The Little Lady with the
by John Strange Winter
A FAIRY TALE
Marjory Drummond was sitting on the
bank of the river, and, if the whole truth
must be owned, she was crying. She was not
crying loudly or passionately, but as she rested her
cheek on her hand, the sad salt tears slowly gathered
in her eyes, and brimmed over one by one, falling
each with a separate splash upon the blue cotton
gown which she wore.
The sad salt tears slowly gathered in her eyes.
The sun was shining high in the blue heavens,
the river danced and sang merrily as it went rippling
by, and all the hedgerows were alive with flowers,
and the air was full of the scent of the new-cut
hay. Yet Marjory was very miserable, and for her
the skies looked dark and dull, the river only gave
her even sadder thoughts than she already had,
and the new-cut hay seemed quite scentless and
dead. And all because a man had failed her--a
man had proved to be clay instead of gold. And
so she sat there in the gay summer sunshine and
wished that she had never been born, or that she
were dead, or some such folly, and the butterflies
fluttered about, and the bees hummed, and all nature,
excepting herself, seemed to be radiant and joyous.
An old water-vole came out of his hiding-place by
the river and watched her with a wise air, and a
dragon-fly whizzed past and hovered over the
surface of the sunlit water, but Marjory's eyes were
blind to each and all of these things, and still the
tears welled up and overflowed their bounds, and
she wept on.
"What is the matter?" said a voice just at her ear.
Marjory gave a jump, and dashed her tears away;
it was one thing to indulge herself in her grief, but
it was quite another to let any one else, and that a
stranger, see her. "What is wrong with you,
Marjory?" said the voice once more.
"Nothing!" answered Marjory shortly.
"I may, perhaps, be able to help you," the gentle
little voice persisted.
"Nobody can help me," said Marjory, with a great
sigh, "nobody can help me--nobody."
"Don't be so sure of that," said the voice. "Why
do you keep this curl of hair? Why do you turn
so persistently away from me? Why don't you
look at me?"
Marjory turned her head, but she could see no
one near. "Who are you? Why do you hide?"
she asked in turn.
"You look too high," said the voice. "Look
lower; yes--ah, how d'you do?"
Marjory almost jumped into the river in her fright,
for there, standing under the shade of a big
dandelion, was the smallest being she had ever seen in
her life. Yet, as she sat staring at her, this tiny
woman seemed to increase in size, and to assume a
shape which was somehow familiar to her. "You
know me now?" asked the little woman, smiling at
"N--o," replied Marjory, stammering a little.
"Oh, yes, you do. You remember the old
woman whose part you took a few weeks ago--down
by the old church, when some boys were
teasing her? Well, that was me--me--and now
I'm going to do something for you. I am going
to make you happy."
"Are you a witch?" asked Marjory, in a very
"Hu--sh--sh! We never use such an uncomplimentary
word in our world. But you poor
mortals are often very rude, even without knowing
it. I am not what is called a witch, young lady.
I am a familiar."
Marjory's eyes opened wider than ever; she bent
forward and asked an earnest question: "Are you
my familiar?" she said.
"Perhaps, perhaps," answered the little woman,
nodding her head wisely. "That all depends on
yourself. If you are good, yes; if you are bad,
no--most emphatically, no. I am much too important
a person to be familiar to worthless people."
"I'm sure you are very kind," said Marjory
meekly. "But what will you do to make me
happy? You cannot give me back my Jack,
because he has married some one else--the wretch!"
she added under her breath, but the ejaculation was
for the woman whom Jack had married, not for
"You will learn to live without your Jack, as
you call him," said the little woman with the soft
voice, sagely, "and to feel thankful that he chose
elsewhere. You once did me a service, and that is
a thing that a familiar never, never forgets. I have
been watching you ever since that time, and now
I will reward you. Marjory Drummond, from this
time henceforth everything shall prosper with you;
everything you touch shall turn to gold, everything
you wish shall come to pass; what you strive after
you shall have; your greatest desires shall be
realised; and you shall have power to draw tears
from all eyes whenever you choose. This last I
give you in compensation for the tears that you
have shed this day. Farewell!"
"Stay!" cried Marjory. "Won't you even tell
me your name? May I not thank you?"
"No. The thanks are mine," said the little lady.
"When we meet again I will tell you my name--not
In a moment she was gone, and so quickly and
mysteriously did she go that Marjory did not see
her disappear. She rubbed her eyes and looked
round. "I must have been asleep!" she exclaimed.
"I must have dreamt it."
* * * * *
Several years had gone by. With Marjory
Drummond everything had prospered, and she was on
the high road to success, and fame, and fortune.
Whenever her name was spoken, people nodded
their heads wisely, and said: "A wonderful girl,
nothing she cannot do"; and they mostly said it
as if each one of them had had a hand in making
her the clever girl that she was.
As an artist she was extremely gifted, being well
hung in the Academy of the year; as an actress,
though only playing with that form of art, she was
hard to beat; and she had written stories and tales
which were so infinitely above the average that
editors were one and all delighted at any time to
have the chance of a story signed with the initials
"M.D.," initials which the world thought and
declared were those of one of the most fashionable
doctors of the day.
And at last the world of letters woke up and
rubbed its eyes very much as Marjory had rubbed
her eyes that day on the river's bank, and the world
said, "We have a great and gifted man among us." "'M.D.'
is the writer of the time." And slowly,
little by little, the secret crept out, and Marjory
was fêted and flattered, and made the star of the
season. Her name was in every one's mouth, and
her work was sought after eagerly and read by all.
And among those who worshipped at her shrine
was the "Jack" who had flouted her in the
old days, yet not quite the same, but a "Jack"
very much altered and world-worn, so that
Marjory could no longer regret or wish that the
lines of her life had fallen otherwise than they
And often and often, as the years rolled by, and
she was still the darling star of the people who love
to live in the realms of fiction, did Marjory ponder
over that vivid dream by the riverside, and try to
satisfy herself that it really was no more than a
dream, and that the old lady with the sweet clear
voice had had no being except in her excited brain.
"I wish," she said aloud one day, when she was
sitting by the fire after finishing the most important
work that had ever yet come from her pen, "I wish
that she would come back and satisfy me about it.
It seemed so real, so vivid, so distinct, and yet it
is so impossible----"
"Not impossible at all," said a familiar voice at
Marjory looked round with a start. "Oh! is it
you?" she cried. "Then it was all true! I have
never been able to make up my mind whether it
was true or only a dream. Now I know that it
was quite real, and everything that you promised
me has come about. I am the happiest woman in
all the world to-day, and, dear friend, if ever I did
a service to you, you have amply repaid me."
"We never stint thanks in our world," said the
little old lady, smiling. "Then there is nothing
more that you want?"
"Yes, kind friend, just one thing," said Marjory.
"You promised me that when we met again you
would tell me your name."
The little woman melted away instantly, but
somewhere out of the shadows came a small sweet
sighing voice, which said softly, "My name is--Genius!"