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Was It The Field Fairy?

from Sandman's Goodnight Stories





Jack and his sister Nina were two little orphans who had to beg from
door to door for their food and a place to sleep.

One day a man named Simon told them if they would work for him he would
give them a home.

Jack and Nina thought Simon must be a very kind-hearted man to offer
them a home, so they worked just as hard as they could to repay him.

But in this they were mistaken, for Simon was a very greedy,
hard-hearted man and only offered to take the children that he might
get their work for nothing.

Jack did all the chores about the farm and Nina took care of the house,
although they were both much too small to do such hard work.

In return Simon gave them a place to sleep on the floor of the attic
and very little to eat.

If he had Nina cook meat for his dinner he would sit by the stove and
watch that she did not eat any of it, and when he had eaten all the
meat he would leave the bones and gristle for poor little Jack and
Nina, who were half starved.

One day Simon told Jack he was going to sell the big Brindle Cow to the
butcher and that he was to drive her the next day to the town, a few
miles away.

Jack and Nina were very fond of Brindle Cow and wept bitterly when they
heard this. They begged Simon not to let the butcher have her, but he
told them he would not listen to any such silly chatter and for Jack to
be off the next morning bright and early.

Nina put her arms around Brindle Cow and cried when Jack was ready to
lead her away and watched them down the road; but her tears blinded her
so she could not see far, and she went back to get Simon's breakfast
with a sad heart.

When Jack came to the woods he led Brindle Cow to a stream to drink,
and while he sat on the bank, waiting, he was surprised to see a Fairy
slip out of a lily as it opened.

"I thought you were never coming," said the little creature.

Jack thought it was to him she was speaking, and while he tried to find
his tongue, which clung to his mouth, he was so surprised, Brindle Cow
answered.

"We had to wait for daylight, you know," she said.

"Yes, I know; but the sun will soon be up, and I must get home before
that," said the Fairy. "Now what can I do for you?"

"Save my life! I am on the way to the butcher now," replied Brindle
Cow.

"You told me that day I did not eat the field flower in which you were
sleeping that you would help me if ever I was in need of help," said
Brindle Cow.

"Last night I saw one of your sisters and told her my sad plight. The
Field Flower Fairy would help me if I could only find her," I said.

"'Oh! She will be by the stream in the wood. She sits in a lily until
it is time to go home in the morning. I will tell her,' she said."

"'Of course I will help you," said the Field Fairy. "I will change you
into anything you like. What shall it be?"

"There is another thing, good Field Fairy," said Brindle Cow. "This
poor boy will be punished if I am not carried to the butcher and the
money he gets carried back to Simon. This boy and his sister have been
very kind to me. They never forgot to bring me water and gave me salt
many times when their master did not know it. I should not like to get
them into trouble, even to save my life."

"Oh, please do not mind us," said Jack, who at last was able to speak.
"Nina and I will not mind being punished if only you can escape the
butcher."

"I have thought of a plan," said the Fairy, "that will save you from
the butcher, and will not cause your two friends the least harm,
either. It is this:

"Instead of changing you into some other shape, why not change your
master into a kind and good man?"

"Oh, that would be best of all," said Jack, "that is, if Brindle Cow
does not object to remaining a cow."

"I would rather be a cow if I can be sure I am going to live," replied
Brindle Cow. "But you can understand, of course, there can be no joy
in life for me with that butcher staring me in the face."

"Well, that is all settled, then," replied the Fairy, "and though the
sun is getting well up I think I can get to your master without letting
the old Sun Man see me, for it is cool and shady along the road to the
farm. You two wait here and see what happens."

Jack wondered what the Field Fairy intended to do, but he would not be
surprised now at anything, so he began to pick some berries, for he had
not had his breakfast, and now Brindle Cow was sure she was not going
to the butcher. So she began to eat the sweet grass by the stream.

Jack thought she might speak again and he patted her sides and nose,
but the only answer Brindle Cow made was to rub her nose against him
and moo.

After a while Jack heard some one calling his name and running down the
road. It was Nina. "Oh, I am so glad I have found you!" she said.
"Come quickly; something has happened to Simon."

Jack let Brindle Cow take care of herself and hurried after Nina,
wondering what the Fairy had done to Simon.

But it seemed that Simon had brought on his trouble himself by trying
to save the wood that morning when Nina told him she needed more wood
for the fire. Instead of giving her more wood he had poured on some
oil and the flame had blazed up and burnt him.

When Jack and Nina reached the farmhouse Simon was on the floor,
groaning with pain.

Forgetting all the unkindness they had received at his hands, Jack and
Nina lifted him from the floor and placed him on his bed. Then they
did all they could to relieve his sufferings.

Nina bathed his face and hands and Jack bandaged them, and by and by he
fell asleep. When he awoke he asked for some gruel, and then he
remembered Brindle Cow.

"Poor creature!" said Simon. "I wish I had kept her even if she was
getting old; but it is too late now, for, of course, the butcher has
her."

Just then, "Moo, moo!" was heard outside, and for the first time since
he left her at the stream Jack thought of Brindle Cow.

"Why, there she is now!" he said. "I did not get to the butcher's this
morning because Nina called me before I had gone beyond the woods.

"I'll never sell her," said Simon. "Go out, Jack, and give her a good
dinner, and to-night see that she has a nice bed of straw in the barn."

That day for dinner Simon told Nina to have a good meat stew and that
Nina and Jack were to eat all they wanted.

Jack told Nina what had happened at the stream in the woods and asked
her if she thought the Fairy had anything to do with the accident that
happened to Simon.

"Of course not," said Nina. "Fairies always do good, not bad things,
and, besides, Simon must have been burnt at the very time you saw the
Fairy, and I wonder if you really did see a Fairy, after all. Are you
sure you did not fall asleep and dream it all?"

Jack was quite sure he did not dream it, but never again did Brindle
Cow speak--at least, Jack never heard her if she did.

But when Simon recovered from his burns and was quite well again
something did happen, and whether the Field Fairy and Brindle Cow had
anything to do with it Jack and Nina never knew.

Simon was a changed man, that was sure. He would not let Nina do the
work any more, but sent both of the children to school. He fixed up
the house and bought new furniture, and, best of all, he bought nice
clothing for Jack and Nina.

"And if you don't mind," said Simon to Jack and Nina one day, "I wish
you would call me Uncle Simon."

He even bought a nice horse and pretty willow carriage for the children
to drive to school; in fact, everybody thought Simon must have lost his
mind, he was so changed.

"It must be the work of the Field Fairy," said Jack when he and Nina
were talking over what the neighbors said about Simon. "She said she
would change him into a kind and good man."

"Perhaps she came and found him burnt and thought she would wait and
see what happened to him," said Nina, "but I think you fell asleep that
morning, Jack, while you were waiting for Brindle Cow to drink at the
stream."

"Brindle Cow saw the Fairy. Didn't you, Brindle?" asked Jack, as
Brindle Cow came up to the stone wall where Jack and Nina stood.

Brindle Cow looked over the wall straight at Jack and answered,
"Mo-o-o."

"It does not matter, Jack," said Nina, with a laugh, as she patted
Brindle Cow on the nose. "It has all turned out so well and Uncle
Simon could not be kinder or nicer to us now if he were our father.
Sometimes I think it is all because when he was so sick and helpless
that we were kind to him and did all we could even though he had almost
starved us and made us work so hard. I think he is sorry for it and is
trying to do all he can now to make up for his unkindness and make us
forget it."

"Perhaps you are right, Nina," said Jack, "so we will forget it, but I
am sure about the Field Fairy, and Brindle Cow knows it is true, for it
was the Fairy who saved her from the butcher."

But all the answer Jack could get from Brindle Cow was "M-o-o-o!"





Next: The Frogs And The Fairies

Previous: How The Buttercup Grew Yellow



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