Earning One's Own Living by Lydia Maria Child
"What a shame, girls!" exclaimed Anna; "Clara Morton's things have been
sent for, and she is not coming to school any longer. Her father has
failed, and they are to give up house and furniture, horses and carriage,
and the girls are going out to earn their own living."
"Not really?" said Fanny.
"Why, every one knows it."
"You do not mean to say that Clara Morton is going to earn her own
living," said little Effie. "The last person in the world! Why, I do not
believe she ever sewed a stitch in her life. She never even brought her
own books to school, but had them carried for her by a boy."
"But there are other ways of earning a living besides sewing. Clara plays
beautifully, and could give music lessons as well as——; well—perhaps
not as well as Mr. Cantari."
"No, indeed! Can you not see one of his queer smiles at the idea of one of
us girls giving lessons?"
"I know it. How flat one feels, after playing a piece so splendidly, to
turn round and meet, for one's only applause, that incomprehensible smile!
Poor Clara! I hope that smile will not meet her, wherever she goes in the
world. I am sure it will haunt me, for I can never see it without a dim
apprehension of the possible fate that awaits our lessons and
accomplishments in that formidable ocean into which our school days are to
"Your geographical comparison is very natural for you; but as I do not
pride myself upon my acquirements in that branch, I confess I do not see
what it has to do with Mr. Cantari's smile."
"You do not take music lessons, I believe, Miss Erudition; and perhaps the
forebodings of examination day would be a comparison in which you would be
more at home. I only hope poor Clara will not be reminded of it by the
world into which she has fallen."
"Now do tell us, Anna, what you mean by the world."
"Why, the world is—the people that laugh at every thing we school
girls do. Not exactly that, but the people who know how every thing should
be done, and give one of Mr. Cantari's smiles at our way of doing it; they
do not always know how, either. It is not that—it is—it is—you
girls sitting there, calmly watching me extricating myself from my
definition. Well now, into this world, whatever it is, Clara has dropped,
just as if she had been riding in something, and the bottom had come out,
leaving her standing on the actual ground; and the poor child must walk on
her feet which any little barefooted beggar girl can do better than she."
"That reminds me of a funny adventure which happened to me, when I was a
little girl, in India," said Effie.
"In India! O, do tell us about it."
"You know I was born in India, where the people—that is, the people
who are any body—never think of walking, but ride in palanquins
carried on men's shoulders. These coolies, as they are called, are just
like horses here, and one never thinks of their having any will of their
own, or any thought, but of trotting patiently all day under the
palanquin. As for me, I hardly knew there was such a thing as the ground,
till one day the palanquin bearers, for some reason which I never
understood,—a quarrel among themselves I believe,—suddenly set
the palanquin down on the ground, and left me all alone in a strange part
of the city, crying, and begging the passers by (who did not understand a
word I said) to carry me home; but I never should have reached there if I
had not been found by some one who knew our family."
"What a wonderful adventure, to be sure!"
"Well, I thought I had something to tell when I began. I am sure I know
now what you mean by Mr. Cantari's smile. But it was not so much my little
adventure in itself, though that always seemed something till now; but
after that I never could get the palanquin out of my head. It seemed to me
that all the people in India lived in palanquins, except the poor people,
and that they were nothing but bearers. No one did any work, not even the
servants, for every servant seemed to have another under him, though, to
be sure, there must have been some at last with their feet on the ground,
trudging along to carry on the household. But this was always a puzzle to
me, and I used to wonder if some time every thing would come down to the
ground, like the palanquin; for the bearers were human beings after all,
and I had found, for once, at least, that they had wills of their own. But
this was, I suppose, something like the fear of the Indians, which some of
you say you always had when little children. I do not think it could have
troubled me much, however, for I remember I used to lie all day in a
hammock, reading story books, with a half-waking and half-sleeping sense
of the poor story writers being palanquin bearers, to carry us about so
delightfully, without any thought or trouble on our part. But really, now,
was it not natural to be reminded of all this by Clara's situation? Was it
not, Miss Revere?"
"Yes, Effie," answered Miss Revere. "And probably we could each of us
remember a similar impression, if we would recall the circumstance in our
lives which brought us into closest contact with the reality of life,
which Clara is now finding, I fear, so different from her school-girl
ideas of it For my own part, you have reminded me of my earliest years,
when my palanquin, also, was set down with a shock I have never
"Why, were you ever in India, Miss Revere?" asked Fanny.
"No, dear, but Effie has already hinted that the country of palanquins is
not so far from us as that."
"Do tell us about it, Miss Revere. I have always longed to know your
history, for I was sure you had one. You seem to be so apart from us
girls, and to do every thing as if you had done it before, and as if you
stood so far back, that things which make us happy or unhappy are only
things to be looked at by you, just like Leonora, who is always quietly
sketching us, when the greatest excitement is going on."
"I will tell you, if you wish, all that is to be told of a life, which,
with one exception, has been without events, that would appear such to any
one but myself. It will only, therefore, be the result, and not the
history of my life, which I can tell you, and that rather for the pleasure
I shall have in exacting the same of you, than for any I shall take in
recalling my own. I say there has been but one event in my life; it was
that which left me an orphan. O girls, we speak of Clara's coming down to
the ground; we speak of seeing our way clear, and treading on solid
ground; these are expressions of those whose feet only would walk upon the
ground, while their hearts and eyes are on a level with those about them,
who have never known how hard to the forehead is the ground, when all we
love lie beneath it; how one hides her face in terror from the vacant air,
finding her only refuge in the earth, where lies all her grief. But I do
not wish to bring my dark robe among your gay dresses."
"O Miss Revere!"
"Tell me if you think it possible for one who is absolutely alone in the
world to be happy, after having once been so with others?"
"I cannot imagine being alone, any more than I can imagine a sound,
without being there to hear it," answered Anna.
"Poor Mr. Polanco, in the Darien expedition! Was not that absolute
solitude? After being left to die alone by his companions, who were forced
by starvation to desert him, think of his bones being found long after,
stretched on the grave of his friend, who had been buried a day's march
behind!" said Miss Revere.
"I know. Was it not frightful?" said Anna. "Can you imagine a solitude so
appalling, that a dying man would drag himself a whole day's march (poor
men! it was but a few miles in their condition) to find in a grave some
semblance of human society."
"As if a drowning sailor, in an Arctic sea, should swim to an island of
ice," said Kate.
"Only think how many have gone down in the sea with nothing in sight but
the waves; and people have fallen down precipices, and known they were
going, and no one has ever known what they have felt. We only hear about
those who are saved. I would give any thing to know the last thoughts of
those who have never been heard of."
"But, Anna, is it not the same to every one at the last moment?"
"Perhaps so; but it seems different."
"Ah, Anna," said Miss Revere, "that seems is the old story of the
palanquin again. Just as we seemed safer the other night, when we
all huddled together in one room, in the thunder storm."
"What an awful night that was!"
"And yet here we all are, safe. I never could have believed, years ago,
when I was lying alone in a heavier night than that, that I should ever be
sitting here tranquilly telling of it."
"O, yes, do tell us the rest."
"If I should tell you all, it would only be answering my own question,
'whether one could be happy after being left alone in the world by all
whom she loved.' Little thing as I was then, I learned that there is no
comfort from others, no diversion from a great calamity. Every thing that
one clings to for help is only the sailor's block of ice, which is itself
water. May you never know how utterly alone one is in a great sorrow; but
if you ever should, may you find yourselves, as I did at last, taking root
in the very ground on which you fall, and drawing a new life from the
reality of your desolation. Thus I had to earn my own living; and you can
judge if Clara's lot can seem a hard one to me, who have known so well
what poverty is."
"Why, Miss Revere, how can you speak of poverty? I thought you had every
thing you wished," exclaimed Effie.
"Dear child, I believe it is only those who have been unhappy, or in some
way thrown out of their natural life, who can understand comparisons. We
must all earn our own living in some way, and always in the way in which
our life is different from all others."
"I wish, Anna, you had not told about the sailor swimming to that awful
ice. I do not see the use of thinking of such things before they happen. I
am sure I shall never dare to go to sea," said Kate.
"How did you feel, Fanny, when you were out in the boat, in the middle of
the ocean?" asked Linda.
"Why, was she ever at sea?"
"And in a real shipwreck, my dear."
"What, Fanny here? Do, pray, tell us all about it."
"I thought every one knew about it. And yet I remember when we landed,—for
we were picked up by another ship,—and I thought every one in the
city would be thinking of nothing else, how strange it seemed that no one
thought much about it. We went up to a hotel, and every one was seeing to
his own baggage, and every thing going on just as if nothing had happened.
I suppose this is why I have never talked more about it."
"But tell us; you know we shall be interested in it. I have always wanted
to hear about a shipwreck from some one who had actually been in it."
"And then it was not so much the actual wreck. I think I rather enjoyed
it,—what I remember of it,—and I suppose I was too ill most of
the time to take much notice. But the voyage I remember distinctly, or
rather after a certain time, for I was so young that my first
recollections were about that ship, so that it seems to me as if I had
been born upon the ocean. I remember playing dolls in the cabin just as if
I had been in a house; and although it rocked about terribly, the vessel
was so large, with all kinds of other cabins and forecastles, and holds,
which I heard them speak of, but had never seen, that I never thought of
it as actually floating on a deep sea, and separate from every thing else;
for we were really, you know, thousands of miles out on this immense
ocean. But I always thought of it as something like the floating bridge at
the salt water bath, fastened in some way, at one end, to the place we had
left,—of which, however, I had no recollection,—and at the
other end to the place to which we were going, about which I had almost as
"I must have been kept in the cabin, I think, by my nurse, for I remember
so distinctly the first time I climbed up the steep stairs, and found
myself alone by the side of the ship. Now I think of it, I must have been
on deck before, for I have a confused sense of the glittering of the sun
on the waves, which seemed very near, and the spray, and the wind in the
ropes, and altogether like a city or a band of music; perhaps there was
music on board, though I don't remember hearing it again. But now it was
after sunset, and there were no little sparkling waves, but great, solemn
swells rolling, as if their loneliness, out there in the middle of the
ocean, was too awful to think of, out to the gray edge of the sky, so far
and vast all around, with nothing to hold on to, and then swelling up so
deep against the side of the ship, and lifting it up,—that great,
heavy vessel,—as they passed under; and then I felt for the first
time the motion of the whole ship, and the depth of the sea beneath it,
and understood what some one meant who had said one day at table, that
there 'was but a plank between us and eternity.' I had some sense of what
he meant when he said it; but there were so many planks in the ship, so
many decks, one below the other, that I never thought till now, that, last
of all, there must be one plank along which the deep water was always
washing, and if this should give way, we should go down 'with every soul
on board!' These words I had heard said by a very solemn man, a passenger,
who was also, I think, the one who spoke of the plank and eternity. After
this they were always sounding in my ears, and at night, after lying
awake, trying not to listen to the wash of the water against the side of
the ship, and not to feel it heaving up on a great wave and then sinking
down—down—till I felt certain something would give way, and we
never should come up, I would fall asleep, and dream the ship had sunk,
and 'every soul on board' was tossing alone on the waves, with 'only a
plank between him and eternity.'
"I forgot to say that we had a captain whom I loved very much; he was so
kind and polite to us all, and at the table particularly, was so attentive
to me, that I thought the ship would be safe so long as he was in it. He
was very young and handsome, and I thought he sat at the head of the
dinner table like a real nobleman. And so I believe he was, as I heard one
of the sailors say one day,—a gruff old fellow he was,—that
nobody but a lord's son would ever have given such an order as that,
whatever it was. I heard him say, too, one day, to a passenger who looked
as if he had something to do with vessels, that if the captain had earned
his own living, as he had, at the ropes, he would have known something or
other from a marline-spike. He said, too, that ships never would be safe
so long as captains who had never 'served up' were appointed over the
heads of old salts, like himself.
"I felt dreadfully troubled to learn that the ship was not considered safe
by an old sailor; but I could not make out what he meant by saying the
captain had not 'served up,' the only use of those words which I had ever
known being in reference to the dinner, about which the captain was always
very particular with the steward. I at last asked one of the sailors, who
laughed, and said it meant that the captain had not come up from the
forecastle, but had come in at the cabin windows. After this I gave up
asking questions of the crew, and puzzled myself alone over their queer
sea terms; but I took all the more notice of their ways towards the
captain, and soon found that he was not so great a man with them as with
the passengers. What knowing looks they would give each other, when
obeying his orders! There!—I knew when you were speaking of Mr.
Cantari's smile, it reminded me of something like it that had happened
years ago; it was that look, of those sun-browned, good-natured sailors. I
seem to see the captain now, standing so handsome and gentlemanly on the
deck, the color mounting into his face as he gave some order about taking
in sails, or tightening ropes, or such things, and the crew going about
this way and that, and looking sidewise at each other, with that
good-natured, wicked smile; I do believe the captain was more afraid of
that than he would have been of a pirate ship. There was one old man, in
particular, who was more grave than any of them, and never moved his face,
but had an odd way of smiling with his eyes at the men, and putting out
his cheek with his tongue; and the captain's voice always seemed to be a
little tremulous when he was giving an order while this man was standing
by. I was very fond of him still; but it was a great shock to me to find
the crew thought so little of one in whom I had placed such unbounded
confidence. What was to become of us now in case of danger?—though
of that I thought less than of that awful sea which lay day and night
beneath us; and now, more than ever, there seemed to be but 'a plank'
between me and it, now that the captain was no longer between the plank
"Then I thought how safe and careless of danger the sailors seemed to be,
and that it must be because they knew the ship so well, knew every timber
in it, and where it was, and how strong it was; and I determined I would
learn too, and asked the captain to tell me all about it; but I found his
knowledge of it did not reach much below the cabin floor, and the
passengers could tell me little. Then I said to myself, I will go to the
forecastle and 'serve up,' for I had found out by this time what that
meant; and this, Miss Revere, was really what you would call 'earning my
living.' I learned from the crew, and particularly from the same old man
who troubled the captain so much with his silent smile, and who would cut
little ships, and parts of ships, and put them together for me, so much,
that at last I could stand upon the upper deck and know every deck below,
and the principal timbers of the frame down to the very keel. I suppose I
could not have known all this very well, such a child as I was; but I had
learned enough to feel safer and to feel the motion of the waves through
the whole ship, up to the planks on which I stood; so that I felt no
longer like a loose piece of ballast, rolling helpless about, but as if
the ship were a great living thing, and I was its spirit and life. About
that time I used to go to the bow of the ship, when great waves were
buoying it up, and repeat, with my hair streaming behind my head,—
'And the waves bound beneath me, as a steed
That knows his rider!'—
some lines that I had heard from a passenger; till one day I turned round,
and there was the old sailor putting out his cheek, and winking to one of
the men; and I ran off as if I had seen a shark, and I believe I never
went forward of the cabin after that."
"But, Fanny, how could you remember so well what happened when you were
such a mere child as you must have been then? What you say does not sound
like a very little child," said Effie.
"I dare say many of the things I am telling were at the time very
indistinct and confused; but if I should tell them in the same way, they
would not have form enough for you to see them. Then I cannot remember the
voyage in course,—day after day,—but particular times I
remember just as distinctly as if they had happened yesterday. If I should
confuse a little what I felt then with what I have felt since, it would be
perfectly natural; for I do feel sometimes as if I had never left that
ship. I wonder if we never have but one thought all our lives? That ship
was then the whole world to me, and now the whole world seems the ship.
And that carries me back to one splendid night,—the only perfectly
beautiful night in the voyage,—in fact it is the only night I
remember; I suppose the nurse usually kept me below for fear of the night
air. That night there was a great deal of noise and talking in the cabin,
and I stole away to the deck. All was stillness and starlight, with a
gentle sound in the sails like the cooing of a dove, and every thing as if
it had been going on so for hours. A few long swells reached to the
horizon, and I could see their waving lines against the sky, and the light
came up from beyond them, so that the whole world seemed to be ocean, and
the ship the only living thing, swaying on its bosom as lightly as Anna's
cross, (what a beauty it is, Anna!) and the top of the masts sweeping over
whole tracts of stars, and the stars blinking as if keeping time with the
dipping of the vessel, till it all seemed a dance, ship and stars
together, the stars seeming ships in an ocean of space, and the ship to
hang in a liquid sky, and I,—there I was alone on the deck, my world
under my feet; and who knew but that in each of the stars was a being
whose steed bounded beneath him as intelligently as mine? Would not these
sometimes speak each other, as the passing ships? Perhaps they do now, I
thought, in a way as much finer as the ocean on which they all sail is
larger than ours; and by listening attentively perhaps my ear will become
fine enough to hear them. Now, what are you laughing at Kate?"
"Only to think how Humboldt would look, to hear you describing the world
which you had conquered so scientifically."
"Just as if I felt so now, and did not know that only a little child as I
then was would ever have such magnificent ideas of itself. I don't believe
even then I looked any wiser than you, when you came to school with your
new Geology, walking as grand as if you were treading on the old red
"Now don't, Fanny! We all feel proud enough of our new studies; it seems
like having attained the greater part of a science to have bought the
books; but we feel humble enough to make up for it on examination day."
"But all the time you have not said a word about the shipwreck," suggested
"O, yes, the shipwreck!" exclaimed the girls.
"I know that is all you want to hear; but you have put me out, so that I
shall make but a short story of it. Besides, as I said before, that was
the least part of it."
"Not long after that splendid night, I was called up on deck by the cry of
a sail in sight, which, you know, is the great event at sea. It passed at
some distance, though near enough for us to see it distinctly; but it was
a clouded sky, and the waves, dark and foreboding, left such a dreary
space of water between it and us, and the poor ship looked so forlorn and
helpless, tumbling about on the great loose waves, that all my old fear
came back. I thought perhaps there were those on board that dismal little
bark who thought, as I had, that they were carrying the centre of the
world along with them; and perhaps there were hundreds of other such,
scattered all over the sea in their poor little cockleshells, and our
great ship would seem as little and helpless to them as theirs to us.
After the ship was out of sight, and I was looking off indifferently in
that direction, all at once the back of an immense fish arose out of the
sea and disappeared. Perhaps it was the coming up of a storm which spread
a gloom over the sea, and made that huge black thing so awfully distinct
and lonely; but it was the most fearful sight I had ever seen. There was
that creature, out there in the middle of the ocean, in a security
frightful to think of, and we in an artificial fabric, which, at best, was
only the 'single plank.' To feel as safe as the fish, was now my only
desire, and I tried to give up all thought of the ship, and commit myself
boldly to the waves,—as I had heard Arion did, who was saved by the
dolphin,—not really, you know, but I could not even imagine it; when
it came to the last point, I could not even think of plunging into the
deep sea, and I went to bed dreadfully depressed, partly owing, I dare
say, to the mournful sound of the rising storm in the rigging. All I
remember afterwards was dreaming the fish had changed into a mermaid, and
was holding out her arms to me, and waiting for me to make up my mind, and
I was thinking that if I leaped into them, the sea would have no power
over me, and then plunging down and finding not her arms, but the cold
sea, then waking up and actually feeling the cold water dashing over me,
and a moment after, some one seizing me, and hurrying me on deck amid
shrieks and screams,—and then finding myself in a little boat,
crowded with wet people, and tossing about in the dark, not knowing which
was sea, which was sky. Only one thing I remember after this, and that is—after
the storm had gone down, and the boat was rising and falling on the great
swells, the sailors resting on their oars, and a clergyman in the boat
offering up a prayer, and then reading from a little wet Bible about Jesus
walking on the water and holding out his hand to Peter, telling him if he
had faith he could walk on the sea, as he did. I thought this was better
than Arion and the dolphin, and I could really understand how it could be,
though it is all gone now. I can only remember lying, crying, in the
bottom of the boat. I was so happy and weak,—for I think we had
nothing to eat after we left the ship,—and I would keep falling
asleep and seeing some one stretching out his hand to me, and saying 'It
is I; be not afraid;' then half waking up, and hearing some one say, in a
solemn tone, 'But a plank between us and eternity,' and if it had not been
for something, 'every soul on board'—and that is the last
recollection I have of any thing, until we were coming into port in
another ship; and every thing, as I said, was just as if nothing had
happened, only I was very weak, for I had been quite ill; and the captain,
when he saw me coming on deck, caught me in his arms and kissed me, which
he had never done before, and the grave old sailor with the queer smile
gave me such a hug. The smile was all gone now, and when we left
the ship I saw him shaking hands with the captain, with the most serious
face I ever saw. I had overheard the old man telling some one the captain
had shown he had the real grit in him, and if he had not had the
misfortune to be born a gentleman he would have been as good a sailor as
ever did something or other, I forget what; as if he had said he would
have been as good a sailor as he had shown himself a brave man."
"Is that all?" said Effie. "I thought when you came to the shipwreck it
would be something grand and dangerous."
"I suppose you would like to hear that the ship was struck by lightning,
and went down in the middle of the ocean, with every soul on board but me,
and that I drifted for days on a single oar, and at last came to a savage
coast with a horde of wild Arabs ready to pounce upon me the moment I
should be dashed upon the beach."
"That would be nice."
"Or to have had me swallowed by a shark, thousands of miles out of sight
of land, and then you might have told the story for yourself."
"O, I did not mean to complain of your story; and I dare say if it had
happened to one of us, it would have been the greatest event in our
"Just like my night in the woods which Fanny's starlight night reminded me
of. I have been thinking of it ever since she came to that part."
"There, Linda! I knew you were thinking of something else than my story,
and I believe that is the reason it began to sound so flat towards the
"But I should not have thought of it, if it had not been for what you were
telling; so that it shows I really was interested, as you would believe,
if you knew how much it was like that night of my own."
"Do tell us about it, Linda; were you out all night alone?"
"The whole night long. But I begin to think it was not so much of an event
after-all; you girls are so critical. It seems to me sometimes we are like
those stones which are full of caves, and grottoes of crystal inside, to
ourselves, while to others we are only common paving stones."
"But you must remember it is just so with all, and not contrast the inside
of your paving stone with the outside of others'," said Anna.
"I was thinking whether there was outside enough to my little adventure to
make it worth telling. But if it is thinner than that of the rest, it will
be easier to break open."
"There, Linda, you have let that stone roll long enough; now let it rest
with me and gather moss."
"I understand you, Ella. You are off now on one of your fairy stories, and
I shall have one listener the less. Well, I am glad of it, for I shall not
have you looking at me in your calm way all the time, and thinking how
much better you could tell the story."
"O Ella, let us have the fairy story, and call it the paving stone if you
please. Never mind if it is not clear to you yet, but think as you go
along," said Fanny.
"No; leave me alone. Perhaps it is nothing, and I know too well that no
story is good for any thing, unless one knows what it is going to be
before one begins."
"I hate stories with morals; they are just like going in the cars, where
all you think of is the end of your journey," said Kate.
"But unless you know where you are going, you would never go at all."
"But it is so pleasant to go off for a day's walk without knowing where
you are going, and with nothing to do but to enjoy what you see."
"Exactly as I thought when I set out on the adventure which led to that
eventful night. But you were about to say something, Ella."
"I was only going to say that things never look so well to me as when I
have some place to go to, and see them on the way. But the adventure."
"O, I set out without knowing whither I was going, though I found
something so like a moral before I was through with it, that my story
would be nothing without it."
"That may be, but you will not tell it in the same way."
"No, for I know well enough where it leads to, and my only fear now is,
that incidents on the way will not seem interesting enough to make it
worth the telling."
"Leave that to us, Linda; and now for the adventure."
"You remember what a time I had with Madam Irving, three or four years
ago; you were here, Fanny, and you, Miss Revere—you remember, of
"When you ran away from school and frightened Madam Irving almost to
death, and were so glad to get back again?" said Fanny.
"Well, I will not dispute you."
"But do not look so resigned about it. If you could only have seen the
contrast between yourself leaving the school room with the air of Queen
Catharine leaving the court, and your first appearance on the morning
after your return!"
"I suppose I did look rather cowed; but if you had gone through what I
did! It was all very well the first night, though I slept on the floor of
a miserable little hut,—well, I may as well compress it, for I see
you know something about it,—in the bed, then, of that little ragged
berry girl who lives up on the mountain. I slept on the floor at first,
but it was so cold that I had to give in."
"You might have foreseen, then, how long you would hold out with Madam
"Now, Fanny, you know I have always said—but it's no use. Well,
girls, I lay awake most all that night arranging my plans for the next
day. When I left the school, I had some vague idea of going home on foot,—three
hundred miles, you know,—with nothing but that little bundle, (how
long it took me to make up that bundle! I thought I never should get off;)
but then I feared I should be sent back, and the idea of facing Madam
Irving after taking leave of her as I had done—"
"Yes, it did come hard; I really pitied you."
"Fanny, you are too bad. Well, my mind was made up that night, and every
thing was clear before me for the next day's campaign. It seems that word
made a great impression on that little, impertinent Jenny. She was here
the other day at the door with her berry basket; and when she saw me, do
you think, she looked up sidewise, with the smile those girls have, and
said, in a subdued way, 'Campaign.' I wished she were in Guinea. To think
of the solemn way in which I had talked to that girl about the importance
of the step I was to take, and confided to her all the reasons for my
leaving a society with which I could not agree, and giving up all the
associations in which I had been born, and which were at variance with my
views of life, and living henceforth dependent upon no one but myself; for
I was really quite eloquent, I assure you, and inspired her with such
enthusiasm that she readily agreed to follow me, and share, as my servant,
the fortunes of the new life which opened before me. Poor thing! She had
nothing to lose, and every thing was gain to her. She had nothing to come
down to, either; for with her bare feet she was as near the ground as she
could be, and I had still a pair of shoes between me and the rough fields
over which we rambled all that day, though I did think of taking them off
at first, as I did not wish to have any advantage over her. I found,
however, before night, the advantage was altogether on her side, for she
made nothing of stones, and brambles, and bushes, that put me out of
breath, and tore me all to pieces. What a sight I was that evening as we
came to an overhanging rock on the mountain side, and chose it as our camp
for the night. The sun was just setting over an immense tract of country,
entirely new to me; and I might have been on the Cordilleras for any thing
that I recognized in that scene. It occurred to me, that, although, when
out on a ride or a walk before, I always took notice of every thing, here
I had been a whole day, and had actually never thought of looking up from
the ground. And even now, with all that splendid view and sunset before
me, and the feeling of being fairly embarked on a new life, where school
and civilization were already so distant that they were not to be thought
of, yet I am ashamed to say, the great subject that occupied my thoughts
was our supper. We had provided against that event, which we had looked
forward to half the afternoon—a great store of blackberries, which I
had conscientiously refrained from touching, though I was as hungry as a
"What an expression for a young lady!" said Kate.
"I really believe we all should be bears if we lived out doors, as I did,
for any length of time. Besides, any one who has seen you look at the
baskets when we have a picnic!"
"Ah, yes! On the mountain when I'm tired of gazing at a great, vague
"You know I think as little of such things as any one when we are at home;
but when we are out for the day, I declare a biscuit on a rock looks more
picturesque than any thing in the landscape," said Kate.
"That's a confession!"
"I believe you would all say the same, if you would acknowledge the truth,
except Leonora; and I suppose a tree or a rock looks just the same to her
as a luncheon basket would to us."
"You are always talking about the picturesque, Kate, like every one else
except Leonora. Now, once for all, what do you mean by it?" asked Anna.
"Leonora, you must answer for me, for I am sure you ought to know, if any
"I was thinking that you had already defined it as well, perhaps, as it
could be. But if I should tell you all you have reminded me of by your
comparison, we should never hear the end of Linda's story, in which I was
becoming quite interested. I was thinking what a good sketch she would
have made, sitting a little way down that mountain side with the ragged
berry girl, and that great sunset before them. So you must let me go on
quietly with my drawing, and while Linda is finishing her adventure, I
will be finding a point of view for my thoughts, which are just now rather
indefinite. If I knew precisely what the picturesque is, perhaps I should
not be sketching it; but if you must have a definition, perhaps this will
do for the present—to say it is the look of home which things have
in a strange place; and perhaps, to a party of hungry girls, a
prettily-arranged lunch on a rock, in the shade of a beech tree, with the
light glancing up under it from a bend of brook below, would be as near an
approach to that look as the circumstances would permit."
"I wish you had been with me, Leonora, instead of that little imp of a
berry girl. It was just that sense of not being at home that made that
mountain life, at last, so unbearable to me. Yet home without that seemed
so flat and lifeless, down on a dead level, with not a street or garden
but could be counted and measured. I thought if I could only have a hut on
the mountain side, with a goat or a dog, or something to give life to it."
"With a little girl or an old woman to do the work," said Effie.
"And some of us to come and take tea with you every other afternoon," said
Kate, "out in front of the house, with that great view before us. Would it
not be charming?"
"Would you believe it! I talked with that child as if she had been my
dearest friend, and I should be afraid to tell you how near I crept to her
side that night, as we slept under the shelf of rock. What I should have
done without her I do not know. I knew the next night, as you shall hear;
for, do you believe, that creature, after all I had done for her—"
"What had you done for her?" asked Kate.
"Why, I had—well, I had treated her like a friend, besides giving
her fourpence for carrying my bundle, and another for her share of the
blackberries, though I never thought of it till this moment, I believe she
had picked them all. In the morning, after waking rather cold and with a
feeling as if I had been jolted all night on a rough road, though nothing
could be more different from travelling than that still rock,—how
still it was, and every thing else too in that early dawn, every thing
gray and unsocial!—I tried to call out to break the silence; but the
sound of my voice frightened me. Just then the sun began to stream over
the tops of the trees, and a blue-jay pierced the air with a scream, as if
from the heart of the wilderness, and yet as if he had a right there which
I had not—as if he was at home while I was only thinking of it.
There was a harsh warmth in that single note, as if the sunlight was to
him what a good fire would have been to me, which I believe I needed
sadly, for it was at that time in the autumn, when the nights are cold,
though the days are so warm. I said that the sense of not being at home
was at last unbearable; I had not come to that point yet, and I resolved,
come what might, that I would stay on the mountain till I should feel as
much at home as the blue-jay, for I felt how really splendid such a life
was, even though I had had no breakfast; for I forgot to say that, seeing
a house at a distance, down the mountain, and having a little money left,
after what I had given the day before to that ungrateful girl, I gave it
all to her, to go down and buy something for us to eat. Just this once, I
thought, and then we will live like the birds and the squirrels. Yes, said
I to the distant house, as if it were the civilized world, I have now
parted with the last link that binds me to thee, and repeated aloud, in
the excitement of the moment, 'I have burned the ships behind me! I have
cast the die, and passed the Rubicon!' I must tell you that after I had
given utterance to these words, I turned round involuntarily to see if
there were not half a dozen of you girls behind me; and nothing can give a
better idea of the solitude of the place than that you were not. My only
auditor was a little striped squirrel, who disappeared with a chit,
leaving an acorn with the marks of his teeth upon it, which I picked up,
wondering if I could not also live upon acorns. I bit it, and found it
could be eaten in case of necessity. Now, I thought, I can be entirely
independent of all the unnecessary comforts of civilized life. Wherever I
may be, I can earn my own living by adapting myself to the place, and
assimilating to myself the fruit of every situation."
"The what?" said Effie.
"Well, I cannot remember exactly what I was philosophizing about. The
other day I found in one of my old dresses that very acorn with the marks
of my teeth and those of the squirrel upon it; I tried to bite it again,
but it was so hard that I could make no impression upon it. Then it
brought all that day's questioning back to me, and I thought if I had only
finished and settled it then, while it was new and soft, I could have made
it clear for my whole life perhaps, instead of letting it go as I did,
till it is so hard now that I must leave it where it is, and go back to
that girl, for whom I waited and waited until I was almost famished. Then
I looked around, and there were the rocks all waiting so silently, and
looking as if they had been waiting for ages, and could wait ages longer;
and there was I, like that single blade of grass growing in the crevice of
one of them, with only a summer to see and know them all. I could bear it
no longer, and rushed wildly down the mountain in hopes to meet the girl;
for any human face, even hers, would be better than that eternal silence.
The motion restored my courage, and before I had gone far I felt ashamed
of what seemed a retreat. I wonder if any of you ever feel so about any
thing that you particularly dread, that if you do not meet it then and
overcome it, it will come up again and again all your life, each time more
fearful than before, and harder to conquer. I felt so then, and determined
I would not give way; so I turned to retrace my steps; but I had rushed
down at such a rate, that I could not remember the way, and taking, as I
thought, the general direction, I went up and up, till I lost myself in a
labyrinth of rocks, that grew higher and higher, and I saw that I had
taken entirely the wrong way. But I was too tired to go farther, and
finding some bushes covered with blackberries, which I suppose no one but
myself had ever seen, I began to pick them for my late breakfast. When I
had picked enough,—and if you ever want to know how good
blackberries are, you must pick them, as I did, when there is nothing else
to be had,—thinking I had time enough before me to find my way out,
I sat down in the shade of a rock, and gradually lost myself in that great
dream of a day. What a day it was! I wondered if they were always such on
the mountains; it seemed to have an existence of its own, and I could
understand how a day can be as a thousand years. The insects murmured, and
buzzed, and chirped about me, as if they had such a sense of it, and were
concentrating all life into their little existence, perhaps as long to
them as my life to me, which I am sure would not be long enough to
remember and tell all that I thought of in that day.
"Then at last I began to come back to my former life, which seemed already
so far back, and to think of a little, common school day, and what you
were all doing. They have had the forenoon recitations, I thought; they
have had dinner, and now,—where can that girl be? I exclaimed, as I
looked up and saw that the sun had left one side of the ravine in the
shade, and that I must hasten to find my way out. But the farther I went,
the more I became involved, and at last I became aware, all at once, that
I was lost. It was as if some one had made the announcement to me, and I
received it at first with calmness, or as if it was felt suddenly by
something within me, and had not yet come to my understanding; but I knew
it was coming, and though I was perfectly calm, a great deal more so than
I am now in telling it, I walked quickly to a place where I could sit
down, and when I reached it, trembled so that I had to lean against a rock
for support. I did not then comprehend my situation, or hardly think of
it. I only felt frightened about myself, and thought if I could only get
my breath, or if my heart would beat, or stop beating, whichever it was,
and the tremor would pass off, I could look the danger calmly in the face.
At last I recovered so far as to feel all that had burst upon me at once
come back, step by step, till the truth of my situation stood before me,
solid and bare as those cruel rocks. It was late in the afternoon when you
could see, in the sunbeams over the shaded ravine, every insect; not a
breath of air stirring the leaves, and the great cliffs overhanging, as if
just ready to fall. The silence was stifling, and I tried to scream; but
the sound of my voice was so faint and childish, among those great rocks,
that I threw myself on the ground in an agony of terror, and if I had ever
wished for a good cry, I had it then. If it had been on the open mountain
side, or any where else but shut in there among those rocks!—but I
really felt they were closing in upon me, and would crush me. I cried till
I was too weak for fear, and then I found myself thinking of the blade of
grass in the crevice of the rock, and I seemed to be that grass blade, and
lifting at one end that whole weight of rock, never to get out of the
place till I succeeded; and then I thought of the tender flower stem,
which I had read of, lifting the heavy clod, and I tried to be quiet, (if
I struggled or moved I knew I should be crushed,) and to pervade that
whole mass with the gentle pressure, till I could lift it from off me.
This sense seemed a new breath of air in my lungs, to keep the mountain
from pressing me flat beneath it; and now I seemed to myself breathing my
own life into the inert mass, till imperceptibly it became lighter and
lighter, and at last I was free.
"When I waked up the stars were shining over me, and I seemed to be set
into the dewy ground, I had lain there so long. I positively thought for a
moment I had been actually crushed, instead of only dreaming it, and that
my body lay dead beneath me; for I could neither stir hand nor foot, and
every thing seemed so cold and distinct about me. I saw a moment after
that this was because I was chilled through by the night air and dew; but
the sensation was so pleasant—to feel free like a spirit—that
I remained just as I waked. How I did think of every thing that night!
There I was, lost; but I had lost all fear of that, so long as I was sure
of being there myself. This seemed a new starting-point, which it was
strange I had never thought of. Suppose I should be where I had been in
the morning; I should know almost as little where I was as now; for
without that girl's help I could never find my way back to the school; and
if I were there I should still be lost, unless I knew my position in
respect to every part of the world; and if I knew all that, still the
earth would be a ship without a compass, unless I knew its place in
reference to all the stars. The only place that I felt certain about,
after all, was where I was, for I kept coming back to that; and then it
seemed to me I was a ball of yarn, that had unrolled as it went, and now
all I had to do was to wind it up to where it started from. Would not this
lead, I thought, at last to the point from which all things have their
place? Then I remembered the long, sharp teeth of that little squirrel,
and how every animal has an organ which enables him to earn his own living
in his own way, and it seemed unreasonable to think that man had not one
to enable him to follow that clew. I had thought, at one time, of praying
for a direct interposition of Providence, which I had heard was the
shortest way of leading one out of trouble, for it seemed so much more
direct, the clear space above, with nothing between me and the stars, than
to be losing myself farther and farther among those black woods and rocks.
But then, I thought, what is prayer but feeling our way along that thread?
and is not my sense of this the faculty by which I may follow it
up? That thought was like a new sense of touch, and I felt the thread
within my hand, and was certain that every thing has within itself the way
"While these thoughts were passing through my mind, they seemed gradually
to become audible, and when they passed away, the same tone went on; and
as I listened, I could hear, in the stillness of the night, the dripping
and flowing of some little stream, far back in the mountain. As soon as it
was light, I followed the sound, and then the brook, till it led me down
the mountain to the open fields; and where do you think, girls, I came
out? Why, up there on the cleared part of the mountain, directly in front
of the school house."
"I saw you when you came in at the gate," exclaimed Fanny; "and what a
sight you were! But that is always the way; we always come back to where
we began. It is the reason, I believe, why we never have better stories
"You must allow there is some difference between coming back to the
beginning, and merely being there because we have never been away. As for
the story, I told you at the outset that you had nothing to expect. But
come, Leonora; I have given you time for your point of view, as you call
it; or perhaps, as I have come to a full stop, I can furnish you with
"You could not give me a better, for I have been thinking all along that
your story would almost do for mine."
"Do look, girls, at what Nora has been drawing," exclaimed Kate. "Here we
all are just like life, only so much better. How charming it is, when we
are all going on so, without thinking of any thing but what we are doing,
to find we have been making a scene for some one else! It is just like
sitting talking in a boat, and looking up suddenly, and finding ourselves
afloat on the lake."
"And you know I always enjoy more sitting on the shore, and seeing you,
than being in the boat myself," said Leonora. "It seems odd, perhaps, that
such a scene of life as that is should remind me of Linda when she waked
up and thought she was lying dead beside herself. But did you ever, Linda,
feel more alive than at that moment?"
"I believe I had never thought of myself at all before. You know I said
that all the time I was so troubled because I did not know where I was, I
never once thought of being any where."
"That, to be sure, is the most important, for it would be hardly worth
while to go round the world to find where our house was situated, and to
come back and find it occupied by some one else. That is often the case
with those who travel from home, and I believe we must come back every
night to be sure of not losing it."
"How every thing brings in every thing else!" said Kate. "I believe you
will never begin."
"I soon learned that," answered Leonora, "and that brings me to the
beginning of my story, if you will have it that I am to tell one, though I
would rather tell it in my own way, by drawing the illustrations to
Linda's, which, as I said, would almost answer for mine; but why should it
not, as we were each to tell something in our experience resembling
"Poor Clara! I had almost forgotten her," said Fanny.
"None are poor but those who think themselves rich. How proud I felt of my
first poor little drawings! How well I remember them! The house, and the
fence before it, and the lattice in the garret window, and then the great
elm and the brook, and by degrees the distant hill behind, for I kept
adding to my pictures as I advanced, having to go back farther and farther
for a point of view, till at last the hill on the outskirts of the
village, overlooking the whole, was my favorite spot for sketching, if I
may dignify my stiff little achievements by such a term. Still it was the
house that was the centre of the picture; but, as Kate says, one thing
leads to every thing, and I found there was no end to the things I must
introduce; and yet they did not seem to belong to the house, but to be
fastened to it in some way. I could not get them off, and remember, when
some one was saying that a painter of his acquaintance could not get his
pictures off his hands, feeling a certain pride in knowing that I was
contending with one of the regular difficulties of the art. But at last I
succeeded, in some degree, in getting my picture right, and did not
altogether disbelieve what every one said at home, that it was beautiful.
As I was led, however, farther and farther back, by the necessity for a
wider view, the house began to have rather a subordinate look; but still
it was my home, and nothing seemed a picture without it. As yet I had had
no instruction, as you would easily believe if you should see my
productions of that period, until one day, as I was bending over my
drawing board, (I was very particular about my drawing paper then, and
always had the best,) and had just got in the house, a shade fell across
my picture, and looking up, I saw a young man with camp stool and
portfolio slung across his shoulder, looking down at my work. I drew a
little back, that he might see it better, rather pleased that he should
see that I also was in that line. He glanced at the landscape, then looked
again at my sketch with a smile. He had not said a word, and yet the
opinion of all my family, aunts, cousins, and all, admiring my picture on
a thanksgiving day after dinner, would not have weighed a straw with me
against that smile. Yet he asked me to go on with it, which I did lest he
should go away, looking up now and then, and seeing him regarding my work
with the half-curious interest with which one would watch an ant-hill,
till at last I threw down my pencil, and asked him if he would not oblige
me with a sketch of his own.
"He gave one look at the landscape. What a look!—it was a new
revelation to me in art,—like an eagle taking in the whole view at
one sweep. He seemed to hold every hill and valley fixed with his eye as
in a vice, and to weigh the place and proportion of every thing as in a
balance, on the firm line of his mouth. All at one glance too; for,
without unstrapping his camp stool, he placed his portfolio on his knee,
kneeling on the other, and hardly looking up twice, handed me in a few
minutes a complete sketch. I say a complete sketch, for I had not known
till then that a sketch may be as complete as a finished picture. But I
forget that my story also must be a sketch, and I will not spoil it by
details which cannot be interesting to you.
"As soon as I saw his sketch, I found, to my astonishment, that he had
left out the house altogether; and even the village he had put away at one
side as of no importance. On mentioning the oversight, he took out his
eye-glass and looked at the house, asking me what particular importance I
attached to it. I timidly replied that I lived there.
"'Ah,' he exclaimed, and apologized for his omission, saying he would not
forget so important a feature in the landscape. 'Come' said he, 'you shall
be my guide over these hills, to which I am a stranger. Let us forget the
house for a while, and look up a new view of the village, which does not
come in very well here.' How strange it seemed to me that he should speak
of the village where I had been born, as a thing to be introduced here or
there at his convenience. Already his words seemed to set it afloat; but
when, after a long detour, leaving it quite out of sight, we came suddenly
upon the edge of the mountain, where the whole valley lay like a toy
village almost directly under our feet, it was like a fairy enchantment.
There was the actual village, every house and garden in its place, so near
that it could be seen distinctly, and yet so far down that it had a
foreign look. Then he took out a spy-glass, and adjusting it, handed it to
me. 'Now for the house,' said he; and after carrying the tube over half
the village, I exclaimed for joy. There I was directly at the gate; it was
at the back of the house, and the forenoon work was going on as usual. My
father was standing at the door giving some silent direction to the man,
who seemed to answer him without saying a word, and Jane was going about
like a historical personage, hanging out clothes.
"It was exactly as if I had been looking at a place I had been reading
about in some old book; and yet the persons were so familiar to me, more
so than ever. I handed the spy-glass to the stranger that he might share
my delight, but he did not care to look. 'That is the way,' said he, 'all
places look to me. To the artist the familiar is strange, and the strange
"I only thought the remark was strange, and wondered if it would ever be
familiar to me.
"Then he went on to describe the village as if he were looking at it, with
me, through the glass. 'Do you see the old woman at the window, looking
down the street? And the man asleep on the church steps? And the single
figure crossing the green?' Just as if they were all regular figures in a
picture, and not people who happened to be there at that moment, as they
"'Now for something new!' he said, putting the glass in his pocket and
leading me over the mountain. But nothing seemed new to him. He appeared
to look at every view we came to as if he saw it for the first time after
a long absence, and remembered every tree and stone in it. When I told him
so, he sat down, and opening his portfolio in a place unlike any I had
ever seen before, and not, I thought, particularly interesting, he began
to sketch, and to tell me at the same time, so that I should not be tired,
the old story which we have all read, (the first, I believe, we ever
read,) but which I let him tell, it was so new as he told it, about the
little child that was carried away by the gypsies, and years after, when
they came back to his native country, strolled off till he came to the
house where he was born; and the sense by degrees came over him that he
had been there before, and it all became clearer and clearer, until at
last the gate and the doorstep were no dream; and as he went over the
whole story, he would give a touch here and a touch there, that seemed to
waken a recollection in me, as if I were the little child he was telling
about, coming nearer and nearer, till, with a few strokes, he finished the
picture; and there, to be sure, was our very house, and I was the
little child he had been telling about. It was all perfectly clear to me,
though it is a mystery even now how he could have made it so. When I
looked again, I saw it was not exactly our house; and yet it looked even
more like it than if it had been, and there was nothing in it that I could
have altered without spoiling the picture.
"Then he would walk on, and sit down again and take another view with a
different house, but with the same home-like look, and yet exactly suiting
the landscape. And at last he would draw places without any houses at all,
and yet as if a human being was looking at them, to whom they were in some
way a home, just as he drew my bonnet and portfolio on the edge of a hill,
so that any one would have known I was somewhere about.
"As we went back, at the close of the day, every object he pointed out
seemed to light up with a life of its own, and every step we took was like
finding a bird's nest in the grass. He parted with me in the road, saying
that he had left his horse somewhere on the hill where he had found me in
the morning, and that he should remember the day with pleasure.
"As for me, I thought, as I walked slowly homeward towards the fading
sunset, that I never should remember any thing else. When I have read
since of the great days of Creation, which are believed to have been years
of our time, I have thought of that day, and it has not seemed necessary
that the old time should have been different from ours. It seemed an age
since I had left the village in the morning, and every thing looked as it
does when we go home at the end of term."
"We seem so much older, too, then," said Fanny, "and as if we had seen so
much, and should meet ourselves at the gate, little things as we were when
"I thought of myself, and my little sketches of the morning, as if I had
been a tame pigeon pecking about before the door, with its little, short
feet; and now I had seen the eagle which I had heard of, and his great
wings had opened for me all the wide space behind the rim of the hills
which enclosed the village. And yet it looked all the more like home for
being encompassed with that great region. Every thing looked so old, with
a new meaning, and as I approached the house, it looked as it had when I
saw it through the spy-glass, and the gate, as I opened it in the
stillness of the twilight, seemed to say, with its creak, 'The familiar
made strange;' for these words were to me like a sentence in old German
text in an English book.
"As I was dressing for tea, I heard the sound of a horse's hoofs, and a
moment after a knock at the door. Could I ever know the meaning of those
other words of his, 'The strange made familiar,' as I did when I heard it
in the sound of the stranger's voice?
"He had called with my portfolio, which he had carried for me, and I had
forgotten to take from him. I heard my father inviting him in, and when I
went down, there was my eagle sitting at the tea table, bending forward,
courteously, to take a cup from my sister, like any other visitor.
"'You see I am keeping my promise,' he said, 'not to forget the house
which I treated with such neglect in the morning.'
"I was too bewildered with the joy of my surprise to make any reply; and
taking my seat, which happened to be next his, I could only sit in
silence, and try to comprehend my happiness. It was as if I understood
perfectly the answer to some riddle, without knowing what the riddle was.
The china on the table, and the people, had always given me the feeling of
being fixed to it, like a doll's tea set, where the table and dishes are
all in one piece; and it made no difference how learned or profound my
father's visitors might be; when they spoke it gave me the unpleasant
sensation of taking up your cup and having the saucer come with it.
"Then, too, we were all so near at home, that we never gave each other
room; and if we did, it was by going away entirely.
"But here was a person who set every one off at a respectful distance,
himself among the rest, and yet preserved their relation to himself and
each other by encouraging their peculiarities, outside of that limit, and
set us all agoing by placing us at the right point of view, with, in some
mysterious way, the common sense of the whole party as spectator; so that
we were like figures in a landscape, which, while we were looking at them,
I knew, without knowing why, to be ourselves.
"Even grandmother, who always comes dead upon a stranger, and there is no
shaking her off, could not get within the charmed circle, but had to keep
in her orbit; and really she appeared like quite an entertaining old lady,
and all the more so for her peculiar style of conversation, which is apt
to be the family consternation at table. Our little group that evening
reminded me of a system of stars revolving around each other, with a
general motion of the whole in reference to some point without, which I
had a sense of, though I did not understand it; but I felt sure that our
stranger did; and this, I think, was what attracted me towards him, for I
felt the need of something out of the sphere of everlasting praises for
wretched little drawings, which I knew were only good so far as their
defects showed there was something better. Now, he stood on the outside of
all the things that he drew, and I knew he could see them as they were."
"I am sure I am on the outside of all you are saying," interrupted Kate.
"Which of us was it who hoped to get rid of moralizing by calling upon
Nora for a story?"
"Pictures themselves, as Anna said, may perhaps have no moral; at least,
they are not so prosy in telling it as I am; but those who have no moral,
no idea, are not usually the persons who paint them. But I see I have been
going out of my province; for a picture, whatever else it may be, should
be intelligible, and the painter's account of himself ought to be no less
so. So I will not tell you how I learned from one person, who had a place
to stand upon, how nothing can be seen as it is by one who has none. I
have at least learned to prefer standing on my feet to having even so
excellent a teacher as Mr. Moran for palanquin bearer."
"No doubt he would be glad if we all would relieve him, in the same way,
of a burden which he carries with such resignation," said Anna. "But he
certainly will be much indebted to you for the valuable information you
can give him in regard to your fixed point, although I believe the only
point he thinks of when here, is that on the clock, which marks the end of
"I am not so presumptuous as to think a school girl's ideas could be of
any value to an artist like him, though, if we may believe men, they all
draw from us their best inspirations. Perhaps, after all, it is the
destiny of us girls, in some unconscious way, with the finer instinct
which men attribute to us, to spend our lives in winding up Linda's ball
of yarn for them to throw out again."
"Thank Heaven the ball is wound up so far!" said Kate. "Now, Ella, do
break off the thread, and give it to the fairies to play with."
"O, yes, Ella, do! After all this scraping and tuning, let us have the
dance at last," said Effie.
"Positively I have not a word of it ready," answered Ella. "I thought of
something when I spoke, but it was like turning a kaleidoscope; with every
turn it became something else. And then I began to listen to Linda, and to
Leonora, and my story became so confused with theirs, that you would not
know it for a fairy story, if I should tell it to you; but if you will let
me off until I disentangle it, Anna, I know, will take my place, for she
never wants a moment's notice. If you should wake her up in the middle of
the night, and ask her for a story, she would immediately begin with 'Once
upon a time,' and go on telling it after we were all asleep. Come, Anna,
take the kaleidoscope, and I will give you the princess, the castle, the
grim father, and the disappointed suitors for beads to put in it. So give
it a turn, and let us see what it will be."
"There was once a princess, who was the most beautiful who had ever been
"O, of course!" interrupted Kate. "Who ever heard of a princess, in a
story, who was not?"
"Did you ever hear, my dear, of one who was so beautiful that of all her
maids of honor (each of whom was so beautiful herself, that a whole
village would go crazy about her if she but drove through it) not one,
however they might dispute for the preference among themselves, ever
thought of raising the least pretension to beauty in her presence? There
never was but one such, and that was my princess.
"Although her father, who was the wealthiest and haughtiest prince of all
that region, lived in a castle so grand and stately, and although in sight
of the highway, separated from it by grounds so severely elegant and
august, that except for the beautiful princess no one would have ventured
to approach it, yet it was open to all, and many a bold youth, who had
heard of her fame, preserved his courage all along the avenue, until he
reached the stately front door, nor remembered, until it was opened by the
awful footman, that he did not know whom to ask for.
"For it seems the people, through the influence, probably, of the maids of
honor, had begun to copy the manners of the court, and every pretty girl
in the country had begun to fancy herself a princess; and one day when her
father was walking through the town, he was so annoyed at hearing every
third child called by his daughter's name, that he went home, and shut her
up in the castle, and declared she should never again be called by any
name, until some one should come who would give her his own. You may be
sure there were not wanting youths who would have been happy to present
her with such a gift; and it was not long before she numbered among her
suitors the princes of all the provinces in the kingdom, each of whom had
appeared at the castle gate with full assurance that his name would be one
which the princess would be only too happy to accept. But their names were
not so powerful at court as at home. The maids of honor, each of whom was
a princess in her own country, did not fail, like mischievous things as
they were, to take advantage of the confusion arising from there being no
name for the princess, to go down when any one was announced, in one of
her dresses,—of which you may imagine the number when I tell you she
never wore the same twice,—and impose herself on the unsuspecting
visitor, as the princess whom he wished to see. What fun, to be sure, all
the rest must have had, listening at the half-open door of the next room,
to hear the protestations, one after another, of these poor, deluded
lovers, each to a different lady! They did not once think what troubles
might arise among so many suitors, each of whom considered himself as the
chosen one, if they should happen to meet where the princess was the
subject of conversation. However, this very circumstance, which occurred,
turned out for the benefit of the princess, if not of the suitors; for a
young nobleman in their company, hearing them disagree so widely in their
descriptions of her beauty, very naturally concluded that each had seen a
different one, and that neither, perhaps, had seen the princess herself.
So he called the next day to see for himself, and soon found, charming as
the young lady was who came down to see him, that she was assuming the air
of a higher personage than herself; for one who knows what he seeks is not
so easily put off by appearances. So he took leave, and coming next day in
disguise, beheld another lady; and so every day, until he had seen them
all, and satisfied himself that he had not seen their mistress. With all
their grace and beauty there was an air about them as of reflected light,
and he fancied he detected now and then a listening kind of look, as if
the main life of the house was going on somewhere else. Yet he did not
wonder at the passion of the suitors, for each of these maids of honor was
so lovely, that the lifetime of almost any man would not have been too
much to devote to her. But he looked at them as one looks at the moon when
waiting for the daybreak, and was not long in sending a message by the
footman, that brought down the princess herself, who entered the room in
all her loveliness, leaning upon the arm of her father. A single glance
sufficed to tell the youth that she was indeed the princess that his heart
had foretold, but also that he never could win her without the consent of
the stern old monarch upon whom she leaned. Nor did he feel dismayed, for
he also valued that ancestral pride, nor without reason; for in the veins
of the poor young nobleman also ran the blood of a royal line, although
the sword that hung at his side was all that was left him of its former
glory; and the old king might have seen it flashing in his eye with a
trace of the old splendor, as he boldly asked the hand of his daughter.
But though the father frowned, the daughter smiled, for the glance of the
youth had sparkled in her heart, as if it were already the marriage ring
upon her finger.
"'Come hither,' said the sire; and the youth followed him to the balcony
which overlooked the country about the castle. 'On every side,' said he,
'farther than the eagle's flight can measure in a day, behold my domain.
Think'st thou I will permit this inheritance of my fathers to go into the
hands of a man of yesterday? Let him win it, then I may know that he can
keep it. Go down again, and look up over the castle gate, and see the
escutcheon of this house. No heraldic device is that, but the veritable
coat of arms which the founder of this house placed there as the seal of
his work. Know also the traditionary challenge to whoever aspires to the
hand of the daughter of the house. Only as an equal can he win her from
her father's hand, who will condescend to meet in arms none but those who
can take down and wear that armor.' Then with an inclination of the head
that seemed to freeze the air about him, he dismissed the youth, who
feared him not, but saw in him only the massive foundations of that
stately castle, from the upper window of which the fairest princess in the
world waved him a farewell of hope.
"When he was outside the gate he looked up, and there was the coat of
arms, not, as one would suppose from the careless glance usually given on
entering the door of a palace, an ornamental escutcheon,—though of
enormous size, as befitted the proportions of the edifice,—but the
veritable arms themselves, which must have come down from a race of
giants. Even if he could have worn them, it would have been impossible to
take them down, as they were built into the wall of the house, and indeed
seemed so essential a part of the structure, that it was, as it were, the
face of the whole front, and could not be taken away but with the whole
body. No wonder he felt for a moment disheartened, as he stood before the
frowning portal; and perhaps he would have turned away in despair, had not
his eye caught at that moment the merry faces of the maids of honor
peering out, one over the other, at the side windows, and been drawn thus
to a golden gleam at the great oriel window above, which was no other than
the radiant face and arm of his princess; and although she disappeared the
next minute, yet that light seemed for a moment to lift, from within, the
whole dark castle, and to fall upon the device on the shield of the
escutcheon, which was so effaced by time, that he had not observed it
before. With a smile that would have become the stern face of the lord of
the castle himself, he gayly turned, and walked down the long avenue, not
for years to return, touching now and then the hilt of his sword, as one
would pat the neck of his war-horse, which was pawing for him to mount;
and well did that sword deserve his trust, for though it was his all, a
king's ransom would not have purchased it. It had been the sword of his
greatest ancestor, and possessed the charm of giving to the arm of its
wearer the strength of every one it overcame.
"But before he left, in return for the information the deluded suitors had
so unwittingly given him, he told them of the arms, and the condition upon
which the princess was to be won. Did he not fear that in his absence the
prize might be carried off by one of these other suitors, so much more
powerful in name than himself? Or had he a reason of his own for keeping
them from their own dominions?
"Now, each of these suitors was the ruler of one of the provinces of the
kingdom, and each had been attracted thither by the fame of the princess's
beauty. In the old time the kingdom had belonged to a race of giants, and
the provinces were departments, bounded by no territorial limits, and the
tenure upon which they were held was the right of the strongest.
"In the mining district, the ancient ruler had been the mightiest smith.
"In the forest he had swung the largest axe.
"And so, through all the provinces of that kingdom, each ruler had been
the master of his own craft. But the ancient heroes, thinking the
posterity of the strong are the strong, and that no state is safe unless
maintained by the same power which won it, had left a challenge, each, on
his castle gate, which was open to all who should come in after times; and
whoever should accept it might contest with its occupant the possession of
the castle and its domains. In former times this challenge had been no
empty form; but for many years no one had appeared to accept it, and it
now hung at the castle gate unnoticed, as a portcullis, whose chains have
rusted with centuries of peace.
"Now, the rulers were absent, with no thought of their provinces, wasting
their strength in useless efforts to take down the king's armor, not
dreaming that they might be losing their own and fighting among themselves
in rivalry for the hand of the fair princess, whom neither of them had
ever seen. How many of them flattered themselves that they should succeed
in single combat with the old monarch, whom they could not even meet in
his grounds without awe, cannot be known, but the coat of arms had many a
tug from that day; and we can imagine the feelings of each suitor, as he
retreated ignominiously down the long, straight avenue, the subdued
laughter of those tantalizing maids of honor behind him, at the windows,
stiffening his elbows, and twitching his knees, till by the time he
reached the highway, he was breathless, as if he had been fighting the
ancient wearer of the armor himself.
"Meantime, where was the youth upon whom the princess had smiled? In the
remotest hamlet of the kingdom, disguised as a peasant; in his hands the
charmed sword had become an axe, with the fame of whose exploits the woods
still ring. Nor was he long in winning the strength of every woodman's
arm, and with the last stroke the axe in his hands became a hammer, with
whose lusty blows, ere long, every anvil in the neighboring province
echoed, till with the last blow the hammer in his hands became a
ploughshare; and thus, through each province, beginning at the foot and
leaving at the head, until there was not an acre in that vast domain which
he did not know better than those who tilled it; no forge or furnace at
which his arm had not proved the strongest; no art or craft that did not
own him master. Then the sword returned to its sheath, and he said, 'I
have served my apprenticeship; now let me take my degrees.'
"Then he boldly presented himself at each castle, and demanded the ancient
right of trial.
"At the gate of the first hung a mighty axe, which the giant arm of the
ancient lord had placed there, as a defiance to after times, with the
inscription, 'To him who can wield it.'
"He took it down as if it were a toy, and sunk it to the helve in the gate
post, carving on the handle the words, 'To him who can draw it.' Then he
entered the castle, and investing himself with the rights and titles that
belonged to him as victor, and leaving the province in the keeping of a
suitable deputy, he went on to the next, at whose castle gate hung the
ponderous hammer of the royal smith, its former owner, with the
inscription, 'To him who can swing it.' This he not only swung around, as
if it were a walking stick, but left buried to the head in the gate of
massive oak, and with unmoved breath bade the chamberlain, who, with all
the retinue of servants, had flown to open it at his thundering summons,
to carve upon the handle the words, 'To him who can take it.'
"Then entering, and assuming his rightful authority, and leaving the
administration of the province in proper keeping, he went on to the next
castle, where at the gate stood a huge plough, with the inscription, 'To
him who can hold it.'
"Breaking to the yoke the wild bulls of the old stock,—for there
were none of the present race who could move it,—he ploughed a
furrow half round the castle, and left it buried to the beam, cutting upon
it the words, 'To him who can finish it.'
"He turned loose his team into the forest, and entering the castle, left
it, as he had the rest, in the charge of his own deputy; and thus
proceeding from castle to castle, and leaving each province as its lord,
because its master, he completed the round, and thus became possessed of
all that kingdom, save one castle; but that was the king's. 'I have the
parts—now for the whole,' he said, laying his hand on the hilt of
"But before he went forth on his last trial, he gave a year to the
ordering and uniting of his separate provinces. 'The body is ready for its
head,' he then said, and went forth to the king's castle.
"As he drew near, he observed the suitors still tugging at the armor, the
maids of honor still watching them from the windows, though with less
mirth, and each with more interest, he thought, in some one whom her eyes
"But above all, in the great oriel, his own fair princess, fairer than
ever, held out both arms to him in welcome.
"One glance at the armor, and the inscription on the shield, 'To him who
can wear it,'—which he could hardly see, so covered was it with the
figures of the suitors,—and a smile to think how the armor was
wearing them, and he boldly entered the castle, sending his challenge to
the king to meet him in equal arms, according to his promise. 'Where is
the armor in which you were to meet me?' said the monarch, on entering,
with submissive dignity.
"'To him who carries the kingdom on his shoulders, the castle is a helmet,
and the arms a crest,' said he, and demanded the hand of the princess. As
he spoke, the sword in his hand became a sceptre, and the king, bowing
low, with a reverence in which knelt the proud humility of the dethroned
sovereign, said, 'Brave prince, we can only have what we earn. I have no
power to say that what you have earned you shall not have. You have won
it; Heaven grant you a long life to keep it. Long last the throne whose
wood the king's own hand hath hewn!'
"Then he placed the princess's hand in his, and gave him, what he already
had, yet what without her were not worth having, the kingdom, for her
"At the marriage which took place, the maids of honor were affianced each
to her favored suitor, who loved her no less than if she had been the
princess for whom he had mistaken her; and each was better pleased to be
the princess of a province than to play at being princess of a kingdom.
For to each was given, with the consent of the bridegroom, a province in
the dowry of the princess, with a recommendation by him to each restored
ruler, who was to hold it in trust to observe the words inscribed upon his
castle gate, and to stay at home hereafter and attend to his own
"But before the marriage was completed, the father of the bride drew the
prince aside, and reminded him that he had sworn his daughter should have
no name until one should come who should give her his own.
"'Names are for commoners,' he said; 'kings have none. Know then that the
kingdom which I have again made good from the foot, has come down to me
from the head, and that the princess's ancestry and mine go back until
they meet in the same name. But let her whose name is profaned by all, be
ever nameless for me; and lest her maidens again compromise her by
assuming it, let them keep it for a surname, and I will couple it with a
"Then he named each of them from the name of her province, and their
mistress is never spoken of by them but under the title of their queen."
"Now, Ella," said Fanny.
"The beginning of Anna's story will do for mine with the change of a word.
There was once a brother, the most critical who had ever been seen—"
"It must have been mine," interrupted Kate.
"Did you ever venture to tell him a story? If you have, you may know how
much spirit I must feel at the idea of repeating mine. But as my brother
has so large a part in it, I may as well tell you something about him."
"O," said Fanny, "if we get on the subject of brothers, we shall never
come to your story."
"But as without mine we never should have come to it at all, as you will
see, he is a part which cannot be left out," said Ella.
"My brother had the gravest way of telling the strangest adventures, as if
they had really happened, so that although I might have been taken in by
him a thousand times, I invariably yielded the most implicit trust to
every new story; while I had such a way of telling real occurrences that
no one would believe they were not inventions. If he could tell my
stories, I believe they would be better than his; for, telling them in his
plausible way, he would need to leave nothing out, as I do, for fear of
being laughed at; and they would have the advantage over his, of not only
appearing true, but really being so, which is all the praise I can claim
for them now. Yet he would insist that he never told any thing but what he
had actually seen.
"'Facts for men, fancies for girls,' he would say; for he had a way of
setting up one thing against another, as if nothing could stand alone.
Thus he would say the oddest things with the gravest face, and would set
me crying with a look like a harlequin.
"But although he laughed at my 'fancies,' I could not but notice he was
always getting me to tell them, yet as if for some end of his own which I
never could discover; for often when he had set me going in this way, I
could feel myself pushed forth from him, as if I were the antenna of some
insect with which he was exploring unknown regions, and making in his own
wise head conclusions with which I had nothing to do.
"Then he was always fond of having me with him, and had always a new name
for me, which I liked because he gave it to me, although I could never see
its significance. Now I was his witch-hazel, though I never knew what
springs I found for him. Now I was his ger-falcon, but could never see
what game he loosed me at, although, certainly, no falcon was ever kept
more closely hooded.
"Very different was the confidence I had in him; for whatever was in my
mind, I was sure to go to him, and he was always ready to satisfy me.
There was nothing so strange that I wished to see, but he could at once
tell me, with the most explicit directions, where I could find it; but
when I returned, as I almost invariably did, without success, the only
explanation he would give was, that I had not found the place. Many a
fool's errand of this kind he sent me upon, from which I came back as wise
as I went. But one thing he told me which turned out exactly as he said,
and it may prove so with others which are a puzzle to me to this day.
"One day, when I had been reading about the fairies until I had the
greatest desire in the world to see them, I went to my oracle, whom I
found sitting beside the stream above the mill, for our father was a
miller, and this had been our favorite spot from my earliest recollection.
He was looking at the water, apparently thinking of something else; but
when he saw me coming, he appeared absorbed in a book, which I observed
was upside down.
"'Tell me really and truly,' said I, 'do you think such creatures as
fairies actually exist?'
"'Certainly,' he answered, 'for I have seen them myself.' I looked at him
in amazement, but his serious face assured me he was not joking; and I
begged him to tell me where he had seen them, and why, if they really
existed, every thing was not known about them. 'There is also a nation in
the heart of Africa,' said he, 'supposed to be somewhere about the source
of the Nile; but no one has ever discovered them, or, if he has, has not
returned, and we have no information about them.'
"'If I lived on the Nile,' I replied, 'I should never rest until I had
"'But,' said he, 'as we live on the mill stream, perhaps that will do as
well for us. And, now I think of it, it is the very thing, as I learned
from a conversation which I overheard when among the fairies—'
"'But tell me first,' said I, 'how you came to be there.'
"'O,' said he, 'I came upon them once by accident, which is a rare piece
of good fortune. I had often before come upon them suddenly in the same
way, but they were off before I could fairly see them, or lay like a brood
of partridges, taking the color of every thing about them, so that I might
look for them an hour, I could never find them. It is no use to wait, for
they can wait longer than you can. The only way is to go off and come back
again when the affair is blown over, and take them again unawares, when
they will again, perhaps, spring up under your very feet, and be off
before you know they are there. But by repeated attempts, at sufficient
intervals, coming nearer each time, and looking with a certain attentive
indifference, you may succeed in seeing them. But it is useless to chase
them whither they appear to have flown, unless you have a dog perfectly
trained; for Diana's hounds, I believe, are the only ones who have ever
been able to follow them up. But as they frequent the same spot, if you
leave it, they will be sure to come back, only you must mark the trees as
you go away, or you will not find the place again; for otherwise you might
be close by and never know it. I did not neglect this precaution when I
saw them; but though I marked the trees, I forgot the mark, and have never
been able to recall it. Perhaps you may have better fortune, for there is
another way which I learned, as I said, from the conversation I overheard
when there. But if I tell you, it must be on one condition—that you
will break the twigs, or otherwise mark the way as you go along, so that I
"On my giving the promise demanded, 'It seems,' said he, 'the fairies,
though living so far apart from men, are still dependent upon them for
their bread, and must come down now and then to the mill for their grist,
which John takes good care to leave out for them, or they would turn off
the water from above, he says. When they are on their way back, they are
always in good humor if they have found their grist, and are willing to
take up a passenger in their boat. But it must be a girl, and therefore I
have never been able to go up in that way myself. They say that women can
find the way to their camp, but can never find the way back; but if men
should once get in, they would think of nothing but getting back to report
it, and it would be overrun with visitors, who would bring nothing with
them, and carry every thing away. For it is a custom of their hospitality
to present every guest with a gift; to the women an ornament of their
beauty with which they would never part, but to the men they could give
nothing which they would not carry home to convert into money. So that it
is doubtful which of us has the advantage; you who can get in, but can
make nothing of it, or I, who could turn it to account, but cannot get
"'O, I, to be sure!' said I; 'for the great thing after all is to get in.
But how am I to secure a passage in their boat?'
"He told me I must be asleep on the bank of the stream at the time the
fairies' boat would be going up, and they would take me in when they saw
me. He had tried to find out from John when they were in the habit of
coming for their grist; but John could not tell, or would not, as he did
not care to watch their comings or goings, he said. So long as they
allowed him sufficient head of water to keep the mill going, it was none
of his business, and they were not people that he cared to meddle with.
But he supposed they came, when they did come, at night, or sometimes,
perhaps, when he was taking his nooning.
"After that I went every day to the bank of the stream, and did my best to
compose myself to sleep; but in vain: the more I tried to sleep, the more
I would be awake, in spite of the counsel of my brother, who gave me no
peace on the subject of sleep, and was continually telling me of Napoleon,
who had the power of going to sleep whenever he chose. At last, one day
when I had fairly given up in despair, and had forgotten all about the
fairies, and every thing else but the rippling of the stream,—for it
happened to be the hour of noon, and the mill wheel was still, which
usually drowned the voice of the brook,—I must have been falling
into a sound sleep, when the rippling changed into the silver laughter of
infant voices, and then a murmuring and consulting, breaking into faint
acclamations, as of a busy throng, babbling, in an under tone, of some
mysterious plot against some one they were fearful of waking. And then I
felt myself borne away on little undulating arms, too far gone in sleep to
resist, and then dancing and flickering on tiny waves, and lulled by their
liquid echoes, till I lost myself in a deep sleep, which seemed to be
pillowed on a sense of being carried on and on into a realm of silence,
and then being lifted and carried, as on a living bier, with new senses
waking clearer and clearer, as if naked in the delicate air of a new life,
and at last waking and finding myself alone in an open space of forest,
shadowed by trees of an unknown grace, and lighted by magic vistas where
the distance found its last repose on the summits of sun-lit mountains.
"A perpetual afternoon shaded that sward of loveliest green, alive with
fairest flowers, with not a breath of air stirring the heavy leaves; and
if the slender stems of the undergrowth waved ever so lightly, it was with
an almost imperceptible motion of their own. Yet was there not at that
moment the same slight movement in every shrub and leaf? and where were
those who had brought me hither? Was it a whispering I heard behind me?
There was no one there, but, gradually, as in the silence of the night the
air is oppressed by the sense of some one being in the room, I became
aware of being surrounded by invisible beings, who were holding their
breaths with a general hush, that I might not know they were there. In a
moment every thing lighted up with the thought that I was within the
charmed circle of the fairies, and a mysterious influence from something
close at hand brought back the most distant recollection of my childhood,
as the magic word that would compel the fairies to appear. A faint perfume
drew my eyes downward, and at my feet was the little violet, my first and
earliest love. I stooped to pick it, but an 'Ah!' of horror stayed
my hand, which already held the stem. 'No,' I said, shutting my eyes as if
to enclose the dear recollection of my childhood safe from harm, 'thy life
is more to me than to know all.' When I opened my eyes the violet was
gone, and in my hand I held a wand, as if a line from the purple edge of a
"I waved it around my head, and every thing stood clear and perfect in a
light that seemed to crystallize with distinctness the texture of every
flower and leaf. I waved it again, and it was as if a page of Hebrew had
become the most domestic English.
"Was not this enough?
"But I waved it a third time, and Heavens! every tree, and shrub, and
flower had disappeared, and in the place of each was a human figure, but
one transfigured into a form of inconceivable majesty, grace, or
loveliness. But each stood fixed as by its root to its place, and I
thought, 'Could I only say the word that would set them free!' A voice
whispered in my ear, 'The free only can set free.' Then I felt for the
first time how heavy I was in the presence of those graceful creatures,
and my weight seemed to sink down into a root that fastened my feet to the
"Was there still another set of fairies, invisible to the eye? I felt
myself lifted by unseen arms, and could feel harmonious breaths around me
like an atmosphere which I was inhaling through every pore, and which was
swelling every fibre with a thrill of lightness, until I only touched the
ground like a bird ready to fly. I raised the wand, and a strain from an
unseen band lifted on its wings the whole assembly surrounding the green,
who nodded, and waved, and swayed with the opening movement as if catching
the time of a tune to which they were to dance; the flute and the violin
catching, like a flame, from one to the other, the tortuous wreathing of
the bass-viol, with labored ease possessing their limbs, and the bugle and
the trumpet, with a gush of melody in which all the rest joined, leaving
their graceful heads floating in the loveliest confusion of harmony. Then
a pause fell like a shadow, pointing across the greensward; and when it
ended, faint as figures in a deep valley, burst forth a chorus of tiny
voices, and there were the fairies themselves, in groups on groups, and
wreath involved in wreath, dancing to their own song, countless as the
fireflies in a meadow on a summer evening.
"'If I were only small enough to dance with them!' said I, listening so
intently that I felt myself contracting into the compass of their song,
and the wand diminishing in my hand, till there we were, myself and the
loveliest little fairy queen dancing together through the mazes of the
tiny troop, bewildered by the grace of the faces that passed us like
dreams of beauty, and the soft crush of bewitching dresses that wafted, as
they swept by us, such dizzy perfumes as only the bee or the butterfly
could imagine. The songs to which we danced, every group singing a
different one, and yet all in harmony, were without words; but our feet,
pattering, innumerable as the drops of a silver rain, or the softest piano
and flute accompaniment, echoed with their meaning, and every step was the
understanding of emotions, for which language had no name. For we were so
slight and pure that there was no interval between the music and the
meaning, but our forms, which were only the harmony and enjoyment of both,
sparkling into life each moment our footsteps touched the ground.
"'The dance for thought, the waltz for love,' said my fairy queen, looking
at me with velvet eyes, and wreathing her arms around my waist. Then we
floated off on the violin accompaniment, that seemed to fly from under our
feet at every step, gliding through the sinuous mazes of a movement
interweaving and unfolding into newer and newer combinations, till we swam
in a delirium of uncomprehended harmony, buoyed up so lightly, as if on
half-open wings, that our feet only occasionally touched the ground to
remind us of the earth.
"'O, let us fly!' I exclaimed.
"'The fairies belong to the earth, like yourselves,' she answered; 'but
would you learn the dance?'
"'O, yes; and I will love you and live with you forever!'
"'Till I have learned it, and can take it home with me.'
"'Dear child,' said she, 'the fairies have no homes but yours, and we can
only come down to them on your feet. Without you we are only eyes without
a smile. But if we cannot come down to you of ourselves, how happy are we
when one comes to us who can carry us back with her! How did you come
"'I sailed up on the stream.'
"'Then take me down with you,' she said, sinking upon my face with a kiss,
into which she dissolved like a mist, and I closed my eyes to clasp her to
my heart forever.
"When I opened them, the stream was rippling at my feet, and my brother
was raising his face from mine with a smile that left me in doubt if I was
not still in Fairyland. 'Now tell me, Violet Eyes,' said he, 'all about
"'How do you know I have been there?' I asked.
"'Have you never heard that whoever looks first into the eyes of one who
has been there, catches a glimpse of Fairyland? But tell me quick, before
you forget. You know you promised to break the twigs as you went, to mark
the place for me.'
"'O, I forgot all about it!' said I.
"'Never mind,' said he; 'but tell me what you remember.'
"So I told him all I could, and much more than I have told you now, for he
had such a comical look on his face when I was describing the best part of
it all,—after betraying me, too, as he had, into telling it, with
the greatest appearance of interest,—that I resolved I never would
tell it again; so you must blame him, and not me, if I have left the best
"O, we all know the best part of a story is always left out!" said Kate,
"particularly by those who have taken the most pains to put every thing
in. But there goes the school bell. I wonder if the fairies ever come down
so far into the world as to visit the school room. Fancy Ella dancing with
her fairy queen, with an 'Algebra' under one arm, and an 'Elements of
Criticism' under the other."
"There is nothing so heavy that the fairies cannot make it dance," said
Ella. "The trouble is to get their assistance. And what a capital story it
would make,—the fairies coming at night and setting our books to
waltzing on the school room floor! There is no end to the funny contrasts
"The best stories always come when it is too late to tell them," said