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Mopsa The Fairy

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - MODERN FAIRY TALES





RETOLD FROM JEAN INGELOW

"For he that hath his own world
Hath many worlds more."


A boy, whom I knew very well, was once going through a meadow which was
full of buttercups. He sat down by an old hawthorn hedge which was
covered with blossoms, and took out a slice of plum-cake for his lunch.
While the boy was eating, he observed that this hedge was very high
and thick, and that there was a great hollow in the trunk of the old
thorn-tree, and he heard a twittering as if there was a nest somewhere
inside. So he thrust his head in, twisted himself around, and looked up.
After getting used to the dim light in the hollow of the tree, he saw, a
good way above his head, a curious nest. It was about three times as
large as a goldfinch's. Just then he thought he heard some little voices
cry, "Jack, Jack!"

"I must get near," said the boy. So he began to wriggle and twist
himself up, and just as he reached the top three heads which had been
peeking over the edge of the nest suddenly popped down again.

"Those heads had no beaks, and the things have no feathers," said Jack,
as he stood on tip-toe and poked in one of his fingers.

When he snatched one of them out of the nest, it gave a loud squeak, and
Jack was so frightened that he lost his footing, dropped it, and slipped
down himself. Luckily, he was not hurt, nor the "thing" either. It was
creeping about like an old baby, and had on a little frock and pinafore.


THE FAIRY BABY'S LUNCH

"It's a fairy!" exclaimed Jack, "and this must be a fairies' nest."

The young Fairy climbed up the side of the hollow and scrambled again
into her nest, and Jack followed. Upon which all the nestlings popped up
their heads, and showing their pretty white teeth pointed at the slice
of cake.

"It's a small piece, and I may not have anything more to eat for a long
time," said Jack; "but your mouths are very small, so you shall each
have a piece."

The young fairies were a long time munching the cake, and before they
had finished it began to be rather dark, because a thunder-storm was
coming up. The wind rose and made the old tree rock, and creak, and
tremble. The little Fairies were so frightened that they got out of the
nest and crept into Jack's pockets.

After the storm was over, Jack pulled one of the Fairies out of his
waistcoat pocket and said to her: "It is time for supper. Where are we
going to get it?" Then in the light of the moon he looked at her very
attentively. "When I first saw you in the nest," said he, "you had a
pinafore on, and now you have a smart little apron with lace around it."

"That is because I am much older now," said the Fairy. "We never take
such a long time to grow up as you do. Put me into your pocket again,
and whistle as loudly as you can."


THE GREAT WHITE BIRD

So Jack whistled loudly; and suddenly without hearing anything, he felt
something take hold of his legs and give him a jerk which hoisted him on
to its back, where he sat astride. It was a large white bird, and
presently he found that they were rising up through the trees and out
into the moonlight, with Jack on the bird's back and all the fairies in
his pockets.

"And so we are going to Fairy-land," exclaimed Jack; "how delightful!"

As the evening grew dark the great white bird began to light up. She did
it in this way. First, one of her eyes began to beam with a beautiful
green light, and then when it was as bright as a lamp, the other eye
began to shine, and the light of that eye was red. So they sailed
through the darkness, Jack reminding the bird once in a while that he
was very hungry.


TO THE FAIR CITY

They were sailing over the ocean by this time, and there were boats and
vessels. The great white bird hovered among them, making choice of one
to take Jack and the Fairies up the wonderful river which leads to
Fairy-land. Finally she set him down in a beautiful little open boat,
with a great carved figure-head to it. The bird said: "Lie down in the
bottom of the boat and go to sleep. You will dream that you have some
roast fowl, some new potatoes, and an apple pie. Mind you, don't eat too
much in your dream, or you will be sorry for it when you wake." Jack
put his arms around the neck of the bird and hugged her; then she spread
her wings and sailed slowly away. Then Jack fell asleep in the rocking
boat, and dreamed as the bird promised, and when he woke up he was not
hungry any more!

Morning came, and the Fairies were still asleep in his pocket. The boat
moved on through the night, and now he found himself in the outlet of
the wonderful river, the shores of which were guarded, not by real
soldiers, but by rose-colored flamingoes.

Now that he had fairies in his pockets, he could understand bird talk,
and so he heard many wise words from the birds of that country which
guided him on his way.

It was not long before he came to the city that was the capital. It was
a fair day, and the city square was full of white canopies, lined with
splendid flutings of pink. It was impossible to be sure whether they
were real tents, or gigantic mushrooms. Each one of the people who sold
in these tents had a little high cap on his head shaped just like a
bee-hive made of straw. In fact, Jack soon saw bees flying in and out,
and it was evident that these folks had their honey made on the
premises.


THE LITTLE OLD FAIRY WOMAN

After Jack had visited the fairy city, he went back to the river. The
water was so delightfully clear that he thought he would have a swim, so
he took off his clothes and folded them very carefully so as not to hurt
the Fairies, and laid them beside a hay-cock. When he came out he saw a
little old woman with spectacles on, knitting beside his clothes. She
smiled upon him pleasantly.

"I will give you some breakfast out of my basket," said she. So she took
out a saucerful of honey, a roll of bread, and a cup of milk.

"Thank you," said Jack, "but I am not a beggar boy, so I can buy this
breakfast. You look very poor."

It seems that the old woman was very poor; in fact, she was a slave, and
on that very day they were about to sell her in the slave market in the
city square. So Jack went along into the city again with her, and when
she was put up for sale, he bought her from her cruel master, although
it took a half-crown, the biggest piece of money that he had. His next
largest piece he gave to the little woman, and told her to buy some
clothes with it. She came back to the boat where Jack was, with her
hands empty, but her face full of satisfaction.


THE WONDERFUL PURPLE ROBE

"Why, you have not bought any new clothes," said Jack.

"I have bought what I wanted," said the Fairy Woman; and she took out of
her pocket a little tiny piece of purple ribbon, with a gold-colored
satin edge, and a very small tortoise-shell comb.

She took the piece of ribbon and pulled and pulled it until it was as
large as a handkerchief. Then she pulled and pulled it again, and the
silk stretched until it nearly filled the boat. Next, the little old
woman pulled off her ragged gown and put on the silk. It was now a most
beautiful robe of purple, with a gold border, and it just fitted her.
Then she took out the little tortoise-shell comb, pulled off her cap and
threw it into the river. As she combed her hair, it grew much longer and
thicker, until it fell in waves all about her body. It all turned gold
color, and she was so covered with it that you could not see one bit of
her except her eyes, which peeped out and were very bright.

Then she began to gather up her lovely locks and said: "Master, 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.


THE MAGIC KISS

Then instantly the little Fairies awoke and sprang out of Jack's
pockets. One of them had a green velvet cap and sword; the second had a
white spangled robe, and lovely rubies and emeralds around her neck; but
the third one, who sat down on Jack's knee, had a white frock and a blue
sash, was very little, and she had a face just like that of a sweet
little child.

"How comes it that you are not like the others?" asked Jack. She
answered: "It is because you kissed me."

"Somehow," Jack explained to the former Fairy Slave, "she was my
favorite."

"Then you will have to let her sit on your knee, master, sometimes," she
explained; "and you must take special care of her, for she cannot now
take the same care of herself that others can. The love of a mortal
works changes indeed to the life of a fairy."

"I don't want to have a slave," said Jack to the little lady. "Can't you
find some way to be wholly free again?"

"Yes, master, I can be free if you can think of anything that you really
like better than the half-crown that you paid for me."

"I would like going up this river to Fairy-land much better," said
Jack. So suddenly the river became full of thousands of little people
coming down the stream in rafts. They had come to take the Fairy Woman
away with them.


THE FAIRY WOMAN'S PARTING GIFT

"What gift may I give you before I go?" she asked.

"I should like," said Jack, "to have a little tiny bit of that purple
gown of yours with the gold border."

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 I advise
you," she said, "never to stretch this unless you want to make something
particular out of it."

"Will ye step aboard, my dearest?" sang the Fairy Woman as she sailed
away.

"Will ye step aboard, my dearest? for the high seas lie
before us.
So I sailed adown the river in those days without alloy.
We are launched! But when, I wonder, shall a sweeter sound
float o'er us
Than yon 'pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave, hoy!'"

All Jack had to do to make his magic boat go wherever he wished was to
give it a command, so he ordered it to float up the river to Fairy-land.

It was not long before the towers of the castle of the Queen of
Fairy-land could be seen in the distance; and soon the castle, with its
beautiful gardens, was close beside them along the river bank. But Jack
did not dare to enter the castle until he was sure of a shelter of his
own. So he pulled and pulled at the piece of purple silk, until it
became large enough to make a splendid canopy like a tent. It roofed in
all the after-part of the boat, so now he had a delightful little home
of his own, and there was no fear of its being blown away, for no wind
ever blows in Fairy-land.


TO THE PALACE

When the Fairy Woman went back to her people she took all of the fairy
children with her, and left only Mopsa with Jack. Now, Jack carefully
washed her face, and put a beautiful clean white frock on her.

"We will go into the Queen's palace together," said he.

The Queen greeted Mopsa and Jack very kindly; and every day they went up
to the palace, and every night back again to the tent on the little
boat.

One song which they liked to sing made Jack rather uncomfortable:

"And all the knights shall woo again,
And all the doves shall coo again,
And all the dreams come true again,
And Jack shall go home."

Every evening Jack noticed that Mopsa was a little taller, and had
grown-up to a higher button on his coat. She looked much wiser, too.
"You must learn to read," said he; and as she made no objection, he
arranged daisies and buttercups into the forms of the letters, and she
learned nearly all of them in one evening, while crowds of the fairies
from the castle looked on, hanging from the boughs and shouting out the
names of the letters as Mopsa said them. They were very polite to Jack,
for they gathered up all the flowers for him, and emptied them from
their little caps at his feet as fast as he wanted them.


MOPSA IS TO BE A QUEEN

Now it seems that as soon as Mopsa was full grown she was destined to be
Queen herself. One day, just before dusk, she said to Jack: "Jack, will
you give me your little purse that has the silver fourpence in it?"

Now this purse was lined with a nice piece of pale green silk; and when
Jack gave it to her, she pulled the silk out and stretched it, just as
the fairy woman had done, and it became a most lovely cloak. Then she
twisted up her long hair into a coil, fastened it around her head, and
called to the fireflies, which were beginning to glitter on the trees;
and they came and alighted in a row upon the coil, and turned into
diamonds directly! So now Mopsa had a crown and a robe. She was so
beautiful that Jack thought he would never be tired of looking at her.

The next morning Jack found that his fairy boat had floated away. He
called to it, but it would not return. "Never mind," said Mopsa, "my
country is still waiting for me beyond the purple mountains. I shall
never be happy unless we go there, and we can go together on foot."

So they walked toward the purple mountains hand-in-hand. When night
came, and they were too tired to walk any further, the shooting stars
began to appear in all directions; and at Mopsa's command they brought a
little cushion, and Jack and Mopsa sat upon it, and the stars carried
the two over the paths of the mountains and half-way down the other
side. When they awoke the next morning, there spread before them the
loveliest garden one ever saw, and among the trees and woods was a most
beautiful castle.

"Oh, Jack!" said Mopsa, "I am sure that castle is the place I am to live
in. I shall soon be Queen and there I shall reign."

"And I shall be King there," said Jack. "Shall I?"

"Yes, if you can," answered Mopsa; "and in Fairy-land, of course,
whatever you can do, you may do."

It was a long way to the castle; and at last Jack and Mopsa were so
tired that they sat down, and Mopsa began to cry.

"Remember," said Jack, "that you are nearly a Queen, and you can never
reach your castle by sitting still."

All of a sudden they heard the sweetest sound in the world; it was the
castle clock, and it was striking twelve at noon. As it finished
striking, they came out at the farther edge of a great bed of reeds,
and here was the castle straight before them.

Inside the castle lived a lovely lady, and when she saw Mopsa she took
her to her arms. "Who are you?" asked the lovely lady.

"I am a Queen," said Mopsa.

"Yes, my sweet Queen," answered the lady, "I know you are."

"Do you promise that you will be kind to me until I grow up?" inquired
Mopsa. "Will you love me and teach me how to reign? I am only ten years
old, and the throne is too big for me to sit upon, but I am Queen."

"Yes," answered the lady, "and I will love you just as if I were your
mother."


QUEEN MOPSA

When Mopsa ran through the castle door it shut suddenly behind her, and
Jack was left behind. After great difficulty he succeeded in climbing
the walls, and crept through a window; and when he got inside he saw a
very wonderful sight. There was Mopsa in the great audience-room,
dressed superbly in a white satin gown, with a long train of crimson
velvet, which was glittering with diamonds. It reached almost from one
end of the gallery to the other, and had hundreds of fairies to hold it
to keep it in its place; but in her hair were no jewels, only a little
crown made of daisies, and on her shoulders her robe was fastened with a
little golden image of a boat. These things were to show the land she
had come from and the vessel she had come in. At one side of Mopsa stood
the lovely lady; and on the other, to Jack's amazement, a little boy of
his own size, who looked exactly like himself.

"I will go in," said Jack. "There is nothing to prevent me." He set his
foot on the step, and while he hesitated Mopsa came out to meet him. He
looked at her earnestly, because her lovely eyes were not looking at
him, but far away toward the west.

"Jack lives there," she said, as if speaking to herself. "He will play
there again, in his father's garden."

Then she brought her eyes down slowly from the rose-flush in the cloud
and looked at him and said, "Jack."

"Yes," said Jack, "here I am. What is it that you wish to say?"

She answered, "I am come to give you back your kiss."


GOOD-BY TO MOPSA

So she stooped forward as she stood on her step and kissed him, and her
tears fell on his cheek.

"Farewell," she said; and she turned and went up the steps into the
great hall. Jack gazed at her as she entered, and would fain have
followed, but could not stir, the great doors closed together again, and
he was left outside. Then he knew, without having been told, that he
should never enter them any more.

Suddenly he perceived that reeds were growing up between him and the
great doors, and he walked on among them toward the west. Then, as the
rosy sky turned gold color, all on a sudden he came to the edge of the
reed-bed and walked out upon a rising ground. Jack ran up it, looking
for the castle. At last he saw it, lying so far, so very far off that
all its clear outlines were lost; and very soon, as it grew dark, they
seemed to mingle with the shapes of the hill and the forest.

He looked up into the rosy sky, and held out his arms, and called:
"Come! Oh, come!" In a minute or two he saw a little black mark
overhead, a small speck, that grew larger and larger. In another instant
he saw a red light and a green light; then he heard the winnowing noise
of a bird's great wings, and suddenly the great white bird alighted at
his feet and said: "Here I am."

"I wish to go home," said Jack.

"That is well," answered the bird.

As Jack flew through the darkness he thought once again of the little
boy who looked just like himself, who lived in the far castle; and he
did not feel sure whether he himself was upon the back of the bird or
within the castle with Queen Mopsa. Then he fell asleep, and did not
dream at all, nor know anything more until the great bird woke him.

"Wake up, now, Jack," she said, "we are at home."

As they flew toward the earth Jack saw the church, and the wood, and his
father's house, which seemed to be starting up to meet him. In two
seconds he stepped down into the deep grass of his father's meadow.

"Good-by," said the great bird. "Make haste and run in, for the dews are
falling." And before he could ask her one question, or even thank her,
she made a wide sweep over the grass, beat her magnificent wings and
soared away.


JACK COMES HOME

Jack opened the little gate that led into the garden, stole through the
shrubbery and came up to the drawing-room window and peeped in. His
father and mother were sitting there, his mother sat with her back to
the open window, but a candle was burning, and she was reading aloud
about a Shepherd Lady and a Lord.

At last his father noticed him, and beckoned him to come in. So Jack
did, and got upon his father's knee, and laid his head on his father's
waistcoat, and wondered what he would think if he should tell him about
the fairies that had been in somebody else's waistcoat pocket. He
thought, besides, what a great thing a man is. He had never seen
anything so large in Fairy-land, nor so important; so, on the whole, he
was glad that he had come back and felt very happy.

"I think," said his father, "it must be time this man of ours was in
bed."

So his mother kissed him good-night, and he went up into his own room
and said his prayers. He got into his little white bed and comfortably
fell asleep.





Next: The Line Of Golden Light Or The Little Blind Sister[i]

Previous: The Little Princess Of The Fearless Heart



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