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- The Counterpane Fairy - 1/17 -
THE COUNTERPANE FAIRY
by Katharine Pyle
Chapter I -- THE PRINCESS OF THE GOLDEN CASTLE Chapter II -- THE OWLS AND THE GAMBLESOME ELF Chapter III -- STARLEIN AND SILVERLING Chapter IV -- THE MAGIC CIRCUS Chapter V -- AT THE EDGE OF THE POLAR SEA Chapter VI -- THE RUBY RING Chapter VII -- THE RAINBOW CHILDREN Chapter VIII -- HARRIETT'S DREAM Chapter IX -- DOWN THE RAT-HOLE Chapter X -- THE COUNTERPANE FAIRY SAYS GOOD-BYE
THE COUNTERPANE FAIRY.
THE PRINCESS OF THE GOLDEN CASTLE
TEDDY was all alone, for his mother had been up with him so much the night before that at about four o'clock in the afternoon she said that she was going to lie down for a little while.
The room where Teddy lay was very pleasant, with two big windows, and the furniture covered with gay old-fashioned India calico. His mother had set a glass of milk on the table beside his bed, and left the stair door ajar so that he could call Hannah, the cook, if he wanted anything, and then she had gone over to her own room.
The little boy had always enjoyed being ill, for then he was read aloud to and had lemonade, but this had been a real illness, and though he was better now, the doctor still would not let him have anything but milk and gruel. He was feeling rather lonely, too, though the fire crackled cheerfully, and he could hear Hannah singing to herself in the kitchen below.
Teddy turned over the leaves of Robinson Crusoe for a while, looking at the gaily colored pictures, and then he closed it and called, "Hannah!" The singing in the kitchen below ceased, and Teddy knew that Hannah was listening. "Hannah!" he called again.
At the second call Hannah came hurrying up the stairs and into the room. "What do you want, Teddy?" she asked.
"Hannah, I want to ask mamma something," said Teddy.
"Oh," said Hannah, "you wouldn't want me to call your poor mother, would you, when she was up with you the whole of last night and has just gone to lie down a bit?"
"I want to ask her something," repeated Teddy.
"You ask me what you want to know," suggested Hannah. "Your poor mother's so tired that I'm sure you are too much of a man to want me to call her."
"Well, I want to ask her if I may have a cracker," said Teddy.
"Oh, no; you couldn't have that," said Hannah. "Don't you know that the doctor said you mustn't have anything but milk and gruel? Did you want to ask her anything else?"
"No," said Teddy, and his lip trembled.
After that Hannah went down-stairs to her work again, and Teddy lay staring out of the window at the windy gray clouds that were sweeping across the April sky. He grew lonelier and lonelier and a lump rose in his throat; presently a big tear trickled down his cheek and dripped off his chin.
"Oh dear, oh dear!" said a little voice just back of the hill his knees made as he lay with them drawn up in bed; "what a hill to climb!"
Teddy stopped crying and gazed wonderingly toward where the voice came from, and presently over the top of his knees appeared a brown peaked hood, a tiny withered face, a flapping brown cloak, and last of all two small feet in buckled shoes. It was a little old woman, so weazened and brown that she looked more like a dried leaf than anything else.
She seated herself on Teddy's knees and gazed down at him solemnly, and she was so light that he felt her weight no more than if she had been a feather.
Teddy lay staring at her for a while, and then he asked, "Who are you?"
"I'm the Counterpane Fairy," said the little figure, in a thin little voice.
"I don't know what that is," said Teddy.
"Well," said the Counterpane Fairy, "it's the sort of a fairy that lives in houses and watches out for the children. I used to be one of the court fairies, but I grew tired of that. There was nothing in it, you know."
"Nothing in what?" asked Teddy.
"Nothing in the court life. All day the fairies were swinging in spider-webs and sipping honey-dew, or playing games of hide-and-go-seek. The only comfort I had was with an old field-mouse who lived at the edge of the wood, and I used to spend a great deal of time with her; I used to take care of her babies when she was out hunting for something to eat; cunning little things they were,--five of them, all fat and soft, and with such funny little tails."
"What became of them?"
"Oh, they moved away. They left before I did. As soon as they were old enough, Mother Field-mouse went. She said she couldn't stand the court fairies. They were always playing tricks on her, stopping up the door of her house with sticks and acorns, and making faces at her babies until they almost drove them into fits. So after that I left too."
"Where did you go?"
"Oh, hither and yon. Mostly where there were little sick boys and girls."
"Do you like little boys?"
"Yes, when they don't cry," said the Counterpane Fairy, staring at him very hard.
"Well, I was lonely," said Teddy. "I wanted my mamma."
"Yes, I know, but you oughtn't to have cried. I came to you, though, because you were lonely and sick, and I thought maybe you would like me to show you a story."
"Do you mean tell me a story?" asked Teddy.
"No," said the fairy, "I mean show you a story. It's a game I invented after I joined the Counterpane Fairies. Choose any one of the squares of the counterpane and I will show you how to play it. That's all you have to do,--to choose a square."
Teddy looked the counterpane over carefully. "I think I'll choose that yellow square," he said, "because it looks so nice and bright."
"Very well," said the Counterpane Fairy. "Look straight at it and don't turn your eyes away until I count seven times seven and then you shall see the story of it."
Teddy fixed his eyes on the square and the fairy began to count. "One--two--three--four," she counted; Teddy heard her voice, thin and clear as the hissing of the logs on the hearth. "Don't look away from the square," she cried. "Five--six--seven"--it seemed to Teddy that the yellow silk square was turning to a mist before his eyes and wrapping everything about him in a golden glow. "Thirteen--fourteen"--the fairy counted on and on. "Forty-six--forty-seven--forty-eight--FORTY-NINE!"
At the words forty-nine, the Counterpane Fairy clapped her hands and Teddy looked about him. He was no longer in a golden mist. He was standing in a wonderful enchanted garden. The sky was like the golden sky at sunset, and the grass was so thickly set with tiny yellow flowers that it looked like a golden carpet. From this garden stretched a long flight of glass steps. They reached up and up and up to a great golden castle with shining domes and turrets.
"Listen!" said the Counterpane Fairy. "In that golden castle there lies an enchanted princess. For more than a hundred years she has been lying there waiting for the hero who is to come and rescue her, and you are the hero who can do it if you will."
With that the fairy led him to a little pool close by, and bade him look in the water. When Teddy looked, he saw himself standing there in the golden garden, and he did not appear as he ever had before. He was tall and strong and beautiful, like a hero.
"Yes," said Teddy, "I will do it."
At these words, from the grass, the bushes, and the tress around, suddenly started a flock of golden birds. They circled about him and over him, clapping their wings and singing triumphantly. Their song reminded Teddy of the blackbirds that sang on the lawn at home in the early spring, when the daffodils were up. Then in a moment they were all gone, and the garden was still again.
Their song had filled his heart with a longing for great deeds, and, without pausing longer, he ran to the glass steps and began to mount them.
Up and up and up he went. Once he turned and waved his hand to the Counterpane Fairy in the golden garden far below. She waved her hand in answer, and he heard her voice faint and clear. "Good-bye! Good-bye! Be brave and strong, and beware of that that is little and gray."
Then Teddy turned his face toward the castle, and in a moment he was
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