Fairy Tenderheart by Edith Howes

Little Fairy Tenderheart was weeping. She sat on a ledge that overlooked the world, and her tears fell fast. In twos and threes her sisters flew from Fairyland to put their arms about her, but none could comfort her. "Come, dance and sing with us and forget your grief," they said. She shook her head. "The terrible fighting!" she said. "See where far below men rage, killing each other. Rivers run red with blood, and the sorrow of weeping women rises through the air to where I sit. How can I dance and sing?"

"It is the world at war," said an older fairy sadly. "I too have wept in earlier days when men have fought. But our tears are wasted, little sister. Come away."

Fairy Tenderheart looked eagerly at her. "You who have watched the world so many years," she said, "tell me why such dreadful deeds are done down there."

The older fairy bent her eyes on the blackened plains of earth. "I cannot tell you that," she slowly said. "We watch and pity, but we cannot know what works in the hearts of men that they should gather in their millions to destroy their brothers and themselves. No other creature turns on its own kind and kills so terribly as man."

In twos and threes her sisters flew from Fairyland to put
In twos and threes her sisters flew from Fairyland to put their arms about her, but none could comfort her.

"What can we do? It must be stopped. What can we do?"

"We can do nothing, little sister. See where the women of the world stretch out their hands, imploring men to live in peace. They beg the lives of fathers, husbands, sons; they point to ruined homes and desolated lands. 'War wrecks our lives!' they cry. Yet even for those they love men will not give up battle. What, then, can fairies do? Tears are useless. Come away."

"I must stay here. I must think of something I can do," said Fairy Tenderheart; and she would not go.

Her tears had stopped. She searched with anxious eyes across the world to find some means of helping men to better things, but no way could she find. And still the fighters shot and stabbed, and the dying and the dead lay piled upon the fields.

Another fairy flew to her. "Come away, little sister!" she said. "I cannot bear to see you sorrowing. Come, or you will forget the merry ways of Fairyland and grow like the Oldest Fairy of All, who spends her life brooding over this dreary earth."

Fairy Tenderheart sprang up. "Where is she? Tell me where to find her. Why did I not know of her before? I will go to her that we may be companions in our sorrow. Perhaps together we may find a way to help."

"Ah, do not go. Listen! She is so old that she has watched the world since the beginning of wars, yet, as you see, she has found no way of stopping them. How then can you?"

"I must go."

"She left our joyful Fairyland for a Magic Garden, and whoever enters that Garden can never come back to us. There she dwells for ever alone, at work or in thought, or preparing for her mysterious journeys to the earth. Do not go, or you too will be cut off from our life of dance and song, never to return."

"I will go. Tell me the way."

The fairy flew off. "I will not tell you," she said. "You shall not go."

"I will go," said Fairy Tenderheart again. With steadfast steps she searched through Fairyland until she found a narrow track that led between the winding mountains and far out across wide, shimmering plains. This track she followed till she came upon the Magic Garden.

The Oldest Fairy of All sat thinking among her flowers, and her eyes were filled with peace. She looked at Fairy Tenderheart standing at the gate. "Who enters here can never return to Fairyland," she said, and her voice was sweeter than the songs of birds.

Fairy Tenderheart pushed open the gate and stepped within the Garden. "Who enters here finds joy," said the Oldest Fairy of All, and a crown of happiness sat on her hair.

"You come to work?" she asked.

"I come to learn what I may do to help the suffering earth," said Fairy Tenderheart. "Its cries of agony have beaten on my heart until there was no rest for me in Fairyland. Is there no way to make war cease? I come to you for wisdom."

The Oldest Fairy of All rose up and smiled, and her face was brighter than the moon and stars. "Look closely at my flowers," she said, "and tell me which you think most beautiful."

The flowers bloomed on every side, in every lovely hue—crimson and gold and orange, blue and purple and pink and softest lavender. All were scented, and all were beautiful; but there was one plant that pleased the little fairy more than any other. It grew no taller than the rest, made no great show of colour, yet through its stems and leaves there shone a radiance as if a light hid in them. Its flowers were clear as crystal—one could see quite through them—but the sunlight falling on them was broken into glowing colours, so that every blossom was a little bunch of flashing rainbows. And where the flowers had closed and grown to fruit they hung golden as the sun and fragrant with a scent that stole upon the wind and made the heart heat high with happiness.

"This is the most beautiful," said Fairy Tenderheart.

"You have chosen well," said the Oldest Fairy of All. "You are fitted to help me in my work. That is the Plant of Knowledge; its crystal blossoms are called the Flowers of Understanding, and its fruit is Love. By it alone can war be made to cease."

She pointed far below. "I have planted it upon the earth in many spots," she said. "Here and there it has flourished and spread, and its fruit has sweetened all the air. But, alas!" her eyes grew sad, "too often it has been trampled under foot and killed, and war has broken out afresh. If only men would care for it and let it grow the world would soon be wrapped in peace."

In the children's gardens ... they planted the seeds.
"In the children's gardens ... they planted the seeds."

"Can we not plant more and more until it spreads across the world in spite of all neglect?" asked Fairy Tenderheart.

The Oldest Fairy shook her head. "I have done my best," she said; "but while men tramp it down it cannot spread across the world. Even when it has grown well it cannot do the good it ought to do: a nation which has eaten of its Fruit of Love and has learned to scorn the littleness of war is yet forced by that same Love to fight, that it may rescue a weak and helpless country from the greedy clutches of those who have refused to let my dear plant bloom. In the end it shall spread, no doubt, and my work shall be complete; but the time is long, the time is long."

She mused, and Fairy Tenderheart gazed thoughtfully upon the earth. Presently she raised her eyes, and they were bright with hope.

"See where a group of children gathers round your precious plant!" she said. "How eagerly they stretch their hands towards it, and how they look into its flashing flowers. They will never tread it in the mud, for they have seen its splendour. Let me take seeds to all the children's gardens in the world. The Children! They will welcome your Plant of Knowledge with its Flowers of Understanding, and when they have tasted its Fruit of Love they will grow up scorning war, and the world will live in peace."

The Oldest Fairy laughed with joy. "Oh, little sister, you have come to help indeed!" she said. "You are right. The Children! It is to them we must take our plant. Come, let us gather seeds and start at once."

They gathered the golden seeds and carried them swiftly down. In the children's gardens across the world they planted them, and everywhere the children ran to gaze at the wonder of the springing plants, and to watch the flowers unclose. And when through later days they ate and ate again of the fragrant golden fruit, Love filled their veins and they became a new race, scorning the littleness of war. And the world was wrapped in peace.

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