The Children's Fairy

: The Diamond Fairy Book


IT was a dull, heavy afternoon, and the long, dusty road looked quite

deserted, not a horse or even a foot-passenger in sight. The birds were

taking their afternoon siesta, and the leaves were hanging down

languidly from the poor trees, which were dying with thirst. There were

three solitary-looking, tumble-down cottages on one side of the road,

and presently
he door of one of them opened, and a woman's voice called


"Come, Yvette, come, go out and play."

In answer to this summons a little girl of some three or four years old

soon appeared, and with great difficulty on all fours began to descend

the steep steps from the house to the footpath. It was quite a piece of

work, that perilous descent, and it was accomplished slowly, carefully,

and very awkwardly by what looked like nothing but a bundle of clothes.

The child had on a little bonnet made of two pieces of figured muslin

sewn together, and from which a few tresses of fair hair which had

escaped fell over her forehead and down the back of her neck. Her little

frock had been lengthened many times, and, consequently, the waist was

now up under the arms, like one sees in the Empire dresses. As to shoes

and stockings--well, it was not very cold, and so they were put away for

a future occasion.

When once she had reached the bottom of the steps, the child stood

upright and looked round for a minute or two, evidently deep in thought,

with her little finger pressed against her face. Play! Yes, it was all

very well, but what should she play at?

At the very time when the poor little mite was turning this question

over in her mind, hundreds of other children, accompanied by their

mother or by their nurse, would be all out in the gardens or parks, and

they would have with them all kinds of games and toys, from the

favourite spade and bucket to a real little steam-boat, which would sail

along on the ponds. They would have cannons, skipping-ropes, reins (all

covered with little bells), hoops, battledores and shuttlecocks, bowls,

marbles, balls, balloons, dolls of every description, pistols, guns,

swords, and, in fact, everything that the heart of a child can desire.

Then, too, those other children nearly always had little playmates, so

that it was easy enough to organise a game.

But, Yvette--on that deserted road, what could she do? Her father, a

poor road-mender, earned only just enough to make a bare living for his

wife and child, and certainly not a halfpenny could be spared for toys.

Yvette sat down just near a great heap of stones, which her father had

to break into small pieces in order to fill in the ruts. When she was

comfortably installed, she began to fumble in her pocket, and there she

certainly found all kinds of wonderful things: two cherry-stones, a

piece of string, a small carrot, a shoe-button, a small penny knife, a

little bit of blue braid and some crumbs of bread. Now, these were all

very nice in their way, and were indeed very valuable articles, but

somehow they did not appeal to Yvette at all just then. She put them

all very carefully back one by one in her pocket.

Then there was a profound silence. Yvette was not happy. The little face

puckered itself up into a significant grimace--the little nose was all

screwed up, and the mouth was just opening--tears were surely on the

way! Just at that moment, fortunately, the Children's Fairy was passing


Now you, perhaps, do not know about this Fairy, for no one ever sees

her, but it is the very one which makes children smile in their dreams,

and gives them all kinds of pretty thoughts. There is no limit to the

power of this Fairy, for, with a stroke of her magic wand, she can

transform things just as she wishes. She is very good and kind-hearted,

and the proof is that she bestows her favours more generally on the poor

and unfortunate than on others.

Well, this good Fairy saw that Yvette was just going to cry. She

stretched her golden wand out over the heap of stones and then flew away

again, laughing, for she was just as light and as gay as a ray of


Now, directly the Fairy had gone, it seemed to the road-mender's little

daughter that one of the big stones near her had a face, and that it was

dressed just like a little baby. Oh, it was really just like a little

baby! Yvette stretched out her hand, took the stone up, and immediately

began to feel for it all the love which a mother feels for her child.

(p. 118).]

"Ah!" she said to it, cuddling it up in her arms; "do you want to be my

little girl? You don't speak--oh! but that is because you are too

young--but I see you would like to. Very well, then; I will be your

mother, and I shall love you and never whip you. You must be good,

though, and then I shall never scold you. Oh! but if you are not

good--you know, I've got a birch rod. Now, come, I'm going to dress you

better: you look dreadful in that frock." Hereupon Yvette rolled her

child up in her pinafore, so that there was nothing to be seen of the

stone but what was supposed to be the baby's head.

"Oh! how pretty she is, dear little thing. There, now, she shall have

something to eat. Ah! you are crying--but you must not cry, my pretty

one--there, there." And the hard stone was rocked gently in the soft

little arms of its fond mother.

"Bye-bye, baby--bye-bye-bye." Yvette sang with all her might, tapping

her little daughter's back energetically, but evidently all to no

purpose, for the stone refused to go to sleep. "Ah! naughty girl; you

won't go to sleep? Oh no, I won't tell you any more stories. I have told

you Tom Thumb, and that's quite enough for to-night. Go to

sleep--quick--quick, I say. Oh, dear, dear, naughty child--I've got a

knife--what! you are crying again! If you only knew how ugly you are

when you cry! There! now I'm going to slap you--take that, and that, and

that, to make you quiet. Oh dear, how dreadful it is to have such a

child. I believe I'll change you, and have a boy. Now, just say you are

sorry for being so naughty----What! you won't? I'll give you another

chance. Now--one--two--three. Oh, very well. I know what I shall do. I

shall just go and take you back. I shall say: 'If you please, I've got a

dreadful little girl, and I want to change her for a nice little boy,

named Eugene.' And then they'll say: 'Yes, ma'am; will you have him with

light hair or dark?' 'Oh,' I shall say, 'I don't mind, as long as he is

good.' 'He'll be very dear, though, ma'am,' they'll say; 'good little

boys are very rare, and they cost a great deal.' 'How much?' I shall

ask. 'Why, one penny, ma'am.' And then I shall think about it----Now,

then, are you going to be good, and say you are sorry? No? Oh! very

well--it's too late now--I've changed you. I have no little girl now,

but a very pretty little boy, named Zizi."

The stone immediately underwent a complete transformation. Just now,

when it was a little girl, it had been very quiet and gentle, and had

kept quite still on Yvette's lap. Now that it was a boy there was no

more peace: it would jump about, and it would try to get away, for boys

are always so restless.

"Zizi, will you be still, and will you stay on my lap instead of

tumbling about in the road? There, let me lift you up! Oh, dear! how

heavy boys are. There, now, don't you stir, but just eat your bread and

milk. It will make you grow, and then when you are big you'll have

beautiful grey whiskers, like father. You shall have a sword, too, and

perhaps you shall be a policeman. It's very nice to be a policeman, you

know, because they are never put in prison--they take other people there

if the people make a noise in the street. Oh, Zizi, do keep still. If

you don't, I'll call the wolf--you know, the big wolf that runs off with

little children and takes them into the woods to eat them up. Wolf,

wolf, where are you?"

Just at that moment a dog appeared--a large, well-fed, happy-looking

dog, impudent too, and full of fun. He belonged to a carrier who was

always moving about from place to place, and the dog, accustomed as he

was to these constant journeys, had got rather familiar, like certain

commercial travellers, who, no matter where they are, always make

themselves quite at home.

Now, the dog had got tired of following his master's cart, and when he

saw something in the distance which was moving about, he bounded off to

discover what it was. This something was Yvette and her little boy.

"Look, look!" exclaimed the small mother, and there was a tremor in her

voice. "You see, he is coming--the big wolf!"

He was coming, there was no doubt about that, for he was tearing

along, and his tongue was hanging out and his ears were pricked up.

The little stone boy was not at all frightened, but Yvette began to

regret having called the dreadful animal. Oh! if she could only get away

now; but, alas! she did not dare to move or even to speak.

The impertinent dog came straight to them. Poor Yvette, half frightened

to death, threw away the precious stone baby she had been fondling, and,

picking herself up, began to run, calling out: "Mother! Mother!"

The dog was quite near her, jumping up at her, and then suddenly he

turned to go and sniff at the little stone boy. He probably thought it

was a bone or a piece of bread, but he was soon undeceived, and then he

rushed to the hedge to bark and wake up all the birds.

As to Yvette, she was hurrying along as fast as her little legs could

carry her, for she was in despair, as she thought the wolf was just

behind her, and she imagined that she still felt his hot breath on her

little hand. She stopped when she got to the steps of her home, for she

was out of breath and all trembling with terror, and she felt sure that

if she tried to scramble up the steps the wolf would bite her legs.

Suddenly the inspiration, which the ostrich once had, came to her, and

she rushed into the corner which was formed by the front of the house

and the stone steps, and holding her face close to the wall, so that she

could not see the dreadful animal, she was convinced that she too was

out of his sight.

She stayed there some minutes in perfect anguish, thinking: "Oh! if I

move, he'll eat me up!" She was quite surprised even that he did not

find her, and that his great teeth did not bite her, for she always

thought wolves were so quick to eat up little girls. Whatever could he

be doing? And then, not hearing any sound of him, she thought she would

risk one peep round. Very slowly she turned her head, and then, as

nothing dreadful happened, she grew bolder and bolder.

The wolf was not in sight, and instead of the barking which had

terrified her, she now heard a lot of little bells tinkling, and in the

distance she saw a waggon with four horses coming along.

The sound of the bells was so fascinating that Yvette forgot her duty as

a mother, and stood there watching the waggon as it approached.

The horses were all grey, and they were coming so fast. Suddenly the

child uttered an awe-struck cry.

Her child, her little son, was under the heavy wheels! Crunch! crunch!

and it had gone by, the horrible waggon. Yvette went on to the

horse-road, and her little heart was very full; for there, where poor

Zizi had been lying, there was only some yellowish crunched stone. Zizi

had been ground into powder by the huge wheels. The poor child was in

despair, and, with tears in her eyes, she shook her little fists at the

carrier, who was whipping up his horses.

"Cruel, wicked man!" she cried, and then her eyes happening to fall on

the heap of stones which had supplied her with a family, she saw another

stone smiling at her now. She ran quickly to it, picked it up and kissed

it affectionately, and then, happy in her new treasure, she cried out

defiantly to the carrier, whom she could still see in the distance: "Ah!

I don't care! I've got another--there, then! and it's a girl this time.

I won't have any more dreadful boys to be afraid of wolves, and to go

and get themselves killed just to make their poor mother unhappy."

* * * * *

Oh! kind, good Fairy, you who watch over the children, and who give them

their happiness and console them in sorrow when they are playing at

life--oh, good Fairy, do not forget your big children.

Older men tell me that I am young, but the younger ones do not think so;

and I, myself, saw, only this morning, a silver thread in my hairs. Oh,

kind Fairy, Fairy of the children, help me, too, to believe that the

moon is made of green cheese; for, after all, our happiness here below

consists in our faith and in our illusions.