Part 1 out of 3
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THE FAIRY GODMOTHERS AND OTHER TALES.
BY MRS. ALFRED GATTY.
[Illustration: HERMIONE SKETCHING.]
Col miele, e non coll' aceto si piglian le mosche.
To My Children
These tales are most affectionately dedicated. They were written in
hours of sickness, but are intended to be read by the healthy and
joyous young: and to illustrate some favourite and long cherished
27th March, 1851.
The Fairy Godmothers
Joachim the Mimic
Darkness and Light
The Love of God
The design for the Frontispiece which adorns this volume is by the
pencil of the writer's kind and highly gifted friend, Miss Lucette E.
THE FAIRY GODMOTHERS.
In one of the beautiful bays on the coast of Fairy Land, a party of
Fairies was assembled on a lovely evening in July. There are many
beautiful bays on the coast of England, and there is one especially,
my dear little readers, which you and I know of, where a long line of
grand old rocks stretches far into the sea on the left-hand extremity,
while in the distance to the right a warning lighthouse with its
changing lights gives an almost solemn beauty to the scene; for one
cannot help thinking, at the sight of it, of the poor storm-driven
mariner, whom even that friendly light may fail to save from a sad and
sudden death. But beautiful as this little bay is, of which I speak,
and fond as we are of it, it is nothing, I do assure you, compared to
the bays in Fairy Land! There, there are no light-houses reminding one
painfully of danger and destruction near, but all is loveliness and
peace; and even the rocks would be turned into soft pillows by the
good-natured Fairies who inhabit the country, should any strange
accident drive a mortal ship on that shore.
Also the bays in Fairy Land face to the west, which is a great
advantage, for in an evening there you may sit and watch the golden
sun dipping behind the waves; and the rich red tints he sends out upon
the rocks before he sets, are beyond measure beautiful and attractive.
Especially, I believe, the Fairies enjoy this time of day, for they
are odd little creatures, rather conceited, and fond of everything
pretty; consequently they like to be floating about the rocks in their
white dresses when the crimson and golden hues of sunset shine on
them, knowing very well they look like so many bright flowers on the
The day I speak of however had been very hot, and at the time I speak
of, the Fairies felt a little lazy and were reclining on some rocks
covered with sea-weed and amusing themselves by talking. In general
the conversation of these little creatures is rather light and
frivolous and gay; but it is really a fact that they were just then
all serious together and all were engaged in a very profound
conversation on human happiness.
I am sorry to have so many explanations to give, but I think it quite
necessary to tell you the reason of so uncommon an event as a party
of Fairies being serious. Well then, there were going to be, very
shortly, several extremely gay christenings in the world, and some of
the Fairies had been invited to attend at them as Godmothers, in order
that they might bestow Fairy gifts on the different infants.
Four or five of the christenings were to take place the next day, and
the Fairies who were going were discussing with each other what gifts
they should bestow, and as their only object was to ensure the
happiness of the children for whom they were interested, they
naturally fell into a discourse as to what gifts were most likely to
have so charming an effect. "Your Godchild is a girl too, I believe,"
said Euphrosyne to Ianthe [Fairies are privileged, you know, to have
romantic names] "what do you think of bestowing upon her?" "Why,"
answered Ianthe, "the old story, I suppose--BEAUTY: at least such
was my intention, but if you can any of you show me I am wrong in
supposing it a cause of happiness to the mortal race, why, I suppose
I must give her ugliness instead."
"Sister, I hope you will do no such thing," murmured a young Fairy who
lay near twining seaweeds into a wreath. "I never until this evening
heard a doubt upon the subject, and to tell you the truth the only
time I ever envy a mortal is when I see a regular beauty enter a large
assembly. Oh, the triumph of that moment! Every eye turned upon her;
murmurs of admiration, not unmixed with envy, greeting her as she
sweeps along; everyone courting her acquaintance; a word, a smile of
hers more valued than a pearl or a ruby. A sort of queen of Nature's
own making, reigning royally in undisputed sway, let her circumstances
of life be what they may! Look how mean the richest woman who is ugly
looks by the side of her! No no, dear Ianthe, make your little lady
handsome, and you have done the best that Fairy can do for her. I
declare I envy her beforehand! Here where we are all so beautiful
together there is no interest or excitement about it--it is quite
flat." And so saying the young fairy Leila laid herself down to her
wreath again. "Why, Leila, you are absolutely eloquent!" observed
Ianthe, "Beauty it certainly must be."
"Oh, I declare," pursued Ianthe, rousing up again, "I have sometimes
really wished myself ugly, that I might some day have the pleasure of
suddenly finding myself beautiful!"
"Oh, but then," said a Fairy from behind, "is there no danger of your
regular beauty, as you call her, getting as tired of being beautiful
as you are, and wishing herself ugly too?"
"Certainly, not," answered Ianthe, "for, for an earthly beauty there
would always be the excitement of being envied."
"Come, come," persisted the former speaker, "then the gift of being
envied would be the best thing to bestow, at all events a necessary
"Oh," cried Leila, stopping her ears, "I can't argue, I never could--I
can't hear any more, I am quite satisfied that I am right; you can't
argue away the pleasure of being a beauty in a ball-room. Ask any of
"Well," said Ianthe, "we need pursue the subject no further. I am
resolved. My baby is to be beautiful, beautiful as the dawn of the
morning; they shall call her Aurora!"
"I shall not follow your example," observed Euphrosyne, "I don't at
all like that notion of the necessity of _envy_ to make the beauty's
joy complete. Besides, I'm not at all sure beauty is not much more
charming in idea than in possession. Nobody spend their lives in
entering a ball-room, and one gets sadly tired of one's own face. I'm
sure _I_ do, beautiful as it is;" and as she spoke the Fairy stooped
over a clear tide pool which mirrored her lovely countenance; "and yet
look what a nose I have! It is absolutely exquisite! And this hair!"
and she held up her long silken curling tresses and looked at them
reflected in the water as she spoke. A musical laugh rang through the
fairy group. Euphrosyne resumed her seat. "There isn't a mortal damsel
in the world who would not go into raptures to resemble me," pursued
she, "and yet--but, oh dear, I am getting quite prosy, and it is quite
useless, for Ianthe has decided. I, on the contrary, am thinking of
something far less romantic and interesting, but I suspect far more
necessary to the happiness of mortals than beauty--I mean RICHES."
"Men are horribly fond of them, certainly," observed the Fairy from
behind, whose name was Ambrosia. "I can't endure men on that very
account. Look at the grubby wretched lives they lead in
counting-houses and banks, and dreadful dingy holes and corners of
great towns, where we wouldn't set the soles of our feet, and this for
forty or fifty years, perhaps, in order that in the fifty-first, or
perhaps later still, they may turn into butterflies for the little bit
of life that is left to them. And such butterflies, too! not knowing
what to do with their gay coats and fine wings when they get them at
"I think you are putting an extreme case," observed Euphrosyne.
"Though the grubs themselves may not thoroughly enjoy the riches they
have so laboriously acquired, their children or grandchildren may, and
live at ease and enjoy them. I should not think of bestowing great
riches on uneducated paupers. But it is another matter to give them to
people whom education has refined, and who would know how to enjoy and
"I wonder," suggested a very little Fairy, scarcely grown to her full
size, "why you don't just give your Godchildren moderate good health,
and enough money to make them quite comfortable without puzzling
"You are a complete Solomon," observed Euphrosyne, "but you must know,
my dear, that moderate good health and a mere comfortable competency
would hardly be considered Fairy gifts by our friends in the lower
world. These things are, as it were, the absolute _necessities_ of a
happy life; they are the beef and mutton (to borrow an earthly simile)
of the entertainment. Fairy gifts form the somewhat unnecessary (and
questionably wholesome) second course, the sweets, the bonbons, the
luscious luxuries of the repast.
"Very few, by comparison, get them. Very few infants you know have
Fairy Godmothers, but we make it a rule that those who have, shall
always be distinguished from the crowd. Other-wise our power would not
be believed in. No, my little Aglaia, all our Godchildren start from
the point you spoke of--'caeteris paribus,' as those dingy black
lawyers say--all other things being equal--it is a question now of
bestowing extra superfine Fairy gifts."
Aglaia tittered--"I know Sister Euphrosyne is thinking of the
christening suppers, and the whipped creams, and the syllabubs!" and
away she tripped to the other end of the bay, lest the older Fairies
should scold her for impertinence.
"Certainly," pursued Euphrosyne, "I have a great contempt for riches
myself. Bah! the idea of all the troublesome as well as wicked things
men do in order that they may be able to keep a lumbering thing they
call a carriage, to drive them round a dirty town. Just think of that
one thing alone! It is hardly credible." And Euphrosyne laid her head
by the side of Leila's, and looked up into the deep blue sky.
"Remember," said Ambrosia, from behind, "it is a choice with poor
mortals between heavy foot-walking, and the lumbering vehicles you
talk of. Perhaps when their legs ache terribly, the carriages are not
such bad things. We can hardly judge dispassionately in such a matter,
we who can float and fly!" and the delicate Ambrosia, springing up,
floated softly round the bay, and then returned smiling to her
companions. "It made me almost ill to think of aching legs," observed
she, "how I do pity the mortal race!"
"How pretty you looked as the sun shone golden upon your white robe,"
exclaimed Leila, "It was a sight for a mortal painter to die of!"
"A genius for painting would be a grand Fairy gift," observed Ianthe.
"Too doubtful of success," answered Euphrosyne, "and the Musician's
power the same; besides musicians always die young and with exhausted
minds. The art is too much for mortal nerves."
"Their atmosphere is too thick," said Leila. "How tired I am of your
discussions! Let us sing! Whatever music may be to them, it is food to
Then all those beautiful Fairies arose and joining hands on the rocks
they sang to the now dying Sun a chorus of Fairy Land! Now and then
these ravishing melodies are permitted to reach to mortal ears:
chiefly in dreams to the sick and sorrowful, for Fairies have great
compassion on such, and allow them a distant taste of this, the most
exquisite of their enjoyments.
There was no more discussion that night, nor did they argue much the
next morning. There was the rising sun to welcome from the sleeping
caves on the eastern side of their country, and the bath to be
enjoyed, and their wings to plume, and sweet odours to gather from the
early flowers; and the time passed so quickly, they only met to take a
hurried leave. "We must understand each other however, before we
separate," said Euphrosyne.
"Dear Ianthe, your Gift is Beauty?" "It is." "And mine is Riches,"
said Euphrosyne. "All the pleasures of life shall be at my Godchild's
feet," said another Fairy, laughing. "If that will not ensure
happiness, I know not what will." Ambrosia held back--"Your choice,
dear Sister?" asked Euphrosyne.
"Come! we have no time to lose."
"It must remain a secret," was the reply. "Our discourse yesterday
evening was so thoughtful, so sad, I could not sleep. I arose hours
before you this morning, ere daylight streaked the sky. Dear Sisters,
how shocked you will be to hear I wept; but now I have determined. If
my gift succeed I will tell you all about it, or you shall guess it
yourselves; for I now propose that our Fairy Gifts this year shall be
a sort of experiment on human happiness. Let us from time to time
visit in company our young charges, and let the result--that is, which
of our Gifts is proved to confer the greatest amount of happiness, be
written in the archives of our kingdom for the future benefit of the
A murmur of approbation rose, sweet as the vibration of a harp-chord
through the assembly.
There was no time for enquiry about the other gifts: the travelling
Fairies arose and beat their gauzy wings upon the western breeze. A
melodious rushing was just audible; the distant murmurs of the earthly
sea the most resemble that sweet dream of sound. In a few moments the
departing sisters became invisible, and those who remained returned to
float by the sea shore, or make sweet music in the bowers of their
* * * * *
Time is a very odd sort of thing, dear readers. We neither know whence
it comes nor whither it goes;--nay we know nothing about it in fact
except that there is one little moment of it called the present, which
we have as it were in our hands to make use of--but beyond this we can
give no account of, even that little moment. It is ours to use, but
not to understand. There is one thing in the world, however, quite as
wonderful, and quite as common, and that is, _the Wind_. Did it never
strike you how strange it was that the strongest thing in the world
should be _invisible_? The nice breezes we feel in summer and the
roughest blasts we feel in winter in England are not so extremely
strong you will say: but I am speaking, besides these, of the winds
called hurricanes that arise in the West Indian Islands, and in other
places in the world. These dreadful hurricanes have at times done as
much mischief as earthquakes and lightning. They tear down the
strongest trees, overthrow the firmest houses and spread ruin and
desolation around, and yet this terrible power, so tremendous, and
against which the cleverest contrivances can provide no defence, is as
invisible as the great Maker of Heaven and Earth. How unbelieving many
people would look if you told them of a dreadful creature that was
coming to the world, which could be heard to roar, be felt to knock
down every thing in its path--men, women and children, houses,
churches, towers, castles, cities, and trees the most firmly
rooted--and yet which you could never catch the faintest glimpse of,
for it was always invisible, even when it roared the loudest! As
invisible then, as when in its mildest moods, it, as it were, purred
softly over the country like a cat. How the good people would laugh,
and tell you you were very silly to believe in such a thing. Yet I
think this is not at all an incorrect description of the great
invisible Power WIND. Now the lesson we may learn from this is to be
humble-minded; for since we live in the constant presence of a Power
we cannot see, we ought to feel it is equally possible other Powers
may exist of which our other senses cannot take cognizance. There is
an old proverb--"Seeing is believing"--but you perceive, dear readers,
we are forced to believe in the wind though we never see him at all.
To return to Time who is travelling fast on while I am rambling after
the wind, he has puzzled the artists a good deal I should say, for
with all their skill at representation they have never hit upon any
better idea of him than an old Man with wings. An old man with wings!
Can you fancy anything so unnatural! One can quite understand
beautiful young Angels with wings. Youth and power and swiftness
belong to them. Also Fairies with wings are quite comprehensible
creatures; for one fancies them so light and airy and transparent,
living upon honey dew and ambrosia, that wings wherewith to fly seem
their natural appendages. But the decrepitude of old age and the wings
of youth and power are a strange mixture:--a bald head, and a Fairy's
swiftness!--how ridiculous it seems, and so I think I may well say
Time is a very odd sort of thing.
Among those who have to deal with Time, few are more puzzled how to
manage him than we story-tellers. In my first chapter, for instance, I
gave you a half-hour's conversation among some Fairies, but I think
you would be very angry with me were I to give you as exactly every
half-hour that passed over the heads of the little girls with Fairy
Godmothers, till they grew up. How you would scold, dear little
readers, if I were to enter into a particular description of each
child's Nurse, and tell whether Miss Aurora, Miss Julia, Miss
Hermione, &c. &c. &c. were brought up on baked flour, groat-gruel,
rusks, tops and bottoms, or revalenta food! Whether they took more
castor-oil, or rhubarb and magnesia; whether they squalled on those
occasions or were very good. When they cut their teeth and how,
together with all the &c. and ups and downs of Nursery life which
large families, such as you and I belong to, go through daily.
Well then, suppose I altogether pass over a period of ten years, and
enter into no minute particulars respecting that portion of Time. You
must know that the Fairies had agreed that all the children should
have the same (and rather a large) amount of intellect, or what you
would call cleverness: that is to say, they were all equally capable
of learning anything they chose to learn: also they had all fair
health, plenty to eat and drink, and all the so called "necessary"
comforts of life.
Now then to our story.
At the end of ten years the Fairies agreed to go and have a peep how
their charges were going on. They quite knew that nothing decisive
could be found out, till the children had come to years of discretion
and were their own mistresses. Still they thought it would amuse them
just to go and see how the charms were working, as it were; so, away
Now picture to yourselves a nice large nursery, much such a one as
your own, in which several children are playing. The eldest, a girl of
ten, you may see yonder lounging--gracefully perhaps--but still
_lounging_ in a rocking chair which she is swinging backwards and
forwards, having set it in motion by the action of her foot on the
floor. What a lovely face! I do not think you ever saw one so handsome
except in a print in one of Mamma's best picture books. All the
features are perfectly good and in proportion, and the dark blue eyes
are fringed by the longest eyelashes ever seen. The hair of this
little girl too--look at it, as the soft chestnut ringlets wave about
on her shoulders as she swings, and show the round richness of the
Now if you ask about the expression on her face, I must tell you it
was rather languid and "_pensieroso_." Pensieroso is an Italian word
really meaning thoughtful--but this little girl was not _thinking_,
for then the expression of her face would have been much stronger and
firmer and less languid; but the word has got to be used for a sort of
awake-dreamy state when one lets thoughts float lazily along without
having any energy to dwell upon them, and see whether they are good or
The thought that was passing through this little girl's head at the
time I mention and which made her look so languid and pensieroso, was
"I wish it was 6 o'clock."
Now here you are ready to laugh, I know, for there was nothing to look
so languid about, in "I wish it was six o'clock!" but the fact was
this: at half-past six the little girl's Mamma was expecting a large
party to dinner and the little girl was to dress at six and be ready
to go down and see the company:--I might add _and to be seen by them_;
for the little girl was, as you will have guessed, the beautiful
Aurora herself, and there had been plenty of foolish people, though
her good Mamma was not one of them, to tell her how pretty she was and
how much people admired her.
It is a very pleasant thing to be admired, both for children and grown
up people. "The love of approbation," as it is called, i.e. the wish
to be approved of and admired is a feeling which is very strong in
most people; not in quite all, perhaps, but in _most_ people
certainly. But like all other powers of the mind considered apart from
the influence of the heart and conscience, it is capable of being used
to a very bad or a very good purpose. Thus you may remember what our
Saviour says of the Pharisees who stood praying at the corners of the
streets that they might be seen of men: Verily, they had their
reward--viz: that men admired them: whereas those who do good deeds
and pray privately, i.e. unseen and unadmired by men, should verily
have their reward in that day when God who seeth in secret himself
shall reward them openly.
Here you see is the same strong feeling,--love of approbation,
exercised in a wrong and a right direction. The Pharisees wish for the
approbation of men, good people wish for the approbation of God.
Now, love of approbation exists about much smaller matters than I have
just been mentioning. But I would warn my young readers, that, to be
always thinking, and bothering yourselves as to what other people are
thinking about you, is one of the most uncomfortable and injurious
habits a person can get into. It makes them so selfish and
egotistical. And here was one of Aurora's dangers. Because she knew
she was pretty, she was always wondering what other people were
thinking about her, a habit which so far from contributing to what the
good Fairy had wished, viz. her happiness, was constantly spoiling her
comfort from hour to hour. And here, at ten years old, was this little
lady swinging languidly and idly on the rocking chair, wishing it was
six o'clock, instead of enjoying, as she might so well have done, that
small portion of time, time present, which is, as I told you before,
the only bit of him we can ever lay hold of, as it were. Of time
present, just then, she thought nothing. She would have said, (had she
been asked), that the old gentleman moved very slowly in spite of his
wings, for her eye was fixed on that delightful time future, six
o'clock. Well! at last the clock struck, and Aurora sprang from her
chair,--her whole face altered in a moment. "Now, Nurse, I may dress,
may I not?" she exclaimed, radiant with animation, and all the languor
and dreaminess gone over like a cloud from before the sun. And it is
true that just then Aurora was happy. It was a pleasant task to her to
arrange and smooth that curling hair, and to put on the simple white
dress she knew set off her beauty so well. But alas! for the happiness
caused by thoughts of _one's self_! The toilet over, she ran down to
her Mamma, and was welcomed with a smile of fondness and approbation.
Indeed, when she was happy, a sweeter face could not be seen, for she
was not a naughty child, and if it had not been for the Fairy gift, I
do think she would have been a very nice one.
The Fairies who invisibly had witnessed all I have described to you,
were not so loud in their admiration of Aurora as you or I might have
been. They are so handsome themselves, they think but little of
earthly beauty, and even Ianthe could not conscientiously say, "What a
_happy_ looking little girl she is." That was just the one thing that
was wanting: ay, and it continued wanting even after the room was
filled with company, and she was petted, and caressed, and praised on
every side. Her spirits became very high, however, and she enjoyed
herself much; and it is perhaps only very very critical folk, bent on
spying out a fault, that could have detected the little clouds of
anxiety that now and then shot across her face. A thought of whether
her curls were all right, or her dress untumbled, &c. just now and
then disturbed the charm, and prevented her forgetting herself
sufficiently to allow her to be quite at ease and happy, and she would
glance at herself in the mirror, and put back the hair from her brow,
lest Mrs. I-know-not-who, who was just then entering the room, should
not think her quite as lovely as Mrs. Somebody-else did, who had very
foolishly been saying so rather in a loud tone to her Mamma.
At last the fatal time arrived to go to bed. Aurora was much too
sensible to cry, or be cross, you must know, but as she closed the
door of the drawing-room and left the gay company, a sigh very heavy
for so young a heart to have breathed, escaped her, and it was slowly
she retraced her steps up stairs. She was in reality tired, for it was
later than her usual bed-time, and when she went into her room she
threw herself on the chair and yawned. The young Nurse who attended to
undress her, asked her if she had enjoyed herself. "Oh yes!" was her
ready answer. "All is so bright, and gay, and entertaining among those
ladies, and they are so good-natured to me,"--(another sigh coupled
with the recollection of, and _how much they admire me!_)--"But I do
so hate being a little girl, and having to go to bed. I wish the time
would come quicker for me to be grown up, and be down stairs
altogether, and talk, and enjoy myself all the evening!" Oh, Aurora,
Aurora, with that dissatisfied face where is your beauty? with that
discontented mind where is your happiness?
"Your charm is not working perfectly, Sister," observed Euphrosyne to
"Her's is not the age for perfect happiness and enjoyment as a beauty,
remember," replied Ianthe, "and she feels this herself."
"Man never is but always _to be_ blest," cried Ambrosia laughing. "You
see I can quote their own poets against them."
"You are prejudging now, Ambrosia, wait till another ten years is
over; but we must see our little beauty through the twenty-four
hours." Ianthe now waved a tiny wand in a circle around Aurora's
head,--the long eyelashes sank over her eyes, and the beautiful child
fell into a sweet and placid sleep.
Morning, which awakens all young creatures to life, enjoyment, and
action, awoke Aurora among the rest, and she arose in health and
strength, and the full glow of animal spirits. "_This is_ happiness,
however," exclaimed Ianthe to her companions, as the young girl sprang
about, carolling to herself the while. And so it was, for at that
moment no forecastings into futurity disturbed the comfort of present
pleasure: but an accidental glimpse of her face caught in a
looking-glass as she passed, recalled Aurora to the recollection of
HERSELF! and the admiration she had obtained the evening before. At
first some pleasure attended the remembrance, and she gazed with a
childish triumph at her pretty face in the glass. In a few minutes,
however, the voice of her Governess calling her to lessons disturbed
the egotistical amusement, and the charming Aurora frowned--yes,
_frowned!_ and looked cross at the looking-glass before she quitted
And now, dear little readers, let me remind you that Aurora was a
clever little girl, for the Fairy had taken care of that. She had
every faculty for learning, and no real dislike to it; but this
unlucky Fairy gift was in the way of every thing she did, for it took
away her interest in every thing but herself; and so, though she got
through her lessons respectably, it was with many yawns, and not a few
sighs, and wonderings what Mamma was doing; and did the Governess
think there would soon be another dinner party? and didn't the
Governess, when _she_ was a little girl, wish very much she was a
grown up woman? and, finally, she wished she had been able to talk
when she was a baby at her christening, because then me would have
begged the Fairy Godmother to give her the gift of growing up to be a
young lady very quick indeed, and of learning every thing without any
trouble at all! And so saying, Aurora yawned and laid down her book,
and the poor Governess could hardly keep her temper at such repeated
interruptions to the subject in hand.
"My dear," she exclaimed, "Fairies have no power to counteract what
God, has ordained, and he has ordained that we enjoy but little what
we get at without labour and trouble."
"Ah taisez-vous donc ma chere!" cried Aurora, flopping her ears with
her hands, and running round the room shaking her long curls
furiously. "Vous me faites absolument fremir! Excuse my French, but I
am certain you are the eldest daughter of the old woman in the wood,
and you are just now dropping vipers, toads, newts, and efts from your
mouth at every word you utter!"
The good-natured Governess laughed heartily at the joke, for they had
just been reading the old French fairy tale of "Les deux Fees," and
the application amused her; but she shook her head gravely at Aurora
afterwards, and reminded her that no serious truth was well answered
by a joke, however droll.
A bell rings, a carriage is at the door. Miss Aurora is wanted.
Visiters! Ah! here is happiness again! But it lasts but a short time,
and the reaction is the same as before--drooping eyes, languid
eyelids, and a sigh.
Books, drawing, music, work, even domestic recreations, all deprived
of their charm through this idolatry of self!
The curtain closed over this scene.
"A charming child, Ianthe, but for your Fairy Gift, which is spoiling
"I repeat to you we are no judges yet. Now for riches, Euphrosyne!"
* * * * *
At the same hour of evening, and under the same circumstances, of a
party about to assemble, let me introduce you to a beautiful little
boudoir or up-stairs sitting-room adjoining an equally pretty sleeping
apartment in a magnificent house in a town. The passages are carpeted
all over, and so are the boudoir and the sleeping-room, and they are
furnished with sofas, easy chairs, and every description of luxurious
comfort; and all this for the accommodation of a little girl of ten
years old, who in one of the easy chairs is lying back in front of the
fire, with her tiny feet on a bright brass fender. She has a gold
watch in her hand, which is suspended round her neck by a chain of the
same material, and she is playing with it, and with the seals, and
pretty ornaments hung to it, that jingle as she moves her hand. Ever
and anon she glances at the face of the watch.
But life is very easy to her, and the chair is very soft, and her feet
are very warm. At last, however, she gets up and rings a silver bell
that is on the mantel-piece. A servant answers the summons. "It is
time for me to dress, I believe, Annette; the company are expected
to-day at half past six. Has my new frock come home?"
"Let me look at it."
A delicate blue satin, trimmed with the finest lace, is produced from
"It is very pretty, I think, Annette."
"It is downright beautiful, Miss."
"And so expensive," pursued the little girl whose name was Julia,
"that I don't think any one else I know is likely to imitate it, which
is my greatest comfort!"
And so saying, the rich Miss Julia ---- (an only daughter), whose
comfort seemed to depend on no one else being as comfortable as
herself, commenced her toilet, i.e. her maid both commenced and
finished it for her, for those who can command the unlimited
assistance of servants are apt to be very idle in helping themselves.
"Your Julia looks self-satisfied enough," observed Ianthe, "but I do
not see that this is more like real happiness than my Aurora's face
before the party."
"Perhaps," returned Euphrosyne, "the same remark applies to her as to
Aurora--the age for thoroughly enjoying riches is hardly arrived. You
smile, Ambrosia! Well, we do not yet know your experiment, and you
yourself do not know how it has answered. Take care that our turn for
laughing at you does not soon come!"
Julia was dressed at the end of the half-hour, but not sooner. Her
toilet occupied more time than Aurora's. She could not decide what
ornaments she would wear, and at last getting out of humour with the
"embarras des richesses" she fixed on a necklace which, though
extremely handsome, was scarcely fit for a child. She was neither
pretty nor otherwise, but when good humoured and happy her face, like
that of all other creatures of her innocent time of life, was
attractive and pleasant to behold. Oh, that children did but know
wherein the secret of being loveable and beloved lies! In holding fast
the innocence and simplicity of their infant years; in the cheerful
spirit, the universal kindheartedness, the open honesty, the sweet
teachableness and readiness of belief, which are the real
characteristics of childhood and which we so love to trace in their
faces. It was these things our Saviour called upon grown-up people to
imitate, and so to receive the kingdom of Heaven as little children.
And oh, that grown-up people would imitate these things; for if they
would become in these respects as little children, the sweet cast of
mind would be reflected in _their_ faces too, and the ugly looks given
by envious discontent, deceitful thoughts, unkind intention and
restless want of faith and hope would all be washed out of the world.
But now, my dear readers, can you call that the best of Fairy gifts,
which had so great a tendency to bring the naughty passions of
grown-up life into the heart, and therefore on to the face, of a
little girl? Well, but riches _have_ a tendency that way; and though
Julia was not a very naughty girl she was being led into very sad
feelings by the Fairy gift. When she went down to the company, her
secret anxiety was to examine all the dresses of her Mamma's friends
and resolve some day to surpass them all. Even as it was she received
much pleasure from knowing that her own dress was far beyond the reach
of ordinary folk. She thought too of her necklace with secret
satisfaction, when the ladies were talking to her, for she perceived
their eyes frequently attracted by its brilliancy and beauty. Then her
mind rambled into futurity, to the day when she would astonish these
very ladies far more than now by the richness of her costume. Ah, dear
readers, would our Saviour if present have called _this_ little child
to him, and said, "Of _such_ is the kingdom of Heaven?" But all these
selfish thoughts made her conversation less pleasant and cheerful than
it would otherwise have been; for you may be sure she was not
listening with any interest to what was said to her, while she was
thus planning silly schemes about herself.
And not having listened with any interest to what was said to her, you
may guess that her answers were dull and stupid; for when people are
talking of one thing and thinking of another they become very flat
companions. At times when she could forget herself she became natural
and then was both pleasant and pleased, and asked some ladies to let
their children come and see her next day, to which they consented. But
now came a sad drawback. One of the ladies told her that her little
girl should bring to shew her a most beautiful gold fillagree work-box
set with precious stones, which one of the maids of honour about
court, who was her godmother, had given her a few days before. This
lady had saved a few of the queen's hairs very carefully, and had had
them placed in a little circle of crystal in the middle of the box,
and they were set round with the most beautiful rubies. It was a
present worthy of a Fairy Godmother, and certainly the donor was the
daughter of a duchess, which perhaps is the nearest thing to being a
You will be shocked, my dear readers, to hear that the account of this
box was as disagreeable as a dose of physic to poor Julia. Nay it was
_worse_ than physic, for a peppermint-drop can take the taste of that
away in a minute. But not all the peppermint-drops in a chymist's shop
could take away the taste of the fillagree-box from Julia. She had
been thinking before of showing all the treasures of her boudoir to
her little friends next day; but this horrid box was like a great
cloud closing over her sunshine. She knew she was naughty, but she was
so in the habit of being selfish she could not conquer her peevish
vexation. Annette wondered what could be the matter, and her Governess
sighed as she perceived her face clouded, even when she was repeating
her evening prayer; but no questioning could extract from her what was
Oh, what a condition for a child to go to sleep in! Euphrosyne was
greatly annoyed. "They are not correcting her evil dispositions,"
cried she. "I do not allow that this has anything to do _necessarily_
with being very rich."
Ah, good Fairies, you do not know "How hardly shall they that have
riches enter into the kingdom of Heaven."
Look now at that young face, asleep on a downy pillow, in a bed richly
hung with crimson drapery, in a room filled with luxuries, glowing
with warmth and comfort. You are shocked that the heart within should
be disturbed by nasty little envyings, that made the good things she
possessed of no value to her. 'Tis well; but remember we are all rich
by comparison. Go to the poor frost-bitten wayside beggar-child, my
little readers; bring him into your comfortable drawing-room, which
you sit in every day and think nothing about, and he will fancy he has
got into Paradise. It is a luxurious palace to him. Take him to your
snug bed and let him sleep there, and it will be to him what a state
apartment in Windsor Castle would be to you. Do not then let you and
me scold too much at Julia, but let us keep on the watch to drive away
from ourselves the discontented grumbling thoughts that are apt to
make us all ungrateful to God. Julia did not sleep well. The fillagree
box was a fort of night-mare to her. She dreamt of its growing up into
a great giant, and thumping her on the head, and calling out that she
ought to be ashamed of herself. Do you know, I think this dream was
owing to her Godmother, Euphrosyne, for she lingered behind the other
Fairies as they vanished, and shook, not waved, her wand over the
sleeping child, with a very angry face.
In the morning Julia, like Aurora, awoke in a temporary forgetfulness
of her troubles. The morning air is so refreshing and sleep does one
so much good, and the sun shining through the windows looks so gay,
and all things speak of hope so loudly in a morning, who can be
sullen? Certainly not little girls full of life and expectation. But
the thought of the fillagree box by degrees took possession of her
mind and rankled there as before. She too had a Governess, and many
lessons to learn and much to do, and she did them; but neither English
history nor French fairy tales could quite drive away the fillagree
box. Indeed it introduced its horrid face before her into the midst of
a multiplication sum, and Mademoiselle thought she was bewitched to
have grown so stupid over her arithmetic all at once. She spent a half
hour over that one sum, and when it was done she was so much tired she
gave up lessons for the day. Besides, she had to prepare for her
friends. She went into her boudoir, opened her cabinets and unfolded
her treasures of various sorts--oh I can't tell you what beautiful
things! besides interesting collections of foreign and English shells,
and stuffed humming birds, which you and I should be charmed to
possess. And Julia was in general most happy when she was looking
over her property, but rather more because she possessed valuable
curiosities than because she cared about them, I fear. For my part,
I wonder very much that the humming birds and shells did not teach
her to be more humble-minded; for no art or jewellery can imitate or
come up to their glorious beauty. Well, she amused herself tolerably
in spite of the visions of the fillagree box and the queen's hair,
which now and then came between her and her usual feeling of
Presently her young friends came--several little girls of various
ages, and now nature once more revived in poor Julia. The children
felt and expressed such hearty pleasure at the sight of her treasures.
There were such joyous exclamations; such bursts of delight; such
springing and jumping about, that Julia became infected with the
general pleasure, and was a happy child herself. Yes! even though the
fillagree box had been shown off and admired. But what do children in
general know about the _value_ of things and how much they cost? Ah,
much more just in their judgments than we elders are apt to be, a bird
of Paradise such as adorned the top of Julia's cabinet, or a peacock's
tail, such as she had in a drawer, is to their unprejudiced eyes more
desirable than the gold of Ophir itself!
So now you see this triumph of simplicity over art, despoiled the
fillagree box of all its horrors, for the innocent children admired
her shells yet more--unsophisticated, and insensible to the long story
about the value of the rubies, the maid of honour, and even the
Still the Fairies felt and saw that it was not Euphrosyne's gift, but
rather the forgetfulness of it which caused these hours of happiness
to Julia, and somewhat puzzled as to the result they left the votary
of riches, not quite without a sensation that little Aglaia's proposal
of moderate health and enough riches to be "comfortable without being
puzzled," was about the best thing after all, though not much of a
Fairy gift. And now, my little readers, I am beginning to get rather
tired of my story, and to feel that you may do so too. I think I am
getting rather prosy, so I must try and cut the matter short. Four out
of the five Fairy gifts were like beauty and riches, worldly
advantages. For instance, there was the little girl who was to have
every earthly pleasure at her feet--i.e. she was to have every thing
she wished for--why she was fifty times worse off than either Aurora
or Julia, for I will tell you whom she was like. She was like the
fisherman's wife in Grimm's German popular fairy tales, who had every
thing she wished, and so at last wished to be king of the sun and
moon. I doubt not you remember her well, and how she was in
consequence sent back to her mud cottage. I think, therefore, I need
not describe the young lady who had _that_ Fairy gift.
There was another who was to be _loved_ wherever she went; but nothing
is worth having that is had so easily, and this child got so sick of
being kissed and fondled and loved, that it was the greatest nuisance
to her possible, for disagreeable people loved her just as much as
nice ones, and for her part she hated them all alike. It was a very
silly Fairy gift.
Come with me then to Ambrosia's God-daughter, whom they visited last,
and whose Fairy gift the other Fairies were to guess at!
Neither you nor I, my dears, ever heard a fairy-laugh. Doubtless it is
a sweet and musical sound. You can perhaps fancy it? Well then, do
fancy it, and how it rang in silver peals when our fairy friends, on
entering the last nursery they had to visit, found Ambrosia's protegee
in a flood of angry tears, stamping her foot on the ground in a
passion! "You naughty naughty girl!" exclaimed the old Nurse, "you'll
wake the baby and make your own eyes so red you won't be fit to be
seen to night by the company!"
"I don't care about my eyes being red, tho' I don't want to wake the
poor baby," sobbed the little girl, slightly softening her wrath: "but
the cat has unravelled all the stocking I have been knitting at for so
many days, and I had nearly just finished it, and now it's all
spoilt;" and she roared with vexation. "Miss Hermione, if you go on so
I shall certainly send for your Mamma, and the baby will be quite
poorly, he will! and we shall know who made him so," added Nurse
triumphantly. "I can't make the baby poorly with crying, Nurse, so
that's nonsense you know," observed Hermione; "but I didn't mean to
disturb him; only my stocking is gone, and I don't know what to do."
And here she sobbed afresh.
"Do! why ain't you going down to the ladies, and can't you be brushing
your hair and washing your face and getting ready?" "But it isn't
time." "Well, but can't you get ready _before_ the time a little? and
then, when you're dressed and look so clean and nice and pretty, you
can sit in the chair and we can look at you!" and here the good old
Nurse gave a knowing smile and nodded her head.
Hermione caught sight of the comical coaxing glance, and, in spite of
her misfortune, burst into a fit of laughter. "Hum, hum, hum! now
you'll wake the poor thing by laughing, Miss Hermione. I do wish you'd
be quiet:" and here the Nurse rocked the child on her knee more
vigorously than ever.
"Then why don't you tell me what I am to do with my stocking," cried
Hermione. "Oh well, I know what I will do--something quite as quiet as
a mouse. I will wind up my poor worsted." Hereupon the little girl
picked up the puckered remains of her luckless grey stocking which a
facetious young cat had spent at least a quarter of an hour in
ingeniously unravelling with his claws. It was a tiresome tedious job
we must admit, and required a strong effort of patient perseverance,
but Hermione soon became engrossed in its difficulties and a dead
silence ensued. At last Nurse who had while rocking the sleeping baby
on her knee, been watching the child's proceedings, suddenly
exclaimed, "Well to be sure, Miss Hermione, you have such patience as
I never before did see."
[The Fairies exchanged glances.
"It is _Patience_, Ambrosia."
"What a hurry you are in!" was the reply.]
"No I haven't, Nurse, indeed," answered Hermione. "I had no patience
at all when I was in a passion with the cat just now."
"Well, I suppose there are two or three sorts of Patiences, Miss,
then," persisted Nurse, "for I'm certain you have _some_ sorts. But,
dear me, its ever so much past six o'clock, and you have to be dressed
by half-past. Do put away the worsted and get yourself ready, Miss,
and call Jane to help you."
Here the Nurse and Hermione nearly had a scuffle over the worsted.
Hermione declared the cat had spoilt her stocking; and the only
comfort left to her now was to roll it comfortably up into a ball.
Nurse on the contrary insisted that it didn't signify a bit what
became of the worsted; she must dress and go down. The dispute ended
by Hermione running off with the half finished ball and its untidy
remains, and cramming the whole concern into the pocket of her best
frock. "The people will soon be tired of talking to me," muttered she
to herself, "and then I can finish my ball quietly in the corner
behind Mamma's chair."
The thought of this ingenious plan for her private amusement down
stairs so tickled Hermione's fancy that she was on the giggle the
whole time she was being dressed. "If Nurse did but know what was in
the pocket of my best frock and how fat it is! how she would scold,
and what a fight we should have." And she could hardly refrain from
loud laughter at the thought. When she had got her frock on she sat
down, and laying her arm over the fat pocket asked Jane to touch up
her curls: and while this operation was going on she began to talk to
"Nurse, should you think it a very nice thing to go to a dinner party
and sit in chairs all round a large room, where the coloured covers
are taken away and everything looks very gay, and so tidy, nobody is
allowed to do anything but smile, and talk, and wear white kid
"Very nice, Miss, it's so like a lady," was the Nurse's ready reply.
"Well then, I don't think it's nice at all, Nurse--I think it's very
nasty and stupid."
"Dear, Miss Hermione, how you do talk; I hope you won't tell the
ladies so when you get down stairs."
"Oh dear no, that would be rude, and it's wrong to be rude, but to
tell you the truth I don't know what I shall do when I grow up if I am
obliged to be so dull as that is, very often."
"Goodness, Miss Hermione, to hear you talk one would think you'd
better be a housemaid at once, instead of a lady with nothing to do."
"Nurse, I should see no objection to be a housemaid at all, only that
I am learning so many things that wouldn't suit a housemaid; but
without being a housemaid there are many pleasanter things to do than
to sit in that stupid sort of way. I like the room when all Papa's
books and papers are about, and when he is scribbling away so busy,
and when Mamma has got her microscope out looking at seaweeds or
curiosities. I have a chance then myself. I don't like ladies who say
nothing but 'Pretty little dear, what a nice colour she has,' just to
What Nurse in England could be expected to enter into so philosophical
an investigation of the habits of society?
Hermione's did nothing but assure her it was time to be off, and she
only hoped she would sit still and talk prettily, and never trouble
her head whether it was stupid or not.
When Hermione got into the drawing room and saw the company seated as
she had described to her Nurse, she felt very much disposed to laugh
again, but made an effort and composed herself. Still her face was
beaming with mirth and fun, and when some ladies said "What a happy
looking little girl," they were quite sincere. That sort of face too
worked wonders, and her Mamma's friends liked her much and talked
pleasantly to her, and she was pleased and happy and quite forgot the
ball of worsted, as well as the ladies' white kid gloves. A young lady
however who had her arm round Hermione's waist and was playing with
her, suddenly felt the round protuberance in her pocket. "Ah you
little rogue, what have you here?" "Its a secret," cried Hermione. "I
think I can unravel your mysterious secret, little girl, you are a
favourite with the housekeeper," added she, whispering in Hermione's
ear, "and she has just given you an orange."
"You are a very bad guesser of secrets," whispered Hermione in
return. "It's no such thing!"--"Then it's an apple." "No, nor an
apple."--"Then it's a peach, and your new frock will be spoilt." "No
it isn't a peach either, and it's a secret." The young lady loved fun,
and a playful struggle ensued between her and Hermione; in the course
of which the large grey worsted ball and its long ravelled tail were
drawn from the little pocket.
Hermione had now to tell the history of the ball, which she did
naturally and honestly, but when she added, quite seriously, that she
intended, when they had done talking to her, to go behind her Mamma's
chair and finish winding it up, you may guess how they laughed.
"Come here, my little dear, and let me look at you," cried an elderly
lady in spectacles, putting out her hand and laying hold of
Hermione's. "Why what an industrious little soul you must be! a
perfect pattern! There now! you may go behind my chair and finish your
ball of worsted; nobody wants to talk to you any longer."
This old lady was rather crabbed, and had not quite believed Hermione
sincere, so she did this to try her, and expected to see her pout and
refuse. To her surprize, Hermione only said "Oh thank you, ma'am,"
with a quite smiling face, and going behind the chair, sat down on the
floor to her worsted. For a few moments the old lady kept thinking "It
won't last long: she'll soon be glad of an excuse to come out:" but no
such thing happened; and just what Hermione expected did happen. The
ladies fell to talking among themselves, and in a very short time the
presence of the little girl was quite forgotten, even by the old lady,
who was handed out to dinner, without once remembering whom she had
left behind her chair.
Hermione stayed in the room till her task was over, and then rushed up
stairs to the nursery, and stopping at the door, half opened it and
rolled the great grey worsted ball so cleverly in, that it hit the old
Nurse's foot as she sat (once more rocking the baby) over the fire.
"Goodness, bless me! what ever is that?" Then, spying a laughing face
at the door, "Oh dear heart, it's you I declare, Miss Hermione! will
you never leave off waking the baby? I thought a great black dog was
laying hold of my foot."
"Nurse," said Hermione, "your baby is always and always going to
sleep; why doesn't he go, and then I could have a bit of fun? You
don't know where I finished winding the worsted ball!"
"Why goodness me, Miss Hermione, where?"
"Down in the drawing-room among all the fine ladies; so good night!"
and off she ran to avoid further explanation. A few words with her
Governess; a sober time of evening prayer; and the happy child laid
her head on her pillow, and needed no Fairy wand to lull her to sleep.
She had been some time with her Governess in the morning before her
Mamma coming to her there, heard a loud discussion going on within.
The voices, however, were those of good-humour. "Hermione," said her
Mother, "I am come to say that your Governess told me yesterday you
had been so very good for a long time over all that you have had to
do, that I have arranged for your having a holiday and a treat to-day,
and several of your young friends are coming to see you. Among them is
Aurora, the granddaughter of the old lady in spectacles, who, just
before she was going away at night, recollected you, and began to look
for you behind her chair."
"Oh what a goose, Mamma!" "No, not a goose, my dear--only an oddity,
but a very kind one too--for she desired me to find out whether you
really did roll up the whole of the ravelled worsted last night; and
_if_ you really persevered till it was finished, I have something to
give you from her, but not otherwise. How was it?" "Oh, it's finished,
Mamma; ask Nurse; for when I rolled it against her foot last night,
she took it for a great black dog." "Well then, I suppose this is
yours, Hermione; but, I must say, I never knew a gold thimble earned
so easily." Yes, dear little readers, it was a pretty gold thimble,
and round the bottom of it there was a rim of white enamel, and on the
enamel were gold letters.
"L'industrie ajoute a la beaute."
"Mamma," said Hermione, looking at it in delight, as she found it
exactly fitted her finger, "it's lovely; but, do you know, I think the
old lady ought to have given it to her granddaughter, Aurora, with
such a motto." "My dear, she has had it, she told me, some months in
her pocket secretly, for the purpose you mention, but she cannot ever
satisfy herself that Aurora has got the spirit of real industry in
her, and to bribe her to _earn_ the thimble is not her object, so you
see it has accidentally fallen to your share."
And as she said this, Hermione's mother turned round to leave the
room; but before she had reached the door, her little girl stopped
her--"Mamma, do turn back."
"What is the matter, Hermione?"
"I've something I want to say to you."
"I am all attention, my dear, particularly as your face looks so
"Why, you and my Governess are always calling me _good_ for doing my
lessons well, and now you are rewarding me for being _good_ and all
that, and I don't see that I am good at all."
"Upon my word this is a very serious matter, Hermione; who or what has
put this into your head?"
"I read in a serious book lately, that nobody could be good without
practising self-denial; and that, to be really good, one must either
do something that one does _not_ like, or give up something that one
_does_; so that I am quite sure I cannot be good and deserve a reward
when I do French and music and drawing and work well, because I am so
very fond of doing every thing I do do, that every thing is a pleasure
to me. And there is no struggle to do what is tiresome and no other
wish to give up. The only time when I have to try to be good at all,
is when I have to leave off one thing and go to another. That is
always a little disagreeable at first, but unfortunately the
disagreeableness goes off in a very few minutes, and I like the new
employment as well as the last. This is what I was talking about to my
Governess when you came, and she laughed so loud I felt quite vexed."
"My dear Hermione," said her Mamma, "you have quite misapplied what
you have read in the book. Self-denial is always required of us, when
we feel inclined to do any thing that is wrong, but it does not apply
to any aptitude you may have for enjoying the occupations I require of
you. That is only a piece of good fortune for you; for to many little
girls, doing lessons is a very great act of self-denial, as they want
to be doing something else. But now, as you are so lucky in liking
every thing you do, you must practise your self-denial in some other
"In not being vexed when your Governess laughs, and in not being in a
passion with the cat next time he unravels your stocking."
Hermione blushed. "Oh, Mamma, I understand the difference now."
"But this is not all, Hermione."
"Why, as you are so fortunate as to be always happy when employed, and
as therefore there is no _goodness_ strictly speaking, in your doing
your business so cheerfully and well, you must do this, you must spend
some portion of time every day in making your energy of use to other
people, and then you will be doing active good if not practising
"Oh, Mamma, what a nice idea! Perhaps you will give me some needlework
to do for the poor women you give money to; and, besides, just now I
can do something actively useful and still a little really
disagreeable,--really it is, Mamma,--what makes you laugh?"
"Your resolution to do something you don't like. What is it,
"To knit up again the stocking the cat pulled out. I quite dislike the
"Then set to work by all means, Hermione. You will at least have the
comfort of 'beginning by a little aversion;' but I warn you
beforehand, not to set your heart upon the disagreeableness lasting
very long, and if you find yourself shortly, as happy as ever over the
stocking, do not be puzzled and vexed any more, but thank God as I do,
that, so far at least, you are spared one of the troubles of life. The
trouble of an indolent, discontented mind."
An affectionate embrace was exchanged between Mother and Daughter; and
the latter, with the assistance of her Governess, recommenced the
unlucky grey stocking, and was working assiduously at it when her
young friends arrived.
It was a curious sight to the Fairies to see two of their
god-daughters together, as they now did. But the conviction was forced
upon them, that, for the present at least, Hermione had the balance of
happiness in her favour. Whatever their amusements were,--whether
looking over curiosities, playing with dolls, or any of the numerous
games invented for the entertainment of the young, Hermione's whole
heart and attention were in the matter, and she was as much engrossed
as over learning at other times, and quite happy. With poor Aurora it
was not so; the childishness of the play every now and then annoyed
her; there was no food for her vanity, in playing with children; they
cared nothing about her beauty; the gayest and most good-natured face
has always the most charms for them, and this did not suit Aurora at
all, and ever and anon her thoughts wandered, and her wishes too.
For ever straining into the future!
"I cannot make out your Fairy gift at all, Ambrosia," said Euphrosyne,
"and I begin to suspect you have not given her one."
"We are all growing philosophical, I perceive," said Ambrosia,
smiling. "Who could think you would have guessed that my happy child
has had no Fairy gift at all. But she has, I assure you. What do you
say to the Philosopher's Stone? It is quite clear that me has got
something which TURNS EVERY THING SHE TOUCHES INTO GOLD."
* * * * *
What _is_ the Philosopher's Stone? I hear my little readers exclaim.
There is no such thing, my dears, nor ever was; but the chymists in
old times, who were very ignorant, and yet knew that many wonderful
things had been done by the mixture of minerals and metals, and the
curious effects some had upon others, guessed that yet more wonderful
things might be found out by searching, and they got into their heads
that it might be possible to find, or make, a stone that would have
the power of turning every thing it touched into gold. In the same
manner, the doctors of those times fancied there might be such a thing
made as a draught that would turn old people into young ones again.
This was called "The Elixir of Life." But I do assure you these old
fellows never did discover either a Philosopher's Stone, or an Elixir
So this was only a joke of Ambrosia's.
Now to go on and finish my story. It was ten years more before the
Fairies revisited their Godchildren in the lower world, and this time
they were to decide who had given the best Fairy gift.
And I dare say you expect me to give you as long an account of their
visits to the young ladies of twenty, as I did of their peeps at the
little girls of ten. But I really do not think it worth while. I would
do so indeed in a minute if there were anything quite fresh and new to
describe. But on the faith of a story-teller I assure you, it would be
"the old story over again," only on an enlarged scale.
Did you ever look at any interesting object first with your natural
eyes, and then through a microscope or magnifying glass? If so, you
will remember that through the magnifying glass you saw the same thing
again, only much bigger.
In the same manner the ten years acted as a sort of magnifying glass
over Aurora, Julia, and Hermione. Everything was the same, but
increased in size and made clearer and plainer.
Aurora's triumphant joy as she entered the ball-room as a beauty, was
much greater certainly than her pleasure at her Mamma's dinner party.
But the weariness and anxiety afterwards were increased also. She was
still getting away from our friend Time present, and forecasting into
some future delight. "The good time _coming_, Boys," was her, as well
as many other people's bugbear. She never could feel that (with God's
blessing) _the good time_ is always _come_.
The only time she ever thoroughly enjoyed was the moment of being
excessively admired. But judge for yourselves how long that can last.
Could you sit and look at a pretty picture for an hour together? No, I
know you could not. You cannot think how short a time it takes to say
"Dear me, what a beautiful girl!" and then, perhaps, up comes somebody
who addresses the admiring gazer on the subject of Lord John Russel's
last speech, and the "beautiful girl," so all important in her own
eyes, is as entirely forgotten as if she had never been seen. And
then, to let you into another secret, Aurora was by no means a very
entertaining companion: nobody _can_ be, with their heads full of
themselves: and she had often the mortification, even in that scene of
her triumph, a ball-room, of feeing her admirers drop off, to amuse
themselves with other people; less handsome perhaps, but more
interesting than herself.
And so the Fairies, having accompanied her through a day of Triumphs,
mixed with mortifications, followed by languors, unsettled by hopes of
future joy, clouded with anxieties that all but spoilt those
hopes:--came one and all to the conclusion that Aurora could not be
considered as a model of human happiness.
Nor could they say much more for Julia. Perhaps, indeed, there is more
equanimity in the pleasures of a very rich person, than in those of a
very beautiful one: but, oh dear, they are of such a mean sort! Still,
there is a good deal of impertinent comfort in money I do admit. Life
rolls on, upon such well oiled hinges! The rich say, "Do this," to
people around them; and the people, "do it." But the Fairies had no
sympathy with such an _unnatural_ fault as the pride of wealth. They
saw Julia reclining in one of those "lumbering things" they so much
despised: and driving round the "dirty town" they so much disliked:
and along a park a great deal too smoky for their taste: and they
could not understand the haughty glance of self-satisfaction with
which she looked out upon the walking crowds she passed, or the
affected graciousness with which she smiled upon the few whom she
condescended to recognize as acquaintances. They thought her very
naughty and very absurd for being conceited about such matters. They
followed her to her Milliner's too, and there I assure you they had
nearly betrayed their presence by the uncontrollable fits of laughter
they fell into when she was trying on, or talking about, bonnets, head
dresses, gowns, &c. with the affected Frenchwoman who showed them off.
Julia cared for nothing because it was pretty or tasteful, but chose
every thing by its costliness and magnificence. Of course the milliner
assured her that every thing she took a fancy to from its rarity, was
becoming; and then, oh dear! how the Fairies were amused! for poor
Julia looked downright ugly in some of the things she selected, and
still went away as self satisfied as ever, on the old grounds that the
costume was so expensive that none of her acquaintance could get one
like it. This was still her chief comfort! Euphrosyne actually shook
her fist at her as she was going away, and she had the toothache for
the rest of the day, and was extremely cross to her husband in
consequence. For, by the way, Julia had married--and married a
nobleman--a man somewhat older than herself; but he and she had had a
sort of mutual conviction that riches and rank go very well together,
and so they married; and suited very well in this respect, that as
their heads were full of other things they neither claimed nor
required from each other a great amount of affection.
Still, was Julia happy? The Fairies shook their heads. She had
gardens, hot-houses, magnificent collections of curiosities, treasures
that might have softened and opened her heart, if she had made a right
use of them. But riches have a very hardening tendency, and she never
struggled against it.
Then, too, she could get every thing she wanted so easily, that she
cared very little about anything. Life becomes very stale when your
hands are full and you have nothing to ask for.
Her greatest pleasure was to create astonishment and envy among her
associates: but, besides the naughtiness of the feeling, this is a
triumph of very short duration; for most people, when they cannot get
at what they envy, amuse themselves with something else; and then,
what a mortification to see them do this!
"Besides," said the Fairies, "we must follow her into her solitude, to
see if she is happy."
Ah! there, lying back once more in the easy chair, in a dress which--
"China's gayest art had dyed,"
do you think that self-satisfied, but still uncheerful looking face
tells of happiness?
No! She too, like Aurora, was unoccupied, and forecasting into
futurity for the "good time coming," which so many spend their lives
in craving after and expecting, but which the proud, the selfish and
the idle never reach to.
The Fairies turned from her sorrowful and angry.
* * * * *
In the outskirts of a forest, just where its intricacy had broken away
into picturesque openings, leaving visible some strange old trees with
knotted trunks and mysteriously twisted branches, sat a young girl
sketching. She was intently engaged, but as her eyes were ever and
anon raised from her paper to the opening glade, and one of the old
trees, the Fairies had no difficulty in recognizing their protegee,
Hermione. The laughing face of childhood had become sobered and
refined by sentiment and strength, but contentment and even enjoyment
beamed in her eyes as she thoughtfully and earnestly pursued her
beautiful art. The little beings who hovered around her in that sweet
spot, almost forgot they were not in Fairy land; the air was so full
of sweet odours from ferns and mosses, and the many other delicious
scents you find so constantly in woods.
Besides which, it amused the good souls to watch Hermione's skilful
hand tracing the scene before her; and they felt an admiring delight
when they saw the old tree of the forest reappear on the paper, with
all the shadows and lights the sun just then threw upon it, and they
wondered not a little at the skill with which she gave distance and
perspective to the glade beyond. They felt, too, that though the
drawing they saw rising under the sketcher's hand was not made
powerful by brilliant effects or striking contrasts, it was
nevertheless overflowing with the truth and sentiment of nature. It
was the impression of the scene itself, viewed through the poetry of
the artist's mind; and as the delicate creatures who hung over the
picture, looked at it, they almost longed for it, slight as it was,
that they might carry it away, and hang it up in their fairy palace as
a faithful representation of one of the loveliest spots of earth, the
outskirts of an ancient English forest.
It is impossible to say how long they might not have staid watching
Hermione, but that after a time the sketch was finished, and the young
lady after writing beneath it Schiller's well known line in
Wallenstein, arose. "Das ist das Loos des Schoenen auf der Erde."
 "Such is the lot of the beautiful upon earth."
The poor tree was marked for felling! Ambrosia was almost affected to
tears, once more. The scene was so beautiful, and the allusion so
touching, and there seemed to her such a charm over her God-daughter
Hermione; she was herself so glad, too, to feel sure that success had
crowned her gift, that, altogether, her Fairy heart grew quite soft.
"You may do as you like about observing Hermione further," cried she.
"But, for my part, I am now satisfied. She is enjoying life to the
uttermost; all its beauties of sight and sound; its outward
loveliness; its inward mysteries. She will never marry but from love,
and one whose heart can sympathise with hers. Ah, Ianthe, what more
has life to give? You will say, she is not beautiful; perhaps not for
a marble statue; but the grace of poetical feeling is in her every
look and action. Ah, she will walk by the side of manhood, turning
even the hard realities of life into beauty by that living well-spring
of sweet thoughts and fancies that I see beaming from her eyes. Look
at her now, Ianthe, and confess that surely that countenance breathes
more beauty than chiselled features can give." And certainly, whether
some mesmeric influence from her enthusiastic Fairy Godmother was
working on Hermione's brain, or whether her own quotation upon the
doomed tree had stirred up other poetical recollections, I know not;
but as she was retracing her steps homewards, she repeated to herself
softly but with much pathos, Coleridge's lines:
"O lady, we receive but what we give,
And in our life alone does nature live:
Ours is her wedding-garment, ours her shroud!
And would we aught behold, of higher worth,
Than that inanimate cold world allowed
To the poor loveless ever anxious crowd,
Ah! from the soul itself must issue forth
A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud
Enveloping the earth--
And from the soul itself must there be sent
A sweet and potent voice, of its own birth,
Of all sweet sounds the life and element!"
 Coleridge's "Dejection: an Ode."
And, turning through the little handgate at the extremity of the wood,
she pursued the train of thought with heightened colour in her
"I may not hope from outward forms to win
The passion and the life, whose fountains are within."
And thus Hermione reached her home, her countenance lighted up by the
pleasure of success, and the sweet and healthy musings of her solitary
She entered the library of a beautiful country house by the low window
that opened on to the lawn, and found her mother reading.
"I cannot tell you how lovely the day is, Mamma, every thing is so
fresh, and the shadows and lights are so good! I have immortalized our
poor old friend the oak, before they cut him down," added she,
smiling, as she placed the drawing in her mother's hands. "I wish the
forest belonged to some one who had not this cruel taste for turning
knotted oak trees into fancy work-tables. It is as bad as what Charles
Lamb said of the firs, 'which look so romantic alive, and die into
desks.'--Die into desks!" repeated Hermione musingly, as she seated
herself on the sofa, and took up a book that was before her on the
table; mechanically removing her bonnet from her head, and laying it
down by her side as she spoke.
And here for some time there was a silence, during which Hermione's
mother ceased reading, and, lifting up her eyes, looked at her
daughter with mingled love, admiration, and interest. "I wish I had
her picture so," dreamt the poor lady, as she gazed; "so earnest, and
understanding, and yet so simple, and kind!--There is but one
difficulty for her in life," was the next thought; "with such keen
enjoyment of this world, such appreciation of the beauties, and
wonders, and delights of God's creations on earth--to keep the eye of
faith firmly fixed on the 'better and more enduring inheritance,' to
which both she and I, but I trust she, far behind, are hastening. Yet,
by God's blessing, and with Christian training, and the habit of
active charity, and the vicissitudes of life, I have few or no fears.
But such capability of happiness in this world is a great temptation,
and I sometimes fancy must therefore have been a Fairy gift." And here
the no longer young Mother of Hermione fell into a reverie, and a long
pause ensued, during which Ambrosia felt very sad, for it grieved her
to think that the good and reasonable Mother should be so much afraid
of Fairy gifts, even when the result had been so favourable.
A note at length interrupted the prolonged silence. It was from Aurora
the Beauty, whose Father possessed a large estate in the
neighbourhood, and who had just then come into the country for a few
weeks. Aurora earnestly requested Hermione and her Mother to visit
"I will do as you wish," said Hermione, looking rather grave; "but
really a visit to Aurora is a sort of small misfortune."
"I hope you are not envious of her beauty, Hermione? Take care."
"Nay, you are cruel, Mamma, now. I should like to be handsome, but not
at the expense of being so very dull in spirits as poor Aurora often
is. But really, unless you have ever spent an hour alone with her, you
can form no idea of how tired one gets."
"What of, Hermione? of her face?"
"Oh no, not of her face; it is charming, and by the way you have just
put into my head how I may escape from being tired, even if I am left
alone with her for hours!"
"Nay, now you really puzzle me, my dear; I suggested nothing but
looking at her face."
"Ah, but as she is really and truly such a model of beauty, what do
you think of offering to make a likeness of her, Mamma? It will
delight her to sit and be looked at, even by me, in the country, and I
shall be so much pleased to have such a pleasant occupation. I am
quite reconciled to the idea of going."
And a note was written, and despatched accordingly.
"But," persisted Hermione, rising to sit near her Mother, "you do not
above half know Aurora. One would think she had been born in what is
called a 'four warnt way,' with nothing but cross roads about her.
Nothing is ever right. She is always either exhausted with the heat of
the sun, or frozen with cold, or the evening is so tedious, she wants
it to be bedtime, or if there is any unusual gaiety going on, she
quarrels with the same length of evening, because it is so intolerably
short; and, in short, she is never truly happy but when she is
surrounded by admirers, whether men or women. And this seems to me to
be a sad way of '_getting her time over_,' as the poor women say of
life. Ah, Mamma, it goes but too quickly."
"Aurora is indeed foolish," musingly ejaculated the Mother.
"Not altogether either, my dear Mother. She knows much; but the fault
is, she cares for nothing. She has got the carcase, as it were, of
knowledge and accomplishments; but the vivifying spirit is wanting.
You know yourself how well she plays and sings occasionally, if there
is a question of charming a room full of company. Yet there can be no
sentiment about her music after all, or it would be an equal pleasure
to her at other times. But really it almost makes me as discontented
with life as herself to hear her talk in unexcited hours. Turning over
my books one day, she said, 'You can never be either a poet or a
painter, or a Mozart or a philosopher, Hermione? what is the use of
all your labour and poking?' What could I say? I felt myself colour
up, and I laughed out, 'Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, all is
vanity!' Yet certainly God has set before us the things of earth in
order that we may admire and find them out; and that is the answer to
all such foolish questions!" And Hermione was turning to leave the
room, but she came back and said--"Do you know, Mamma, though you will
laugh at the idea, I do think Aurora would be a very nice girl, and
very happy, if she either could grow very ugly all at once, or if any
thing in the world could make her forget her beauty.--And," added she,
in a half whisper, "if there is any thing in Fairy lore, I could
almost fancy some cruel Fairy had owed her family a grudge, and had
given her this gift of excessive beauty on purpose to be the plague
and misfortune of her life."
* * * * *
"Enough, enough, and too much," cried Euphrosyne impatiently. "The
matter is now, I think, concluded. Ianthe and I have failed, and
though you are successful, Ambrosia, even you have not come off
without a rebuff. Now, farewell to earth. I am weary of it. I do not
know your gift, and I am sick of listening to conversations I cannot
understand. Let us begone. If we de delay, they will begin again. Ah,
my sisters, my spirit yearns for our fairer clime!"
And they arose; but yet awhile they lingered on the velvet lawn before
that country-house, for as they were preparing for flight, the sounds
they loved so well, of harmonious music, greeted their ears.
"Ah, there is the artist's hand again," cried Ambrosia. "I see the
lovely sketch before me once more!"
And so it was, that it, and the peaceful forest scene, and the
interesting face of Hermione, seemed to reappear before them all as
they listened to her music. Tender, and full of sentiment were the
sounds at first, as if the musician were acting the scene of the opera
whence they came.
"Lieder ohne Worte," murmured Ambrosia.
 Songs without Words.--Mendelssohn.
But it was to the swelling sounds of a farewell chorus that they arose
into the air, and took their leave of earth.
And now, dear Readers, there is but one thing more to do. To ask if
you have guessed the Fairy gift?
The Fairies, you see, had not. What Euphrosyne had said was true. They
had listened to such a quantity of conversation they could not
understand, and they were so unused to _think_ much about any thing,
or to hear much beyond their own pretty light talk and sweet songs,
that their poor little brains had got quite muddled.
Perhaps remaining so long in the Earth's atmosphere helped to cloud
their intelligence. Certain it is, they returned very pensive, very
cross, and rather dusty to Fairy Land.
They arrived at the beautiful bay I first described, and floated to a
large party of their sisters, who were dancing on the sands.
There was a clapping of tiny hands, and shouts of joy as they
approached; and "What news? what news?" cried many voices.
"Ah, what news, Sister Euphrosyne!" cried little Aglaia, floating
forward, "from the smudgy old earth; Is it beauty, riches, or what?"
"I cannot answer your question," said Euphrosyne, pushing forward.
A circle was now formed round the travellers, and the details I have
given you were made by Ianthe. And she wound up by saying, "And what
Ambrosia's gift to Hermione has been, we cannot make out."
"Then I will tell you!" cried little Aglaia, springing lightly high
into the air, and descending gently on a huge shell at her feet; "_She
likes every thing she does, and she likes to be always doing
something_. You can't put the meaning into one word, as you can Beauty
and Riches; but still it _is_ something. Can't you think of some way
of saying what I have told you? Dear me, how stupid you are all grown.
And _liking_ isn't the right word: it is something stronger than
"Love, perhaps," murmured Leila.
"An excellent idea," cried Euphrosyne; "dear me, this delicious air is
clearing my poor head. Sisters, I will express it for you, and
Ambrosia shall say if I am right. It is THE LOVE OF EMPLOYMENT."
Ambrosia laughed assent; but a low murmur of discontent resounded
through the Fairy group.
"Intolerable!" cried Leila, shrugging her shoulders like a French
"It is no Fairy gift at all," exclaimed others; "it is downright
plodding and working."
"If the human race can be made happy by nothing but labour," cried
another; "I propose we leave them to themselves, and give them no more
Fairy gifts at all."
"Remember," cried Ambrosia, now coming forward, "this is our first
experiment upon human happiness. Hitherto we have given Fairy gifts,
and never enquired how they have acted. And I feel sure we have always
forgotten one thing, viz. that poor men and women living in Time, and
only having in their power the small bit of it which is present,
cannot be happy unless they make Time present happy. And there is but
one plan for that; I use Aglaia's words: '_To like every thing you do,
and like to be always doing something_.'"
Ambrosia ceased speaking, and the circled group were silent too. They
were not satisfied, however; but those sweet, airy people take nothing
to heart for long. For a short time they wandered about in little
knots of two and three, talking, and then joined together in a dance
and song, ere night surrounded them. There was from that time,
however, a general understanding among them that the human race was
too coarse and common to have much sympathy with Fairies, and even the
Godmothers agreed to this, for they were sadly tired with the unusual
quantity of thinking and observing they had had to undergo. So if you
ever wonder, dear Readers, that Fairy Gifts and Fairy Godmothers have
gone out of fashion; you may conclude that the adventure of Ambrosia
and Hermione is the reason.
* * * * *
The story is ended; and if any enquiring child should say, "There are
no more Fairy gifts, and we can no more give ourselves love of
employment than beauty or riches;" let me correct this dangerous
error! Wiser heads than mine have shown that every thing we do becomes
by HABIT, not only _easy_, but actually _agreeable_.
 Abercrombie. Moral Feelings.
Dear Children! encourage a habit of _attention_ to whatever you
undertake, and you may make that habit not only easy, but agreeable;
and then, I will venture to promise you, you will _like_ and even
_love_ your occupations. And thus, though you may not have so many
talents as Hermione, you may call all those you do possess, into play,
and make them the solace, pleasure and resources of your earthly
If you do this, I think you will not feel disposed to quarrel, as the
Fairies did, with Ambrosia's gift; for increased knowledge of the
world, and your own happy experience, will convince you more and more
that no Fairy Gift is so well worth having, as,
THE LOVE OF EMPLOYMENT.
JOACHIM THE MIMIC.
There was, once upon a time, a little boy, who, living in the time
when Genies and Fairies used now and then to appear, had all the
advantage of occasionally seeing wonderful sights, and all the
_dis_advantage of being occasionally dreadfully frightened. This
little boy was one day walking alone by the sea side, for he lived in
a fishing town, and as he was watching the tide, he perceived a bottle
driven ashore by one of the big waves. He rushed forward to catch it
before the wave sucked it back again, and succeeded. Now then he was
quite delighted, but he could not get the cork out, for it was
fastened down with rosin, and there was a seal on the top. So being
very impatient, he took a stone and knocked the neck of the bottle
What was his surprize to find himself instantly suffocated with a
smoke that made his eyes smart and his nose sneeze, just as much as if
a quantity of Scotch snuff had been thrown over him! He jumped about
and puffed a good deal, and was just beginning to cry, as a matter of
course for a little boy when he is annoyed; when lo! and behold! he
saw before him such an immense Genie, with black eyes and a long
beard, that he forgot all about crying and began to shake with fear.
The Genie told him he need not be afraid, and desired him not to
shake; for, said he, "You have been of great use to me; a Genie,
stronger than myself, had fastened me up in yonder bottle in a fit of
ill humour, and as he had put his seal at the top, nobody could draw
the cork. Luckily for me, you broke the neck of the bottle, and I am
free. Tell me therefore, good little boy, what shall I do for you to
show my gratitude?"
But now, before I go on with this, I must tell you that the day before
the little boy's adventure with the bottle and the Genie, the King of
that country had come to the fishing town I spoke of, in a gold
chariot drawn by twelve beautiful jet black horses, and attended by a
large train of officers and followers. A herald went before announcing
that the King was visiting the towns of his dominions, for the sole
purpose of doing justice and exercising acts of charity and kindness.
And all people in trouble and distress were invited to come and lay
their complaints before him. And accordingly they did so, and the good
King, though quite a youth, devoted the whole day to the benevolent
purpose he proposed; and it is impossible to describe the amount of
good he accomplished in that short time. Among others who benefited
was our little boy's Mother, a widow who had been much injured and
oppressed. He redressed her grievances, and in addition to this,
bestowed valuable and useful presents upon her. "Look what an example
the young King sets," was the cry on every side! "Oh, my son, imitate
him!" exclaimed our poor Widow, as in a transport of joy and emotion,
she threw her arms around her boy's neck. "I wish I _could_ imitate
him and be like him!" murmured little Joachim: (such was the child's
name). "My boy," cried the Widow, "imitate every thing that is good,
and noble, and virtuous, and you _will_ be like him!" Joachim looked
earnestly in her face, but was silent. He understood a good deal that
his Mother meant; he knew he was to try to do every thing that was
good, and so be like the young King; but, as he was but a little boy,
I am not quite sure that he had not got a sort of vague notion of the
gold chariot and the twelve jet black horses, mixed up with his idea
of imitating all that was good and noble and virtuous, and being like
the young King. I may be wrong; but, at seven years old, you will
excuse him if his head did get a little confused, and if he could not
quite separate his ideas of excessive virtue and goodness from all the
splendour in which the pattern he was to imitate appeared before his
However that may be, his Mother's words made a profound impression
upon him. He thought of nothing else, and if he had been in the silly
habit of telling his dreams, I dare say he would have told his mother
next morning that he had been dreaming of them. Certainly they came
into his head the first thing in the morning; and they were still in
his head when he walked along by the sea-shore, as has been described;
so much so, that even his adventure did not make him forget them; and
therefore, when this Genie, as I told you before, offered to do any
thing he wanted, little Joachim said, "Genie, I want to imitate every
thing that is good, and noble, and virtuous, so you must make me
The Genie looked very much surprized, and rather confused; he expected
to have been asked for toys, or money, or a new horse, or something
nice of that sort; but Joachim looked very grave, so the Genie saw he
was in earnest, and he did a most wonderful thing for a Genie; he
actually sat down beside the little boy to talk to him. I don't
recollect that a single Genie in the Arabian Nights, ever did such a
thing before; but this Genie did: What is more, he stroked his beard,
and spoke very softly, as follows:
"My dear little boy, you have asked a great thing. I can do part of
what you wish, but not all; for you have asked what concerns the heart
and conscience, and we Genies, cannot influence these, for the great
Ruler of all things alone has them under his control. He allows us,
however, power over the intellect--ah! now I see you cannot understand
me, little boy!--Well! I mean this;--I can make your head clever, but
I cannot make your heart good: I can give you the power of imitation,
but as to _what_ you imitate, that must depend upon yourself, and the
great Being I dare not name!"
After saying this, the Genie laid his immense forefingers on each side
of Joachim's head just above his forehead, and then disappeared.
Joachim felt no pain, but when he got up and put on his cap to go
home, his head seemed almost too large for it.
Perhaps he wanted a new cap, but the phrenologists would tell you he
had got the organ of Imitation.
He did not thoroughly understand what the Genie said, but he was
convinced that something had been done towards making him like to the
young King. As he was dawdling home, his eye was struck by the sight
of a beautiful because picturesque dark fishing-boat, which he saw
very plainly, because the red sun was setting behind it. Joachim felt
a strange wish to make something like it; and, taking up a bit of
white chalk he saw at his feet, he drew a picture of the boat on the
tarred side of another that was near him. While he was so engaged, an
old fisherman came up very angrily. He thought the child was
disfiguring his boat; but, to his surprise, he saw that the little
fellow's drawing was so capital, he wished he could do as much
"Why, who taught you to do that, young Master?" said he.
Joachim was no great talker at any time, and he now merely said,
"Nobody," and smiled.
"Well, you must draw my boat some day, for me to hang up; and now
here's a luck penny for you, for you certainly are a capital hand for
such a youngster."
Joachim was greatly pleased with the penny, for it was a curious old
one, with a hole through it; and he told his Mother all about it; but
though it may seem strange, he never mentioned the bottle and the
Genie to her at all. That appeared to him to be a quite private affair
of his own.
He altered very much, however, by degrees. He had been till then
rather a dull, silent boy: now he talked much more, was more amusing,
was always endeavouring to draw, and after being at church would try
to read the prayers like the parson. His Mother was delighted. She
began to think her son would grow up a good scholar after all, and
being now well off, owing to the King's kindness, she resolved on
sending little Joachim to school.
To school, accordingly, he went; and here, my little readers, there
was a great change for him. Hitherto he had lived very much alone with
his Mother, and being quiet, and somewhat dull by nature, he had never
till quite lately had many acquaintances of his own age.
Now, however, he found himself among great numbers of youths, of all
ages, and all characters. At first he was shy and observant, but this
soon wore off, and he became a favourite. Nobody was more liked at any
time, and he was completely unrivalled in the play-ground. He could
set all the boys in a roar of laughter, when, hid behind a bush, he
would bark so like a dog that the unhappy wights who were not in the
secret expected to see a vicious hound spring out upon them, and took
to their heels in fright. He was first in every attempt at acting,
which the boys got up; and there was not a cat nor a pig in the
neighbourhood whose mew and squeak he could not give with the utmost
exactness. If you ask how he got on at lessons, I must say--well, but
not _very_ well. His powers of entertaining his companions were so
great, that I fear he found their easily-acquired praise more tempting
than the rewards of laborious learning. He could learn easily enough,
it is true; but while his steadier neighbours were working hard, he
was devising some new scheme for fun when lessons should be over, or
making some odd drawing on his slate to induce his companions to an
outburst of laughter.
There were many excuses to be made for little Joachim; and it is
always so pleasant to please, that I do not much wonder at his being
led astray by possessing the power.
Time went on, meanwhile; and Joachim became aware at last that he
possessed a larger share than common of the power of imitation. When
he first clearly felt this, he thought of the Genie and his two
forefingers, I believe;--but his school life, and his funny ways, and
the constant diversion of his mind, quite prevented his thinking of
all the serious things the Genie had spoken. Nay, even his Mother's
words had nearly faded from his mind, and he had forgotten the young
King, and his own wishes to be like him. It was a pity it was so; but
so it was! Poor Joachim! he was a very good fellow, and kind also in
reality; but first the pleasure of making his companions laugh, and
then the pleasure of being a sort of little great man among them, were
fast misleading him. For instance, though at first he amused them by
imitating dogs, and cats, and pigs, he next tried his powers at
imitating any thing queer and odd in the boys themselves, and, for a
time, this was most entertaining. When he mimicked the awkward walk of
one boy, and the bad drawl of another, and the loutish carriage of a
third, the school resounded with shouts of laughter, which seemed to
our Hero a great triumph,--something like the cheers which had greeted
the good young King as he left the fishing-town. But certainly the
cause was a very different one! By degrees, however, it must be
admitted, that Joachim's popularity began a little to decrease; for,
though a boy has no objection to see his neighbour laughed at, he does
not like quite so well to be laughed at himself, and there are very
few who can bear it with good humour. And now Joachim had given such
way to the pastime, that he was always hunting up absurdities in his
friends and neighbours, and _no one felt safe_.
It was a long time before Joachim found out the change that was taking
place, for there were still plenty of loud laughers on his side; but
once or twice he had a feeling that all was not right: for instance,
one day when he mimicked the awkward walker to the boy who spoke badly
and stuttered, and then in the afternoon imitated the stutterer to the
awkward boy, he had a twinge of conscience, for it whispered to him
that he was a sneak, and deceitful; particularly, as both these boys
had often helped him in doing his sums and lessons when he was too
idle and _too funny_ to labour at them himself. In fact, he had been
so much helped that he was sadly behind hand in his books, for all the
school had been willing to assist "that good fellow '_Joke him_,'" as
they called him.
At last a crisis came. A new boy arrived at the school; very big for
his age, and rather surly tempered, but a hard working, persevering
lad, who was striving hard to learn and get on. He had one defect. He
lisped very much, which certainly is an ugly trick, and sounded silly
in a great stout boy, nearly five feet high: but he had this excuse;
--his mother had died when he was very little, and his good Father had
more important business on hand in supporting his family, of which
this boy was the eldest, than in teaching him to pronounce his S's
better. It is perhaps only Mothers who attend to these little matters.
Well;--this great big boy was two or three days at the school before
Joachim went near him. There was something serious, stern, and unfunny
in his face, and when Joachim was making the other boys laugh, the
great big boy never even smiled, but fixed his eyes in a rather
unpleasant manner upon Joachim as he raised them from his books. Still
he was an irresistible subject for the Mimic; for, though he learnt
his lessons without a mistake, and always obtained the Master's
praise, he read them with so strong a lisp, and this was rendered so
remarkable by his loud, deep voice, that it fairly upset what little
prudence Joachim possessed; and, as he returned one day to his seat,
after repeating a copy of verses in the manner I have described,
Joachim, who was not far off, echoed the last two lines with such
accuracy of imitation, that it startled even the Master, who was at
that moment leaving the school-room.
But no laugh followed as usual, for all eyes were suddenly turned on
the big boy, who, crimson with indignation, and yet quite
self-possessed in manner, walked up to Joachim and deliberately
knocked him down on the floor. Great was Joachim's amazement, you may
be sure, and severe was the blow that had levelled him; but still more
severe were the words that followed. "Young rascal," exclaimed the big
boy, "who has put _you_ in authority over your elders, that you are to
be correcting our faults and failings, instead of attending to your
own. You are beholden to any lad in the school who will do your sums,
and write your exercises for you, and then you take upon yourself to
ridicule us if we cannot pronounce our well learnt lessons to your
fancy! You saucy imp, who don't know what labour and good conduct are,
and who have nothing to boast of, but the powers which a monkey
possesses to a greater extent than yourself!" Fancy Joachim's rage!
_He_, the admired wit! the popular boy! nothing better than a monkey!
He sprang up and struck his fist into the face of his antagonist with
such fury, that the big boy, though evidently unwilling to fight one
less than himself, was obliged to bestow several sharp blows before he
could rid himself of Joachim's passion.
At last, however, other boys separated them; but Joachim, who was
quite unused to fighting, and who had received a very severe shock
when he first fell, became so sick and ill that he was obliged to go
home. His Mother asked what was the matter. "He had been quizzing a
great big boy who lisped, and the boy knocked him down, and they had
fought." His Mother sighed; but she saw he was too poorly for talking,
so she put him to bed and nursed him carefully.
Now, you may say, what had this Mother been about, not to have found
out and corrected Joachim's fault before? First, he was very little at
home, and as owing to the help of others, his idleness had not become
notorious, she had heard no complaints from the Masters, and thinking
he did his lessons well, she felt averse to stopping his fun and
amusements in holiday hours. Still, she had latterly begun to have
misgivings which this event confirmed. In a few days Joachim was
better, and came down stairs, and his Aunt and two or three Cousins
called to enquire after him. Their presence revived Joachim's flagging
spirits, and all the boys got together to talk and laugh. Soon their
voices echoed through the house. Joachim was at his old tricks again,
and the Schoolboys, the Ushers and the Master all furnished food for
mirth. His Cousins roared with delight. "Clever child!" exclaimed his
Aunt, "what a treasure you are in a house! one could never be dull
where _you_ are!" "Sister, Sister!" cried Joachim's Mother, "do not
say so!" "My dear," said the Aunt, "are you dull enough to be unable
to appreciate your own child's wit; oh, I wish you would give him to
me. Come here, my dear Joachim, and do the boy that walks so badly
once more for me; it's enough to kill one to see you take him off!"
Joachim's spirits rose above all control. Excited by his Aunt's
praise and the sense of superior ability, he surpassed himself. He
gave the bad walker to perfection; then imitated a lad who had
commenced singing lessons, and whose voice was at present broken and
bad. He even gave the big boy's lisp once more, and followed on with a
series of pantomimic exhibitions.
All at once, he cast his eyes on his Mother's face--that face so full
of intelligence and the mild sorrow of years of widowhood, borne with
resigned patience. Her eyes were full of tears, and there was not a
smile on her countenance. Joachim's conscience--he knew not
why--twinged him terribly. He stopped suddenly; "Mother!"
"Come here, Joachim!" He came.
"Is that boy whom you have been imitating--your Aunt says so
cleverly--the _best_ walker of all the boys in your school?"
"The _best_, Mother?" and the puzzled Joachim could not suppress a
smile. His Cousins grinned.
"Dear Mother, of course not," continued Joachim, "on the contrary, he
is the very worst!"
"Oh--well, have you no _good_ walkers at your school?"
"Oh yes, several; indeed one especially; his father was a soldier, he
"Does he, Joachim? Let me see you walk like him, my dear."
Joachim stepped boldly enough into the middle of the room, and drew
himself up; but a sudden consciousness of his extreme inferiority to
the soldier's son, both in figure, manner and mode of walking, made
him feel quite sheepish. There was a pause of expectation.
"Now then!" said Joachim's Mother.
"I cannot walk like _him_, Mother," said Joachim.
"Because he walks so _very well_!"
"Oh,"--said Joachim's Mother.
There was another pause.
"Come, Joachim," continued the Widow, "I am very anxious to admire you
as much as your Aunt does. You are not tired; let us have some more
exhibitions. You gave us a song just now horribly out of tune, and
with the screeching voice of a bagpipe."
"I was singing like Tom Smith," interrupted Joachim.
"Is he your best singer?" enquired the Mother. Another laugh followed.
"Nay, Mother, no one sings so badly."
"Indeed! How does the Singing Master sing, Joachim?"
"Oh, Mother," cried Joachim, "so beautifully, it would make the tears
come into your eyes with pleasure, to listen to him."
"Well, but as I cannot listen to him, let me, at all events, have the
pleasure of hearing my clever son imitate him," was the reply.
Joachim was mute. He had a voice, though not a remarkable one, but he
had shirked the labour of trying to improve it by practice. He made
one effort to sing like the Master, but overpowered by a sense of
incapacity, his voice failed, and he felt disposed to cry.
"Why, Joachim, I thought you were such a clever creature you could
imitate any thing," cried the Mother.
No answer fell from the abashed boy, till a sudden thought revived
"But I _can_ imitate the singing-master, Mother."
"Let me hear you, my dear child."
"Why it isn't exactly what you can hear," observed Joachim
murmuringly; "but when he sings, you have no idea what horrible faces
he makes. Nay, it's true, indeed, he turns up his eyes, shuts them,
distorts his mouth, and swings about on the stool like the pendulum of
And Joachim performed all the grimaces and contortions to perfection,
till his Aunt and Cousins were convulsed with laughter.
"Well done," cried his Mother. "Now you are indeed like the cat in the
German fable, Joachim! who voted himself like the bear, because he
could lick his paws after the same fashion, though he could not
imitate either his courage or his strength. Now let me look a little
further into your education. Bring me your drawing-book." It came, and
there was page after page of odd and ugly faces, strange noses,
stranger eyes, squinting out of the book in hideous array.
"I suppose you will laugh again if I ask you if these are the