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THe ELE ERRANIT By
MOIRA O'NEILL ILLUSTRATED
BY W. E. F. BRITTEN
Lonpon: LAWRENCE AND BULLEN
16 HENRIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN
RicHarp CLAY anp Sons, Limirep,
LONDON AND BUNGAY.
CREENGAND RED: fot) on ee ee te ea I
THE eROXGLOVE (CAMP. co ec peu aa 13
SEEDY Ose VALOURe ken oceania strays Wank nuns gk iat 22
THE SDUGSOR WARE tae ne pe Cau ee cami nani 33
UNDER? THESMOON 2 0 rt a os ee 49
UP AND DOWN ...... elope BAS (ke Acerca ea nia are ae 66
GREEN AND RED.
He came over to Ireland between the leaves of a
Shakspeare, and to this day nobody knows whether his
coming was a mistake or not. The place, however, was
in â€œThe Tempest,â€ just at Arielâ€™s songâ€”
â€˜Where the bee sucks, there suck I.
Tt was a very good place, and he felt quite comfortable,
In any other book he might have been crushed; but
Shakspeare never crushes any living thing, and besides,
he has a peculiar tenderness for little elves.
No sooner was this Elf set free, than he flew straight
out at the window; for he had a passion for the open
air, and a prejudice against staying too long in one
2 THE ELF-ERRANT
place. He certainly had a good many prejudices for
so small a creature. The result of this one was that he
flew straight into a shower of rain which happened to
be falling ; and that annoyed him. It was not that he
minded being wet, exactly; he had been wet before
now, and he was such a sturdy Elf that it took a good
deal to hurt him. But he was annoyed, all the same,
and he sought for the nearest shelter that me be
This proved to be a dull green dockin, which grew on
the top of a garden wall. The Elf crept under one
of its drooping lower leaves and leaned against its stem
to wait. On the other side of the dockin, another little Elf
was sitting dreamily, his: arms folded, observing the
weather. And this is how an zee Elf met an
Trish Elf for the very first time.
The two looked at each other and nodded their
heads, like flowers. Then the English Elf saidâ€”
â€œ Rose Red.â€
. And the Irish Elf saidâ€”
They were not imparting any particular information ;
they were only mentioning their names to each other.
â€œAnd what way do I see you now?â€ Trefoil added
GREEN AND RED
Rose Red should have answered, of course, â€œ Faith,
just the way that Iam!â€
But he had not been long enough in the country
to know this form of greeting. So he stared a little and
â€œWhat do you think of the weather?â€ just as he
would have done at home.
Trefoil put his head out from under his dockin leaf
and took an observation. The long lines of slanting,
silver rain came down steadily. They beat on the
lavenders and lilies in the garden; they hummed on the
wet grass behind the garden wall. He drew his head in
again, and remarked contentedlyâ€” :
â€œ Well, Iâ€™m thinking itâ€™s just beginning to be no better.â€
He was a thoroughly amiable fairy this Trefoil, but
information was not his strong point.
â€˜Tt always rains in Ireland, Iâ€™ve been told,â€™â€™ said the
other. â€˜â€œ You must find it wretched.â€
â€œNot at all,â€ said Trefoil. â€˜* Moist and agreeableâ€”
thatâ€™s the Irish notion both for climate and for company.
You'll like it when youâ€™re used to it. Does it ever rain
where you come from?â€ g
Now the English Elf was nothing if not truthful,
â€œ Sometimes,â€ he replied, and shuffled a little on his
4 THE ELF-ERRANT
He was not feeling in the least at home under this
dockin, because in the leaf which ought to have
sheltered him there was a hole, and the drip outside
came through it down on his head. At last he
mentioned the fact to Trefoil, who jumped up in a great
hurry, and insisted on changing places with him,
regretting deeply that he had not observed it before.
â€œT donâ€™t know what brought us here at all,â€ he
declared. â€˜Sure, thereâ€™s no fit shelter for a fairy of any
size on this old wall. A friend of my own, a snail that
lives in a crack under the north side of us this minute,
told me he would have left long ago, only he never did
anything in a hurry. Iâ€™m curious to see if heâ€™s there
still. He may have got overtaken by a blackbird, of
course, or been crushed by something accidental near
the young salad bed. But one thing Iâ€™m sure ofâ€”he
hasnâ€™t broken his neck !â€
Rose Red was not listening. He was sitting dejec-
tedly in the place lately occupied by Trefoil, and in the
leaf over his head there were â€œwo holes, now, dripping
like anything.. But he was too polite to mention them
â€œT suppose all the leaves in this country are ragged,â€
he said to himself. â€œNice prospect, in a climate where
itâ€™s always raining! They ought to do something about
GREEN AND RED 5
it. But if all the fairies are like this Trefoil, they donâ€™t
know whether they are wet or dry. He was sitting
under this water-spout a minute ago, and he didnâ€™t even
notice it. My wings!â€
Just at that moment a blackbird close by opened his
golden bill, and sangâ€” ;
â€˜* Pipe up, pipe .
For the sunâ€”the sunâ€”the sun,
Cheer him up, cheer him up !
Chir-o-wee . . .â€
There was no rhyme in the song, but it really sounded
very well just as the blackbird sang it. However, after
a minute, he addedâ€”
â€˜Pretty sweet, pretty sweet ?â€
ina dissatisfied sort of way to some one out of sight,
who gave him no answer. So he shook his wings a
little, gave one flirt of his slender black tail, and dropped
head foremost into a white-currant-bush. At the end of
five minutes he saidâ€”
**Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle,â€
softly among the leaves. And when he emerged from
that currant-bush some time afterwards, he was barely
able to fly.
6 THE ELF-ERRANT
By that hour the fairies had flown far away, and the
dockin on the garden wall stood limp and dejected.
But it always remembered to the end of its life, which
was not a long one, that it had once shelteredâ€”for so
the dockin flattered itselfâ€”two live fairies from a
shower. And that was more than the tallest cactus
dahlia in the garden could have said, provided it spoke
with any regard for truth.
The fairies, however, forgot all about the dockin
immediately ; for Trefoil, the very moment the black-
bird began to sing, darted out, and called to Rose
â€œ Come alongâ€”the rainâ€™s over. Letâ€™s be flying!â€
The two little Elves caught each otherâ€™s hands, sprang
into the air and were gone inamoment. It only looked
as though a kind of double butterfly had fluttered over
the garden wall, one half rose-colour, one half green.
But they went much faster than a butterfly, or even than
a bee. The sun warmed their wings, and that made
them swifter still They sailed up over a heathery
knoll, and. skimmed down the other side, and then
they went zigzagging along the side of a stream where
flag-lilies grew, and looked at themselves in the water.
Rose Red was complaining again by this time. He
said that Trefoilâ€™s way of flying did not suit his own in
GREEN AND RED 7
the least. He liked to â€œfly straight ahead,â€ and to lose
no time in â€œ getting there.â€ But it was quite impossible
to make good time if you were hand in hand with a fairy
who indulged in constant excursions to right and left after
nothing in particular, and every now and then did awild
bit of â€œfancy flyingâ€ with no object in the world, as
there was nobody there to see him.
Trefoil was quite surprised. It was a new idea to him
that he should wait to find an excellent reason for doing
athing before he did it. However, he replied good-
â€œAll right! let go, then.â€
And no sooner had they let go each otherâ€™s hands,
than he espied a drop of water falling from a high branch.
He was immediately impelled to dive down after it and
catch it before it should reach the groundâ€”which he
did. That is a creditable feat, even for a fairy, and the
English Elf was quite prepared to admire it candidly.
But before he could open his lips to say so, Trefoil was
off again, and this time chasing a little gray-and-white
seed of a dandelion puff, that had lost its way, and was
sailing up and down, in great danger of being eaten up
shortly by a green linnet. Trefoil blew it along with all
his might, trying to send it against the wind, which was
clearly impossible, as the seed-vessel was much too light
8 THE ELF-ERRANT
" to steer; and he sang aloud to it in his clear thread of a
â€œ Dandy-puff, dandy-puff !
Take your time, and time enough,
Donâ€™t you like this rhyme enough?
Dandy-puff, dandy-puff |â€?
He was so pleased with his occupation that it was
some moments before the voice of Rose Red reached his
ears, saying something about â€œan exhibition of pure
â€œBuds and blossoms!â€ exclaimed Trefoil. â€œI had
forgotten the Elf. Whatâ€™s the matter now?â€
â€œOh, nothing of the slightest consequence,â€ said Rose
Red sarcastically. â€˜When you have quite done with
your fluffs and your follies, perhaps you will kindly let me
know, and then we can be getting on again. But donâ€™t
hurry on my account. I shall await your convenience
And he folded his wings and dropped with absolute
precision on the crest of a daisy.
â€˜Â¢ Dandy-puff, dandy-puff !
Iâ€™m afraid heâ€™s in a huff,â€
sang Trefoil after his dear little seedling. But he let the
seedling go, and dropped down immediately to the
GREEN AND RED 9
ground, where he found Rose Red standing up with
great dignity on the daisy, and snubbing it because one
side of its fringe was more rosy than the other. He said
he hoped that little bud beside it would grow up in a
very different manner! After that, he felt better; and
the daisy, to tell the truth, did not feel a bit the worse,
for it was not a sensitive flower, nor very easily crushed.
â€œHave you done now?â€ Trefoil asked, looking up
innocently at his friend.
- Have J done!â€ the English Elf retorted, looking
down indignantly at Trefoil. â€œ Iâ€™ve done nothing yet,
except flutter about and dawdle after you. Three good
hours of this day are gone already, and I havenâ€™t yet
made out where you are bound for, or what we are both -
of us after. I vow it takes all the stiffness out of oneâ€™s
wings to be kept dangling at a loose end so. Itâ€™s Wo
fun,â€™ he added: and that is an expression of great
import, which is common to the fairies of all nations.
â€œBut in the name of nonsense, then,â€ Trefoil asked
him, very seriously, â€˜since you donâ€™t know where you are
goingâ€”and neither do Iâ€”why are you in sucha way
because we arenâ€™t getting there?â€
â€˜â€œ* Why?â€” because itâ€™s a wretched waste of time,â€ said
the English Elf,
â€œListen to him,â€ shouted Trefoil to the world at large.
10 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œA waste of time! Why, you've come to a country
where thereâ€™s no such thing as a waste of time, Fay!
We have no value for time here. Thereâ€™s lashings of it
more than anybody knows what to do with. You couldnâ€™t
waste your time in Ireland, if you were trying at it all day
But Rose Red turned quite pale at the prospect before
him. - He slipped off his daisy and satâ€™ on the ground,
looking decidedly miserable. â€œTI shall hate it. I shall
certainly hate the whole country,â€ he declared pathetic-
ally. â€˜I never heard of a place like this, where time is
of no value. Itâ€™s quite unnatural. Oh, Trefoil, let us
start off somewhere instantly, and find something to doâ€”
something zo do/â€ he repeated imploringly, gazing at the
Irish Elf, as if he were half afraid of hearing the next
moment that there was nothing to do.
â€œ Ah, be asy now,â€ said Trefoil soothingly; â€œand if
you canâ€™t be asy, be as asy as you can! We'll do any-
thing you like. Whatâ€™s to hinder us? Tâ€™ll fight you
with pleasure, if you think youd feel any better
â€œWhat about?â€ cried Rose Red eagerly.
â€œWhat about? what about?â€ murmured Trefoil.
â€œTâ€™m bothered if I know. Sure, anything will do.
Good friends neednâ€™t be too particular.â€
GREEN AND RED II
â€œBut if we havenâ€™t any reason to fight, thereâ€™s no
sense in it,â€ said Rose Red, beginning to despond
â€œI declare I never saw such an Elf as you,â€ Trefoil
cried. â€˜Nothing will satisfy you. Itâ€™s most unreason-
able to be wanting sense in things that havenâ€™t got any.
Canâ€™t you be a little reasonable? I think youâ€™re about
as bad as a Bee.â€
Rose Red only gasped. This kind of language
addressed to an English Elf for the first time is apt to
turn him a trifle giddy. And when Trefoil began to
throw somersaults very fast over a leaf and back again
he shut his eyes for a moment to recover himself.
Trefoil had been struck by an idea, and this was how it
always took him.
â€œAs bad as a Bee,â€ he cried ; â€œbut that gives mea
notion. â€˜I'll take you to the seat of war, my fine fay!
and you may help us to fight the Bees. TZhat will give
you something to do, I fancy; and if you donâ€™t find
sense enough and over in it, itâ€™s a pity.â€
â€œCome on, come on! Iâ€™m your fay,â€ cried Rose
Red, jumping to his feet and fluttering his wings in a
frenzy of impatience to be gone.
â€œ All right, weâ€™re going,â€ said Trefoil, who was also
12 THE ELF-ERRANT
But first he hurried over to the other side of the daisy,
where the daisy-bud grew.â€™ It was-a tight, little, round
green bud, with just a speck of crimson visible; and
Trefoil kissed it carefully. Now if any flower-bud
before it opens has the.luck to be kissed by a fairy,
that flower is safe from being pecked or injured by bird
or beetle for the rest of its natural life. This the daisy-
bud was too young to know; but the full-blown daisy
knew it perfectly well, and shed a petal for pure emotion at
the sight.. Trefoil had gone before it fell, so -he didnâ€™t
He was in a desperate hurry now. He had Rose Red
by the hand again; and, judging by the resolute way
they were both flying along, heads down against the wind,
you could not have told which was the most in earnest
about â€œ getting there,â€ the Green Fairy or the Red.
Rose Red only put a single question on the way.
â€œWhere ?â€ he asked briefly.
And Trefoil told himâ€”
â€œTo the â€˜ Foxglove Camp.â€™ â€
THE FOXGLOVE CAMP.
. Tue Foxglove Camp was on a hill slope just below a
wood of birch and ash, and glistening holly.
The place is known to a great many Fairies now,
since Lara, the chief of Glen Cloy, came there one
night, before his luck was broken, and learnt how to win
back his bride, whom a Fairy King had hidden in the
heart of Tievara.' But that was a very long time ago,
and only the Fairies remember it. Nothing is changed
in.the place, however, since Lara and Ailish were lovers.
The trees throw their long shadows down from the edge
of the wood over the grass and the gray rocks scattered
together below ; and everywhere tall Foxgloves grow, and
rear up their spires of red bells, a double line on each
stalk. They grow in ranks upon ranks, hundreds of
green Foxgloves with thousands of red bells ; and when
14 THE ELF-ERRANT
the breeze blows softly, they sway a little and swing all
one way, like pines before a gale, but noiselessly.
The Foxglove Fairies live inside the flowers, when
they are at home. For this reason each red bell is most
carefully hung, is lined with something softer than felt,
and freckled all over inside in the most fascinating
manner. It gives quite the impression of being in a
palace, when you have so many important Beings living
one over another, as you find on a Foxglove stem. The
Foxglove Fairies are immensely proud of their homes,
and often declare that they cannot for their wings
imagine what leads the Bluebell Fairies to prefer their
own abodes, so blue and dim and narrow as these must
be, and thenâ€”owing to their shapeâ€”so unprotected !
But the Bluebell Fairies have no enemies, so they do
not care. They have no ambitions, no grievances, and
very little energy. They are dreamy little creatures, but
lovely to see.
Now the Foxglove Fairies Aave enemies, for they have
a life-long feud with the Bees: and this feud is their joy
and pride, and the principal occupation of their lives.
If anything were to end it, no one can. guess how miser-
able they would be ; but nothing is likely to end it. As
for what began it, if you can tell what began the trouble
between the east wind and the ladybirds, you can tell
THE FOXGLOVE CAMP 15
that, too. It began just when Bees and Fairies found
themselves with their opposite instincts in the same
world: and that was long enough before the peers
of history, at any rate.
The Bees wanted honeyâ€”were always wanting honey.
The Fairies, who had a sublime indifference to honey on
their own account, at first paid no great attention, and let
the Bees come to their Foxglove bells for honey, as often
as they wanted to. But the Bees, as they increased in
substance, rather declined in good manners ; as tactless
creatures, afflicted with one idea, are apt to do. They
began to come too often, and so made themselves a
Especially they gave offence by entering at Foxglove
doors when the Fairy owners were asleep, and disturbing
them. Nothing can be crosser than a Fairy disturbed
in his sleep, and so the Bees found out.
â€œThe idea of being woken up at broad noon, to find
a great Bee with his hairy black legs, crawling about in
the bell for honey, and rumpling the whole place! I
protest !â€â€™ exclaimed Freak, a Fairy of great character.
When Freak protested, a number of other Fairies
generally protested after him in chorus, and amongst
them this time were Freckle and Starlight and Speck.
They remonstrated openly with the Bees, but they did
16 THE ELF-ERRANT
not receive in consequence that graceful apology which
the occasion seemed to demand.
The Bees merely remarked that Â¢heir habit was to
work by day and sleep by night ; a habit which all nature
must approve, and which they strongly recommended
the Fairies to acquire.
There was an air of conscious superiority about this
reply that was irritating to a high degree. For Fairies,
as every one knows, do no work at all, but they are very
- frequently up all night and busy about their own affairs,
especially if there is moonlight abroad. So they
naturally require toâ€™ sleep by daylight, and, in fact, their
favourite hour for a siesta is broad noon. It will be
seen, therefore, that the remarks of the Bees were
decidedly in bad taste ; and they were so deeply resented
by the Fairies, that Freak, in the heat of the moment,
made a statement which has never yet been forgotten by
his own side, or forgiven by the other. It was to the
effect that â€˜â€˜a Bee will do anything for honey.â€ .
This may be true, or it may not. But without any
doubt the youngest Fairy of the present day, when in
need of some injurious reflection to cast upon his
foe, still finds it convenient to revert to the classical
imputation that â€œa Bee will do anything for honey.â€
While matters were in this condition, it was discovered
THE FOXGLOVE CAMP 17
by Eye-Bright, a Fairy of an investigating turn of mind,
that the Bees actually did not consume the honey they
were so determinedly bent on gathering, but hoarded it
up in secret places. This dire information was imparted
by Eye-Bright without delay to the three most influential
of the Foxglove Fairiesâ€”Freak and Freckle and Speck ;
who, with all their experience in the ways of the world,
were so deeply shocked that at first they were reduced
to hoping helplessly that it couldnâ€™t be true. But con-
viction came to them all too soon, and they proceeded
to take the necessary measures. They published abroad
conclusive proofs of the horrid avarice of the Bees,
their slavish methods, and their open and unnatural
devotion to honey-making. The secret hoards of honey
were pointed out as positive evidence of their covetous
carefulness about the future. Fairies were exhorted to
use all their influence with the young, with opening
flower-buds, and with flying things; to cherish in them a
genial idleness and trust, and prevent them from
sufferingâ€”the flowers, especiallyâ€”from unavoidable
contact with honey-getting Bees. Some fears were
expressed lest the Butterflies should be contaminated by
the example of the Bees; but these proved, happily,
groundless. The Butterflies were incorruptibly firm
against all temptations to industry. They preserve to
18 THE ELF-ERRANT
this very day, indeed, their perfect fealty to idleness and
sunshine, and happy-go-lucky feasts in â€˜meadows
painted with delight.â€ 1
- The next thing to be done was to call a great indigna-
tion meeting of the Foxglove Fairies. It was announced
for the first moonlight night, to be held on the largest
Burdock leaf in the neighbourhood. That was a huge
leaf, and most accommodating in shape; but the Foxglove
Fairies attended in such numbers that an overflow meeting
had to be organised on the Burdock leaf next in size
below. Eye-Bright was the principal speaker, and he
addressed the meeting standing on the apex of an empty |
yellow snail-shell, which had been carried up all that
distance for the purpose. He was very imperfectly heard,
but he was thoroughly understood. Every Fairy knew all
that he had to say beforehand, and agreed with it.
Nothing can be more conducive to enthusiasm than this
kind of intelligence between an orator and his audience.
So feeling ran very strongly indeed, and showed itself by
stamping ; for a Fairy does not hoot when he wishes to
express reprobation of the absent: he folds his wings
tightly, and stamps. The meeting was such an unqualified
1 There is no authentic record anywhere of a provident Butterfly.
Even if a German were to discover one, and to publish it in Leipzig,
it would hardly be believed there.
THE FOXGLOVE CAMP 19
success in this way that the Burdock leaves did not
thoroughly recover from the enthusiasm of others all that
summer ; they suffered from a kind of limpness which
was quite foreign to their constitution. But next year .
found them all right again, and as stiff as ever.
It should not be omitted from this account of the
events which led to the great Honey Feudâ€”for it is the
only account as yet writtenâ€”that the Foxglove Fairies
were really anxious not to condemn the Bees unheard.
They knew it was useless to invite them to attend any
meeting held by moonlight, and, considering recent pas-
sages, it might even have been thought invidious to do
so. But the Bees were formally requested to send any
delegates they chose, to explain and defend their con-
duct before a committee of impartial Fairies sitting
in a Kingcup; the whole inquiry to be conducted
To this proposal the Bees respondÃ©d quite simply and
informally that they â€œ were hard at work, and hadnâ€™t time
to do anything of the sort.â€
And the Fairies, on receiving their message, gave way
to disgust and wrath. One said that it was an admission
of guilt; another that it was a piece of flat insolence ;
but all were so much surprised that they agreed it was
exactly what might have been expected. Fairy Freak,
20 THE ELF-ERRANT
however, rose to the occasionâ€”that is, he rose to the top
of the nearest flower, and there delivered his mind.
â€œFoxglove Fairies!â€ he exclaimed, â€œthe time for
speech-making is overâ€ (here a little Fairy, innocent of
sarcastic intention, applauded); â€œthe time for action has
atrivedâ€ (here they all applauded). â€˜Bees have always
been known as honey-makers; but now we know them
â€˜for honey-hoarders. They are avariciousâ€”they are in-
corrigible; they are despisers of sweet idleness. Shall
we, knowing them for what they are, admit these creatures
any longer to our bells and blossoms?! Never. Let
them seek elsewhere for the only thing they valueâ€”their
honey! There are other flowers in the land ; but Fox-
gloves at least shall be closed against themâ€”closed and
defended, Fairies, let us fly at once to fortify our homes
against the Bees! And may each one who hears me
prepare to live henceforward as a defender of the
There was wild excitement, but not an instantâ€™s hesi-
tation. It was a great moment for Freak; he had
practically declared the opening of the long Honey
Feud. The Fairies rose on their wings, and flew round
and round him in a circle, and the scarlet Pimpernel
beneath his feet glowed like a red planet of war. The
1 Fairy for â€œâ€˜our hearths and homes.â€
THE FOXGLOVE CAMP 21
next moment they were all goneâ€”flown to the Foxglove
It is needless to say how many, many weeks or months
had passed from that summer day to this one, when
Trefoil brought the English Elf to the seat of a Fairy
war. It is needless, and I do not deny that it would be
difficult also. | For Fairy chronology is so simple that it
is mortally hard to understand ; while its own compilers
say its chief beauty is that you need hardly ever refer to
it. But it was, in any case, a very long time indeed, so
long that you might suppose any quarrel would be over
and done with by that time. Which would prove that
you knew nothing at all of how things can last in Ireland,
when the climate suits them.
SEED 0â€™ VALOUR.
TREFOIL and Rose Red flew into the Foxglove Camp
at an early hour of the afternoon, when the light was
strong, the wind was laid, and the Foxgloves stood as
steady as the rocks beside them.
Rose Red was impressed by the sight of so many tall,
fine flowers, for he knew that each flower was a fort, and
he admired the red dazzle of colour, as Trefoil flew in
and outâ€”in and out amongst them. Everything that
belonged to the art of war had a deep interest init for
the English Elf, and just now he was going to have a
hand in the fighting; so for the first time since his land-
ing in Ireland, he realised plainly what he was about. It
made him keenly happy, and he felt like a brother to
That erratic fay, after skimming about like a streak of
SEED 0â€™ VALOUR 23
light from one tall stem to another, made a sudden dart
inside a Foxglove bell, and drew Rose Red in after him.
There stood one gallant defender of the fort, leaning on
his spear, which was made of a long whin-prickle, stiff
and sharpâ€”a gruesome weapon.
â€œ More power to your elbow, Seed oâ€™ Valour!â€ cried
Trefoil, as he fluttered in.
â€œTs that yourself, Trefoil?â€ said the spear-bearer
â€œTt is then, and more too. Hereâ€™s an English Elf, by
the name of Rose Red, that has found himself on the
right side of the Channelâ€”saving his presenceâ€”more by
good luck than good guidance, I doubt.â€
â€œHeâ€™s welcome, anyway,â€ said Seed oâ€™ Valour, who
thought he recognised a kindred spirit in this visitor.
â€œ And heâ€™s just spoiling for a fight,â€ added Trefoil, as
a touch of irresistible attraction.
â€œHeâ€™s come in time, then,â€ cried the valiant one.
â€œâ€˜ We're to have a field-day with the Bees before the sun
â€œSo I judged, from the look of the camp as we came
in,â€ said Trefoil, with his knowing air. â€œEvery bud on
duty! Well, here we part company for the present.
Three in a bell would spoil the fun. Tell us whoâ€™s in
want of an ally for the day, Seed oâ€™ Valour?â€
24 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œ Letâ€™s see ; letâ€™s see, then. Thereâ€™s Wary near at hand.
No. Hold on! Thereâ€™s Fly-by-Night ; heâ€™s all alone.â€
â€œTm his fay, then,â€ and Trefoil was half out of the
bell at the word. â€œWhere?â€ he called back, as he took
to his wings.
â€œWest of these lines, south of the ferny rock,â€ Seed 0â€
Valour shouted after him.
Then he turned back to Rose Red, who all this while
had not spoken one word.
â€œHave you had any experience with Bees ?â€ the Irish
Elf inquired cheerfully, resuming his spear and his
â€œNoâ€”not of this kind. We have no quarrel with
Bees where I come from,â€ the English Elf replied.
â€˜No? They donâ€™t make honey there, I suppose ?â€
said Seed oâ€™ Valour reflectively.
â€œVes, they do. But we have no objection to their
making honey,â€ said the other.
This was puzzling for both.
â€œYou belong to the great Rose tribe, I understand,â€
said Seed oâ€™ Valour deferentially.
â€œThe Red Rose,â€ said the English ELf.
Then they bowed to each other, and it was charming
to see those fairy bows. One was so dignified, and one
â€œSEED 0â€™ VALOUR 25
â€œ Well, now, as a matter of curiosity, supposing a lot
of brown Ants were to come in their hundreds and raise
an ant-heap at the very foot of your parent stem, what
should you do?â€ inquired Seed oâ€™ Valour earnestly.
â€˜Let them alone,â€ said Rose Red.
After which there was a pause.
*â€œT know that Wood-spiders cannot be considered
interesting, from an enemyâ€™s point of view,â€ remarked
Seed oâ€™ Valour. â€œThey have no stings, and they are
intrusive, but not really spirited.â€ The tone of his voice
was calmly judicial. â€˜â€˜Still,if you had no better enemies
convenient, and if you wanted to keep your hand in,
whyâ€”fave you, as a matter of fact, ever engaged with
Wood-spiders ? â€
â€œ Never,â€ said Rose Red.
There was another pause.
â€œWell, Iâ€™m bothered!â€ cried the Irish Elf at last,
aloud. â€œI can answer for it that I know a soldierâ€™s face
when I see it, and you have that face, and yet you have
never fought with Bees or Ants or even Wood-spiders.
How do you account for it?â€
â€œIn England there have been no civil broils for longer
than any one can remember,â€ Rose Red explained.
â€œTf any fay is absolutely bent on fighting, he must go
abroad for it, And yet,â€ he added slowly, â€œit could not
26 THE ELF-ERRANT
have been always so; for there is a tradition that some
of our race But never mind that!â€
â€œThey were fighters, Iâ€™ll be sworn on the Rainbow!â€
cried Seed oâ€™ Valour excitedly. â€˜I knew it.â€
â€œ Oh, itâ€™s only a tradition,â€ said Rose Red again.
He told it reluctantly ; for if he had a stronger feeling
than his love of the preczse truth, it was his dislike to the
merest shadow of a boast. But the Irish Elf was burning
â€œWhy, they say,â€ he admitted, â€œthat some of our
race! a long time ago had their commissions from a Fairy
Queen to fight Bats for their wings, and to skirmish with
Owls at night. Itâ€™s only a tradition, though ; I canâ€™t
â€œTo fight Bats! Bats,â€ repeated Seed oâ€™ Valour, with
mingled awe and delight, â€œwhy, thereâ€™s nothing living
1 Fortunately there.is the very highest authority for the tradition
of which Rose Red was but vaguely aware.
* Titania, Come, now a roundel, and a fairy song ; _
Then, for the third part of a minute, hence ;
Some, to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds ;
Some, war with rere-mice for their leathern wings,
To make my small elves coats ; and sone, keep back
The clamorous owl, that nightly hoots, and wonders
At our quaint spirits.â€
A Midsummer Nightâ€™s Dream, Act I. Scene iii.
SEED Oâ€™ VALOUR 27
wickeder than a Bat! Just look at the size of them !â€”
and they bite like fiends. â€˜As wicked as a Bat,â€ isa
proverb with us. Sure, what a race they must have
been, those people of your own! Always come of a
fighting race, when you get your choice, I say, and then
you'll never repent it. Look now, fay; you must have
inherited some traditions of their mode of attack and
defence, and so on. Now if you'll undertake to lead a
campaign against the Bats, Ill serve under you with
pleasure ; amongst the Foxglove Fairies alone we could
enlist several companies in an hour and then
â€œ But I wouldnâ€™t undertake anything of the sort,â€ said
Rose Red firmly. â€œI donâ€™t know anything about it.
Remember, I told you it was only a tradition of long
ago. And there is nothing to prove that our people ever
got the better of the Bats,â€ he added scrupulously.
â€œ Perhaps they didnâ€™t.â€
â€œWhat about that ?â€ said Seed oâ€™ Valour scornfully.
â€œThey fought them.â€
â€œThere was probably no sense in it,â€ Red Rose
â€œThere must have been splendid fun in it,â€ Seed oâ€™
â€œWell, donâ€™t let us make fools of ourselves following
their example, anyway,â€ said the English Elf.
28 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œT wish I just saw my way to a chance of it,â€ said the
Irish one. He sighed deeply.
The number of brilliant and highly dangerous schemes
for the acquisition of fun and fame, over which this
Fairy had sighed and resigned himself, were now past
counting. It was extraordinary how obstinately other
Fairies would refuse to join in the plans he was
never weary of laying before themâ€”plans in which, as
he constantly pointed out, the main thing, diversion, was
a certainty, the only risk was to life and limb. No
wonder he sighed often.
Rose Red, who had not succeeded in extracting much
â€œsenseâ€.out of Trefoil that morning, felt a strong per-
suasion that he would not find much more in Seed 0â€™
Valour. It was evident that the excitable Elf was much
depressed. He sat down in a desponding way, laid his
spear across his knees, bent his pretty head on his hands,
and was silent.
Rose Red devoted himself to examining the Foxglove
bell. At one end he seemed in a kind of crimson dusk, at
the other end he was attracted by the rich, soft mottling laid
over the colour. There was plenty of air in the bell, but
it was shady in there, and, though he repelled the idea
at first, it recurred to him with conviction that it was
sleepy in there, too. He knew he was on guard against
SEED 0â€™ VALOUR 29
an enemy, therefore he could not be really sleepy; yet
he was. And this reasoning proved it; he shook him-
self, and determined to talk.
â€œSeed oâ€™ Valour,â€ he began, â€œshall I relieve your
watch at the mouth of the bell?â€
â€œâ€œTâ€™m not watching,â€ said Seed oâ€™ Valour, after a pause,
without lifting his head; and it was evident that he was
â€œT thought we were expecting the enemy,â€ said the
â€œEnemy ?â€”the Bees ?â€”so we are,â€ Seed oâ€™ Valour,
He shook himself, too; he was evidently as sleepy as
he could be.
â€œHow do we know when they are coming?â€ Rose
Red demanded, with energy.
â€œIf yowre awake, you hear them buzz; if you're
asleep, you donâ€™tâ€ Seed oâ€™ Valour explained, with perfect
â€œâ€˜ What on earth makes us both so sleepy ?â€ Rose Red
â€œItâ€™s because weâ€™re in a Foxglove bell. Itâ€™s always
deadly sleepy in here, unless one has something par-
ticular to do. Thatâ€™s how the Bees get the better of us,
when they catch us asleep.â€
30 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œDo theyâ€”--â€”?â€ Rose Red began, and hesitated.
â€œOften,â€ said the other calmly.
â€œMy wings,â€ ejaculated the English Elf, â€œwhat a
nuisance this sleepiness is !â€
â€œNot a bit,â€ said Seed oâ€™ Valour. â€˜Sure, you canâ€™t
be better off than sleeping, unless youâ€™re awake.â€
â€œâ€˜ And if youâ€™re awake when a Bee comes in, thenâ€”â€”â€™
â€œThen begins the tug 0â€™ war.â€
â€œAnd you put him out?â€
â€œÂ« That, as you may say in a manner of speaking, is
just as it may be.â€
* Wellâ€”ah! what sort of Bees give you the most
trouble ?â€ :
â€œThere are only two sorts of bees,â€ Seed oâ€™ Valour
declared, speaking with all the assurance of a lecturer
on scientific classification. â€˜There are the Bumble-bees,
which have no stings, andthe Others, which have. You
can tell when a Bumble-bee comes within a mile of you
by the noise hemakes. Whizs-z-2â€”Buaz! Sometimes
it sounds as if he blew a trumpet infront of him. 7Â¥a-da-la/
He canâ€™t help it, you know ; itâ€™s the way his wings annoy
the air. But it prevents him from approaching with any
sort of stratagem, of course; you could hear him, at
this moment, if-he were in the third bell overhead.
When he effects an entrance itâ€™s by sheer force; and
SEED 0? VALOUR 31
though he has no sting, his strength makes him formid-
able, once inside the bell: for there is no Bee as
strong as a Bumble-bee. If he gets on top of you, youâ€™re
crumpled to a helpless heap, and he makes off with the
honey. â€˜You see, itâ€™s just a case of hard tussling with a
Bumble-bee ; but if one of the Others gets in, itâ€™s a fight.
By the same token, Fay, you havenâ€™t got the sign of a
weapon on you! What on earth have I been dreaming
of all this time?â€ And Seed oâ€™ Valour sprang to his
feet, blushing deeply.
â€œTl get you one this instant,â€ he exclaimed ; â€œfor I
laid up a whole stock of whin-spears at the foot of this
And he dropped to the ground from the lip of the
bell, as lightly as a spark of dew.
â€˜By the whole of the Rainbow!â€ he exclaimed, re-
appearing in a rage, â€œâ€˜if the villains of Fairies haven't
been helping themselves from my pile, and not a weapon
have they left behind them but one scandalous, old blunt
thorn that wouldnâ€™t prick a midge! Thieves of the
world that they are, why couldnâ€™t they go and forage for
themselves?â€ he demanded fiercely.
â€œIâ€™m sure I donâ€™t know,â€ said Rose Red.
You donâ€™t? Well, donâ€™t talk tome, then! Mother-
- oâ€™-fortune!-isnâ€™t-it-a-scandalous-thing - that-the-Foxglove-
32 THE ELF-ERRANT
Camp -should -be -in-that -through-other-condition-that-if
only-a-little-s/eveen - of - a-scout -brings-in-word-of-the-
like-of-such-carryings-on ?-2s-therenow?â€ he inquired,
stamping his foot at Rose Red.
â€œNot that I know of,â€ answered the English Elf
slowly, lost in wonder at the length of time one breath
had held out in that fiery little body.
â€œThen why donâ€™t you stand out of my road, and leave
me room to be gone, if you know so much? Sure, Iâ€™ll
have to fly clean away over the hill, and down the other
side where the Whin grows, before I can get so much
as a seasoned prickle to make a pike for you !â€
â€œ Donâ€™t do anything of the sort,â€ urged Rose Red.
â€œTtâ€™s absurd. Why, I donâ€™t even know the use of a
â€œNor you wonâ€™t either, till you get one,â€ Seed oâ€™
Valour told him. â€œThere, Iâ€™ve left my spear for you.
Be asy now, till I come back. Only remember not to be
forgetting that youâ€™re on guard!â€
The last words came faintly back, for Seed oâ€™ Valour
THE TUG OF WAR.
â€œMy wings!â€ said Rose Red slowly to himself: â€œand
a nice position it is for me.â€
Yet he seemed not altogether displeased with his
position either, and not in the least alarmed.
â€œT shall make a fool of myself, as sure as nuts are
brown!â€ he calmly prophesied to the Foxglove bell, as
he walked to where the spear was lying; took it up, and
weighed it in his hand.
His fingers tightened round it, as though they were
accustomed to it. He swung it steadily back and for-
wards once or twice, to learn its weight ; took accurate
aim at nothing, and made a thrust in the air. Strange
to say, he did not once lose the weapon. To an
impartial observer it would have seemed that the
English Elf was zof about to make a fool of himself
34 THE ELF-ERRANT
in this particular line of conduct. But he shook his
â€œâ€˜T hope Seed oâ€™ Valour, when he comes back to his
home, may find all the honey he left in it. But I doubt
that,â€ he reflected. â€˜What an extraordinary Elf he is!
Trefoil was distracting enough, but this one eed
donâ€™t think I more than half understand them, and thatâ€™s
the truth,â€ he admitted with a wondering candour to
Then a thin and distant sound struck on his ear; a
far-thrilling â€œ Bizz-z-z.â€
â€œThey're coming,â€ he decided, and nodded to him-
self, apparently with entire satisfaction, He went and
stood at the opening of the bell, the spear in one hand,
the other curved to his ear, and his head bent down,
First came a sound from one side, then from the
other. He heard them travelling, drawing nearer,
crossed by other sounds that thickened and grew louder,
till the air was full of humming and buzzing, and sawn
asunder into a thousand little thrills in a minute, from
the cutting of innumerable gauzy wings. The Bees
were in the Camp. They had entered from below, and
were working upwards slowly and steadily, in increasing
numbers and noise. They spread through the ranks of
THE TUG OF WAR 35
the Foxgloves, and one after another attacked the tall
stems hung with their tiers of bells. Some began at
the smallest open flower near the top, and buzzed
steadily downwards into bell after bell. Some began at
the largest flower on the stem, which is the lowest,
and worked their way upwards, bell after bell. The
Bees were perfectly methodical in their progress. They
had not come here for fun; they had not come to
exercise their troops; they had come for honey. Honey
was all they wanted, and in some cases more than they
It was difficult to judge exactly what amount of
success attended their efforts, for all this curious warfare
was carried on out of sight. Sometimes a Bee remained
for a considerable time inside one bell, occupied ; some-
times he left it in a suspicious hurry, followed by nothing
but the delicious sound of a fairy laugh. But you could
infer nothing from the Beeâ€™s demeanour either of his
triumph or of his defeat. For the buzz of a Bee
expresses but three things, and always the same things ;
that he is hot, that he is annoyed, and that he is busy.
Sometimes he is hot because he is annoyed ; and some-
times he is annoyed because he is hot; but always he is
busy, because he is a Bee.
Now Rose Red stood with his spear in his hand and
36 THE ELF-ERRANT
waited. Those who know, say that there is nothing so
trying to a young soldier as to be kept waiting ; but this
EIf stood the test admirably. He waited a long time,
for the flower he was in grew on the higher ground of
the Foxglove Camp, which was reached last of all by
the Bees. Only once he became disturbed, and that
. was when a sudden breeze swept down the hill, carrying
away all sound of the conflict, so that he fancied the
Bees must have left the Camp without finding him.
Then, had it not been for Seed oâ€™ Valourâ€™s last word to
himâ€”* On Guard !â€ he would certainly have flown from
the bell and sought his foe on wing. That would have
been a fatal mistake; for, apart from the fact that no
Bee ever born would waste his precious time in fighting
any foe except one who stood directly between himself
and his honey, Rose Red by abandoning his post would
have missed a most brilliant opportunity for distinction,
which was at that very time on its way to him,
Another moment, and he heard it coming, just as
Seed oâ€™ Valour had said he would. A great, dark,
yellow-banded creature hovered outside the bell, making
the air spin with his buzzing, while his wings quivered so
fast that they were invisible. Then he launched himself
inside, bending all the crimson bell with his weight ; the
buzzing ceased, the wings were laid back and the thick,
THE TUG OF WAR 37
black legs began to crawl. Rose Red gave himself
plenty of time. The selfpossession of this Elf was
almost incredible; he actually observed the Bee in
detailâ€”his dull eyes, his black-furred body, and his
brown, gauzy wingsâ€”before he made a single movement
against him. Then having retreated to the farthest
limit of the bell, he grasped his spear, bent his back,
took a run and tilted right at the Bee. So true was his
aim that the astonished Bee found himself lifted half off
his legs, and with a terrible prick in the very middle of
his chest before he could have said â€œJohn Lubbock.â€
After that he did not wait a minute, he retreated with all
the speed his legs could make, and with nothing else ;
half falling from the flower before he could find his wings,
or the presence of mind to use them, and leaving all the
others on the stem unmolested, he buzzed heavily away.
Now this was no coward, but an experienced Bumble
Bee; and it seems to prove that experience is not of
much use in turning a soldier out of a honey-maker.
The inexperienced Rose Red, elated but out of breath,
leaned against his flower for support, with sensations
such as he had never felt before. One of them was
across his shoulders, but another was in a different place,
from which it would never be rubbed out. :
He said nothing at all to himself, not even â€œMy
38 THE ELF-ERRANT
wings!â€ But when he had finished rubbing his shoul-
der, he picked up his spear again, and examined the
point. It had neither bent nor broken off; for the
weapon was of Irish make, and that was fortunate in-
deed for Rose Red, who was just about to want it more
than ever. i
This time he had very little notice. No long-drawn,
droning â€œ Buszâ€”s /â€ was sounded before the enemy to
his ears. He heard but a single fierce, deep â€œ Hum /â€
and the Bee had lit inside his bell. No blundering
Bumble this. â€˜One of the Othersâ€â€”was all he had
time to think, before he and the shining-brown slender
invader were fighting as though they had known each
other all their lives. There was no thought of retreat
in this Beeâ€™shead. At the very first prick of the spear she
was in a towering passion, and a Bee in a passion, as all
the world. knows, is a most dangerous thing to meet.
Rose Red did not want to meet it; he wanted the Whin-
prickle to. meet it, and he was quite right. But to this
day, although he is a most accurate-minded Fairy, he
finds a difficulty in giving an accurate account of
those forty-five .seconds he spent with an Irish Bee
inside a Foxglove bell. They were confused, but
full of incident. All that he can say with certainty
THE TUG OF WAR 39
â€œShe fought and I fought. She had a sting and I
had a spear.â€
In truth the strain was tremendous, and as such it
was felt, not only by the Bee and the Fairy, but also by
the Foxglove bell. For the summer home which Seed 0â€™
Valour had chosen to himself was the lowest bell on the
stem, now fully blown, and since that last encounter with
the heavy Bumble Bee, possibly even a little loose in its
calyx. It proved unequal to sustaining any longer the
tug of war which strained the flower downwardsâ€”it fell.
Fairy, Bee and bell, came to the ground together, and
the shock of the catastrophe was so great that it stunned
them for nearly a minute. Winged creatures are
accustomed to all sorts of accidents in the air, but not
to falling, not to being dropped on the hard ground,
imprisoned with an enemy in a close bell which prevents
either from using his wings, and which collapses
impartially upon both, like a tent when the centre pole
has been knocked down. No wonder the effect. was
The combatants, on recovering their senses, made a
mutual though unconcerted movement of avoidance.
The Bee crept out at the wide end of the bell and flew
away. The Fairy crept out at the narrow end, only
lately apparent, and sat down.
40 THE ELF-ERRANT
Oh, how hot he was! how hot and exhausted !
He laid himself out flat upon a Sorrel-leafâ€”Sorrel is
so cool and refreshingâ€”and shut his eyes. A little
Butterfly that was hovering up and down in the light,
came near and noticed him. Ã©
â€œTt is painful to see anything as hot as that,â€ thought
the Butterfly, and fanned him with her wings.
They were beautiful wings, gray on one side and blue
on the other, with a feathery rim to each. She was a
small and dainty butterfly. Rose Red opened his eyes
when he felt her near, and turned his cheek to her
â€œVou must have been exerting yourself a great deal
too much,â€ the Butterfly said to him in her light, staccato
voice, but not at all as if she cared much.
Rose Red only turned the other cheek.
â€œVou shouldnâ€™t do it,â€ she continued indifferently,
fanning on. â€œI never do. If any one wants me to
exert myself, I merely say, â€˜Isnâ€™t one flower as good as
another?â€™ That is my motto. What do you think of
â€˜â€œâ€˜ Nothing,â€ said Rose Red. He privately thought it
â€œYou probably donâ€™t understand me quite. But it
was a Fairy who taught me that; only he sometimes
THE TUG OF WAR AL
put it another way, and said, â€œâ€˜ Whatâ€™s the odds as long
as you're. happy?â€ Now you canâ€™t be happy
if you have a fixed object, and get hot over it.
Something may happen to any object at any minute.
But if you have dozens of objects as thick as Meadow-
sweet in a hedge, you can pursue them one after.
another, just as long as you please. Then, whatever
happens, you donâ€™t care abit. Thatâ€™s the way to be happy.â€
â€œYou're a very pretty little Butterfly,â€ said Rose
Red, in his tactless way.
He had been admiring her wings as they opened and
shut, and not giving her remarks the attention which
he ought to have known they deserved. The result was
that he lost his refreshment of a fanning; for the little
Butterfly was annoyed, and flew away.
She knew very well how pretty her wings were ; any
thick-headed field-flower could have told her as much.
But from a live, intelligent Fairy, she had expected some
notice of her strength of intellect, which she knew was
remarkable for a Butterfly. That is the way with these
pretty creatures. It annoys them to be. thought only
prettily blue and gray, when they want to prove themselves
intellectual forces, But of course the little Butterfly was
inconsistent ; instead of being annoyed, she ought to
have sought another object, and not have cared a bit.
42 THE ELF-ERRANT
Meanwhile there came to Red Rose on his Sorel-leaf
the sound of a voice from overhead, and it criedâ€”
â€œMother of fortune ! what kind of work is this?â€
â€˜ Seed oâ€™ Valour ! Seed 0â€™ Valour!â€ called the English
Elf; â€œcome down here.â€
And Seed oâ€™ Valour fluttered down, a long whin-prickle
pointing from his hand, an eager inquiry preceding him
through the air.
â€œDid they come? Are they gone? What have you
â€œ They came,â€ said Rose Red, â€œand they are gone.
What I did I donâ€™t exactly know; but Iâ€™m afraid Iâ€™ve
broken your spear doing it.â€
Then he gave him a short account of what had passed,
unadorned, but impressive. It was a plain, unvarnished
tale as ever was delivered, and its effect on Seed 0â€™
Valour, therefore, was all the greater. The Irish Elf
being eloquent himself, had for the eloquence of others
no sort of value. Deeds were the only persuasion that
availed with him, and now, seeing his own Foxglove bell
lying on the ground, growing flatter every moment, he
was more than eloquently persuaded. Besides Rose Red
had justified his own penetration, when he called him a
soldier on the strength of his face, and Seed oâ€™ Valour
was not the Fairy to be indifferent to that. Even in the
THE TUG OF WAR 43
fresh disappointment of having missed the fight, he re-_
joiced all over that such an opportunity had befallen to
distinguish a brilliant recruit.
Determined to make the most of it, he flew off instantly
to summon his comrades in arms from their bell-tents to
come and see the ruin of his own, and the â€œjewel of a
soldierâ€ only just enlisted, who had helped to bring it
They came, and finding the ruin in no way different
from others of its kind, they turned their attention to
the soldier, who seemed certainly different from others of ~
his kind, and was indeed even more different than he
seemed, The deeds of Rose Red, told by the tongue
of Seed oâ€™ Valour, worked like a charm on the soldiers,
and round about the pair gathered the sympathetic Fox-
glove Fairies in a circleâ€”wishing the newcomer â€˜â€œGood-
luck!â€ â€œmore power!â€ â€œa crown to his name!â€ â€œthe
wind in his wings!â€ and a number of other valuable
Among the rest came Trefoil, with Fly-by-Night, who
was a friend of hisâ€”a Fairy of a mysterious disposition,
and lonely habits quite unlike his own. They had been
defending a bell together, and had â€œvery poor fun with
it,â€ as Fly-by-Night complained. Trefoil, however, was
quite restored to gaiety by the successes of Rose Red.
So you found â€˜ something to doâ€™?â€ he said gleefully ;
44 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œand thereâ€™s no denying you were the fay to do it! I
thought the Foxglove Camp was the place to suit
â€œAnd I used to think it was the place to suit me,â€
cried Seed oâ€™ Valour, who had but just found leisure to
recollect his grievance; â€œbut I'll have to change my
mind, or itâ€™ll have to change its ways; one or other.
Dâ€™ye mind me all, now!â€
â€˜What is wrong with the camp, Seed oâ€™ Valour?â€ they
â€œJust the fays that are in it, and the discipline that
isnâ€™t,â€ he replied severely. â€œ How often have I told you
all that itâ€™s ruination to everything to leave yourselves
without fresh weapons at hand in case of surprise?â€
â€œSo we did!â€ 3
â€œJust look at this!â€
â€œ Hereâ€™s a thorn for you!â€
â€œâ€œHereâ€™s a sword-grass |â€
â€œHereâ€™s a whin-prickle!â€ half-a-dozen voices cried
â€œSo I see. A fine collection of weapons, entirely,â€
said Seed oâ€™ Valour, in withering tones, â€œâ€˜and a credit
to the Foxglove force. Was it modesty about using your
own judgment that made you think youâ€™d all rather have
thornsâ€™ of my choosing? or was it laziness about the use
of your own wings, ye spalpeens? Itâ€™s little Vd care,
THE TUG OF WAR 45
though you took the lot ; if only one of you would have
had the feeling to tell me what you were after doing,
so that I neednâ€™t be flying over hill and down dale,
missing all the fighting and losing all the fun because you
had cleared off with every prickle of the pile as you did!â€
â€œWhat pile?â€ demanded Trefoil.
â€œThe pile I had gathered and stacked under the old
Foxglove here, as well they knew, the spalpeens /â€
But this produced a chorus of denial from all the
Foxglove Fairies present, who declared in the strongest
* By the whole of the Rainbow!â€
â€œ By the Buds and Blossoms!â€
â€œBy the light of the Moon!â€
â€œÂ« By the flow of the Water!â€ that they would scorn
to steal their weapons from a comrade, and they had never
touched the pile.
â€œVery well, then,â€ said Seed oâ€™ Valour, rather stag-
gered, but taking refuge in sarcasm, â€œI suppose it melted
in the night.â€ :
â€œTt looks pretty solid ow,â€™ remarked Fly-by-Night,
who for the last few moments had been intent on search.
He dragged aside a large encumbering leaf, and disclosed
a neat little stack of whin-prickles, bound together by a
knotted blade of grass.
46 THE ELF-ERRANT
The Fairies raised such a shout of laughter that they
startled a Fly-catcher who was darting about just over
their heads, and made him miss his fly.
â€œ More power to your elbow, Seed oâ€™ Valour!â€ they
Shouted ; â€œ was that an ambush you laid?â€
â€˜* Ah, he hides them so well, he canâ€™t find them him-
self!â€ said one.
â€˜Sure, â€˜ head oâ€™ wit drowned the eel,â€™ we know,â€ cried
â€œ Ah, mo bouchal, what? No escaping !â€
This was because Seed oâ€™ Valour had nimbly risen on
his wings to fly, but two Fairy friends instantly caught
him, one by each wrist, and held him down, while the
others threw themselves on his pile of arms, drew out
the prickles, and â€˜drove them all down into the ground
round about him in a close palisade.
â€œThere, you can encamp all by yourself,â€ one told
him, â€œsince the Foxglove Camp won't suit you any
longer, by reason of â€˜the fays that are in it, and the dis-
cipline that isnâ€™t.â€™ Oh to think of that!â€
Here Seed oâ€™ Valour himself gave way to laughter, and
subsided suddenly on the ground. His keepers lost their
hold, but the prisoner was so helpless with the joke that
he could not have flown for his life; he only rocked to
and fro where he sat with peals of mirth.
THE TUG OF WAR 47
Rose Red was astonished that a fay who had made
such a fool of himself should enjoy the fact so much.
fe only laughed when other fays made fools of them-
selves; had he done it himself, it would have been a
serious matter of regret to him. But apparently these
Irish fays were differently constituted. He heard one
slender crimson-coated creature ask Seed oâ€™ Valourâ€”_
â€œWould a new rule of discipline teach the use of a
pair of eyes in a hurry ?â€
And Seed oâ€™ Valour only implored himâ€”
â€œ Ah, be asy a minute now!â€
Then, rising to his feet, he pathetically offered his com-
rades â€œa prickle. apiece if they would just clear off now,
and keep the story to themselves, not to make him the
mock of the Camp till next new moon.â€
On which there was a sudden demolishing of the
palisade, the Fairies bidding Seed 0â€™ Valour observe that
if they took to â€œweapons of his choosing,â€ it was at his
own request, and wishing him â€œGood luck, and a
cure for the eyesight,â€ as they fluttered off with the
â€œWhat shall we do now?â€ inquired Rose Red, as he
watched the last flutterer down the hill.
â€˜Do ?â€”go to sleep,â€ replied Seed oâ€™ Valour, with a
tiny, enchanting yawn.
48 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œThe bell has dropped, you know,â€ said Rose Red
â€œ We move to the next on the stem, of course,â€ said
the Irish Elf ; and suiting the action to the word, he rose
and dived in.
The other followed him, and could have believed him-
self in the very same bell as before, had not this one been
just perceptibly smaller.
â€˜What should we have done if there had been another
Fairy settled here?â€ asked he.
Seed oâ€™ Valour was curling himself down to sleep with
his wings over his head.
â€œ Put him out,â€ he sweetly murmured.
UNDER THE MOON.
THERE came a summer night, warm and still and
Down the hill which mortals in that country call
Altaneigh the water in the burn was slipping, falling,
softly pouring, in a kind of melody which waters sing
only to a young summer moon. On each side of the
stream birch-trees grew, leaning this way and _ that.
These are the trees that never sleep; in the middle of
the night their silver stems are gleaming. Their green
thin leaves are flickering and whispering of secrets, while
the sycamores sleep heavily, and the ash-trees stir in a
dream. But it is on autumn nights that the birch-trees
are most awake. Then they are all of silver and old gold,
instead of silver and young green ; but they know their
time is short, and they cannot keep their gems. They
50 THE ELF-ERRANT
rustle and complain, and the gold falls down in round
yellow zecchins, so bright, so light, that a little breeze can
â€œspin them with its breath, before the dark earth hides
them away. The birch-trees, stooping sadly, cease to
complain. Having lost all, they grow silent ; and at last
But these things are in the days of autumn. Now it
is summer again, and the birch-trees are in their gleam-
ing silver and young green. They have no belief that
what has been will happen again, and they whisper
happily beneath the moon, as if all their secrets had not
been told over and over before to-night. The young
moon is very serene. Fairies have an idea that she has
been told many things, and some of them sad ones ; but.
she is so very far away that perhaps she does not listen
much, and so they say she never grows less bright. To-
night she is like a silver boat without a sail, drifting
across a dark blue sea. The golden stars watch her from
another sky much farther off; and at times they see her
almost at anchor on that dim depth, and at times flying
like a winged thing among the shoals and torn islands
of white cloud ; but floating or flying, she drifts steadily
on towards the great unrifted cloud-rack in the south,
which will bury her deep that night while the stars keep
UNDER THE MOON 51
Low on the tender grass there lies a bright, green ring.
It was never cut or planted there; it is the Fairy Ring,
and Fairy feet traced it when first they danced on the
spot long, long ago, before even the beginning of the
Honey Feud. Whatever should happen to the spot,
whether it were dug or planted, or even burnt, next
spring the Fairy Ring would re-appear in the grass, green
as ever, as surely as the Fairies would come back to
dance on it. It depends -on the season which Fairies
come. In spring there are the pale Primrose Maids, and
the little shy Sprites from the Violets, who look down
gravely and say sweet things. The Windflower Fairies
too, who say nothing, but look more like angels than
Fairies, they are so purely white, with a rose-pale flush on
their wings. All these are the children amongst the
flowers ; they know nothing yet, they are so young in the
year, and they bring the look of another world on their
The next Fairies that come are older, and merrier.
Dainty little ladies in silver smocks come flying from the
Cuckoo flowers. They dance among the Cowslip Lads,
who are sturdy on their feet, but can swing and shake
themselves with a most encouraging grace.
When these are gone there is a pause in the chain ;
but at last, some starry night the Bluebell Fairies will
52 THE ELF-ERRANT
come, those unexampled beings, full of music and of
mystery. They will not dance much, but moving in
their dreamy circle on the Fairy Ring, they will sing a
chorus softly sweet, which only the Maidens of the May
are privileged to hear. Those tender Fairy maidens in
their pearly white and pink, come gladly crowding hand
in hand to hear the Bluebell music. But as it fills their
ears, they hold each other tightly, their fresh cheeks
grow pale, and the night dews stand in their eyes like
tears ; for the singing moves them strangely. They do
not speak at all, but kiss their hands to the Bluebell
Fairies, who bow to them like courtiers, and sighing
gently, pass away to their homes inthe shady wood. The
music is only on starry nights, for the Bluebell Fairies
are shy of the bright moonlight; they think the Moon a
cold and songless Queen, too splendid to be sung to.
But the stars, they say, were the first voices that ever
sang together; and so their far-off twinkling seems to
them like the smiling of friends that know.
And now we are at a night in midsummer, and the
Fairies from the midsummer flowers are abroad, most
rich and sweet. There is a company of slim young
Knights of the Honeysuckle, wearing all manner of
plumes and pompons, as their fashion is, for they are the
real dandies of summer. They dress in satin sweetly
UNDER THE MOON 53.
scented: rose and cream-colour of all shades for the
Knights, and pale gold or pure silver for the Ladies, with
little crested plumes. Really their attire is worth men-
tioning, for wherever they stray it is admired, and yet
they never grow proud, but keep their graceful, clinging
ways, to the perfection of sweetness. Like all fays of
every degree, they are devoted to the Forget-me-not
Fairies, who live by the water. They call to them, and
wave them on to come and join the dance, for these shy
-and silent water-spirits never leave their homes unless
they are called. Perhaps that is what. makes them so
simple and unchanging, for memory lives at home. They
wear the colour of heaven for their faithfulness, and
â€œfaithful as a Forget-menotâ€ has become a Fairy
proverb. Whoever dances with one of them takes care
to place her next his heart, and then long afterwards he
remembers the look of the sky-blue eyes, but that is all he
remembers, for they say very litttlekâ€”they only love.
In Ireland grow more Forget-me-nots than anywhere
else. But in every country there grow some, only they
do not look all alike, and you must learn to know them
even when their eyes are not of blue.
Have you ever met with the Orchis Fairies? They
are many and different, but each is so original that he
seems to be the only Orchis Fairy for the time. It is a
54 THE ELF-ERRANT
habit with the order to wear hoods; they sometimes
push them back and sometimes pull them forward, and
their eyes shine out from under them when they make
those quaint and brief remarks which amuse the whole
Fairy Ring, while they look as grave as judges them-
selves, They are not very sociable Fairies, but of course
they dance in June, and the Foxglove Fairies are over-
joyed when they find them on the Ring. For being
gallant and not witty themselves, they delight in the
â€˜society of wits.
The Foxglove Fairies had come in great force on this
particular evening, and they brought the English Elf
with them, quite sedately willing. Trefoil and Seed oâ€™
Valour had taken him under their special charge, and
they were so assiduous in publishing his acts of gallantry
that it amused the Orchis Fairy, Purple. Once Purple
came behind them suddenly, caught Seed oâ€™ Valour by
one hand and Rose Red by the other, and wheeling
them skilfully in front of a shining beauty who was
standing near, he saidâ€”
â€œJT present to you the Seed oâ€™ Valour and the Flower
The beauty smiled at Seed 0â€™ Valour, whom she knew ;
and Rose Red, whom she did not know, she kissed on
the cheek. Then she flew away to dance, with her silver
UNDER THE MOON 55
train shining behind her, for she was a Honeysuckle
The Irish Fairy maidens were pleased with the English
Elf, and they kissed him each once. They knew he was
gallant, for Seed oâ€™ Valour had said so, and that is the
one thing necessary to please an Irish maiden. They
liked his yellow curls, too; and the deepening blush
which was natural to his complexion they attributed to
Rose Red, for his part, found them charming, but just
a little disconcerting, for they said such unexpected
things. The maidens to whom he was accustomed said
only things which you might guess beforehand they were
going to say, and so you could have an answer ready,
and keep the conversation running on familiar lines with
an agreeable sense of security. But no fay ever born
could guess what an Irish Fairy maid would say on any
single subject, therefore answers to her remarks have to
be improvised, and quickly, too, before she makes others.
Now the English Elf did not improvise readily, so his
usual agreeable sense of security was strangely absent
to-night, and it was not restored by the discovery he
made that he had been once or twice unaccountably
amusing when he was not intending it. He could
almost have believed that the Irish Fairy maids were
56 THE ELF-ERRANT
laughing at him, were it not that the idea seemed too
preposterous, for in the first place he was not in the least
ridiculousâ€”that he knewâ€”-and in the second place, in
spite of anything they said their eyes remained so soft.
The more he looked at their eyes, the more he deter-
mined not to do their dispositions the injustice of
supposing that they could be amused at his expense.
And yet he doubted. :
Plainly it behoved him to dance that night in an im-
pressive manner, and with his correctest grace, and here
he was successful. All Fairies, of course, can dance
with each other as naturally as they can speak with each
other, though they neither dance, nor speak alike, but
there are certain figures both of speech and of move-
ment common to the Fairies of all nations.. For instance,
they all use â€œNo fun!â€ as an expression of hopeless
condemnation ; they all stamp with both feet when they
lose their tiny tempers ; they all swear â€œby the light of
the Moon!â€ and they all dance the Circlet when they
meet on the merry Ring at night.
So Rose Red joined them in perfect understanding
and went through the motions of the Circlet with a
feeling of being entirely at home, such as he had not
experienced since he flew from between the leaves of
that Shakespeare. It was a very pretty dance. The
UNDER THE MOON 57
Circlet always begins by the Fairies moving slowly round,
as though they were in a procession; then they move
faster, with. intricate steps and interchanging of places,
the Circlet becomes a double and then a triple one.
The Fairies open their wings, and without leaving the
ground they whirl round so fast that they become indis-
tinguishable one from another, and look like quivering
wreaths on the grass, which break suddenly, and disperse
â€”and the Circlet is over.
Any number can join in this dance, and at any minute ;
either singly, or in pairs, or by groups. The English Elf
joined singly, and when it was over he wandered away for
a little, to listen to the music. Fairy music does not cease
when the dance is over. It is a continuous kind of
music, made of the mingling of many thingsâ€”the shining
of the stars, the falling of the water, the fitful scent of the
flowers, the drip of the dew, the sighing of little breezes
that pass through the night, all these things make the
Fairy musicâ€”and the brightening of a moonlit cloud, or
the opening of a flower near, is enough to change the
Rose Red went down towards tlie stream, and thought
he was alone, till he heard voices coming from under a
tall Meadowsweet in the sedge.
One voice. belonged to a whimsical Orchis sprite, an
58 THE ELF-ERRANT
inventor of riddles; and he was just asking with great
â€œâ€œ Who saw the new moon rise >â€”and why ?â€
â€œÂ¥ donâ€™t know, oh, I donâ€™t know!â€ said his puzzled
little partner. â€˜But if you like, Iâ€™ll ask the Owl the next
time I find him awake. He knows such a number of
â€œThen you may ask him too,â€ said the voice of the
Orchis sprite, with increased solemnity, â€œâ€˜ what happened
to the Fairy who found a rush with a green top?â€
Rose Red went elsewhere, and thought over the
riddles. He always sat down when he wanted to think ;
so he sat down now with his back against the firm stem.
of a bracken to steady his mind. But he had hardly got
further than the conclusion that a rush with a green top
was really an impossible subject of thought, when he
heard voices again.
' There were two little Fairies sitting and slowly swinging
on a strand of gossamer, which stretched from this
bracken round to another. When they swung back-
wards they were lost in the shadow of the fern; when
they swung forwards they came full under a â€˜silver moon-
beam, and then one of them might have been observed
to be holding the other safely on her seat. She was
Breath oâ€™ Clover, and one of the sweetest things alive.
UNDER THE MOON 59
â€œTell me,â€ she said confidentially, and her hands
were clasped on his shoulder, â€œtell me the strangest thing
that ever happened to you.â€ And they swung back into
â€œTf I do,â€ said a voice-â€”and to whom should it belong
but to Seed oâ€™ Valour ?â€”â€œ If I do, you must never tell it
again. For a soldier should not report on his own doings,
except officially.â€ And they swung forward into the light.
â€œOh, Tl never tell,â€ said Breath oâ€™ Clover sweetly.
â€œGo on, please!â€
â€œWell,â€ began Seed oâ€™ Valour, â€œI donâ€™t know if you're
aware that there is a flower called Snapdragon. Hold
tight! Iâ€™m going to swing faster. It isnâ€™t one of our
kind ; it grows in gardens, and so we donâ€™tseeit. Every
flower on its stem is the head of a fiery dragon, ina state
of grim wrath, with his jaws so tightly locked that even a
Bee canâ€™t get inside them. Only a Bumble Bee can, by
using all his strength ; and whenever he tries to escape
again, the Dragon head makes a fearful snap at him, and
gets crimson with fury. Well, of course no Fairy has
ever been inside a Snapdragon, and I should never have
thought of going myself, if Trefoil had not told me that
a Snapdragon was living on the top of that garden wall
he is always haunting, where so many Blackbirds
60 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œOh, I Zope you didnâ€™t go!â€ cried little Breath oâ€™
Clover, who would have been deeply disappointed all
th: same if the story had stopped there, because of his
not having gone.
â€œ Well, Iâ€™m here now, you know,â€ said Seed 0â€™ Valour
consolingly. â€˜I had along time to wait on that wall
though, till a Bumble Bee came lumbering up from the
garden. He had got himself dusted all over with pollen
out of a white lily, as it was; but a Bee never knows
when he has had enough, and the moment he saw the
Snapdragon on the wall, he buzzed straight at it. I
followed him. He prized open the tight, red jaws of
that Snapdragon, and began to thrust himself inside. I
flew up and lit on the great lower lip beside him.â€
â€œFlow dreadfully dangerous!â€ murmured Breath 0â€™
â€œWhile the Bee was there,â€ Seed oâ€™ Valour explained,
â€œhe couldnâ€™t shut his mouth; so I stood and looked
down his long white throat. Butall of a sudden the Bee
let himself out before I expected it, the Dragon head
gave an awful snap and, I â€ He paused.
â€œOh, what!â€ whispered Breath oâ€™ Clover, awe-
â€œT fell straight down his throat,â€ said Seed oâ€™ Valour,
with the freezing calm of a warrior.
UNDER THE MOON 61
Dear little Breath oâ€™ Clover nearly dropped from her
â€œDid you, oh, dd you ever get out again?â€ she
But Rose Red went elsewhere. Instead of wanting to
hear the end of this thrilling adventure, he felt a great
desire to get some little Fairy to come and listen to Aim
while the moon was shining. He left the bracken, and
searched about the silver feet of the birch-trees; he
wandered off through a perfect forest of Meadowsweet,
where showers of loose, white petals fell down upon him ;
and just as he came out on the edge of the dewy grass
again, he found a little Fairy alone.
She was kneeling down, her face was hidden, and he
heard her laugh softly to herself. For a tiny red Lady-
bird was lying on its back there before her, perfectly
helpless, with its little black legs struggling in the air ;
and the creature was too proud to ask any one to turn it
over, though it well knew it could never find its own legs
without help, and might have to pass the rest of its
life in that painfully false position. The little Fairy
laughed again, and then she turned the Ladybird
over gently. It pretended not to see her, but imme-
diately began to climb up a tall, feathering grass;
and when it reached the top, with great deliberation
it unsheathed first one wing and then the other, and
â€œT should think it would lose its way at night,â€ Rose
The little Fairy did not answer.
â€œT wish you would come and talk to me,â€ he said next.
She stretched out a hand to him, and they flew to-
gether to a hollow under the bankâ€”a place soft with
green moss, and shaded by a delicate fern. There they
sat down and looked at each other.
â€œWhy, you are the stranger, the English Elf!â€ she
said, and at once her face grew kind.
â€œJT am Rose Red,â€ he replied. â€œAnd you?â€
â€œ Tell me how you came to Ireland,â€ she asked.
So he told her, not at all unwilling ; and then he told
her other things, and yet others, this silent Elf, and the
Irish Fairy bent her head to listen.
â€œ Are you glad you came to Ireland?â€ she asked him
But that made him silent, for he remembered, indeed,
how cast down he had been that morning, when Trefoil
told him that he had come to a country where time was
plenty, and sense was scarce.
â€œNever mind!â€ said the Irish Fairy, who was quick
of comprehension. â€œIs it lonely, perhaps?â€”but you'll
~< Da fil . i
C= Sera :
= . x oy >
S aK Ny
at f Â¥ 2 Hy) â€˜
Pee ny LESS
ea | y â€˜J t
oA = Â» â€œ
a â€˜ : AS -_N) Eb
ae ne? s Rn eat â€˜ ni
UNDER THE MOON 63
find friends soon among the Roses. There are numbers
of your name here: Roses Red and Roses White, Roses
Pink and Roses Paleâ€”all kinds of Roses. Come with
me, and we can find them with the Honeysuckle Fairies
on the Ring.â€
But Rose Red did not stir.
â€œT can find them to-morrow,â€ he said. â€œI will stay
with you while the moon shines. Tell me your own
name, not theirs.â€
â€œTf you canâ€™t tell my name for yourself,â€ said the
Fairy, â€œ you will never know it. And I must fly away,
though I am ready to stay with you. Tell my name if
you canâ€”or try!â€
So he tried. The little Fairy had risen as if to go;
she stood for a moment leaning against a frond of the
delicate fern, which looked like frosted silver between its
own dew and the moonlight. Rose Red gazed into her
face, which was turned towards him with a steady, friendly
look. Her eyes were the very bluest, kindest he had
ever seenâ€”bluer than the sea, kinder than the sky. He
suddenly remembered how she had helped the foolish
little Ladybird ; without a minuteâ€™s thought, he criedâ€”
â€œTam Speedwell,â€ said the Fairy, and, smiling, she
came over to him again.
64 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œ Perhaps I shall bring you good luck,â€ she said, â€œsince
you are brave. Have you any wish?â€
â€œNot to-night,â€ said the English Elf.
Speedwell looked halfregretful.
â€œThis would have been the good moment, and I can-
not ask again,â€ she murmured to herself. But to him
she said aloud: â€œHappy are they that have no
wishes ! â€
â€œ Are you one of those that can grant wishes?â€ said
â€œ Sometimes,â€ said the Fairy slowly.
â€œWhen? Tell me when?â€ he asked.
â€œWhen one that wishes is brave, when I that hear him
have no wish of my own then, only then I can. Ask no
â€œOnly this,â€ said Rose Red eagerly, â€œhave you no |
wish now ?â€
There was no answer.
â€œ* Have you none ?â€”none?â€ he cried aloud.
The little silvery fern shook and dripped at his voice;
the Fairy had vanished.
â€œ Speedwell! Speedwell!â€ called the Elf, and he
darted out into the moonlight. It was all lonely, bright,
and empty there. â€˜Speedweli!â€
He flew far afield, and searched and wandered along
UNDER THE MOON 65
the stream, between sleeping flowers and twinkling
grasses, and groves of the sweet-scented fern of Altaneigh ;
but he found no Speedwell there. He knew he should
not find her now, and yet he could not help looking.
He knew, because it was plain, that she had some of
those higher powers which he had never won; therefore,
if she chose to be invisible, it was hopeless to seek her,
and chiefly because she was there all the time.
At last he wandered back to the Fairy Ring.
UP AND DOWN.
Tue mid-day sun was hotâ€”as hot as it ever is in
Ireland. The upper glen lay in a mist of heat, the dark
old wood looked like a shadow on the side of the hill;
the river almost slept.
Over the fields of green oats the warm air quivered in
waving lines ; there was not a breath to stir the grain, or
show for an instant how many dark-blue cornflowers were
hidden in that rustling sea. Along its edge the poppies
burnt in rows. Their thin, silk petals floated out on the
air, as though it were water; they were light as flames.
It was shady only under the elder-trees. Those crooked,
old, hollow-hearted things were clothed in cool, thick
green, and covered with great creamy flowers like full
moons, An elder is never too-old to flower.
But the glen was altogether too hot for the Fairies at
UP AND DOWN | 67
this hour. They had retreatedâ€”all who were not asleep
â€”up the hill-sides and among the hazels by the stream.
In one place, where a great deal of moss lay at the roots
of an old hazel, a number of Fairies had laid themselves
down to sleep.
The noise of a waterfall above sounded through their
dreams ; its white spray came over the air like a mist, and
cooled everything near. So the Fairies dreamt of summer
rain, and music, and the colours of the rainbow. They
woke refreshed, and folded back their wings ; 1 then they
began to talk.
The first part of their conversation is, from its simplicity,
too difficult to be recorded. It may have concerned the
notes of a thrush, or the white strawberry blossoms, or
the doings of tiny fishes in the burn, or any other standing
mystery. But at last they fell upon the subject of the
English Elf, and here we have a chance to follow them.
â€œTJ was with him yesterday,â€ said one, in a slightly
irritable voice. â€˜â€œ He wanted to know such a quantity of
things, and half of them were things I didnâ€™t know myself !
itâ€™s tiring to have to invent reasons for a good hour on
end, I can tell you.â€
1A Fairy does not, as â€˜some scientific men have vainly sup-
posed, put his head under his wing, like a bird. He puts his wings
over his head ; and to this rule there is no exception.
68 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œWas he grateful?â€ asked a Fairy curiously.
â€œNot a bit. He said I must be wrong half a dozen
times, and he wanted to show me why.â€
â€œ Thatâ€™s just it!â€ said the curious Fairy, sitting up
suddenly. â€˜â€œ He always wants to know the reason why.
I never met with such a reasonable being before. Itâ€™s
not natural, and I say it shows he must be mad.â€
* Perhaps itâ€™s only a habit,â€ suggested Goldspeck.
â€œNo, its #zm/â€ said Broom decidedly. â€œ Heâ€™s
savage about reasons. You canâ€™t give him enough of
them, and you canâ€™t get them good enough when you
â€œâ€˜ Thatâ€™s perfectly true,â€ sighed Whim, the Fairy who
had exhausted himself with inventing reasons the day
* And itâ€™s no good to tell him that you do a thing just
for fun either. He doesnâ€™t count that a reason,â€ con-
tinued Broom, who seemed to have been studying the
English Elf rather closely. â€˜â€œ He asks, â€˜ Whatâ€™s the sense
â€œWhy, the fun of it zs the sense of it, of course,â€ the
others rejoined readily.
â€œVes, to us; but not to him. Heâ€™s different, donâ€™t
you see? Heâ€™s not so clever as some of you, but heâ€™s
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â€œTs that why he doesnâ€™t understand us?â€ asked inno-
cent little Goldspeck.
â€œThatâ€™s why,â€ Broom declared seriously. â€˜And
thereâ€™s another thingâ€”thereâ€™s the country he came
â€œWhat about that, Broom?â€ they asked.
â€œTs there one of you here that knows the first thing
at all about England ?â€ Broom inquired.
After a pauseâ€”
â€œT know itâ€™s not in Ireland,â€ one Fairy ventured.
And encouraged by thisâ€”
_ â€œItâ€™s a very out-of-the-way place, somewhere behind
us there,â€ said another, with a careless wave of his hand
in no particular direction.
â€œTm thinking Iâ€™d better go.to the Swallows for news
of it,â€ said Broom reflectively. â€˜I wouldnâ€™t like to ask
the English Elf too much about it, for Pâ€™ve a notion that
itâ€™s a bad country out and out!â€
*â€œ Howâ€™s that?â€ said a sleepy voice, belonging to a
Fairy only half-awakened.
â€œTf you take notice of the English Elf,â€ Broom
explained, â€œ you'll find heâ€™s always thinking of improving
something. The habit must have grown on him in his
own country, and as I take it, because the place is so
bad they must always be thinking what they can do to
jo THE ELF-ERRANT
improve if. Now we that have a whole soft, green
island to ourselves, fit for Fairies to live in, what do we
do with it?â€
â€œ Let it be, and good luck to it!â€ half a dozen voices
â€œVery well, then; donâ€™t you see whatâ€™s the matter
with him? He canâ€™t believe that this country doesnâ€™t
want improving like his own, thatâ€™s all!â€
And Broom, having spoken his mind, sank back into
his little mossy nest, and pulled the fringes of it about
to make a pillow for his head. But Whim began to
â€œll tell you one of the things he wanted to know
the reason of yesterday,â€ he said. â€˜Why did so many
of the Fairies here have names with oâ€™ inthem? He
couldnâ€™t understand it. Seed oâ€™ Valour, and Spark
oâ€™ Dew, and Breath oâ€™ Clover, and Fleck oâ€™ Foam,
and the rest; they bothered him entirely. Why
couldnâ€™t they be called Foam-flake, and Clover-scent,
â€œTf he has anything to propose about my name, I
hope heâ€™ll come and tell me what it is!â€ cried a fierce
little Fairy called Peep oâ€™ Day, starting up in his place.
â€œTf he thinks he can call me Day-light, I'll show him
an excellent good reason why he canâ€™t.â€
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And Peep oâ€™ Day got quite angry. All the Fairies
present who had oâ€™ in their names sympathised strongly ; _
but those who had not, laughed.
â€œâ€˜Oh, he meant no harm,â€ said Whim. â€œItâ€™s all this
rage for improvement that he canâ€™t resist ; and of course
our country doesnâ€™t offer the field for improvement that
his own does.â€
â€œT believe you're all wrong about that,â€ said Trefoil,
who had not yet spoken. â€˜â€œ By what I know, England
canâ€™t be the hopeless sort of place you make out. And
itâ€™s not the craze for improvement that bothers the
English Elf half so much as his own ridiculous energy.
I donâ€™t pretend to know what heâ€™s made of, but it must
be of something that never wears out. I never saw such
energy in any Fairy frame. Why, a midge on a warm
evening is a fool to him !â€
â€œWhere does he get it from at all?â€ murmured a
wondering sprite, gazing down on his own outstretched
â€œNo matter, he has it!â€ Trefoil affirmed. â€˜And
once itâ€™s oz him, you might as well say â€˜be asy!â€™ to a
Swallow swooping on a fly as to him. I know, for Iâ€™ve
tried,â€ he added quaintly.
â€œWell, thatâ€™s too like a Bee to suit this company,â€
72 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œ Heâ€™s just the moral of a Bee, barring the buzz,â€
another scornfully agreed.
â€œYou're wrong,â€ said Trefoil calmly. â€œHe's the
moral of a soldier, all the Foxglove Fairies say.â€
â€œThen they may keep him to fight with, and wel-
come! I wouldnâ€™t take him to live with for anything
you could name,â€ said the scornful Fairy, with perfect
â€œ And you donâ€™t believe England could be a place fit
for a Fairy to live in, either? Well, just listen to this,
and, mind you, I learnt it from the English EIf.â€â€™
Trefoil began to sing softlyâ€”
â€˜Â© Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslipâ€™s bell I lie ;
There I couch when owls.do cry.
On the batâ€™s back I do fly
After summer, merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.â€
The Fairies listened, motionless and charmed. The
scornful fay drew himself up till his elbows rested on
the ground, and his chin on his hands ; he was breathless
â€œSing it again, Trefoil!â€ he murmured.
UP AND DOWN 73
Trefoil sang it again, and a number of voices chimed in
â€˜* Merrily, merrily shall I live now,
Under the, blossom that hangs on the bough,â€
â€œWhose song is that?â€ they all wanted to know.
The English Elf said it was the song of a sprite called
Ariel, and a great magician in England made it for him
long agoâ€”or else the sprite had made it for the magician.
He wasnâ€™t quite clear about that, and he didnâ€™t seem to
know how the song had become impressed on his mind
â€œMade it in England?â€ they questioned doubtfully.
â€œVes, in England,â€ Trefoil repeated firmly.
â€˜The scornful little fay sank back in his place.
â€œWe never made one like it,â€ he whispered, almost
sadlyâ€”â€˜â€˜never one half so sweet. Now I believe in
â€œSo do I,â€ said a cheerful sprite, rocking himself
where he sat. â€œYou see they have two of the best
things in the world thereâ€”cowslips and lime-blossom.â€
â€œâ€œHow do you know about the limeblossom?â€
â€œTsnâ€™t that â€˜the blossom that hangs on the boughâ€™?â€
said the cheerful sprite.
74 THE ELF-ERRANT
And the others agreed with him that it was.
But the English Elf all this time was wandering about
alone, and very lonely he felt. He was by nature rather
a solitary sprite; but it is one thing to be alone when you
like it, and quite another thing when you canâ€™t help it.
There were so many Fairies in this country, so many, and
all strange to him.
The longer he stayed with them, the less he under-
stood them. It was not for want of trying; he might.
indeed, have understood them better if he had tried less.
He was constantly demanding explanations from them,
and the explanations he received were sometimes wild
and sometimes witty, but they all had one point in
commonâ€”they explained nothing. More often they
threw a fresh perplexity over the subject under examina-
tion. Explanation was not the Irish Fairiesâ€™ forte.
They had a way of expecting things to be understood
without words being spent on them, which answered
admirably among themselves, but was apt to leave the
foreigner deeply bewildered. When Rose Red was be-
wildered, he grew serious, and then they fled from him.
It made no difference. He sat down, and pondered alone
over their deficienciesâ€”for of course he knew it was their
UP AND DOWN 75
deficiencies which prevented them from coming within
the range of his understanding.
Their conduct was so variable that it forced him to
change his mind about them from day to day, which he
much disliked doing ; for his usual habit was to make up
his mind once, and keep it fixed in that position.
His first opinion was that the Irish Fairies were a
thoroughly warlike race ; this was after his experience in
the Foxglove Camp. His next opinion was that they
were half gay, half dreamy, and wholly unpractical; this
was after his experience under the midsummer moon.
Very little later he declared to himself that they were
all hopelessly childish, but almost immediately there
occurred to his well-trained mind instances of such re-
markable cleverness in the Irish sprites, that he concluded
their playfulness to be a blind, and their real natures
deeply designing. What the character of their designs
might be he could never quite determine, but of their
existence he had no doubt whatever.
It was not conceivable to him that any race of people
should live on no plan at all, but simply from day to day.
For his own part he was always making plans, and he was
kind enough to make several for his thoughtless Irish
friends, who received them blandly, but took no action
at all upon them. When he criticised their ways and
976 THE ELF-ERRANT
doings they were not annoyed, they were only deeply
uninterested, and they never defended themselves
except by a joke. At first he thought this a sign of
conviction on their part, and he was gratified. But too
soon he regarded it as a sign of indifference, and he was
Had he known that the Irish Fairies were kindly
bearing with him as a stranger, and excusing his craze
for improvement in consideration of the dreadful country
he had left, he would have been shocked. But then it
never occurred to Rose Red that he could possibly be
an object of toleration, instead of envy. He was not a
conceited Fairy, but he was profoundly convinced that
he was the representative of a superior race, and that the
fact must be apparent to all who met him. The demeanour
of the Irish Fairies mystified him. He perceived at last
that they were unimpressed by his sovereignty of race,
and this indifference of theirs puzzled him at first, then
troubled him. He went about in a sort of disconcerted
sadness, which made him rather less sympathetic than
before, for when the English Elf was sad, he became
twice as uncompromising. He saw the faults in the
general system of Irish Fairyland with still clearer vision,
and stated them with dreadful distinctness.
If any fay would have started up and contradicted him
UP AND DOWN "7
flatly, it would have been a relief to his mind. But, noâ€”
he was not contradicted. These Irish fays had a kind of
careless suavity, which his strictest candour failed to
ruffle. They smiled in his face; not defiantly, but in
scrutably, They shrugged their shoulders.a little. One-
of them suggested that the sun had been a trifle hot, and
Rose Red had been flying about too much, perhaps?
This was their view of the subject.
It drove the English Elf into dull despair. And really,
- his case was a hard one, for if you tell people of their
deficiencies in the plainest manner and they refuse to be
excited against you, what remains to be done? The re-
formerâ€™s occupation is gone.
Rose Red in his extremity bethought himself of Seed
oâ€™ Valour, and went in search of him to the Foxglove
Camp. That fiery little warrior would not listen, he
trusted, quite without emotion to remarks upon the
spirit of his nation from a foreigner.
He found Seed oâ€™ Valour without any difficulty, but
before he could deliver himself of the stinging truths he
came to impart, Seed oâ€™ Valour burst forth into an irre-
sistible demand for sympathy. A soldier's life was very
hard to live, he declared, when you could get no fighting
for love or honey. â€™
â€œSince the day you were here yourself, Rose Red,
78 THE ELF-ERRANT
when I missed all the fun and you got all the fighting,â€
said Seed 0â€™ Valour, plaintively; â€˜there might be no
such things as Bees in the land of the living, for all we
have seen of them! I donâ€™t know who would have the
courage to take up arms at all, if he knew how many
hours of his life heâ€™d have to spend on watch, with
nothing to do but to sleep himself stupid in a Foxglove
Rose Red said nothing, for he was not in a sympathetic
frame of mind. Seed oâ€™ Valourâ€™s plaintive voice took on â€”
a persuasive tone.
â€œT think you were born for a soldier, Rose Red,â€ he
said. â€œYou made a great stand that day in the bell by
yourself. Bad luck to me for an omadhaun that I wasnâ€™t
with you to see the work! Do you remember it?â€
â€˜Oh, I remember,â€ said Rose Red, who was a little
mollified in spite of himself. It was pleasant to recollect
that on one occasion at least he had made an impression
on the Irish Fairies. How they had fÃ©ted him by moon-
light afterwards! And the sweet Speedwell had saidâ€”
â€œA jewel of a soldier! and itâ€™s what you were meant
for,â€ continued Seed oâ€™ Valour, who had thrown himself
down carelessly on a bed of wild thyme. He kept his
bright eyes fixed on the moody face of the English Elf,
who stood beside him motionless with folded arms.
UP AND DOWN 79
â€œTf you'd only enter the service, we neednâ€™t be wasting
away here, day and night, waiting for an enemy that
hasnâ€™t the grace to know when heâ€™s wanted. Iâ€™m sick of
being on the defensive. Join us, Rose Red, only join,
and we'll open war on the Bats at night, whenever the
Bees fail us in the day. You must have some notion of
the tactics your people used long ago. Didnâ€™t you tell
me that yourself now?â€ |
â€œ No/â€ shouted Rose Red, clapping his hands to hisâ€™
ears; â€œIT wonâ€™t be made a fool of if I have to die of this
idleness. I told you I knew nothing about it, and I
â€œBut sure, I knew you were only shamming thenâ€
said Seed oâ€™ Valour, with a sweet, insinuating smile, as
he stretched out an arm through the thyme to catch Rose
Red by the ankle, and prevent his escape.
Rose Red leaped into the air, beat his wings together
with impatience, and darted off.
Seed oâ€™ Valour rose on his elbow and looked after him,
but made no movement to follow. He let his head sink
back again, until the thyme closed over it, and he breathed
â€œHe'll come back again. He thinks he'll find a bigger
race of Fairy soldiers, or maybe better trained to night
service, and then heâ€™d be willing to lead them against
80 THE ELF-ERRANT
the Bats, and show them what he knows. But he wonâ€™t
find them, and then he'll come back to us. Oh, but
heâ€™s a playboy, that Elf!â€
These were the reflections of the enthusiastic warrior,.
lying on his bed of thyme.
But Rose Red flew on through the sweet summer air
in a most unenviable frame of mind. His hopes were
gone and his temper was following them. When he
thought of Seed oâ€™ Valour and his impracticable plans,
he grew wild with impatience. If he had only been
fortunate enough to meet with some little difficulty or
danger that morning, he would have been soothed and
gratified into a different being. But all things were idly
smooth and sunny, and the course of events refused to
be ruffled to suit the necessity of a strange, foreign Fairy,
who was slowly consuming with suppressed energy, and
the want of an object to expend it upon. Itâ€™s a dreadful
thing to be afflicted in this way when the weather is hot.
But no one can fly for ever, and at last even Rose Red
sank his proud little wings, and deposited himself in a
place of coolness. He was now high up on the hillside,
where, close to a forest of bracken, there grew a little
clump of sweet Woodruff. He crept in there, and laid
himself down. The scent of the small white flowers
cooled and contented him; but when he turned another
UP AND DOWN 8r
way, where round, scarlet Pimpernels were blazing open-
eyed in the sun, their brilliance vexed him, and he grew
hot and angry again. Fairies are very strongly influenced
by the colours and scents of flowers. Some make them
hot and some make them cool, some give them courage
and some keep them merry. The breath of certain
flowers is full of energy, and the breath of others is full
The Poppy Fairies, for instance, are almost always:
asleep ; their life is only a succession of many-coloured
dreams. If they wake at all it is on a night of wet
drenching dews. Then they may open their heavy dark
eyes a moment, and see each other, and wonder. But
they do not know that they have wakened up, they think
it is only another dream, and before they have time to
understand, their eyes close softly, their heads sink back,
and they are sleeping in the Poppy flowers again.
The other Fairies are a little afraid of them, and very
sorry for themtoo. They come sometimes and peep
over the rims of the flowers, to see the Poppy Fairies.
asleep, wrapped in their flame-coloured garments, and.
the other Fairies wonder at their still white faces, and
their black hair folded back to make pillows for their
heads. They would like to whisper something into the
ears of the sleeping ones, to make the long lashes lift from.
82 THE ELF-ERRANT
their cheeks, and to see a smile move their closed red
lips apart. But they are afraid to wake them, and soon
they have to steal away softly, when the Poppy charm
â€˜begins to make their own eyes heavy, and their limbs dull
The English Elf was taken one day to see some of
these prisoners sleep-fast in the flowers. He observed
that it was incomprehensible to him how any sane beings
could give themselves up to a Power which could not be
really irresistible. Sleep itself, he said, was only a kind
of weakness, a cessation of power; and what difficulty
could there be in resisting a weakness ?
He said no more at that time, for his head nodded
forward, his knees gave way, and the Fairies who had
brought him there dragged him hastily away from the
Spot, supporting him one under each arm. But Rose
Red often afterwards alluded to a fatal weakness of will
which he had observed to be characteristic of all Fairies
-of the Irish nation. They were too susceptible, he said,
too easily influenced, and led on. He had never seen
Fairies so easily influenced.
And this made it the more strange that he had never
been able to influence them himself. The more he tried
to lead them in the way he considered best, the more
they inclined to the opposite direction. He never seemed
UP AND DOWN 83
able to account for this at all; but he sometimes said in
his large way, that weak-minded Fairies were usually
On this particular afternoon, however, the English Elf
was not theorising on his Irish friends, as he lay among
the white Woodruff. He was thinking over his own per-
sonal perplexities. Though he grew calmer as he grew
cooler, he could not quite forget his aggravation at having
nothing to do, to undo, or to reform. It was this which
kept him awake, in spite of the soft air, the scent, and
SoMETHING dropped on the ground, and a discon-
tented buzzing arose on the air. Rose Red expected
it to pass quickly, or at least to wander from place
to place; but it droned steadily on, and at last curiosity
made him creep out of his nest to see what was the
â€œTt must be a Bee,â€ he said ; and so it was.
A great, heavy Bee had dropped there, exhausted by
the weight of a huge load of honey, and embarrassed
besides by having flown right into a Spiderâ€™s web, and got
a quantity of woolly cobweb wound about its wings. The
Bee was now in an awkward position, for its wings were
too much hampered with cobweb to lift its body, and its
legs were too heavy with honey to clear its wings ; so it
lay helpless, and buzzed loudly for assistance.
Rose Red saw at once that the Bee had attempted to
carry a double load, and he began to point out the folly
of this proceeding with his usual sound sense.
â€œIf you'll help me to clear my wings,â€ said the Bee,
re you can say all that while youâ€™re doing it, and waste
Rose Red was delighted with the remark. It was the
first time since his arrival in Ireland that he had heard
any living creature allude to the value of time. He felt
the bond of sympathy at once, and cheerfully pulled up
some spikes of moss to rub the Beeâ€™s wings with. But
just as he was beginning, the recollection of his last en-
counter with a Bee came over him; it was on that
occasion when he was left alone in Seed oâ€™ Valourâ€™s
Foxglove bell; and he dropped the grass and walked
round in front of the insectâ€™s eyes,
â€œLook! do you by any chance recognise me?â€ he
â€œâ€˜T never saw you in my life before,â€ said the Bee,
without taking the trouble to examine him. â€œ But goon,
donâ€™t let that prevent you.â€
â€œNo, I was going on to say
â€œT mean, go on rubbing my wings,â€ the Bee inter-
â€œI can do both, if necessary,â€ said Rose Red calmly,
86 THE ELF-ERRANT
picking up the moss. â€œBut I wish to ask first, where
did you get that honey?â€
* Over Carnamore,â€ said the Bee, impatiently.
â€˜â€œâ€˜ Ah, Carnamore,â€ Rose Red repeated, brushing away
at the cobweb. â€œIf you had got it at the Foxglove
Camp, I should have requested you to carry it no further,
â€œYou're not a Foxglove Fairy, as far as I can see,â€
said the Bee; â€˜and if you were-â€”â€”â€ He said no more,
for fear Rose Red should decline to give him any further
â€œJT should like to ask why you donâ€™t let the Foxgloves
alone, for good and all?â€ Rose Red inquired, with his
usual thirst for information strong upon him. â€˜â€œIsnâ€™t
Heather the best honey-flower? and these hill-tops are
covered with Heather.â€
â€˜We go to the heather every day. Our honey is
nearly all Heather-honey,â€ the Bee declared, with pardon-
able pride. â€œBut we canâ€™t neglect the other flowers
entirely. If we did, the consequences for them would
be worse than for us.â€ He was now on his own subject
and talked almost with readiness.
â€œThe Foxgloves wouldnâ€™t mind if you neglected them
a bit,â€ hinted the English Elf; and that remark showed
how little he understood the Foxglove Fairies.
â€œ They are ignorant,â€ said the Bee loftily, but without
resentment. â€œAll creatures are ignorant who do as they
please. Now. we y
â€œ Are wise ?â€ sguested Rose Red.
â€˜We are workers, at least,â€ said the Bee. â€˜ We live
under discipline, and we have an organised Govern-
â€œThe Fairies say you never enjoy anything,â€ said Rose
Red. â€œIs it the organised Government that prevents
you? It might be reformed, you know.â€
The Bee was silent from bewilderment. He would as
soon have thought of reforming the course of the sun, as
-of reforming the government of. Bees. He began to
think this strange Fairy was rather profane. But he saw
no reason why profane hands should not clear the cob-
web from his wings, so he remained quiet, while Rose
Red brushed away.
â€œ Donâ€™t you think that you could dispense with visiting
the Foxglove bells for honey?â€ the Elf inquired suddenly,
seized with an idea that it would be a great thing if he, a
foreigner, could bring about a truce between those
hereditary foes, the Bees and the Foxglove Fairies,
â€œ Certainly not,â€ the Bee replied, with most discouraging
88 THE ELF-ERRANT
He was now so far free that he could work one wing
a little, and shift his feet about. But Rose Red was not
in a hurry to release the other wing.
â€œJT think I can show you that it would be much to
your advantage,â€ he began, â€˜â€œâ€˜to compromiseâ€”â€”â€
But the Bee made a violent effort to leave the ground,
rose a little way, and came down again with a thud, his legs
in the air. It was extraordinary how he contrived in any
position to keep safe every grain of his precious load.
Rose Red, being a good-natured Elf, sympathised with
his desperate hurry to be at work again. He also re-
flected that this Bee was not in any case a very promising
subject for diplomacy. .
*T think you'll find yourself able to fly now,â€ he said,
removing the last shred of cobweb from the Beeâ€™s left
wing. â€œDonâ€™t let me detain you if you are anxious
The Bee had not the least intention of letting himself
be detained. He was an insect with one idea,-and had
no time to spare. His good-bye, if he said it, was lost
in the buzz of departure.
Rose Red stood watching him down the hill, and before
the Bee was out of sight, for he flew slowly and heavily
with his double load, the English Elf was revolving anew
idea in that active brain of his. It made him shake his
head a good deal, and for a short time he wore a look of
compunction ; but this was lost in the pleasure of taking
a firm resolution. There was nothing in the world the
English Elf enjoyed: more than taking a resolution, unless
indeed it were acting upon it; and when he might
reasonably expect a good deal of opposition to his action.
That added the last charm to. the situation. Of course
he went back no more to his green nest in the Wood-
*T must find Trefoil,â€ he said.
And he opened his wings and flew down the hill, as
the Bee had flown before him.
Trefoil had really no concern at all in the matter, but
the English Elf had a liking for Trefoil, and the way he
showed his liking was to tell him of all the faults and
failings he observed in the general Irish constitution of
things, and to hold Trefoil responsible for them. Re-
sponsibility sat easily on that green Fairy, however. He
did not make light of the Elfâ€™s complaints; he received
them all with a grave and sympathetic face, while he was
thinking of something else. He said,
â€œTsnâ€™t it a pity now?â€ Or,
â€œSure, what can we do at all?â€
with so much feeling in his voice that the Elf was con-
vinced he had a spark of the true reforming spirit some-
go THE ELF-ERRANT
where in the depths of his nature. He intended to do
his very best to kindle that spark.
But it rather interfered with his plans that he could
not find Trefoil anywhere on this particular afternoon.
He searched through most of their familiar haunts, in
places where the shadows fell from the old thorn-trees,
and stretched along the grass; in places where flag-lilies
grew beside the running water, and butterflies flickered
up and down the deep meadow beyond, among the blue
and crimson flowers. He searched a particular slope on
the uplands, where rocks lay tumbled together, and bright
yellow flowers clung to them, and the larks had a fancy
for singing just overhead. It was a particular resort of
Trefoilâ€™s, and when Rose Red could not find him there,
he gave up the search.
â€œTI suppose heâ€™s sleeping somewhere, â€ he said, with all
the impatience which a waking Fairy is entitled to feel
for a slecping one. â€œI had better go at once to head-
So he flew directly to the Foxglove Gane and for the
second time that day presented himself before Seed oâ€™
That ingenious warrior was seated on the ground, en-
gaged in plaiting himself a sword-belt out of white bog-
cotton, He had a large pile of the material stowed under
a hollow stone to keep it from blowing away. From this
he selected the silky strands with great care, choosing
always those that had the most silvery gloss on them ;
and if a single one broke in the plaiting, he threw them
all away. He explained his reasons to his friend the
Fieldmouse, who was sitting by watching him.
â€œâ€˜T remember,â€ he said, â€œthat a great Fairy sage once
laid it down as an axiom that â€˜no plait is stronger than
its weakest strand.â€™ Now I am working on that principle,
for I always act on principle when I have no practice to
The little Fieldmouse was charmed with this wisdom,
and was eager to assist him by hold ng the end of the
plait between her teeth. It proved a hindrance to con-
versation, but her dark, expressive eyes said as much as
she wanted at any time. Only when Rose Red appeared
suddenly on the scene she darted away immediately,
being the shyest of creatures; and Seed oâ€™ Valour â€˜of
course darted after her, for the sword-belt still united them.
â€œYou must excuse me a moment,â€ he called back to
Rose Red. And in the politest manner he escorted the
Fieldmouse back to her hole, into which she disappeared
in her sudden agitated fashion, even while he stood in-
viting her to come back next day, that he might make a
silken white collar to fit her neck.
92 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œShe must have been really frightened,â€ he said to
Rose Red, â€œor she would have listened to that.â€
â€œVery likely,â€ said Rose Red, without paying the
smallest attention to the incident. â€˜I have come back
to speak to you, Seed oâ€™ Valour, on a matter of some
â€œDo you know I had a kind of notion that you would,
all along ?â€ said Seed oâ€™ Valour, laying his head on one
side, while his eyes twinkled hopefully. It was all he
could do not to shout out â€œ Bats!â€
â€œAs we were together on that last field-day with the
Bees, and I had the shelter of your bellâ€”â€”â€
â€œ While it lasted!â€
â€œT wish to inform you, before any other Fairy, that
my views are changed.â€
â€œ Which of them?â€ asked Seed 0â€ Valour, anxiously.
â€œT had some conversation with a Bee this morning,â€
the English Elf proceeded, â€œâ€˜and by what he said to me,
I am convinced that the Bees are not really enemies of
the Foxglove Fairies. For a long time they have been
opposed to you very strongly; but that was simply
through force of circumstances, and owing to your own
misconception of their motives. Ifyou could but be-
lieve it, your interests are identical.â€
He paused after saying this, for it struck him as a
AWAY! - 93
really luminous exposition of the case, and he wanted to
observe its effect on Seed oâ€™ Valour. But that intelligent
Fairy only gasped. ;
â€œYou see, you have no use for the honey in your bells.
Why not let the Bees come and take it whenever they
like?â€ said Rose Red, as calmly as though he were not
proposing to revolutionize the order of centuries.
â€œMother oâ€™ fortune!â€ was Seed oâ€™ Valourâ€™s reply.
â€œ Didnâ€™t I tell you what would happen if you went on
flying about in the sun the way you have been doing, and
neglecting your sleep? You're touched in the head,
fay !â€”youwâ€™re sunstruck !â€
The English Elf started back, and glared at Seed 0â€™
Valour as if he could have slain him on the spot. But
he met such a look of lamenting pity that his Heeâ€ was
turned to wonder, and he stood irresolute,
â€œThe last fay I remember taken like yourself was
Harebell,â€ said the Irish Elf pathetically. â€œHe was so
left to himself that he wanted toâ€”never mind ! I wouldnâ€™t
let him, and he got over it. Hereâ€”Iâ€™ll tell you what to
do. Keep your head cool, and stand out in the rain as
much as you can, and perhaps you'll get over it too.
It was impossible to be angry with Seed oâ€™ Valour.
Rose Red looked at him, and magnanimously forgave him.
04. THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œTake me before your Commander-in-Chief now,
Seed 0â€™ Valour, and we'll talk about my cure by and by,â€
said the English Elf firmly.
â€œT donâ€™t want to cross your wishes at all,â€ said Seed oâ€™
Valour, reluctantly. â€œTl take you whenever you like.
But donâ€™t be saying rash things about Bees and Foxgloves
now, before the Commander-in-Chief, or he'll put you
under arrest as sure as Iâ€™m a two-winged Fairy!â€
After this, of course nothing would have prevented the
English Elf from getting the audience he wanted ; and
they flew off together to the south side of the Camp, to
find out whether His Honour would receive them.
His Honour the Commander-in-Chief of the Foxglove
Fairies, had left his tent, and retired to a shady hollow
under the bank below, where he was giving audience to
a couple of his most distinguished officers. They had
just exhibited to him a new and simple device of their
own invention for firing furze-seeds out of a split stalk ;
and they had illustrated its value by triumphantly flooring
a young Frog, who had ventured out of his native ditch
into the neighbourhood of His Honourâ€™s audience hall.
Rose Red arrived in time to hear the Commander-in-
Chief express his gratification at the prompt effect of
this artillery upon the Frog. But he inquired whether
it could be directed with equal force from a Foxglove bell
opening downwards upon an enemy whose descent was
almost invariably from above ?
* Quite impossible,â€ said the officers.
â€œThen,â€ said His Honour, â€œI must defer the adoption
of your invention as part of our recognised equipment
until you have remedied that trifling defect in its useful-
ness. I have no doubt that you will very quickly find
means to do so. Accept my congratulations on the
ingenuity of your device.â€
The officers saluted, and withdrew, carrying their
artillery with them. His Honour then relaxed some-
thing of the martial stiffness of his attitude, took off the
plumed cap which he woreâ€”the only outward sign of his
rankâ€”and handed it to a soldier behind him ; then seated
himself in the middle of a tuft of Woodsorrel, and yawned.
â€œThe worst of these clever, mechanical fellows is, that
you have to talk to them in a proper official strain, or
they would think you wanting in respect for your subor-
dinates. I canâ€™t keep it up for a whole afternoon, you
know, so I hope no one is going to think himself
insulted, in consequence.â€
These remarks were supposed to be spoken aside to
His Honourâ€™s most intimate friend and Second-in-Com-
mand, Highflyer. But of course they were heard by every
one in the audience-hall, and were properly appreciated.
96 THE ELF-ERRANT
The English Elf, who, with all his independence of
mind had a natural respect for constituted authorities,
stepped forward and bowed to the Commander.
His bow was his only introduction, but it was quite
sufficient for that experienced officer.
â€œA stranger?â€ said His Honour. â€œThen take preced-
ence of the Fairies present. Let me know your business.â€
â€œT am Rose Red, from England,â€ said the Elf, â€œI
come to you to propose terms of peace, or at least a
â€œ But our relations with England are perfectly friendly,â€
said His Honour.
It was the first time he had heard of England ; but of
course if the relations between the countries had been
otherwise than friendly, he mst have known it, as he
said to himself.
â€œT did not mean peace with England, but peace between
contending parties in this country,â€ explained the EIf.
There was a silence in the audience-hall, as if the
interview had become suddenly interesting. _
â€œAnd you have been sent,â€ inquired His Honour,
ce byâ€”â€” ? EP
â€œJT am not sent by any one,â€ said Rose Red. â€œIam
a thoroughly impartial Fairy, and I offer myself as
arbitrator of the existing disputes.â€
â€œA thoroughly impartial Fairy!â€ repeated the Com-
mander-in-Chief meditatively, as though he were pon-
dering this new idea. â€œAs arbitratorâ€”â€”â€ but he
dropped that end of the sentence, for he had no notion
what arbitration might be. â€œWell, Iâ€™m entirely obliged
to you,â€ he concluded, as the safest and most natural
thing to say when a Fairy was plainly â€œ offeringâ€ some-
â€œ With your permission I will state the conditions on
which I think a perfect understanding may be restored
between yourselves and your former allies,â€ said Rose
â€œWhat do you mean by our â€˜former alliesâ€™? we have
lost none,â€ said the puzzled Commander-in-Chief.
â€œ*T mean the Bees,â€ said the English EIf.
This time nobody called him sunstruck. The Com-
mander-in-Chief was too much astonished to say a word,
and the other Fairies were too much in awe of the
But Rose Red, who did not care in the least about
producing a sensation, was never very quick to see
exactly what sensation he had produced. He fancied
this was the silence of unprejudiced attention, and he
went on to advance the claims of the Bees, and to con-
demn the hostilities which the Fairies had practised
98 THE ELF-ERRANT
against them, in open and undisguised language. Rose
Red was not an eloquent being, but the two things
which moved him more strongly than any were working
in his mind at this moment; injustice to others and
opposition to himself. He was not eloquent; his words
struck at all the Fairies round like little hard bullets,
instead of winding them in soft constraining bands.
The Irish Elves were immensely surprised when the
bullets began to fly, but they sustained no injuries.
They stood one and all behind a defence which served
them as well as a rampart of sandbags, and that was
their own soft contempt for the attack. As Rose Red
grew indignant, they became more interested, and even
inclined to cheer him.
â€œThe longer I stay in this country,â€ he declared
sternly, â€œthe less I can understand the purposes of Irish .
Fairies. They seem to have no aims, to seek no gains,
to be employed only in different kinds of idleness. I
am told of a race of Fairies here who live in the depths
of a wood, and concern themselves with nothing except
music. I have met other sprites who assured me per-
sonally that their only occupation was to catch the
shining black Beetles, sit on their backs, and race them
against each other. When I asked them if they had no
other aims, they replied that they had only oneâ€”to
make the Beetles swifter. Now the Foxglove Fairies.
seem to have a higher order of intelligence â€
Oddly enough, this was the only remark at which the
Commander-in-Chief showed distinct annoyance. One
of the Fairies also so far forgot himself as to laugh.
Rose Red went on, disregardingâ€”
â€œBut what use do the Foxglove Fairies make of their
intelligence? Only to carry on a senseless war of ob-
struction against the Bees. No one can tell me when
this fruitless strife began. No one can tell me of a time
when Fairies had any interest in preserving honey
against the attacks of industrious Bees.. On the contrary
it is evident that the honey exists for the benefit of the
Bees, as plainly as the flower exists for the benefit of the
Fairy. Let us restore things to their natural footing.
Make peace with the Bees. Let them visit your bells as
often as they desire. For as long as there is a Foxglove
standing, be sure the Bees will come to it, whether you
permit them or not. And I, for one, am of opinion
that they are perfectly right.â€
He stoppedâ€”because he had no more to say. It has
already been remarked that Rose Red was not an
His Honour the Commander-in-Chief rose and
stretched out his hand for his plumed cap, because he
100 THE ELF-ERRANT
would not have chosen to answer even a mad foreigner
unceremoniously. But before he could put the cap
on his head, a little Fairy scout came flying in, scat-
tered the Elves before him, saluted His Honour, and
â€œThe Bees are over the hill!â€
Then he turned and flew for his post; the other
Fairies streaming away after him, as if a wind had blown
â€œCome with me! come on!â€ cried Seed oâ€™ Valour,
catching the English Elf round the neck.
â€œHold off! Iâ€™m not going with you,â€ said the Elf.
â€œYou are, but you are,â€ the Foxglove Fairy insisted,
clinging to his former comrade.
*Tâ€™ll join the Bees,â€ said Rose Red.
And they rose in the air together, still struggling, and
flew directly against the Commander-in-Chief, who was
hurrying away like the rest.
â€˜â€œ* Whatâ€™s that ? â€˜join the Bees?â€™â€ said His Honour,
sharply. â€œYou'll not get the chance. Seed oâ€™ Valour,
let him go, and fly to your post.â€
Seed 0â€™ Valour flew away with a sad little cry for his
â€œ Robin and Redwing !â€ called the Commander, â€œtake
this fay prisoner. Make him fast for the present, and
bring him before me when the attack is over. Set a
His Honour hurried by. The two Fairies called Robin
and Redwing seized the English Elf and carried him
off. His struggles were short, for they were two to one,
and quite determined not to be detained long. Having
fastened his hands behind his back, they tied him firmly
to the stem of a stiff-growing bracken, and whistled up
two black Spiders to watch him. They threatened the
Spiders with dire things if they should fail to report the
prisonerâ€™s least attempt to escape, and then they flew off
as fast as their wings could carry them, to join battle with
the Bees. Rose Red was left in his seclusion under the
bracken, to consider himself.
Truly, hÃ© had never been in a worse position, and the
more he considered it, the less he could see his way out. '
He was defenceless, friendless, a prisoner, and in a foreign
land. It was so hopeless, so disastrous, that he felt his
long-lost dignity return, and his spirit rise to the occasion,
as the spirit of an English Elf is wont to do when he
finds himself in a scrape serious enough to merit
First he tugged at the tight green withes that bound
him, only to assure himself that they were too cunningly
tied to give way. But his movement had alarmed the two
102 THE ELF-ERRANT
black Spiders on watch, and they ran at him one from
each side with alacrity in all their legs, so that he in-
stantly became quiet again, for fear they should run in
another direction and recall the Fairies.
Then the Spiders began consulting, with their dull
malignant eyes upon him. They could not get over their
natural fear of a Fairy, though they saw him tied and
bound for the present. Spiders are slaves by nature;
they are greedy and cunning, yet their fears are always
getting the better of their desires. This pair were like
the rest, spiteful but frightened ; not too much frightened,
however, to recollect that they must propitiate Robin and
Redwing, who were free Fairies, at the expense of Rose
Red, who was a prisoned Fairy. Accordingly, while one
Spider remained below curled up among his legs and
keeping watch, the other ran up the bracken stem, and
swinging himself downwards from a green frond just over
the Elfâ€™s head, he commenced to spin a complicated web
in the middle of which the Elf very soon found himself
like a netted fly, with the Spiderâ€™s strands stretching out
from every part of his person towards the surrounding
objects. When he had finished his web, the Spider came
down again, and surveyed it with the greatest satisfaction
from below. It mattered not at all to his mind that
Rose Red, if freed from his other bonds, could have
flown right out of the web with one stroke of his wings.
The Fairy Zooked as if he were a prisoner in the mesh,
and so the Spider was satisfied.
Strange to say, Rose Red was also proportionately
annoyed. He felt the cobweb, light though it was, as a
heavy aggravation of his woes. The heroic calm deserted
him, and he fell into a rage. It made the Spiders
tremble to see him, for they had never been so close toa
Fairy in a rage before, and judging by their knowledge of
the habits of the race, it seemed unlikely that this Fairy
would remain tied to a bracken stem for ever. In the
event of his getting loose now, they felt as if all their
legs would be insufficient for safety.
There was a stir in the air aboveâ€”no more than a
breath. The grasses shook and waved apart, and the
Spiders shrank away from this new-comer. Rose Red
lifted his distracted gaze, and there stood the slender
Speedwell, gazing at him with her friendly eyes.
â€˜* What is this?â€ she asked.
But he could not answer. He had sought for her, and
longed to see her, when he was proud and free. She
came when he was wretched and a prisoner, and he
turned away his head. It was worse than being -con-
quered that this Fairy maiden should see him conquered.
Perhaps the gentle Speedwell understood it all, for her
104. THE. ELF-ERRANT
wise blue eyes saw into many things, and it may have
been because she was content to be helpful without
understanding that so many things were clear to her.
At present it was quite evident that there was no one to
help her unfortunate. friend.
She broke into the middle of the web first and pulled
it to pieces. That alarmed the black Spiders, and they
rolled up at once, and pretended to be dead, which is
their great resource in emergencies. Then Speedwell
began. to untie the knots in the green, thin withes that
bound the English Elf, and they gave way one by one.
At this sight the Spiders thought it time to breathe again ;
and before the English Elf was quite free, they had
decided that it would be better to live in quite a distant
part of the country, and were far on their way there,
palpitating. They never again kept watch over other
But the English Elf and Speedwell were travelling, if
the Spiders had only known it, in quite an opposite direc-
tion. The instincts of the wise are even more mysterious
than the impulses of the foolish, and it would be im-
possible to say why Speedwell desired to fly with Rose
Red as far as possible from the Foxglove Camp, and to
bring him to a place within sound of the sea. He
followed her without a question. Either his usual
decision of mind had deserted him, or-else it had impelled
him to leave decisions with Speedwellâ€”a singular conclu-
sion for this independent Elf.
They flew eastwards. There was no wind, and the
sun was almost down. It was towards the end of the
long summer day when these two silent Fairies dropped
from. the air to the earth in a place within sound of the
sea. The sea-waves were breaking over the rocks down
â€˜below, and the gray rocks rose everywhere through
the grass where they rested ; short thick grass shorn
by the sea winds, and sprinkled with the flowers
that love the sea, with wreaths of silver weed and
yellow starry stone-crops, and tufts of sea-pinks
wearing their rosy crowns in the face of all the winds
that blow. They were all brave flowers, and the
English Elf found himself at home in this wild
â€œSpeedwell,â€ he said, â€œI looked for you and I never
could find you after that night. Are you going to vanish
away again in a moment?â€
â€œâ€˜No,â€ said the Speedwell; â€œI shall stay here while
you want me. But what have you been doing amongst
all the other Fairies ?â€ '
â€œ â€œT have disagreed with them all,â€ said the Elf
106 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œIt is only that you have misunderstood each other,â€
â€˜â€˜ Thatâ€™s impossible,â€ the Elf replied. â€œI have explained
myself so often and clearly, believe me.â€
â€œâ€˜T can believe you,â€ she said ; and he wondered why
she laughed. â€˜ Did Â¢hey ever explain themselves to you,
â€œNo, I canâ€™t say they did,â€ said the Elf. â€œ You canâ€™t
call it an explanation to say that a thing â€˜has always
been that way, just;â€™ or that a thing â€˜ would be a heap
more bother any other way.â€™ I donâ€™t think your Irish
Elves have much idea of the nature of an explanation.â€
*T donâ€™t think we have,â€ said Speedwell, reflectively.
â€œYou see, we seldom ask one ourselves, We understand
things so much better when they are not explained.â€
Pure surprise at this remark prevented the English Elf
from asking her at once to explain what it meant. And
â€œYou seem to have fallen into some confusion your-
self between the Bees and the Foxglove Fairies.â€
â€œ Not at all!â€ said Rose Red promptly. â€˜I thought
the Bees were robbers, so I fought for the Foxglove Fairies
one day. Then I found that the Bees were honest
workers, unjustly hindered by the Fairies. So I wanted
to fight for the Bees; but the Fairies made me prisoner,
Tâ€™ll make them sorry for that trick one day. They shall
learn they were wrong.â€
â€˜ Always wrong,â€ smiled the Speedwell.
â€œAnd I amright. You know it!â€ insisted Rose Red.
â€œ Nearly right,â€ sighed the Speedwell.
â€œThen why are you not pleased with me?â€™â€™ said the
blunt English Elf,
â€œT am thinking what sad trouble you will make in
this country, to prove you were right.â€ And Speedwell
shook her head sorrowfully, and her blue eyes were
â€œJ wish I had never come here, I wish I were in
England now,â€ said the Elf; and he grew sad himself
â€œTI can grant your wish,â€ said the blue-eyed Fairy,
with her eyes upon him, and she saw him start with joy.
Then she rose, and called into the air, and called
There were Swallows in that place by the sea, flying in
wild circles after each other, and grazing the ground
with their wings. One of these birds, when he heard
her voice, turned in the air as only a Swallow can turn,
with one tilt of his wings, and dashed down to her
â€œMy Swallow! my Sailor!â€ said the Speedwell.
108 THE ELF-ERRANT
â€œ Will you go on a voyage for me before the autumn
comes this year? Will you go now?â€
â€œAny time,â€ said the Swallow, in his short, sweet
â€œ There is a country of England ; I do not know how
far away. Will you fly there?â€
â€œ Anywhere,â€ said the Swallow.
â€œThe English Elf must go back to his country, and
you must carry him over the sea between your dark-blue
wings. Will you do this for me?â€
â€œ Anything,â€ piped the Swallow.
He stooped low, with his soft breast to the ground,
and his long wings trailed upon the grass. He was
â€œNow!â€ said Speedwell to the English EIf.
He did not hear. He looked towards the land he
was leaving, up the green glen lying quiet between its
hills, filled with clear sunlight, fairy-haunted. He was
going where he would never see them againâ€”the bright,
little, tender, merry, vexatious Irish Fairies, whose ways
had worried him so !â€”Trefoil, Seed oâ€™ Valour, Broom,
and Robin, and Redwing, Fly-by-Night, and Peep oâ€™
â€œSpeedwell, let me stay,â€ he sighed; â€œonly another
, WEF Battle
Speedwell pointed eastward. There lay the sea, blue
and broad, stretching out to the sky; an empty air
between them; no land in sight. But the voice of his
country called to him in all the living waves, and his
heart went back to England.
One step and he had thrown himself between the
Swallowâ€™s wings. One stroke of the long wings, and
Rose Red was so high in air that he could not see the
blue of Speedwellâ€™s eyes.
â€˜* Speedwell,â€ he called to her, â€œtell the Fairiesâ€”I
And the Swallow darted out across the sea.
RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BUNGAY.