The Fairy Who Judged Her Neighbors by Jean Ingelow

Story type: Literature

There was once a Fairy who was a good Fairy, on the whole, but she had one very bad habit; she was too fond of finding fault with other people, and of taking for granted that everything must be wrong if it did not appear right to her.

One day, when she had been talking very unkindly of some friends of hers, her mother said to her: “My child, I think if you knew a little more of the world, you would become more charitable. I would therefore advise you to set out on your travels; you will find plenty of food, for the cowslips are now in bloom, and they contain excellent honey. I need not be anxious about your lodging, for there is no place more delightful for sleeping in than an empty robin’s nest when the young have flown. And if you want a new gown, you can sew two tulip leaves together, which will make you a very becoming dress, and one that I should be proud to see you in.”

The young Fairy was pleased at this permission to set out on her travels; so she kissed her mother, and bade good-by to her nurse, who gave her a little ball of spiders’ threads to sew with, and a beautiful little box, made of the egg-shell of a wren, to keep her best thimble in, and took leave of her, wishing her safe home again.

The young Fairy then flew away till she came to a large meadow, with a clear river flowing on one side of it, and some tall oak-trees on the other. She sat down on a high branch in one of these oaks, and, after her long flight, was thinking of a nap, when, happening to look down at her little feet, she observed that her shoes were growing shabby and faded. “Quite a disgrace, I declare,” said she. “I must look for another pair. Perhaps two of the smallest flowers of that snapdragon which I see growing in the hedge would fit me. I think I should like a pair of yellow slippers.” So she flew down, and, after a little trouble, she found two flowers which fitted her very neatly, and she was just going to return to the oak-tree, when she heard a deep sigh beneath her, and, peeping out from her place among the hawthorn blossoms, she saw a fine young Lark sitting in the long grass, and looking the picture of misery.

“What is the matter with you, cousin?” asked the Fairy.

“Oh, I am so unhappy,” replied the poor Lark; “I want to build a nest, and I have got no wife.”

“Why don’t you look for a wife, then?” said the Fairy, laughing at him. “Do you expect one to come and look for you? Fly up, and sing a beautiful song in the sky, and then perhaps some pretty hen will hear you; and perhaps, if you tell her that you will help her to build a capital nest, and that you will sing to her all day long, she will consent to be your wife.”

See also  D’arfet’s Vengeance by Arthur Quiller-Couch

“Oh, I don’t like,” said the Lark, “I don’t like to fly up, I am so ugly. If I were a goldfinch, and had yellow bars on my wings, or a robin, and had red feathers on my breast, I should not mind the defect which now I am afraid to show. But I am only a poor brown Lark, and I know I shall never get a wife.”

“I never heard of such an unreasonable bird,” said the Fairy. “You cannot expect to have everything.”

“Oh, but you don’t know,” proceeded the Lark, “that if I fly up my feet will be seen; and no other bird has feet like mine. My claws are enough to frighten any one, they are so long; and yet I assure you, Fairy, I am not a cruel bird.”

“Let me look at your claws,” said the Fairy.

So the Lark lifted up one of his feet, which he had kept hidden in the long grass, lest any one should see it.

“It looks certainly very fierce,” said the Fairy. “Your hind claw is at least an inch long, and all your toes have very dangerous-looking points. Are, you sure you never use them to fight with?”

“No, never!” said the Lark, earnestly; “I never fought a battle in my life; but yet these claws grow longer and longer, and I am so ashamed of their being seen that I very often lie in the grass instead of going up to sing, as I could wish.”

“I think, if I were you, I would pull them off,” said the Fairy.

“That is easier said than done,” answered the poor Lark. “I have often got them entangled in the grass, and I scrape them against the hard clods; but it is of no use, you cannot think how fast they stick.”

“Well, I am sorry for you,” observed the Fairy; “but at the same time I cannot but see that, in spite of what you say, you must be a quarrelsome bird, or you would not have such long spurs.”

“That is just what I am always afraid people will say,” sighed the Lark.

“For,” proceeded the Fairy, “nothing is given us to be of no use. You would not have wings unless you were to fly, nor a voice unless you were to sing; and so you would not have those dreadful spurs unless you were going to fight. If your spurs are not to fight with,” continued the unkind Fairy, “I should like to know what they are for?”

See also  My Favourite Murder

“I am sure I don’t know,” said the Lark, lifting up his foot and looking at it. “Then you are not inclined to help me at all, Fairy? I thought you might be willing to mention among my friends that I am not a quarrelsome bird, and that I should always take care not to hurt my wife and nestlings with my spurs.”

“Appearances are very much against you,” answered the Fairy; “and it is quite plain to me that those spurs are meant to scratch with. No, I cannot help you. Good morning.”

So the Fairy withdrew to her oak bough, and the poor Lark sat moping in the grass while the Fairy watched him. “After all,” she thought, “I am sorry he is such a quarrelsome fellow, for that he is such is fully proved by those long spurs.”

While she was so thinking, the Grasshopper came chirping up to the Lark, and tried to comfort him.

“I have heard all that the Fairy said to you,” he observed, “and I really do not see that it need make you unhappy. I have known you some time, and have never seen you fight or look out of temper; therefore I will spread a report that you are a very good-tempered bird, and that you are looking out for a wife.”

The Lark upon this thanked the Grasshopper warmly.

“At the same time,” remarked the Grasshopper, “I should be glad if you could tell me what is the use of those claws, because the question might be asked me, and I should not know what to answer.”

“Grasshopper,” replied the Lark, “I cannot imagine what they are for–that is the real truth.”

“Well,” said the kind Grasshopper, “perhaps time will show.”

So he went away, and the Lark, delighted with his promise to speak well of him, flew up into the air, and the higher he went the sweeter and the louder he sang. He was so happy, and he poured forth such delightful notes, so clear and thrilling, that the little ants who were carrying grains to their burrow stopped and put down their burdens to listen; and the doves ceased cooing, and the little field-mice came and sat in the openings of their holes; and the Fairy, who had just begun to doze, woke up delighted; and a pretty brown Lark, who had been sitting under some great foxglove leaves, peeped out and exclaimed, “I never heard such a beautiful song in my life–never!”

“It was sung by my friend, the Skylark,” said the Grasshopper, who just then happened to be on a leaf near her. “He is a very good-tempered bird, and he wants a wife.”

See also  The Crusade Of Frederick II by Charles Morris

“Hush!” said the pretty brown Lark. “I want to hear the end of that wonderful song.”

For just then the Skylark, far up in the heaven, burst forth again, and sang better than ever–so well, indeed, that every creature in the field sat still to listen; and the little brown Lark under the foxglove leaves held her breath, for she was afraid of losing a single note.

“Well done, my friend!” exclaimed the Grasshopper, when at length he came down panting, and with tired wings; and then he told him how much his friend the brown Lark, who lived by the foxglove, had been pleased with his song, and he took the poor Skylark to see her.

The Skylark walked as carefully as he could, that she might not see his feet; and he thought he had never seen such a pretty bird in his life. But when she told him how much she loved music, he sprang up again into the blue sky as if he was not at all tired, and sang anew, clearer and sweeter than before. He was so glad to think that he could please her.

He sang several songs, and the Grasshopper did not fail to praise him, and say what a cheerful, kind bird he was. The consequence was, that when he asked the brown Lark to overlook his spurs and be his wife, she said:

“I will see about it, for I do not mind your spurs particularly.”

“I am very glad of that,” said the Skylark. “I was afraid you would disapprove of them.”

“Not at all,” she replied. “On the contrary, now I think of it, I should not have liked you to have short claws like other birds; but I cannot exactly say why, for they seem to be of no use in particular.”

This was very good news for the Skylark, and he sang such delightful songs in consequence, that he very soon won his wife; and they built a delightful little nest in the grass, which made him so happy that he almost forgot to be sorry about his long spurs.

The Fairy, meanwhile, flew about from field to field, and I am sorry to say that she seldom went anywhere without saying something unkind or ill-natured; for, as I told you before, she was very hasty, and had a sad habit of judging her neighbors.

She had been several days wandering about in search of adventures, when one afternoon she came back to the old oak-tree, because she wanted a new pair of shoes, and there were none to be had so pretty as those made of the yellow snapdragon flower in the hedge hard by.

See also  The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes By H G Wells

While she was fitting on her shoes, she saw the Lark’s friend.

“How do you do, Grasshopper?” asked the Fairy.

“Thank you, I am very well and very happy,” said the Grasshopper; “people are always so kind to me.”

“Indeed!” replied the Fairy. “I wish I could say that they were always kind to me. How is that quarrelsome Lark who found such a pretty brown mate the other day?”

“He is not a quarrelsome bird indeed,” replied the Grasshopper. “I wish you would not say that he is.”

“Oh, well, we need not quarrel about that,” said the Fairy, laughing; “I have seen the world, Grasshopper, and I know a few things, depend upon it. Your friend the Lark does not wear those long spurs for nothing.”

The Grasshopper did not choose to contend with the Fairy, who all this time was busily fitting yellow slippers to her tiny feet. When, however, she had found a pair to her mind–

“Suppose you come and see the eggs that our pretty friend the Lark has got in her nest,” asked the Grasshopper. “Three pink eggs spotted with brown. I am sure she will show them to you with pleasure.”

Off they set together; but what was their surprise to find the poor little brown Lark sitting on them with rumpled feathers, drooping head, and trembling limbs.

“Ah, my pretty eggs!” said the Lark, as soon as she could speak, “I am so miserable about them–they will be trodden on, they will certainly be found.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Grasshopper. “Perhaps we can help you.”

“Dear Grasshopper,” said the Lark, “I have just heard the farmer and his son talking on the other side of the hedge, and the farmer said that to-morrow morning he should begin to cut this meadow.”

“That is a great pity,” said the Grasshopper. “What a sad thing it was that you laid your eggs on the ground!”

“Larks always do,” said the poor little brown bird; “and I did not know how to make a fine nest such as those in the hedges. Oh, my pretty eggs!–my heart aches for them! I shall never hear my little nestlings chirp!”

So the poor Lark moaned and lamented, and neither the Grasshopper nor the Fairy could do anything to help her. At last her mate dropped down from the white cloud where he had been singing, and when he saw her drooping, and the Grasshopper and the Fairy sitting silently before her, he inquired in a great fright what the matter was.

So they told him, and at first he was very much shocked; but presently he lifted first one and then the other of his feet, and examined his long spurs.

See also  At The Sign Of The Savage by William Dean Howells

“He does not sympathize much with his poor mate,” whispered the Fairy; but the Grasshopper took no notice of the speech.

Still the Lark looked at his spurs, and seemed to be very deep in thought.

“If I had only laid my eggs on the other side of the hedge,” sighed the poor mother, “among the corn, there would have been plenty of time to rear my birds before harvest time.”

“My dear,” answered her mate, “don’t be unhappy.” And so saying, he hopped up to the eggs, and laying one foot upon the prettiest, he clasped it with his long spurs. Strange to say, it exactly fitted them.

“Oh, my clever mate!” cried the poor little mother, reviving; “do you think you can carry them away for me?”

“To be sure I can,” replied the Lark, beginning slowly and carefully to hop on with the egg in his right foot; “nothing more easy. I have often thought it was likely that our eggs would be disturbed in this meadow; but it never occurred to me till this moment that I could provide against this misfortune. I have often wondered what my spurs could be for, and now I see.” So saying, he hopped gently on till he came to the hedge, and then got through it, still holding the egg, till he found a nice little hollow place in among the corn, and there he laid it and came back for the others.

“Hurrah!” cried the Grasshopper, “Larkspurs forever!”

The Fairy said nothing, but she felt heartily ashamed of herself. She sat looking on till the happy Lark had carried the last of his eggs to a safe place, and had called his mate to come and sit on them. Then, when he sprang up into the sky again, exulting and rejoicing and singing to his mate that now he was quite happy, because he knew what his long spurs were for, she stole gently away, saying to herself, “Well, I could not have believed such a thing. I thought he must be a quarrelsome bird as his spurs were so long; but it appears that I was wrong, after all.”

Leave a Reply 0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *