Mopsa the Fairy (2)

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CHAPTER V


                                "That handkerchief
 Did an Egyptian to my mother give:
 She was a charmer, and could almost read
 The thoughts of people."—Othello.


"THAT gipsy woman who is coming with her cart," said the parrot, "is a fairy too, and very malicious.  It was she and others of her tribe who caught us and put us into these cages, for they are more powerful than we.  Mind you do not let her allure you into the woods, nor wheedle you or frighten you into giving her any of those fairies."

    "No," said Jack; "I will not."

    "She sold us to the brown people," continued the parrot.  "Mind you do not buy anything of her, for your money in her palm would act as a charm against you."

    "She has a baby," observed the parrot-wife, scornfully.

    "Yes, a baby," repeated the old parrot; "and I hope by means of that baby to get her driven away, and perhaps get free myself.  I shall try to put her in a passion.  Here she comes."

    There she was indeed, almost close at hand.  She had a little cart; her goods were hung all about it, and a small horse drew it slowly on, and stopped when she got a customer.

    Several gipsy children were with her, and as the people came running together over the grass to see her goods, she sang a curious kind of song, which made them wish to buy them.

    Jack turned from the parrot's cage as she came up.  He had heard her singing a little way off, and now, before she began again, he felt that already her searching eyes had found him out, and taken notice that he was different from the other people.

    When she began to sing her selling song, he felt a most curious sensation.  He felt as if there were some cobwebs before his face, and he put up his hand as if to clear them away.  There were no real cobwebs, of course; and yet he again felt as if they floated from the gipsy-woman to him, like gossamer threads, and attracted him towards her.  So he gazed at her, and she at him, till Jack began to forget how the parrot had warned him.

    He saw her baby too, wondered whether it was heavy for her to carry, and wished he could help her.  I mean, he saw that she had a baby on her arm.  It was wrapped in a shawl, and had a handkerchief over its face.  She seemed very fond of it, for she kept hushing it; and Jack softly moved nearer and nearer to the cart, till the gipsy-woman smiled, and suddenly began to sing:


"My good man—he's an old, old man—
     And my good man got a fall,
 To buy me a bargain so fast he ran
     When he heard the gipsies call:
             'Buy, buy brushes,
             Baskets wrought o' rushes.
             Buy them, buy them, take them, try them,
                         Buy, dames all.'

"My old man, he has money and land,
     And a young, young wife am I.
 Let him put the penny in my white hand
     When he hears the gipsies cry:
         'Buy, buy laces,
         Veils to screen your faces.
         Buy them, buy them, take and try them,
                             Buy, maids, buy.'"


    When the gipsy had finished her song, Jack felt as if he was covered all over with cobwebs; but he could not move away, and he did not mind them now.  All his wish was to please her, and get close to her; so when she said, in a soft wheedling voice, "What will you please to buy, my pretty gentleman?" he was just going to answer that he would buy anything she recommended, when, to his astonishment and displeasure, for he thought it very rude, the parrot suddenly burst into a violent fit of coughing, which made all the customers stare.  "That's to clear my throat," he said, in a most impertinent tone of voice; and then he began to beat time with his foot, and sing, or rather scream out, an extremely saucy imitation of the gipsy's song, and all his parrot friends in the other cages joined in the chorus.


"My fair lady's a dear, dear lady—
     I walked by her side to woo.
 In a garden alley, so sweet and shady,
     She answered, 'I love not you,
             John, John Brady,'
             Quoth my dear lady,
 'Pray now, pray now, go your way now,
             Do, John, do!' "


    At first the gipsy did not seem to know where that mocking song came from, but when she discovered that it was her prisoner, the old parrot, who was thus daring to imitate her, she stood silent and glared at him, and her face was almost white with rage.

    When he came to the end of the verse he pretended to burst into a violent fit of sobbing and crying, and screeched out to his wife, "Mate! mate! hand up my handkerchief.  Oh! oh! it's so affecting, this song is."

    Upon this the other parrot pulled Jack's handkerchief from under her wing, hobbled up, and began, with a great show of zeal, to wipe his horny beak with it.  But this was too much for the gipsy; she took a large brush from her cart, and flung it at the cage with all her might.

    This set it violently swinging backwards and forwards, but did not stop the parrot, who screeched out, "How delightful it is to be swung!"  And then he began to sing another verse in the most impudent tone possible, and with a voice that seemed to ring through Jack's head, and almost pierce it.


"Yet my fair lady's my own, own lady,
     For I passed another day;
 While making her moan, she sat all alone,
     And thus and thus did she say:
                 'John, John Brady,'
                 Quoth my dear lady,
 'Do now, do now, once more woo now,
                 Pray, John, pray!' "


    "It's beautiful!" screeched the parrot-wife, "and so ap-pro-pri-ate."  Jack was delighted when she managed slowly to say this long word with her black tongue, and he burst out laughing.  In the meantime a good many of the brown people came running together, attracted by the noise of the parrots and the rage of the gipsy, who flung at his cage, one after the other, all the largest things she had in her cart.  But nothing did the parrot any harm; the more violently his cage swung, the louder he sang, till at last the wicked gipsy seized her poor little young baby, who was lying in her arms, rushed frantically at the cage as it flew swiftly through the air towards her, and struck at it with the little creature's head.  "Oh, you cruel, cruel woman!" cried Jack, and all the small mothers who were standing near with their skinny children on their shoulders screamed out with terror and indignation; but only for one instant, for the handkerchief flew off that had covered its face, and was caught in the wires of the cage, and all the people saw that it was not a real baby at all, but a bundle of clothes, and its head was a turnip.

    Yes, a turnip!  You could see that as plainly as possible, for though the green leaves had been cut off, their stalks were visible through the lace cap that had been tied on it.

    Upon this all the crowd pressed closer, throwing her baskets, and brushes, and laces, and beads at the gipsy, and calling out, "We will have none of your goods, you false woman!  Give us back our money, or we will drive you out of the fair.  You've stuck a stick into a turnip, and dressed it up in baby clothes.  You're a cheat! a cheat! "

    "My sweet gentlemen, my kind ladies," began the gipsy; but baskets and brushes flew at her so fast that she was obliged to sit down on the grass and hold up the sham baby to screen her face.

    While this was going on, Jack felt that the cobwebs which had seemed to float about his face were all gone; he did not care at all any more about the gipsy, and began to watch the parrots with great attention.

    He observed that when the handkerchief stuck between the cage wires, the parrots caught it, and drew it inside; and then Jack saw the cunning old bird himself lay it on the floor, fold it crosswise like a shawl, and put it on his wife.

    Then she jumped upon the perch, and held it with one foot, looking precisely like an old lady with a parrot's head.  Then he folded Jack's handkerchief in the same way, put it on, and got upon the perch beside his wife, screaming out, in his most piercing tone:

    "I like shawls; they're so becoming."  Now the gipsy did not care at all what those inferior people thought of her, and she was calmly counting out their money, to return it; but she was very desirous to make Jack forget her behaviour, and had begun to smile again, and tell him she had only been joking, when the parrot spoke, and, looking up, she saw the two birds sitting side by side, and the parrot-wife was screaming in her mate's ear, though neither of them was at all deaf:

    "If Jack lets her allure him into the woods, he'll never come out again.  She'll hang him up in a cage, as she did us.  I say, how does my shawl fit?"

    So saying, the parrot-wife whisked herself round on the perch, and lo! in the corner of the handkerchief were seen some curious letters, marked in red.  When the crowd saw these, they drew a little farther off, and glanced at one another with alarm.

    "You look charming, my dear; it fits well!" screamed the old parrot in answer.  "A word in your ear, 'Share and share alike' is a fine motto."

    "What do you mean by all this?" said the gipsy, rising, and going with slow steps to the cage, and speaking cautiously.

    "Jack," said the parrot, "do they ever eat handkerchiefs in your part of the country?"

    "No, never," answered Jack.

    "Hold your tongue and be reasonable," said the gipsy, trembling. "What do you want?  I'll do it, whatever it is."

    "But do they never pick out the marks?" continued the parrot.  "O Jack! are you sure they never pick out the marks?"

    "The marks?" said Jack, considering.  "Yes, perhaps they do."

    "Stop!" cried the gipsy, as the old parrot made a peck at the strange letters.  "Oh! you're hurting me.  What do you want?  I say again, tell me what you want, and you shall have it."

    "We want to get out," replied the parrot; "you must undo the spell."

    "Then give me my handkerchief," answered the gipsy, "to bandage my eyes.  I dare not say the words with my eyes open.  You had no business to steal it.  It was woven by human hands, so that nobody can see through it; and if you don't give it to me, you'll never get out—no, never!"

    "Then," said the old parrot, tossing his shawl off, "you may have Jack's handkerchief; it will bandage your eyes just as well.  It was woven over the water, as yours was."

    "It won't do!" cried the gipsy in terror; "give me my own."

    "I tell you," answered the parrot, "that you shall have Jack's handkerchief; you can do no harm with that."

    By this time the parrots all around had become perfectly silent, and none of the people ventured to say a word, for they feared the malice of the gipsy.  She was trembling dreadfully, and her dark eyes, which had been so bright and piercing, had become dull and almost dim; but when she found there was no help for it, she said:

    "Well, pass out Jack's handkerchief.  I will set you free if you will bring out mine with you."

    "Share and share alike," answered the parrot; "you must let all my friends out too."

    "Then I won't let you out," answered the gipsy.  "You shall come out first, and give me my handkerchief, or not one of their cages will I undo.  So take your choice."

    "My friends, then," answered the brave old parrot; and he poked Jack's handkerchief out to her through the wires.

    The wondering crowd stood by to look, and the gipsy bandaged her eyes tightly with the handkerchief; and then, stooping low, she began to murmur something and clap her hands—softly at first, but by degrees more and more violently.  The noise was meant to drown the words she muttered; but as she went on clapping, the bottom of cage after cage fell clattering down.  Out flew the parrots by hundreds, screaming and congratulating one another; and there was such a deafening din that not only the sound of her spell but the clapping of her hands was quite lost in it.

    But all this time Jack was very busy; for the moment the gipsy had tied up her eyes, the old parrot snatched the real handkerchief off his wife's shoulders, and tied it round her neck.  Then she pushed out her head through the wires, and the old parrot called to Jack, and said, "Pull!"

    Jack took the ends of the handkerchief, pulled terribly hard, and stopped.  "Go on! go on!" screamed the old parrot.

    "I shall pull her head off," cried Jack.

    "No matter;" cried the parrot; "no matter—only pull."

    Well, Jack did pull, and he actually did pull her head off! nearly tumbling backward himself as he did it; but he saw what the whole thing meant then, for there was another head inside—a fairy's head.

    Jack flung down the old parrot's head and great beak, for he saw that what he had to do was to clear the fairy of its parrot covering.  The poor little creature seemed nearly dead, it was so terribly squeezed in the wires.  It had a green gown or robe on, with an ermine collar; and Jack got hold of this dress, stripped the fairy out of the parrot feathers, and dragged her through—velvet robe, and crimson girdle, and little yellow shoes.  She was very much exhausted, but a kind brown woman took her instantly, and laid her in her bosom.  She was a splendid little creature, about half a foot long.

    "There's a brave boy!" cried the parrot.  Jack glanced round, and saw that not all the parrots were free yet, the gipsy was still muttering her spell.

    He returned the handkerchief to the parrot, who put it round his own neck, and again Jack pulled.  But oh! what a tough old parrot that was, and how Jack tugged before his cunning head would come off!  It did, however, at last; and just as a fine fairy was pulled through, leaving his parrot skin and the handkerchief behind him, the gipsy untied her eyes, and saw what Jack had done.

    "Give me my handkerchief!" she screamed in despair.

    "It's in the cage, gipsy," answered Jack; "you can get it yourself.  Say your words again."

    But the gipsy's spell would only open places where she had confined fairies, and no fairies were in the cage now.

    "No, no, no!" she screamed; "too late!  Hide me!  O good people, hide me!"

    But it was indeed too late.  The parrots had been wheeling in the air, hundreds and hundreds of them, high above her head; and as she ceased speaking, she fell shuddering on the ground, drew her cloak over her face, and down they came, swooping in one immense flock, and settled so thickly all over her that she was completely covered; from her shoes to her head not an atom of her was to be seen.

    All the people stood gravely looking on.  So did Jack, but he could not see much for the fluttering of the parrots, nor hear anything for their screaming voices; but at last he made one of the cross people hear when he shouted to her, "What are they going to do to the poor gipsy?"

    "Make her take her other form," she replied; "and then she cannot hurt us while she stays in our country.  She is a fairy, as we have just found out, and all fairies have two forms."

    "Oh!" said Jack; but he had no time for more questions.

    The screaming, and fighting, and tossing about of little bits of cloth and cotton ceased; a black lump heaved itself up from the ground among the parrots; and as they flew aside, an ugly great condor, with a bare neck, spread out its wings, and, skimming the ground, sailed slowly away.

    "They have pecked her so that she can hardly rise," exclaimed the parrot fairy.  "Set me on your shoulder, Jack, and let me see the end of it."

    Jack set him there; and his little wife, who had recovered herself, sprang from her friend the brown woman, and sat on the other shoulder.  He then ran on—the tribe of brown people, and mushroom people, and the feather-coated folks running too—after the great black bird, who skimmed slowly on before them till she got to the gipsy carts, when out rushed the gipsies, armed with poles, milking-stools, spades, and everything they could get hold of to beat back the people and the parrots from hunting their relation, who had folded her tired wings, and was skulking under a cart, with ruffled feathers and a scowling eye.

    Jack was so frightened at the violent way in which the gipsies and the other tribes were knocking each other about, that he ran off, thinking he had seen enough of such a dangerous country.

    As he passed the place where that evil-minded gipsy had been changed, he found the ground strewed with little bits of her clothes.  Many parrots were picking them up, and poking them into the cage where the handkerchief was; and presently another parrot came with a lighted brand, which she had pulled from one of the gipsies' fires.

    "That's right," said the fairy on Jack's shoulder, when he saw his friend push the brand between the wires of what had been his cage, and set the gipsy's handkerchief on fire, and all the bits of her clothes with it.  "She won't find much of herself here," he observed, as Jack went on.  "It will not be very easy to put herself together again."

    So Jack moved away.  He was tired of the noise and confusion; and the sun was just setting as he reached the little creek where his boat lay.

    Then the parrot fairy and his wife sprang down, and kissed their hands to him as he stepped on board, and pushed the boat off.  He saw, when he looked back, that a great fight was still going on; so he was glad to get away, and he wished his two friends good-bye, and set off, the old parrot fairy calling after him, "My relations have put some of our favourite food on board for you."  Then they again thanked him for his good help, and sprang into a tree, and the boat began to go down the wonderful river.

    "This has been a most extraordinary day," thought Jack; "the strangest day I have had yet."  And after he had eaten a good supper of what the parrots had brought, he felt so tired and sleepy that he lay down in the boat, and presently fell fast asleep.  His fairies were sound asleep too in his pockets, and nothing happened of the least consequence; so he slept comfortably till morning.

 

A great fight was still going on.
_______________

 


CHAPTER VI


" 'Master,' quoth the auld hound,
      'Where will ye go?'
  'Over moss, over muir,
      To court my new jo.'
  'Master, though the night be merk,
      I'se follow through the snow.

" 'Court her, master, court her,
      So shall ye do weel;
  But and ben she'll guide the house,
      I'se get milk and meal.
  Ye'se get lilting while she sits
      With her rock and reel.'

" 'For, oh! she has a sweet tongue,
      And een that look down,
  A gold girdle for her waist,
      And a purple gown.
  She has a good word forbye
      Fra a' folk in the town.' "


SOON after sunrise they came to a great city, and it was perfectly still.  There were grand towers and terraces, wharves, too, and a large market, but there was nobody anywhere to be seen.  Jack thought that might be because it was so early in the morning; and when the boat ran itself up against a wooden wharf and stopped, he jumped ashore, for he thought this must be the end of his journey.  A delightful town it was, if only there had been any people in it!  The market-place was full of stalls, on which were spread toys, baskets, fruit, butter, vegetables, and all the other things that are usually sold in a market.

    Jack walked about in it.  Then he looked in at the open doors of the houses, and at last, finding that they were all empty, he walked into one, looked at the rooms, examined the picture-books, rang the bells, and set the musical-boxes going.  Then, after he had shouted a good deal, and tried in vain to make some one hear, he went back to the edge of the river where his boat was lying, and the water was so delightfully clear and calm, that he thought he would bathe.  So he took off his clothes, and folding them very carefully, so as not to hurt the fairies, laid them down beside a haycock, and went in, and ran about and paddled for a long time much longer than there was any occasion for; but then he had nothing to do.

    When at last he had finished, he ran to the haycock, and began to dress himself; but he could not find his stockings, and after looking about for some time he was obliged to put on his clothes without them, and he was going to put his boots on his bare feet, when, walking to the other side of the haycock, he saw a little old woman about as large as himself.  She had a pair of spectacles on, and she was knitting.

    She looked so sweet tempered that Jack asked her if she knew anything about his stockings.  "It will be time enough to ask for them when you have had your breakfast," said she.  "Sit down.  Welcome to our town.  How do you like it?"

    "I should like it very much indeed," said Jack, "if there was anybody in it."

    "I'm glad of that," said the woman.  "You've seen a good deal of it; but it pleases me to find that you are a very honest boy.  You did not take anything at all.  I am honest too."

    "Yes," said Jack, "of course you are."

    "And as I am pleased with you for being honest," continued the little woman, "I shall give you some breakfast out of my basket."  So she took out a saucer full of honey, a roll of bread, and a cup of milk.

    "Thank you," said Jack, "but I am not a beggar-boy; I have got a half-crown, a shilling, a sixpence, and two pence; so I can buy this breakfast of you, if you like.  You look very poor."

    "Do I?" said the little woman, softly; and she went on knitting, and Jack began to eat the breakfast.

    "I wonder what has become of my stockings," said Jack.

    "You will never see them any more," said the old woman.  "I threw them into the river, and they floated away."

    "Why did you?" asked Jack.

    The little woman took no notice; but presently she had finished a beautiful pair of stockings, and she handed them to Jack, and said:

    "Is that like the pair you lost?"

    "Oh no," said Jack, "these are much more beautiful stockings than mine."

    "Do you like them as well?" asked the fairy woman.

    "I like them much better," said Jack, putting them on.  "How clever you are!"  "Would you like to wear these," said the woman, "instead of yours?"

    She gave Jack such a strange look when she said this, that he was afraid to take them, and answered:

    "I shouldn't like to wear them if you think I had better not."

    "Well," she answered, "I am very honest, as I told you; and therefore I am obliged to say that if I were you I would not wear those stockings on any account."

    "Why not?" said Jack; for she looked so sweet tempered that he could not help trusting her.

    "Why not?" repeated the fairy; "why, because when you have those stockings on, your feet belong to me."

    "Oh!" said Jack.  "Well, if you think that matters, I'll take them off again.  Do you think it matters?"

    "Yes," said the fairy woman; "it matters, because I am a slave, and my master can make me do whatever he pleases, for I am completely in his power.  So, if he found out that I had knitted those stockings for you, he would make me order you to walk into his mill—the mill which grinds the corn for the town; and there you would have to grind and grind till I got free again."

    When Jack heard this, he pulled off the beautiful stockings, and laid them on the old woman's lap.  Upon this she burst out crying, as if her heart would break.

    "If my fairies that I have in my pocket would only wake," said Jack, "I would fight your master; for if he is no bigger than you are, perhaps I could beat him, and get you away."

   "No, Jack," said the little woman; "that would be of no use.  The only thing you could do would be to buy me; for my cruel master has said that if ever I am late again he shall sell me in the slave-market to the brown people, who work underground.  And, though I am dreadfully afraid of my master, I mean to be late to-day, in hopes (as you are kind, and as you have some money) that you will come to the slave-market and buy me.  Can you buy me, Jack, to be your slave?"

    "I don't want a slave," said Jack; "and, besides, I have hardly any money to buy you with."

    "But it is real money," said the fairy woman, "not like what my master has.  His money has to be made every week, for if there comes a hot day it cracks, so it never has time to look old, as your half-crown does; and that is how we know the real money, for we cannot imitate anything that is old.  Oh, now, now it is twelve o'clock! now I am late again! and though I said I would do it, I am so frightened!"

    So saying, the little woman ran off towards the town, wringing her hands, and Jack ran beside her.

    "How am I to find your master?" he said.

    "O Jack, buy me! buy me!" cried the fairy woman.  "You will find me in the slave- market.  Bid high for me.  Go back and put your boots on, and bid high."

    Now Jack had nothing on his feet, so he left the poor little woman to run into the town by herself, and went back to put his boots on.  They were very uncomfortable, as he had no stockings; but he did not much mind that, and he counted his money.  There was the half-crown that his grandmamma had given him on his birthday, there was a shilling, a sixpence, and two pence, besides a silver fourpenny-piece which he had forgotten.  He then marched into the town; and now it was quite full of people—all of them little men and women about his own height.  They thought he was somebody of consequence, and they called out to him to buy their goods.  And he bought some stockings, and said, "What I want to buy now is a slave."

    So they showed him the way to the slave-market, and there whole rows of odd-looking little people were sitting, while in front of them stood the slaves.

    Now Jack had observed as he came along how very disrespectful the dogs of that town were to the people.  They had a habit of going up to them and smelling at their legs, and even gnawing their feet as they sat before the little tables selling their wares; and what made this more surprising was that the people did not always seem to find out when they were being gnawed.  But the moment the dogs saw Jack they came and fawned on him, and two old hounds followed him all the way to the slave-market; and when he took a seat one of them laid down at his feet, and said, "Master, set your handsome feet on my back, that they may be out of the dust."

    "Don't be afraid of him," said the other hound; "he won't gnaw your feet.  He knows well enough that they are real ones."

    "Are the other people's feet not real?" asked Jack.

    "Of course not," said the hound.  "They had a feud long ago with the fairies, and they all went one night into a great cornfield which belonged to these enemies of theirs, intending to steal the corn.  So they made themselves invisible, as they are always obliged to do till twelve o'clock at noon; but before morning dawn, the wheat being quite ripe, down came the fairies with their sickles, surrounded the field, and cut the corn.  So all their legs of course got cut off with it, for when they are invisible they cannot stir.  Ever since that they have been obliged to make their legs of wood."

    While the hound was telling this story Jack looked about, but he did not see one slave who was in the least like his poor little friend, and he was beginning to be afraid that he should not find her, when he heard two people talking together.

    "Good day!" said one.  "So you have sold that good-for-nothing slave of yours?"

    "Yes," answered a very cross-looking old man.  "She was late again this morning, and came to me crying and praying to be forgiven; but I was determined to make an example of her, so I sold her at once to Clink-of-the-Hole, and he has just driven her away to work in his mine."

    Jack, on hearing this, whispered to the hound at his feet, "If you will guide me to Clink's hole, you shall be my dog."

    "Master, I will do my best," answered the hound; and he stole softly out of the market, Jack following him.

 

"Master, I will do my best," answered the hound.
_______________

 

 

"So useful it is to have money, heigh ho!
     So useful it is to have money!"

A. H. CLOUGH.


THE old hound went straight through the town, smelling Clink's footsteps, till he came into a large field of barley; and there, sitting against a sheaf, for it was harvest time, they found Clink-of-the-Hole.  He was a very ugly little brown man, and he was smoking a pipe in the shade; while crouched near him was the poor little woman, with her hands spread before her face.

    "Good day, sir," said Clink to Jack.  "You are a stranger here, no doubt?"

    "Yes," said Jack; "I only arrived this morning."

    "Have you seen the town?" asked Clink, civilly; "there is a very fine market."

    "Yes, I have seen the market," answered Jack.  "I went into it to buy a slave, but I did not see one that I liked."

    "Ah!" said Clink; "and yet they had some very fine articles."  Here he pointed to the poor little woman, and said, "Now that's a useful body enough, and I had her very cheap."

    "What did you give for her?" said Jack, sitting down.

    "Three pitchers," said Clink, "and fifteen cups and saucers, and two shillings in the money of the town."

    "Is their money like this?" said Jack, taking out his shilling.

    When Clink saw the shilling he changed colour, and said, very earnestly, "Where did you get that, dear sir?"

    "Oh, it was given me," said Jack, carelessly.

    Clink looked hard at the shilling, and so did the fairy woman, and Jack let them look some time, for he amused himself with throwing it up several times and catching it.  At last he put it back in his pocket, and then Clink heaved a deep sigh.  Then Jack took out a penny, and began to toss that up, upon which, to his great surprise, the little brown man fell on his knees, and said, "Oh, a shilling and a penny—a shilling and a penny of mortal coin!  What would I not give for a shilling and a penny!"

    "I don't believe you have got anything to give," said Jack, cunningly; "I see nothing but that ring on your finger, and the old woman."

    "But I have a great many things at home, sir," said the brown man, wiping his eyes; "and besides, that ring would be cheap at a shilling—even a shilling of mortal coin."

    "Would the slave be cheap at a penny?" said Jack.

    "Would you give a penny for her, dear sir?" inquired Clink, trembling with eagerness.

    "She is honest," answered Jack; "ask her whether I had better buy her with this penny."

    "It does not matter what she says," replied the brown man; "I would sell twenty such as she is for a penny—a real one."

    "Ask her," repeated Jack; and the poor little woman wept bitterly, but she said "No."

    "Why not?" asked Jack; but she only hung down her head and cried.

    "I'll make you suffer for this," said the brown man.  But when Jack took out the shilling, and said, "Shall I buy you with this, slave?" his eyes actually shot out sparks, he was so eager.

 

The little brown man fell on his knees and said,
"Oh, a shilling and a penny."


    "Speak!" he said to the fairy woman; "and if you don't say 'Yes,' I'll strike you."

    "He cannot buy me with that," answered the fairy woman, "unless it is the most valuable coin he has got."

    The brown man, on hearing this, rose up in a rage, and was just going to strike her a terrible blow, when Jack cried out, "Stop!" and took out his half-crown.

    "Can I buy you with this?" said he; and the fairy woman answered, "Yes."

    Upon this Clink drew a long breath, and his eyes grew bigger and bigger as he gazed at the half-crown.

    "Shall she be my slave for ever, and not yours," said Jack, "if I give you this?"

    "She shall," said the brown man.  And he made such a low bow, as he took the money, that his head actually knocked the ground.  Then he jumped up; and, as if he was afraid Jack should repent of his bargain, he ran off towards the hole in the hill with all his might, shouting for joy as he went.

    "Slave," said Jack, "that is a very ragged old apron that you have got, and your gown is quite worn out.  Don't you think we had better spend my shilling in buying you some new clothes?  You look so very shabby."

    "Do I?" said the fairy woman, gently.  "Well, master, you will do as you please."

    "But you know better than I do," said Jack, "though you are my slave."

    "You had better give me the shilling, then," answered the little old woman; "and then I advise you to go back to the boat, and wait there till I come."

    "What!" said Jack; "can you go all the way back into the town again?  I think you must be tired, for you know you are so very old."

    The fairy woman laughed when Jack said this, and she had such a sweet laugh that he loved to hear it; but she took the shilling, and trudged off to the town, and he went back to the boat, his hound running after him.

    He was a long time going, for he ran a good many times after butterflies, and then he climbed up several trees; and altogether he amused himself for such a long while that when he reached the boat his fairy woman was there before him.  So he stepped on board, the hound followed, and the boat immediately began to swim on.

    "Why, you have not bought any new clothes!" said Jack to his slave.

    "No, master," answered the fairy woman; "but I have bought what I wanted."  And she took out of her pocket a little tiny piece of purple ribbon, with a gold-coloured satin edge, and a very small tortoiseshell comb.

    When Jack saw these he was vexed, and said, "What do you mean by being so silly?  I can't scold you properly, because I don't know what name to call you by, and I don't like to say 'Slave,' because that sounds so rude.  Why, this bit of ribbon is such a little bit that it's of no use at all.  It's not large enough even to make one mitten of."

    "Isn't it?" said the slave.  "Just take hold of it, master, and let us see if it will stretch."

    So Jack did.  And she pulled, and he pulled, and very soon the silk had stretched till it was nearly as large as a handkerchief; and then she shook it, and they pulled again.  "This is very good fun," said Jack; "why now it is as large as an apron."

 

"Master, do you know what you have done?"


    So she shook it again, and gave it a twitch here and a pat there; and then they pulled again, and the silk suddenly stretched so wide that Jack was very nearly falling overboard.  So Jack's slave pulled off her ragged gown and apron, and put it on.  It was a most beautiful robe of purple silk, it had a gold border, and it just fitted her.

    "That will do," she said.  And then she took out the little tortoiseshell comb, pulled off her cap, and threw it into the river.  She had a little knot of soft grey hair, and she let it down, and began to comb.  And as she combed the hair got much longer and thicker, till it fell in waves all about her throat.  Then she combed again, and it all turned gold colour, and came tumbling down to her waist; and then she stood up in the boat, and combed once more, and shook out the hair, and there was such a quantity that it reached down to her feet, and she was so covered with it that you could not see one bit of her, excepting her eyes, which peeped out, and looked bright and full of tears.

    Then she began to gather up her lovely locks; and when she had dried her eyes with them, she said, "Master, do you know what you have done? look at me now!"  So she threw back the hair from her face, and it was a beautiful young face; and she looked so happy that Jack was glad he had bought her with his half-crown—so glad that he could not help crying, and the fair slave cried too; and then instantly the little fairies woke, and sprang out of Jack's pockets.  As they did so, Jovinian cried out, "Madam, I am your most humble servant;" and Roxaletta said, "I hope your Grace is well;" but the third got on Jack's knee, and took hold of the buttons of his waistcoat, and when the lovely slave looked at her, she hid her face and blushed with pretty childish shyness.

    "These are fairies," said Jack's slave; "but what are you?"

    "Jack kissed me," said the little thing; "and I want to sit on his knee."

    "Yes," said Jack, "I took them out, and laid them in a row, to see if they were safe, and this one I kissed, because she looked such a little dear."

    "Was she not like the others, then?" asked the slave.

    "Yes," said Jack; "but I liked her the best; she was my favourite."

    Now, the instant these three fairies sprang out of Jack's pockets, they got very much larger; in fact, they became fully grown—that is to say, they measured exactly one foot one inch in height, which, as most people know, is exactly the proper height for fairies of that tribe.  The two who had sprung out first were very beautifully dressed.  One had a green velvet coat, and a sword, the hilt of which was encrusted with diamonds.  The second had a white spangled robe, and the loveliest rubies and emeralds round her neck and in her hair; but the third, the one who sat on Jack's knee, had a white frock and a blue sash on.  She had soft, fat arms, and a face just like that of a sweet little child.

    When Jack's slave saw this, she took the little creature on her knee, and said to her, "How comes it that you are not like your companions?"

    And she answered, in a pretty lisping voice, "It's because Jack kissed me."

    "Even so it must be," answered the slave; "the love of a mortal works changes indeed.  It is not often that we win anything so precious.  Here, master, let her sit on your knee sometimes, and take care of her, for she cannot now take the same care of herself that others of her race are capable of."

    So Jack let little Mopsa sit on his knee; and when he was tired of admiring his slave, and wondering at the respect with which the other two fairies treated her, and at their cleverness in getting water-lilies for her, and fanning her with feathers, he curled himself up in the bottom of the boat with his own little favourite, and taught her how to play at cat's-cradle.

    When they had been playing some time, and Mopsa was getting quite clever at the game, the lovely slave said, "Master, it is a long time since you spoke to me."

    "And yet," said Jack, "there is something that I particularly want to ask you about."

    "Ask it, then," she replied.

    "I don't like to have a slave," answered Jack; "and as you are so clever, don't you think you can find out how to be free again?"

    "I am very glad you asked me about that," said the fairy woman.  "Yes, master, I wish very much to be free; and as you were so kind as to give the most valuable piece of real money you possessed in order to buy me, I can be free if you can think of anything that you really like better than that half-crown, and if I can give it you."

    "Oh, there are many things," said Jack. "I like going up this river to Fairyland much better."

    "But you are going there, master," said the fairy woman; "you were on the way before I met with you."

    "I like this little child better," said Jack; "I love this little Mopsa.  I should like her to belong to me."

    "She is yours," answered the fairy woman; "she belongs to you already. Think of something else."

    Jack thought again, and was so long about it that at last the beautiful slave said to him, "Master, do you see those purple mountains?"

    Jack turned round in the boat, and saw a splendid range of purple mountains, going up and up.  They were very great and steep, each had a crown of snow, and the sky was very red behind them, for the sun was going down.

    "At the other side of those mountains is Fairyland," said the slave; "but if you cannot think of something that you should like better to have than your half-crown, I can never enter in.  The river flows straight up to yonder steep precipice, and there is a chasm in it which pierces it, and through which the river runs down beneath, among the very roots of the mountains, till it comes out at the other side.  Thousands and thousands of the small people will come when they see the boat, each with a silken thread in his hand; but if there is a slave in it, not all their strength and skill can tow it through.  Look at those rafts on the river; on them are the small people coming up."

    Jack looked, and saw that the river was spotted with rafts, on which were crowded brown fairy sailors, each one with three green stripes on his sleeve, which looked like good-conduct marks.  All these sailors were chattering very fast, and the rafts were coming down to meet the boat.

    "All these sailors to tow my slave!" said Jack.  "I wonder, I do wonder, what you are?"  But the fairy woman only smiled, and Jack went on: "I have thought of something that I should like much better than my half-crown.  I should like to have a little tiny bit of that purple gown of yours with the gold border."

    Then the fairy woman said, "I thank you, master.  Now I can be free."  So she told Jack to lend her his knife, and with it she cut off a very small piece of the skirt of her robe, and gave it to him.  "Now mind," she said; "I advise you never to stretch this unless you want to make some particular thing of it, for then it will only stretch to the right size; but if you merely begin to pull it for your own amusement, it will go on stretching and stretching, and I don't know where it will stop."

 

_______________

 

 

"In the night she told a story,
     In the night and all night through,
 While the moon was in her glory,
     And the branches dropped with dew.

"'Twas my life she told, and round it
     Rose the years as from a deep;
 In the world's great heart she found it,
     Cradled like a child asleep.

"In the night I saw her weaving
     By the misty moonbeam cold,
 All the weft her shuttle cleaving
     With a sacred thread of gold.

"Ah! she wept me tears of sorrow,
     Lulling tears so mystic sweet;
 Then she wove my last to-morrow,
     And her web lay at my feet.

"Of my life she made the story:
     I must weep—so soon 'twas told!
 But your name did lend it glory,
     And your love its thread of gold!"


BY this time, as the sun had gone down, and none of the moons had risen, it would have been dark but that each of the rafts was rigged with a small mast that had a lantern hung to it.

    By the light of these lanterns Jack saw crowds of little brown faces, and presently many rafts had come up to the boat, which was now swimming very slowly.  Every sailor in every raft fastened to the boat's side a silken thread; then the rafts were rowed to shore, and the sailors jumped out, and began to tow the boat along.

    These crimson threads looked no stronger than the silk that ladies sew with, yet by means of them the small people drew the boat along merrily.  There were so many of them that they looked like an army as they marched in the light of the lanterns and torches.  Jack thought they were very happy, though the work was hard, for they shouted and sang.

    The fairy woman looked more beautiful than ever now, and far more stately.  She had on a band of precious stones to bind back her hair, and they shone so brightly in the night that her features could be clearly seen.

    Jack's little favourite was fast asleep, and the other two fairies had flown away.  He was beginning to feel rather sleepy himself, when he was roused by the voice of his free lady, who said to him, "Jack, there is no one listening now, so I will tell you my story.  I am the Fairy Queen!"

    Jack opened his eyes very wide, but he was so much surprised that he did not say a word.  "One day, long, long ago," said the Queen, "I was discontented with my own happy country.  I wished to see the world, so I set forth with a number of the one-foot-one fairies, and went down the wonderful river, thinking to see the world.

    "So we sailed down the river till we came to that town which you know of; and there, in the very middle of the stream, stood a tower—a tall tower built upon a rock.

    "Fairies are afraid of nothing but of other fairies, and we did not think this tower was fairy-work, so we left our ship and went up the rock and into the tower, to see what it was like; but just as we had descended into the dungeon keep, we heard the gurgling of water overhead, and down came the tower.  It was nothing but water enchanted into the likeness of stone, and we all fell down with it into the very bed of the river.

    "Of course we were not drowned, but there we were obliged to lie, for we have no power out of our own element; and the next day the townspeople came down with a net and dragged the river, picked us all out of the meshes, and made us slaves.  The one-foot-one fairies got away shortly; but from that day to this, in sorrow and distress, I have had to serve my masters.  Luckily, my crown had fallen off in the water, so I was not known to be the Queen; but till you came, Jack, I had almost forgotten that I had ever been happy and free, and I had hardly any hope of getting away."

    "How sorry your people must have been," said Jack, "when they found you did not come home again."

    "No," said the Queen; "they only went to sleep, and they will not wake till to-morrow morning, when I pass in again.  They will think I have been absent for a day, and so will the applewoman.  You must not undeceive them; if you do, they will be very angry."

    "And who is the applewoman?" inquired Jack; but the Queen blushed, and pretended not to hear the question, so he repeated:

    "Queen, who is the applewoman?"

    "I've only had her for a very little while," said the Queen, evasively.

    "And how long do you think you have been a slave, Queen?" asked Jack.

    "I don't know," said the Queen.  "I have never been able to make up my mind about that."

    And now all the moons began to shine, and all the trees lighted themselves up, for almost every leaf had a glow-worm or a firefly on it, and the water was full of fishes that had shining eyes.  And now they were close to the steep mountain side; and Jack looked and saw an opening in it, into which the river ran.  It was a kind of cave, something like a long, long church with a vaulted roof, only the pavement of it was that magic river, and a narrow towing-path ran on either side.

    As they entered the cave there was a hollow murmuring sound, and the Queen's crown became so bright that it lighted up the whole boat; at the same time she began to tell Jack a wonderful story, which he liked very much to hear, but every fresh thing she said he forgot what had gone before; and at last, though he tried very hard to listen, he was obliged to go to sleep; and he slept soundly and never dreamed of anything, till it was morning.

    He saw such a curious sight when he woke.  They had been going through this underground cavern all night, and now they were approaching its opening on the other side.  This opening, because they were a good way from it yet, looked like a lovely little round window of blue and yellow and green glass, but as they drew on he could see far-off mountains, blue sky, and a country all covered with sunshine.

    He heard singing too, such as fairies make; and he saw some beautiful people, such as those fairies whom he had brought with him.  They were coming along the towing-path.  They were all lady fairies; but they were not very polite, for as each one came up she took a silken rope out of a brown sailor's hand and gave him a shove which pushed him into the water.  In fact, the water became filled with such swarms of these sailors that the boat could hardly get on.  But the poor little brown fellows did not seem to mind this conduct, for they plunged and shook themselves about, scattering a good deal of spray.  Then they all suddenly dived, and when they came up again they were ducks—nothing but brown ducks, I assure you, with green stripes on their wings; and with a great deal of quacking and floundering they all began to swim back again as fast as they could.

    Then Jack was a good deal vexed, and he said to himself, "If nobody thanks the ducks for towing us I will;" so he stood up in the boat and shouted, "Thank you, ducks; we are very much obliged to you!"  But neither the Queen nor these new towers took the least notice, and gradually the boat came out of that dim cave and entered Fairyland, while the river became so narrow that you could hear the song of the towers quite easily; those on the right bank sang the first verse, and those on the left bank answered:


"Drop, drop from the leaves of lign aloes,
     O honey-dew! drop from the tree.
 Float up through your clear river shallows,
     White lilies, beloved of the bee.

"Let the people, O Queen! say, and bless thee,
     Her bounty drops soft as the dew,
 And spotless in honour confess thee,
     As lilies are spotless in hue.

"On the roof stands yon white stork awaking,
     His feathers flush rosy the while,
 For, lo! from the blushing east breaking,
     The sun sheds the bloom of his smile.

"Let them boast of thy word, 'It is certain;
     We doubt it no more,' let them say,
 'Than to-morrow that night's dusky curtain
     Shall roll back its folds for the day.'"


    "Master," whispered the old hound, who was lying at Jack's feet.

    "Well? " said Jack.

    "They didn't invent that song themselves," said the hound; "the old applewoman taught it to them—the woman whom they love because she can make them cry."

    Jack was rather ashamed of the hound's rudeness in saying this; but the Queen took no notice.  And now they had reached a little landing-place, which ran out a few feet into the river, and was strewed thickly with cowslips and violets.

    Here the boat stopped, and the Queen rose and got out.

    Jack watched her.  A whole crowd of one-foot-one fairies came down a garden to meet her, and he saw them conduct her to a beautiful tent with golden poles and a silken covering; but nobody took the slightest notice of him, or of little Mopsa, or of the hound, and after a long silence the hound said, "Well, master, don't you feel hungry?  Why don't you go with the others and have some breakfast?"

    "The Queen didn't invite me," said Jack.  "But do you feel as if you couldn't go?" asked the hound.

    "Of course not," answered Jack; "but perhaps I may not."

    "Oh, yes, master," replied the hound; "whatever you can do in Fairyland you may do."

    "Are you sure of that?" asked Jack.

    "Quite sure, master," said the hound; "and I am hungry too."

    "Well," said Jack, "I will go there and take Mopsa.  She shall ride on my shoulder; you may follow."

    So he walked up that beautiful garden till he came to the great tent.  A banquet was going on inside.  All the one-foot-one fairies sat down the sides of the table, and at the top sat the Queen on a larger chair; and there were two empty chairs, one on each side of her.

    Jack blushed; but the hound whispering again, "Master, whatever you can do you may do," he came slowly up the table towards the Queen, who was saying as he drew near, "Where is our trusty and well-beloved the applewoman?"  And she took no notice of Jack; so, though he could not help feeling rather red and ashamed, he went and sat in the chair beside her with Mopsa still on his shoulder.  Mopsa laughed for joy when she saw the feast.  The Queen said, "O Jack, I am so glad to see you!" and some of the one-foot-one fairies cried out, "What a delightful little creature that is!  She can laugh!  Perhaps she can also cry!"

    Jack looked about, but there was no seat for Mopsa; and he was afraid to let her run about on the floor, lest she should be hurt.

    There was a very large dish standing before the Queen; for though the people were small, the plates and dishes were exactly like those we use, and of the same size.

    This dish was raised on a foot, and filled with grapes and peaches.  Jack wondered at himself for doing it, but he saw no other place for Mopsa; so he took out the fruit, laid it round the dish, and set his own little one-foot-one in the dish.

    Nobody looked in the least surprised; and there she sat very happily, biting an apple with her small white teeth.

    Then, as they brought him nothing to eat, Jack helped himself from some of the dishes before him, and found that a fairy breakfast was very nice indeed.

    In the meantime there was a noise outside, and in stumped an elderly woman.  She had very thick boots on, a short gown of red print, an orange cotton handkerchief over her shoulders, and a black silk bonnet.  She was exactly the same height as the Queen—for of course nobody in Fairyland is allowed to be any bigger than the Queen; so, if they are not children when they arrive, they are obliged to shrink.

    "How are you, dear?" said the Queen.

    "I am as well as can be expected," answered the applewoman, sitting down in the empty chair.  "Now, then, where's my tea?  They're never ready with my cup of tea."

    Two attendants immediately brought a cup of tea, and set it down before the applewoman, with a plate of bread and butter; and she proceeded to pour it out into the saucer, and blow it, because it was hot.  In so doing her wandering eyes caught sight of Jack and little Mopsa, and she set down the saucer, and looked at them with attention.

    Now Mopsa, I am sorry to say, was behaving so badly that Jack was quite ashamed of her.  First, she got out of her dish, took something nice out of the Queen's plate with her fingers, and ate it; and then, as she was going back, she tumbled over a melon, and upset a glass of red wine, which she wiped up with her white frock; after which she got into her dish again, and there she sat smiling, and daubing her pretty face with a piece of buttered muffin.

    "Mopsa," said Jack, "you are very naughty; if you behave in this way, I shall never take you out to parties again."

    "Pretty lamb!" said the applewoman; "it's just like a child."  And then she burst into tears, and exclaimed, sobbing, "It's many a long day since I've seen a child.  Oh dear! oh deary me!"

    Upon this, to the astonishment of Jack, every one of the guests began to cry and sob too.

    "Oh dear! oh dear!" they said to one another, "we're crying; we can cry just as well as men and women.  Isn't it delightful?  What a luxury it is to cry, to be sure!"

    They were evidently quite proud of it; and when Jack looked at the Queen for an explanation, she only gave him a still little smile.

    But Mopsa crept along the table to the applewoman, let her take her and hug her, and seemed to like her very much; for as she sat on her knee, she patted her brown face with a little dimpled hand.

    "I should like vastly well to be her nurse," said the applewoman, drying her eyes, and looking at Jack.

    "If you'll always wash her, and put clean frocks on her, you may," said Jack; "for just look at her—what a figure she is already!"

    Upon this the applewoman laughed for joy, and again every one else did the same.  The fairies can only laugh and cry when they see mortals do so.

 

"I should like vastly to be her nurse,"
said the applewoman.



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