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Watching the squirrels peep from the wall,
Mocking the whistle of scared chewink,
Pleasant our walk will be, I think.
Months of summer will soon pass by ;
Time slips along, who is thinking how?
But don't you wish it was August now?
LITTLE Ruth sat sewing beside her mother. It was an autumn afterL noon, and the woodbine climbing round the window at which they sat had turned from its summer green to a deep crimson. The scarlet creeper fung its gay tassels down from among the orange-colored maple-leaves. Apples, peaches, golden-rods, and asters, - purple hills, blue sky and river, - all added brightness to the landscape.
Little Ruth, therefore, looked out of the window more than she sewed ; and not paying much attention to the apron she was making, she knotted her thread and lost her needles, until at last her mother said, — “Now Ruth, you must n't waste any more needles and thread; those you have lost might have helped some poor woman to make dresses for her little children, or have been used for the brave soldiers who, fighting for their country, need warm shirts and drawers this winter. Look at the birds, - they use up all the sticks and straws for their nests; the ants build their houses out of grains of sand; fruits grow to be eaten, flowers to be enjoyed; there is no waste in that beautiful Nature at which you look so much from the window.”
“Well, I would n't waste either, mamma, if it was n't for all those bright colors out of doors. I was just wondering if the angels had n't been using their paint-boxes this fall. But I guess you 've made a mistake about Nature's not wasting anything, mamma. What becomes of the shootingstars that look as if some one threw them into the air like fireworks ? What becomes of the flowers that die, — the leaves that blow down ? Ah, mamma, see how much Nature throws away after all.” And Ruth's puzzled look was changed to one of merry confidence, as she looked up in her mother's face.
Before her mother could answer her, she was called away to speak to some one, and Ruth, having finished her hem, began to fold up her work that she might go out to play.
“Where shall I play, mamma ?" she asked, as she tied on her hat and ran down stairs.
“O, run to the orchard, Ruthie, and fill your basket with the yellow and
red apples lying under the trees, that papa may have some to eat this evening. Then you may go where you like.”
So Ruth ran into the pantry, and, climbing a chair which she had pushed along the floor, unfastened her basket from the nail where it hung, and ran through the front-yard, out into the shady lane leading to the orchard.
She saw many of her favorite play-grounds on the way; the rocks covered with bits of china, in the field on one side, were her houses where she sometimes gave dinner-parties to little girls in the neighborhood; and under one of the apple-trees in the orchard was a slender stream of water, on which she often sailed the boats her brother carved for her. Beyond the orchard was a dense wood, where the trees grew close together. Now they were no longer gloomy in their solitude, for the leaves were bright with many colors, and the sunshine poured in, making a golden border round the forest.
Opposite this wood Ruth sat down at last, tired with gathering her apples. She wondered what was farther on in the woods where sunlight could not penetrate ; and at length, tempted by her curiosity, crept under the fence, and went to see.
Hundreds of insects were flying about, and large, gay-winged butterflies fluttered over the flowers. As they brushed against her face with heavy, dew-laden wings, she was half afraid to go on, and would I am sure have turned back, had she not seen a bright spot deeper in the wood. Brighter and brighter it drew her on, till she could plainly see it was a star, not in the sky, but shining low down in the many-colored canopy of the foliage. The farther she went, the clearer grew this wonderful light. Others started up around it, - sweet perfumes filled the air. She was no longer lonely, for the butterflies flew gently up to her, and she saw tiny figures sitting on their backs, and others with blades of grass tied round the necks of robins; bluebirds and golden orioles were also flying about in mid-air, while some sailed on the silver backs of fishes, or floated in shells upon the water near her feet.
“Where am I?" she exclaimed, as many fairy palaces met her view. “I must be in Fairy-land.”
“Yes,” replied a low voice; and, looking down, she saw a lady about four inches tall, dressed in white, with wreaths of green moss around her head and waist, and streamers of grass, soft and smooth as satin ribbon. “I am the Queen of Fairy-land. A moss-rose died last summer in your garden. You thought its sweet smell and lovely face were gone forever ; but Nature never wastes. Flowers that die on earth are born into fairy-land, and are no longer flowers, but fairies."
“And that star, is it the one papa pointed out to me shooting through the sky? " asked Ruth eagerly, while recognizing in astonishment her mother's words.
“ The very same,” said Rosa Moss; " it shot out of your world into ours, and became fixed to give us light.”
“What do you have to do here?" asked Ruth, looking around her with delight. “O, I know, - you sail, and fly, and ride, and never, never sew. Let me stay with you."
“ Very well," answered Rosa, in her sweet voice, “ if you will be good and obedient you shall try it for a few days; then, if you still like it, you will be turned from Ruth Jones into a fairy, the likeness of any flower you choose."
“O let me be a peony, they are so big and red !” cried Ruth.
“Wait and see how you would like to be a sister to Peony Blossom, who is the only one of that family here," answered Rosa ; "and let me tell you, we don't play all day. We have to collect flower petals from which to make our dresses. Miss Pink Blossom does all our pinking and trimming. Miss Nasturtion makes our pickles; she is a little deaf, and carries a trumpet you see ; still I find it difficult sometimes to make her hear. The young maiden called Lily, who lives in the valley, rings the chime of bells for every service; she welcomes the birth of each new fairy, and also tolls the death of every flower. We call her our nun, for she loves the cloister shade of broad green leaves, and her sweet, saintly face is always pale. The Snap-dragon is our policeman. You see each has something to do, to add to the good of all. There go the Pond-Lily sisters who fill their white cups every morning with water for us to bathe in. There, - Mrs. Peony Blossom is coming this way; I'l introduce you."
Just then half a horse-chestnut with damask-rose-leaf lining, mounted on four ivy-berry wheels, and with four shining beetles for horses, came driving up. Mrs. Peony leaned back in the carriage and kept fanning her red face with a fly's wing. She stopped at sight of the Queen, however, and, gathering up her crimson satin dress, jumped from the carriage.
“This little girl, as she would be called in the world where she has always lived, is anxious to become a fairy, and she thinks she would like to be your
sister,” said Rosa Moss. “Take her home, if you please, and teach her all you have to do.”
“She is so big," answered Mrs. Peony,“ that I cannot show her the attention I should wish, my dear Queen. I could only carry her little toe home in my carriage, and should she put her foot in my house, all its rich furniture would be spoiled.'
“She will be reduced to a proper size, should she ever really make one of your family," answered the Queen. “As it is, you cannot take her in your carriage, so I will show her the way to your house on foot."
To this Mrs. Peony only replied by a respectful bow, as in obedience to the Queen she re-entered her carriage and drove off.
“How do you like your future sister ?” asked Rosa of Ruth.
She answered, rather discontentedly, “Why, not quite so well as a fairy as I did as a flower. Can't I be a Sweet-Pea or a Mignonette fairy, and always have something smelling sweet on my handkerchief ?”
“No,” replied the Queen ; “I don't know how it may be with little girls, but fairies are never suffered to change their minds so soon. You wanted to be a peony, and now you want to be something else, because Mrs. Peony's appearance does n't suit you. Until you have tried her kind of life, you cannot decide whether to be like her.”
“Whose house is that?” interrupted Ruth, who was too curious to pay much attention to the fairy's wise counsels; and I don't so much wonder, for I know, if you and I had been there, we should have been amazed too, had we seen little sliding-doors open in the trunk of each tree, and the most perfect rooms exhibited within.
“Miss Morning-glory lives there," answered Rosa, “and I would take you in, but it is already noon, and you see she is lying all worn-out and pale on her sofa. She is very bright directly after breakfast, but never good for much later in the day.”
“O tell me, who is that ?" questioned Ruth, as she saw the bright fairy face of one who was cradled in an immense burdock-leaf, lying with her yellow-fringed dress like a spot of sunshine on it.
“O, that is our blessed Dandelion. What we should do without the gay little child I cannot tell. You know the flower for which she is named comes when we are almost unable to bear longer the cold of winter, or the chill of early spring; and so, when matters get the worst in fairy-land, when we are tired or unhappy, then the Dandelion's sunny face appears, to make us see the bright side of things.”
By this time they had reached Mrs. Peony's house, and found her with flushed face, resting on a couch of real forest velvet after her rapid drive, and covered with an orange-colored maple-leaf for an afghan. She rose at once, however, to do honor to her Queen, and Miss Pitcher-plant, who was visiting her, left the room for some of the honey which Miss Honeysuckle distilled in her long red jars.
Ruth sat like a giantess, encamped without the walls of her destined home, and could scarcely form an idea of their drink from the tiny drop which was presented to her.
The Queen did not stay long, but Mrs. Peony insisted upon detaining Miss Pitcher-plant; for she had fewer visitors even of bees and butterflies than any of her neighbors, and she did not seem to care to make a companion of Ruth. At last, however, they were left alone, and she said, “The Queen wished you to see how I live, and you will find me more sensible than that gay Miss Pea, with her delicate muslins, and hat trimmed with pink and white ribbons. She lives in the bird's nest above, and only, I believe, because she can be serenaded, and have a gay time up there. Every day, when she climbs to her house, my room is filled with the fragrance she always carries, and the noise of the beaux who are always following her. They call her Sweet Pea; but I can't, for the life of me, see why people are so taken with her.”
“What a cross fairy,” thought Ruth; still she said nothing to offend Mrs. Peony, but looked up with curiosity at the nest, half hidden by the green leaves, and at the tiny fairy, who was just leaving her home, and gliding down the spiral staircase of woodbine which twined around the tree.
“Good morning,” rang out from the silvery voice, as with a sweet smile she caught sight of Ruth. “I hear you mean to live with Mrs. Peony. I shall come, when you get fairly settled, to see you. Do, pray, persuade her to have something beside dark red hangings in her house. The nuts near me are almost ripe, and I will send her one by William";—and the fairy passed on.
“Who is William, I wonder ? ” said Ruth, aloud.
“I suppose she means her Sweet William, as she has the impudence to call him,” grumbled Mrs. Peony. “He has been brought up with one of our belles who dresses in blue, and I dare say he likes her better. Don't be worrying about her beaux, though,” continued Mrs. Peony, “but put those great fingers of yours down on the ground, that I may get over this gully without the help of my horses."
So Ruth did as she was told, and followed Mrs. Peony to the water. Its edge was red with checkerberries. “Roll three of them home for tea as quick as you can,” said she to Ruth. “I suppose we shall be able to dispose of as many with your great appetite ; besides, I make a jam out of these; and as everybody has to do something for the Queen, I find it the easiest thing I can do to send it to her, and she uses it herself, and gives it away to the fairies. All the other time, I have for rest or making my satin dresses. You had better be my sister, if you want to enjoy yourself. Miss Pea, for all she dresses so airily and seems so gay, is forever. in sick rooms. She and that plain Mignonette fairy are sisters of charity among us; but Miss Pea says sick people like her all the better because she looks pretty, and won't wear a dull dress or poke bonnet. There she goes now over the bridge on some such errand, I dare say.”
Ruth watched the fairy stepping across the silver net-work which hung above a miniature Niagara, that she could easily have spanned with a single step, and, longing to follow her, caught up a handful of berries, not heeding Mrs. Peony's remark, that “the bridge was built by the Queen's gate-keeper,"