: 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
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