Little Annie's Dream Or The Fairy Flower





BY LOUISA M. ALCOTT





In a large and pleasant garden sat little Annie, all alone, and she

seemed very sad, for drops that were not dew fell fast upon the flowers

beside her, which looked wonderingly up, and bent still nearer, as if

they longed to cheer and comfort her. The warm wind lifted up her

shining hair, and softly kissed her cheek, while the sunbeams, looking

most kindly in her face, made little rainbows in her tears, and lingered

lovingly about her. But Annie paid no heed to sun, or wind, or flower;

still the bright tears fell, and she forgot all but her sorrow.



"Little Annie, tell me why you weep," said a low voice in her ear; and,

looking up, the child beheld a little figure standing on a vine leaf at

her side; a lovely face smiled on her from amid bright locks of hair,

and shining wings were folded on a white and glittering robe that

fluttered in the wind.



"Who are you, lovely little thing?" cried Annie, smiling through her

tears.



"I am a Fairy, little child, and am come to help and comfort you; now

tell me why you weep, and let me be your friend," replied the spirit, as

she smiled more kindly still on Annie's wondering face.



"And are you really, then, a little Elf, such as I read of in my fairy

books? Do you ride on butterflies, sleep in flower-cups, and live among

the clouds?"



"Yes, all these things I do, and many stranger still that all your fairy

books can never tell; but now, dear Annie," said the Fairy, bending

nearer, "tell me why I found no sunshine on your face; why are these

great drops shining on the flower and why do you sit alone when bird and

bee are calling you to play?"



"Ah, you will not love me any more if I should tell you all," said

Annie, while the tears began to fall again; "I am not happy, for I am

not good; how shall I learn to be a patient, gentle child? Good little

Fairy, will you teach me how?"



"Gladly will I aid you Annie. The task is hard, but I will give this

fairy flower to help and counsel you. Bend hither, that I may place it

on your breast; no hand can take it hence, till I unsay the spell that

holds it there."



As thus she spoke, the Elf took from her bosom a graceful flower, whose

snow-white leaves shone with a strange, soft light. "This is a fairy

flower," said the Elf, "invisible to every eye save yours; now listen

while I tell its power, Annie. When your heart is filled with loving

thoughts, when some kindly deed has been done, some duty well performed,

then from the flower there will arise the sweetest, softest fragrance,

to reward and gladden you. But when an unkind word is on your lips, when

a selfish, angry feeling rises in your heart, or an unkind, cruel deed

is to be done, then will you hear the soft, low chime of the flower

bell; listen to its warning, let the word remain unspoken, the deed

undone, and in the quiet joy of your own heart, and the magic perfume

of your bosom flower, you will find a sweet reward."



"O kind and generous Fairy, how can I ever thank you for this lovely

gift!" cried Annie. "I will be true, and listen to my little bell

whenever it may ring. But shall I never see you more? Ah! if you would

only stay with me, I should indeed be good."



"I cannot stay now, little Annie," said the Elf, "but when another

Spring comes round, I shall be here again, to see how well the fairy

gift has done its work. And now farewell, dear child; be faithful to

yourself, and the magic flower will never fade."



Then the gentle Fairy folded her little arms around Annie's neck, laid a

soft kiss on her cheek, and, spreading wide her shining wings, flew

singing up among the white clouds floating in the sky.



And little Annie sat among her flowers, and watched with wondering joy

the fairy blossom shining on her breast.



The pleasant days of Spring and Summer passed away, and in little

Annie's garden Autumn flowers were blooming everywhere, with each day's

sun and dew growing still more beautiful and bright; but the fairy

flower, that should have been the loveliest of all, hung pale and

drooping on little Annie's bosom; its fragrance seemed quite gone, and

the clear, low music of its warning chime rang often in her ear.



When first the Fairy placed it there, she had been pleased with her new

gift, and for a while obeyed the fairy bell, and often tried to win some

fragrance from the flower by kind and pleasant words and actions; then,

as the Fairy said, she found a sweet reward in the strange, soft perfume

of the magic blossom as it shone upon her breast; but selfish thoughts

would come to tempt her, she would yield, and unkind words fell from her

lips; and then the flower drooped pale and scentless, the fairy bell

rang mournfully, Annie would forget her better resolutions, and be again

a selfish, willful little child.



At last she tried no longer, but grew angry with the faithful flower,

and would have torn it from her breast; but the fairy spell still held

it fast, and all her angry words but made it ring a louder, sadder peal.

Then she paid no heed to the silvery music sounding in her ear, and each

day grew still more unhappy, discontented, and unkind; so, when the

Autumn days came round, she was no better for the gentle Fairy's gift,

and longed for Spring, that it might be returned; for now the constant

echo of the mournful music made her very sad.



One sunny morning, when the fresh, cool winds were blowing, and not a

cloud was in the sky, little Annie walked among her flowers, looking

carefully into each, hoping thus to find the Fairy, who alone could take

the magic blossom from her breast. But she lifted up their drooping

leaves, peeped into their dewy cups in vain; no little Elf lay hidden

there, and she turned sadly from them all, saying: "I will go out into

the fields and woods, and seek her there. I will not listen to this

tiresome music more, nor wear this withered flower longer." So out into

the fields she went, where the long grass rustled as she passed, and

timid birds looked at her from their nests; where lovely wild flowers

nodded in the wind, and opened wide their fragrant leaves to welcome in

the murmuring bees, while butterflies, like winged flowers, danced and

glittered in the sun.



Little Annie looked, searched, and asked them all if any one could tell

her of the Fairy whom she sought; but the birds looked wonderingly at

her with their soft, bright eyes, and still sang on; the flowers nodded

wisely on their stems, but did not speak, while butterfly and bee buzzed

and fluttered away, one far too busy, the other too idle, to stay and

tell her what she asked.



Then she went through broad fields of yellow grain that waved around her

like a golden forest; here crickets chirped, grasshoppers leaped, and

busy ants worked, but they could not tell her what she longed to know.



"Now will I go among the hills," said Annie, "she may be there." So up

and down the green hillsides went her little feet; long she searched and

vainly she called; but still no Fairy came. Then by the riverside she

went, and asked the gay dragon flies and the cool white lilies if the

Fairy had been there; but the blue waves rippled on the white sand at

her feet, and no voice answered her.



Then into the forest little Annie went; and as she passed along the dim,

cool paths, the wood-flowers smiled up in her face, gay squirrels peeped

at her, as they swung amid the vines, and doves cooed softly as she

wandered by; but none could answer her. So, weary with her long and

useless search, she sat amid the ferns, and feasted on the rosy

strawberries that grew beside her, watching meanwhile the crimson

evening clouds that glowed around the setting sun.



The night-wind rustled through the boughs, and when the autumn moon rose

up, her silver light shone on the child, where, pillowed on green moss,

she lay asleep amid the wood-flowers in the dim old forest.



And all night long beside her stood the Fairy she had sought, and by

elfin spell and charm sent to the sleeping child this dream.



Little Annie dreamed she sat in her own garden, as she had often sat

before, with angry feelings in her heart, and unkind words upon her

lips. The magic flower was ringing its soft warning, but she paid no

heed to anything, save her own troubled thoughts; thus she sat, when

suddenly a low voice whispered in her ear: "Little Annie, look and see

the evil things that you are cherishing."



Then Annie saw, with fear and wonder, that the angry words she uttered

changed to dark, unlovely forms, each showing plainly from what fault or

passion it had sprung. Some of the shapes had scowling faces and bright,

fiery eyes; these were the spirits of Anger. Others, with sullen,

anxious, looks seemed gathering up all they could reach, and Annie saw

that the more they gained, the less they seemed to have; and these she

knew were shapes of Selfishness. Spirits of Pride were there, who folded

their shadowy garments round them, and turned scornfully away from all

the rest. These and many others little Annie saw, which had come from

her own heart, and taken form before her eyes.



When first she saw them, they were small and weak; but as she looked

they seemed to grow and gather strength, and each gained a strange power

over her. She could not drive them from her sight, and they grew ever

stronger, darker, and more unlovely to her eyes. They seemed to cast

black shadows over all around, to dim the sunshine, blight the flowers,

and drive away all bright and lovely things; while rising slowly round

her Annie saw a high, dark wall, that seemed to shut out everything she

loved; she dared not move, or speak, but, with a strange fear at her

heart, sat watching the dim shapes that hovered round her.



Higher and higher rose the shadowy wall. Slowly the flowers near her

died, lingeringly the sunlight faded; but at last they both were gone,

and left her all alone behind the gloomy wall. Then she could hear no

more, but, sinking down among the withered flowers, wept sad and bitter

tears, for her lost liberty and joy; then through the gloom there shone

a faint, soft light, and on her breast she saw her fairy flower, upon

whose snow-white leaves her tears lay shining.



Clearer and brighter grew the radiant light, till the evil spirits

turned away to the dark shadow of the wall, and left the child alone.



The light and perfume of the flower seemed to bring new strength to

Annie, and she rose up, saying, as she bent to kiss the blossom on her

breast: "Dear flower, help and guide me now, and I will listen to your

voice, and cheerfully obey my faithful fairy bell."



Then in her dreams she felt how hard the spirits tried to tempt and

trouble her, and how, but for her flower, they would have led her back,

and made all dark and dreary as before. Long and hard she struggled, and

tears often fell; but after each new trial, brighter shone her magic

flower, and sweeter grew its breath, while the spirits lost still more

their power to tempt her. Meanwhile, green, flowering vines crept up the

high, dark wall, and hid its roughness from her sight; and over these

she watched most tenderly, for soon, wherever green leaves and flowers

bloomed, the wall beneath grew weak, and fell apart. Thus little Annie

worked and hoped, till one by one the evil spirits fled away, and in

their place came shining forms, with gentle eyes and smiling lips, who

gathered round her with such loving words, and brought such strength and

joy to Annie's heart, that nothing evil dared to enter in; while slowly

sank the gloomy wall, and, over wreaths of fragrant flowers, she passed

out into the pleasant world again, the fairy gift no longer pale and

drooping, but now shining like a star upon her breast.



Then the low voice spoke again in Annie's sleeping ear, saying:

"Remember well the lesson of the dream, dear child, and let the shining

spirits make your heart their home."



And with that voice sounding in her ear, little Annie woke to find it

was a dream; but like other dreams it did not pass away; and as she sat

alone, bathed in the rosy morning light, and watched the forest waken

into life, she silently resolved to strive, as she had striven in her

dream, to bring back light and beauty to its faded leaves, by being what

the Fairy hoped to render her, a patient, gentle little child. And as

the thought came to her mind, the flower raised its drooping head, and,

looking up into the earnest little face bent over it, seemed by its

fragrant breath to answer Annie's silent thought, and strengthen her for

what might come.



Meanwhile the forest was astir, birds sang their gay good-morrows from

tree to tree, while leaf and flower turned to greet the sun, who rose up

smiling on the world; and so beneath the forest boughs and through the

dewy fields went little Annie home, better and wiser for her dream.



* * *



Autumn flowers were dead and gone, white winter snow fell softly down;

yet now, when all without looked dark and dreary, on little Annie's

breast the fairy flower bloomed more beautiful than ever. The memory of

her forest dream had never passed away, and through trial and temptation

she had been true, and kept her resolution still unbroken; seldom now

did the warning bell sound in her ear, and seldom did the flower's

fragrance cease to float about her, or the fairy light to brighten all

whereon it fell.



So, through the long, cold winter, little Annie dwelt like a sunbeam in

her home, each day growing richer in the love of others, and happier in

herself; often was she tempted, but, remembering her dream, she listened

only to the music of the fairy bell, and the unkind thought or feeling

fled away, the smiling spirits of gentleness and love nestled in her

heart, and all was bright again.



At length, one day, as she sat singing in the sunny nook where all her

fairest flowers bloomed, weary with gazing at the far-off sky for the

little forms she hoped would come, she bent to look with joyful love

upon her bosom flower; and as she looked, its folded leaves spread wide

apart, and, rising slowly from the deep white cup, appeared the smiling

face of the lovely Elf whose coming she had waited for so long.



"Dear Annie, look for me no longer; I am here on your breast, for you

have learned to love my gift, and it has done its work most faithfully

and well," the Fairy said, as she looked into the happy child's bright

face, and laid her little arms most tenderly about her neck.



"And now have I brought another gift from Fairy-land, as a fit reward

for you, dear child," she said, when Annie had told all her gratitude

and love; then, touching the child with her shining wand, the Fairy bid

her look and listen silently.



And suddenly the world, to Annie, seemed changed for the air was filled

with strange, sweet sounds, and all around her floated lovely forms. In

every flower sat little smiling Elves, singing gayly as they rocked amid

the leaves. On every breeze, bright, airy spirits came floating by; some

fanned her cheek with their cool breath, and waved her long hair to and

fro, while others rang the flower-bells, and made a pleasant rustling

among the leaves. In the fountain, where the water danced and sparkled

in the sun, astride of every drop she saw merry little spirits, who

plashed and floated in the clear, cool waves, and sang as gayly as the

flowers, on whom they scattered glittering dew. The tall trees, as

their branches rustled in the wind, sang a low, dreamy song, while the

waving grass was filled with little voices she had never heard before.

Butterflies whispered lovely tales in her ear, and birds sang cheerful

songs in a sweet language she had never understood before. Earth and air

seemed filled with beauty and with music she had never dreamed of until

now.



"Oh, tell me what it means, dear Fairy! is it another and a lovelier

dream, or is the earth in truth so beautiful as this?" she cried,

looking with wondering joy upon the Elf, who lay upon the flower on her

breast.



"Yes, it is true, dear child," replied the Fairy, "and few are the

mortals to whom we give this lovely gift; what to you is now so full of

music and of light, to others is but a pleasant summer world; they never

know the language of butterfly or bird or flower, and they are blind

to all that I have given you the power to see. These fair things are

your friends and playmates now, and they will teach you many pleasant

lessons, and give you many happy hours; while the garden where you

once sat, weeping sad and bitter tears, is now brightened by your own

happiness, filled with loving friends by your own kindly thoughts and

feelings; and thus rendered a pleasant summer home for the gentle, happy

child, whose bosom flower will never fade. And now, dear Annie, I must

go; but every springtime, with the earliest flowers, will I come again

to visit you, and bring some fairy gift. Guard well the magic flower,

that I may find all fair and bright when next I come."



Then, with a kind farewell, the gentle Fairy floated upward through the

sunny air, smiling down upon the child, until she vanished in the soft,

white clouds; and little Annie stood alone in her enchanted garden,

where all was brightened with the radiant light, and fragrant with the

perfume of her fairy flower.





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