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THE TROUBLES OF QUEEN SILVER-BELL,

AS TOLD BY QUEEN CROSSPATCH.


By Frances Hodgson Burnett

Author of "Little Lord Fauntleroy," "Sara Crewe," "Editha's Burglar," etc., etc.


I am a Fairy. Now I won't be contradicted; there are such things as Fairies. I am one myself and have been one ever since the beginning of the world. What is more, I am the Queen of the Fairies. I am the Queen of millions and millions and millions and millions of lovely little people, as beautiful as flowers and butterflies. They can do all the things people want to have done, and find all the things that are lost, and turn pumpkins into golden coachmen, and anything into anything else that is nicer, and yet as the years have gone on, until it isn't "Once upon a Time" any more, people have grown so stupid that they don't believe in us and they are so blind they cannot see us even when we are dancing before them, and they cannot hear us, even when we are singing and singing to them songs like this:

 

"Why can't you see? Oh! if you knew
Fairies are real—Fairies are true.
Fairies are here—Fairies are there
Fairies are waiting everywhere,
In the house and in the street.
On your shoulder, at your feet,
By your fire and on your book.
If you only had the sense to look.
Why can't you see? Oh! if you knew
Fairies are real—Fairies are true.

 

But you cannot make people believe it. Even children don't. That is what is the matter with everything. People will believe in nasty things and they won't believe in nice things, and that has been going on so long that my great fear is that the Fairies themselves will forget their accomplishments, and then what will become of Fairyland? Rumors have come to my palace of Fairies who were not even able to change themselves into rabbits when it was very important indeed, and I heard of one Fairy who was trying to turn a naughty little boy into a pussy cat because he was pulling a kitten's tail, and she only got as far as the miaw and the claws and she forgot how to do the rest, and he ran away mi-a-owing and scratching his face with his sharp claws when he tried to rub his eyes because he was crying. But he could only cry like a cat—and it served him right. But it upset me very much to hear of it. If that sort of thing goes on, Fairies will be as ignorant as human beings and Fairyland will go to ruin. And I won't have it. I used to be called Queen Silver-Bell until lately—until the misfortune happened I am going to tell you about. I was called Queen Silver-Bell because I was always laughing in those good old days when it was "Once upon a Time." And all the Fairies said my laugh sounded just like tiny silver bells, tinkle—tinkle—tinkling. But now I am called Queen Crosspatch because I scold and scold and scold—and it all happened in this way:

You see, the most important thing in the world—whether you are a Fairy, or a little boy or a little girl, is never—never—never never to lose your Temper. Most people don't know that a Temper is really a Fairy, and as long as you can keep him he is the cleverest and the delightfulest Fairy of all. He is always laughing and doing lovely things. He has little golden and silver shovels to dig dimples in your face and make you so pretty that people adore you and want to give you things and take you to the circus and the pantomime and to Christmas parties and sights and treats, and he has a tiny gold and pearl and ruby paint box full of the most heavenly colors, and tiny brushes to paint everything so that it looks beautiful and delightful, and he whispers songs and stories in your ear and makes you enjoy yourself and laugh all the time. But the minute he gets away and you lose him, he turns into a tiny black Imp Fairy and pinches and kicks you and tells lies to you and whispers ugly things to you until you are perfectly mizz'able and make everybody else mizz'able too. I had a lovely little Temper. There never was a cleverer one or a prettier one. He was tiny and rosy and his face was pink and full of dimples, and I perfectly loved him. I always kept him in a tiny silver cage, or fastened to my waist by a diamond chain. I had nothing else I was as fond of and I would not have parted with him for anything. I can scarcely bear to think of him now he is gone.

One day I was in a garden where a lady was talking to a little girl. I had been sitting on roses and swinging on lilies and dancing on the very flowers they were gathering and doing everything to attract their attention. But I could not make them look at me and I began to forget I was carrying the tiny silver cage with my darling little Temper in it, and suddenly the lady said to the little girl:

"Do you like stories about Fairies?"

When I heard that, it quite cheered me up, and I jumped on to the edge of a flower and began to sing:

 

"Silver-Bell, Queen Silver-Bell!
What you want to know she can always tell
If you only believe in Silver-Bell."

 

And what do you suppose that child said?

She opened her silly blue eyes and stared like a sheep and answered:

"What is a Fairy?"

I just jumped down and screamed. I stamped my feet and shook my fist, and my golden floss silk hair flew all about, and the silver cage flew out of my hand and the door flew open and my darling little Temper burst out and darted away. And his pink face and his dimples and his silky curls and his dancing blue eyes and his tiny coat all sparkling with jewels were gone and he was changed into a vicious, ugly, black, thin little Imp with squinting steel-colored eyes it made me ill to look at.

I rushed after him as hard as I could. He hid himself in a red nasturtium and the minute I got near him he darted into a rose bush and the thorns tore his horrid little black clothes into rags and tatters but he only grinned and made faces at me; and then he ran across the lawn and into the park and jumped on to a fawn's back and it was so frightened by the horrid little thing that it galloped and galloped away, and I after it; and then he climbed an oak tree and swung on a big leaf making faces and I kept getting crosser and crosser and hotter and hotter and I began to call out:

"If you'll stop I'll give you a golden cage,
If you'll slop I'll give you a richer wage."

And then because I had lost my Temper, I couldn't stop, myself, and I called out:

"If you stop I'll give you a crack on the head."

And he just turned round and grinned and grinned and put his tiny black thumb at the end of his tiny black nose in the most rude way imaginable and shouted back at me:

"That's not so easily done as said,
Crosspatch; Crosspatch; Crosspatch."

And just that second a skylark flew up out of the grass and he swung out on a leaf and sprang on to his back and was carried up and up and up and up—higher and higher and higher and higher into the very sky itself and I knew I had lost him, perhaps forever, and I flopped down on a buttercup and cried and scolded and scolded and cried as hard as ever I could. And the worst of it was that I couldn't stop scolding. When you have lost a darling sweet little Temper you can't stop. I was cross every minute and I frowned and scowled so that my face was all over wrinkles.

 

"I scolded the grass and I scolded the flowers,
I scolded the sun and I scolded the showers,
I scolded the castles, I scolded the towers.
And I scolded the Fairies for hours and hours.
When I went to my Palace I scolded the pages.
When I sat on my throne I went into rages.
I scolded the birds as they san in their cages,
I was afraid I should scold on for ages and ages.
The hens that were Fairies forgot how to hatch.
The Fishermen Fairies forgot how to catch.
And the little Boy Fairies all in a batch
Called after me everywhere, "Queen Crosspatch!"

 

That was what happened. And I should like to know if you can think of anything worse? I can't. And the very worst of it was that I knew I should never find my sweet, dear little pink Temper again, until I had done something that would make people—particularly children—believe in Fairies as they used to "Once upon a Time," and save my dear Fairyland from going to ruin and melting away. If you don't believe in things they melt away. That's what happens to them. They just melt away. And so many things are like the little Pig who wouldn't go over the bridge—and I knew that if I could make the children believe, the believing children would make the Fairies begin to practise turning things into something nicer, and if the Fairies began to practise turning things into something nicer, Fairyland would be saved and not go to ruin, and if Fairyland was saved and did not go to ruin, I should find my dear, sweet, dimpled, pink little Temper again, and if I found my dear, sweet, dimpled, pink little Temper again, I should not be Queen Crosspatch any more but Queen Silver-bell and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh until the other Fairies would say my laughing sounded like tiny bells of silver, tinkle—tinkle—tinkling, and everything would be lovely forever more. I wondered and wondered what I should do, and then I wondered and wondered again, and after I had wondered and wondered three times, I made up my mind that I would sit down under my hair. Of course I see you don't know what that means. Well, it means something very important. All Fairies have long, long hair—sometimes it is gold color, sometimes it is squirrel color, and sometimes it is as black as black velvet, but it is always as fine as floss silk and can either be tucked up in a knot or hidden under a pearl cap, or allowed to float and dance about—or hide you altogether if you want to be hidden. And if you want to think, the best thing in the world is to sit on the floor and shake down your hair so that it falls down to the floor, and makes a little tent all around you. I always do it when anything important is on my mind. So this time I sat down on a scarlet toadstool spotted with black, and put my head on my knees, and shook out my hair into a tent which covered me all over so that nothing but the tips of my golden shoes stuck out.

And then I sat and sat and sat, and I thought and thought and thought. And suddenly I remembered the Dormouse. Of course there was no use my thinking, when I could go to the Dormouse.

The Dormouse knows more than the King. Every year, when the weather grows cold, the Dormouse rolls himself into a ball and he takes his hind legs and he tucks them round his ears and he doesn't move until the Spring comes. So the people think he is asleep. But he is not asleep. He is thinking all the time. He can think better and faster when he is rolled up and his hind legs are tucked over his ears. Perhaps everybody could. But no one ever tries it.

 

"He thinks of beans and he thinks of peas
He thinks of bread and he thinks of cheese
He thinks of raisins and nuts and figs
He thinks of elephants and pigs
He thinks of girls and he thinks of boys
He thinks of things that make a noise
He thinks of mice that run up-stairs
He thinks of rabbits and of hares.
He thinks cats should be taught to dance
And ferrets should be sent to France:
He thinks of cakes and steaks and chops—
He thinks for months and never stops.

 

And of course he is the best person to go to for advice. So I danced over a meadow and flew over a garden and floated over a lake and went to the Lord High Chief Dormouse of all the Dormice, who was rolled up for the winter in a warm nest at the root of a tree at the lakeside.

Then I picked up five round white pebbles and a shell and threw them one after another at his door.

When I threw the first pebble I said:

"This one has shaken you."

When I threw the second I said:

"This is to waken you if you have fallen asleep."

When I threw the third I said:

"This is to call you."

And when I threw the fourth I said:

"This is to maul you till your eyes begin to peep."

And then I threw the fifth stone and the shell, and said quite crossly:

 

"Dormouse, come out of your house
Don't be proud and stiff.
Dormouse, come out of your house
Or we shall have a tiff."

 

And then I heard him begin to grumble and to rumble and to tumble, until he tumbled out of his house and began to unroll himself out of his ball and gradually stood up on his hind legs and laid both his hands at the front of his belt and made a polite and graceful bow.

"Your Royal Highness Queen Silver-patch," he said, "What do you want?"

He was a very polite Dormouse and he was beginning to call me Queen Silver-bell because we had been friends before I lost my darling little pink, dimpled Temper, but suddenly he remembered my new name was Queen Crosspatch so he called me Queen Silver-patch and I really liked it better.

"Can you spare me an hour from your winter thinking?" I said. "I want to ask your advice because you are so clever."

He was quite pleased and he smiled and pulled down his belt and his mouth curled up at the corners.

"Well, of course," he said, "you are very complimentary, but when a person tucks his hind legs over his ears and thinks for six months he must think something."

"Of course," I said, and I looked at him in my sweetest way and smiled. "That is why I have brought my troubles to you."

"Dear! Dear!" he said, "and a Queen too." And he sat down by me and took hold of my hand and patted it. "What a darling teensy, teenty, weenty hand!" he said, and he gave it a squeeze.

"Oh! if you will help me!" I said, looking at him as if he was the only Dormouse in the world.

"I will, I will," he answered and he began to settle his collar quite as if he was delighted.

And so I told him the whole story from beginning to end: how things had got worse and worse until it seemed as if Fairyland would fall to ruin and melt away, and all my Fairies would melt away because no one believed in them, and I should melt away myself if something could not be done. And I made it as bad as ever I could because I wanted to make him feel sorry and frightened.

"Well, well, well!" he said, when I had finished, and he held his chin in his hand and smoothed it. "How very profoundly interesting!"

"But you will think of a plan to help me?" I said, and this time I gave his hand—or rather his paw—a squeeze. He quite started and he quite blushed. In fact I was quite sure that his paw had never been squeezed even by a common Fairy and I was a Queen, which made it much grander.

"Yes, Queen Silver-bell-patch," he said, "I really must think of a plan," and he looked embarrassed and coughed and hemmed and hawed.

"What is the matter?" I asked.

"Er—would you—er—mind—er—if I roll myself up in a ball for a few minutes and tuck my hind legs over my ears. I can think so much better that way. It is not—er—becoming—but it is—er—useful."

"Oh, do roll yourself up in a ball and tuck your hind legs over your ears!" I said. "You are mistaken about its not being becoming. It makes you look so intellectual!"

He rolled himself up like lightning—just like lightning. I never could have believed any one could roll themselves up in a ball so quickly! My Goodness Gracious! It was just like lightning—like forked lightning! And I sat on the edge of a fern leaf and waited. I think he wanted me to see how intellectual he looked, until I should be likely to remember it, for he stayed rolled up in a ball for a long time. I didn't think much of his looks myself; I must say that I would not have let him know that for the world.

At last he began to unroll. He untucked his hind legs and he untucked his front legs and he unrolled his back. Then he just gave a jump and stood on his hind legs again and made his bow, blushing and blushing.

"Did I look very intellectual?" he said.

"I shall never forget it—never," I said, "I shall think of it and think of it and think of it." And then I said in a very soft voice, "Did you find a plan?"

"Yes," he said, smiling so that his mouth spread from one ear to the other and his eyes squinched up into nothing. "I thought of a very splendid plan."

"Oh! I knew you would because you are so clever. What is it?"

"It is this," he said. "Can you write a book?"

"Certainly," I answered. "I have never written one, but of course I can if I try."

Then he rubbed his chin and looked at me out of the corners of his eyes in a very queer way.

"You are not a timid person, are you?" he said.

"No," I replied. "I am not. Besides, if I have not written books myself, I have taught other people to write them. I know a Respectable Person—quite a Respectable Person. She sits in a garden full of roses and any number of birds call on her and she writes books for a living, and she learned it all from me. She was apprenticed to me the minute she was born and with my help she has made quite a decent living and earned any number of roses and all sorts of flowers. And when she writes I just sit on her shoulder and whisper to her. She is really my A—manu—en—sis. Do you know what that means? It's a long word. If it's too long for you I'll explain it."

"It's a leetle too long," the Dormouse said, "though not much."

"It means a person who writes what you order him to write."

The Dormouse clapped his paws together.

"Why, that's the very thing!" he said. "You see, just now I thought in the front of my head and I thought in the back of my head and when I was thinking in the back of my head I suddenly remembered that when people who are not Fairies want to persuade any one to believe in anything they always write books about it. They write books about Lions, and books about Tigers, they write books about Africa and books about America; and why should you not write books about Fairies and Fairyland and the things the Fairies do? I once lined my nest with a leaf out of a book about Dormice—though I couldn't say I slept well that winter." He put out his paw and tapped me on the shoulder several times.

"You go to that Aman-man-sis creature of yours," he said (he couldn't pronounce the word), "and make her write thousands of books about what the Fairies are doing and about how much more sense they have than people who are just People."

"It's an excellent idea," I said.

Just for a moment he looked anxious.

"Can she spell?" he said. "You see there are quite a lot of people who will have spelling."

"I don't know whether she can spell or not," I answered. "But when I go to see her I will ask her and tell her she must speak the truth about it because I can't have my books spoiled just because of bad spelling. I must have Good Spelling. That is all she has to do with the matter; just to spell and I will do the rest."

"How do you know she is respectable?" asked the dormouse.

"Well, I know she is because you see she was apprenticed to me and I brought her up properly. She knows about Fairies quite well and because she knows about Fairies, Animals will associate with her, and flowers. She has a pony called Amoret and some great big horses, and when she goes into the stable in the morning they all turn round and speak to her quite as if she was an equal, besides rubbing their warm velvet noses against her. She lives in a house with a park round it and when she goes and stands on the big stone steps and calls out, 'Thistle, Thistle,' her pet donkey lifts up his head and walks slowly across the grass to her and even walks up a stone step or two just to engage in confidential conversation. No donkey would be as intimate as that with a Disrespectable person. Animals are very aristocratic. Any number of birds know her as if they had played together in their cradles, and she has a robin who follows her about the garden and IS perfectly jealous of her. He flies from one tree to another and chirps as loud as he can to try to drown the head gardener's voice when she is talking to him. Oh, yes! she's Respectable! I wish I was as sure of her spelling as I am of her respectability."

"Well," said the Dormouse, "if, when you ask her about it, you say that you don't want to frighten her, but she must speak the entire truth about it, everything may be all right."

"There's one good thing about her," I said. "She is a Person who knows her place and keeps it. She won't be pushing and pretend she wrote the stories herself. I will explain to her that she must let every one know that I am the real author. Of course they are my stories and no one else's!" And just at these last words I began to be a little cross and scolding again. I knew it by the hasty way in which the Dormouse began to step backward.

"Of course! Of course! Your Royal Patch-bell-ness! " he said hurriedly. "And if you write them of course every child with any sense will understand it, and if they read story after story written by a real Fairy they will begin to believe, and if they begin to believe, the other Fairies will begin to practise turning themselves into rabbits and guinea pigs and all sorts of nice things, and if the other Fairies begin to practise turning themselves into rabbits and guinea pigs and all sorts of nice things, Fairyland will be saved and will not go to ruin, and if Fairyland is saved and does not go to ruin, you will find your sweet little, pink little, plump little, dimpled little Temper again, and if you find your sweet little, pink little, plump little, dimpled little temper again, you will not be called Queen Crosspatch but Queen Silver-bell and you will laugh and laugh and laugh until all the other Fairies think they hear tiny bells made of silver, tinkle—tinkle—tinkling, and everything will be lovely forever and evermore."

The thought of that pleased me so much that I forgot I had begun to feel cross and scolding and I jumped up ind squeezed the Dormouse's paw until he blushed crimson scarlet. Then I made him a deep curtsey and walked away backward just as courtiers walk backward away from the King when they have been talking to him. And I said in my politest way:

 

"Oh, I thank you Lord High Dormouse!
I thank you very much—
In Spanish, French and German,
In Danish and in Dutch."

 

And then I whirled round and flew away as fast as I could to find the Respectable Person and ask her if she could spell, and to explain things to her.

When you see a story by me you will always see a picture of me hidden away somewhere and you had better look for it. One thing is certain, that though you may have heard of Fairies you have never read stories written by a real one. And that is what is going to happen to you.

A Fairy is going to write a story and its name is going to be (something like this):


(To be continued.)

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


The author died in 1924, 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.