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A Little Book of Profitable Tales by Eugene Field

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terrible, Hattie, by insistin' on knowin' what you don't know nothin'
'bout."

Leander went to the seckertary 'nd took down the cyclopeedy 'nd hunted all
through it f'r Apples, but all he could find wuz "Apple--See Pomology."

"How in thunder kin I see Pomology," sez Leander, "when there ain't no
Pomology to see? Gol durn a cyclopeedy, anyhow!"

And he put the volyume back onto the shelf 'nd never sot eyes into it
ag'in.

That's the way the thing run f'r years 'nd years. Leander would 've gin up
the plaguy bargain, but he couldn't; he had signed a printed paper 'nd had
swore to it afore a justice of the peace. Higgins would have had the law
on him if he had throwed up the trade.

The most aggervatin' feature uv it all wuz that a new one uv them cussid
cyclopeedies wuz allus sure to show up at the wrong time,--when Leander
wuz hard up or had jest been afflicted some way or other. His barn burnt
down two nights afore the volyume containin' the letter B arrived, and
Leander needed all his chink to pay f'r lumber, but Higgins sot back on
that affidavit and defied the life out uv him.

"Never mind, Leander," sez his wife, soothin' like, "it's a good book to
have in the house, anyhow, now that we've got a baby."

"That's so," sez Leander, "babies does begin with B, don't it?"

You see their fust baby had been born; they named him Peasley,--Peasley
Hobart,--after Hattie's folks. So, seein' as how it wuz payin' f'r a book
that told about babies, Leander didn't begredge that five dollars so very
much after all.

"Leander," sez Hattie one forenoon, "that B cyclopeedy ain't no account.
There ain't nothin' in it about babies except 'See Maternity'!"

"Waal, I'll be gosh durned!" sez Leander. That wuz all he said, and he
couldn't do nothin' at all, f'r that book-agent, Lemuel Higgins, had the
dead wood on him,--the mean, sneakin' critter!

So the years passed on, one of them cyclopeedies showin' up now 'nd
then,--sometimes every two years 'nd sometimes every four, but allus at a
time when Leander found it pesky hard to give up a fiver. It warn't no use
cussin' Higgins; Higgins just laffed when Leander allowed that the
cyclopeedy was no good 'nd that he wuz bein' robbed. Meantime Leander's
family wuz increasin' and growin'. Little Sarey had the hoopin' cough
dreadful one winter, but the cyclopeedy didn't help out at all, 'cause all
it said wuz: "Hoopin' Cough--See Whoopin' Cough"--and uv course there
warn't no Whoopin' Cough to see, bein' as how the W hadn't come yet!

Oncet when Hiram wanted to dreen the home pasture, he went to the
cyclopeedy to find out about it, but all he diskivered wuz:

"Drain--See Tile." This wuz in 1859, and the cyclopeedy had only got down
to G.

The cow wuz sick with lung fever one spell, and Leander laid her dyin' to
that cussid cyclopeedy, 'cause when he went to readin' 'bout cows it told
him to "See Zoology."

But what's the use uv harrowin' up one's feelin's talkin' 'nd thinkin'
about these things? Leander got so after a while that the cyclopeedy
didn't worry him at all: he grew to look at it ez one uv the crosses that
human critters has to bear without complainin' through this vale uv tears.
The only thing that bothered him wuz the fear that mebbe he wouldn't live
to see the last volyume,--to tell the truth, this kind uv got to be his
hobby, and I've heern him talk 'bout it many a time settin' round the
stove at the tarvern 'nd squirtin' tobacco juice at the sawdust box. His
wife, Hattie, passed away with the yaller janders the winter W come, and
all that seemed to reconcile Leander to survivin' her wuz the prospect uv
seein' the last volyume of that cyclopeedy. Lemuel Higgins, the
book-agent, had gone to his everlastin' punishment; but his son, Hiram,
had succeeded to his father's business 'nd continued to visit the folks
his old man had roped in. By this time Leander's children had growed up;
all on 'em wuz marr'd, and there wuz numeris grandchildren to amuse the
ol' gentleman. But Leander wuzn't to be satisfied with the common things
uv airth; he didn't seem to take no pleasure in his grandchildren like
most men do; his mind wuz allers sot on somethin' else,--for hours 'nd
hours, yes, all day long, he'd set out on the front stoop lookin'
wistfully up the road for that book-agent to come along with a cyclopeedy.
He didn't want to die till he'd got all the cyclopeedies his contract
called for; he wanted to have everything straightened out before he passed
away. When--oh, how well I recollect it--when Y come along he wuz so
overcome that he fell over in a fit uv paralysis, 'nd the old gentleman
never got over it. For the next three years he drooped 'nd pined, and
seemed like he couldn't hold out much longer. Finally he had to take to
his bed,--he was so old 'nd feeble,--but he made 'em move the bed up
ag'inst the winder so he could watch for that last volyume of the
cyclopeedy.

The end come one balmy day in the spring uv '87. His life wuz a-ebbin'
powerful fast; the minister wuz there, 'nd me, 'nd Dock Wilson, 'nd Jedge
Baker, 'nd most uv the fam'ly. Lovin' hands smoothed the wrinkled forehead
'nd breshed back the long, scant, white hair, but the eyes of the dyin'
man wuz sot upon that piece uv road down which the cyclopeedy man allus
come.

All to oncet a bright 'nd joyful look come into them eyes, 'nd ol' Leander
riz up in bed 'nd sez, "It's come!"

"What is it, Father?" asked his daughter Sarey, sobbin' like.

"Hush," says the minister, solemnly; "he sees the shinin' gates uv the Noo
Jerusalum."

"No, no," cried the aged man; "it is the cyclopeedy--the letter Z--it's
comin'!"

And, sure enough! the door opened, and in walked Higgins. He tottered
rather than walked, f'r he had growed old 'nd feeble in his wicked
perfession.

"Here's the Z cyclopeedy, Mr. Hobart," sez Higgins.

Leander clutched it; he hugged it to his pantin' bosom; then stealin' one
pale hand under the piller he drew out a faded banknote 'nd gave it to
Higgins.

"I thank Thee for this boon," sez Leander, rollin' his eyes up devoutly;
then he gave a deep sigh.

"Hold on," cried Higgins, excitedly, "you've made a mistake--it isn't the
last--"

But Leander didn't hear him--his soul hed fled from its mortal tenement
'nd hed soared rejoicin' to realms uv everlastin' bliss.

"He is no more," sez Dock Wilson, metaphorically.

"Then who are his heirs?" asked that mean critter Higgins.

"We be," sez the family.

"Do you conjointly and severally acknowledge and assume the obligation of
deceased to me?" he asked 'em.

"What obligation?" asked Peasley Hobart, stern like.

"Deceased died owin' me f'r a cyclopeedy!" sez Higgins.

"That's a lie!" sez Peasley. "We all seen him pay you for the Z!"

"But there's another one to come," sez Higgins.

"Another?" they all asked.

"Yes, the index!" sez he.

So there wuz, and I'll be eternally gol durned if he ain't a-suin' the
estate in the probate court now f'r the price uv it!

1889

+DOCK STEBBINS+

DOCK STEBBINS

Most everybody liked Dock Stebbins, fur all he wuz the durnedest critter
that ever lived to play jokes on folks! Seems like he wuz born jokin' 'nd
kep' it up all his life. Ol' Mrs. Stebbins used to tell how when the Dock
wuz a baby he used to wake her up haff a dozen times uv a night cryin'
like he wuz hungry, 'nd when she turnt over in bed to him he w'u'd laff
'nd coo like he wuz sayin', "No, thank ye--I wuz only foolin'!"

His mother allus thought a heap uv the Dock, 'nd she allus put up with his
jokes 'nd things without grumblin'; said it warn't his fault that he wuz
so full uv tricks 'nd funny business; kind uv took the responsibility uv
it onto herself, because, as she allowed, she'd been to a circus jest
afore he wuz born.

Nothin' tickled the Dock more 'n to worry folks,--not in a mean way, but
jest to sort uv bother 'em. Used to hang round the post-office 'nd pertend
to have fits,--sakes alive! but how that scared the wimmin folks. One day
who should come along but ol' Sue Perkins; Sue wuz suspicioned uv takin' a
nip uv likker on the quiet now 'nd then, but nobody had ever ketched her
at it. Wall, the Dock he had one uv his fits jest as Sue hove in sight,
'nd Lem Thompson (who stood in with Dock in all his deviltry) leant over
Dock while he wuz wallerin' 'nd pertendin' to foam at the mouth, and Lem
cried out: "Nothink will fetch him out'n this turn but a drink uv brandy."
Sue, who wuz as kind-hearted a' old maid as ever super'ntended a
strawbeiry festival, whipped a bottle out'n her bag 'nd says: "Here you
be, Lem, but don't let him swaller the bottle." Folks bothered Sue a heap
'bout this joke till she moved down into Texas to teach school.

Dock had a piece uv wood 'bout two inches long,--maybe three: it wuz black
'nd stubby 'nd looked jest like the butt uv a cigar. Nobody but Dock w'u'd
ever hev thought uv sech a fool thing, but Dock used to go round with that
thing in his mouth like it wuz a cigar, and when he 'd meet a man who wuz
smokin' he'd say: "Excuse me, but will you please to gimme a light?" Then
the man w'u'd hand over his cigar, and Dock w'u'd plough that wood stub uv
his'n around in the lighted cigar and would pertend to puff away till he
had put the real cigar out, 'nd then Dock w'u'd hand the cigar back,
sayin', kind uv regretful like: "You don't seem to have much uv a light
there; I reckon I'll wait till I kin git a match." You kin imagine how
that other feller's cigar tasted when he lighted it ag'in. Dock tried it
on me oncet, 'nd when I lighted up ag'in seemed like I wuz smokin' a piece
uv rope or a liver-pad.

One time Dock 'nd Lem Thompson went over to Peory on the railroad, 'nd
while they wuz settm' in the car in come two wimmin 'nd set in the seat
ahead uv 'em. All uv a suddint Dock nudged Lem 'nd says, jest loud enuff
fur the wimmin to hear: "I didn't git round till after it wuz over, but I
never see sech a sight as that baby's ear wuz."

Lem wuz onto Dock's methods, 'nd he knew there wuz sumthin' ahead. So he
says: "Tough-lookin' ear, wuz it?"

"Wall, I should remark," says Dock. "You see it wuz like this: the mother
had gone out into the back yard to hang some clo'es onto the line, 'nd she
laid the baby down in the crib. Baby wa'n't more 'n six weeks
old,--helpless little critter as ever you seen. Wall, all to oncet the
mother heerd the baby cryin', but bein' busy with them clo'es she didn't
mind much. The baby kep' cryin' 'nd cryin', 'nd at last the mother come
back into the house, 'nd there she found a big rat gnawin' at one uv the
baby's ears,--had e't it nearly off! There lay that helpless little
innocent, cryin' 'nd writhin', 'nd there sat that rat with his long tail,
nippin' 'nd chewin' at one uv them tiny coral ears--oh, it wuz offul!"

"Jest imagine the feelinks uv the mother!" says Lem, sad like.

"Jest imagine the feelinks uv the _baby_," says Dock. "How'd you like
to be lyin' helpless in a crib with a big rat gnawin' your ear?"

Wall, all this conversation wuz fur from pleasant to those two wimmin in
the front seat, fur wimmin love babies 'nd hate rats, you know. It wuz
nuts fur Dock 'nd Lem to see the two wimmin squirm, 'nd all the way to
Peory they didn't talk about nuthink but snakes 'nd spiders 'nd mice 'nd
caterpillers. When the train got to Peory a gentleman met the two wimmin
'nd says to one uv 'em: "I'm 'feered the trip hain't done you much good,
Lizzie," says he. "Sakes alive, John," says she, "it's a wonder we hain't
dead, for we've been travellin' forty miles with a real live Beadle dime
novvell!"

'Nuther trick Dock had wuz to walk 'long the street behind wimmin 'nd tell
about how his sister had jest lost one uv her diamond earrings while out
walkin'. Jest as soon as the wimmin heerd this they'd clap their han's up
to their ears to see if their earrings wuz all right. Dock never laffed
nor let on like he wuz jokin', but jest the same this sort uv thing
tickled him nearly to de'th.

Dock went up to Chicago with Jedge Craig oncet, 'nd when they come back
the jedge said he'd never had such an offul time in all his born days.
Said that Dock bought a fool Mother Goose book to read in the hoss-cars
jest to queer folks; would set in a hoss-car lookin' at the pictur's 'nd
readin' the verses 'nd laffin' like it wuz all new to him 'nd like he wuz
a child. Everybody sized him up for a' eject, 'nd the wimmin folks shook
their heads 'nd said it was orful fur so fine a lookin' feller to be such
a torn fool. 'Nuther thing Dock did wuz to git hold uv a bad quarter 'nd
give it to a beggar, 'nd then foller the beggar into a saloon 'nd git him
arrested for tryin' to pass counterf'it money. I reckon that if Dock had
stayed in Chicago a week he'd have had everybody crazy.

No, I don't know how he come to be a medikil man. He told me oncet that
when he found out that he wuzn't good for anythink he concluded he'd be a
doctor; but I reckon that wuz one uv his jokes. He didn't have much uv a
practice: he wuz too yumorous to suit most invalids 'nd sick folks. We had
him tend our boy Sam jest oncet when Sam wuz comin' down with the measles.
He looked at Sam's tongue 'nd felt his pulse 'nd said he'd leave a pill
for Sam to take afore goin' to bed.

"How shell we administer the pill?" asked my wife.

"Wall," says Dock, "the best way to do is to git the boy down on the floor
'nd hold his mouth open 'nd gag him till he swallers the pill. After the
pill gits into his system it will explode in about ten minnits, 'nd then
the boy will feel better."

This wuz cheerful news for the boy. No human power c'u'd ha' got that pill
into Sam. We never solicited Dock's perfeshional services ag'in.

One time Dock 'nd Lem Thompson drove over to Knoxville to help Dock
Parsons cut a man's leg off. About four miles out uv town 'nd right in the
middle uv the hot peraroor they met Moses Baker's oldest boy trudgin'
along with a basket uv eggs. The Dock whoaed his hoss 'nd called to the
boy,--

"Where be you goin' with them eggs?" says he.

"Goin' to town to sell 'em," says the boy.

"How much a dozen?" asked the Dock.

"'Bout ten cents, I reckon," says the boy.

"Putty likely-lookin' eggs," says the Dock; 'nd he handed the lines over
to Lem, 'nd got out'n the buggy.

"How many hev you got?" he asked.

"Ten dozen," says the boy.

"Git out!" says Dock. "There hain't no ten dozen eggs in that basket!"

"Yes, there is," says the boy, "fur I counted 'em myself."

The Dock allowed that he wuzn't goin' to take nobody's count on eggs; so
he got that fool boy to stan' there in the middle uv that hot peraroor,
claspin' his two hands together, while he, the Dock, counted them eggs
out'n the basket one by one into the boy's arms. Ten dozen eggs is a heap;
you kin imagine, maybe, how that boy looked with his arms full uv eggs!
When the Dock had got about nine dozen counted out he stopped all uv a
suddint 'nd said, "Wall, come to think on 't, I reckon I don't want no
eggs to-day, but I'm jest as much obleeged to you fur yer trubble." And so
he jumped back into the buggy 'nd drove off.

Now, maybe that fool boy wuzn't in a peck uv trubble! There he stood in
the middle uv that hot--that all-fired hot--peraroor with his arms full uv
eggs. What wuz there fur him to do? He wuz afraid to move, lest he should
break them eggs; yet the longer he stood there the less chance there wuz
uv the warm weather improvin' the eggs.

Along in the summer of '78 the fever broke out down South, 'nd one day
Dock made up his mind that as bizness wuzn't none too good at home he'd go
down South 'nd see what he could do there. That wuz jest like one of
Dock's fool notions, we all said. But he went. In about six weeks along
come a telegraph sayin' that Dock wuz dead,--he'd died uv the fever. The
minister went up to the homestead 'nd broke the news gentle like to Dock's
mother; but, bless you! she didn't believe it--she wouldn't believe it.
She said it wuz one uv Dock's jokes; she didn't blame him, nuther--it wuz
_her_ fault, she allowed, that Dock wuz allus that way about makin'
fun uv life 'nd death. No, sir; she never believed that Dock wuz dead, but
she allus talked like he might come in any minnit; and there wuz allus his
old place set fur him at the table 'nd nuthin' wuz disturbed in his little
room up-stairs. And so five years slipped by 'nd no Dock come back, 'nd
there wuz no tidin's uv him. Uv course, the rest uv us knew; but his
mother--oh, no, _she_ never would believe it.

At last the old lady fell sick, and the doctor said she couldn't hold out
long, she wuz so old 'nd feeble. The minister who wuz there said that she
seemed to sleep from the evenin' uv this life into the mornin' uv the
next. Jest afore the last she kind uv raised up in bed and cried out like
she saw sumthin' that she loved, and she held out her arms like there wuz
some one standin' in the doorway. Then they asked her what the matter wuz,
and she says, joyful like: "He's come back, and there he stan's jest as he
used ter: I knew he wuz only jokin'!"

They looked, but they saw nuthin'; 'nd when they went to her she wuz dead.

1888.

+THE FAIRIES OF PESTH+

THE FAIRIES OF PESTH [1]

An old poet walked alone in a quiet valley. His heart was heavy, and the
voices of Nature consoled him. His life had been a lonely and sad one.
Many years ago a great grief fell upon him, and it took away all his joy
and all his ambition. It was because he brooded over his sorrow, and
because he was always faithful to a memory, that the townspeople deemed
him a strange old poet; but they loved him and they loved his songs,--in
his life and in his songs there was a gentleness, a sweetness, a pathos
that touched every heart. "The strange, the dear old poet," they called
him.

Evening was coming on. The birds made no noise; only the whip-poor-will
repeated over and over again its melancholy refrain in the marsh beyond
the meadow. The brook ran slowly, and its voice was so hushed and tiny
that you might have thought that it was saying its prayers before going to
bed.

The old poet came to the three lindens. This was a spot he loved, it was
so far from the noise of the town. The grass under the lindens was fresh
and velvety. The air was full of fragrance, for here amid the grass grew
violets and daisies and buttercups and other modest wild-flowers. Under
the lindens stood old Leeza, the witchwife.

"Take this," said the poet to old Leeza, the witchwife; and he gave her a
silver piece.

"You are good to me, master poet," said the witchwife. "You have always
been good to me. I do not forget, master poet, I do not forget."

"Why do you speak so strangely?" asked the old poet. "You mean more than
you say. Do not jest with me; my heart is heavy with sorrow."

"I do not jest," answered the witchwife. "I will show you a strange thing.
Do as I bid you; tarry here under the lindens, and when the moon rises,
the Seven Crickets will chirp thrice; then the Raven will fly into the
west, and you will see wonderful things, and beautiful things you will
hear."

Saying this much, old Leeza, the witch-wife, stole away, and the poet
marvelled at her words. He had heard the townspeople say that old Leeza
was full of dark thoughts and of evil deeds, but he did not heed these
stories.

"They say the same of me, perhaps," he thought. "I will tarry here beneath
the three lindens and see what may come of this whereof the witch wife
spake."

The old poet sat amid the grass at the foot of the three lindens, and
darkness fell around him. He could see the lights in the town away off;
they twinkled like the stars that studded the sky. The whip-poor-will told
his story over and over again in the marsh beyond the meadow, and the
brook tossed and talked in its sleep, for it had played too hard that day.

"The moon is rising," said the old poet. "Now we shall see."

The moon peeped over the tops of the far-off hills. She wondered whether
the world was fast asleep. She peeped again. There could be no doubt; the
world was fast asleep,--at least so thought the dear old moon. So she
stepped boldly up from behind the distant hills. The stars were glad that
she came, for she was indeed a merry old moon.

The Seven Crickets lived in the hedge. They were brothers, and they made
famous music. When they saw the moon in the sky they sang "chirp-chirp,
chirp-chirp, chirp-chirp," three times, just as old Leeza, the witchwife,
said they would.

"Whir-r-r!" It was the Raven flying out of the oak-tree into the west.
This, too, was what the old witchwife had foretold. "Whir-r-r" went the
two black wings, and then it seemed as if the Raven melted into the night.
Now, this was strange enough, but what followed was stranger still.

Hardly had the Raven flown away, when out from their habitations in the
moss, the flowers, and the grass trooped a legion of fairies,--yes, right
there before the old poet's eyes appeared, as if by magic, a mighty troop
of the dearest little fays in all the world.

Each of these fairies was about the height of a cambric needle. The lady
fairies were, of course, not so tall as the gentleman fairies, but all
were of quite as comely figure as you could expect to find even among real
folk. They were quaintly dressed; the ladies wearing quilted silk gowns
and broadbrim hats with tiny feathers in them, and the gentlemen wearing
curious little knickerbockers, with silk coats, white hose, ruffled
shirts, and dainty cocked hats.

"If the witchwife had not foretold it I should say that I dreamed,"
thought the old poet. But he was not frightened. He had never harmed the
fairies, therefore he feared no evil from them.

One of the fairies was taller than the rest, and she was much more richly
attired. It was not her crown alone that showed her to be the queen. The
others made obeisance to her as she passed through the midst of them from
her home in the bunch of red clover. Four dainty pages preceded her,
carrying a silver web which had been spun by a black-and-yellow garden
spider of great renown. This silver web the four pages spread carefully
over a violet leaf, and thereupon the queen sat down. And when she was
seated the queen sang this little song:

"From the land of murk and mist
Fairy folk are coming
To the mead the dew has kissed,
And they dance where'er they list
To the cricket's thrumming.

"Circling here and circling there,
Light as thought and free as air,
Hear them ciy, 'Oho, oho,'
As they round the rosey go.

"Appleblossom, Summerdew,
Thistleblow, and Ganderfeather!
Join the airy fairy crew
Dancing on the swaid together!
Till the cock on yonder steeple
Gives all faery lusty warning,
Sing and dance, my little people,--
Dance and sing 'Oho' till morning!"

The four little fairies the queen called to must have been loitering. But
now they came scampering up,--Ganderfeather behind the others, for he was
a very fat and presumably a very lazy little fairy.

"The elves will be here presently," said the queen, "and then, little
folk, you shall dance to your heart's content. Dance your prettiest
to-night, for the good old poet is watching you."

"Ah, little queen," cried the old poet, "you see me, then? I thought to
watch your revels unbeknown to you. But I meant you no disrespect,--
indeed, I meant you none, for surely no one ever loved the little folk
more than I."

"We know you love us, good old poet," said the little fairy queen, "and
this night shall give you great joy and bring you into wondrous fame."

These were words of which the old poet knew not the meaning; but we, who
live these many years after he has fallen asleep,--we know the meaning of
them.

Then, surely enough, the elves came trooping along. They lived in the
further meadow, else they had come sooner. They were somewhat larger than
the fairies, yet they were very tiny and very delicate creatures. The elf
prince had long flaxen curls, and he was arrayed in a wonderful suit of
damask web, at the manufacture of which seventy-seven silkworms had
labored for seventy-seven days, receiving in payment therefor as many
mulberry leaves as seven blue beetles could carry and stow in seven times
seven sunny days. At his side the elf prince wore a sword made of the
sting of a yellow-jacket, and the hilt of this sword was studded with the
eyes of unhatched dragon-flies, these brighter and more precious than the
most costly diamonds.

The elf prince sat beside the fairy queen. The other elves capered around
among the fairies. The dancing sward was very light, for a thousand and
ten glowworms came from the marsh and hung their beautiful lamps over the
spot where the little folk were assembled. If the moon and the stars were
jealous of that soft, mellow light, they had good reason to be.

The fairies and elves circled around in lively fashion. Their favorite
dance was the ring-round-a-rosey which many children nowadays dance. But
they had other measures, too, and they danced them very prettily.

"I wish," said the old poet, "I wish that I had my violin here, for then I
would make merry music for you."

The fairy queen laughed. "We have music of our own," she said, "and it is
much more beautiful than even you, dear old poet, could make."

Then, at the queen's command, each gentleman elf offered his arm to a lady
fairy, and each gentleman fairy offered his arm to a lady elf, and so, all
being provided with partners, these little people took their places for a
waltz. The fairy queen and the elf prince were the only ones that did not
dance; they sat side by side on the violet leaf and watched the others.
The hoptoad was floor manager; the green burdock badge on his breast
showed that.

"Mind where you go--don't jostle each other," cried the hoptoad, for he
was an exceedingly methodical fellow, despite his habit of jumping at
conclusions.

Then, when all was ready, the Seven Crickets went "chirp-chirp,
chirp-chirp, chirp-chirp," three times, and away flew that host of little
fairies and little elves in the daintiest waltz imaginable:--

[Illustration: Musical notation]

The old poet was delighted. Never before had he seen such a sight; never
before had he heard so sweet music. Round and round whirled the sprite
dancers; the thousand and ten glowworms caught the rhythm of the music
that floated up to them, and they swung their lamps to and fro in time
with the fairy waltz. The plumes in the hats of the cunning little ladies
nodded hither and thither, and the tiny swords of the cunning little
gentlemen bobbed this way and that as the throng of dancers swept now
here, now there. With one tiny foot, upon which she wore a lovely shoe
made of a tanned flea's hide, the fairy queen beat time, yet she heard
every word which the gallant elf prince said. So, with the fairy queen
blushing, the mellow lamps swaying, the elf prince wooing, and the throng
of little folk dancing hither and thither, the fairy music went on and
on:--

[Illustration: Musical notation]

"Tell me, my fairy queen," cried the old poet, "whence comes this fairy
music which I hear? The Seven Crickets in the hedge are still, the birds
sleep in their nests, the brook dreams of the mountain home it stole away
from yester morning. Tell me, therefore, whence comes this wondrous fairy
music, and show me the strange musicians that make it."

[Illustration: Musical notation]

"Look to the grass and the flowers," said the fairy queen. "In every blade
and in every bud lie hidden notes of fairy music. Each violet and daisy
and buttercup,--every modest wild-flower (no matter how hidden) gives glad
response to the tinkle of fairy feet. Dancing daintily over this quiet
sward where flowers dot the green, my little people strike here and there
and everywhere the keys which give forth the harmonies you hear."

Long marvelled the old poet. He forgot his sorrow, for the fairy music
stole into his heart and soothed the wound there. The fairy host swept
round and round, and the fairy music went on and on.

[Illustration: Musical Notation]

"Why may I not dance?" asked a piping voice. "Please, dear queen, may I
not dance, too?"

It was the little hunchback that spake,--the little hunchback fairy who,
with wistful eyes, had been watching the merry throng whirl round and
round.

"Dear child, thou canst not dance," said the fairy queen, tenderly; "thy
little limbs are weak. Come, sit thou at my feet, and let me smooth thy
fair curls and stroke thy pale cheeks."

"Believe me, dear queen," persisted the little hunchback, "I can dance,
and quite prettily, too. Many a time while the others made merry here I
have stolen away by myself to the brookside and danced alone in the
moonlight,--alone with my shadow. The violets are thickest there. 'Let thy
halting feet fall upon us, Little Sorrowful,' they whispered, 'and we
shall make music for thee.' So there I danced, and the violets sang their
songs for me. I could hear the others making merry far away, but I was
merry, too; for I, too, danced, and there was none to laugh."

"If you would like it, Little Sorrowful," said the elf prince, "I will
dance with you."

"No, brave prince," answered the little hunchback, "for that would weary
you. My crutch is stout, and it has danced with me before. You will say
that we dance very prettily,--my crutch and I,--and you will not laugh, I
know."

Then the queen smiled sadly; she loved the little hunchback and she pitied
her.

"It shall be as you wish," said the queen. The little hunchback was
overjoyed.

"I have to catch the time, you see," said she, and she tapped her crutch
and swung one little shrunken foot till her body fell into the rhythm of
the waltz.

Far daintier than the others did the little hunchback dance; now one tiny
foot and now the other tinkled on the flowers, and the point of the little
crutch fell here and there like a tear. And as she danced, there crept
into the fairy music a tenderer cadence, for (I know not why) the little
hunchback danced ever on the violets, and their responses were full of the
music of tears. There was a strange pathos in the little creature's grace;
she did not weary of the dance: her cheeks flushed, and her eyes grew
fuller, and there was a wondrous light in them. And as the little
hunchback danced, the others forgot her limp and felt only the heart-cry
in the little hunchback's merriment and in the music of the voiceful
violets.

[Illustration: Musical notation]

Now all this saw the old poet, and all this wondrously beautiful music he
heard. And as he heard and saw these things, he thought of the pale face,
the weary eyes, and the tired little body that slept forever now. He
thought of the voice that had tried to be cheerful for his sake, of the
thin, patient little hands that had loved to do his bidding, of the
halting little feet that had hastened to his calling.

"Is it thy spirit, O my love?" he wailed, "Is it thy spirit, O dear, dead
love?"

A mist came before his eyes, and his heart gave a great cry.

But the fairy dance went on and on. The others swept to and fro and round
and round, but the little hunchback danced always on the violets, and
through the other music there could be plainly heard, as it crept in and
out, the mournful cadence of those tenderer flowers.

And, with the music and the dancing, the night faded into morning. And all
at once the music ceased and the little folk could be seen no more. The
birds came from their nests, the brook began to bestir himself, and the
breath of the new-born day called upon all in that quiet valley to awaken.

So many years have passed since the old poet, sitting under the three
lindens half a league the other side of Pesth, saw the fairies dance and
heard the fairy music,--so many years have passed since then, that had the
old poet not left us an echo of that fairy waltz there would be none now
to believe the story I tell.

[Illustration: Musical notation]

Who knows but that this very night the elves and the fairies will dance in
the quiet valley; that Little Sorrowful will tinkle her maimed feet upon
the singing violets, and that the little folk will illustrate in their
revels, through which a tone of sadness steals, the comedy and pathos of
our lives? Perhaps no one shall see, perhaps no one else ever did see,
these fairy people dance their pretty dances; but we who have heard old
Robert Volkmann's waltz know full well that he at least saw that strange
sight and heard that wondrous music.

And you will know so, too, when you have read this true story and heard
old Volkmann's claim to immortality.

1887.

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