Fairy Gifts

: The Green Fairy Book

It generally happens that people's surroundings reflect more or

less accurately their minds and dispositions, so perhaps that is

why the Flower Fairy lived in a lovely palace, with the most

delightful garden you can imagine, full of flowers, and trees, and

fountains, and fish-ponds, and everything nice. For the Fairy

herself was so kind and charming that everybody loved her, and all

the young princes and princesses who
formed her court, were as

happy as the day was long, simply because they were near her. They

came to her when they were quite tiny, and never left her until

they were grown up and had to go away into the great world; and

when that time came she gave to each whatever gift he asked of

her. But it is chiefly of the Princess Sylvia that you are going

to hear now. The Fairy loved her with all her heart, for she was

at once original and gentle, and she had nearly reached the age at

which the gifts were generally bestowed. However, the Fairy had a

great wish to know how the other princesses who had grown up and

left her, were prospering, and before the time came for Sylvia to

go herself, she resolved to send her to some of them. So one day

her chariot, drawn by butterflies, was made ready, and the Fairy

said: 'Sylvia, I am going to send you to the court of Iris; she

will receive you with pleasure for my sake as well as for your

own. In two months you may come back to me again, and I shall

expect you to tell me what you think of her.'

Sylvia was very unwilling to go away, but as the Fairy wished it

she said nothing--only when the two months were over she stepped

joyfully into the butterfly chariot, and could not get back

quickly enough to the Flower-Fairy, who, for her part, was equally

delighted to see her again.

'Now, child,' said she, 'tell me what impression you have


'You sent me, madam,' answered Sylvia, 'to the Court of Iris, on

whom you had bestowed the gift of beauty. She never tells anyone,

however, that it was your gift, though she often speaks of your

kindness in general. It seemed to me that her loveliness, which

fairly dazzled me at first, had absolutely deprived her of the use

of any of her other gifts or graces. In allowing herself to be

seen, she appeared to think that she was doing all that could

possibly be required of her. But, unfortunately, while I was still

with her she became seriously ill, and though she presently

recovered, her beauty is entirely gone, so that she hates the very

sight of herself, and is in despair. She entreated me to tell you

what had happened, and to beg you, in pity, to give her beauty

back to her. And, indeed, she does need it terribly, for all the

things in her that were tolerable, and even agreeable, when she

was so pretty, seem quite different now she is ugly, and it is so

long since she thought of using her mind or her natural

cleverness, that I really don't think she has any left now. She is

quite aware of all this herself, so you may imagine how unhappy

she is, and how earnestly she begs for your aid.'

'You have told me what I wanted to know,' cried the Fairy, 'but

alas! I cannot help her; my gifts can be given but once.'

Some time passed in all the usual delights of the Flower-Fairy's

palace, and then she sent for Sylvia again, and told her she was

to stay for a little while with the Princess Daphne, and

accordingly the butterflies whisked her off, and set her down in

quite a strange kingdom. But she had only been there a very little

time before a wandering butterfly brought a message from her to

the Fairy, begging that she might be sent for as soon as possible,

and before very long she was allowed to return.

'Ah! madam,' cried she, 'what a place you sent me to that time!'

'Why, what was the matter?' asked the Fairy. 'Daphne was one of

the princesses who asked for the gift of eloquence, if I remember


'And very ill the gift of eloquence becomes a woman,' replied

Sylvia, with an air of conviction. 'It is true that she speaks

well, and her expressions are well chosen; but then she never

leaves off talking, and though at first one may be amused, one

ends by being wearied to death. Above all things she loves any

assembly for settling the affairs of her kingdom, for on those

occasions she can talk and talk without fear of interruption; but,

even then, the moment it is over she is ready to begin again about

anything or nothing, as the case may be. Oh! how glad I was to

come away I cannot tell you.'

The Fairy smiled at Sylvia's unfeigned disgust at her late

experience; but after allowing her a little time to recover she

sent her to the Court of the Princess Cynthia, where she left her

for three months. At the end of that time Sylvia came back to her

with all the joy and contentment that one feels at being once more

beside a dear friend. The Fairy, as usual, was anxious to hear

what she thought of Cynthia, who had always been amiable, and to

whom she had given the gift of pleasing.

'I thought at first,' said Sylvia, 'that she must be the happiest

Princess in the world; she had a thousand lovers who vied with one

another in their efforts to please and gratify her. Indeed, I had

nearly decided that I would ask a similar gift.'

'Have you altered your mind, then?' interrupted the Fairy.

'Yes, indeed, madam,' replied Sylvia; 'and I will tell you why.

The longer I stayed the more I saw that Cynthia was not really

happy. In her desire to please everyone she ceased to be sincere,

and degenerated into a mere coquette; and even her lovers felt

that the charms and fascinations which were exercised upon all who

approached her without distinction were valueless, so that in the

end they ceased to care for them, and went away disdainfully.'

'I am pleased with you, child,' said the Fairy; 'enjoy yourself

here for awhile and presently you shall go to Phyllida.'

Sylvia was glad to have leisure to think, for she could not make

up her mind at all what she should ask for herself, and the time

was drawing very near. However, before very long the Fairy sent

her to Phyllida, and waited for her report with unabated interest.

'I reached her court safely,' said Sylvia, 'and she received me

with much kindness, and immediately began to exercise upon me that

brilliant wit which you had bestowed upon her. I confess that I

was fascinated by it, and for a week thought that nothing could be

more desirable; the time passed like magic, so great was the charm

of her society. But I ended by ceasing to covet that gift more

than any of the others I have seen, for, like the gift of

pleasing, it cannot really give satisfaction. By degrees I wearied

of what had so delighted me at first, especially as I perceived

more and more plainly that it is impossible to be constantly smart

and amusing without being frequently ill-natured, and too apt to

turn all things, even the most serious, into mere occasions for a

brilliant jest.'

The Fairy in her heart agreed with Sylvia's conclusions, and felt

pleased with herself for having brought her up so well.

But now the time was come for Sylvia to receive her gift, and all

her companions were assembled; the Fairy stood in the midst and in

the usual manner asked what she would take with her into the great


Sylvia paused for a moment, and then answered: 'A quiet spirit.'

And the Fairy granted her request.

This lovely gift makes life a constant happiness to its possessor,

and to all who are brought into contact with her. She has all the

beauty of gentleness and contentment in her sweet face; and if at

times it seems less lovely through some chance grief or

disquietude, the hardest thing that one ever hears said is:

'Sylvia's dear face is pale to-day. It grieves one to see her so.'

And when, on the contrary, she is gay and joyful, the sunshine of

her presence rejoices all who have the happiness of being near