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LITTLE DAYLIGHT

from Children Stories To Tell - For Classes Ii. And Iii.





Once there was a beautiful palace, which had a great wood at one side. The
king and his courtiers hunted in the wood near the palace, and there it
was kept open, free from underbrush. But farther away it grew wilder and
wilder, till at last it was so thick that nobody knew what was there. It
was a very great wood indeed.

In the wood lived eight fairies. Seven of them were good fairies, who had
lived there always; the eighth was a bad fairy, who had just come. And the
worst of it was that nobody but the other fairies knew she _was_ a fairy;
people thought she was just an ugly old witch. The good fairies lived in
the dearest little houses! One lived in a hollow silver birch, one in a
little moss cottage, and so on. But the bad fairy lived in a horrid mud
house in the middle of a dark swamp.

Now when the first baby was born to the king and queen, her father and
mother decided to name her "Daylight," because she was so bright and
sweet. And of course they had a christening party. And of _course_ they
invited the fairies, because the good fairies had always been at the
christening party when a princess was born in the palace, and everybody
knew that they brought good gifts.

But, alas, no one knew about the swamp fairy, and she was not
invited,--which really pleased her, because it gave her an excuse for
doing something mean.

The good fairies came to the christening party, and, one after another,
five of them gave little Daylight good gifts. The other two stood among
the guests, so that no one noticed them. The swamp fairy thought there
were no more of them; so she stepped forward, just as the archbishop was
handing the baby back to the lady-in-waiting.

"I am just a little deaf," she said, mumbling a laugh with her toothless
gums. "Will your reverence tell me the baby's name again?"

"Certainly, my good woman," said the bishop; "the infant is little
Daylight."

"And little Daylight it shall be, forsooth," cried the bad fairy. "I
decree that she shall sleep all day." Then she laughed a horrid shrieking
laugh, "He, he, hi, hi!"

Everyone looked at everyone else in despair, but out stepped the sixth
good fairy, who by arrangement with her sisters had remained in the
background to undo what she could of any evil that the swamp fairy might
decree.

"Then at least she shall wake all night," she said, sadly.

"Ah!" screamed the swamp fairy, "you spoke before I had finished, which is
against the law, and gives me another chance." All the fairies started at
once to say, "I beg your pardon!" But the bad fairy said, "I had only
laughed 'he, he!' and 'hi, hi!' I had still 'ho, ho!' and 'hu, hu!' to
laugh."

The fairies could not gainsay this, and the bad fairy had her other
chance. She said,--

"Since she is to wake all night, I decree that she shall wax and wane with
the moon! Ho, ho, hu, hu!"

Out stepped the seventh good fairy. "Until a prince shall kiss her without
knowing who she is," she said, quickly.

The swamp fairy had been prepared for the trick of keeping back one good
fairy, but she had not suspected it of two, and she could not say a word,
for she had laughed "ho, ho!" and "hu, hu!"

The poor king and queen looked sad enough. "We don't know what you mean,"
they said to the good fairy who had spoken last. But the good fairy
smiled. "The meaning of the thing will come with the thing," she said.

That was the end of the party, but it was only the beginning of the
trouble. Can you imagine what a queer household it would be, where the
baby laughed and crowed all night, and slept all day? Little Daylight was
as merry and bright all night as any baby in the world, but with the first
sign of dawn she fell asleep, and slept like a little dormouse till dark.
Nothing could waken her while day lasted. Still, the royal family got used
to this; but the rest of the bad fairy's gift was a great deal
worse,--that about waxing and waning with the moon. You know how the moon
grows bigger and brighter each night, from the time it is a curly silver
thread low in the sky till it is round and golden, flooding the whole sky
with light? That is the waxing moon. Then, you know, it wanes; it grows
smaller and paler again, night by night, till at last it disappears for a
while, altogether. Well, poor little Daylight waxed and waned with it. She
was the rosiest, plumpest, merriest baby in the world when the moon was at
the full; but as it began to wane her little cheeks grew paler, her tiny
hands thinner, with every night, till she lay in her cradle like a
shadow-baby, without sound or motion. At first they thought she was dead,
when the moon disappeared, but after some months they got used to this
too, and only waited eagerly for the new moon, to see her revive. When it
shone again, faint and silver, on the horizon, the baby stirred weakly,
and then they fed her gently; each night she grew a little better, and
when the moon was near the full again, she was again a lively, rosy,
lovely child.

So it went on till she grew up. She grew to be the most beautiful maiden
the moon ever shone on, and everyone loved her so much, for her sweet ways
and her merry heart, that someone was always planning to stay up at night,
to be near her. But she did not like to be watched, especially when she
felt the bad time of waning coming on; so her ladies-in-waiting had to be
very careful. When the moon waned she became shrunken and pale and bent,
like an old, old woman, worn out with sorrow. Only her golden hair and her
blue eyes remained unchanged, and this gave her a terribly strange look.
At last, as the moon disappeared, she faded away to a little, bowed, old
creature, asleep and helpless.

No wonder she liked best to be alone! She got in the way of wandering by
herself in the beautiful wood, playing in the moonlight when she was
well, stealing away in the shadows when she was fading with the moon. Her
father had a lovely little house of roses and vines built for her, there.
It stood at the edge of a most beautiful open glade, inside the wood,
where the moon shone best. There the princess lived with her ladies. And
there she danced when the moon was full. But when the moon waned, her
ladies often lost her altogether, so far did she wander; and sometimes
they found her sleeping under a great tree, and brought her home in their
arms.

When the princess was about seventeen years old, there was a rebellion in
a kingdom not far from her father's. Wicked nobles murdered the king of
the country and stole his throne, and would have murdered the young
prince, too, if he had not escaped, dressed in peasant's clothes.

Dressed in his poor rags, the prince wandered about a long time, till one
day he got into a great wood, and lost his way. It was the wood where the
Princess Daylight lived, but of course he did not know anything about that
nor about her. He wandered till night, and then he came to a queer little
house. One of the good fairies lived there, and the minute she saw him she
knew all about everything; but to him she looked only like a kind old
woman. She gave him a good supper and a bed for the night, and told him
to come back to her if he found no better place for the next night. But
the prince said he must get out of the wood at once; so in the morning he
took leave of the fairy.

All day long he walked, and walked; but at nightfall he had not found his
way out of the wood, so he lay down to rest till the moon should rise and
light his path.

When he woke the moon was glorious; it was three days from the full, and
bright as silver. By its light he saw what he thought to be the edge of
the wood, and he hastened toward it. But when he came to it, it was only
an open space, surrounded with trees. It was so very lovely, in the white
moonlight, that the prince stood a minute to look. And as he looked,
something white moved out of the trees on the far side of the open space.
It was something slim and white, that swayed in the dim light like a young
birch.

"It must be a moon fairy," thought the prince; and he stepped into the
shadow.

The moon fairy came nearer and nearer, dancing and swaying in the
moonlight. And as she came, she began to sing a soft, gay little song.

But when she was quite close, the prince saw that she was not a fairy
after all, but a real human maiden,--the loveliest maiden he had ever
seen. Her hair was like yellow corn, and her smile made all the place
merry. Her white gown fluttered as she danced, and her little song sounded
like a bird note.

The prince watched her till she danced out of sight, and then until she
once more came toward him; and she seemed so like a moonbeam herself, as
she lifted her face to the sky, that he was almost afraid to breathe. He
had never seen anything so lovely. By the time she had danced twice round
the circle, he could think of nothing in the world except the hope of
finding out who she was, and staying near her.

But while he was waiting for her to appear the third time, his weariness
overcame him, and he fell asleep. And when he awoke, it was broad day, and
the beautiful maiden had vanished.

He hunted about, hoping to find where she lived, and on the other side of
the glade he came upon a lovely little house, covered with moss and
climbing roses. He thought she must live there, so he went round to the
kitchen door and asked the kind cook for a drink of water, and while he
was drinking it he asked who lived there. She told him it was the house of
the Princess Daylight, but she told him nothing else about her, because
she was not allowed to talk about her mistress. But she gave him a very
good meal and told him other things.

He did not go back to the little old woman who had been so kind to him
first, but wandered all day in the wood, waiting for the moontime. Again
he waited at the edge of the dell, and when the white moon was high in the
heavens, once more he saw the glimmering in the distance, and once more
the lovely maiden floated toward him. He knew her name was the Princess
Daylight, but this time she seemed to him much lovelier than before. She
was all in blue like the blue of the sky in summer. (She really was more
lovely, you know, because the moon was almost at the full.) All night he
watched her, quite forgetting that he ought not to be doing it, till she
disappeared on the opposite side of the glade. Then, very tired, he found
his way to the little old woman's house, had breakfast with her, and fell
fast asleep in the bed she gave him.

The fairy knew well enough by his face that he had seen Daylight, and when
he woke up in the evening and started off again she gave him a strange
little flask and told him to use it if ever he needed it.

This night the princess did not appear in the dell until midnight, at the
very full of the moon. But when she came, she was so lovely that she took
the prince's breath away. Just think!--she was dressed in a gown that
looked as if it were made of fireflies' wings, embroidered in gold. She
danced around and around, singing, swaying, and flitting like a beam of
sunlight, till the prince grew quite dazzled.

But while he had been watching her, he had not noticed that the sky was
growing dark and the wind was rising. Suddenly there was a clap of
thunder. The princess danced on. But another clap came louder, and then a
sudden great flash of lightning that lit up the sky from end to end. The
prince couldn't help shutting his eyes, but he opened them quickly to see
if Daylight was hurt. Alas, she was lying on the ground. The prince ran to
her, but she was already up again.

"Who are you?" she said.

"I thought," stammered the prince, "you might be hurt."

"There is nothing the matter. Go away."

The prince went sadly.

"Come back," said the princess. The prince came. "I like you, you do as
you are told. Are you good?"

"Not so good as I should like to be," said the prince.

"Then go and grow better," said the princess.

The prince went, more sadly.

"Come back," said the princess. The prince came. "I think you must be a
prince," she said.

"Why?" said the prince.

"Because you do as you are told, and you tell the truth. Will you tell me
what the sun looks like?"

"Why, everybody knows that," said the prince.

"I am different from everybody," said the princess,--"I don't know."

"But," said the prince, "do you not look when you wake up in the morning?"

"That's just it," said the princess, "I never do wake up in the morning. I
never can wake up until--" Then the princess remembered that she was
talking to a prince, and putting her hands over her face she walked
swiftly away. The prince followed her, but she turned and put up her hand
to tell him not to. And like the gentleman prince that he was, he obeyed
her at once.

Now all this time, the wicked swamp fairy had not known a word about what
was going on. But now she found out, and she was furious, for fear that
little Daylight should be delivered from her spell. So she cast her spells
to keep the prince from finding Daylight again. Night after night the poor
prince wandered and wandered, and never could find the little dell. And
when daytime came, of course, there was no princess to be seen. Finally,
at the time that the moon was almost gone, the swamp fairy stopped her
spells, because she knew that by this time Daylight would be so changed
and ugly that the prince would never know her if he did see her. She said
to herself with a wicked laugh:--

"No fear of his wanting to kiss her now!"

That night the prince did find the dell, but no princess came. A little
after midnight he passed near the lovely little house where she lived, and
there he overheard her waiting-women talking about her. They seemed in
great distress. They were saying that the princess had wandered into the
woods and was lost. The prince didn't know, of course, what it meant, but
he did understand that the princess was lost somewhere, and he started off
to find her. After he had gone a long way without finding her, he came to
a big old tree, and there he thought he would light a fire to show her the
way if she should happen to see it.

As the blaze flared up, he suddenly saw a little black heap on the other
side of the tree. Somebody was lying there. He ran to the spot, his heart
beating with hope. But when he lifted the cloak which was huddled about
the form, he saw at once that it was not Daylight. A pinched, withered,
white, little old woman's face shone out at him. The hood was drawn close
down over her forehead, the eyes were closed, and as the prince lifted
the cloak, the old woman's lips moaned faintly.

"Oh, poor mother," said the prince, "what is the matter?" The old woman
only moaned again. The prince lifted her and carried her over to the warm
fire, and rubbed her hands, trying to find out what was the matter. But
she only moaned, and her face was so terribly strange and white that the
prince's tender heart ached for her. Remembering his little flask, he
poured some of his liquid between her lips, and then he thought the best
thing he could do was to carry her to the princess's house, where she
could be taken care of.

As he lifted the poor little form in his arms, two great tears stole out
from the old woman's closed eyes and ran down her wrinkled cheeks.

"Oh, poor, poor mother," said the prince pityingly; and he stooped and
kissed her withered lips.

As he walked through the forest with the old woman in his arms, it seemed
to him that she grew heavier and heavier; he could hardly carry her at
all; and then she stirred, and at last he was obliged to set her down, to
rest. He meant to lay her on the ground. But the old woman stood upon her
feet.

And then the hood fell back from her face. As she looked up at the prince,
the first, long, yellow ray of the rising sun struck full upon her,--and
it was the Princess Daylight! Her hair was golden as the sun itself, and
her eyes as blue as the flower that grows in the corn.

The prince fell on his knees before her. But she gave him her hand and
made him rise.

"You kissed me when I was an old woman," said the princess, "I'll kiss you
now that I am a young princess." And she did.

And then she turned her face toward the dawn.

"Dear Prince," she said, "is that the sun?"





Next: THE SAILOR MAN

Previous: THE STORY OF WYLIE



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