The Baldwin Lbrar
THE MAGIC NUTS
THIE UNSELFISH MERMAID.
THE MAGIC NUTS
AUTHOR OF 'CARROTS,' CUCKOO CLOCK,' 'TELL ME A STORY,' ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY ROSIE M. M. PITMAN
MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
All rights reserved
In childhood, when with eager eyes
The season-measured years I viewed,
All garbed in fairy guise.
I DEDICATE THIS LITTLE STORY
TO MY GRAND-DAUGHTER
VIOLET SABA MOLESWORTH
19 SUMNER PLACE, S.W.,
NIGHT AND MORNING
APPLES AND NUTS
IT IS HILDEGARDE
ON THE WAY
'WHAT'S O'CLOCK ?'
viii THE MAGIC NUTS
A COLLATION UNDER DIFFICULTIES
THE BLUE-SILK 0ROOM-
'THE UNSELFISH MERMAID'
'THE UNSELFISH MERMAID' (continued)
VIGNETTE On Title page
THE UNSELFISH MERMAID Frontispiece
" TAKE THESE," SHE SAID, FOR GOOD LUCK To face page .20
PORTRAIT OF HILDEGARDE 33
" I MUST GIVE YOU ONE OR TWO WARN-
INGS" ,, 76
MANUFACTURING LUCKY PENNIES. ,, 86
" WHO SENT YOU TO KISS US, YOU BREEZES
OF MAY" ,, 115
THE UNSELFISH MERMAID 162
THE MAGIC NUTS
NIGHT AND MORNING
The way was long.
Lay of the Last Minstrel.
LITTLE Leonore pressed her face against the window
of the railway carriage and tried hard to see out.
But it was no use. It all looked so dark and black,
all the darker and blacker for the glimmer of the
rain-drops trickling down thickly outside, and re-
flecting the feeble light of the lamp in the roof of
Leonore sighed deeply. She was very tired, more
tired than she knew, for she did not feel sleepy, or
as if she would give anything to be undressed and
go to bed. On the contrary, she wished with all her
heart that it was daylight, and that it would leave
*off raining, and that she could get out of the stuffy
2 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
old railway train, and go for a good run. It had been
raining for so long, and they had been such a lot of
hours shut in and bum-bumming along in this dreary
way-it even seemed to her now and then as if she
had always been sitting in her corner like this, and
that it had always been night and always raining
'I don't believe I'm going to be happy at all at
Alten,' she said to herself. 'I'm sure it's going to be
horrid. It's always the way if people tell you any-
thing's going to be lovely and nice, it's sure to be
dull, and-just horrid.'
She glanced at the other end of the railway
carriage where a lady, comfortably muffled up in the
corner, was sleeping peacefully. She was not an
old lady, but she was not young. To Leonore she
seemed past counting her age, for she never appeared
to get older, and during the six or seven years she
had been the little girl's governess she had not
changed at all.
'I wish I could go to sleep like Fraulein,' was
the next thought that came into her busy brain.
'When she wakes she'll think I have been asleep,
for she did tuck me up nicely. And I'm feeling as
cross as cross.'
NIGHT AND MORNING
Then her eyes fell on the little cushion and the
railway rug that she had thrown on to the floor-
should she try to settle herself again and perhaps
manage to go to sleep ? It would be so nice to wake
up and find they had got there, and surely it could
not be very much farther. Fraulein had said ten
o'clock, had she not? Leonore remembered sitting
up one night till ten o'clock-more than a year ago
-when her father was expected to arrive, and Frau-
lein was sure he would like to find her awake to
welcome him. It hadn't seemed half so late that
night as it did now-would ten o'clock never come ?
She stooped down and pulled up the rug, and
tried to prop the cushion against the back of the
seat for her head. It was not very easy to manage,
but Leonore was not a selfish child; it never occurred
to her to disturb her governess for the sake of her
own comfort, though Fraulein would not have been
the least vexed with her had she done so.
Just as she had made up her mind that she would
try to go to sleep, she felt a slight change in the
motion of the train-the bum and rattle, rattle and
bum, grew fainter-was it only her fancy, or could
it, oh! could it be that they were slackening speed?
If so, it could only mean arriving at Alten, for her
4 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
governess had distinctly told her they would not
stop again till they had reached their journey's end.
'Sleep, my dear,' she had said, 'sleep well till I
wake you, and then we shall be there. There will
be no other stopping anywhere to disturb you.'
Leonore held her breath in anxiety-yes, it was
no fancy-they were moving more and more slowly,
and through the darkness lights, which were not the
glimmer of the rain-drops, began to appear. Then at
last there was a pull-up.
Fraulein, Fraulein,' cried Leonore, in great excite-
ment, 'wake up, quick. We're there-do you hear?
The train has stopped.'
Poor Fraulein had started up at the first words,
but Leonore was too eager to leave off talking all at
once, and in another moment the governess's head
was out of the window, calling to a porter, for there
was not too much time to spare, as the train had to
start off again, not having finished its journey, though
some of its passengers had done so. And almost
before our little girl had quite taken in that the
dreary rattle and bum in the darkness were over, she
found herself on the platform, her own little travel-
ling-bag and warm cloak in her grasp, while Fraulein,
who insisted on loading herself as much as the porter,
NIGHT AND MORNING
was chattering away to him in the cheeriest and
liveliest of voices, far too fast for Leonore to under-
stand much of what she said, as if she had never
been asleep in her life.,
'I suppose she's very pleased to be in her own
country,' thought Leonore. 'I wish it wasn't night,
so that I could see what it all looks like,' and she
gazed about her eagerly, as she followed Fraulein
and the porter out of the station.
Something, after all, was to be seen. The rain
was clearing off; overhead it was almost dry, though
very wet and puddly underfoot. In front of the
station was a wide open space, with trees surrounding
it, except where a broad road, at the end of which
lamps showed some carriages waiting, led away to
somewhere, though no streets or even houses were to
be seen. The air felt fresh and pleasant, and Leonore's
spirits began to rise.
'It feels like the country,' she said to herself; 'I
wonder where the town is.'
But Fraulein was still too busy talking to the
porter and to two or three other men who had some-
how sprung up, to be asked any questions just yet.
One of the men had a band round his cap with some
words stamped on it in gilt letters. Leonore could
6 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
only make out one word, Hotel --,' and then he
turned away, and she could not see the others.
By this time her governess was picking up her
skirts in preparation for crossing the wet space
'He says we had better step over to where the
carriages are standing,' she explained to the little
girl; 'it will be quicker'; and when, a moment
later, the two found themselves alone, with plenty of
room, in the comfortable omnibus, she lent back with
a sigh of satisfaction.
'It is so pleasant to be in a land where things are
well managed,' she said. 'We do not need to wait
for our big luggage. I give the paper to the hotel
porter, he sees to it all for us.'
'Yes,' said Leonore, though without paying much
attention; the care of the luggage did not trouble
her; 'but do tell me, Fraulein, dear, where is the
hotel? Where are the streets and-and-every-
thing ? It seems like the country, and oh, aren't
you glad to be out of the train? I thought we
should never get here, and it was so dark and raining
so hard, and I couldn't go to sleep.'
'Poor dear,' said tender-hearted Fraulein, 'and
I who slept comfortably for so long. Had I
I NIGHT AND MORNING 7
known you were awake I would have kept awake
'Never mind now,' said Leonore amiably; 'but
tell me where we are going.'
'The station is half a mile or so out of the town,'
explained the governess. 'See now, the houses are
appearing. We cross the bridge-by daylight it is
beautiful, such a view down the river.'
But Leonore did not care very much about beauti-
ful views-not just now especially.
'I wish it wasn't so far to the town,' she said
wearily, though almost as she said the words her
tone changed. 'Oh now,' she exclaimed brightly,
'we are really getting into the streets. How queer
everything looks--do you think the people are all in
bed, Fraulein ?'
It was a natural question, for as they drove
through the wide dark streets, faintly lighted by an
occasional lamp, there was nothing to be seen but
closed shutters and barred doors. The houses, for
the most part, looked large, particularly as regarded
the entrance, for many of these led into courtyards,
with great double gates.
Fraulein nodded her head.
'They are all in their houses,' she said, 'though
8 TEE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
perhaps not all in bed yet, for it is not really so very
late. In Alten we keep to the good old ways, you
see, my dear-" early to bed and early to rise," as
your rhyme says.
'It's very dull looking,' said Leonore discon-
tentedly. 'It seems like a lot of prisons, and-
She broke off suddenly, for they were stopping at
last, or at least preparing to stop, as they turned in
through a large doorway standing open to admit
them into a courtyard, paved with cobble stones,
and dimly lighted like the streets by an old-fashioned
lamp or lantern at one side.
There was more light at the other side, however,
where a short flight of steps led into the hotel, and
here they pulled up, to be received by a funny little
man in black, with a large expanse of shirt-front,
and by what looked to Leonore's half-dazzled eyes
like a whole troop of waiters, also in black, flutter-
ing about him, though in reality there were only
three-all the party bowing in the most polite way,
and almost tumbling over each other in their eager-
ness to help the ladies to alight.
This sort of thing was quite to Leonore's taste,
and for the moment all feeling of dullness or tired-
S. NIGHT AND MORNING 9
ness left her. She bent her head graciously to the
little fat man, who was really the landlord, and
allowed one of the others to take her cloak and
bag. Fraulein seemed more than ever in her ele-
ment. Yes; rooms were ready for the ladies-two
bedrooms opening into each other-would they have
supper upstairs, or (and as he spoke the polite little
man threw open a door they were passing) in here?
'Here' being the large dining-room. They would be
'Oh, in here, Fraulein, do say in here,' said
Leonore, I don't like eating in bedrooms; it makes
me feel as if I had the measles or something. And,
I'm not sure, but I think I'm rather hungry, so
mayn't we have supper at once?'
Fraulein was quite willing, and supper, in the
shape of chocolate and an omelette, would be ready
immediately. So the two settled themselves at one
end of the long narrow table, and Leonore's eyes set
to work to see what they could see by the light of
the two not very bright lamps.
'What a funny old man,' she exclaimed. 'Look,
Fraulein, the walls are all dark wood like a church,
and the ceiling has white carvings on it, and the
floor is red and black squares like the kitchen at
10 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
Aunt Isabella's. And it isn't like a hotel, is it?
Not like the one at Paris, where there was such a
bustle. I don't believe there's anybody staying here
except you and me.'
Oh yes, there are probably other people,' said
Fraulein, 'but it is long past proper supper-time, you
see, my dear. It is very polite of the landlord to
have received us himself, and to have all the waiters
And by the way Fraulein leant back in her chair
Leonore saw that she was in a state of great satis-
faction with everything, and exceedingly delighted
to find herself again in her own country.
Upstairs, where they soon made their way, guided
by two, if not three, of the attentive waiters, the
house seemed even queerer and older than down
below. Leonore was now getting too sleepy to
notice anything very clearly, but the dark wain-
scotted walls, the long passages and funny little
staircases, struck her as very mysterious and inter-
esting, and she said to herself that she would have
a good exploring the next day.
The bedrooms prepared for them looked large and
imposing, partly perhaps because the candles left
the corners in darkness. The beds were small and
I NIGHT ANT MORNING 11
cosy, with their white eider-down quilts, and very
comfortable too, as the tired little girl stretched her-
self out with a sigh of relief and content, to fall
asleep long before Fraulein had completed her un-
packings and arrangements.
If Leonore had any dreams that night she did
not know it, for the sun had been up some hours
before she awoke, though it was already late autumn.
She did not feel at all ashamed of her laziness how-
ever, and considering everything I do not see that
she had any reason to feel so. And she gave a cry
of welcome and pleasure as she caught sight of the
merry little rays of sunshine creeping over the white
bed as if to wish her a kindly good morning.
'Oh I am glad it is a fine day,' she thought to
herself, 'and I am so glad we are not going in that
horrid old train again.'
She lay still and looked about her. Yes, it was a
curiously old-fashioned room; even a child could see
at once that the house must be very, very old.
'I wonder if many little girls have slept here and
waked up in the morning, and looked at the funny
walls and queer-shaped ceiling just like I'm doing,'
she thought to herself. 'Some of them must be quite
old women by now, and perhaps even, lots who have
12 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
been dead for hundreds of years have lived here.
How queer it is to think of! I wonder if Fraulein
is awake, and I do hope we shall have breakfast
soon. I'm so hungry.'
The sound of a tap seemed to come as an answer
to these questions and hopes, and as Fraulein put
her head in at one door, a maid carrying a bath and
a large can of hot water appeared at the other. She
was a pleasant-faced girl with rosy cheeks, and as
she passed the bed she wished the young lady good
morning with a smile.
You are awake, my child ?' said the governess.
'That is right. You have slept well ? Call me as
soon as you want me to help you to do your hair,
and then we shall have our breakfast. You would
rather have it downstairs, I suppose ?'
'Oh yes,' said Leonore decidedly. 'I am quite
rested, Fraulein, and I want dreadfully to go down-
stairs and see this funny old place by daylight, and
I want to look out of the window to see if the streets
look nice, and-and-- '
'Well, get dressed first, my dear,' said her gover-
ness, pleased to find the little girl in such a cheerful
frame of mind. 'It is just a trifle cold, though it
will probably be warmer as the day goes on, thanks
I NIGHT AND MORNING 13
to this bright sunshine. You have had rainy
weather lately, I suppose?' she went on, turning to
The girl held up her hands.
Rain,' she repeated, 'yes, indeed, I should rather
think so-rain, rain, rain, for ever so many days.
The ladies have brought us the sunshine.'
So it seemed, for when they made their way down-
stairs, Leonore scarcely knew the dining-room again,
it looked so bright and cheerful in comparison with
the night before. Their coffee and rolls had not yet
made their appearance, so the little girl flew to the
window to see what she could through the muslin
blinds. For the window opened straight out on to
the pavement, so that any inquisitive passer-by could
peep in, which made the blinds quite necessary, as,
though it is very pleasant to look out, it is not
equally so to feel that strangers can look in when
one is sitting at table.
Leonore pulled a tiny corner of the blind
'Oh, Fraulein,' she exclaimed, 'it is such a nice
street. And there are lots of people passing, and
shops a little way off, and I see the top of a big old
church quite near, and-and-a sort of open square
THE MAGIC NUTS
place up that short street-do you see?' Fraulein
having joined her by this time.
'That is the market-place,' said her governess,
'and I rather think-yes, I am sure it is market-day
Leonore danced about in excitement.
'Oh, please take me to see it,' she said. I have
never seen a proper market, and perhaps the people
would have funny dresses-costumes like what you
were telling me about. Do you think we should see
any of them ?'
'I hope so,' said Fraulein, 'we must go out as
soon as we have had breakfast and see. I have to
ask about a carriage to take us to Dorf. I almost
'What ?' asked Leonore.
'That we could stay till to-morrow, if Alten
amuses you so-indeed, I do not see why we need
hurry. My aunt is not quite certain what day we
are coming, and she is quite certain to be ready for us
whenever we arrive. Indeed, I have no doubt she
has had our rooms prepared for weeks past, so good
and careful a housewife is she. Our beds will have
been aired every day, I daresay.'
But Leonore was scarcely old enough to care
I NIGHT AND MORNING 15
whether the beds were aired or not. For the
moment her whole thoughts were running on having
a good exploring of the quaint town which had so
taken her fancy, and while she drank her coffee and
munched the nice crisp rolls, which tasted better
than any bread she had ever eaten before, she kept
urging her governess to stay another day where they
'You see,' she said, 'I'm so used to the country,
and we shall be there all the winter, and I daresay it
will be rather dull.'
'I hope not,' said Fraulein, somewhat anxiously.
'I shall do my best, you know, my child, to make
you happy, and so will my good aunt, I am sure.'
'Oh yes, I know you are always very kind,' said
Leonore, with a funny little tone of condescension
which she sometimes used to her governess. 'But,
you see, it must be dull when anybody has no brothers
and sisters, and no mamma-and papa so far away.'
She gave a little sigh. She rather liked to pity
herself now and then, and it made Fraulein all the
kinder, but in reality she was not in some ways so
much to be pitied as might have seemed. For she
could not remember her mother, and she had been
accustomed all her life to her father's being as a
16 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP. I
rule away from her, though when he was in England
he spent most of his time in planning pleasures for
his little daughter. Then she had had plenty of
kind aunts and uncles, and, above all, the constant
care of her devoted Fraulein.
But Fraulein's heart was very tender. She kissed
Leonore fondly, and as soon as breakfast was over,
out they sallied, after settling that they should stay
at Alten another night, to please the little lady.
APPLES AND NUTS
I love old women best, I think;
She knows a friend in me.-ASHE.
IT was market-day, to Leonore's great delight, and
scarcely less to that of her governess. The scene
was a busy and amusing one, and added to that was
the charm of everything being so new to the little
girl. She wanted to buy all sorts of treasures, but
when Fraulein reminded her that there was no
hurry, and that she would probably have plenty
of chances of choosing the things that took her
fancy at the yearly fair at Dorf, or in the little
village shops there, she gave in, and contented
herself with some delicious tiny pots and jugs,
which she declared must really have been made by
'You are in the country of fairies now,' said
Fraulein, smiling. 'Not Fairyland itself, of course,
18 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAr.
but one of the earth countries which lie nearest its
Leonore looked up gravely. Some feeling of the
kind had already come over her-ever since their
arrival the night before at the queer old inn, she had
felt herself in a sort of new world, new to her just
because of its strange oldness.
Oh, Fraulein,' she said, I do like you to say that.
Do you really mean it? And is Dorf as near Fairy-
land as this dear old town, do you think?'
'Quite, I should say,' replied Fraulein, taking up
the little girl's fancy. 'Even nearer, perhaps. There
are wonderful old woods on one side of the village,
which look like the very home of gnomes and kobolds
and all kinds of funny people. And--' she broke
off abruptly, for Leonore had given her arm a sudden
'Do look, Fraulein,' she said in a half whisper.
' Isn't she like an old fairy ? And she's smiling as if
she understood what we were saying.'
'She' was a tiny little old woman, seated in a
corner of the market-place, with her goods for sale
spread out before her. These were but a poor display
-a few common vegetables, a trayful of not very
inviting-looking apples, small and grayish, and a
Ii APPLES AND NUTS 19
basket filled with nuts. But the owner of these
seemed quite content. She glanced up as Leonore
stopped to gaze at her and smiled-a bright, half-
mischievous sort of smile, which was reflected in her
twinkling eyes, and made her old brown wrinkled
face seem like that of an indiarubber doll.
Fraulein looked at her too with interest in her
own kindly blue eyes.
She must be very poor,' she said.
Fraulein was very practical, though she was fond
of fairy stories and such things too.
'Oh, do let us buy something from her,' said
Leonore. 'I've plenty of money, you know-and
if you'll lend me a little, you can pay yourself back
when you get my English gold pound changed, can't
you, dear Fraulein? I have spent those funny
pretence-silver pennies you gave me yesterday.'
Fraulein opened her purse and put two small
coins into the child's hand.
'Buy apples with one of these,' she said; 'that
will be enough to please the poor old thing.'
'And nuts with the other ?' asked Leonore.
Fraulein shook her head.
'Nuts are so indigestible, my little girl,' she
replied; 'and though these apples are not pretty, I
20 THE MAGIC NUTS CHA'.
am not sure but that they may taste better than they
look. I have a sort of remembrance of some ugly
little gray apples in this neighbourhood which were
Her 'pretence-silver' penny procured for Leonore
a good handful, or handkerchief-full-for the fruit-
seller had no paper-bags to put them in-of the
apples. And when she had got them safe, and was
turning away, the old woman stretched out a brown
wizened hand again with another of her queer
'Take these,' she said, 'for good luck.'
'These' were a few of the nuts. If Leonore had
wished to refuse them, she could hardly have done
so, for before she had time to do more than thank
the giver politely, the dame was busy talking to
some other customer, who had stopped in front of
her little table.
Fraulein had walked on. Leonore ran after her.
'See,' she said, holding out her nuts, 'see what
the old woman gave me. What shall I do with
them, if I mustn't eat them? I don't like to
throw them away, when she gave me them as a
'No, of course not,' said Fraulein at once. 'Put
F- -~- ..''-~-r--
r;~~~~~ ~ NV'~'- -i--
"TAKE THESE," SHE SAID, "FOR GOOD LUCK."-p. 20.
ii APPLES AND NUTS 21
them in your jacket pocket, dear, and perhaps you may
eat two or three of them when we go in.'
Leonore slipped the nuts into her pocket as she
was told, and soon after, the clock of the great
church striking twelve, she and her governess made
their way back to the hotel.
'I do not want you to be tired,' said Fraulein,
'for this afternoon I should like to take you to see
one or two of the curious old houses here, as well as
the interior of the church'; for the market and the
shops had taken up Leonore's attention so much,
that they had had no time for anything else in the
way of sight-seeing.
Dinner was rather a long affair, and tried the little
girl's patience. There seemed twice or three times
as many dishes as were needed, even though there
were several other guests at the long table besides
themselves, none of whom, however, were very
'I hope we shan't have such a lot to eat at your
aunt's house, Fraulein,' said Leonore in a low voice,
towards the end of the meal, with a sigh. 'It seems
such a pity not to be out-of-doors, when it's so bright
'We shall have plenty of time, dear,' said her
22 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
governess. 'See, we are at dessert now. And you
will probably feel more tired this evening than you
expect. No, my aunt lives more simply, though
you will like her puddings and cakes, I am sure.'
The afternoon passed very pleasantly and quickly,
though, as Fraulein had expected, Leonore did feel
more tired when they came in for the second time
than she had thought she would be, and quite ready
for bed-time when it came-indeed, not sorry to
allow that the dustman's summons was there, half
an hour or so earlier than usual.
'Your eyes are looking quite sleepy, my child,'
said Fraulein; 'and though we have no more long
railway journeys before us, we have a drive of some
hours to-morrow, and I should like you to reach
Dorf feeling quite fresh. It makes such a difference
in one's impressions of things if one is tired or not,
and I do want your first feelings about our temporary
home to be very pleasant ones.'
Leonore was used to her governess's rather prim,
long-winded way of saying things, and had learnt by
practice to pick out the kernel-always a kind one
-of her speeches very quickly.
'Yes,' she said,' I know how you mean. Last night
in the railway train, before we got here, I thought
ii APPLES AND NUTS 23
everything was perfectly horrid and miserable and
would never get nice again. And td-day I've been
so happy-even though I an tired and sleepy now,'
she added, looking rather puzzled. 'There must be
different ways of being tired, I suppose.'
'Undoubtedly there are-but we won't talk any
more to-night. I am so glad you have been happy
And sleepy Leonore went off to bed, and was
soon in dreamland. She had forgotten all about
her apples and nuts-the former Fraulein found
tied up in the handkerchief after the little girl had
fallen asleep, and put them into her travelling-bag,
thinking they might be nice to eat during the drive
the next day, but the nuts did not come into her
mind at all.
'We certainly seem very lucky,' she said to
Leonore the next morning, as they were at breakfast.
'The weather could not be better, especially when
we remember that it is already late autumn. My
aunt will be so pleased at it; her last letter was
full of regrets about the rain and fears of its
Leonore glanced towards the window. The clear
gray-blue sky was to be seen above the blinds, and
24 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
the pale yellow sunshine was straying in as if to
wish them good-morning.
'Is it a very long drive to Dorf?' she asked.
'About three hours,' Fraulein replied. 'It is
longer through being partly uphill; but at the
steepest bit the road is very pretty, so it may be
pleasant to get out and walk a little.'
'Yes, I should like that,' said Leonore. And then
Fraulein went on to tell her that she had arranged
for them to have dinner a little earlier than usual by
themselves, so as to start in good time to reach Dorf
And when they started in a comfortable though
rather shabby carriage, with their lighter luggage
strapped on behind, the horses' collar bells ringing
merrily, and the wheels making what Leonore called
a lovely clatter on the old paved streets, the little
girl's spirits rose still higher, and she began to think
that Fraulein's praises of her own country had not
been too great.
The first half of the way was fairly level, and not,
so it seemed to Leonore, very unlike the part of
England where she had spent most of her life, except,
that is to say, the two or three villages through
which they passed. These reminded her of pictures
n APPLES AND NUTS 25
of Switzerland which she had seen--the houses
having high pointed roofs, with deep eaves, and many
of them little staircases outside. Some of them too
were gaily painted in colours on a white ground,
which she admired very much. And after a time
the road began gently to ascend, and then indeed, as
Fraulein said, the likeness to Switzerland grew
greater. For now it skirted pine woods on one side,
and on the other the ground fell away sharply, here
and there almost like a precipice; and before very
long the driver pulled up, getting down to push
a heavy stone behind the wheel, to prevent the
carriage slipping back while he gave the horses a
"Mayn't we get out here and walk on a little
way ?' asked Leonore, and Fraulein said' Yes,' it was
just what she had been intending.
It is pretty here,' said Leonore, looking about
her with satisfaction; 'the woods are so thick -and
dark-I love Christmas-tree woods-and the road
goes winding such a nice funny way. And see,
Fraulein, there's another little.well, all mossy, and
the water so clear. Doesn't the running and trickling
sound pretty? And, oh yes, there are goats down
there, goats with bells. I hear them tinkling, and
26 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
the man with them has some kind of a music-pipe-
They stood still for a moment, the better to catch
the mingled soft sounds which Leonore spoke of.
And behind them, some little way off, came the
tingling of their horses' louder bells, and the voice
of the driver talking to them and cracking his whip
'It is nice,' said Leonore. 'I'm getting to be very
glad papa settled for me to come here with you,
The good lady's eyes sparkled with pleasure.
'And I am glad too, more glad than I can say,'
she replied, 'and so will my kind aunt be, if we can
make you really happy at Dorf.'
'Are we half-way there yet?' asked Leonore.
Quite that, but the rest of the way is mostly
uphill, so it takes longer, you see.' As she spoke,
Fraulein drew something out of the little bag on her
arm which she was seldom without. It was one of
the small grayish apples which they had bought
from the old woman in the market-place. 'You
forgot these,' she said, holding the apple out to
Leonore. 'I found them last night after you were
asleep, and I thought you might like one or two
ii APPLES AND NUTS 27
on our way to-day. I believe they will prove very
How stupid of me to have forgotten them,' said
the little girl, as she bit off a piece. Yes,' she went
on, 'it is very good indeed-you would not believe
how sweet and juicy it tastes. Won't you eat one
Fraulein was quite willing to do so, and soon
got out another. 'The rest,' she said, 'are in
my travelling-bag in the carriage. I am glad
I was not mistaken,' she went on, 'I felt sure they
were the same ugly little apples I remember as a
'And oh,' said Leonore, suddenly diving into her
jacket pocket, 'that reminds me, Fraulein-where are
the nuts she gave me ? They're not in this pocket,
and,' feeling in the other, 'oh dear! they must have
dropped out; there are only three, left, and I am sure
she gave me at least twenty.'
'Well, never mind, dear,' said the governess, who
was contentedly munching her apple. 'They would
not have been good for you to eat-you would have
had to throw them away, and so long as the poor
old dame's feelings were not hurt, it really is of no
28 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
But Leonore was still eyeing the three nuts in her
hand with a look of regret.
'I don't know,' she said. 'I might have used
them for counters, or played with them somehow. It
seems unkind to have lost them-do you want me to
throw these last three away ?' she went on rather
'Oh no,' said Fraulein, 'you may keep them
certainly if you like. And even if you eat them,
three can't do you much harm.'
'I don't want to eat them,' said Leonore,' but I
should like to keep them,' and she stowed them away
in her pocket again with a more satisfied look on her
As she did so, a sound, seemingly quite near, made
her start and look round. It was that of a soft yet
merry laugh, low and musical and clear, though faint.
'Did you hear that, Fraulein ?' said the little girl.
'What ?' asked her governess.
'Somebody laughing, close to us-such a pretty
laugh, like little silver bells.'
'Most likely it was the bells, the goats' little bells.
I heard nothing else,' Fraulein replied.
Leonore shook her head.
'No,' she said, 'it was different from that, quite
1i APPLES AND NUTS 29
different. And the goats are some way off now;
listen, you can only just hear them. And the laugh-
ing was quite near.'
But Fraulein only smiled.
'There could not have been any one quite near
without my hearing it too,' she replied, 'even
if--' but here she stopped. She had said enough,
however, to rouse her pupil's curiosity.
'Even if what?' repeated Leonore; 'do tell me
what you were going to say, dear Fraulein.'
'I was only joking, or going to joke,' her governess
answered. 'It came into my head that the woods
about here-as indeed about most parts of this
country-are said to be a favourite place for the
fairies to visit. Some kinds of fairies, you know-
gnomes and brownies and such like. The kinds that
don't live in Fairyland itself make their homes in the
woods, by preference to anywhere else.'
'And do you think it might have been one of
them I heard laughing?' asked Leonore eagerly.
'Oh, how lovely 1 But then, why didn't you hear it
too, Fraulein, and what was it laughing at, do you
think? I wasn't saying anything funny. I was
'Dear child,' said Fraulein, do not take me up so
30 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
seriously. I am afraid your papa and your aunts
would not think me at all a sensible governess if
they heard me chattering away like this to you. Of
course I was only joking.'
Leonore looked rather disappointed.
'I wish you weren't joking,' she said. 'I can't see
that people need be counted silly who believe in
fairies and nice queer things like that. I think the
people who don't are the stupid silly ones. And
you will never make me think I didn't hear some
one laugh, Fraulein-I just know I did.' Then after
a little pause she added, Would your old aunt think
me very silly for believing about fairies ? If she has
lived so near Fairyland all her life I shouldn't think
This was rather a poser for poor Fraulein.
'She would not think you silly,' she replied;
'that is to say, she loves fairy stories herself. Life
would indeed be very dull if we had no pretty
,fancies to brighten it with.'
'Oh, but,' said Leonore, 'that's just what I don't
want. I mean I don't want to count fairy stories
only stories-not real. I like to think there are
fairies and brownies and gnomes, and all sorts of
good people like that, though it isn't very often that
ii APPLES AND NUTS 31
mortals'-she said the last word with great satisfac-
tion-' see them. I am always hoping that some
day I shall. And if this country of yours, Fraulein
dear, is on the borders of Fairyland, I don't see why I
don't run a very good chance of coming across some
of them while we are here. They are much more
likely to show themselves to any one who does believe
in them, I should say. Don't you think so ?'
'I remember feeling just as you do, my child,
when I was a little girl,' she said. 'But time has
gone on, and I am no longer young, and I am obliged
to confess that I have never seen a fairy.'
'Perhaps you didn't believe enough in them,' said
Leonore sagely ; and to herself she added, 'I have a
sort of idea that Fraulein's aunt knows more about
them than Fraulein does. I shall soon find out,
though I won't say anything for a day or two till I
see. But nothing will ever make me believe that I
didn't hear somebody laughing just now.'
Her hand had strayed again to her jacket pocket
as she said this to herself, and her fingers were feeling
'It is funny that just three are left,' she thought,
'for so often in fairy stories you read about three
32 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP. Ii
nuts, or three kernels. I won't crack my nuts in a
A few minutes more brought them to the summit
of the steep incline, and soon the driver's voice and
the cracking of his whip as he cheered up his horses
sounded close behind them. He halted for a short
time to give his animals a little rest, and then Frau-
lein and Leonore got back into the carriage.
'The rest of the way is almost level,' said the
former; 'quite so as we enter Dorf. You will see,
Leonore, how fast we shall go at the end. The
drivers love to make a clatter and jingle to announce
their arrival. No doubt my aunt will hear it, and
be at the gate some minutes before she can possibly
PORTRAIT OF HILDEOARDE.-p. 33.
IT IS HILDEGARDE
A pair of friends.-'W\onDSWOrnTH.
FRAULEIN was right. Both driver and horses woke
up wonderfully as the first straggling houses of the
village came in sight; it would be impossible to
describe the extraordinary sounds and ejaculations
which Friedrich, as he was called, addressed
to his steeds, but which they evidently quite
'How nice it is to go so fast, and to hear the bells
jingling so,' said Leonore. 'I wish we had farther
'If that were the case we should soon sober down
again,' said Fraulein with a smile, adding the next
moment, 'and here we are.' See the good aunt, my
child, as I told you-standing at the gate, just as I
last saw her, when I left her five years ago! But
34 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
then it was parting and tears-now it is meeting and
Tears nevertheless were not wanting in the eyes
of both the good ladies-tears of happiness, however,
which were quickly wiped away.
'How well you are looking-not a day older,'
'And you, my Elsa-how well you look. A trifle
stouter perhaps, but that is an improvement. You
have always been too thin, my child,' said the aunt,
fondly patting Fraulein's shoulders, though she had
to reach up to do so. Then she moved quickly to
Leonore with a little exclamation of apology.
'And I have not yet welcomed our guest.
Welcome to Dorf, my Fraulein-a thousand times
welcome, and may you be as happy here as the old
aunt will wish to make you.'
Leonore had been standing by eyeing the aunt
and niece with the greatest interest. It amused her
much to hear her governess spoken to as 'my child,'
for to her Fraulein seemed quite old, long past the
age of thinking how old she was. Indeed, the
white-haired little lady did not seem to her much
'Thank you,' she said in reply to the aunt's kind
Ir IT IS HILDEGARDE 35
words. 'I hope I shall be very happy here, but
please don't call me anything but Leonore.'
'As you please,' her new friend replied, while
Fraulein smiled beamingly. She was most anxious
that her aunt and her pupil should make friends, and
she knew that, though Leonore was a polite and well-
mannered little girl, she had likes and dislikes of her
own, and not always quite reasonable ones. Perhaps,
to put it shortly, she felt anxious that her charge was
just a trifle spoilt, and that she herself had had a
hand in the spoiling.
A motherless child,' she had said to herself many
and many a time in excuse during the five years she
had had the care of Leonore, for Fraulein had gone to
her when the little girlwas only four years old, 'and her
papa so far away! Who could be severe with her ?'
Not tender-hearted Fraulein Elsa, most certainly!
So she felt especially delighted when Leonore
replied so prettily to her aunt, and still more so
when the child lifted up her face for the kiss of
welcome which Aunt Anna was only too ready to
bestow, though she would have been rather surprised
had she known the thoughts that were in Leonore's
head at the moment.
'I believe she does know something about fairies,'
36 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
the little girl was saying to herself. 'She has nice
twinkly eyes, and-oh, I don't know what makes me
think so, but I believe she does understand about
them. Any way, she won't be like my aunts in
England who always want me to read improving
books and say I am getting too big for fairy stories.'
That -first evening in the quaint old village was
full of interest for Leonore. Aunt Anna's house in
itself was charming to her, for though really small as
to the size and number of its rooms, it did not seem
so. There were such nice 'twisty' passages, and
funny short flights of steps, each leading perhaps to
only one room, or even to nothing more than a landing
with a window.
And, standing at one of these, the little girl made
a grand discovery, which took her flying off to the
room where Fraulein was busily unpacking the boxes
which the carrier had already brought.
'Fraulein, Fraulein,' she cried; 'I've been
looking out at the back of the house, and just
across the yard there's a lovely sort of big courtyard
and buildings round it, and I saw a man all white
and powdery carrying sacks. Is there a mill here ?'
'Yes, my dear,' Fraulein replied. 'Did I not tell
you? It is a very old mill, and the same people
III IT IS HILDEGARDE 37
have had it for nearly a hundred years-such nice
people too. I will take you all over it in a day or
two-it will amuse you to see the different kinds of
grain and flour, all so neatly arranged.'
'And the same people have been there for nearly
a hundred years!' exclaimed Leonore. 'How very
old they must be.'
Fraulein laughed. Though Leonore was so fond
of wonders and fancies, she was sometimes very
matter-of-fact. Aunt Anna, who just then joined
them, smiled kindly.
'Elsa did not mean the same persons,' she explained,
'but the same family-the same name. Those there
now-the miller himself-is the great-grandson of
the man who was there first when the mill was
built, which was, I think, fully more than a hundred
years ago,' she added, turning to her niece.
Leonore looked rather disappointed.
'Oh,' she said, 'I thought it would be so nice to
see people who were a hundred. Then, I suppose,
the people here aren't any older than anywhere
'I can scarcely say that, Aunt Anna replied.
'There are some very old, and-there are odd stories
about a few of the aged folk. I know one or two
38 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
who do not seem to have grown any older since I
can remember, and my memory goes back a good way
now. But, my dears, I came to tell you that supper
is ready-we must not let it get cold.'
She held out her hand to Leonore as she spoke.
The little girl took it, and went off with her very
happily, Fraulein calling after them that she would
'Please tell me, Aunt Anna,' said Leonore-it had
been decided that she should thus address the old
lady--'please tell me, do you mean 'that some of
these very old people who don't grow any older are
a kind of fairy ?'
She spoke almost in a whisper, but she was quite
'Well,' said Aunt Anna, 'this country is on the
borders of Fairyland, so who can say? When we
were children-I and my brothers and sisters and the
little barons and baronesses up at the Castle-when
we all played together long ago, we used often to try
to find the way there-and fairies, of course, are much
cleverer than we are. I don't see why some of them
may not stray into our world sometimes.'
'And pretend to be not fairies,' said Leonore
eagerly. 'P'raps they go back to Fairyland every
in IT IS HILDEGARDE 39
night, and are here every day ; fairies don't need to
go to sleep ever, do they ?'
But Aunt Anna had not time to reply just then,
for supper was on the table, and all her attention was
given to seeing that the dishes were what they should
be, and in helping her little guest to Leonore's
When Fraulein joined them, however, the conver-
sation took a more general turn.
'I was speaking just now to Leonore,' Aunt Anna
began, 'of my childhood-when your dear father,
Elsie, and the others, and I used to play with the
castle children. And that reminds me that I have a
piece of news for you-things repeat themselves it is
said. It will be strange if a second generation--'
she said no more, and for a moment or two seemed
lost in thought-the thought of the past!
Fraulein was used to her aunt's ways; the old
lady was a curious mixture of practical commonsense
and dreamy fancifulness. But after a little pause
the niece recalled her to the present.
'A piece of news, you said, aunt? Good news, I
hope?' she inquired.
'I think so,' said the aunt. 'It is about the
family a.t the Castle. Little Baroness Hildegarde is
40 THE MAGIG NUTS CHAP.
probably, almost certainly, coming here to spend the
winter with her grandparents. She may arrive any
'Oh I am pleased to hear it,' said Fraulein. 'It
was just what I was hoping might happen, but I dared
scarcely think of it. It would be so nice for our
dear Leonore to have a companion.'
Leonore pricked up her ears at this.
Yes, my dear,' Fraulein went on, in answer to the
question in her eyes, 'I have not spoken of it to you
before, for there seemed so little chance of its coming
to pass. It is about the little Hildegarde who would
be such a delightful companion for you. She is just
about your age, an only child as you are, and such a
dear little girl by all accounts. I have not seen her
since she was six, but Aunt Anna knows her well,
and the family at the Castle have been our most
kind friends for so long.'
Leonore looked full of interest but rather per-
'I don't quite understand,' she said. 'Do you
mean that the little girl is perhaps coming to live
here in this house with us?'
Oh no, my dear. Her own home is a good way
off, but her grandpapa and grandmamma live at the
m IT IS HILDEGARDE 41
Castle-a large old gray house half way up the hill
above the village. I will show it to you to-morrow.
It is a wonderfully quaint old place. And the little
Baroness comes sometimes on long visits to her
grandparents, who love to have her.'
'Only they fear it is lonely for her, as she is
accustomed to the life of a great capital,' said Aunt
Anna. 'They were delighted to hear I was expect-
ing a little guest, when I saw them the other day,
and they told me of the probability of Hildegarde's
Fraulein almost clapped her hands at this.
'Nothing could be more fortunate,' she said.
'There will be no fear now of your finding Dorf dull,
my dearest Leonore.'
Leonore smiled back in return. It was impossible
not to be touched by her kind governess's anxiety
for her happiness, but she herself had had no fears
about being dull or lonely at Dorf. She was not much
accustomed to companions of her own age, and just a
little shy of them, so the news of Hildegarde's coming
was not quite as welcome to her as to her friends.
'I should have been quite happy without any-
body else,' she said to herself. 'I love old Aunt
Anna, and I am sure she knows plenty of fairy
THE MAGIC NUTS
stories whether she has ever seen any fairies herself
Still she felt, of course, a good deal of curiosity to
see the grandchild of the Castle, and could not help
letting her thoughts run on her. Would she be
taller or smaller than herself-dark or fair, merry or
quiet? .Above all, would she care for the same
things-would she love fairies, and be always hoping
to see one some day ?
There was plenty for Leonore to think about,
and dream about, that first night in the quaint little
house, was there not ?
And dream she did. When she woke in the
morning it seemed to her that she had been busy at
it all night, though only one bit of her dreams re-
mained in her memory. This bit was about Hilde-
garde, and, strange as it seemed, about a person she
had only given a passing moment's attention to-the
old dame in the market-place at Alt.
She dreamt that she was walking along the village
street, when she heard a voice calling. She was
alone, and she looked back expecting to see Fraulein.
But no-a queer little figure was trotting after her,
and as it came nearer she heard that the name that
reached her ears was not'Leonore,' but Hildegarde,'
III IT IS HILDEGARDE 43
and with that, some queer feeling made her slip
inside the shade of a gateway she was passing to
watch what happened. And as the figure came
quite close she saw that it was that of the old apple-
woman-then to her surprise there came flying down
the hill, for the village street lay closely below the
rising ground at one side, a child all dressed in white,
with fair hair blowing about her face as she ran.
'Here I am,' she said, 'what is it ?'
And now glancing at the dame, Leonore saw that
she was quite changed-at first indeed she thought she
was no longer there,till some unutteredvoice seemed to
tell her that the figure now before herwas still the same
person. She had grown tall and wavy-looking-her
wrinkled face was smooth and fair-only the bright
dark eyes remained, and as she held out her hand as
if to welcome the pretty child, Leonore saw that in
it lay three nuts small and dry and brown-just like
the three still stored in her own jacket pocket.
'Take these,' said a sweet low voice, 'they will
match hers. You will know what to do with them, and
by their means you will bring her to me. We must
make her happy-she has travelled far, and she has
longed to cross the borderland.
And Hildegarde, for the same inner voice seemed
44 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
to tell Leonore that Hildegarde it was, took the
nuts and nodded, as if to say 'I understand,' and
with that, to her great disappointment, Leonore
Awoke, however, to what goes far to take away
disappointment of such a kind. For the sun was
shining brightly, her simple but cosy little room
seemed painted in white and pale gold, and a soft
green by the window told her that the creepers had
not yet faded into their winter bareness.
'I wonder what o'clock it is,' thought the little
girl, as she gazed about her in great content. How
glad I am that it is such a fine day! I do want to
go all about the village, and especially to see the
Castle. I wonder if Hildegarde is like the little girl
in my dream. I do hope she is. And how funny
that I should have dreamt about the nut-woman
turning into a fairy-it does seem as if Hildegarde
must care for fairies just as I do-and as if she knew
a good deal about them, too. By the bye I do hope
my nuts are safe. I never remembered to take them
out of my jacket pocket !'
She was on the point of jumping up to see if they
were still there when the door opened softly and
Fraulein peeped in. She was already dressed, and
III IT IS HILDEGARDE 45
her face was beaming; it seemed to reflect the sun-
shine coming in at the window.
Oh, Fraulein, dear,' said Leonore, 'how lazy I am !
You are dressed, and I only woke up a few minutes
'All the better, my child,' was Fraulein's kind
reply. 'It means, I hope, that you have slept well
and soundly. My native air brings back old habits
to me, you see. I was always accustomed to getting
up very early here. And see, what a lovely day it
is! As soon as we have had breakfast I must take
you out to see the village and--'
'The Castle,' interrupted Leonore. 'Can't we go
to the Castle? I do so want to know if Hildegarde
has come. I have been-' 'dreaming about her,' she
was going to say, but something, she knew not what,
made her hesitate and change the words into
'thinking of her-' 'so much.'
Which was of course quite true.
And something of the same feeling prevented her
looking for the nuts till Fraulein left the room.
'It is not likely that the little Baroness has
already arrived,' her governess replied. 'We shall
be sure to hear as soon as she comes. But we can
see something of the Castle outside at any rate. For
46 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
the next few days I think it must be all holiday-
time,' she went on, smiling. 'Aunt Anna begs for
it, and we have been working pretty steadily these
Leonore had no objection to this proposal, though
she was fond of lessons, never having been over-dosed
with them, and she jumped out of bed and bathed
and dressed in the best of spirits. The nuts were
quite safe in her jacket pocket. She wrapped them
in a piece of paper for better security and put them
'I should not like to lose them,' she thought.
'My dream has given me a feeling that there is
something out of the common about them, and. I
should like to take them with me wherever I go.
Just supposing I ever met any fairy sort of person,
perhaps the nuts might turn out to be of use in some
After breakfast, and when Fraulein had helped
Leonore to arrange her books and work and other
little things in the room that was to serve as her
schoolroom during the winter, they set off on their
first ramble through and round the village.
It was a pretty village-lying as it did at the foot
of the hills, which were beautifully wooded, it could
II IT IS HILDEGABDE 47
scarcely have been ugly. But besides these natural
advantages, it was bright and clean; many of the
houses, too, were pretty in themselves, with deep
roofs and carved balconies, and in some cases many
coloured designs painted on the outside walls.
Leonore was delighted; it was so different from any
place she had ever seen before.
Oh, Fraulein,' she exclaimed, 'it's like a toy-town.
It doesn't look as if real people had built it.'
But it looks as if very real people had built that,
does it not?' said Fraulein, stopping short and
drawing Leonore a little backward.
That' was the grim old Castle, of which they now
had the first view, standing lonely and gray up on the
heights overlooking the village, like a stern guardian
keeping watch on the doings of playful children at
The little girl gazed at it with all her eyes.
'It's a real Castle,' she exclaimed; 'I am so
pleased. It looks as if it had dungeons and-and-
forti- What is the word, Fraulein ?'
'Fortifications,' said her governess. 'You mean
that it is fortified. Yes ; at least it used to be in the
old days. There are the holes in the walls which the
defenders used to shoot through in time of siege, and
48 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP. III
there are battlements still quite perfect round the
front. It is so pleasant to saunter on them, and
think of the strange scenes the old place must have
witnessed. We can walk up the hill towards the
gates if you like, and you will see a little more.'
Leonore, of course, did like, and the nearer they got
to the Castle the more was she fascinated by the view
of the ancient building. Just outside the entrance
they stood still, and Fraulein began pointing out to
her its different parts and giving her a little historical
account of it, to which she listened with interest.
Suddenly-for all was very silent just then-they
heard steps approaching and a clear young voice
singing softly. And-Fraulein stopped talking and
stood gazing before her, as did Leonore, till-from
among the trees which bordered the short approach
to the inner gateway, there appeared a childish figure,
running towards them, singing as she came. A
young girl, dressed all in white, with fair floating
It is Hildegarde,' said Leonore, growing pale with
excitement. For the figure was exactly like the little
girl in her dream!
ON THE WAY
Oh, what is that country,
And where can it be ?-ROSSETTI.
IF Fraulein heard what Leonore said, she did not
seem surprised, for though she did not, of course,
know about the little girl's curious dream, she knew
that Hildegarde's coming had been freely talked
about the evening before. But she was very aston-
ished a moment later when Hildegarde, looking up
quietly, said with a smile-
'I have come to meet you. I was sure I should.'
My dear child !' exclaimed Fraulein. How
could you know ? The fairies must have told you !'
The little stranger smiled again.
'This is Leonore,' she said, taking the other child's
hand. Grandmamma told me her name, but grand-
mamma did not know I should meet you'; and she
shook her head with a funny little air of mystery.
50 THE MAGIC' NUTS CHAP.
'It is wonderful,' said Fraulein; 'it is even
wonderful that you should know me again. It is five
years-five years-since you saw me last-half your
'Yes,' said Hildegarde, 'but I can remember
longer ago than that.'
She was still holding Leonore's hand, and though
the little English girl felt rather shy, and had not yet
spoken to her new friend, yet she liked the touch of
the gentle fingers and pressed them in return, while
she looked at Hildegarde's pretty fair face in admira-
SI am coming soon to see Aunt Anna,' Hildegarde
went on. 'Will you give her my love, Fraulein Elsa,
and tell her so ? May I come this afternoon ?'
'Certainly, certainly,' said Fraulein; 'the sooner
you and Leonore make friends, the better pleased we
shall all be.'
At this Leonore took courage.
'Yes,' she said, looking earnestly at Hildegarde
with her serious dark eyes, 'I want very much to be
'It will not take long,' said Hildegarde, and then,
for the first time, Leonore noticed that the little girl's
eyes were not like any she had ever seen before.
iv ON THE WAY 51
They were not blue, as one would have expected
from her light, almost flaxen hair and fair com-
plexion, but a kind of bright hazel-brown-with
lovely flashes, almost, as it were, of sunshine, coming
They are golden eyes,' thought Leonore; and when
she repeated this to Fraulein afterwards, her governess
agreed with her that she was right. .
'I remember noticing their colour when she was
a very tiny child,' said Fraulein, thinking to herself
that the two little girls made a pretty contrast, for
Leonore's hair was dark, as well as her eyes.
Hildegarde held up her face for Fraulein to kiss,
and then she ran off again, saying as she did so-
'Do not forget to tell Aunt Anna I am coming,
and perhaps she will make some of those dear little
round cakes I love so-she knows which they are.
Leonore will like them too, I am sure.'
The day was getting on by this time; it was
'We will just stroll to the other end of the
village,' said Fraulein; 'from there we shall have
the side view of the Castle-there is a short cut
down to the street at that end, by some steps, but
they are rough and in need of repair, so we generally
52 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
prefer the longer way. The old Baron has spoken
of shutting off the side entrance; he says it is only
fit for goats to scramble up.'
Leonore thought, though she did not say so, that
it would be very amusing for little girls all the same,
and determined to ask Hildegarde about it. She
thought the Castle even more interesting seen side-
ways than in front; it looked so very close to the
thick dark trees behind, almost as if it touched
'I shall have lots of things to talk to Hildegarde
about,' she said to herself. 'These woods are very
fairy-looking. And I think I must tell her my
strange dream about her and the nuts. I don't
think she would laugh at it. I hope I have them
Yes, they lay snugly in her pocket, wrapped
up in the piece of paper-a nice piece of pink paper
that she had found among her things.
'I will leave them where they are,' she thought,
'and then I shall be sure to remember to tell Hilde-
garde my dream.'
It was nearly dinner-time when they got back to
Aunt Anna's, for in that part of the world big people
as well as little dine in the middle of the day.
iv ON THE WAY 53
Aunt Anna was most interested in hearing of Hilde-
garde's arrival, and quite as delighted as Fraulein had
'And was it not strange that she should have
come to meet us?' said Fraulein. 'She must have
had a presentiment about it.'
What is a presentiment?' asked Leonore.
A sort of knowing beforehand about something
that is going to happen,' answered Fraulein. 'Many
people have the feeling, but very often it does not
come true, and then it is not a real presentiment.
It is not everybody that has real presentiments.'
Aunt Anna smiled. Leonore was learning to love
her smiles. They reminded her of some other smile
-whose was it? Hildegarde's ?-yes, a little, perhaps,
but no, she had seen Hildegarde for the first time
that morning, and this feeling about Aunt Anna's
smile had come to her already yesterday. Whose
smile could it be ?
'Hildegarde is a dear child,' said Aunt Anna, 'and
perhaps she is one of the few who know more than
the everyday people. And she was born at the
Castle and spent her babyhood there. How well I
remember the day she was christened!'
'Oh, do tell me,' exclaimed Leonore impulsively.
54 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
'Did they have a grand feast, and did they invite
any fairies? Perhaps she had a fairy godmother.'
'Leonore!' said Fraulein, beginning to laugh.
'You are getting too fanciful-you really--'
'Nay, Elsa,' interrupted Aunt Anna. 'Let the
child say out what is in her mind, and remember, we
are here in our dear country, close on the borders of
'Yes, Fraulein,' Leonore interrupted in her turn.
'You said so yourself.'
And assuredly,' Aunt Anna went on, 'if Hilde-
garde has a fairy godmother, she has given her none
but good gifts.'
'You speak as if such things were possible, my
dear aunt,' said Fraulein. 'We must not let Leonore
grow too fanciful. I shall have you and her taking
flight in an airy chariot drawn by white swans or
something of that kind some fine day, if I don't take
'Well, you and Hildegarde can come after us in
another chariot if we do,' said Aunt Anna, laughing.
But Leonore remained serious.
'Please tell me, Aunt Anna,' she said, 'as you
were at Hildegarde's christening, was there any one
there who might have been a fairy ?'
Iv ON TZIE WAY 55
Aunt Anna hesitated.
'There was an odd story,' she replied, 'about a
beautiful lady who was met coming away from the
nursery, when the baby had been left alone in her
cot for a moment or two. And when the nurse went
back she found her smiling and crowing and chuck-
ling to herself as if she were six months instead of
only a few days old, and in her little hand she was
What ?' asked Leonore breathlessly.
'Three nuts,' replied Aunt Anna impressively.
'Three common little brown hazel-nuts. That part
of the story is true, for Hildegarde has the nuts to
this day, I believe-at least she had them the last
time she was here.'
'She must have picked them up somehow,' said
Aunt Anna shook her head.
'A baby of a few days old cannot pick things up,'
she said. 'No, it has never been explained. None
of the servants had put them into her hand-indeed
they would not have been so foolish, and they could
scarcely have had the chance of doing so. And it
was said by the one or two who declared they had
met her, that the beautiful lady was carrying a basket
56 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
on her arm filled with common hazel-nuts, and some
days afterwards one of the foresters said that late that
same evening a little old woman whom he had never
seen before stopped him up in the high woods to ask
the way to some strange place of which he had never
heard, and she-the little old woman-was carrying
a basket of nuts. She offered him some, but he
thought she was a witch and would not have any.'
'Dear me, Aunt Anna,' exclaimed her niece, 'I
did not know all these wonderful tales. Surely they
grew out of finding the nuts in the baby's hands. I
do remember hearing that, though I had forgotten it.'
'Perhaps that was the origin of it all,' said her
aunt quietly. 'Still, Hildegarde is an uncommon
child. It certainly seems as if she had received some
fairy gifts, however they came to her.'
Leonore did not speak, but she listened intently.
She would probably have not contented herself with
listening but for knowing that she was so soon to see
Hildegarde herself again.
'She will be the best person to ask,' thought
Leonore. 'I will tell her about my nuts and the
little old woman who gave me them, and about the
pretty laugh I heard in the wood, and then, I feel
sure, she will tell me all she knows.'
Iv ON THE WAY 57
She could scarcely finish her dinner, so eager and
excited did she feel. And she was more than de-
lighted when, at the close of the meal, kind Fraulein
proposed to her that, as Hildegarde had come to meet
them that morning, Leonore should show her new
little friend the same attention.
'You can scarcely miss her,' she said. 'She is
sure to come the same way that I took you this
morning. If you get ready now, and start in a
quarter of an hour or so, you will be about right, I
should say. They dine early at the Castle. But I
should like you to change your dress in case you
should be presented to the Baroness-Hildegarde's
Leonore ran off to get ready. She was not long
about it, but all the same her new little friend must
have been even quicker, for Leonore met her a very
few steps only from Aunt Anna's gate. Hildegarde's
face lighted up with a smile when she caught sight
of the other little girl.
'So you have come to meet me,' she said; 'that
is very nice of you. I hope I have not come too
soon. Shall I go in now to see Aunt Anna ?'
Leonore looked a little disappointed, which Hilde-
garde seemed at once to understand.
58 THE MAGIC NUTS CHaP.
'I don't mean to stay with Aunt Anna,' she
added quickly; 'what I want is for you and me to
go out somewhere together. It is a lovely day, and
I have leave to stay out till dusk. My grandmamma
is going to pay some visits, so she hopes to see you
some other day-perhaps to-morrow. I think we
shall get to know each other far the best by being
alone by ourselves-don't you think so?'
'Yes, certainly,' said Leonore, her face clearing.
'I am so glad you understand. I have such a lot of
things to talk to you about.'
Hildegarde nodded her head. It was a little
habit of hers to do so without speaking sometimes.
Then we must not lose any of our time,' she said,
after a moment's pause. 'But first I will run in to
give Aunt Anna a kiss, and then we can go off some-
Aunt Anna's face was full of pleasure at the sight
of her little friend--the two were evidently old
'How well you are looking, my child,' she said,
'and how much you have grown! Let me see, which
is the taller, you or our little Leonore,' and she drew
the two children together. 'There is not a quarter
of an inch between you,' she exclaimed. 'If you
iv ON THE WAY 59
were ponies you would be a perfect match- one
dark and one fair,' she added musingly. 'Yes, my
dears, you are evidently intended to be friends.'
'And that is just what we mean to be,' said
Hildegarde. 'May we go now, Aunt Anna ? You
will not be anxious even if Leonore does not come
home till dark?'
'Oh no,' said the old lady tranquilly, 'I know
you are as safe as you can be-you are going to the
woods, I suppose ?'
'I think so,' Hildegarde replied.
As soon as they found themselves out of doors
again, she took Leonore's hand.
'Let us run quickly through the village,' she said,
'and then when we get inside the Castle grounds we
can go slowly and talk as we go. Or perhaps we can
sit down-it is so mild, and there are lots of cosy
places among the trees.'
Leonore was quite pleased to do as Hildegarde
proposed; indeed she had a curious feeling that
whatever her new little friend wished she would
like. She did not speak much, for it seemed to
her as if she were meant in the first place to
The woods were very lovely that afternoon.
60 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
Hildegarde led the way round the Castle without
approaching it quite closely, till they stood in a
little clearing, from which they looked upwards into
the rows of pine-trees, through which here and there
the afternoon sunshine made streaks of light and
Isn't it pretty here?' said Hildegarde. 'Hush-
there's a squirrel-there are lots about here; they
are so tame they like to be near the house, I think.
Shall we sit down ? It is quite dry.'
Leonore was not troubled with any fears of
catching cold-and indeed the day was as mild as
Yes,' she said, 'it is a very pretty place. I have
never seen such big woods before.'
'They go on for miles and miles-up ever so far,'
said Hildegarde, 'though here and there the ground
is quite flat for a bit. And over there,' she pointed
to the left, 'they are not pine woods, but all sorts of
other trees. I don't know which I like best.'
'Pine woods I should say,' Leonore replied.
'Perhaps because I have never seen such beautiful
high fir-trees before. And the way the sun peeps
through them is so pretty.'
As she spoke, half unconsciously her hand strayed
Iv ON THE VWAY 61
to her jacket pocket. There lay safely the little
packet containing the three nuts.
'Hildegarde,' she said, 'I heard the story about
you when you were a baby, and what they found in
your hand. And-it is very odd-do you know-
no, of course you couldn't-but just fancy, I have
three nuts too!'
Hildegarde nodded her head.
'I did know,' she said, smiling. 'And-look
From the front of her frock she drew out a little
green silk bag drawn in at the top with tiny white
ribbon. She opened it carefully, and took out some-
thing which she held towards Leonore-on her
pretty pink palm lay three nuts, common little
brown nuts, just like Leonore's. And Leonore un-
wrapped her own packet and in the same way held
out its contents.
'Yes,' said Hildegarde, 'it is all right. I knew
you had them.'
Leonore stared at her in astonishment.
'How could you know ?' she exclaimed.
'I suppose people would say I dreamt it,' Hilde-
garde replied, 'but I don't call it dreaming. I have
always known things like that since I was a baby.
THE MAGIC NUTS
And I knew that some day I should have a friend
like you, and that together we should have lovely
adventures, and now it is going to come true.'
Leonore grew rosy red with excitement.
'Do you mean,' she began, Hildegarde, can you
mean that perhaps we are going to find the way to
Fairyland ? I have been thinking about it ever
since I can remember anything.'
'Yes,' she said, 'I am sure you have. But I
don't quite know about Fairyland itself. I am not
sure if any one ever gets quite there-into the very
insidest part, you know. I almost think we should
have to be turned into fairies for that, and then we
never could be little girls again, you see. But I
am sure we are going to see some wonderful things
-there are the outside parts of Fairyland, you
'Fraulein says all this country is on the borders
of Fairyland,' said Leonore.
'Well, so it is, I daresay, for fairies do come about
here sometimes. You've heard the story of the one
that came to my christening feast ?'
'Yes,' said Leonore, 'and I am beginning to think
that I have seen her too,' and she went on to tell
iv ON THE WAY 63
Hildegarde about the little old dame in the market-
place at Alt who had given her the nuts, and about
the mischievous laugh she had heard in the wood
on the way to Dorf, and all her own thoughts
and fancies, including her dream of Hildegarde
Hildegarde listened attentively.
I feel sure you are right,' she said, and that the
dame was my own fairy, as I call her. And I believe
the laugh you heard in the wood was when you were
hoping you hadn't lost the last three nuts. I don't
believe you could have lost them; if you had thrown
them away they would have come back to you.
Just think how my three have always been kept
safe, even though I was only a tiny baby when they
were put into my hand.'
Both little girls sat silent for a moment or two,
gazing at the six brown nuts.
'And what do you think we are meant to do
now ?' asked Leonore at last.
'To do,' repeated Hildegarde in some surprise;
'why, of course it's quite plain-to crack the nuts!
Not all of them at once-one, or perhaps two-one
of yours and one of mine, I daresay.'
'Oh,' exclaimed Leonore, 'do you really think we
64 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP. IV
should ? How I wonder what we shall find! Just
supposing there is nothing but a kernel inside.'
'There's no good in supposing it,' said Hilde-
garde; 'we shall soon see. As I have had the nuts
the longest perhaps it's meant for me to crack one
She put the nut between her teeth. Of course if
it had been a common nut this would not have been
a sensible thing to do, as she would probably have
broken her teeth and not cracked the nut, but
Hildegarde knew what she was about. The nut
gave way with a touch, and in another moment the
little girl had broken off enough of the shell to see
what was inside, Leonore bending over her in breath-
'WHAT'S O'CLOCK '
You had best come with me,' says he.
S. .And so they did.-The Brown Bear.
THE first exclamation came from Leonore. It was
one of disappointment.
'Oh, Hildegarde,' she cried, 'it is only a common
kernel,' for nothing was to be seen but what looked
just like the browny-gray skin of the inside of a nut.
'No,' Hildegarde replied, 'it isn't that at all';
and with her clever little fingers she carefully drew
out what was in reality a small sheet of thin brown
paper or tissue of some curious kind, rolled into a
ball, and which, when she had carefully unfolded it,
was shown to have a few lines of words stamped or
impressed upon it in gilt letters.
These were the lines. I have translated them
to give the exact meaning, though as rhymes they
were prettier in the original language :-
THE MAGIC NUTS
Right behind the Castle
Is hid a tiny door;
This let thy comrade open-
Nuts you still have four.
Hildegarde smoothed it out and held it for
Leonore to see.
'What can it mean ?' Leonore asked breathlessly.
'First,' said Hildegarde, 'it means that you are to
crack one of your nuts too. Don't you see-it says
" thy comrade," and then nuts you still have four."
That shows that the you means us both together
-four nuts between us. So please crack your one.'
Leonore did so between her teeth, as her friend
had done, and quite as easily. This time there
was no exclamation of disappointment, for the first
glimpse of the contents showed something glittering,
and with trembling eagerness the little girl, breaking
away still more of the shell, drew out a little ball
of very fine but firm gilt thread. This, by Hilde-
garde's advice, she gently untwined, till she came to
something hard in the middle. It was a small, very
small, gold key, hanging on the long gilt thread,
which proved to be in a ring, with no knot or join to
Leonore, without speaking, glanced up at Hilde-
v HAT'S O'CLOCK?' 67
garde, who was earnestly examining their new
'" Right behind the Castle,"' Hildegarde murmured
to herself. Let me see-yes, I think I know what
it means. See, Leonore, "right behind" must be
from the centre of the wall of the Castle yard down
below us, I should say. It is easy to find, as there
is a door just in the middle. Look, you can see it
from here. Well, now, if one of us stands as near
the middle as we can guess, holding the thread, and
the other goes straight on, holding the thread too, as
far as it will reach, and running the key on as she
goes, then she would get to the place that I fancy is
meant. The thread must be meant to be double, or
it would not be in a ring.'
Leonore looked at Hildegarde admiringly.
'Yes,' she said, 'I'm sure that's the best thing to
do; anyway, we can try. But, Hildegarde, the key
is so small.'
Hildegarde examined it closely; suddenly Leonore
heard a tiny click.
'It is not so very small now,' said Hildegarde;
'see, it pulls out,' and so it did. It was now a long-
stemmed, very delicately-made key, small still in the
actual words, but quite easy to hold firmly.
68 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
Hildegarde moved a few paces to one side.
'I think we are about even with the centre of the
Castle here,' she said, stopping short. 'Now, it is for
you to look for the door, while I stand here holding
the thread, for my rhyme says, "thy comrade." I
shall stand quite still, and you walk on as straight as
you can go.
'I am so afraid of the thread breaking,' said
Leonore, taking it and the key from Hildegarde.
'I don't think there is any fear of that, if you
handle it gently,' said Hildegarde. 'Remember, it
must be some kind of a fairy thread.'
Leonore set off, her heart beating with excitement.
As she went on she felt the thread sliding gently
through her fingers, so she allowed her hold of it to
slacken, while she grasped the tiny key more firmly.
It seemed to her that she had walked a good way,
and she was marvelling at the length of the thread,
when she felt it tighten, and, slender as a hair
though it was, pull her up with a little jerk. She
stopped at once-yes, it was at its full stretch now,
and she looked around her eagerly.
The trees were growing thicker and closer here;
in front the wood seemed almost dark, though here
and there a streak of sunshine broke the gloom.
v WHAT'S O'CLOCK?' 69
But of a door of any kind she could see no trace!
She gazed downwards, for she had a vague idea that
it might be a trap-door in the ground-a great stone
with a ring in it, such as one reads of in old stories
of enchantment and magic; but no, there was
nothing of the kind to be seen, and she was on the
point of calling back to Hildegarde that she could
find no trace of a door, when, lifting her eyes
suddenly, she caught sight of a gleam-a tiny spot
of light-on the trunk of a tree in front of her.
It was an old tree; the trunk was much thicker
than those around it, the bark was rugged. Leonore
hastened close up to it, the thread seeming to become
elastic to allow of her doing so. To her delight, as
she peered in at the spot, she described the outline of
a very small keyhole in bright gold. She almost
screamed with pleasure, and had to conquer her first
impulse, which was to try to unlock it at once, for
this would have been contrary to what she and
Hildegarde had planned. So she did as she had
promised, giving a soft jerk to the thread, the signal
And in a minute Hildegarde was beside her,
her blue eyes sparkling, her fair hair flying behind
70 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
'You have found it?' she cried; and Leonore, too
excited to speak, pointed to the golden rim.
'The key,' exclaimed Hildegarde, and with careful
though trembling fingers Leonore fitted it into the
lock. It turned without the slightest difficulty, and
there before them stood open a narrow entrance into
what looked like a dark hole, about as high as the
Leonore was darting forwards when her friend
'Take out the key,' she said, 'it must not be left
in the lock'; but when Leonore turned to obey her,
lo and behold, the key was no longer there, and the
thread had slipped from the hold of both! Only a
very tiny shiny ball, like a gold bead, was lying
among the fir-needles at their feet, and as Hilde-
garde stooped to pick it up, it seemed to sink into
the ground, and disappeared!
She stood up again, laughing.
'All right,' she said, 'it has done its work.'
Then hand-in-hand they crept through the doorway
sideways, for it was only wide enough to admit one
at a time. But no sooner were they well within, the
door closing of itself behind them, than they were
able to stand abreast, for they found themselves in a
v WHAT'S O'CLOCK?' 71
wide passage. But before looking about them,
Hildegarde stopped short for a moment.
'What has become of the little brown paper?'
she said. 'Perhaps there was something else on it.'
Leonore shook her head.
I don't think so,' she said. 'I looked at it well.
Is it not in your pocket ?'
No, it was not there. It had evidently dis-
appeared, like the contents of Leonore's own nut.
'Then we are meant to find our own way now,'
said Hildegarde cheerfully. 'At present there is not
much difficulty, for there is plainly only one way to
go,' and that was straight before them. The passage
was dimly lighted, though how or from where they
could not tell, but by degrees, as their eyes grew
accustomed to the dusk, they saw that the way
sloped downwards, and was a sort of path between
rows of curiously twisted pillars or columns at each
side. Leonore squeezed Hildegarde's arm.
'What are these things ?' she said. I don't like
them-they look like snakes.'
Her little friend laughed.
'You silly girl,' she replied. 'Don't you see-
they are the roots of the trees. We have got right
THE MAGIC NUTS
Leonore stared in wonder.
'I thought their roots were in the earth,' she
'Perhaps the earth doesn't go down so far as we
thought,' said Hildegarde, 'or perhaps it has been
cleared away here to make a path. Yes, I should
think that's how it is. But you see, Leonore, if
we're getting into Fairyland we must expect to see
a good many queer things, not like what we are
'Of course,' Leonore agreed, her eyes sparkling at
the idea. 'I don't think I should really feel surprised
at anything. But do let us hurry on, Hildegarde.'
They took hands again and ran on. It was quite
easy to do so, as there was light enough to see where
they were going, and the way still sloped gently
downwards. Suddenly Hildegarde stopped.
'Hark!' she exclaimed; 'do you hear that sound,
Leonore ? What can it be?' for a very soft mono-
tonous sort of whirr was plainly to be distinguished.
'Can it be water ?' Leonore was beginning, when
Hildegarde interrupted her.
'It is a spinning-wheel,' she whispered eagerly.
'Now, Leonore, our adventures are really beginning.'
Almost as she spoke, they became aware that just
v 'WHAT'S O'CLOCK?' 73
in front of them the passage made a turn; and
another minute brought them within sight of a kind
of niche at one side, within which sat a not altogether
unfamiliar figure. It was that of the old dame of the
market-place at Alt. She was spinning busily.
The children stopped. They felt her bright eyes
fixed upon them, but neither liked to speak. They
waited in respectful silence.
'Welcome,' she said at last, while a smile broke
over her face. 'I have been expecting you.'
They drew a little nearer.
Then you are a fairy,' Leonore burst out, 'and it
was you I heard laugh on our way here-wasn't it ?'
'Never mind about that,' said the dame. 'Tell
me what you want.'
'Oh,' said Hildegarde softly, 'you know that
better than we do. You know all about us. We
want to get to Fairyland, and you can show us the
way, can you not ?'
To their disappointment and surprise, the dame
shook her head. But her words softened the dis-
appointment a little.
No-not quite that,' she replied. 'Into actual
Fairyland itself I cannot take or lead you. No one
but yourselves can do that-and,' with a little sigh,
74 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
'there are but few who ever really penetrate
there. It cannot be otherwise. But I can help you
and show you a good deal, so do not look sad about
it. There are many, many wonderful things to see
between this and actual Fairyland.'
At this the little girls brightened up.
'Please tell us,' said Leonore timidly, 'do you
always sit here, except when you come up to where
we live? And are you always spinning?'
The dame shook her head and smiled again.
'No,' she replied. 'This is only one of my posts.
I am here to-day because I expected you. And I
spin when I have no other special work to do. We
do not love idleness.'
Hildegarde had moved quite close up to her.
'What are you spinning now?' she said softly.
Oh, I see-it is cobwebs, is it not ?'
'You have good eyes, my child,' said the dame;
and so indeed she had, for, but for a certain glisten-
ing as the light caught the almost invisible ball of
threads, nothing could have been perceived. 'Yes,
our fairy looms use a good deal of cobweb yarn-
there is nothing like it for our gossamer tissue,
nothing that takes such shades of colour.'
Leonore listened with wide-open eyes.
v 'WHAT'S O'CLOCK?' 75
'Oh,' she said beneath her breath,' I wish I could
'So you shall,' said the dame; 'that is a wish it is
easy to grant'; and as she spoke she rose from her
seat, giving a touch to the spinning-wheel which
made it revolve with double speed, and changed the
soft whirr into a louder sound, almost like a note of
music. The children stared at the wheel, and in that
moment of their attention being distracted the old
dame had vanished, and in her stead stood a lovely
figure, smiling down upon them.
'Oh,' exclaimed Hildegarde,' you are my own fairy
lady. I remember you now-it was you that gave
me the nuts when I was a baby.'
'And I have dreamt of you,' added Leonore
eagerly. 'And this is the gossamer-may I touch it?'
she went on, softly stroking the gleaming garment
which floated round the fairy. 'I can scarcely feel it.'
It says much for you if you feel it at all,' said the
lady. 'But now, my children, if you want to see
some of the things open to you to visit, you must be
on your way. Go straight on till you come to a
barred gate-that is one of the doors into gnomeland.
Knock and say that the fairy of the spinning-wheel
sent you, and asks for you courtesy and kindness.'
76 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
Leonore looked a very little frightened.
'Is there any fear?' she began. 'Could the gnomes
be vexed at our coming ?'
Hildegarde turned to her with a little impatience.
'Of course not,' she said, 'if our fairy lady
But still,' said the lady, though she smiled, 'I
must give you one or two warnings. Gnomes are
gnomes, remember-not angels, not even fairies.
They are queer-tempered folk. In speaking to them
you must be very respectful and never interrupt
them. And you must never seem to pity them in the
very least ; they think their underground country is
far more wonderful and delightful than any other, and
you must not disagree with this opinion.'
'No,' said Hildegarde, 'we shall be very careful.
Come along, Leonore.'
'Shall we find you here when we come back,
please, dear fairy lady?' asked Leonore.
'You will not return this way,' their friend
answered. 'But you will see me again before long-
She pointed towards the passage, and as she did so
it seemed to the children that the light increased, as
if her white hand had touched some unseen spring
"I MUST GIVE YOU ONE OR TWO WARNINGS."-p. 76.
v WHAT'S O'CLOCK?' 77
in the air. Nor did it grow dimmer again-though
not very bright, it was now twice as bright as when
they first entered, only the colour had grown reddish;
and as they walked on, they noticed this more and
'It looks like the light of a fire, of a great fire,'
'Or of a great many fires,' said Hildegarde. I
daresay it is that, for I have heard stories of the
gnomes working at metals, and to do that they must
have big fires like blacksmiths, you know.'
'I hope it won't be very hot in their country,' said
Leonore, who was more timid than Hildegarde.
'It will be all right whatever it is,' replied her
friend, 'otherwise you may be sure our fairy would
not have let us come. Gnomeland is the nearest to
our world of all the fairy countries-or the border
countries, as they are, I suppose-so it is right to
begin with it. But you needn't be frightened, Leonore.
I hope we shall have lots of adventures, now we have
really got started.'
'You are so brave,' said Leonore admiringly, 'and
you seem to know so much about fairy things. What
are all the other countries, do you think ?'
78 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
Oh, more, far more, than we have any idea of,' she
said. Just think how many kinds of fairies we have
names for even. Gnomes, and pixies, and brownies,
and wood-sprites, and water-sprites, and mermaids,
'I think I should like most of all to go to the sea-
fairies,' said Leonore. 'I do so love stories of
mermaids, though they are nearly always rather sad.
But oh, Hildegarde, that must be the gate into gnome-
land-I am so glad it does not feel any hotter; it is
quite nice and cool, isn't it ?'
Just before them stood a wrought-iron gate or
door; it had bars across and was beautifully worked
in all sorts of curious patterns and designs. On the
top of each gate-post sat a bird-one was like an owl,
and at first the little girls thought it must be really
alive, for its eyes seemed to blink and its feathers to
move softly. And opposite it was an eagle, whose
keen eyes gleamed redly, while its wings sparkled like
burnished gold. But neither was a living bird, and
soon the children discovered that it was only the
reflection of the light on the polished metal that gave
the look of life to the eyes and plumage. The birds
were placed sideways as if to see both inside the gate
and outwards along the passage, and from the claw of
v WHAT'S O'CLOCK?' 79
the eagle hung a chain, ending in a fawn's foot also in
bronze, or some such metal.
'That must be the gnomes' front-door bell,' said
Hildegarde. 'Shall I ring it, or will you ?'
Leonore was creeping behind Hildegarde a little.
'Oh you, please,' she replied, and Hildegarde took
the fawn's foot in her hand and pulled it-gently and
carefully, for she remembered the fairy's warning-
and a good thing it was that she did so, for softly
though she had touched it, the result was rather
startling. It rang out at once with a deep clang,
which, strange to say, went sounding on and on,
very loudly at first, then by degrees more faintly,
till it was lost in the distance-it was as if hundreds
of bells or echoes of bells had been pulled instead
Even Hildegarde looked a little alarmed.
'I hope they won't think us rude,' she said, 'I
really scarcely-- 'but before she had time to say
more, a face appeared behind the bars of the gate.
It was a gnome-a regular, proper sort of gnome-
about half the height of the children, with a pointed
cap and a mantle tossed over one shoulder, a queer
wrinkled-up face, a big nose, and black bead-like
eyes. He did not look particularly good-natured;
80 THE MAGIG NUTS CHAP. V
he was evidently not one of the laughing order of
gnomes, not at any rate at the present moment.
But neither did he seem exactly surly ; his expres-
sion was rather as if he were waiting to see what
kind of beings were these audacious visitors!
But his first words were a great surprise, for
instead of asking what they wanted, or any natural
question of that kind, he tilted back his head, so
that if his peaked cap had not been firmly fitted it
would certainly have fallen off, and peering up into
Hildegarde's face-Leonore by this time had crept
well behind her companion-said sharply-
What's o'clock ?'
He appeared, sniffed, and sneered,
In a fairy pet.--lvild Nature.
FoR a moment or two Hildegarde stared down at
the little man without speaking. Then her face
lighted up again, and she replied-
'I am very sorry, sir, that I can't tell you, for I
have no watch and I don't know.'
Something like a smile broke over the gnome's
'All right,' he said, 'you don't know, and you
don't pretend you do. And I don't want to know.
Here in our country,' and he waved his hand in a
lordly fashion, 'we have nothing to do with clocks
and watches, and time and hours, and all such
fiddle-faddle. We leave that to the poor folk who
can't settle things for themselves, but have to be
ruled by the sun and the moon, and the stars too,
82 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
for all I know. Some people up there, where you
come from, fancy we make the cuckoo-clocks down
here, but that's all nonsense-we wouldn't waste our
time over such rubbish.'
'I thought you said- began Leonore impul-
sively. She was getting over her alarm a little by
now-' I thought you said you didn't trouble about
time,' she was going to have added, but a touch from
Hildegarde came, luckily, quickly enough to stop
her, and to remind her of the fairy's warning.
The gnome did not seem to have heard her; he
was unfastening the gates. When he had got them
ajar, he stood right in the middle, his head cocked
on one side and his feet well apart, and surveyed the
And who sent you ?' he said at last.
'The fairy of the spinning wheel,' Hildegarde
Humph I thought as much,' he remarked.
'And what for, if you please ?'
'To pay you and your wonderful country a visit,
if you will kindly allow us to do so,' Hildegarde
'That means that I am to--' he cleared his
throat and hesitated for a moment, then went on
vi GNOMELAND 83
again, 'to tire myself out doing showman, I sup-
pose ?' he said rather grumpily.
'I hope not to tire yourself out, sir,' Hildegarde
returned in her politest tone. We shall give you
as little trouble as possible, but we are of course
very anxious to see all you will kindly show us.'
All right,' the gnome replied. 'Enter, children
of the upper world, and be welcome,' and he flung
open the gates with a flourish, while Hildegarde and
Leonore passed through.
It had seemed to them as they stood waiting that
within the entrance was much the same as outside,
but no sooner had they stepped across the boundary,
the doors clanging behind them as they did so, than
they found everything quite different. They were
no longer in a rather narrow passage, but on a broad
road, bordered on each side by magnificent rocks
which stretched up so high that they could not see
their summit or the roof. The ground was covered
with very fine gravel or white silvery sand, firm and
pleasant to walk upon, and which glistened like pale
pink tinsel in the light. For everywhere was flooded
with the soft red or rosy brilliance they bad noticed
before they entered, though whence it came they
could not see.
84 THE MAGIC NUTS CHAP.
'Why is the light so red ?' asked Leonore, gaining
some courage again, though since her last attempt
she had not dared to speak. 'We noticed it outside,
and we thought perhaps it came from big fires-
furnaces you know, or forges-like what blacksmiths
The gnome was walking a little in front-at this
he turned round.
'And why should we have "big fires," or
furnaces, or whatever you call the clumsy things ?' he
said, fixing his small bright eyes, which gleamed redly
themselves, on Leonore.
'Oh,' said Leonore, dreadfully afraid that he
thought her rude, 'because because everybody
says you make things like-like blacksmiths do-
with iron and metal stuffs like that.'
'Indeed,' said the gnome, 'and what then? Do
you think we denizens of the under-world are as
stupid as your clumsy workmen up above ? Wait a
bit; you shall soon see for yourselves.'
'You mustn't think Leonore meant to be rude,'
said Hildegarde. 'You see we are only children,
and we don't understand about wonderfully clever
'Humph,' said the gnome, but he seemed pleased.
vi GNOMELAND 85
They had walked some little way by now, and
once or twice their guide had stopped at what looked
like a narrow passage between the rocks, as if un-
certain if he should turn down it or not. Just then
they came to another of these passages, and he looked
back at the children.
Follow me,' he said, 'and you shall see how we
work. I am going to show you the manufacturing
of the lucky pennies and horse-shoes.'
What are lucky pennies ?' whispered Leonore to
Hildegarde. 'I think I have heard of them, but
I'm not sure.'
'Never mind,' Hildegarde replied in the same
tone. 'The gnomes won't be vexed with us for
not knowing things if we are polite and admire
their cleverness, and I am sure they are very
Then they followed their guide in silence, which
soon, however, came to be broken by the sound of
tapping, light sharp tapping, and in another moment
or two, there was added to this a whizzing sound,
and now and then short clear whistles. But the
little girls asked no questions and made no remarks,
till suddenly, the passage along which they were
walking coming to an end, they found themselves in a