an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia
Title: The Adventurous Elves
Author: May Lillian Paten
eBook No.: 2100121h.html
Date first posted: 2021
Most recent update: 2021
This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore
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May Lillian Paten
Illustrated by Christian Yandell
The New Home
Peter and his Mates
The Tambourine Fairy’s Wedding
A Journey in the Air
A Visit to Fairyland
ONE day Chit, Chat and Chut Elve got permission from their mother to go for a long walk into the country. They got up very early and had a hasty breakfast and set out, determined to make the day as long as they could. The sun was only just getting up as they left home. At first they walked briskly, but soon their pace slackened, and they were walking very slowly indeed, not because they were tired, but because there were so many perfectly thrilling things to look at, and to hear.
They had decided to go to The Gap, which they had not yet visited, a beautiful valley in the western ranges near Brisbane. They had no sooner got amongst the gum trees than things began to happen. As it was only a short time since the brothers had left Elfland they had not forgotten the language of birds and beasts, so they knew that the magpies in a tree by the creek were saying,
“Good-morning, lads, isn’t it splendid to be alive on such a glorious morning?”
Even when a family of kookaburras, high up on a gum bough, burst suddenly into such uproarious laughter that they, taken by surprise, got quite a fright, they soon got over it, for they knew that the “kookies” were only saying the same thing. So when Father ‘Jack’ called down to know if they had seen the Early Worm anywhere about, they were able to answer, most politely, that they had not seen him yet; but now that they knew he was to be expected they would keep a good look out for him. Father Jack was so pleased with them that he said he would tell them something he would not tell to everyone. If they kept right on along the road for about a mile, and then turned to the right and crossed a creek, they would find a field of watermelons, the finest melons he had ever seen, and just in perfect condition to meet the taste of small lads like themselves. They thanked him and hurried on. They knew all about watermelons, their father had brought some home only the week before, and they thought they had never tasted anything more delicious, even in their old home.
Presently turning a corner they found themselves face to face with a huge four-footed beast with a red and white coat and very long horns. Chut, who was the first to see it, gave a terrified cry and fell into a big rut in the road, where he lay shaking with fright, while his brothers ran under the fence at the side of the road. The grandmotherly old cow, for that is what it was, stood quite still, looking very surprised indeed. Then she opened her mouth and laughed. At least that is what she meant to do, and what she thought she was doing, but what she really did was to make an exceedingly frightening noise to the ears of little fellows who did not know cows. They thought it was the noise an ogre makes before he eats little boys up.
Seeing their fright, Mrs. Cow, who really was the kindest-hearted old thing in the world, left off laughing, and called out, in the gentlest tone she could manage, not to be frightened, she never ate little boys, they were far too indigestible, and at her age she had to be exceedingly careful what she ate. Just then a pert Willy Wagtail flew across the road and perched on her back.
“It’s quite true,” he said, as he began nimbly to dance the bambalina, “she’s the kindest old thing. I’ve known her ever since I left the nest, and she’s never done me any harm.”
So Chit and Chat came back and pulled Chut out of his hole, and after telling Mrs. Cow they were sorry they had mistaken her for an Ogre, they hurried on again to search for the watermelon field. They soon found it, and right on the edge, nearly hidden by the vine, was a perfectly scrumptious melon. It was so big that Chit, who was the tallest, could not see over the top of it. It was so beautifully hard, and round, and green, and shiny that they knew it must be most deliciously pink and white inside. But how to open it? They had no knife. Chat, who was the brainy one of the family, solved the problem. Running back to the road he found a stone with a sharp edge, and with that they chipped off pieces of rind until they were able to get their sharp little teeth into the flesh. They were such little fellows, and so unused to the ways of Manland, that they did not know that they were doing wrong. They did not know that the melons belonged to a man who had to work very hard to clear the ground and plough it, and sow the seed that turned into melons, and that no one else had any right to take the fruit when it came.
By this time it was nearly noon, and as Chit, Chat and Chut had forgotten to bring any lunch with them, they were very hungry. When they had scooped a hole through the white flesh, which they knew they must not eat, and had come to the pink they ate, and ate, and ate, getting deeper and deeper into the melon until, when at last they felt they could not eat another bite, they were very near the centre. It was deliciously cool and soft in there, and they were now feeling drowsy, so they decided to have a nap before they left it.
By and bye a man came into the field with a dray, and began to collect ripe melons to take to market. It was almost dusk when he came to the melon which contained the sleeping elves. Without noticing the small hole in it he picked up the big melon and threw it on top of the loaded dray. This rather rough treatment woke the sleepers, and for a while they could not make out where they were. When they remembered, they were very frightened indeed, especially as the dray was now moving, and the melons were jostling one another uncomfortably as it bumped over rough ground. It seemed a very long time to them before the horrible rocking motion stopped, and there was a rattling of harness and stamping of hooves, which meant that the horse was being taken out of the dray, which had been backed into a big shed. The brothers were now very wide awake, and very miserable. This made them quarrelsome.
“It’s all your fault,” Chit told Chut, most unfairly, “it was you who got us into this mess, and now we’ll be punished when we get home —if we ever do get home,” he added, dismally.
This was too much for Chut, who began to cry, and Chat, who was about to say something angrily to Chit, forgot it in trying to comfort the little fellow, who was such a tiny wee thing that he just had to be looked after and petted by the other two.
As it was pitch dark in the shed, and they had heard the sound of a key being turned in the lock of the door, they knew it was no good trying to escape then they would have to wait until daylight and see what happened. It worried them dreadfully to know that their parents would be very anxious about them, and they would willingly have taken any punishment to have been safe in their own little beds at that moment, but as there was nothing else they could do they ate some more of their prison and then curled themselves up and went to sleep.
At daybreak they were awakened once more by the jolting of the dray on its way to market. The prisoners did not know where they were going, of course, and they could not even get a chance to see, for there was no sign of the hole by which they had entered the melon, so they had still to wait as patiently as they could for something to happen to release them. After what seemed a long time the dray stopped, and men began to take out the melons, putting them down on the floor in a big shed. The one with the elves in it was amongst the first to be lifted out.
“Hullo,” said a voice, “the rats have been having a go at this one. It’ll have to go to the pigs,” and there was a thump and a bump as the melon flew through the air and landed in a large tin. It was well for Chit and his brothers that it was still fairly well lined. As it was they were terribly frightened, and thought that if ever they got safely home again they would never, never leave it. They did not know what pigs were, but they felt sure they must be something very nasty, and they had no wish to make their acquaintance. But they were really game little fellows, and when they had recovered a bit from this new shock they began to look about for means of escape. Still there was no sign of the hole in their melon. It must be underneath, they thought.
“There’s only one thing to do,” said Chit, “we must make another hole.”
“Oh, look,” said Chat, who had been poking around, “I’m sure there’s a crack in the rind. Let’s all push hard just here.”
They set to work with a will and pushed so hard that presently there was a sharp snap, and the rind parted enough for them to squeeze through. How pleased they were to be outside again. But, alas! their troubles were not ended yet. All round them was a high wall of tin, perfectly smooth. At first sight it seemed impossible to climb it, but Chit put one foot on the broken edge of the melon and drew himself up until he could take hold of the stalk on the top, and by its aid pull himself up till he stood on the outside. Then he leaned carefully over and helped Chat up, and when they had both rested a while, he bent his back, Chat stepped up on it, and caught hold of the top of the tin. Chit gave him a push, and soon he was seated on it. All he had to do then was to drop to the ground on the other side. Fortunately, although it was a big drop for anyone his size, the ground was soft and he was not hurt. Picking himself up he hunted about until he found a piece of strong string. Then he gathered some pieces of wood and put them against the tin, and climbing up on them he let one end of the string down to Chit, who by this time had pulled Chut up beside him. Chit now tied the string about the little chap’s waist, and, with Chat pulling and himself pushing, Chut was safely landed beside Chat, who now tied a piece of wood on to the string and let it down to Chit. By standing on this he was able to reach the top himself, and soon he was over, and all three were hurrying homeward as fast as their legs would go.
FOR some time the Elve family had been living in a tree in a large park. One day some men came and stood by the tree and began to tap and prod it, while the small family listened anxiously to know what it all meant.
“Rotten to the core,” said one, “it will have to come down. Even half a gale might bring it on our heads.”
The Elves got a great shock. They had been so comfortable inside that roomy old tree, and had had no idea that they were in any danger.
“We must find another house at once,” said Mother.
So the very next day all the family set out to look for a suitable tree, and although they searched until it was nearly dark they could not find one that would do.
“We shall have to go into another district,” said Father.
That night there was a storm, and though it was not very heavy, and the wind was not very severe, they spent an uneasy time, fearing their home might be wrecked. But the sun shone brightly next morning, and no damage had been done. They set out early, as it was decided to search for a suitable tree in the country.
“Let’s go out where we found the watermelon,” said Chit, to his brothers, “there’s hundreds of trees out there, and if we find a good one Mum and Father might be so pleased that they wouldn’t mind it being so far from town.” So they slipped away quickly while their parents were inspecting and arguing about a tree, which Mum had seen at a glance was not at all the kind of tree they would like to live in.
It was splendid to be out so early, with the dewdrops still sparkling on the leaves and in the cobwebs that looked like lace in the paddocks. They soon came upon the Kookaburra family enjoying their morning laugh, and when they had answered Father Jack’s usual question about the Early Worm, Chit told him about their search for a new home.
“Oh, that’s quite easy to find,” he said, “we’ll all help you,” and he and Mrs. Kookaburra and all the little Burras sat solemnly in a row and thought about the matter. They thought so hard that they fell asleep, and the Elves, who had been playing marbles with duranta berries while they waited, finished their game and decided to go on and continue their search. Just then Father Jack opened one eye and said, in a gruff voice,
“Go to Walton Bridge and see Mr. Mickie.”
He then closed his eye, and must have gone fast asleep again, for to all their questions he turned a deaf ear, so there was nothing to be done but go in search of Mr. Mickie. They did not even know who he was, but they thought that if they went to the Bridge they might find someone who would know him. They had not gone very far when a big thing which looked like a box on wheels passed them and stopped, and some people got out. Before it could start again the Elves had hopped onto the step. It was great fun riding there, but Chut nearly fell off several times as it swayed and bumped on the rough road, and the others had to leave off laughing to hold him with one hand and keep themselves from falling off with the other. The thing, which was called a ’bus, stopped again, and they narrowly escaped being squashed by a pair of enormous boots belonging to a perfect giant of a man, and a little later Chat got one finger badly bruised by the pointed heel of a woman’s shoe, and he howled so loudly that someone told the driver his wheels needed grease, and was growled at for his pains. Chit, whose ears were very sharp, heard some one say the ’bus stopped at the Bridge, and presently the long stone wall came in sight, and they crossed it and stopped.
The three Elves jumped off quickly to avoid further injury, and ran down to the creek. It and the big arches of the Bridge were perfectly fascinating; they felt that if they could only find a home quite close to them they would be perfectly happy. They had not seen a spot they liked so well since they left Fairyland. It was such fun paddling in the shallow water, and running over the stone causeway which spanned it like a miniature bridge beside a giant, that they even forgot for a while what they had come to seek. Then Chut fell into the water and got wet through, and they had to take off his clothes and spread them on bushes to dry. which he thought was great fun, because he could go on splashing and paddling while they did it, and the other two thought they might as well bathe too. It was early yet, and they were having a glorious time, when suddenly there was a flapping of wings and an angry chattering, and a gray bird with a yellow bill and white spots near its eyes flew out of a bush and seemed as if about to attack them.
Chut, who was easily frightened, burst into tears. His brothers were frightened, too, but they felt they were too old to show it—Chut was really only a baby—so they stood still, and Chit, in a voice that trembled only a little bit, asked the bird what he was so angry about. Seeing their distress, and being really kind-hearted when spoken to nicely, the bird left off his angry chatter, and perching on a bough near by said he was sorry he had alarmed the little fellow; he did not want to do them any harm, but his wife was sitting on some beautiful little eggs on their nest, and when they came so very near to it, he had feared for the moment that they had meant to disturb her.
They told him that nothing was further from their thoughts, and they had not even seen the nest. And then, remembering their quest, Chit asked him if he could tell them where they could find Mr. Mickie.
“I am Mr. Mickie,” he said.
So Chit explained about the house they were seeking.
“Why, I know the very place that would suit you,” said Mrs. Mickie, who had come out to see what all the fuss was about, “but there’s a snake in the next flat, and I’m sure your parents wouldn’t like that. It’s a pity, for it’s really a very nice place, with all the latest improvements.”
“As for that,” said Mr. Mickie, “Snake might be persuaded to move. If you think our eggs can spare you for a few minutes longer, my dear, we might try what we can do. I think perhaps you could put the case more forcibly before him than I.”
His wife thought so too, so they flew away to interview Mr. Snake, and see if he would move into another house. But although they talked and talked, and got angrier and angrier, until Mrs. Mickie scolded herself hoarse, Mr. Snake refused to leave. He’d found the house first, he said, and he’d move for no one.
“Selfish old thing,” screamed Mrs. Mickie, who really was not quite a lady, “we’ll see about that,” and she flew away into another tree with her husband, and began to talk earnestly to him. He tried to tell her that their eggs would be getting cold, but she was too angry to listen. Snakes always made her mad, she said, and she was not going to be beaten by that particularly ugly one. Not she!
At first Mr. Mickie did not seem to like what she was saying, and hopped impatiently from one twig to another, but presently he remained quiet.
“Very well, my dear, I’ll go and see old Jack,” he said, “but I warn you, I take no responsibility in the matter. Now, please, do go back to the nest. I’d hate to have those beautiful eggs spoiled.”
“You do worry,” said Mrs. Mickie, but she flew back to their tree, while her husband set off on a longer flight to the home of the Kookaburra family whom the Elves knew.
Father Jack listened to his tale with interest. It was too bad, he agreed, that such a nice family should be kept out of a suitable home by a snake. He knew that particular one who was very wicked indeed, and it would give him much pleasure to come and turn him out. So he and Mr. Mickie flew back to the creek where Chit, Chat and Chut were waiting, dressed again after their bathe, and getting anxious, because nearly half the day had gone, and they would soon have to be returning home. They were glad to see Mr. Jack, as they felt that he would be able to help them, and they followed him to the tree on the edge of a scrub where the snake lived. They were quite sure they wanted it for their home when they saw it, and they thought that their parents could hardly help but be pleased with it, so they watched anxiously to see if Mr. Snake would leave now.
They saw Mr. Jack perch on a limb quite close to his hole, while Mr. Mickie settled on another tree and became as quiet as he. After what seemed a long time Mr. Snake poked his head out, turning it from side to side to see if anyone were near. There was a flash, and Father Jack had him by the neck. He was not a very big snake, but he was very strong, and the more Father Jack pulled the more he hung on by his tail. He could not bite because his neck was held so tightly in the big beak. It was a fierce fight, watched by quite a number of pairs of eyes from the neighbouring trees, as well as by the rather scared little Elves on the ground. But at last, with a mighty jerk, the big bird drew the snake out of the hole. He flew with him to a branch near the top of a tall gum and then let him fall to the ground, where he lay dead.
That was the end of Mr. Snake, and that was how the Elve family came to live near Walton Bridge; for when Mr. and Mrs. Elve heard what the birds had done for them they felt they must come and take that house, and when they saw it they liked it quite as much as their children did.
WHILE playing in the creek near their new home one day, the Elves were startled by the sudden appearance of three dogs. One of them was so big and black that Chut began to cry, and the other two did not feel as calm as they tried to seem.
“What are you crying for?” asked the big dog,, whose name was Peter, looking at Chut, and smiling and wagging his tail in the most friendly manner. “Have you hurt yourself?”
His voice and manner were so nice that even the tiniest Elve had no excuse for being afraid of him.
“Oh . . h,” said Chut, wiping his eyes, “I thought you were an ogre coming to eat us up.”
“What, me?” said Peter, “Why, I could put you in a hollow tooth and never know you were there, young fellow-me-lad. Much good you would do me!”
His two mates had been standing quietly beside him all this time, but smiling and wagging their tails to show that they, too, were friendly. Now they jumped into the water and began swimming about. One of them was Boo, because that was the only name a very small girl could say about the time when he was needing one. He was scarcely half Peter’s size, and his coat was yellow and white, and he had particularly nice eyes. The youngest of the three was called Digger. He had a bluey-white coat, and though he was not exactly handsome, he was a very nice little fellow. Peter did not like water, so whenever the other two went in for a swim he stood on the bank and watched them until he thought it was time they came out. Then he would give several short, sharp barks.
“Hey, you fellows, time you came out,” he would say, and if they did not come at once there would be trouble in store for them later. So out they came, pretty quickly, gave themselves a shake that was as good as a shower bath to anyone standing near, and then, choosing the dustiest place they could see, they started to roll themselves dry. After that they shook themselves again to get rid of the dust. The Elves thought it was very funny as they watched them doing it, and wondered what their mother would do if they took their bath in that peculiar fashion. By this time they were beginning to feel quite at home with their visitors, even Chut, who by this time was standing close to Peter, and sometimes stroked one of his legs, which was the only part of him he could reach.
“Where do you live, Mr. Peter?” he asked.
“At the Big House over there,” said Peter, nodding in the direction. “Would you like to come and see it, sonny? It’s not a bad kind of a place, really. You might find something to amuse you.”
The Elves said yes, please, they would like to see it very much. They had not had an adventure worth mentioning for quite twenty-four hours, and they felt it was time something happened. Peter led the way, pausing sometimes to see if they were following, and once he rolled Boo in the grass and cuffed him soundly, because he had carelessly run against Chut and nearly knocked him over. Boo, who had been nicely brought up, apologised to Chut at once. It was an accident, he said; he did not mean to hurt the little chap.
Along a straight road they went and came to the back of the house where there was a green tree-bordered lawn, and many roses in bloom. The Elves hung back in alarm as they approached the gate which led into this, for two ponies, one white and the other red, stood in front of it.
“Come on,” said Peter, “that’s only Toddles and Ichy; they’re as tame as cats. You could tickle their heels and they wouldn’t mind.”
“Watch me,” said Digger, and running forward he playfully pulled Ichy’s tail. But though he gave a good hard tweak, she did not move.
“They are waiting for a piece of bread,” explained Boo, making a playful dive at Toodles, who put down her head and gave him an equally playful push.
Peter introduced the Elves, after he had asked them their names, and the ponies greeted them politely.
“I’d give you a ride,” said Toddles, “but I don’t know how you could get on my back. You are very small, aren’t you?”
“We’re no smaller than other Elves,” said Chit, who hated to be told he was small, because he thought he was really quite big for his age.
“I wish we could have a ride, Miss Toddles,” said Chat, who did not know what a ride was like, but wanted to know.
“Well,” said Toddles, “do you think you could climb up my neck?” and she held her head near the ground.
“Easily,” said the Elves in chorus, as they skipped nimbly up, the two elder ones helping Chut, as usual.
Toddles said they had better stay on her neck, so that they could hold on by her mane.
“Are you ready?” said she.
“Yes,” said they.
Off flew Toddles, with a kick of her heels and a toss of her head, off went the dogs after her, barking and leaping, and off went the Elves—into a tuft of grass, fortunately, so no one was hurt. Toddles and the dogs stopped at once, and though they looked as though they wanted to smile they were too polite to do it. Toddles asked the Elves if they would like to try again, but they said they would rather try something else, if Miss Toddles didn’t mind.
“How about a ride in a lift?” asked Peter, “I see the Gas Weight is just going up,” and he pointed to a round disk of metal, attached to wire ropes, and now lying on the ground. “You’d have a grand ride, right up to the top of those poles.”
The Elves were always willing to try any new thing once, so off they ran and climbed on to the weight just as it began to move. Up they went, very slowly and steadily, and they had a grand view of the country, and were enjoying themselves very much until the top of the poles was reached, and the weight stopped. The ground and their new friends looked very far beneath, and suddenly it occurred to them to wonder how they were going to get down, for they had quite ceased to move, and their “lift” seemed to have no intention of taking them down again.
“Oh, dear, whatever shall we do?” said Chut, looking ready to burst into tears. “It’s cold up here. I want to go down.”
“Be quiet, silly,” said Chit, “of course we’ll go down sometime. This thing couldn’t come up if it doesn’t go down, and it does come up, because it has.”
“But I want to go down now,” cried Chut. “When does this lift come down?” shouted Chat, to Peter, who was looking rather foolish.
“Not for hours,” he called back. “I’m very sorry, lads. I should have remembered that before, and that you are too small to climb down the poles. I’m awfully sorry, but I’m afraid you’ll have to stay there all night.”
“We can’t,” Chat called back. “Father said he’d give us a thrashing if we ever stayed out all night again.”
Just then a big Iguana, who had been passing, and had stopped to listen, approached one of the poles.
“I’ll go up and fetch them down,” he said. “They can ride on my back. One of them saved my son when he fell into the creek last week. But for him wading in and helping him he would certainly have been drowned.”
Now, if anyone thinks it is easy to come down a high pole clinging to the back of a slippery, scaly creature, and hanging head down, let them try it. The Elves had had some queer adventures, but none more startling than this one. As Chut could not be trusted to travel alone, he and Chit had to be brought down together, with Chit hanging to Iguana’s neck, and Chut clinging to him. None of them had a good time, but poor Iguana had the worst, because he was nearly choked by Chit’s arms, and he had to carry a double weight. Several times Chut nearly slid off, and several times he nearly dragged Chit off too, but at last they were down, and their poor rescuer, after a brief rest, started back to bring down their brother. This he accomplished safely, and with greater ease, because Chat, not being burdened by Chut, was easier to carry. They all thanked Iguana for his great kindness, and told him they would always be glad to do anything they could for him, and he hurried away to attend to his neglected business.
It was now nearly sunset, and the Elves said they must go home. They felt that they had had enough adventures for one day, so the dogs went with them to the road, and Peter said he hoped they would forgive him for his forgetfulness about the Weight, and come again another day.
THE Tambourine Fairies have their home on one of the most beautiful mountains in the world, and they were going to have a wedding. Pretty little Fairy Fernie was going to marry Brownie Peat. As she was a niece of Mrs. Elve’s, all the Elve family was invited to the wedding. Chit and his brothers were very excited about it; they had never been to one before, and they had never been to Tambourine, though they had heard all kinds of wonderful things about it from their mother, who had once spent a whole month there.
They were to travel all the way from the city by motor, and that in itself was exciting. They laughed and chattered so much on the journey that it was marvellous that the humans who were their fellow passengers did not hear them. Only a lonely little girl of five, who sat very still beside her mother, did, and she did not say anything about them because she knew most human people do not believe in fairies. They would only laugh and tease her, and say she was talking nonsense. So she sat quite still and listened, and heard all about the fairies they were going to visit, and the wedding. How she wished she could go with them!
When they came to the foot of the mountain, and began to climb it by a road that wound like a black ribbon “in and out and round about,” as the little girl, whose name was Ariel, said to herself, and she looked down on fairy glens full of the most wonderful trees, and tall palms with huge clusters of red berries hanging from them, and ferns and flowers growing at their feet, and saw red and blue parrots darting to and fro amongst them, she wished it more than ever.
“How lovely to be a fairy. Is that where yours live?” she said softly. The Elves were so astonished to hear a little human girl speaking to them that for a moment they could not reply; then they left their seats and pushed so close to her that their poor mother became quite alarmed that they would fall out into the road. Their fairies did not live there, they told her, but in a scrub quite as wonderful right on top of the mountain.
“Do you think I might see them?” she asked, eagerly, “and the wedding too?”
Chit said it might be managed, he thought. She must come alone to the edge of the scrub next day, at sunrise, and they would look out for her and show her the way. Their mother had told them that weddings took place either at sunrise or in the moonlight, for then there were not many humans likely to he about. Everyone knows how big and clumsy and blind they are, and how they could walk right over a whole wedding procession and never see it.
“But you’re not big or clumsy,” they hastened to assure her, for fear they had hurt her feelings; “we know you can see us, and wouldn’t hurt us.”
Ariel said of course she wouldn’t hurt them. She loved them all, and only wished she could live with them and be a fairy herself.
All this while they had been steadily climbing the mountain, and now they were passing a waterfall. After passing over smooth rocks the water rippled and fell in a silver cascade, down, down into a deep, dark pool. The Elves told Ariel that some bad fairies lived on the edge of that pool, and they were always waiting for someone to fall over the precipice so they could push them into the pool and hold them under until they drowned. They pointed out a log bridge which spanned the water where it was shallow, and told her it was the entrance to Fairyland. They would get out as soon as the car stopped and cross it. The car stopped at a village, and, warning her not to be late in the morning, they said good-bye and scrambled out.
Ariel awoke early the next morning and dressed herself quietly, without disturbing her mother, who disliked being wakened early. She put on one of her best frocks, because she was going to a wedding. The sun was just peeping above the horizon when she left the house and ran off to find the Elves. When she reached the Falls she was careful not to go near the edge, for she remembered about the bad fairies who lived beneath them, so she crossed the log bridge, holding fast to the guide rope. The Elves were not in sight, but she heard their voices, and presently saw them standing beside a big water-wheel, which they told her had once been used by water-fairies to cut trees into timber to build houses for humans. But there was no time for her to see it now. They must hurry or they would be late.
They walked through the scrub until they came to a place where big trees met overhead, making a beautiful archway of leaves through which only the daintiest of sunbeams could enter and fill the place with soft light, while the path was carpeted with brown leaves, and the decorations were purple, white and yellow orchids, with ferns and staghorns. This was the Fairies’ church, where the wedding was to take place.
Quite a number of guests had already arrived. They looked alarmed when they saw Ariel, but the Elves explained who she was, and that she was a friend of theirs, and would like to be a Fairy herself. Just then their father and mother came in sight, and when they introduced Ariel to them Mrs. Elve turned quite pale, and looked very hard at her.
“Why,” she said, “she is just like my sister’s little daughter, who was stolen by the wicked Fairy, Enva, and has never been seen since.”
“Oh, Mother,” said Chat, “Ariel can speak to us, and is just like us, only she is so big. Do you think she can really be our cousin?”
“Perhaps. I do not know,” said his mother. “But you must be quick and get seats, for here comes the wedding party.”
Down the path came a Brownie, wearing a green uniform, a hat with a bird’s feather in it, and red stockings and green shoes. As he walked he blew on a snail’s shell, and everyone took their seats and became silent, for that was the signal that the bridegroom and bride were coming.
First came the Bishop and the lesser clergy, who were to perform the service. They had green robes, and the Bishop had a long necklace of white orchids round his neck. A little way behind them came Brownie Peat, walking between his father and mother. The bridegroom was dressed in a brown suit, and had a posy of orange-blossom orchid in his button-hole, and he carried a big hat with a long pheasant feather dangling from the brim. He was a very fine looking young fellow, but no one had much time to look at him, for now the bride was in sight, walking between her parents, and following them was a bevy of pretty maidens. Ariel held her breath for joy as she watched them, they were all so lovely, but the loveliest of all was Fairy Fernie. Her frock was made of the finest silver cobweb, and it was covered with dewdrops which sparkled every time a sunbeam touched them, making her seem like a sunbeam herself. Her bright hair was covered by a filmy veil of the same stuff, and it was held in place by a wreath of orange- blossom orchid, and sprays of the same lovely flowers made the bridal bouquet. The bridesmaids all wore pink, and they had long necklaces made from the wild cherry, and wore wreaths of the berries and their leaves in their hair.
Everyone said it was a beautiful wedding, and when the bride and bridegroom turned to walk down the aisle together all the birds in the scrub, who had gathered together for that purpose, burst into song, clear joyous notes of praise and thanksgiving, and everyone was happy and smiling, except poor little Ariel, who had enjoyed it all so very much, and now remembered that she was only a little girl, and must leave the dear Fairyland she loved and longed to share, and go home to breakfast.
ONE day Chit, Chat and Chut crept under a fence and found themselves in an Aerodrome. They did not know what it was, but when they saw what they thought was a huge bird struggling on the ground they were so curious that they went up quite close to it. It was making queer noises, and seemed anxious to get away. As they crept nearer they saw that it was not a bird at all, but an aeroplane. They had often seen one in the air, but had never been so close to one before. It was delightfully exciting to the two elder ones, but little Chut was frightened, and wanted to run away, especially when he saw a queer-looking man all wrapped up, with a funny helmet on his head and big goggles. He thought it was an ogre, and his brothers had to hold him or he would have quite spoilt all their fun.
The man stepped into the ’plane and sat down, and began to fasten himself in with straps. In a flash Chit and Chat, dragging poor Chut with them, were in beside him. There were no straps for them, but that did not worry them. They did not like being tied up, anyway; they never knew when they might want to run home. So they settled themselves as comfortably as possible at his feet. The man called something to the men on the ground. They loosened the ropes, there was a gliding movement, and the big machine began to rise from the ground. Up, up it went, and the three stowaways began to feel very uncomfortable, and to wish for the straps they had despised a moment before. Chut by this time was weeping loudly, but his brothers had no time to notice him; they were too busy holding him and themselves in. Most heartily they wished they were all safe on the ground, which by now seemed so awfully far away. It made them giddy just to look down upon it, so they looked away and clung tightly to the airman’s boots, which seemed to them the best thing to cling to, for humans were very queer people, who did very queer things, but always seemed to get safely back to their homes in time.
It was as well that they did cling tightly, for now very strange things began to happen. That awful, bird-like thing began to turn somersaults, to stand on its head, to spin, and perform other hair-raising movements, which by this time the three unfortunates were in no condition to appreciate. They felt sure they were going to die, especially when the airman suddenly jerked his feet so violently that he nearly knocked them out of the ’plane. It was dreadful! Nothing like it had happened to them before. They were quite resolved that if ever they got home again they would never, never do anything their parents would not approve of again. They would leave off being the sticky-beaks their mother was always telling them they were, and be good.
They were very cold, for now they were up among the clouds, and they had no warm coats or goggles to protect their eyes. They felt they would be frozen if they stayed where they were much longer. Something must be done. They were more used to the motion of the plane now, they must try and climb up and share the man’s coat. Chit crept up first, inch by inch, until he reached the man’s knee, then holding by one hand to the nice warm coat he reached down and caught hold of Chut. Chat pushed and he pulled, and at last the little fellow was beside him. Then Chat come up, and they worked themselves up a little higher and crept into a big pocket. Oh, how deliciously warm it was in there, away from the wind! Chut curled up at once and went to sleep, but the other two were anxious to know what was going to happen next.
And what happened next was even more marvellous and frightening than all that had happened before. The man, who had been very still and quiet, suddenly began to be very active. He unbuckled the straps which kept him in his seat, then he crept along one of the wings of the machine, and without a moment’s hesitation stepped into space. Two pairs of eyes peering over the edge of his pocket nearly popped out of their owners’ heads with fright. Now they knew they would never see their parents and home again. They had looked over the edge, and they knew that manland was miles and miles, beneath them, and you cannot fall miles and miles and not be killed.
But this was a day of surprises. The man did not fall. A curious thing which was strapped to his shoulders opened up till it was like the umbrellas humans carry to keep the sun or rain off them, and instead of falling like a stone they began to glide down ever so gently and slowly. Down, down they went until, after what seemed, hours, but really was only a short time, they landed in a grassy paddock, frightening some horses badly, and causing them to take to their heels and gallop wildly round and round, stopping sometimes with up-thrown heads to snort angrily, and view with astonishment nothing more dangerous than a man quietly walking across the paddock. Many miles away a big bird-like machine crashed to the ground, and lay broken and bent, but the elves did not know that. What was worrying them now was how they were going to get out of their hiding-place.
But it turned out to be quite simple, after all. After walking a while the man came to a railway station and got into a train. Before sitting down he threw his big coat, which he had been carrying over his arm for some time, on the seat. Quickly they crept out of the pocket, but remained hidden under its folds until the train stopped. When the man picked up the coat and left the train they skipped out after him, and found they were not very far from their home. So they hurried toward it as fast as they could go, firmly determined never, never to enter an aeroplane again as long as they lived.
ONCE every year the parents of Chit, Chat and Chut took them to spend a holiday in their old home in Fairyland. They looked forward to this with great joy, for they loved playing with the fairy children and the lovely toys, which were so different from those they had in Manland.
The time had now come to set out, and they were so excited that their mother could hardly get them to stand still while she got them ready for the journey. They did not take any luggage with them, because in Fairyland they would wear beautiful clothes made of flowers and leaves. They would take off their Manland clothes as soon as they got there, and only put them on again when they were leaving.
The Entrance to Fairyland which lay nearest to their home was a big cave which was hidden in the mountains, and they had to go quite a long way to get to it. They went part of the way by tram, and they did not have to pay any fare, because, of course, the conductor did not see them. There are only a very few people who can see Fairies, and there did not happen to be any of them on that tram. Of course, they had to be very careful not to be sat upon, or squashed by big feet. That was one of the things which made travelling in Manland so exciting. Mother Elve said it made her quite nervous, but Father only laughed, and said it would make the youngsters careful, and teach them smartness. They had some distance to walk when they got off the tram, but they did not mind that; fairies do not easily get tired.
When they reached the cave Father pulled aside some bushes which hid the entrance, and they stepped into a little room with a sandy floor and a low roof. There did not seem to be any way out but the one by which they had entered, but Father rapped on the opposite wall with a stone, and presently a tiny door opened and an elve stood before them. He wore a suit made of green leaves, and his stockings and cap were red. On his feet he wore shoes made of a kind of brown bark. He greeted them kindly and told them to follow him, and move carefully, for the light in the passage was dim to eyes which had just come from the strong sunlight of Manland. When they had gone some distance he opened a door, and they stepped straight into Fairyland. It was a big and very beautiful garden, and there were crowds of tiny people, all of them happy and smiling. There was not a cross or ugly face to be seen, because anyone having such a thing would not have been allowed to stay there. Bad, cross or ugly people were either sent to a distant part of the kingdom, where they could not spoil the happiness of others, or to Manland, where they had to remain until they became better. Not to be pleasant-faced, happy and smiling is a very big sin in Fairyland. Even the King and Queen and their family would be turned out if they became ugly, for an ugly face, the fairies know, is the sure sign, of an ugly soul. It does not matter how plain a face is, it is never ugly as long as the soul which belongs to it is a good one.
The father of Chit, Chat and Chut was Captain of the police, who are sent to Manland to guard the good fairies and keep the bad ones from doing harm.
Everyone except the very old, or the very young, and the injured has to do some work in Fairyland, otherwise they get nothing to eat. Even visitors must do their bit towards keeping the garden tidy, and everyone happy. The old must be cared for, the children taught, and the injured nursed. There are no sick people except those who have had an accident, because the things which cause sickness are not permitted to enter the garden.
The morning after the Elves’ arrival the three brothers were told to sweep leaves from some paths. It was not hard work, but it had to be done properly before the Head Gardener said they could go and play. As soon as they were free they raced off to the Playground, where they found some of their chums who had finished their morning task, and they had great fun until the school bell called them to the big tree where school was held. There were rows of big and little toadstools for desks and seats, pink ones for girls, blue for boys, and green for the teachers. Visiting children went to school with the others, and they did not mind, school was so interesting. They learnt so much about the world they lived in, the birds and animals and flowers, and other nice things.
When it was time for meals everyone went to a part of the garden called the Dining Hall, which was in charge of a rather fat fairy named Aida, who had a staff of maids under her. It was their business to see that everyone had food, that nothing was wasted, and that the little Elves and Fairies did not eat things which were not good for them. There was no cooking to be done, for all the food grew in the form of gigantic mushrooms. Some of these were very beautiful in shape and colour, some had delicious flavours like passion fruit, pineapple, ice cream or chocolate. Others were like meat and vegetables. or fish, or cheese. Whatever was asked for was almost sure to be growing in the garden which surrounded the Dining Hall, and as fast as the maids gathered food from a mushroom more came, so that there was always plenty to eat. The tables and chairs were toadstools of various colours, the plates were leaves, and cups and mugs were flowers. Knives and forks and spoons were made from wood, all beautifully polished. The most beautiful flowers decorated the tables, and everything was so beautifully served that eating a meal was like a Dream-Come-True. Water to drink was got from a fountain which threw a spray high into the air, from where it fell into a crystal bowl, where it sparkled and glistened in the sunshine like myriads of beautiful jewels.
Chit and his brothers loved every moment of their holiday, and the other children of Fairyland never tired of asking them questions about their adventures in Manland. They thought it must be a wonderful place, and only wished they had the luck to be there themselves. Trams, trains, motor cars and aeroplanes must be heaps more exciting than birds and butterflies and things of that kind, they said, and the visitors said, rather; riding around on those things was a game for kids, they were glad they were going back where there were real things, and a fellow could get a thrill with his fun. But all the same they were just a little bit sad when the time came to say good-bye to their old home for another year.
Project Gutenberg Australia