The Baldwin Library
K m F.Oi,
T was in the middle of the day in the height
of summer, and the air was laden with the
lazy hum of heat, with the whispering silence
and the buzzing idleness of a July noon.
The windows of the house were set wide open, the
blinds of the windows hung low down, the latter now
and then moving most sleepily, swayed by what was
in courtesy called a summer's breeze.
It is in summer a misfortune both to teacher and
taught when the school-room looks full south, and
the school-room to which I must introduce you
laboured under this disadvantage. All Miss Wel-
don's powers of management were taxed to keep the
room tolerably cool during the last two hours of
Blinds drawn down, shutters almost entirely closed,
doors set partly open, till all outsiders declared the
school-room to be, through Miss Weldon's good
management, in summer the coolest, as in winter the
warmest, room in the house. But those who had been
hard at work within its four walls since eight o'clock
in the morning, found it very hot and very wearisome.
"I wonder what moves the blind," said the gover-
ness to her scholars, as teacher and pupils prepared
to separate and seek in their several ways rest and
enjoyment. Talk about a breeze: it's a delicious
imagination!" And she opened the shutter slightly
and threw back the drapery to gain an additional
sniff of the mignonette growing beneath the window.
"Ah! the sun nearly puts one's eyes out. What a
summer it is, to be sure! I think the blind is merely
doing its best to prove a law of perpetual motion."
Poor tired Miss Weldon was very thankful that
her day's work was over and that a holiday was
before her, and so she joked. She was very scientific,
therefore her joking generally partook of the scien-
tific element also.
The pupils laughed for the same reason that Miss
Weldon joked; and the big brother Jack, who had
just lounged into the room to hunt up his little
favourite Emma, said,
"No, Miss Weldon; I think the movement is
caused by the rotatory motion of the earth."
Then all but one passed out of the room-Miss
Weldon first, Jack, with his arm round little Em's
waist, next, Mabel afterthem, and Philip, the youngest
of the family, its pet pickle and plaything, last. All
gone! And what a dreadfully hot, dusty room it
looked to poor Maggie, who was left behind!
"Only to prove her long-division sum," Miss
Weldon said, cheerfully, in answer toJack's inquiries.
And Jack had as cheerfully rejoined,
Oh, that'll soon be done, Maggie!"
But Maggie knew better. A compound long-
division sum was her bite noir, her rock ahead,
against which her poor little brain knocked and
bumped itself, vainly endeavouring to gain some
permanent footing on its hard and, what seemed to
her, uninteresting surface.
Mabel had turned to say, I wish I could help
you, Maggie;" but Maggie shook her head, knowing
she must do her own work. And Philip came
trundling up his fat little person to her, and holding
up his plump little cheek as a consolation, lisped
out, Come thoon, Maggie, dear, and we '11 go to the
dell together." That there would be no dell for her
that morning Maggie felt sure, and with the reflec-
tion she fairly broke down.
It seemed unfeeling of Miss Weldon to joke when
she was in such trouble, heartless of Jack to answer
her in the same strain; and the tears fell faster. It
was unsympathizing of the wood-pigeons to go on
cooing in that happy, peaceful tone; she even felt
rather vexed with the mignonette for sending out its
sweet scent so pleasantly: she couldn't thoroughly
enjoy it in that wearisome, stuffy school-room.
But when her grievances had reached this pitch,
she felt a little ashamed of them and of her tears,
and put her hand over her eyes to stop them. So
they trickled down, and, without her seeing or know-
ing till the mischief was done, fell with a fat little
splash upon the slate, first one and then another, the
second running into the first, and that in the very
middle of the sum.
Maggie was nearly twelve, and at her age such a
sum need not have been very appalling, but so it was.
She was clever enough in most things. Too quick
in remembering fairy stories, poetry, and trash,"
said her godfather, a red-faced, large-spectacled,
middle-aged squire, living in the next village, who
loudly declared that poetry was all stuff and non-
sense, and that he hated it.
"Too dreamy and absorbed," said her mother,
when she sent Maggie into the next room for a reel
of strong cotton, and after waiting and waiting in
vain, and finally finishing her work with fine thread
doubled, went into the room and found the little girl
with her head on the window-seat, dreaming with
her eyes open, lost to reels of cotton and all such
sublunary matters; lost even to the sound of the
school-room tea-bell, that had rung twenty minutes
I really couldn't be sorry that the poor child lost
her tea," said the good, kind mother, grieving even
over the remembrance of the little daughter sent
supperless to bed; "it will be a lesson to her to keep
her mind awake as well as her body."
"Too unpractical," said the governess, when, as
frequently happened, Maggie stitched the two hems
of a handkerchief on different sides, or moved over
the scales on the piano, playing now loudly, now
softly, slowly or quickly, or stopping them altogether,
as the fancies thickened in her weird little brain.
I consider arithmetic the best thing in the world
for her," said Miss Weldon to Mrs. Elwyn this very
morning. I don't think I can excuse the sum."
It's very hot for her in that room," sighed Mrs.
I always try and keep it cool," said Miss Wei-
don, rather hurt.
I know you do, and-succeed admirably," answered
Mrs. Elwyn, apologetically; but hard work makes
every one hot this weather. I should like her to
have half an hour in the shade out-of-doors before
dinner, if it can be managed, Miss Weldon," said
motherly Mrs. Elwyn. "A tonic is a very good
thing in its way; but if one is very weak it is apt
to cause indigestion," she added, with a smile.
And Miss Weldon, who never could take quinine
without bringing on a headache, felt the force of the
argument. So she promised that, sum proved or
not, Madge should be released for the half-hour
before the school-room dinner.
Meanwhile Madge, having gazed vacantly upon
the blots of tears for a minute or two, threw aside
her slate with an ejaculation of despair over this
finishing-stroke to her misfortunes. Leaning her
head against the window-sill, she first turned her
reflections upon the waywardness of chance. How
odd it was that she never by chance made her sums
come right the first time of doing them! She knew
she had a faculty of forgetting to pay when she bor-
rowed, of counting shillings as pennies, and pounds
as shillings; that she often failed to carry on, and
that in many ways her arithmetic was weak and de-
fective; but still she should have thought that some-
times by chance all would have come right; that
she would, now and then, have had the inexpressible
satisfaction of putting down the last row of figures
in the multiplication proof, and finding that, one by
one, they tallied with the sum as Miss Weldon had
set it for her. But such luck, such happy chance,
didn't come to her. Something always went wrong,
and she had to go over her sum once, twice, thrice,
or innumerable times till her brain grew muddled,
and all seemed in confusion.
Maggie didn't consider the question of averages,
nor reflect that, with about a hundred figures to set
down, with almost any of which she might make one
or other of her pet mistakes, the chances were by
no means in her favour, but, on the contrary, nearly
a hundred to one against her. Before her ponderings
reached much depth, she rested her head still more
comfortably, and turned them into wishes.
She wasn't lucky under the existing dynasty, but
if only the reign of Queen Mab could begin again;
chance might favour her. She was so fond of fairies,
studied their natural history so affectionately in Hans
Andersen, that they surely would take a liking to
her, and would come every now and then, and with
a waveof a magical little wand mark all the proper
figures down in their proper places, without any
more labour from her weary brain.
And the faint summer air moved the blind gently,
the bees hummed amongst the mignonette, the
wood-pigeons cooed sweetly from out the plantation.
Madge heard a coo close by her right elbow, and,
turning, saw the wished-for fairy-a tall, slender
fairy, in floating robes of white, with delicious waves
of rainbow colour enveloping her in a soft bright-
ness. Her face was beautiful but sad, and Maggie
had time to wonder how a fairy could possibly have
reason for sorrowful looks before she remembered
h-r own wants, and said entreatingly,
Kind fairy, help me with my sum; please help
The fairy moved gently to and fro, and Madge
looked out eagerly for the wand; but there was no-
thing like one to be seen in the fairy's hand, and the
white-robed figure looked rather puzzled.
"If she would but make me a fairy!" thought
Madge; "and then I needn't trouble her. By-the-
bye, when I am one I must take care never to forget
my wand, as she has evidently done to-day."
With great coolness Maggie preferred her request.
The fairy smiled, but gravely, and said,
I can make you a fairy if you like it," in a tone
that added, as plainly as words could have done,
"but I don't think you will."
Try me, try me, only try me answered Maggie,
Then she saw the rainbow colours flutter round
her, felt a soft, fragrant air, very like a breath of
mignonette, sweep over her cheeks and forehead,
whilst the fairy's white mantle fell over her shoulders.
Such a delicious sensation came over her! as she
afterwards expressed it, she seemed to be walking
on nothing." How she got out of the window she
never knew; blind, shutters, and a narrow aperture
were no impediment, and she next found herself
floating over the lawn in front of the house.
There was old Jerry at work, a poor old man,
crippled with rheumatism, but still working away
with evident satisfaction, forking and pulling up the
daisies from the grass. She recognized old Jerry,
and she remembered her father's hobby of extin-
guishing root and branch every daisy on the lawn;
but the recollection came to her mind in a vague,
dreamy kind of way, as though years had passed
over her head since she had lived among such things.
She began to feel forcibly that some transformation
had taken place.
Meanwhile she and the fairy hovered over old
Jerry and watched him as he poked the fork into the
ground, twitched it up with a jerk, twisted round the
daisy plant by its tuft of leaves till the root was
loosened, and then tossed the expatriated plant into
his wicker basket. Then he tapped the daisy-fork
on to the side of the basket to clear its prongs from
earth and roots, and proceeded on his way. He was
so crippled that moving up and down was a great
trouble to him. Once down, there he preferred to
remain; so over his poor stiff knees he tied large
pieces of matting, and consigned himself to the
grass for a couple of hours at a time, dragging him-
self and his basket in great contentment from one
patch of the wilful little plants to another. How he
could endure the noonday sun pouring down upon
his head, more especially as he always wore an old
black chimney-pot hat, Madge and her brothers and
sisters never could understand. Even now, fairy as
she was, she pitied and wondered: pitied, as she felt
the warmth of the sun on her own cheek, notwith-
standing the protection of the gossamer folds, and
wondered whether he was still provided with the
cabbage-leaf she remembered her brother had once
insisted on his placing within his hat.
Maggie and the fairy floated gently close to the
old man, and heard him mutter,
I wish some one would tell me however I'm to
keep these 'ere daisies from a-coming up again. I
takes'em up one year, and they just comes again the
next, as like as not."
The fairy stooped and whispered into the old man's
"Take out all the roots, even the straggling little
fibres : see, there's one you've left that would have
grown into a fat daisy plant by next summer."
The old man made no answer, and went on talking
to himself, but he poked out the objectionable fibre.
He doesn't see me or hear me exactly," said the
fairy, nodding to Madge," at least not to know that
it's me: mortals never do. You mustn't expect any
thanks, my dear, or you'll be disappointed."
Now, thanks were just what Madge had expected
as sole guerdon for all the good she was about to
shower on the world, so her disappointment began
Jerry crawled on to the next clump of roots, and
again the fairy whispered a hint of a wiry tendril
hidden below the surface. But the old man's eyes
wouldn't follow her pointing finger this time.
The sun's mighty hot," he said, rubbing his hand
over his face. I never seed the like o' them roots ;
the mort o' trouble they are, surely ; if they will creep
into the ground, why, there they must bide." And
he chucked the green leaves into his basket.
Now, look," said the fairy, going back to the
spot from whence the first daisy root had been torn.
And Madge saw a tuft of light fresh grass, quite
filling up the empty space the daisy had occupied.
It hasn't taken long to grow," said Maggie,
"Six months is nothing to us, you know," said
Madge wasn't quite sure whether she liked six
months to slip from her without any warning.
Now look at the second patch." And there, sure
enough, another strong daisy-plant had sprung from
the straggling piece of root, quite taking place of
the plant Jerry had tossed away.
"What a pity!" said Madge.
So often the same thing," said the fairy, I'm
getting quite used to it."
Madge next found herself borne along till she
stood on the window-sill of a little bed-room. Close
by the window was a looking-glass, and in front of
the glass stood a little girl hastily dressing. She
popped on her hat, and then snatching up a neck-
handkerchief, pinned it round her throat with a
pretty little brooch.
Not very safe," was all the fairy said, and that
in a faint, low whisper; but the girl evidently heard.
"I haven't time to get another, and it has done
so many times, it may do once more: I know the
pin's partly out; but never mind, here goes-one
never loses things when one expects to lose them."
In another second the same girl was in a lane by
the side of the house, and Madge and the fairy were
This mode of locomotion is very fairy-like," said
Madge, with a ruffle of pride, in which the gossamer
"Ah !" said the fairy in a plaintive tone; and, as
at first, it struck Madge that her voice forcibly re-
sembled the cooing of a wood-pigeon.
The little girl meanwhile paced down the lane
with her eyes fixed upon the ground. When she
got to the end of the lane, she turned, and retraced
her steps; always poring upon the ground over
which she passed, and going first to one side, then
to another of the path. Maggie noticed that the
print dress that had looked so fresh and clean just
before, was crumpled and dirty, as if she had worn
I might as well look for a needle in a load of
hay," she said, disconsolately. "Dear me! how I
wish I had had the pin mended. Uncle Tom will
think me so careless ;" here tears came into the
blue eyes. And I saw it was loose three or four
It's nearly a week since we saw her last," cooed
Madge felt startled.
It was all very well to have the power of expe-
diting time, but it wasn't so pleasant to see that
Time took the law into his own hands, and chose
to expedite himself. In some things, fairy life was
not a bed of roses. In what life could she expect to
find nothing but roses? moralized Madge; and if
such a thing were possible, then there would be
Maggie was brought back from the depth of her
philosophy by the fairy's voice. She was murmur-
ing something, but Madge couldn't tell what; the
voice had grown very indistinct, and strangely like
the gurgling cushat of a dove.
On and on the voice continued, till Madge began
to think it would surely send her off to sleep; so
she roused herself, and then found that the fairy
had left her, and that she was floating along by
herself, with gossamer robes still fluttering round
her and fanning her cheek.
She passed into a darkened room, and there saw
a girl sitting by the window. A faint thrill of
recognition passed through her heart as she noticed
the stooping, tear-stained face, and she bent down
to give a fairy's advice.
Rub the sum out, Madge, and begin it again from
That was what she meant to have said, but she
didn't say it, she knew she didn't, but somebody
took the word out of her mouth; for she heard dis-
tinctly, Madge, dear, rub it out: better take the bull
by the horns ; the figures have all grown into a mess
and a muddle : make a fresh start."
Perhaps fairies had only to think, and some other
voice was made to proclaim their thoughts to the
public. Perhaps the fairy had come again to speak
to her; and was she one herself or not ? The fairy-
like mantle still brushed her cheek, but there,
straight before her, in all its hopeless smudginess,
lay her slate.
Madge dreamt on with her eyes open for a few
seconds, then dashed at the slate, and made a clean
sweep of it, leaving nothing but the original setting
of the sum.
A knock at the door.
Come in," said Madge, expecting to sec the ser-
vant with the dinner-tray. She must have been
asleep for more than an hour, surely.
Uncle Tom. Oh!" said Maggie with a gasp of
"What are you about, little one ? that nasty long-
division sum again? All rubbed out? going to
make a fresh start ? That's right," said Uncle Tom,
in his hearty voice; and that somehow or other
reminded Madge of the tone in which the advice
respecting the demolition of her handiwork had
just before been uttered.
"Yes, uncle. I had such an odd dream, and I
was a fairy myself for a little while, and I told a
girl, or at least meant to tell her, to rub her sum
right out, and the girl was like myself; but then it
couldn't have been, because I was the, fairy," broke
off Madge, with a puzzled look.
"'If it be as I suppose it be,
I have a little dog at home and he'll know me,"'
laughed Uncle Tom.
"When I first wake, uncle, I often don't quite
know where I am," explained Madge.
I dare say not," said Uncle Tom, demurely; but
does the sage Madge confess to having been asleep
over her lessons ?"
"It's so hot, uncle, and compound long division
isn't like anything else. What time is it? I thought
you were dinner coming in. A quarter past twelve,
and I have only been asleep ten minutes! It seemed
like hours. But I must do my sum now."
"I'll sit and wait for you."
Madge may have benefited somewhat by her
uncle's supervision, and by the warning grunt he
gave whenever she was on the point of forgetting to
carry on or to pay what she had borrowed; but
Maggie believed her success due entirely to the
I am glad I took the fairy's advice," said she,
triumphantly, as she hung up her slate. I'll tell
you all about my dream now, uncle."
And, seated in the shady filbert walk, Maggie
poured the history of her dream into those kind ears
of Uncle Tom's.
"Wasn't it odd, uncle?"
"Very," said Uncle Tom, with a twinkle in his
eye, "and reminds me of what we were saying to
each other in the evening whilst you were deep in
your book. How we, some of us, were of opinion
that perseverance and determination made the best
"But I didn't hear you, uncle, indeed."
"To be sure not, and it's so commonplace to have
your fairy's cooing put into everyday language. By-
the-bye, the wood-pigeons are incessant. I don't
wonder at the sweet tone of your fairy's voice."
"Ah it's a matter-of-fact world you've come
back to. You must have felt that when you found
your gossamer robe resolve itself into a window-
It's a provoking old uncle I've come back to.
But you must allow that my dear little fairy's advice
"As far as the sum went," said Uncle Tom, with
a sniff of amusement, I couldn't have given better
myself; upon my word I couldn't."