Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

since the starling died for want of water, and that he should be placed at the chamber window, for it would be wonderfully pleasant to hear him in the morning.

Floretta, with tears in her eyes, replied that he had better have been devoured by the hawk than die for want of water, and that she would not save him from a less evil to put him in danger of a greater : she, therefore, took him into her hand, cleaned his feathers from the birdlime, looked upon him with great tenderness, and, having put his bill to her lips, dismissed him into the air.

He flew in circles round her as she went home, and, perching on a tree before the door, delighted them awhile with such sweetness of song, that her mother reproyed her for not putting him in the cage. Floretta endeavoured to look grave, but silently approved her own act, and wished her mother more generosity. Her mother guessed her thoughts, and told her, that when she was older she would be wiser.

Floretta, however, did not repent, but hoped to hear her little bird the next morning singing at liberty. She waked early and listened, but no goldfinch could she hear. She rose, and walking again in the same meadow, went to view the bush where she had seen the lime twig the day before.

When she entered the thicket, and was near the place for which she was looking, from behind a blossoming hawthorn advanced a female form of very low stature, but of elegant proportion and majestick air, arrayed in all the colours of the meadow, and sparkling as she moved like a dew-drop in the sun.

Floretta was too much disordered to speak or fly, and stood motionless between fear and pleasure, when the little lady took her by the hand.

“I am,” said she, “one of that order of beings which some call Fairies, and some Piskies: we have always been known to inhabit the crags and caverns of Plinlimmon. The maids and shepherds when they wander by moonlight,

[blocks in formation]

have often heard our musick, and sometimes seen ou dances.

“I am the chief of the fairies of this region, and am known among them by the name of lady Lilinet of the Blue Rock. As I lived always in my own mountain, I had very little knowledge of human manners, and though better of mankind than other fairies found them to deserve; I, therefore, often opposed the mischievous practices of my sisters, without always inquiring whether they were just. I extinguished the light that was kindled to lead a traveller into a marsh, and found afterwards that he was hasting to corrupt a virgin: I dissipated a mist which assumed the form of a town, and was raised to decoy a monopolizer of corn from his way to the next market: I removed a thorn, artfully planted to prick the foot of a churl, that was going to hinder the poor from following his reapers ; and defeated so many schemes of obstruction and punishment, that I was cited before the queen as one who favoured wickedness, and opposed the execution of fairy justice.

“Having never been accustomed to suffer control, and thinking myself disgraced by the necessity of defence, I so much irritated the queen by my sullenness and petulance, that in her anger she transformed me into a goldfinch. * In this form,' says she, “I doom thee to remain till some human being shall show thee kindness without any prospect of interest.'

“I flew out of her presence not much dejected; for I did not doubt but every reasonable being must love that which, having never offended, could not be hated, and having no power to hurt, could not be feared.

I, therefore, fluttered about the villages, and endeavoured to force myself into notice.

“Having heard that nature was least corrupted among those who had no acquaintance with elegance and splendour, I employed myself for five years in hopping before the doors of cottages, and often sat

in the thatched roof: my motions were seldom

[graphic]

10 kindness was ever excited, and all the reward of officiousness was to be aimed at with a stone when I stood within a throw. “ The stones never hurt me, for I had still the

power

of - a fairy.

“I then betook myself to spacious and magnificent habitations, and sung in bowers by the walks or on the banks of fountains.

“In these places, where novelty was recommended by satiety, and curiosity excited by leisure, my form and my voice were soon distinguished, and I was known by the name of the pretty goldfinch; the inhabitants would walk out to listen to my musick, and at last it was their practice to court my visits by scattering meat in my common haunts.

“ This was repeated till I went about pecking in full security, and expected to regain my original form, when I observed two of my most liberal benefactors silently advancing with a net behind me. I flew off, and fluttering beside them pricked the leg of each, and left them halting and groaning with the cramp.

“I then went to another house, where, for two springs and sumrners I entertained a splendid family with such melody as the ey had never heard in the woods before. The winter that followed the second summer was remarkably cold, and many little birds perished in the field. I laid myself in the way of one of the ladies, as benumbed with cold and faint with hunger; she picked me up with great joy, telling her companions that she had found the goldfinch that sung so finely all the summer in the myrtle hedge, that she would lay him where he should die, for she could not bear to kill him, and would then pick his fine feathers very carefully, and stick them in her muff.

“ Finding that her fondness and her gratitude could give way to so slight an interest, I chilled her fingers that she could not hold me, then flew at her face, and with my book gave her nose four pecks, that left four black

ible behind them, and broke a match, by which

[graphic]

she would have obtained the finest equipage in the country.

“ At length the queen repented of her sentence, and being unable to revoke it, assisted me to try experiments upon man, to excite his tenderness, and attract his regard.

“We made many attempts, in which we were always disappointed. At last she placed me in your way held by a lime-twig, and herself, in the shape of a hawk, made the show of devouring me. You, my dear, have rescued me from the seeming danger without desiring to detain me in captivity, or seeking any other recompense than the pleasure of benefiting a feeling creature.

“ The queen is so much pleased with your kindness, that I am come by her permission, to reward you with a greater favour than ever fairy bestowed before.

“ The former gifts of fairies, though bounties in design, have proved commonly mischiefs in the event. We have granted mortals to wish according to their own discretion, and their discretion being small, and their wishes irreversible, they have rashly petitioned for their own destruction. But you, my dearest Floretta, shall have, what none have ever before obtained from us, the power of indulging your wish, and the liberty of retracting it. Be bold, and follow me."

Floretta was easily persuaded to accompany the fairy, who led her through a labyrinth of crags and shrubs, to a cavern covered by a thicket on the side of the mountain.

“ This cavern," said she, " is the court of Lilinet your friend ; in this place you shall find a certain remedy for all real evils." Lilinet then went before her through a long subterraneous passage, where she saw many beautitul firies, who came to gaze at the stranger, but who, fuum reverence to their mistress, gave her no disturbance. She heun tium remote corners of the gloomy cavern the wer of winds and he fall of waters, and more than once entwted return; but Lilinet, assuring her that she

was safe, persuaded her to proceed till they came to an arch, into which the light found its way through a fissure of the rock.

There Lilinet seated herself and her guest upon a bench of agate, and pointing to two fountains that bubbled before them, said : “ Now attend, my dear Floretta, and enjoy the gratitude of a fairy. Observe the two fountains that spring up in the middle of the vault, one into a basin of alabaster, and the other into a basin of dark flint. The one is called the spring of joy, the other of sorrow; they rise from distant veins in the rock, and burst out in two places, but after a short course unite their streams, and run ever after in one mingled current.

“By drinking of these fountains, which, though shut up from all other human beings, shall be always accessible to you, it will be in your power to regulate your future life.

“When you are drinking the water of joy from the alabaster fountain, you may form your wish, and it shall be granted. As you raise your wish higher, the water will be sweeter and sweeter to the taste; but beware that you are not tempted by its increasing sweetness to repeat your draughts, for the ill effects of your wish can only be removed by drinking the spring of sorrow from the basin of flint, which will be bitter, in the same proportion as the water of joy was sweet. Now, my Floretta, make the experiment, and give me the first proof of moderate desires. Take the golden cup that stands on the margin of the spring of joy, form your wish, and drink.”

Floretta wanted no time to deliberate on the subject of her wish; her first desire was the increase of her beauty. She had some disproportion of features. She took the cup, and wished to be agreeable; the water was sweet, and she drank copiously; and in the fountain, which was clearer than crystal, she saw that her face was completely regular.

She then filled the cup again, and wished for a rosy bloom upon her cheeks: the water was sweeter than before, and the colour of her cheeks was heightened.

« IndietroContinua »