smoky for their taste: and they could not understand the haughty glance of self-satisfaction with which she looked out upon the walking crowds she passed, or the affected graciousness with which she smiled upon the few whom she condescended to recognize as acquaintances. They thought her very naughty and very absurd for being conceited about such matters. They followed her to her Milliner's too, and there I assure you they had nearly betrayed their presence by the uncontrollable fits of laughter they fell into when she was trying on, or talking about, bonnets, head dresses, gowns, &c. with the affected Frenchwoman who showed them off. Julia cared for nothing because it was pretty or tasteful, but chose every thing by its costliness and magnificence. Of course the milliner assured her that every thing she took a fancy to from its rarity, was becoming; and then, oh dear! how the Fairies were amused! for poor Julia looked downright ugly in some of the things she selected, and still went away as self satisfied as ever, on the old grounds that the costume was so expensive that none of her acquaintance could get one like it. This was still her chief comfort! Euphrosyne actually shook her fist at her as she was going away, and she had the toothache for the rest of the day, and was extremely cross to her husband in consequence. For, by the way, Julia had married—and married a nobleman—a man somewhat older than herself; but he and she had had a sort of mutual conviction that riches and rank go very well together, and so they married; and suited very well in this respect, that as their heads were full of other things they neither claimed nor required from each other a great amount of affection.
Still, was Julia happy? The Fairies shook their heads. She had gardens, hot-houses, magnificent collections of curiosities, treasures that might have softened and opened her heart, if she had made a right use of them. But riches have a very hardening tendency, and she never struggled against it.
Then, too, she could get every thing she wanted so easily, that she cared very little about anything. Life becomes very stale when your hands are full and you have nothing to ask for.
Her greatest pleasure was to create astonishment and envy among her associates: but, besides the naughtiness of the feeling, this is a triumph of very short duration; for most people, when they cannot get at what they envy, amuse themselves with something else; and then, what a mortification to see them do this!
"Besides," said the Fairies, "we must follow her into her solitude, to see if she is happy."
Ah! there, lying back once more in the easy chair, in a dress which—
"China's gayest art had dyed,"
do you think that self-satisfied, but still uncheerful looking face tells of happiness?
No! She too, like Aurora, was unoccupied, and forecasting into futurity for the "good time coming," which so many spend their lives in craving after and expecting, but which the proud, the selfish and the idle never reach to.
The Fairies turned from her sorrowful and angry.
* * * * *
In the outskirts of a forest, just where its intricacy had broken away into picturesque openings, leaving visible some strange old trees with knotted trunks and mysteriously twisted branches, sat a young girl sketching. She was intently engaged, but as her eyes were ever and anon raised from her paper to the opening glade, and one of the old trees, the Fairies had no difficulty in recognizing their protegee, Hermione. The laughing face of childhood had become sobered and refined by sentiment and strength, but contentment and even enjoyment beamed in her eyes as she thoughtfully and earnestly pursued her beautiful art. The little beings who hovered around her in that sweet spot, almost forgot they were not in Fairy land; the air was so full of sweet odours from ferns and mosses, and the many other delicious scents you find so constantly in woods.
Besides which, it amused the good souls to watch Hermione's skilful hand tracing the scene before her; and they felt an admiring delight when they saw the old tree of the forest reappear on the paper, with all the shadows and lights the sun just then threw upon it, and they wondered not a little at the skill with which she gave distance and perspective to the glade beyond. They felt, too, that though the drawing they saw rising under the sketcher's hand was not made powerful by brilliant effects or striking contrasts, it was nevertheless overflowing with the truth and sentiment of nature. It was the impression of the scene itself, viewed through the poetry of the artist's mind; and as the delicate creatures who hung over the picture, looked at it, they almost longed for it, slight as it was, that they might carry it away, and hang it up in their fairy palace as a faithful representation of one of the loveliest spots of earth, the outskirts of an ancient English forest.
It is impossible to say how long they might not have staid watching Hermione, but that after a time the sketch was finished, and the young lady after writing beneath it Schiller's well known line in Wallenstein, arose. "Das ist das Loos des Schoenen auf der Erde."
 "Such is the lot of the beautiful upon earth."
The poor tree was marked for felling! Ambrosia was almost affected to tears, once more. The scene was so beautiful, and the allusion so touching, and there seemed to her such a charm over her God-daughter Hermione; she was herself so glad, too, to feel sure that success had crowned her gift, that, altogether, her Fairy heart grew quite soft. "You may do as you like about observing Hermione further," cried she. "But, for my part, I am now satisfied. She is enjoying life to the uttermost; all its beauties of sight and sound; its outward loveliness; its inward mysteries. She will never marry but from love, and one whose heart can sympathise with hers. Ah, Ianthe, what more has life to give? You will say, she is not beautiful; perhaps not for a marble statue; but the grace of poetical feeling is in her every look and action. Ah, she will walk by the side of manhood, turning even the hard realities of life into beauty by that living well-spring of sweet thoughts and fancies that I see beaming from her eyes. Look at her now, Ianthe, and confess that surely that countenance breathes more beauty than chiselled features can give." And certainly, whether some mesmeric influence from her enthusiastic Fairy Godmother was working on Hermione's brain, or whether her own quotation upon the doomed tree had stirred up other poetical recollections, I know not; but as she was retracing her steps homewards, she repeated to herself softly but with much pathos, Coleridge's lines:
"O lady, we receive but what we give, And in our life alone does nature live: Ours is her wedding-garment, ours her shroud! And would we aught behold, of higher worth, Than that inanimate cold world allowed To the poor loveless ever anxious crowd, Ah! from the soul itself must issue forth A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud Enveloping the earth— And from the soul itself must there be sent A sweet and potent voice, of its own birth, Of all sweet sounds the life and element!"
 Coleridge's "Dejection: an Ode."
And, turning through the little handgate at the extremity of the wood, she pursued the train of thought with heightened colour in her cheeks—
"I may not hope from outward forms to win The passion and the life, whose fountains are within."
And thus Hermione reached her home, her countenance lighted up by the pleasure of success, and the sweet and healthy musings of her solitary walk.
She entered the library of a beautiful country house by the low window that opened on to the lawn, and found her mother reading.
"I cannot tell you how lovely the day is, Mamma, every thing is so fresh, and the shadows and lights are so good! I have immortalized our poor old friend the oak, before they cut him down," added she, smiling, as she placed the drawing in her mother's hands. "I wish the forest belonged to some one who had not this cruel taste for turning knotted oak trees into fancy work-tables. It is as bad as what Charles Lamb said of the firs, 'which look so romantic alive, and die into desks.'—Die into desks!" repeated Hermione musingly, as she seated herself on the sofa, and took up a book that was before her on the table; mechanically removing her bonnet from her head, and laying it down by her side as she spoke.
And here for some time there was a silence, during which Hermione's mother ceased reading, and, lifting up her eyes, looked at her daughter with mingled love, admiration, and interest. "I wish I had her picture so," dreamt the poor lady, as she gazed; "so earnest, and understanding, and yet so simple, and kind!—There is but one difficulty for her in life," was the next thought; "with such keen enjoyment of this world, such appreciation of the beauties, and wonders, and delights of God's creations on earth—to keep the eye of faith firmly fixed on the 'better and more enduring inheritance,' to which both she and I, but I trust she, far behind, are hastening. Yet, by God's blessing, and with Christian training, and the habit of active charity, and the vicissitudes of life, I have few or no fears. But such capability of happiness in this world is a great temptation, and I sometimes fancy must therefore have been a Fairy gift." And here the no longer young Mother of Hermione fell into a reverie, and a long pause ensued, during which Ambrosia felt very sad, for it grieved her to think that the good and reasonable Mother should be so much afraid of Fairy gifts, even when the result had been so favourable.
A note at length interrupted the prolonged silence. It was from Aurora the Beauty, whose Father possessed a large estate in the neighbourhood, and who had just then come into the country for a few weeks. Aurora earnestly requested Hermione and her Mother to visit her.
"I will do as you wish," said Hermione, looking rather grave; "but really a visit to Aurora is a sort of small misfortune."
"I hope you are not envious of her beauty, Hermione? Take care."
"Nay, you are cruel, Mamma, now. I should like to be handsome, but not at the expense of being so very dull in spirits as poor Aurora often is. But really, unless you have ever spent an hour alone with her, you can form no idea of how tired one gets."
"What of, Hermione? of her face?"
"Oh no, not of her face; it is charming, and by the way you have just put into my head how I may escape from being tired, even if I am left alone with her for hours!"
"Nay, now you really puzzle me, my dear; I suggested nothing but looking at her face."
"Ah, but as she is really and truly such a model of beauty, what do you think of offering to make a likeness of her, Mamma? It will delight her to sit and be looked at, even by me, in the country, and I shall be so much pleased to have such a pleasant occupation. I am quite reconciled to the idea of going."
And a note was written, and despatched accordingly.
"But," persisted Hermione, rising to sit near her Mother, "you do not above half know Aurora. One would think she had been born in what is called a 'four warnt way,' with nothing but cross roads about her. Nothing is ever right. She is always either exhausted with the heat of the sun, or frozen with cold, or the evening is so tedious, she wants it to be bedtime, or if there is any unusual gaiety going on, she quarrels with the same length of evening, because it is so intolerably short; and, in short, she is never truly happy but when she is surrounded by admirers, whether men or women. And this seems to me to be a sad way of 'getting her time over,' as the poor women say of life. Ah, Mamma, it goes but too quickly."
"Aurora is indeed foolish," musingly ejaculated the Mother.
"Not altogether either, my dear Mother. She knows much; but the fault is, she cares for nothing. She has got the carcase, as it were, of knowledge and accomplishments; but the vivifying spirit is wanting. You know yourself how well she plays and sings occasionally, if there is a question of charming a room full of company. Yet there can be no sentiment about her music after all, or it would be an equal pleasure to her at other times. But really it almost makes me as discontented with life as herself to hear her talk in unexcited hours. Turning over my books one day, she said, 'You can never be either a poet or a painter, or a Mozart or a philosopher, Hermione? what is the use of all your labour and poking?' What could I say? I felt myself colour up, and I laughed out, 'Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, all is vanity!' Yet certainly God has set before us the things of earth in order that we may admire and find them out; and that is the answer to all such foolish questions!" And Hermione was turning to leave the room, but she came back and said—"Do you know, Mamma, though you will laugh at the idea, I do think Aurora would be a very nice girl, and very happy, if she either could grow very ugly all at once, or if any thing in the world could make her forget her beauty.—And," added she, in a half whisper, "if there is any thing in Fairy lore, I could almost fancy some cruel Fairy had owed her family a grudge, and had given her this gift of excessive beauty on purpose to be the plague and misfortune of her life."
* * * * *
"Enough, enough, and too much," cried Euphrosyne impatiently. "The matter is now, I think, concluded. Ianthe and I have failed, and though you are successful, Ambrosia, even you have not come off without a rebuff. Now, farewell to earth. I am weary of it. I do not know your gift, and I am sick of listening to conversations I cannot understand. Let us begone. If we de delay, they will begin again. Ah, my sisters, my spirit yearns for our fairer clime!"
And they arose; but yet awhile they lingered on the velvet lawn before that country-house, for as they were preparing for flight, the sounds they loved so well, of harmonious music, greeted their ears.
"Ah, there is the artist's hand again," cried Ambrosia. "I see the lovely sketch before me once more!"
And so it was, that it, and the peaceful forest scene, and the interesting face of Hermione, seemed to reappear before them all as they listened to her music. Tender, and full of sentiment were the sounds at first, as if the musician were acting the scene of the opera whence they came.
"Lieder ohne Worte," murmured Ambrosia.
 Songs without Words.—Mendelssohn.
But it was to the swelling sounds of a farewell chorus that they arose into the air, and took their leave of earth.
And now, dear Readers, there is but one thing more to do. To ask if you have guessed the Fairy gift?
The Fairies, you see, had not. What Euphrosyne had said was true. They had listened to such a quantity of conversation they could not understand, and they were so unused to think much about any thing, or to hear much beyond their own pretty light talk and sweet songs, that their poor little brains had got quite muddled.
Perhaps remaining so long in the Earth's atmosphere helped to cloud their intelligence. Certain it is, they returned very pensive, very cross, and rather dusty to Fairy Land.
They arrived at the beautiful bay I first described, and floated to a large party of their sisters, who were dancing on the sands.
There was a clapping of tiny hands, and shouts of joy as they approached; and "What news? what news?" cried many voices.
"Ah, what news, Sister Euphrosyne!" cried little Aglaia, floating forward, "from the smudgy old earth; Is it beauty, riches, or what?"
"I cannot answer your question," said Euphrosyne, pushing forward.
A circle was now formed round the travellers, and the details I have given you were made by Ianthe. And she wound up by saying, "And what Ambrosia's gift to Hermione has been, we cannot make out."
"Then I will tell you!" cried little Aglaia, springing lightly high into the air, and descending gently on a huge shell at her feet; "She likes every thing she does, and she likes to be always doing something. You can't put the meaning into one word, as you can Beauty and Riches; but still it is something. Can't you think of some way of saying what I have told you? Dear me, how stupid you are all grown. And liking isn't the right word: it is something stronger than common liking."
"Love, perhaps," murmured Leila.
"An excellent idea," cried Euphrosyne; "dear me, this delicious air is clearing my poor head. Sisters, I will express it for you, and Ambrosia shall say if I am right. It is THE LOVE OF EMPLOYMENT."
Ambrosia laughed assent; but a low murmur of discontent resounded through the Fairy group.
"Intolerable!" cried Leila, shrugging her shoulders like a French woman.
"It is no Fairy gift at all," exclaimed others; "it is downright plodding and working."
"If the human race can be made happy by nothing but labour," cried another; "I propose we leave them to themselves, and give them no more Fairy gifts at all."
"Remember," cried Ambrosia, now coming forward, "this is our first experiment upon human happiness. Hitherto we have given Fairy gifts, and never enquired how they have acted. And I feel sure we have always forgotten one thing, viz. that poor men and women living in Time, and only having in their power the small bit of it which is present, cannot be happy unless they make Time present happy. And there is but one plan for that; I use Aglaia's words: 'To like every thing you do, and like to be always doing something.'"
Ambrosia ceased speaking, and the circled group were silent too. They were not satisfied, however; but those sweet, airy people take nothing to heart for long. For a short time they wandered about in little knots of two and three, talking, and then joined together in a dance and song, ere night surrounded them. There was from that time, however, a general understanding among them that the human race was too coarse and common to have much sympathy with Fairies, and even the Godmothers agreed to this, for they were sadly tired with the unusual quantity of thinking and observing they had had to undergo. So if you ever wonder, dear Readers, that Fairy Gifts and Fairy Godmothers have gone out of fashion; you may conclude that the adventure of Ambrosia and Hermione is the reason.
* * * * *
The story is ended; and if any enquiring child should say, "There are no more Fairy gifts, and we can no more give ourselves love of employment than beauty or riches;" let me correct this dangerous error! Wiser heads than mine have shown that every thing we do becomes by HABIT, not only easy, but actually agreeable.
 Abercrombie. Moral Feelings.
Dear Children! encourage a habit of attention to whatever you undertake, and you may make that habit not only easy, but agreeable; and then, I will venture to promise you, you will like and even love your occupations. And thus, though you may not have so many talents as Hermione, you may call all those you do possess, into play, and make them the solace, pleasure and resources of your earthly career.
If you do this, I think you will not feel disposed to quarrel, as the Fairies did, with Ambrosia's gift; for increased knowledge of the world, and your own happy experience, will convince you more and more that no Fairy Gift is so well worth having, as,
THE LOVE OF EMPLOYMENT.
JOACHIM THE MIMIC.
There was, once upon a time, a little boy, who, living in the time when Genies and Fairies used now and then to appear, had all the advantage of occasionally seeing wonderful sights, and all the disadvantage of being occasionally dreadfully frightened. This little boy was one day walking alone by the sea side, for he lived in a fishing town, and as he was watching the tide, he perceived a bottle driven ashore by one of the big waves. He rushed forward to catch it before the wave sucked it back again, and succeeded. Now then he was quite delighted, but he could not get the cork out, for it was fastened down with rosin, and there was a seal on the top. So being very impatient, he took a stone and knocked the neck of the bottle off.