Morning-Glories and Other Stories/The Rose Family
ONCE upon a time there lived in Fairyland a family who, as is the custom, bore the name of the flower which was their care. There was the papa, the mamma, and four little daughters, Blush, Brier, Moss, and Eglantine,—or Tina, as her playmates called her, for she was a baby-elf still lying in her green cradle, and had not yet learned to use her gauzy little wings as her sisters did. Their home was in a rose-tree, among whose flowers they found all that elves could need. In some they slept with the petals drooping like crimson curtains over them to shield from wind and rain; in others they laid their gossamer garments, making them fresh and fragrant with the perfume of the leaves between which they were folded. On the slender branches hung their harps,—we call them cobwebs, and hear no sound, but to the delicate senses of the fairy folk there came airy melodies as the wind swept by. A broad-leaved plantain grew at the rose-tree's root, and there they spread their dainty meals;—little loaves of flower-dust and honey, fresh dew in red-brimmed moss-cups, a single berry prettily sliced on a lesser leaf, and eaten in acorn-cups, with cream from the milk-weed, and sugar from the red-clover blossom, whose deep cells the bees can never wholly rifle.
Papa Rose went daily to Court, for he was connected with the royal families of York and Lancaster, and, being a wise and virtuous elf, was the Queen's prime minister. The mamma, whom her neighbors called "bonny little madam," as she came from Scotland, remained at home among the roses, for, like mortal mothers, she had many duties to perform that home might be always beautiful to those she loved. Blush, Brier, and Moss, after a morning romp with Tina, flew away to the fairy school, where they learned all manner of pleasant things which human children never know; such as the history of flowers, the language of insects, the large utterance of trees, and the sweet gossip of the wind. All day each was busied with some useful task; for elves are not foolish little gad-abouts, as we have been taught to think them, but people very like ourselves in the cares and troubles that come to them, only infinitely smaller than we, with microscopic joys and afflictions to match. Thus the Rose family helped rule the kingdom, kept house, studied, and played all day, and at night enjoyed themselves together like mortal families till the evening red faded and the dew began to fall.
So lived the Roses, till the watchful mother saw that a little fault had sprung up, like a harmful weed, in the garden of small virtues which she had planted in the natures of her elder daughters. Moss was gentle and kind, but sadly indolent, and as fond of play as the idlest butterfly that ever flew; Brier, though a merry, generous-hearted elf, was passionate and wilful; while little Blush, the fairest of them all, was vain of the bloom on her delicate cheek, the blue of her smiling eyes, the gold of her shining hair, and the grace of her airy shape. Long did the mother try to cure these troublesome faults, and earnestly did the little ones promise to be good—O, very good!—when she spoke to them. But though they wept and sighed, resolved and promised, they did not heartily try; so nothing came of it. At last the papa said to their troubled mamma, as they sat talking in the moonlight of the naughty little daughters sleeping all about them: "My love, there is no way left but to send them to the good fairy, Star, who is gentle and wise, and will make them what we desire."
"Yes, it shall be as you say, dear friend," replied Madam Rose, hiding her face in a cobweb handkerchief, for it was very hard to part with all three. But being a most excellent mamma, and remembering how wisely and well the learned Star had taught many a small sinner, she agreed to the papa's decision without a bit of scolding or fuss, though she wept so bitterly all night that the rose where she slept was wet as with rain.
Next morning, when the young elves woke and learned what was to happen, great was the lamentation, and their papa had to carry them sobbing from their mother's arms into the car, drawn by a span of white butterflies, which waited to take them away. Till they were out of sight they waved their cowslip hats, looking backward through their tears to the pleasant home they left behind; for on the topmost twig still stood the dear mamma, lifting Tina in her arms that she might kiss her little hand to them, and in her baby voice re-echo their farewells.
The wise Star lived on an enchanted island, weaving wonderful spells, helping the moon rule the sea, the dew to do its silent work, the wind to carry winged seeds to desolate spots, and sending sun or shower to help them thrive. The pupils sent her were taught by love, not fear, and none had proved too wild or wilful for her gentle rule.
"How beautiful!" cried the young Roses, as they alighted near the lake upon whose bosom floated the fairy palace underneath a rainbow arch. The island was encircled with a garland of white lilies, blue water-weeds, and cardinal-flowers that glowed among the reeds like spires of flame. Dragon-flies with gleaming bodies darted to and fro, gold and silver fish glittered underneath the ripples as they kissed the shore, all the air was cool and still, and over palace, lake, and island a sunny silence seemed to brood, as if some spell secured to Star the studious calm she loved.
Ringing a harebell, whose chime echoed far across the lake. Papa Rose seated his little daughters in a great white lily, having embraced them tenderly, and, setting the flower afloat, watched it till it anchored at the palace-steps. He had sent a message by the earliest breeze that blew, for in Fairyland the winds are postmen; so Star knew who was coming, and why they were sent. Twinkling off the drops that filled his eyes as the three little figures vanished. Papa Rose turned toward home, feeling as many human fathers have felt when they have left their children behind them.
The elves found Star waiting for them, and loved her even before she spoke. A most benignant-looking spirit she seemed, clothed in mist, with a clearly shining star upon her forehead and a winning smile upon her lips. With one glance of her magically gifted eye, she saw into the hearts before her, felt how best to teach them, and began her lesson without more delay. Calling them about her, she said, as she caressed them with the friendliest look: "My little elves, I have such faith in the love you bear your mother, that I shall use no other spell, and trust to that alone. You left her weeping at your loss; yet it is in your power to change her tears to smiles, and make home happy, by remembering what I tell you now. Each is to work alone, with no help but the talisman I give, and the desire to become what we would have you. In each of these three drops of water from this magic fountain you will always see your mother's face as in a glass. Let no naughtiness dim their brightness, no selfish thought or unkind feeling bring a shadow to the face you love, but so live that it may always smile; and when this is done, your lesson is learned, your separation ended. Fear nothing, but drink, and whenever you may wake hold fast your talisman and heartily begin your task."
Wondering, yet obedient, the three received the shining drops, drank of the golden water, and sank into a deep and dreamless sleep.
WHEN Moss awoke, she found herself in a sunshiny meadow, where daisies and buttercups nodded in the grass, blithe winds blew, birds sang, and butterflies, like winged flowers, fluttered everywhere. Here, among the roots of an ancient oak, with a mossy threshold, and vines overhanging her door, lived Madam Mouse, with her three little sons, Squeak, Nibble, and Scamper. She was the kindest and best of Quakerish mice, and hers would have been the happiest home in the field, if the excellent father-mouse had not laid asleep in a neighboring grove, with a drooping fern at his head and a cheerful dandelion at his feet. It was to this household that Moss was welcomed on her awakening. Squeak, Nibble, and Scamper opened their beady eyes wide with delight on seeing the beautiful elf, and their mother gave a feast in honor of the guest; for fairies make famous whatever family they visit.
"Now listen to me, dearest child, while I tell you about our neighbors here," said Madam Mouse, as they sat together under the vine, while the little ones played hide-and-seek in the grass, and the sun set over the hill. "Up above there lives Skip, the squirrel, and a merry fellow he is, though he has neither wife nor family to keep him brisk and jolly. But who knows what may fall out, and who can tell why the acorns that grow on the tree where Miss Nimble Whisk lives are so much sweeter than ours? Yes, yes, I fancy we shall have a wedding this year. Next, under the brakes, lives Spin, the spider, as quiet and busy an insect as ever wove a web. Then among the buttercups there at your side Chirp the cricket, keeps house with his noisy wife and daughters, who sing half the night, when they should be asleep. Down by the rock, where the columbines grow, Lightheart, the lark, has her nest. We are a gay eighborhood, that you may believe; for when our work is done, we dance and sing in the twilight, or ramble over the field in search of adventures."
"And what am I to do here, where all are so busy?" asked lazy Moss, fearing some task was in store for her.
"You must help each one in their work, for you will find no pleasure with us unless you daily do some healthful task to keep you happy and show you the beauty of industry. Fie! do not pout and toss your head in that disrespectful manner, else I shall send you away to stay with neighbor Toad, who has grown so stout through indolence that she can only sit blinking all day in the sun; and that would not be so pleasant, I fancy, for she lives in a hole, and might gobble you up if no worm or fly was at hand. Think well of what I tell you, and please your worthy parents by doing what they desire. Now come away to bed; we must be up with the sun, for on Saturday all good housewives have much to do."
Thinking her hostess a very prosy mouse, and resolving to enjoy herself in her own way, Moss followed Nibble into a tidy little chamber hollowed out among the gnarled roots of the oak, carpeted with moss, hung with deep-red leaves, and furnished with a sumptuous thistle-down bed, in which the elf soon fell asleep to the lullaby a mosquito sang outside the cobweb curtains gathered round her.
She was awakened by the young mice dancing over her bed, tapping her cheek with their little paws, and lifting her hair to peep at her blooming face, for they thought her very lovely.
"Go away and leave me in peace! I am very tired, and shall not rise yet," she cried, as they unfurled her wings and tried to make her follow them.
"Mamma will give you no breakfast if you do not come when we call; she is very punctual, and has waited five minutes already."
"I shall come when I like; so drop the curtain and let me alone," was all Moss answered, settling her tiny nightcap and drawing the mullein-leaf lanket more cosily over her shoulders.
"Oh! oh! what a lazy thing! Come and tell mamma that she says she won't," cried the mice, frisking away through the winding galleries, squeaking shrilly as they ran.
"Bless me, what a stir they make," thought Moss, and, instead of getting up, lay dreaming about it till the sun was high. Then she went to seek her breakfast, but not a morsel remained, and she would have fared ill had she not found a cluster of strawberries, on which she made a dainty meal. As she ate she looked about her, thinking what a busy place she was in, for Skip was at work in the oak. Spin wove away at his leafy loom, Lightheart was singing her morning song in the clouds, Chirp was hopping over the field to his work, and, close by, Scamper and Squeak were pulling an oak-leaf laden with seeds, their little tails twined about the stem, and were trotting stoutly along, while Nibble ran behind to steady the load. All were up and at work, the air was filled with a busy hum, and the meadow seemed like a great hive full of industrious bees. Moss alone was idle, and, though ashamed of her indolence, it was too pleasant, swaying to and fro on a tall fern, basking in the sun, and listening to the song of the grass as it waved in the wind, to rise and labor with the rest; so till noon she lay dreaming the dreams that fairies love.
When the sun grew hot, she gladly hastened to the cool oak chambers, eager to eat and drink of the good things she had seen stored there; for Madam Mouse was a thrifty housewife. But, as before, the table was cleared; Nibble was eating the last berry, Scamper and Squeak were washing their faces, as their tidy mother had taught them to do, and she was giving a thirsty bee the only drop of honey that remained.
"Am I to have no dinner?" asked Moss, knowing that she deserved none, yet hoping to get a great deal, as lazy people are apt to do.
With a pert whisk of the tail Squeak cried out: "Ah, ha! didn't we tell you mamma would not feed a lazy elf? When you are good, she will give whatever you ask, and you will be plump and happy like us."
"Hush!" said his mother, "or I must put your little tail in the crack, that a pinch or two may teach you to govern your tongue, my son. No, Moss, you will find no food here unless you obey me, for I cannot take care of an indolent elf, who has no desire to do her duty and earn her bread, like the rest of us."
"I shall not work," said Moss, sullenly.
"Then go and live in your own idle fashion till you tire of it; then come back, and I'll show you a surer way to be happy and good."
"I shall find my own too pleasant for that, I fancy," answered Moss, getting naughtier and naughtier the more she gave way to her dislike for industry.
The little mice were so astonished at her daring to speak in that way to their mamma, that they tumbled down in a heap, and, passing by them with a saucy nod, Moss flew away to the river-side, where a hospitable lizard gave her some dinner, and entertained her till one of the baby lizards fell into a ditch and broke his leg. Fearing that she should be asked to stay and watch with him. Moss slipped away, and, sitting in a river-lily, laughed and sung with the water-beetles and the merry west-wind till the motion of the waves lulled her to sleep.
A dew-drop falling on her face roused her, and, looking up, she found the moon in the sky, and herself on the bank, where the breeze had laid her when the lilies wished to draw their curtains. The night was mild, the stars' friendly eyes watched over her, and she felt no fear; so, pillowing her head on a daisy, and pulling a thick leaf over her, she thought to herself, "This is as fine a bed as one need desire, and I shall not soon go back to tiresome Madam Mouse while I get on so well alone."
As she spoke, a sudden gust blew away her coverlet, a bat caught her up as he swept by, and, before she could recover from her fright, bore her away to his nest, in an ivy-covered wall.
"I am cousin to the Mouse family, therefore it is quite proper that you pay me a visit; but as I am a bachelor, and my house is not such as best pleases young ladies, I shall take you to Neighbor Moth's ball, close by. Give me your hand, and remember that, though I present my friends Monsieur Firefly and Professor Beetle, you must dance with me first."
So said the bat, in his disagreeable voice, as he clung to the wall with his leathery wings. Moss was mortally afraid of him, had no desire to go to a ball, and was ready to cry with dismay at the troubles she had brought on herself; but Flit would take no denial, and skimmed away with her so fast that her poor little wings ached with the flight.
In a dell not far away Moss saw lights glancing, heard music sounding, and presently found herself in the midst of a party of night-loving insects and reptiles. Not a respectable ball in the least, for the wildest merriment prevailed. Mosquitoes, dorbugs, and frogs piped, drummed, and trumpeted like mad; katydids in green gauze, and grasshoppers from the opera, flew about in a most indecorous manner; fireflies whisked sober millers here and there, till their gowns were burnt and torn; glowworms and long-legged spiders flirted sadly under the mushrooms; and Lady Moth was as giddy as the rest, for a dissipated butterfly in scarlet and gold was there, and such an honor had not been done her balls for an age.
Pretty Moss made a great stir when Flit presented her; Major Butterfly left Lady Moth to fold his bright wings at her side; Monsieur Firefly was charmed with her grace; and Professor Beetle, forgetting his mourning suit, droned compliments into her ear, and danced till his horny eyes swam dizzily in his head. Moss was dragged to and fro till she was ready to faint with weariness and fear; but the nimble-footed spiders bid her dance on, the music played faster and faster, the friendly moon went down, and often did poor Moss long to be safe in her cosey bed in the oaken chamber, with kind Madam Mouse to watch over her sleep.
Suddenly, just when the revel was gayest, an owl darted into their midst, and bore Flit struggling away. In an instant the music stopped, the dancers vanished, and the dell was deserted by all but Moss, who, trembling with affright, crept into an empty snail-shell, and lay shivering there till dawn.
When daylight came, she timidly stole out, and flew away to rest in the sunshine among the purple morning-glories that half covered a cottage-wall. Believing that her troubles were over, she slept sweetly till she woke to find herself a prisoner in the flower, which, closing with the heat, now held her fast. Vainly she called for help, and beat upon the walls, which narrowed rapidly, while the sun shone hotter and hotter, and the air grew more close each moment. "Now I must die," she thought, "and never see my home again. O dear mamma! forgive me, and good by!" Clasping her hands together on her little bosom in despair, she felt the long-neglected talisman, and eagerly drew it out for a last look at the face she never thought to see again. Very sadly it looked back at her, and the reproachful tenderness that filled the loving eyes so wrung her heart with sorrow and remorse, that, with a bitter cry, she sank down, and lay there like one dead.
A breath of fresh air, sweeping through her prison, recalled her to life; and the first sound she heard was a cheerful voice that said: "It is no bee caught in the morning-glory cup, but the loveliest fairy ever seen. She is not dead, grandmother, for she moves her tiny wings. What can I do for you, dear little creature? I am so large, I fear to hurt you with the gentlest touch. Lie here, and get your breath again, but do not be afraid of me, because I love your race, and often hear wonder-stories of you from the humming-birds that live among my flowers."
Lifting her dim eyes, Moss saw a child's pitying face above her; but she could only smile her thanks and kiss the small hand where she lay. Placing the elf on a vine-leaf that fluttered in the wind, the child went back to her wheel, for no bee was busier than she; and as she spun, she sang like any bird, because the blind old grandmother, knitting in the sun, loved to hear her cheery voice above the music of the wheel.
"O flower at my window,
Why blossom you so fair,
With your green and purple cup
Upturned to sun and air?
'I bloom, blithesome Bessie,
To cheer your childish heart;
The world is full of labor,
And this shall be my part.'
Whirl, busy wheel, faster,
Spin, little thread, spin;
The sun shines fair without,
And we are gay within.
"O robin in the tree-top,
With sunshine on your breast,
Why brood you so patiently
Above your hidden nest?
'I brood, blithesome Bessie,
And sing my humble song,
That the world may have more music
From my little ones erelong.'
Whirl, busy wheel, faster.
Spin, little thread, spin,
The sun shines fair without.
And we are gay within.
"O balmy wind of summer,
O silver-singing brook,
Why rustle through the branches?
Why shimmer in your nook?
'I flutter, blithesome Bessie,
Like a blessing far and wide;
I scatter bloom and verdure
Where'er my footsteps glide.'
Whirl, busy wheel, faster.
Spin, little thread, spin.
The sun shines fair without.
And we are gay within.
"O brook and breeze and blossom.
And robin on the tree,
You make a joy of duly,
A pride of humility;
Teach me to work as blithely,
With a willing hand and heart:
The world is full of labor.
And I must do my part.
Whirl, busy wheel, faster.
Spin, little thread, spin,
The sun shines fair without.
And we are gay within."
"Yes," sighed the elf, as she listened, "it is as Madam Mouse said,—there is no real pleasure in idleness. I will no longer think of selfish ease alone, but try to gather resolution from all I have suffered, and begin my task for love of dear mamma."
So anxious was she to be gone, that, scarcely staying to thank the friendly child, Moss hurried away, fearing some fresh misfortune would befall her unless she fell to work at once. With many tears she owned her fault, asking to be made a diligent and happy elf. Madam Mouse received her kindly, and did not lecture her, for all she said was, "Now you are my good child again, and I am pleased with you."
"What shall I do first?" asked Moss, springing out of bed when the little mice called her next morning at dawn.
"Come and welcome the sun with me, for I bear him good-morrows from all in the field," said the lark, as she rose from her nest.
"Are you never tired of this long flight?" asked the elf, as they floated up through rosy clouds to the blue above.
"No, for I can never fly high enough, nor pour forth my happiness loud enough, I am so weak and small. But though I never reach the sun, I carry back with me blithe memories of things above here to gladden my whole day." And with a gush of unspeakable joy falling from her little throat, Lightheart soared far out of sight, then dropped into her nest, leaving musical echoes behind.
"Ah! that was fine! and I'll go again to-morrow," cried Moss. "What next, Mother Mouse?"
"Come to the river and bring up water for the day," said Nibble, always interested in the eating and drinking part of the housekeeping.
Away they all raced, eager to see which would fill their green pitcher first, for they used the leaves of a plant called Forefathers' Cup, and Mrs. Mouse had rows of them in her cool cellar, as we keep wine-casks in our own.
The more Moss did, the more she liked it, and all day long she worked like a busy ant, helping Skip store acorns, shaking down ripe grains from the wheat-ears for madam's small harvesting, tripping over the field with Chirp to see the sick and poor; for he was a minister, as all might see by his black coat and the charitable zeal with which he hurried to and fro, preaching a cheerful sermon as he worked. At night she went with Spin to spread his webs on the grass, that the dew might fall and the moon shine on them till they were bleached to a silvery whiteness, and thus made fit for fairy-cloth.
Thus working with each of her friends, little Moss soon learned many a useful thing, and for every trial and temptation found a solace in her fairy talisman. All in the field loved her and tried to make her happy; for they saw how patiently she tried to do well, and how eagerly she longed to see her home again.
Mamma Mouse had many a gay feast in her pleasant rooms; for when rain fell without, Flash the firefly and Glimmer the glowworm lent their light; Skip came down to crack nuts and jokes, Spin told stories as endless as his webs. Chirp sang psalms as heartily as Martin Luther, whom he very much resembled, being lively, stout, and zealous, while Moss and the young mice played games and romped till their heads spun round.
So the summer days passed in the
"Books and work and healthful play"
manner which is best for all of us; and when at length the face in the magic-mirror always smiled upon her, Moss knew her task was done, and joyfully waited her summons home.
WHEN Brier awoke from her long sleep, she looked with wondering eyes about her, for she was no longer in the fairy palace, but alone in a deep forest. Squirrels skipped from tree to tree, birds came fearlessly to bathe in the clear pool at her feet, wood-flowers nodded on their stems, and all the air was filled with the pleasant murmur of the pines. At first Brier only wondered how she came there, then she called her sisters loud and long; and when nothing but a naughty echo mimicked her, she grew very angry and threw herself down weeping and fretting because she was sent away to live alone in the great wood.
As she lay sobbing, with her cheek against the grass, a soft voice said beside her: "Little Brier, do not weep so passionately; you are not to stay alone, for the forest is full of friends who will gladly try to make it pleasant for you. Come with me; I have a softer bed and little feast prepared for you above there."
Brier looked up to find a mild-eyed dove waving its white wings beside her, as it cooed these gentle words; and, before the fairy could answer, came other little voices from the tree above her head, calling: "Come up! come up, mamma! and bring the wonderful elf. We cannot fly and we cannot wait; come soon, else we shall fall out with trying to see."
With that Brier heard a flapping of wings, a rustling of leaves, and saw two small heads peering over the edge of a nest, with eyes full of eager delight. Up flew the mother dove and up flew Brier to where little Flutter and Coo lay in their downy cradle, and the gentle papa sat by with a ripe berry in his bill to offer the guest.
"Here she is," said the dove. "You must try to make your home very happy to dear Brier, for she has left a far lovelier one to stay with us a little. Be very tender with her, that she may not grieve for her sisters, and may look back with pleasure on her visit here."
"O, that we will, mamma, if she will only be our little friend, and love us as we love her," cried the young doves, putting up their bills to kiss her; and hopping joyfully on their unsteady pink legs.
"Now, my darlings," said the mother, after they had supped and talked quite gayly for a while, "papa and I must go and see neighbor Linnet, for she is very ill, and we are afraid little Twitter may suffer for food. Therefore we will leave you to play together, and soon be back again."
The doves flew away, and presently their comfortable cooing sounded through the wood. Brier was her gentlest self now; so she told Flutter and Coo her merriest tales, taught them elfin games, and danced on a leaf before them till they quite stared with wonder. As the sun set they said, "Good night"; for these birds never fretted when bed-time came, never cried to have the lamp left, nor had any fear of goblins, but tucked their little heads under their wings and fell asleep without troubling mamma by a single pout. Brier often did all these naughty things, but she never told the doves so, only sat in the twilight on a bending bough, and sang them a fairy
"Now the day is done,
Now the shepherd sun
Drives his white flocks from the sky;
Now the flowers rest
On their mother's breast,
Hushed by her low lullaby.
"Now the glowworms glance.
Now the fireflies dance,
Under fern-boughs green and high;
And the western breeze
To the forest trees
Chants a tuneful lullaby.
"Now 'mid shadows deep
Falls blessed sleep,
Like dew from the summer sky;
And the whole earth dreams,
In the moon's soft beams,
While night breathes a lullaby.
"Now, birdlings, rest,
In your wind-rocked nest,
Unscared by the owl's shrill cry;
For with folded wings
Little Brier swings,
And singeth your lullaby."
In this gentle family lived the elf, and for a time all went well, for those about her were so lovely in their manners, so unselfish, kind, and patient, she had no cause for anger, wilfulness, or discontent, but seemed to be a perfect fairy, and was much beloved by all in the wood. By and by she began to get tired of this quiet life, to forget to look often at her bosom monitor, and cross feelings soon brought unkind words. The doves grieved over this and tried to help her, but the little fault was not easy to be cured, and nothing but trying very hard, very patiently on Brier's own part, could ever change it .
One day, when Papa Dove was gone to market in a distant barley-field, and Mamma was rocking Twitter Linnet to sleep, Flutter and Coo sat coseyly in the nest watching the dragon-flies play among the water-weeds below.
"Ah, if we could only fly, what merry games we would have down there! It seems as if I could not stay up here another day, I so long to see a little of the world, which looks so fine from this high place," sighed Flutter.
"Yes," answered Coo; "I, too, long to use my wings, for they seem large and strong enough. But mamma will not teach us yet, so we must wait till she thinks best. I hope it will be soon, for at night I dream of such far flights into the sky that I wake feeling as if I should spring out of the nest for joy."
"We shall not have to wait long, little sister," said Flutter, "for last night, when I woke to stretch my legs a bit, I heard papa say that, as soon as Neighbor Linnet was on the wing again, our flying lessons would begin; and that will be soon, I fancy, for she sat on a sunny twig a whole hour to-day."
"I can teach you to fly without waiting at all," said Brier, looking out from the leaf behind which she had gone to sulk. "Hop forth to the edge of the nest, spread your wings, give a small leap, and all will go well with you."
"Mamma bade us wait for her, and I am afraid some mischief will happen if we disobey," answered Coo, as Brier unfurled her shining wings and smiled again.
"Might we not try?" asked Flutter, eagerly. "I long so to sit on the moss by the pool, and peck a seed or a bug or two for myself. Let us just fly down, and surprise mamma by sitting all in a row on that pretty green mound. I think we might without harm."
"I dare not, because we promised. It is such a long, long way, and we might easily fall on the stones. Do not go. Flutter; do not tempt her, dear Brier. Just think, if she break a leg or a wing, how sad it will be!"
"I'm not afraid!" cried Flutter, hopping out of the nest. "Come hither, Brier, and show me how to use these fine wings of mine as gracefully as you do your own."
"See now, I spread them thus, lift up my feet, and float away like a thistle-down"; and away went Brier, high over the tree-tops, then down in airy circles, till she rippled with her little foot the surface of the pool.
"Yes, yes, that looks very charming, but is not so easy as one might suppose," said Flutter, skipping timidly up and down with much flapping of her half-grown wings.
"I cannot lift this heavy body of mine, for I am a sadly fat bird, though I never knew it till now. Can you not help one a bit, dear Brier?"
"I shall not help you at all, if you do not obey me at once," answered the elf, with a frown. "You said you were not afraid, but I do not believe it; else you would soar boldly away, and not stand twittering and trembling here. Come and help me, Coo; if you fly first, she will be ashamed not to follow, and then we will have gay times in the air."
"No, I cannot, and it is not kind of you to take poor Flutter away, for we cannot fly at once, as you fairies do. Come back, sister, and let us play safely here. O, do! it is so wrong to disobey mamma."
But Flutter and Brier would not listen to good little Coo, and still stayed out on the bough. The elf floated and flew, soared up and swooped down, but the timid bird could not gain courage to follow. Then Brier grew angry, and saying, "I shall wait no longer, fly away at once, you foolish thing!" she thrust her off the branch. Poor Flutter spread her feeble wings, but they could not uphold her, and, with a cry of affright, she fell heavily to the ground, and lay quite still, as if she were dead.
Coo, forgetting her fear, flew to the edge of the nest, and called her mother in a louder tone than had ever passed her little bill before, while Brier bent over the motionless dove, and tried to recall it to life. But the soft eyes were closed, the white bosom ruffled and bruised.
"Oh! what shall I do?" cried the terrified elf. "I never meant to hurt her like this, and how shall I make her better before the mamma comes back?"
"Go and hide yourself in the darkest nook of the wood, and never hope to be forgiven for a thing like this. Go away before her mother comes, for this sight will surely break her heart," chirped a wren, hastening down from her nest near by.
"Yes indeed, you had best fly away at once, for now not even a gnat will be friends with you, but all of us will fear you, for you are not what we thought you; so go away, and leave us in peace, naughty Brier!"
A dragon-fly spoke, and all about her, from pool and grass, and trees and air, echoed voices, calling, "Go away, go away, naughty Brier!"
"I will go away to my own lovely home, for I hate this gloomy forest, and I will never come among you again, unkind and uncivil creatures that you are!" cried Brier, forgetting everything in her passion; and, without another look at Flutter, another word to Coo, she darted away with a whirr like that of an angry humming-bird, when he finds no honey in a flower.
A long way flew Brier, till her wings were tired and her breath quite gone, she went so fast; then she paused in a lonely part of the wood, and sat down on a pebble to rest. She would not think yet, for she was still in a naughty mood, and when one begins to remember the unkind things one has done, one begins to get sorry for them, and longs to be forgiven. In order that she might forget the sad accident which she had caused, the elf hummed a song as she sat; but it sounded harsh and out of tune, because she was so herself; so she stopped singing, and amused herself by watching an ant village near by. Very busy were the inhabitants of Emmetville, running up and down the streets; some with loads of food, some with grains of sand from their underground houses, others doing errands which none but ants would have to do. Being a fairy, Brier could understand their language, and heard them singing and talking as they worked, and very funny were some of the songs and sayings. Close by her seat rose a neat little mound, and one most industrious ant was tugging away with load after load of sand from within; up he would come with a big grain, lay it nicely outside, take a breath of fresh air, and hurry back again in such haste that he often tumbled head over heels down his little hole. Brier liked this busy one, for he sang as he worked, and had a very pleasant expression of countenance. As he paused to settle a large grain of yellow sand on the top of the mound, as an ornament to the front door, Brier said: "Mr. Emmet, why are you in such haste? and why do you never stop to rest or talk with your neighbors?"
The ant made her a little bow, and answered, gayly: "I am about to be married, and wish to get my house in fine order as soon as I can; therefore I work with all my might, and sing meanwhile, for I am the happiest fellow in all the town, and shall have a grand wedding to-morrow. Ha! ha! Come and see us then, if you will."
With that he gave a little skip for joy, lost his footing, and rolled down the mound, laughing as he went, till he fell against a big black ant, who was walking by in a very stately manner. When the red ant came tumbling over his back, he grew dreadfully angry, and cried out in a rough voice: "What! what! is this the way you play tricks on respectable persons, you unmannerly mite? Wait a bit, and see what comes of such pranks."
"Indeed, indeed, sir, it was only an accident, and upon my word it shall never happen again," began the red ant, very humbly, as he gathered himself up with a great many bows.
But the black ant was in such a towering rage he would not listen, nor understand, but fell upon poor little Mr. Emmet, and beat and bit and dragged him here and there most unmercifully. Brier besought him to let go, and all the ant people came running to see, but dared not help, because the black ant was far bigger and stronger than they, and belonged to a very fierce tribe, which had destroyed their village more than once. So they ran away again as fast as they came; and when the black fellow had vented his rage, he went on his way, leaving the Emmet quite dead on the ground. Brier was very much grieved and shocked at such a display of temper, and cried over the departed ant very tenderly, as she laid him in the little house he would never want any more. She set up the handsome yellow grain as a monument, and sent a message to the unhappy ant-bride, telling how it happened, for she could not go to see her,—no, that would be altogether too sad.
Then she sorrowfully went on her way, thinking of poor Flutter, wondering if she, too, were dead, and feeling as if she herself were no better than the brutal black ant who had destroyed so much happiness in his blind anger. Full of these dismal feelings, she flew aimlessly here and there till nightfall; then, homesick, cold, and weary, she crept into a pine-tree, longing to be safe again between downy Flutter and Coo, with Mamma Dove's sheltering wings folded over her head. As she sat sighing and shivering in the gloomy tree, there arose a great noise below her, and, peeping down, she saw a badly built nest, full of young crowlets, all fighting for a bit of carrion their father had just given them. Such shrill cawing and pecking and beating of wings Brier had never seen. Each crowlet wanted all, and none would stop to settle the matter amicably, but all fought and screamed till feathers flew, the nest rocked, and more than one eye was nearly pecked out. None succeeded in getting the morsel, for in the skirmish it fell to the ground and was lost. A crow near by flew down, gobbled it up, and gave them a scolding for being so silly.
All this frightened Brier so much, that when the crowlets fell to reproaching each other, and began a fresh quarrel, she flew away as if some fearful thing was after her, and never stopped till a wide marsh lay before her. It was quite dark now, and a heavy dew began to fall; but the elf had nowhere to go, and sat weeping underneath a dilapidated mushroom, wondering what would become of her. Presently a brilliant light came dancing over the marsh, and a voice cried out: "Come hither! come hither! I will show you a safe, warm place. Trust to me, and follow."
Gladly Brier obeyed, and hastened after the friendly light, which flitted hither and thither, now gleaming brightly, now flickering like a dim candle in the wind. The tired fairy followed till her wings gave out, and she was forced to ask if they were not nearly at the journey's end. Then the false light vanished with a mocking laugh, and Brier fluttered down upon the damp moss, where she lay faint with weariness and fear. The tempting Will-o'-the-wisp danced round her again, evil-eyed snakes looked out from their coverts, strange plants nodded in their sleep, noisome vapors filled the air, and hoarse-voiced frogs came hopping up to touch the shuddering elf with their clammy fingers, and bid her come and play with them among the green pools of the fen.
"O go away, and leave me to die in peace!" cried Brier. "Do not hurt me, for I am a lost, unhappy elf, who has no friend in the wide world to save her now."
"Do not fear, poor little creature! for we will befriend you, though we are but small and weak," whispered sweet voices from the moss. "Lie here and rest till morning; nothing shall harm you, for we will guard your sleep, and send you happy dreams."
"Who are you?" asked Brier, already soothed by the gentle tones and fragrant breath that surrounded her. "May I trust you? I have been once deceived, and am very miserable."
"Yes, we know that, and we pity you; now rest your weary little head in the shadow of our leaves, and tell us how we can best comfort you."
Brier felt the soft touch of some flowery sprite as a drop of honey came upon her lips, and her head was pillowed on some gentle bosom. So friendly were the words, the acts, of these unknown beings, she was touched and won at once. Lying there, she presently began to weep repentant tears, and sobbed out: "Ah, the only comfort I can know is to be able to undo the naughty thing which I have done. Can you show me how I shall make the doves forgive and love me as they did?"
"Dear little Brier, there is but one way to reach what you desire," whispered the sweet voices in her ear. "Go humbly back and ask to be forgiven; then show that your penitence is sincere by keeping a careful guard upon tongue and temper. It needs but little knowledge to tell us that gentleness wins its way everywhere, and patience is the sweetest virtue which mortal, elf, or flower can possess."
"Do not listen to these weak and foolish words," cried other voices above Brier's head, while a bitter odor filled the air. "Look up and listen to us, for we will show a better way to be happy. Do not go back nor humble yourself to any one. Go on and look for pleasure everywhere; for life was not given to be wasted in uprooting harmless little passions such as yours. Heed our words, and ask no pardon of the silly doves, who will but despise you for your weak submission."
"It is a brave, a beautiful thing to say, 'Forgive me, I have done wrong; I will amend,'" breathed the other voices from the moss. "O listen to us, and conquer the small passions while you may, lest they become your masters, and rule you like a slave. Go back, dear elf, and with a single word wipe out the bitterness of your regret, atone for the unkind deed, and let it be a lesson that shall serve you all your life."
Wondering and perplexed lay Brier, listening to the unseen spirits that warned and tempted her. First she thought to obey the selfish ones, and try to be good no longer, because it was so hard. But the unhappy hours she had spent, the sad sights she had seen, the fright, the weariness, and want she had suffered, showed her that happiness would not come without self-control. Next she bent to hearken to the gentler voices, and tender thoughts began to come, good resolutions sprung up, and meek desires seemed to comfort her as she received and welcomed them. Then for the first time did she see a faint light glimmering on the moss; she thought it was a glowworm, and put out her tiny hands to warm them at his lamp; but no worm, no firefly, nor even a stray moonbeam did she find. As she moved, the golden shadow followed, and soon she found that it was shining brightest on her own breast. It was the talisman, and as she drew it out, through all the gloom her mother's face smiled on her with the look that always softened little Brier's heart, and helped her to repent even in her naughtiest hours. It did so then; for, laying down her wet cheek on the dear face in the magic drop, she cried out, through her tears: "O dear mamma! I will be good, I will be good! Speak no more to me, bad spirits, for I must not listen ; and you, friendly voices, whisper your wise warnings in my ear, that I may do my duty, may be forgiven for my fault, and be again a gentle little Brier."
As the words left her lips, her heavy eyelids closed, a warm wind breathed across her lips like a good-night kiss, and through the clouds the moon shone out like a motherly face watching over the lonely elf all night long.
When she woke, her first thought was to see who the good and evil counsellors had been. A tall, flame-colored marsh-lily rang its bells about her; its leaves stained with dark spots, its bitter breath filling all the air. Turning from the savage-looking flower, with its noisy jangle, she found beside her a cluster of white violets blooming freshly even in that unlovely spot, and lifting their meek faces to the light with an innocent serenity that rebuked her as no words of theirs had done. She kissed and thanked them gratefully, and flew away a wiser, better elf for that night in the dreary fen.
Flutter Dove lay on her bed of feathers in the shadow of the ferns, for every bird in the wood had helped to make it soft for her: even the baby-birds had plucked a billful of down from their breasts or a cherished feather from among the few their little tails possessed. The bruised wing was still folded, but the ruffled bosom was white and smooth as ever, and Flutter's eyes shone again as she cooed to Twitter Linnet who sat beside her, or looked up to answer her sister, who stood on the bough above showering sweet names and merry songs upon her, for Coo could not come down to play with her. Mamma Dove tripped about on her rosy feet, bringing seeds, worms, or water from the pool where the Papa was making bubbles shine and ripples flow, while he bathed his wings and dipped his head quite out of sight.
Suddenly a weary little figure stood before them; its robe was soiled and torn, its tiny feet bleeding, its face stained with tears, and very sad. At first they did not know it, till, kneeling beside Flutter, it said, very humbly: "It is I, bad, passionate Brier. I have learned a lesson, and will try most patiently to be all that you would have me. Will you forgive and take me back again!"
Then Flutter waved her one wing for joy, and Coo nearly fell off the bough in her delight, the kind mother-bird folded the penitent elf beneath her wings, and the father came hurrying from the pool to bid her be assured that they forgave and loved her better than before.
"Now that is right beautiful! But I fear I could not so soon have pardoned such a thing, and been so glad to welcome that Brier Rose back," said neighbor Wren to Glance the dragon-fly, as they watched the doves.
"Yes indeed, it would be a fine matter if all in the wood followed their generous example, and learned to be as charitable to the faults of others. I for one will say a friendly word to the elf, for I was very sharp with her when Flutter fell, and have been somewhat troubled at heart ever since."
As he spoke Glance darted away to bid his neighbors greet Brier without reproof or coldness, while Madam Wren sent her daughter Jenny to see if she could be of use to Madam Dove. Cock Robin soon followed with the ripest berry he could find, and all in the forest were kind to the elf, for the sake of the doves who had suffered most, but forgave so readily.
Poor Brier had not thought to be so tenderly received, and it did her more good than a hundred scoldings. Every one was so kind, it almost broke her heart to remember all the ungentle things she had said and done to them; and when Papa Dove had brought her new garments from Silverthread the spider, when mamma had bathed and bound up her wounded feet, and little Coo had gathered her cosily into the nest, she put her arms about her neck and fell asleep, resolving to be the very opposite of all she had been, till the past was quite forgotten and the good Star fully satisfied.
She kept her promise; for, like many a child, she only needed to be shown how sad and unlovely her own fault looked in others, to grow glad and eager to be good. Often quick words rose to her lips and anger burned in her heart, for it takes many efforts, many failures, to make a real success; but when the gust of passion had passed by, she asked pardon, and tried still harder to subdue her bosom sin. Whenever she found herself getting very bad, she thought of the dead ant, the quarrelsome crowlets, the night in the fen, and all the misery she had brought upon herself. That helped her, and with each day the face in the talisman shone clearer and smiled sweeter on the now gentle-tempered Brier.
BLUSH opened her eyes in a garden, and looked delightedly about her, thinking within herself, "I cannot fail to be happy in such a blooming place as this; I will choose the finest flower for my palace, and live here like a queen."
All through the garden she went, but was not satisfied till she came to the Crown-imperial. It had no perfume, but was dressed in scarlet and gold, and in each cup there lay a drop which was not dew, but a part of the flower, and these Blush made her mirrors. Here she lived and soon found friends among the tulips growing close by. Her days she spent in arranging gay garments, looking in her glasses, and flying about to be admired by the flowers, many of whom flattered the vain elf, that she might stay with them, for fairies are dearly beloved by flowers. The wiser blossoms warned her of her folly in thus wasting her life, and none pitied her more sincerely than Mignonette, who lived in a sunny corner among the pansies and blue larkspurs. She often ventured to remind Blush that time was going and nothing had been done; but the elf only looked scornfully down on the sad-colored plant, bade her take care of herself, and floated away to the tulips, who clad her in purple and gold.
One morning a busy breeze came through the garden, proclaiming that a messenger from Fairyland was on his way, and bidding them prepare to greet him. Then every flower spread her colored leaves, opened her cells, and put on her dew-drop ornaments, till each glittered in the sun. Soon they saw the Honey-king approaching, for he had been to Elf-land with his tribute of sweets to the Queen, and brought her message back.
"See!" cried the Rose, "see his velvet cloak, the golden bands on his breast, the gleam of his wings, and hear his deep voice as he sings on his way. Ah, if he would but come to me, I should be the happiest flower that ever bloomed."
On came the royal bee humming as he flew, and each flower trembled with expectation as they watched and waited. He hovered above the rose a moment, but Mignonette's breath was sweeter than hers. Away to the sad-colored blossom he flew, and, standing beside her, delivered his message.
"I am bidden to tell you that the elves are coming to choose one among you to be the summer queen; and when autumn comes, and they return to lay you in your winter beds, if she has ruled wisely and well, they will bear her away to bloom in Fairyland forever."
When the flowers heard this, great were the rejoicings, for this was the highest honor that could be done them, and each hoped to gain it. The sun shone and the deny fell alike on all, and they who used these good gifts aright grew daily in strength and beauty. Now Blush had nothing to do with the matter, and should have helped the flowers instead of thinking only of herself. But she was so vain she hoped to be chosen the queen, both because of her beauty and her birth, and all day long she flew busily here and there, preparing the finest suit, that she might outshine all about her. This was not kind, and the plants disliked her more and more, for she took away their dew to bathe in, broke off their fairest leaves for her robes, powdered her hair with their golden pollen, and gave them no peace for their own affairs.
"Can you not tell me how I may wash away all traces of the sun from my face It is not as fair as it used to be, and will soon be as brown as ugly Minnie's, if I cannot freshen its bloom."
She spoke to the tulips, who had ceased to be her friends when they found she was trying to outdo them in splendor; but they hid their dislike under smiling faces, and replied: "Down by the wall yonder grows a plant with violet flowers; go and bathe in their dew, pretty Blush, and see how fair you'll become."
If Blush had studied fairy lore instead of her own lovely face, she would have known that the violet flowers grew on the deadly nightshade, which would only blight and destroy. But she knew nothing of it, and, hastening away, bathed in the poisonous dew, then flew home, and to sleep, that she might be fresh for the morrow.
With the first peep of day Blush was before her mirror, to see if the change had been wrought. But she started with dismay, for a colorless face, with dim eyes, white lips, and faded hair, looked back at her. She thought the morning mist had blurred her glass, and tried another, but in each it was the same, and then she saw the cruel loss which had befallen her. Full of grief and indignation, she flew to reproach the tulips, but they answered, scornfully: "Foolish thing! when we told you to bathe in the flowers yonder, we meant the purple jessamine, not the evil nightshade. We thought an elf who gave herself such airs knew everything, and think you justly punished for your vanity. Now that you are not fit to be seen, you had better hide yourself till the elves are gone,"—and the cruel tulips turned laughing away.
Poor little Blush knew they spoke falsely, and went sadly away to hide herself behind a burdock-leaf that grew near the fountain in a lonely corner, for she wished to see, yet not be seen.
With the first rays of the sun came the fairy troop, some on rosy clouds, some on the morning wind, some on their own fleet wings. Each flower heart beat fast as the shining band alighted and passed along the blooming terraces. On it went by the stately Lily, who grew pale with grief when she saw that the wands were not lowered before her, and with an imploring voice she cried: "Are not my leaves stainless as snow? Am I not stately and fair? Why am I not chosen queen?"
But the elves replied, as they pointed to a cluster of heart's-ease, dying for want of sun and air in the shadow of Lily's broad leaves: "In your white bosom lies a haughty heart, careless of all things but itself. We cannot crown you till you have learned the beauty of humility."
Blushing with anger, the Rose demanded, as they passed her by: "Do you not see me? Am I not the queen of flowers, royal and sweet? Give me the crown: it is my right."
But soft hands put the thorny branches back, and the elfin voices whispered: "Passion makes no flower fair, however royal be its birth. Rule yourself, wilful Rose, then you may wisely govern others."
Now when neither of the rival beauties were chosen, no other plant dared speak, but waited in wondering silence while the elves passed all the flowers that possessed a single charm, until they reached the nook where Mignonette was rocking a baby butterfly to sleep upon her breast. Here every wand fell, and amid an astonished hush the fairies proclaimed her the summer queen.
Now when Blush saw this she could not bear it; the thought that the ugly brown flower, whom she had despised, was to reign over all the garden, to have a court, ministers, and maids of honor, to be visited by ambassadors from other courts, to receive gifts, and in the autumn to be carried in state to Fair-land, was too much for the disappointed elf, because with vanity comes envy, and she could not endure that any one should be more praised or honored than herself. As all the fairy harps began to tinkle, the flower-bells to ring, and the coronation festival opened with great splendor. Blush cried out: "I will not stay to see this; if I cannot be lovely, I will die and be forgotten"; and, flying up to the fountain's brim, she plunged deep into the cold, dark water dashing there. She hoped to die at once, for fairies do not receive their magic wands till they are grown, and many things have power to hurt them before that time. But to her great surprise, the waves divided without harming or even wetting her a drop, and she sank safely to the bottom, where lived a solitary water-sprite, who looked much amazed when the elf came floating into her blue chamber, as she sat in a shell singing the song the fountain repeated to the flowers above.
The sprite was very kind to Blush, and glad to have a friend, for she was very lonely; and they fell to talking quite as if they had known one another a long time. "I cannot understand why I was not drowned in coming hither," said the elf, when she had told her troubles.
"You must have some fairy charm about you, and that made the water harmless," answered the sprite.
Then Blush remembered her talisman, and looked at it, longing to feel her mother's arms about her, and hear her gentle voice comforting her sorrow. Like Moss and Brier, she had forgotten to look often at it and be guided by its smiles or tears. Now it was a most consoling thought, that, though she was so plain, her mother would still love her, still wait and hope to see her, and have no reproach for her if she were only good. Now it seemed time to begin her task, and, having no beauty to fill her little head with vain fancies, her heart woke up from its long sleep and bade her live for better things.
"Kind sprite, can you help me to be humble, generous, and truly useful? I desire to do well, but I have spent my days in foolish play, and now I cannot tell how it is best to cure my vanity," she said, with tears in her dim eyes.
"Live for others, Blush; forget yourself, and care for the beauty of a simple, earnest heart more than for loveliness of face or grace of form. Nothing can change or take this charm away; and I will help you to obtain it, if you really care for it."
"I do, I do; try me, and see if I am not sincere."
The sprite believed her, and till twilight fell amused the elf in her own charming manner,—teaching her to understand the liquid music of the waves, the strange language of the fishes, that glided to and fro above them like golden birds in a blue sky; telling her sweet stories of a water-spirit's life in river, lake, and sea; rocking her in a rosy shell; feeding her on delicate food; and leading her up and down the weedy bottom of the marble basin, where little red crabs, water-spiders, sea-anemones, and odd shell-fish enjoyed themselves among the pebbles and coral branches lying here and there.
So busy was Blush that she did forget herself, for the first time in many days,—forgot her loss, her unhappiness, and began to smile again: for though the sprite was a curious creature, with long, green hair, and little fins upon her shoulders where the elf had wings,—though she wore no clothes, and her tiny hands were damp and cold,—she had such friendly ways with her, such loving eyes, and a voice so like the ripple of quiet waves upon the shore, that Blush grew very fond of her.
When the stars came out in the evening sky, and all the dwellers in the fountain crept into their watery beds, the sprite wrapped herself in a cloak of mist, and bade Blush come with her. Up they went, and with delight the elf breathed long breaths of the balmy upper air, and warmed herself in the golden heart of a rose, where the noonday heat still lingered.
"Now," said the sprite, "you shall see my work, and bear a share, in it. Take a part of my dew-mantle about you, and fly to every flower in this long bed, brush away the dust of day, and bathe it in the drops that will continually gather on the edge of your cloak. Forget none, but refresh all, and, if any have received a hurt, touch it with this balm of moonlight, which is a sovereign cure for such wounds. I shall work on the upper terrace until dawn; but if you tire of this labor, you can leave it, only I can never befriend you any more, unless you are in earnest." And with that, the sprite floated away.
This was a hard task for Blush, because she knew that the care given to the plants made them grow fair and strong, and now it seemed as if she were giving her own loveliness away; besides, she was sure that sleepless nights, and days spent in the damp fountain, would not give her back her beauty. Long she stood with the dew-mantle in her hand, unable to decide, and at length stooped to lay it down, when from her bosom dropped the talisman, and lay shining on the grass. The face was so sorrowful, that, with a last sigh of selfish vanity, she folded herself in the chilly cloak, and saw, as she put it back into her bosom, that the mother's face was smiling on her now.
Then she fell to work, and washed every flower in the plot, though it must be owned that she scrubbed the naughty tulips till their cheeks glowed like fire, and they cried out. She could not forgive and love them yet, and as they did not know her in her misty cloak, she enjoyed that part of her work, and left such a big dew-drop in each cup, they thought there must have been a shower while they slept. Queen Minnie was more gently tended, for every leaf glistened, and the air was full of fragrance when the elf had done. Now that she had begun to care for others, she remembered the good counsel Mignonette had often given, and how scornfully she had received it; therefore she was anxious to atone for her unkindness, and did her careful work unseen in the stillness of the night.
Till dawn they worked, then back into the fountain for another quiet day, for the water-sprite could not bear the sun, and Blush would not leave her new-found friend. In this way a long time passed; Blush never looked into a mirror, tried heartily to forget that she had been so fair, endeavored to be self-denying, humble, and happy in the unseen work to which she gave her nights. Soon she found she could rejoice in the beauty of others without an envious feeling, and tended many a plant that once had been unkind to her so tenderly, that they wondered at her forgiving spirit, and longed to see her as she once had been. Night after night, when she came stealing to them, thinking them asleep, some one of them would be awake, and waiting for her with a drop of freshest honey, a breath of odor, or a loving kiss, to show their friendliness, and Blush would dance for joy, saying, as she went on with her dainty task:—
"Ah, this is better than to be a vain and selfish elf, unloved by any! I can be glad that I am ugly, if pity makes me friends like these. What more can I do for you, dear flower? Let me bend this leaf, that the sun may not scorch you to-morrow; let me smooth away this fold in your petal, and be sure I will bring dew enough next time to bathe you from your tallest stamen to your lowest leaf."
While busied with these generous cares for others, Blush was unconscious that her beauty was returning, that the sprite, the waves, the winds, the plants, all lent their help to give her back the charms she had lost fourfold greater than before. Now the loveliness came from within, brightening her face until it seemed a little sun, shining even in the darksome fountain. No one told her this, till the sprite could not keep the secret any longer, and bade Blush look into the mirrors of the crown imperial, where they had been busied late into the dawn. The elf believed she should behold the faded face she had last seen there, but smiled and looked bravely in, there to behold a sweeter face than any glass ever had reflected before. She knew it was her own, was glad to be again her winsome self, but now the vanity was so well cured, that, instead of looking proudly about her, she spread her hands before her face, and would not lift it up until the sprite placed her on the green tuft of leaves that crowned the flower, and set all the scarlet bells to ringing, that the other plants might wake and rejoice with Blush. Very soon the garden was alive with blooming faces and gay voices, as birds and blossoms joined in the song the happy fairy sang, while the sun climbed up the rosy sky, and on her bosom shone the talisman, undarkened by a single shadow.
"O lesson well and wisely taught,
Stay with me to the last,
That all my life may better be
For the trial that is past
O vanity, mislead no more!
Sleep, little passions, long!
Wake, happy heart, and dance again
To the music of my song!
"O summer days, flit fast away,
And bring the blithesome hour
When we three wanderers shall meet
Safe in our household flower!
O dear mamma, lament no more!
Smile on us as we come,
Your grief has been our punishment.
Your love has led us home."
Mamma Rose sat alone longing for the merry voices that used to make the evening hour such a pleasant time. The Papa was teaching Tina to fly among the aspen-trees near by, and as the Mamma watched the only child now left her, tears dropped slowly down her cheeks, and she sighed: "When will they come? Ah, if they knew how I pine for them, they would not linger long away from me."
As the words left her lips there came a little rustle, and there before her, as if they had risen at her wish, stood Blush, Brier, and Moss, with a star shining on each forehead, while smiles and tears made rainbows on their happy faces. Gathered close to their mothers bosom, they were too full of joy for words, till the dear Papa came flying like the wind with Tina, whose locks were all blown about her face, and little garments sadly ruffled with his speed. But when she saw who waited for her, she fluttered from one to the other, eager to welcome them back, and show that she could fly as well as they. Then, lying in their mother's arms, they told all their wanderings, and the hope each cherished that the good Star's lessons had been so well learned that they could never be forgotten.
"But tell me, dearest children, what was the talisman Star gave to help and comfort you? I long to see the wondrous charm which has given me back my darlings so beautiful and good," said Mamma Rose, as she kissed the blooming faces clustering about her own.
Blush, Brier, and Moss drew closer still; and, folding their arms more tenderly about her, whispered, as they showed the magic drops glittering in their little bosoms: "See, dear mamma, here lies the talisman; for the strong, sweet spell that conquered passion, vanity, and indolence, and led us safely home, was our great love for you."