The Enchanted Island of Yew eBook: Page2

L. Frank Baum (1996)

  3. The Fairy Bower

  That part of the Enchanted Isle which was kissed by the rising sun wascalled Dawna; the kingdom that was tinted rose and purple by thesetting sun was known as Auriel, and the southland, where fruits andflowers abounded, was the kingdom of Plenta. Up at the north lay Heg,the home of the great barons who feared not even the men of Spor; andin the Kingdom of Heg our story opens.

  Upon a beautiful plain stood the castle of the great BaronMerd--renowned alike in war and peace, and second in importance only tothe King of Heg. It was a castle of vast extent, built with thickwalls and protected by strong gates. In front of it sloped a prettystretch of land with the sea glistening far beyond; and back of it, buta short distance away, was the edge of the Forest of Lurla.

  One fair summer day the custodian of the castle gates opened a wicketand let down a draw-bridge, when out trooped three pretty girls withbaskets dangling on their arms. One of the maids walked in front ofher companions, as became the only daughter of the mighty Baron Merd.She was named Seseley, and had yellow hair and red cheeks and big, blueeyes. Behind her, merry and laughing, yet with a distinct deference tothe high station of their young lady, walked Berna and Helda--darkbrunettes with mischievous eyes and slender, lithe limbs. Berna wasthe daughter of the chief archer, and Helda the niece of the captain ofthe guard, and they were appointed play-fellows and comrades of thefair Seseley.

  Up the hill to the forest's edge ran the three, and then withouthesitation plunged into the shade of the ancient trees. There was nosunlight now, but the air was cool and fragrant of nuts and mosses, andthe children skipped along the paths joyously and without fear.

  To be sure, the Forest of Lurla was well known as the home of fairies,but Seseley and her comrades feared nothing from such gentle creaturesand only longed for an interview with the powerful immortals whom theyhad been taught to love as the tender guardians of mankind. Nymphsthere were in Lurla, as well, and crooked knooks, it was said; yet formany years past no person could boast the favor of meeting any one ofthe fairy creatures face to face.

  So, gathering a few nuts here and a sweet forest flower there, thethree maidens walked farther and farther into the forest until theycame upon a clearing--formed like a circle--with mosses and ferns forits carpet and great overhanging branches for its roof.

  "How pretty!" cried Seseley, gaily. "Let us eat our luncheon in thislovely banquet-hall!"

  So Berna and Helda spread a cloth and brought from their baskets somegolden platters and a store of food. Yet there was little ceremonyover the meal, you may be sure, and within a short space all thechildren had satisfied their appetites and were laughing and chattingas merrily as if they were at home in the great castle. Indeed, it iscertain they were happier in their forest glade than when facing grimwalls of stone, and the three were in such gay spirits that whateverone chanced to say the others promptly joined in laughing over.

  Soon, however, they were startled to hear a silvery peal of laughteranswering their own, and turning to see whence the sound proceeded,they found seated near them a creature so beautiful that at once thethree pairs of eyes opened to their widest extent, and three heartsbeat much faster than before.

  "Well, I must say you DO stare!" exclaimed the newcomer, who wasclothed in soft floating robes of rose and pearl color, and whose eyesshone upon them like two stars.

  "Forgive our impertinence," answered the little Lady Seseley, trying toappear dignified and unmoved; "but you must acknowledge that you cameamong us uninvited, and--and you are certainly rather odd inappearance."

  Again the silvery laughter rang through the glade.

  "Uninvited!" echoed the creature, clapping her hands togetherdelightedly; "uninvited to my own forest home! Why, my dear girls, youare the uninvited ones--indeed you are--to thus come romping into ourfairy bower."

  The children did not open their eyes any wider on hearing this speech,for they could not; but their faces expressed their amazement fully,while Helda gasped the words:

  "A fairy bower! We are in a fairy bower!"

  "Most certainly," was the reply. "And as for being odd in appearance,let me ask how you could reasonably expect a fairy to appear as mortalmaidens do?"

  "A fairy!" exclaimed Seseley. "Are you, then, a real fairy?"

  "I regret to say I am," returned the other, more soberly, as she patteda moss-bank with a silver-tipped wand.

  Then for a moment there was silence, while the three girls sat verystill and stared at their immortal companion with evident curiosity.Finally Seseley asked:

  "Why do you regret being a fairy? I have always thought them thehappiest creatures in the world."

  "Perhaps we ought to be happy," answered the fairy, gravely, "for wehave wonderful powers and do much to assist you helpless mortals. AndI suppose some of us really are happy. But, for my part, I am soutterly tired of a fairy life that I would do anything to change it."

  "That is strange," declared Berna. "You seem very young to be alreadydiscontented with your lot."

  Now at this the fairy burst into laughter again, and presently asked:

  "How old do you think me?"

  "About our own age," said Berna, after a glance at her and a moment'sreflection.

  "Nonsense!" retorted the fairy, sharply. "These trees are hundreds ofyears old, yet I remember when they were mere twigs. And I rememberwhen mortals first came to live upon this island, yes--and when thisisland was first created and rose from the sea after a greatearthquake. I remember for many, many centuries, my dears. I havegrown tired of remembering--and of being a fairy continually, withoutany change to brighten my life."

  "To be sure!" said Seseley, with sympathy. "I never thought of fairylife in that way before. It must get to be quite tiresome."

  "And think of the centuries I must yet live!" exclaimed the fairy in adismal voice. "Isn't it an awful thing to look forward to?"

  "It is, indeed," agreed Seseley.

  "I'd be glad to exchange lives with you," said Helda, looking at thefairy with intense admiration.

  "But you can't do that," answered the little creature quickly."Mortals can't become fairies, you know--although I believe there wasonce a mortal who was made immortal."

  "But fairies can become anything they desire!" cried Berna.

  "Oh, no, they can't. You are mistaken if you believe that," was thereply. "I could change YOU into a fly, or a crocodile, or a bobolink,if I wanted to; but fairies can't change themselves into anything else."

  "How strange!" murmured Seseley, much impressed.

  "But YOU can," cried the fairy, jumping up and coming toward them."You are mortals, and, by the laws that govern us, a mortal can changea fairy into anything she pleases."

  "Oh!" said Seseley, filled with amazement at the idea.

  The fairy fell on her knees before the baron's daughter."Please--please, dear Seseley," she pleaded, "change me into a mortal!"