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PINK TULIPS

By E. L. WHITE

ILLUSTRATED BY S. ABBEY

"I BELIEVE in fairies. I—I've seen them!"

"I'm sure you have."

Edgar Nelson responded conventionally, while his eyes said plainly, "Little liar!" At the same time he was conscious that Fay Pearson spoke with intention to irritate rather than to deceive.

"Of orthodox type, I suppose?" he asked drily. "Butterfly wings, gauzy skirts, and silver wands?"

"No. Not a bit like that. You mustn't believe all you read, even if it's in the financial papers. This is what happened. I was sticking the peas, when I felt suddenly that someone was watching me. You know the feeling?"

"No."

"Ah, you're not psychic! I looked up and saw the most extraordinary little man. He wore an absurd brown cap and a tight brown suit with silly little splashes of white. He had beady brown eyes, a beaky nose, and a snappy mouth. I saw him as plainly as I see you."

Something in her eye made Nelson glance sharply at his white spats and brown suit, which, with silent but eloquent voice, rose up and called a good tailor blessed. But his nose was Roman, his eyes were compelling, and his mouth denoted strong character. He did not in the least resemble her ridiculous fairy."

"Yet, all the same, you stung him for the three wishes?"

"Rather. In classic style I hailed him: 'Fairy! The wishes are on you!' But he only gave me one. You could see he was one of the stingies by the set of his lips."

Nelson tightened his own firm mouth.

"Not at all. You were on the make—'something for nothing.' I consider you got most generous treatment. You can't expect pre- War conditions even in Fairyland."

"I suppose not. Besides, now I think of it, he looked like a business fairy. Business would spoil a fairy's temper, wouldn't it, cheating and haggling all day?"

Nelson's face, which had grown dark, suddenly brightened, as though he beheld the exact spot where the rainbow ended.

"Your sad story reminds me of one of my own. I once saw a fairy."

"You couldn't; you're not psychic."

Fay spoke sharply, for she alone knew of the countless times he had proved unresponsive when she had willed him to look up at her casement window.

"What was your fairy like?" she asked grudgingly.

"Beautiful. An exquisite, if reduced, edition of woman. No one could mistake her for a man. Golden hair, rose-petal cheeks, violet eyes."

"What did she wear?"

"Skirts, gauzy yet adequate. A womanly toilette—Parisian in its simplicity. My fairy had a dash of Eve, and knew that her mission was to attract."

"H'm! Did the attractive fairy grant you a wish?"

"No."

"There you are! She resembled the attractive type of woman who takes all and gives nothing."

"Pardon me, I addressed my fairy in terms of business, which is the most courteous language that I know. 'Madam, with reference to your esteemed wish, I beg that you will allow it to mature until your further convenience.’"

"And did she understand all that?"

"Naturally. In Fairyland they understand fair dealing, truth, and honour, and business is merely the prose of all that."

"She should meet my little brown business fairy. What colour was her dress?"

Nelson's severe face was irradiated by his smile.

"Pink."

"That's Mrs. Lemon's favourite colour—my boss, you know. Good morning!"

Fay, who was breeched and booted as befitted Mrs. Lemon's gardener, covered the path with steps twice as long as her natural stride, just to show what a fine man she was. But she pulled the sacking from her frames with unnecessary vigour.

The frames were full of cuttings of pink geraniums, for Mrs. Lemon had a passion for pink. There were rose silken curtains at her windows, and she sorrowed for her late husband in mourning of the deepest pink.

Fay did not like her employer, because she treated her gardener as a man in every respect but one. She expected her to grow flowers exactly like those unnatural beauties printed on the covers of the packets of seeds, to have a back which never ached, and no delicate feelings over worms. On the other hand, she paid her the salary which corresponded to these handicaps of sex.

"Gardener!"

Fay turned at her employer's clear voice. She studied her as she came down the path.

Mrs. Lemon was sufficiently young and pretty to awake desire in the heart of a man. In every respect she corresponded to Nelson's description of his fairy.

Blue eyes, pink cheeks—one slightly pinker than the other, for the widow was careless—and a frock which might have been cut out of a sunrise, double width and on the cross.

"What vegetables for to-day, madam? Seakale or purple sprouting broccoli?"

"Again? Why is there never any choice?"

"Season." Fay played her useful trump. "I can't give you peas in April."

Each looked warily at the other. Nina Lemon knew little about a garden, and Fay only a little more. She had previously been on the land, and had acquired her present post through the misrepresentation of a kindly but unmoral friend who put her plight before the eternal truth.

But, with prayer and fasting and unstinted labour. Fay was learning more every day. The garden was no longer a job to be held down, but a passion. She loved its every season—loved it in all weathers, loved its weeds as well as its fruits. In short, loved it.

Of late, her dread of dismissal was sharpened with foreboding. Owing to the unfortunate fact of common ancestry, Nina Lemon was showing a streak of Adam and was reading books on gardening. As her knowledge was theoretical, she knew what results to expect, while Fay, who was practical, knew that those good things only happened in the books.

The widow's blue eyes rested on the central bed of tulip.

"Gardener, I hope those tulips will be out by Sunday. I've week-end visitors."

"Certainly, madam."

"I hope 1 shall not be disappointed again!"

She turned away, once more mollified by the exquisite order of her garden. Fay drew a sigh of relief. She had her orders. Pink tulips by Sunday. And that was that.

As she gave her lawn its first cutting for the season, she thought of fairies. She wished fervently that they were true—useful little green and brown men who would swing from that tree and, in return for a bowl of porridge, mow the grass while she slept.

She had introduced the topic merely as a fanciful offence to the prejudices of the matter-of-fact Nelson, who always wore creased trousers and white spats, carried a creased Times, and caught the nine-fifteen. He angered her by the disapproval in his eye and the chill in his voice.

"Why does he look at me as if I'd cut down the cherry tree and was lying good and hard? I've never been rude to him until to-day. Guess the cap fitted for that brown fairy. Wish he was the grass! There—and there!"

Nelson caught his train that morning, but only by an acrobatic feat. He had lingered, snared by the young golden-brown foliage of the oaks against the blue sky and the foam of cherry-blossom. He might give the impression of having been flattened in a letter-press and afterwards smoke-dried, but there was the stir in his heart and the quiver of his pulse which trembled to life every year with the green tip of the first snowdrop.

He was feeling the response to the Spring—hearing the fluting of Pan as prelude to the Big Adventure.

And still Romance passed him by. Every December, after a successful business audit, he smoked out the Old Year and welcomed in the New—alone.

There was the usual reason for his composite nature. As the son of a sugar broker and a dark-eyed girl who wrote sonnets, he was the battle-ground of two opposing personalities. If father were evident on the strong surface current, the undertow was pure mother.

He returned that evening to the tick, but in a state of nervous irritation. He wanted—something.

As usual, he shed his business armour and, incredibly loose in an old velvet smoking-jacket and ancient slippers, he strolled into his beloved garden.

It was a gracious spot, mellowed by time. with quaint grass-plots and flagged pathways, their cracks cemented with tiny rock flowers. The perennials which made it a jungle of old-fashioned blooms were still tidy cropped clumps, but the apple-blossom was out in pink and white snow, and the grass starred with daffodils.

It was perfect, yet incomplete. When God made the Garden, He created someone to walk there, and then someone else.

The worst of it was that Nelson always expected so much. No girl fitted his fancy. He wanted some white stray from the past—some gracious lady of powder and patches, who once had actually paced between these same hedges of clipped yew. At this point Reason asserted herself and told Nelson the only remedy of marriage.

Pipe in mouth, he strolled into the lane, grappling with the situation. Narrowed down, he only knew two women, and those but slightly, owing to his hermit-like seclusion—the pretty pink widow and the gardening girl.

He shook his head at the thought of Fay. He did not like her appearance. She always wore big boots, a smock, and a slouched hat pulled down over her eyes. She would have been an easy model for a beginner to draw, because she showed so few features—just a chin and mouth and part of a nose. One couldn't fall in love with that.

Moreover, as a real gardener himself, he judged her by her works and found them evil. He had seen some of her first failures on the rubbish heap—boxes of pathetic seedlings, whose stems, through over-long exposure under glass, had been drawn out to white threads. On the evidence of those slaughtered innocents, he held her the equivalent of a baby-farmer.

So he strolled along, thinking solely of the pretty pink widow. He resolved to call at The Beeches on the next Sunday. The tender green of the hawthorn hedges was blurred to vague grey, and upon the sharpened air stole a faint perfume of primroses. He felt sopped through with pleasing melancholy.

He passed the thatched cottage where Fay lodged, oblivious to the dim white figure, with unbound hair, who leaned out of her lattice.

Fay, relaxing after her labours, was also responsive to the twilight spell. Putting off her boyhood with her boots, she was yearning, like Juliet, to write a name in the stars, only, as yet, the name was unknown. She dreamed of someone splendid and romantic—quite different to a man who wore white spats and caught the nine-fifteen.

Yet, as Nelson stopped to light his pipe she studied his face with sudden interest. He had good eyes and a finely-cut mouth. At that moment he looked a man one could grow to like. Besides, he was the only man she knew She almost wished he did not dislike her so thoroughly. … And so to bed.

She was up with the dawn to inspect the tulip bed, for the widow wished for pink tulips by Sunday, and Fay had rather less control over the sun than over her mowing machine. To her joy, there were numerous splits in each pale-green calyx, according to time-table.

Suddenly her smile vanished.

"White! Yes, every one. Like pink sugar-almonds when you've sucked them. In mercy's name, what shall I do?"

Nelson, who was enjoying his first pipe in his dew-spangled garden, was arrested by the sound of sobs. It was a shock to discover the gardener, her head buried on the top bar of the gate, crying into her sleeve like a Victorian maiden.

"Can I help?" he asked awkwardly.

"No." Fay raised streaming eyes. "Nobody can help me. You see, Canute couldn't!"

"Couldn't what?"

"Reverse the course of Nature, and you can't, either. He couldn't turn back the tide, and you can't turn white tulips into pink!"

"So that's the trouble." He walked inside and inspected the bed. "Yes, they're white, sure enough. Look up your order! It may be the florist's funeral."

"That makes no difference. She wanted pink tulips by Sunday, and if there are none, I'll be fired. And—and I do love the garden so!"

"Yes—as a woman loves the bird on her hat. And you water it with the sun on it and give the poor flowers measly sprinkles just to draw their roots to the surface. And prune ramblers instead of cutting out. And give foul feeders, like roses, nothing but water. Oh, yes, I dare say you do love the garden! Umph!"

The last exclamation is what Nelson actually uttered, but in it he managed to embody the drift of the other sentences. Because he was a real gardener, he hardened his heart.

"Sounds to me like a fairy's job. Didn't you vow you'd seen one? Better get him to make delivery of his wish."

"Brute!" said Fay to his back.

Nelson reviewed the incident that evening as he smoked in his beloved garden, over which hung a lilac mist of approaching dusk. A silver nail-painting of a moon hung in the green sky. A thrush was fluting in the distance.

He thought again of the pretty pink widow, and resolved once more to call on Sunday. And then he thought of fairies. They had all passed with Merrie England, or, rather, they had never existed. All the same, although he would have died sooner than admit it, every Midsummer Eve, in the wonderful theatre of his garden, he liked to think of Titania and Puck and the rest of the merry folk.

That impudent gardening wench had introduced a personal element in her description of the brown business fairy. It would be well indeed for her if there were such a kindly sprite to get her out of her hole. He hoped that the new gardener would be a competent man.

But he had to admit Fay had improved of late. She was keen and a glutton for work. It might be rather a lark—and he had not played the fool since he had entered the business—to prove that a beaky-nosed, beady-eyed fairy had his points.

He counted the number of pink tulips in his own borders. Those great inartistic beds simply ate up bulbs, but he could just manage to make up the number, for a substitute. Testing the soil with his thumb, he found it friable.

He chuckled as he donned his rubber-soled shoes and carefully prised open the connecting door in the wall. Then, carefully lifting six pink tulips, each with a huge ball of mould at its roots, he carried them to the adjoining garden and, with infinite caution, he exchanged them for six white bulbs.

It was a long and wearisome job, for he transplanted the white tulips into his own borders as he lifted them; but, once fairly started, it was impossible to stop. Moreover, although he would not admit it, he was filled with a savage desire to vindicate the honour of that despised brown fairy. When he had finished, the rain joined in the conspiracy and washed out all traces of human handiwork.

That next morning Fay, pale from a sleepless night, visited the scene of her crime to see if the murder were out.

She started, rubbed her eyes briskly, and then cried out in ecstasy—

"Glory, glory! Pink!"

As only one person knew of her trouble, it took her about half a minute to guess the identity of the miracle-worker, but the whole day was insufficient to reconcile the kindness of the action with his previous dislike. Curiosity, dashed with gratitude, led her through, the gate at the bottom of Nelson's garden.

She gave a cry of rapture. This was a real garden—something which had grown with generations of love and labour.

"Adam planted the first seed, and the Flood watered it. And I can see those flowers sneering when Virgil gave them all Latin names."

She scanned the borders eagerly for white tulips. There were plenty, half-opened, as they should be, according to time-table.

"Hullo, boy! What do you want? Oh, sorry!"

A flash in Fay's eye acknowledged Nelson's first shot.

"You wouldn't believe it, but when I'm not a gardening boy, my name is Fay. Don't you think I look exactly like a fairy?"

"Exactly. In disguise."

"I was just admiring your white tulips. We had some, but we—we've mislaid them."

"And you think these might be yours? Like to examine the laundry marks?"

"Not this evening. I wanted to tell you a thrilling piece of news. The brown fairy was a real sport and granted my wish."

"Good. Prompt delivery, by return of post. That's the advantage of dealing with a business fairy."

Fay frowned at an inconsequent wonder as to how the romantic lover of her twilight dreams would have dealt with the situation. For the life of her, she could not imagine him spitting on his palms, which is the classic way of subduing a spade.

She looked straight at Nelson, who was still creased from the City.

"Well, I'm very grateful to that fairy. He's taught me a kind heart may lurk under a prickly crust."

"I've never yet caught a heart lurking, but I'll watch out for one. … So you think better of the beaky-nosed fairy?"

"Pardon me, Mr. Nelson, his nose was pure Roman. How dare you make such an insinuation! I only wish I were a pink fairy, so that I could grant him his wish."

To his annoyance, Nelson reddened under her gaze.

"Perhaps I can guess. If I can help it on with a word, trust me!"

He squeezed her hand sheepishly. In spite of the pink tulips, her heart felt suddenly empty. Love was on all sides of her, but it passed her by; and it was the spring.

She opened the propaganda the next day, when the widow admired the pink tulips.

"They're nothing to Mr. Nelson's. He's such a clever gardener. But then he does everything well. Such a brain! He'll be a big man some day. He must be making a lot of money—he's so regular and keen. Always catches the nine-fifteen. The dependable sort make the best husbands, don't they, madam?"

The widow, who regarded every adjacent male as her perquisite, looked at Fay with eyes of suspicion.

"If you would spare my garden a little of the interest you lavish upon Mr. Nelson, I might point out there's a plantain on the lawn."

The next Sunday Nelson, wearing seasonable grey and the spring in his heart, called upon Nina Lemon. She gave him an effusive welcome, but he did not enjoy his afternoon. There were too many sugared cakes, his tea was over-sweetened, and there was another man who called the pretty pink widow by her Christian name. Although he promised to come again, he left with the feeling that the bloom had been rubbed off an illusion.

Fay awaited him at the gate.

"I've just come over to shut the lights and stoke the furnace, and I hoped you'd have a look round the garden and—and tell me what you think of it."

Nelson really enjoyed the next hour. In spite of her breeches, the gardener exhibited a womanly deference to his opinion, accepting both blame and advice and kindling to his scant praise. At the end of the tour, however, he began to suspect that she had been picking his brain.

"Did they teach you anything at that grand horticultural college besides the Latin names for columbine, and snapdragon?" he asked.

Fay actually blushed.

"I've found out that the only college at which I can really learn is experience. And I do so hate seeing the poor flowers suffer while I make my mistakes."

"That's the right spirit." Nelson felt suddenly drawn towards her. "If Adam were alive to-day, he'd still be learning."

"But your garden is perfection!"

"Oh, no." He swelled visibly at her praise, "Just a scratch on the soil, for all it's centuries old. It's up to me to leave it better for my son's son's son's son's son's son."

"Gracious! If you mean to have all that long family, you had better begin by proposing to someone right away!"

Fay spoke curtly as the young April green bleached to winter's wizened drab. Oh, why wouldn't Prince Charming come for her? She was so tired of waiting.

The freshness of April melted into the beauty of May. It was an early summer, so that the flowers bloomed almost visibly and the meadow-grass shot up in sorrel and seeding grasses. Every garden was golden with laburnum and soaked with lilac.

Nelson continued his visits to the widow, but they always ended in a conversation with the widow's gardener. Despite these outward signs, his romance was not ripening with the season. As the days grew hotter, so the quiver at his heart was stilled.

Nina Lemon had stripped him of his illusions. She was an egoist, who in the next life would probably be a gramophone. Her voice was never still, and since Nelson had learned the history of her love-affairs, he found it impossible to connect her with a golden-haired, violet-eyed fairy.

His practical self again, he began to think of his cherished pink tulips. They were far finer bulbs than the white of his exchange, and he wanted them back. Most bitterly he regretted the spring madness which caused him to play the part of a brown fairy.

The central bed was denuded to make room for ten-week stocks and asters. Nelson haunted Fay to pump her on the whereabouts of his precious tulips, but she was guarded, as though she suspected his felonious designs.

"When you lifted your bulbs, I suppose you first heeled them out?" he asked.

"I did the proper thing."

"Where? I never saw them."

"They're not there now. I'm drying them for the autumn."

On one pretence after another, he had trapped her into showing him all her glass, her frames and sheds, but nowhere could he detect signs of the pink tulips. A dark suspicion began to fester.

"She's chucked them away. If she has, I'm done with woman for eternity."

May mellowed into a flaming June which kissed every flower to premature life. Nelson's garden was a riot of bloom, canopied with pink and cream festoons of ramblers, so he stopped guessing in favour of a campaign against green fly.

On Midsummer Eve Fay worked on in the garden until, at long last, the sunset stain faded and a faint glow, as of a shaded candle, behind a belt of oaks, heralded the moon.

Her cottage, thickly interlaced with honeysuckle, seemed dark and stifling when she entered it. Indoors was purgatory, and bed an insult to Nature.

With a sigh of relief she unwound the fair coil of hair and shook it loose. In her shortest muslin dress, and wearing dancing sandals over exquisitely-fitting but inexpensive hose—part of her birthday suit—she wandered into the little garden.

The moon was now up, incredibly large and golden. The scent of new-mown hay mingled with the almost overpowering fragrance of jessamine. Fay drew a breath and held out her arms.

"I want to fly!"

Of course she did nothing of the kind. But the strains of a gramophone in the village, softened by distance, set her toes a-tingle. Waving her arms, she wove a dainty measure, springing and bending, as though she had been taught by the winds and the tides, and were inspired by the magic of eternal motion. In reality she was remembering scraps of a dance she had learned from Margaret Morris.

She stopped, panting, at the sight of a tall white figure, who leaned over the hedge, watching her.

"Carry on!"

It looked like her romantic lover, with ruffled hair and ardent eyes, but the voice was the voice of Edgar Nelson.

In turn, Nelson—without glasses and miraculously uncreased—stared at the dainty form with diaphanous draperies and floating hair. It was the dream lady whom he had awaited so long in his old-world garden, even though the mouth and chin were those of the gardening girl.

Fay laughed.

"I'm a fairy. Who are you?"

"As a matter of fact, I've been something of a fairy in my time—done useful stunts, you know." Nelson felt an awful fool, but common-sense was an insult to the moonlight. "I'm out to-night to settle up a contract for a ring."

Twelve chimes struck from the church tower.

"The witching hour! It's Midsummer Eve. I'm going abroad to work my spells."

Nelson looked after her in sudden alarm, as she tripped into the lane.

"It's late. Honestly, you ought to be in bed."

"Idiot! I've been asleep all day inside a flower-cup. Would you like to see a fairy at her labours?"

"Er—if anyone saw us——"

"Then the romantic age is dead indeed. I must go alone. And I'm so frightened of the wood. There are poachers there. If I'm murdered, it will be your fault."

"Oh, come!"

He followed helplessly as she disappeared down the narrow track into the wood. He caught her up in a glade spun in a web of moonlight. Moths fluttered around spectral foxgloves. Everywhere was an undercurrent of rustling movement. The white scuts of rabbits flashed and vanished. To Nelson's horror, they gave Fay her first inspiration.

"My first duty will be to protect my furry subjects from the cruelty of man."

Her sharp eyes soon discovered a gin, which she made Nelson destroy, with some damage to his fingers, while she waved her wand—a peeled switch—to demonstrate that she was doing the actual work.

"A real fairy ought to do things off her own bat," he grumbled.

"A fairy uses man to confound man. Oh, hang these nettles! Let us hither to the village!"

By the time they reached the green, where the old houses huddled together in the moonlight, like cronies gathered for a gossip, Nelson had shed his scruples. They were out to give some of these good people the surprise of their lives.

At the back door of a spinster who adored cats they found a saucer of milk. Fay hailed it with a crow.

"Put out for the good folk! Here is someone who believes in fairies. She shall have her reward."

An extinguished lantern and a sinister tin showed that Miss Tippett had been snail-hunting before she retired to bed. With the withdrawal of the opposing force, the foe was once again on the war-path.

"Carry on!" cried Fay, flourishing the tin.

Never before had Nelson realised the full ferocity of the gentle sex. He underlined the quotation that the female is the more deadly of the species.

"Look! Isn't that Parson's, the lawyer's, garden next door?"

Fay stopped her slaughter, to glare with real murder in her eye at several small birds nailed to a tree.

"Fetch that tin!" she commanded. "A good thing they are so lively after they're dead!"

She gloated over the snails when Nelson set them loose over the lawyer's lettuce-bed. He shrank in the commission of his crime, for the plants were young and luscious.

"Eat!" cried the fairy, waving her wand. "Eat till you—bust!"

To relate the history of that mad night in detail would be wearisome, although it covered the passage of but three bare hours. Nelson's shoulders were aching when the first pallid light began to steal over the fields, for the fairy persisted in pinning unjustified faith to the waving of a wand.

Presently Fay stopped before the gate of The Beeches, lying shuttered and blind, awaiting the dawn.

"In this domain," she said, "works a maid in bondage. Her name is Fay Grigson Pearson. The 'Grigson' was her parents' trap to snare the wealth of a wicked uncle, but all the poor girl got was a hateful name and a cold in her nose at his funeral. I always sign 'Fay G. Pearson.’"

"Good way out."

"List! The maid's parents were passing rich, and she was brought up in luxury—real lace, golden plate, and hot baths. All the fairies were invited to her christening, and all brought gifts. The wise men taught her, and she took every extra. She was brought up just to go to dances and to refuse young men."

"What was her dad?" asked Nelson, with the natural male interest in the wealth of others.

"Stock Exchange. The War broke him—poor dad! The poor maid was thrown on the cold world, with no training. She went on the land—joined the W.L.A. Say, I did look topping in the uniform! I wore my hair in a school-girl plait and bobbed the side-bits."

"Did the maid like the land?"

"Loved it, although it was passing hard. Her shoulders used to ache like blazes after shovelling manure over a whole field. But oh, the scent of the ploughed earth and the early song of the birds! She'd never even seen a sunrise, except some rotten town effect, when extra late after a dance. Then the War ended and the men came back, so she bluffed good and hard, and got a job as a gardener."

"Ah, that explains a lot! Was this your first billet?"

"No. The first only lasted three weeks, and the second not much longer. In each case she had little to do, for the husbands insisted on helping in the garden, and then the wives sacked the poor maid."

"Hard lines!"

"So she disguised her beauty under a disfiguring hat and smock, and put her whole heart into her garden. And men despised her because she did not please the eye. They thought she was only boots. They little knew of the nights when she sat alone and ate out her heart for a lover who wouldn't care, for the silly world, but just want her. Look!"

Fay pointed to the brightening east.

"The sun will soon rise, and I must vanish. But I want to grant that poor maid in bondage a boon. She can't save much on a cottage, twenty-five bob, and milk, for they won't let her save the cottage."

She waved her wand.

"I bequeath to Fay G. Pearson a handsome husband and ten thousand a year."

"I don't make quite that," interposed Nelson.

"Are you handsome?" snapped the fairy. "Follow me!"

There was a militant gleam in Nelson's eye as Fay stopped before his own house.

"Here," said Fay, "sleeps a brown business man who has a heart of gold. Once he did a very kind action. In return I grant him his heart's desire!"

She caught her breath as Nelson snatched her in his arms.

"I want you!"

"But I'm not a pink fairy. You're a beast! You know you're after the widow!"

"I'm not. It was all a mistake. … Just you!"

"Stop! The day is dawning. In another minute the spell will be broken and we shall be transformed to our true selves. Wait till then!"

They stood, back to back, watching each golden split in the cloud-bank. In the misty fields the cattle moved like drifting derelicts. Fay scraped her hair from her face and plaited it into a tight knot. Nelson searched for his glasses.

"Now!"

They faced each other.

"Horrors! It's the 'nine-fifteen'!"

"I'm stung! It's only the gardening boy!"

Laughing with delight, Fay slipped into Nelson's arms.

"Sure?"

"Certain sure. We'll have to get married."

"Um! You haven't ten thousand a year."

"No, but I'm handsome."

In the middle of a kiss, Nelson stopped and held her away at arm's length.

"Woman, tell me the truth, eye to eye and heart to heart!"

"I will. When you look at me like that, I feel like glass. Edgar, I swear I have never kissed a man before!"

"Good! But that's nothing. Fay—Fay darling, what have you done with my pink tulips?"

"I—I don't know. Isn't it awful? I put them somewhere, and I've hunted and hunted, but I can't find them. Can you forgive me?"

"Even that." All the same, Nelson looked very grave. "But we must hurry back to your cottage before there is anyone stirring."

They walked along silently, hand in hand.

"What are you thinking of?" asked Fay presently.

"The future. One day you'll grow homely and I'll grow fat, and people will wonder what that absurd old married couple can see in the other. But you will be seeing me as I am to-day, while to me you'll always be a slim, golden-haired fairy. And that's midsummer magic!"

******

They got married, but, for all that, the story has a happy ending; for they found the pink tulips the very next spring, when they sprouted from Mrs. Lemon's onion bed.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1934, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.