The Children's Fairy by Saint-Juirs
IT was a dull, heavy afternoon, and the long, dusty
road looked quite deserted, not a horse or even
a foot-passenger in sight. The birds were taking
their afternoon siesta, and the leaves were hanging down
languidly from the poor trees, which were dying with
thirst. There were three solitary-looking, tumble-down
cottages on one side of the road, and presently the door
of one of them opened, and a woman's voice called out:
"Come, Yvette, come, go out and play."
In answer to this summons a little girl of some three
or four years old soon appeared, and with great difficulty
on all fours began to descend the steep steps from the
house to the footpath. It was quite a piece of work,
that perilous descent, and it was accomplished slowly,
carefully, and very awkwardly by what looked like
nothing but a bundle of clothes.
The child had on a little bonnet made of two pieces
of figured muslin sewn together, and from which a few
tresses of fair hair which had escaped fell over her
forehead and down the back of her neck. Her little
frock had been lengthened many times, and, consequently,
the waist was now up under the arms, like one sees in
the Empire dresses. As to shoes and stockings—well,
it was not very cold, and so they were put away for a
When once she had reached the bottom of the steps,
the child stood upright and looked round for a minute
or two, evidently deep in thought, with her little finger
pressed against her face. Play! Yes, it was all very
well, but what should she play at?
At the very time when the poor little mite was turning
this question over in her mind, hundreds of other children,
accompanied by their mother or by their nurse, would
be all out in the gardens or parks, and they would have
with them all kinds of games and toys, from the favourite
spade and bucket to a real little steam-boat, which would
sail along on the ponds. They would have cannons,
skipping-ropes, reins (all covered with little bells), hoops,
battledores and shuttlecocks, bowls, marbles, balls, balloons,
dolls of every description, pistols, guns, swords,
and, in fact, everything that the heart of a child can
Then, too, those other children nearly always had little
playmates, so that it was easy enough to organise a
But, Yvette—on that deserted road, what could she
do? Her father, a poor road-mender, earned only just
enough to make a bare living for his wife and child,
and certainly not a halfpenny could be spared for toys.
Yvette sat down just near a great heap of stones,
which her father had to break into small pieces in
order to fill in the ruts. When she was comfortably
installed, she began to fumble in her pocket, and there
she certainly found all kinds of wonderful things: two
cherry-stones, a piece of string, a small carrot, a shoe-button,
a small penny knife, a little bit of blue braid
and some crumbs of bread. Now, these were all very
nice in their way, and were indeed very valuable articles,
but somehow they did not appeal to Yvette at all just
then. She put them all very carefully back one by
one in her pocket.
Then there was a profound silence. Yvette was not
happy. The little face puckered itself up into a significant
grimace—the little nose was all screwed up, and the
mouth was just opening—tears were surely on the
way! Just at that moment, fortunately, the Children's
Fairy was passing by.
Now you, perhaps, do not know about this Fairy,
for no one ever sees her, but it is the very one which
makes children smile in their dreams, and gives them
all kinds of pretty thoughts. There is no limit to the
power of this Fairy, for, with a stroke of her magic
wand, she can transform things just as she wishes. She
is very good and kind-hearted, and the proof is that she
bestows her favours more generally on the poor and
unfortunate than on others.
Well, this good Fairy saw that Yvette was just going
to cry. She stretched her golden wand out over the
heap of stones and then flew away again, laughing, for
she was just as light and as gay as a ray of sunshine.
Now, directly the Fairy had gone, it seemed to the
road-mender's little daughter that one of the big stones
near her had a face, and that it was dressed just like a
little baby. Oh, it was really just like a little baby!
Yvette stretched out her hand, took the stone up, and
immediately began to feel for it all the love which a
mother feels for her child.
"Ah!" she said to it, cuddling it up in her arms;
"do you want to be my little girl? You don't speak—oh!
but that is because you are too young—but I see
you would like to. Very well, then; I will be your
mother, and I shall love you and never whip you. You
must be good, though, and then I shall never scold
you. Oh! but if you are not good—you know, I've
got a birch rod. Now, come, I'm going to dress you
better: you look dreadful in that frock." Hereupon
Yvette rolled her child up in her pinafore, so that there
was nothing to be seen of the stone but what was
supposed to be the baby's head.
"Oh! how pretty she is, dear little thing. There,
now, she shall have something to eat. Ah! you are
crying—but you must not cry, my pretty one—there,
there." And the hard stone was rocked gently in the
soft little arms of its fond mother.
"Bye-bye, baby—bye-bye-bye." Yvette sang with all
her might, tapping her little daughter's back energetically,
but evidently all to no purpose, for the stone refused
to go to sleep. "Ah! naughty girl; you won't go to
sleep? Oh no, I won't tell you any more stories. I
have told you Tom Thumb, and that's quite enough for
to-night. Go to sleep—quick—quick, I say. Oh, dear,
dear, naughty child—I've got a knife—what! you are
crying again! If you only knew how ugly you are
when you cry! There! now I'm going to slap you—take
that, and that, and that, to make you quiet. Oh
dear, how dreadful it is to have such a child. I believe
I'll change you, and have a boy. Now, just say you
are sorry for being so naughty——What! you won't?
I'll give you another chance. Now—one—two—three.
Oh, very well. I know what I shall do. I shall just
go and take you back. I shall say: 'If you please, I've
got a dreadful little girl, and I want to change her for
a nice little boy, named Eugene.' And then they'll say:
'Yes, ma'am; will you have him with light hair or
dark?' 'Oh,' I shall say, 'I don't mind, as long as
he is good.' 'He'll be very dear, though, ma'am,' they'll
say; 'good little boys are very rare, and they cost a
great deal.' 'How much?' I shall ask. 'Why, one
penny, ma'am.' And then I shall think about it——Now,
then, are you going to be good, and say you are
sorry? No? Oh! very well—it's too late now—I've
changed you. I have no little girl now, but a very
pretty little boy, named Zizi."
The stone immediately underwent a complete transformation.
Just now, when it was a little girl, it had
been very quiet and gentle, and had kept quite still on
Yvette's lap. Now that it was a boy there was no
more peace: it would jump about, and it would try to
get away, for boys are always so restless.
"Zizi, will you be still, and will you stay on my lap instead of tumbling about in the road? There, let me
lift you up! Oh, dear! how heavy boys are. There,
now, don't you stir, but just eat your bread and milk.
It will make you grow, and then when you are big
you'll have beautiful grey whiskers, like father. You
shall have a sword, too, and perhaps you shall be a
policeman. It's very nice to be a policeman, you know,
because they are never put in prison—they take other
people there if the people make a noise in the street.
Oh, Zizi, do keep still. If you don't, I'll call the wolf—you
know, the big wolf that runs off with little
children and takes them into the woods to eat them
up. Wolf, wolf, where are you?"
Just at that moment a dog appeared—a large, well-fed,
happy-looking dog, impudent too, and full of fun. He
belonged to a carrier who was always moving about
from place to place, and the dog, accustomed as he
was to these constant journeys, had got rather familiar,
like certain commercial travellers, who, no matter where
they are, always make themselves quite at home.
Now, the dog had got tired of following his master's
cart, and when he saw something in the distance which
was moving about, he bounded off to discover what it
was. This something was Yvette and her little boy.
"Look, look!" exclaimed the small mother, and there
was a tremor in her voice. "You see, he is coming—the
He was coming, there was no doubt about that, for
he was tearing along, and his tongue was hanging out
and his ears were pricked up.
The little stone boy was not at all frightened, but
Yvette began to regret having called the dreadful animal.
Oh! if she could only get away now; but, alas! she
did not dare to move or even to speak.
The impertinent dog came straight to them. Poor
Yvette, half frightened to death, threw away the precious
stone baby she had been fondling, and, picking herself
up, began to run, calling out: "Mother! Mother!"
The dog was quite near her, jumping up at her, and
then suddenly he turned to go and sniff at the little
stone boy. He probably thought it was a bone or a
piece of bread, but he was soon undeceived, and then
he rushed to the hedge to bark and wake up all the
As to Yvette, she was hurrying along as fast as her
little legs could carry her, for she was in despair, as she
thought the wolf was just behind her, and she imagined
that she still felt his hot breath on her little hand. She
stopped when she got to the steps of her home, for she
was out of breath and all trembling with terror, and
she felt sure that if she tried to scramble up the steps
the wolf would bite her legs. Suddenly the inspiration,
which the ostrich once had, came to her, and she rushed
into the corner which was formed by the front of the
house and the stone steps, and holding her face close
to the wall, so that she could not see the dreadful animal,
she was convinced that she too was out of his sight.
She stayed there some minutes in perfect anguish,
thinking: "Oh! if I move, he'll eat me up!" She was
quite surprised even that he did not find her, and that
his great teeth did not bite her, for she always thought
wolves were so quick to eat up little girls. Whatever
could he be doing? And then, not hearing any sound
of him, she thought she would risk one peep round.
Very slowly she turned her head, and then, as nothing
dreadful happened, she grew bolder and bolder.
The wolf was not in sight, and instead of the barking
which had terrified her, she now heard a lot of little
bells tinkling, and in the distance she saw a waggon
with four horses coming along.
The sound of the bells was so fascinating that Yvette
forgot her duty as a mother, and stood there watching
the waggon as it approached.
The horses were all grey, and they were coming so
fast. Suddenly the child uttered an awe-struck cry.
Her child, her little son, was under the heavy wheels!
Crunch! crunch! and it had gone by, the horrible waggon.
Yvette went on to the horse-road, and her little heart
was very full; for there, where poor Zizi had been lying,
there was only some yellowish crunched stone. Zizi
had been ground into powder by the huge wheels. The
poor child was in despair, and, with tears in her eyes,
she shook her little fists at the carrier, who was whipping
up his horses.
"Cruel, wicked man!" she cried, and then her eyes
happening to fall on the heap of stones which had
supplied her with a family, she saw another stone smiling
at her now. She ran quickly to it, picked it up and
kissed it affectionately, and then, happy in her new
treasure, she cried out defiantly to the carrier, whom
she could still see in the distance: "Ah! I don't care!
I've got another—there, then! and it's a girl this time.
I won't have any more dreadful boys to be afraid of
wolves, and to go and get themselves killed just to
make their poor mother unhappy."
Oh! kind, good Fairy, you who watch over the
children, and who give them their happiness and console
them in sorrow when they are playing at life—oh, good
Fairy, do not forget your big children.
Older men tell me that I am young, but the younger
ones do not think so; and I, myself, saw, only this
morning, a silver thread in my hairs. Oh, kind Fairy,
Fairy of the children, help me, too, to believe that the
moon is made of green cheese; for, after all, our happiness
here below consists in our faith and in our