Flower Fables by Louisa May Alcott (read online)


ONCE upon a time, two little Fairies went out into the world, to
seek their fortune. Thistledown was as gay and gallant a little Elf
as ever spread a wing. His purple mantle, and doublet of green, were
embroidered with the brightest threads, and the plume in his cap
came always from the wing of the gayest butterfly.

But he was not loved in Fairy-Land, for, like the flower whose
name and colors he wore, though fair to look upon, many were the
little thorns of cruelty and selfishness that lay concealed by his
gay mantle. Many a gentle flower and harmless bird died by his hand,
for he cared for himself alone, and whatever gave him pleasure must
be his, though happy hearts were rendered sad, and peaceful homes

Such was Thistledown; but far different was his little friend,
Lily-Bell. Kind, compassionate, and loving, wherever her gentle face
was seen, joy and gratitude were found; no suffering flower or insect,
that did not love and bless the kindly Fairy; and thus all Elf-Land
looked upon her as a friend.

Nor did this make her vain and heedless of others; she humbly dwelt
among them, seeking to do all the good she might; and many a houseless
bird and hungry insect that Thistledown had harmed did she feed and
shelter, and in return no evil could befall her, for so many
friends were all about her, seeking to repay her tenderness and love
by their watchful care.

She would not now have left Fairy-Land, but to help and counsel her
wild companion, Thistledown, who, discontented with his quiet home,
WOULD seek his fortune in the great world, and she feared he would
suffer from his own faults for others would not always be as gentle
and forgiving as his kindred. So the kind little Fairy left her home
and friends to go with him; and thus, side by side, they flew beneath
the bright summer sky.

On and on, over hill and valley, they went, chasing the gay
butterflies, or listening to the bees, as they flew from flower to
flower like busy little housewives, singing as they worked; till
at last they reached a pleasant garden, filled with flowers and green,
old trees.

“See,” cried Thistledown, “what a lovely home is here; let us rest
among the cool leaves, and hear the flowers sing, for I am sadly tired
and hungry.”

So into the quiet garden they went, and the winds gayly welcomed them,
while the flowers nodded on their stems, offering their bright leaves
for the Elves to rest upon, and fresh, sweet honey to refresh them.

“Now, dear Thistle, do not harm these friendly blossoms,” said
Lily-Bell; “see how kindly they spread their leaves, and offer us
their dew. It would be very wrong in you to repay their care with
cruelty and pain. You will be tender for my sake, dear Thistle.”

Then she went among the flowers, and they bent lovingly before her,
and laid their soft leaves against her little face, that she might see
how glad they were to welcome one so good and gentle, and kindly
offered their dew and honey to the weary little Fairy, who sat among
their fragrant petals and looked smilingly on the happy blossoms, who,
with their soft, low voices, sang her to sleep.

While Lily-Bell lay dreaming among the rose-leaves, Thistledown went
wandering through the garden. First he robbed the bees of their
honey, and rudely shook the little flowers, that he might get the dew
they had gathered to bathe their buds in. Then he chased the bright
winged flies, and wounded them with the sharp thorn he carried for a
sword; he broke the spider’s shining webs, lamed the birds, and soon
wherever he passed lay wounded insects and drooping flowers; while
the winds carried the tidings over the garden, and bird and blossom
looked upon him as an evil spirit, and fled away or closed their
leaves, lest he should harm them.

Thus he went, leaving sorrow and pain behind him, till he came to the
roses where Lily-Bell lay sleeping. There, weary of his cruel sport,
he stayed to rest beneath a graceful rose-tree, where grew one
blooming flower and a tiny bud.

“Why are you so slow in blooming, little one? You are too old to be
rocked in your green cradle longer, and should be out among your
sister flowers,” said Thistle, as he lay idly in the shadow of the

“My little bud is not yet strong enough to venture forth,” replied the
rose, as she bent fondly over it; “the sunlight and the rain would
blight her tender form, were she to blossom now, but soon she will be
fit to bear them; till then she is content to rest beside her mother,
and to wait.”

“You silly flower,” said Thistledown, “see how quickly I will make you
bloom! your waiting is all useless.” And speaking thus, he pulled
rudely apart the folded leaves, and laid them open to the sun and air;
while the rose mother implored the cruel Fairy to leave her little bud

“It is my first, my only one,” said she, “and I have watched over it
with such care, hoping it would soon bloom beside me; and now you have
destroyed it. How could you harm the little helpless one, that never
did aught to injure you?” And while her tears fell like summer rain,
she drooped in grief above the little bud, and sadly watched it fading
in the sunlight; but Thistledown, heedless of the sorrow he had given,
spread his wings and flew away.

Soon the sky grew dark, and heavy drops began to fall. Then Thistle
hastened to the lily, for her cup was deep, and the white leaves
fell like curtains over the fragrant bed; he was a dainty little Elf,
and could not sleep among the clovers and bright buttercups. But
when he asked the flower to unfold her leaves and take him in, she
turned her pale, soft face away, and answered sadly, “I must shield my
little drooping sisters whom you have harmed, and cannot let you in.”

Then Thistledown was very angry, and turned to find shelter among the
stately roses; but they showed their sharp thorns, and, while their
rosy faces glowed with anger, told him to begone, or they would repay
him for the wrong he had done their gentle kindred.

He would have stayed to harm them, but the rain fell fast, and he
hurried away, saying, “The tulips will take me in, for I have praised
their beauty, and they are vain and foolish flowers.”

But when he came, all wet and cold, praying for shelter among their
thick leaves, they only laughed and said scornfully, “We know you,
and will not let you in, for you are false and cruel, and will
only bring us sorrow. You need not come to us for another mantle,
when the rain has spoilt your fine one; and do not stay here, or
we will do you harm.”

Then they waved their broad leaves stormily, and scattered the heavy
drops on his dripping garments.

“Now must I go to the humble daisies and blue violets,” said Thistle,
“they will be glad to let in so fine a Fairy, and I shall die in
this cold wind and rain.”

So away he flew, as fast as his heavy wings would bear him, to the
daisies; but they nodded their heads wisely, and closed their leaves
yet closer, saying sharply,–

“Go away with yourself, and do not imagine we will open our leaves
to you, and spoil our seeds by letting in the rain. It serves you
rightly; to gain our love and confidence, and repay it by such
cruelty! You will find no shelter here for one whose careless hand
wounded our little friend Violet, and broke the truest heart that ever
beat in a flower’s breast. We are very angry with you, wicked Fairy;
go away and hide yourself.”

“Ah,” cried the shivering Elf, “where can I find shelter? I will go
to the violets: they will forgive and take me in.”

But the daisies had spoken truly; the gentle little flower was dead,
and her blue-eyed sisters were weeping bitterly over her faded leaves.

“Now I have no friends,” sighed poor Thistledown, “and must die of
cold. Ah, if I had but minded Lily-Bell, I might now be dreaming
beneath some flower’s leaves.”

“Others can forgive and love, beside Lily-Bell and Violet,” said
a faint, sweet voice; “I have no little bud to shelter now, and you
can enter here.” It was the rose mother that spoke, and Thistle saw
how pale the bright leaves had grown, and how the slender stem was
bowed. Grieved, ashamed, and wondering at the flower’s forgiving
words, he laid his weary head on the bosom he had filled with sorrow,
and the fragrant leaves were folded carefully about him.

But he could find no rest. The rose strove to comfort him; but when
she fancied he was sleeping, thoughts of her lost bud stole in, and
the little heart beat so sadly where he lay, that no sleep came; while
the bitter tears he had caused to flow fell more coldly on him than
the rain without. Then he heard the other flowers whispering among
themselves of his cruelty, and the sorrow he had brought to their
happy home; and many wondered how the rose, who had suffered most,
could yet forgive and shelter him.

“Never could I forgive one who had robbed me of my children. I could
bow my head and die, but could give no happiness to one who had taken
all my own,” said Hyacinth, bending fondly over the little ones that
blossomed by her side.

“Dear Violet is not the only one who will leave us,” sobbed little
Mignonette; “the rose mother will fade like her little bud, and we
shall lose our gentlest teacher. Her last lesson is forgiveness;
let us show our love for her, and the gentle stranger Lily-Bell,
by allowing no unkind word or thought of him who has brought us all
this grief.”

The angry words were hushed, and through the long night nothing was
heard but the dropping of the rain, and the low sighs of the rose.

Soon the sunlight came again, and with it Lily-Bell seeking for
Thistledown; but he was ashamed, and stole away.

When the flowers told their sorrow to kind-hearted Lily-Bell, she wept
bitterly at the pain her friend had given, and with loving words
strove to comfort those whom he had grieved; with gentle care she
healed the wounded birds, and watched above the flowers he had harmed,
bringing each day dew and sunlight to refresh and strengthen, till all
were well again; and though sorrowing for their dead friends, still
they forgave Thistle for the sake of her who had done so much for
them. Thus, erelong, buds fairer than that she had lost lay on the
rose mother’s breast, and for all she had suffered she was well repaid
by the love of Lily-Bell and her sister flowers.

And when bird, bee, and blossom were strong and fair again, the gentle
Fairy said farewell, and flew away to seek her friend, leaving behind
many grateful hearts, who owed their joy and life to her.

Meanwhile, over hill and dale went Thistledown, and for a time was
kind and gentle to every living thing. He missed sadly the little
friend who had left her happy home to watch over him, but he was
too proud to own his fault, and so went on, hoping she would find him.

One day he fell asleep, and when he woke the sun had set, and the dew
began to fall; the flower-cups were closed, and he had nowhere to go,
till a friendly little bee, belated by his heavy load of honey, bid
the weary Fairy come with him.

“Help me to bear my honey home, and you can stay with us tonight,”
he kindly said.

So Thistle gladly went with him, and soon they came to a pleasant
garden, where among the fairest flowers stood the hive, covered with
vines and overhung with blossoming trees. Glow-worms stood at the
door to light them home, and as they passed in, the Fairy thought how
charming it must be to dwell in such a lovely place. The floor of wax
was pure and white as marble, while the walls were formed of golden
honey-comb, and the air was fragrant with the breath of flowers.

“You cannot see our Queen to-night,” said the little bee, “but
I will show you to a bed where you can rest.”

And he led the tired Fairy to a little cell, where on a bed of
flower-leaves he folded his wings and fell asleep.

As the first ray of sunlight stole in, he was awakened by sweet music.
It was the morning song of the bees.

“Awake! awake! for the earliest gleam
Of golden sunlight shines
On the rippling waves, that brightly flow
Beneath the flowering vines.
Awake! awake! for the low, sweet chant
Of the wild-birds’ morning hymn
Comes floating by on the fragrant air,
Through the forest cool and dim;
Then spread each wing,
And work, and sing,
Through the long, bright sunny hours;
O’er the pleasant earth
We journey forth,
For a day among the flowers.

“Awake! awake! for the summer wind
Hath bidden the blossoms unclose,
Hath opened the violet’s soft blue eye,
And wakened the sleeping rose.
And lightly they wave on their slender stems
Fragrant, and fresh, and fair,
Waiting for us, as we singing come
To gather our honey-dew there.
Then spread each wing,
And work, and sing,
Through the long, bright sunny hours;
O’er the pleasant earth
We journey forth,
For a day among the flowers!”

Soon his friend came to bid him rise, as the Queen desired to speak
with him. So, with his purple mantle thrown gracefully over his
shoulder, and his little cap held respectfully in his hand, he
followed Nimble-Wing to the great hall, where the Queen was being
served by her little pages. Some bore her fresh dew and honey, some
fanned her with fragrant flower-leaves, while others scattered the
sweetest perfumes on the air.

“Little Fairy,” said the Queen, “you are welcome to my palace; and
we will gladly have you stay with us, if you will obey our laws.
We do not spend the pleasant summer days in idleness and pleasure, but
each one labors for the happiness and good of all. If our home is
beautiful, we have made it so by industry; and here, as one large,
loving family, we dwell; no sorrow, care, or discord can enter in,
while all obey the voice of her who seeks to be a wise and gentle
Queen to them. If you will stay with us, we will teach you many
things. Order, patience, industry, who can teach so well as they
who are the emblems of these virtues?

“Our laws are few and simple. You must each day gather your share of
honey, see that your cell is sweet and fresh, as you yourself must be;
rise with the sun, and with him to sleep. You must harm no flower in
doing your work, nor take more than your just share of honey; for they
so kindly give us food, it were most cruel to treat them with aught
save gentleness and gratitude. Now will you stay with us, and learn
what even mortals seek to know, that labor brings true happiness?”

And Thistle said he would stay and dwell with them; for he was tired
of wandering alone, and thought he might live here till Lily-Bell
should come, or till he was weary of the kind-hearted bees. Then they
took away his gay garments, and dressed him like themselves, in the
black velvet cloak with golden bands across his breast.

“Now come with us,” they said. So forth into the green fields
they went, and made their breakfast among the dewy flowers; and then
till the sun set they flew from bud to blossom, singing as they went;
and Thistle for a while was happier than when breaking flowers and
harming gentle birds.

But he soon grew tired of working all day in the sun, and longed to be
free again. He could find no pleasure with the industrious bees, and
sighed to be away with his idle friends, the butterflies; so while the
others worked he slept or played, and then, in haste to get his share,
he tore the flowers, and took all they had saved for their own food.
Nor was this all; he told such pleasant tales of the life he led
before he came to live with them, that many grew unhappy and
discontented, and they who had before wished no greater joy than
the love and praise of their kind Queen, now disobeyed and blamed her
for all she had done for them.

Long she bore with their unkind words and deeds; and when at length
she found it was the ungrateful Fairy who had wrought this trouble in
her quiet kingdom, she strove, with sweet, forgiving words, to show
him all the wrong he had done; but he would not listen, and still went
on destroying the happiness of those who had done so much for him.

Then, when she saw that no kindness could touch his heart, she said:–

“Thistledown, we took you in, a friendless stranger, fed and clothed
you, and made our home as pleasant to you as we could; and in return
for all our care, you have brought discontent and trouble to my
subjects, grief and care to me. I cannot let my peaceful kingdom
be disturbed by you; therefore go and seek another home. You may find
other friends, but none will love you more than we, had you been
worthy of it; so farewell.” And the doors of the once happy home
he had disturbed were closed behind him.

Then he was very angry, and determined to bring some great sorrow on
the good Queen. So he sought out the idle, wilful bees, whom he had
first made discontented, bidding them follow him, and win the honey
the Queen had stored up for the winter.

“Let us feast and make merry in the pleasant summer-time,” said
Thistle; “winter is far off, why should we waste these lovely days,
toiling to lay up the food we might enjoy now. Come, we will take
what we have made, and think no more of what the Queen has said.”

So while the industrious bees were out among the flowers, he led
the drones to the hive, and took possession of the honey, destroying
and laying waste the home of the kind bees; then, fearing that
in their grief and anger they might harm him, Thistle flew away to
seek new friends.

After many wanderings, he came at length to a great forest, and here
beside a still lake he stayed to rest. Delicate wood-flowers grew near
him in the deep green moss, with drooping heads, as if they listened
to the soft wind singing among the pines. Bright-eyed birds peeped
at him from their nests, and many-colored insects danced above the
cool, still lake.

“This is a pleasant place,” said Thistle; “it shall be my home for a
while. Come hither, blue dragon-fly, I would gladly make a friend of
you, for I am all alone.”

The dragon-fly folded his shining wings beside the Elf, listened to
the tale he told, promised to befriend the lonely one, and strove
to make the forest a happy home to him.

So here dwelt Thistle, and many kind friends gathered round him,
for he spoke gently to them, and they knew nothing of the cruel deeds
he had done; and for a while he was happy and content. But at length
he grew weary of the gentle birds, and wild-flowers, and sought new
pleasure in destroying the beauty he was tired of; and soon the
friends who had so kindly welcomed him looked upon him as an evil
spirit, and shrunk away as he approached.

At length his friend the dragon-fly besought him to leave the quiet
home he had disturbed. Then Thistle was very angry, and while the
dragon-fly was sleeping among the flowers that hung over the lake, he
led an ugly spider to the spot, and bade him weave his nets about the
sleeping insect, and bind him fast. The cruel spider gladly obeyed
the ungrateful Fairy; and soon the poor fly could move neither leg nor
wing. Then Thistle flew away through the wood, leaving sorrow and
trouble behind him.

He had not journeyed far before he grew weary, and lay down to rest.
Long he slept, and when he awoke, and tried to rise, his hands and
wings were bound; while beside him stood two strange little figures,
with dark faces and garments, that rustled like withered leaves; who
cried to him, as he struggled to get free,–

“Lie still, you naughty Fairy, you are in the Brownies’ power, and
shall be well punished for your cruelty ere we let you go.”

So poor Thistle lay sorrowfully, wondering what would come of it,
and wishing Lily-Bell would come to help and comfort him; but he had
left her, and she could not help him now.

Soon a troop of Brownies came rustling through the air, and gathered
round him, while one who wore an acorn-cup on his head, and was their
King, said, as he stood beside the trembling Fairy,–

“You have done many cruel things, and caused much sorrow to happy
hearts; now you are in my power, and I shall keep you prisoner
till you have repented. You cannot dwell on the earth without harming
the fair things given you to enjoy, so you shall live alone in
solitude and darkness, till you have learned to find happiness in
gentle deeds, and forget yourself in giving joy to others. When you
have learned this, I will set you free.”

Then the Brownies bore him to a high, dark rock, and, entering a
little door, led him to a small cell, dimly lighted by a crevice
through which came a single gleam of sunlight; and there, through
long, long days, poor Thistle sat alone, and gazed with wistful eyes
at the little opening, longing to be out on the green earth. No one
came to him, but the silent Brownies who brought his daily food; and
with bitter tears he wept for Lily-Bell, mourning his cruelty and
selfishness, seeking to do some kindly deed that might atone for his

A little vine that grew outside his prison rock came creeping up,
and looked in through the crevice, as if to cheer the lonely Fairy,
who welcomed it most gladly, and daily sprinkled its soft leaves
with his small share of water, that the little vine might live,
even if it darkened more and more his dim cell.

The watchful Brownies saw this kind deed, and brought him fresh
flowers, and many things, which Thistle gratefully received, though
he never knew it was his kindness to the vine that gained for him
these pleasures.

Thus did poor Thistle strive to be more gentle and unselfish, and
grew daily happier and better.

Now while Thistledown was a captive in the lonely cell, Lily-Bell was
seeking him far and wide, and sadly traced him by the sorrowing hearts
he had left behind.

She healed the drooping flowers, cheered the Queen Bee’s grief,
brought back her discontented subjects, restored the home to peace
and order, and left them blessing her.

Thus she journeyed on, till she reached the forest where Thistledown
had lost his freedom. She unbound the starving dragon-fly, and tended
the wounded birds; but though all learned to love her, none could tell
where the Brownies had borne her friend, till a little wind came
whispering by, and told her that a sweet voice had been heard, singing
Fairy songs, deep in a moss-grown rock.

Then Lily-Bell went seeking through the forest, listening for the
voice. Long she looked and listened in vain; when one day, as she was
wandering through a lonely dell, she heard a faint, low sound of
music, and soon a distant voice mournfully singing,–

“Bright shines the summer sun,
Soft is the summer air;
Gayly the wood-birds sing,
Flowers are blooming fair.

“But, deep in the dark, cold rock,
Sadly I dwell,
Longing for thee, dear friend,
Lily-Bell! Lily-Bell!”

“Thistle, dear Thistle, where are you?” joyfully cried Lily-Bell,
as she flew from rock to rock. But the voice was still, and she
would have looked in vain, had she not seen a little vine, whose green
leaves fluttering to and fro seemed beckoning her to come; and as she
stood among its flowers she sang,–

“Through sunlight and summer air
I have sought for thee long,
Guided by birds and flowers,
And now by thy song.

“Thistledown! Thistledown!
O’er hill and dell
Hither to comfort thee
Comes Lily-Bell.”

Then from the vine-leaves two little arms were stretched out to her,
and Thistledown was found. So Lily-Bell made her home in the shadow
of the vine, and brought such joy to Thistle, that his lonely cell
seemed pleasanter to him than all the world beside; and he grew daily
more like his gentle friend. But it did not last long, for one day
she did not come. He watched and waited long, for the little face
that used to peep smiling in through the vine-leaves. He called and
beckoned through the narrow opening, but no Lily-Bell answered; and
he wept sadly as he thought of all she had done for him, and that now
he could not go to seek and help her, for he had lost his freedom
by his own cruel and wicked deeds.

At last he besought the silent Brownie earnestly to tell him
whither she had gone.

“O let me go to her,” prayed Thistle; “if she is in sorrow, I will
comfort her, and show my gratitude for all she has done for me: dear
Brownie, set me free, and when she is found I will come and be your
prisoner again. I will bear and suffer any danger for her sake.”

“Lily-Bell is safe,” replied the Brownie; “come, you shall learn
the trial that awaits you.”

Then he led the wondering Fairy from his prison, to a group of tall,
drooping ferns, beneath whose shade a large white lily had been
placed, forming a little tent, within which, on a couch of thick green
moss, lay Lily-Bell in a deep sleep; the sunlight stole softly in,
and all was cool and still.

“You cannot wake her,” said the Brownie, as Thistle folded his arms
tenderly about her. “It is a magic slumber, and she will not wake
till you shall bring hither gifts from the Earth, Air, and Water
Spirits. ‘T is a long and weary task, for you have made no friends
to help you, and will have to seek for them alone. This is the trial
we shall give you; and if your love for Lily-Bell be strong enough
to keep you from all cruelty and selfishness, and make you kind and
loving as you should be, she will awake to welcome you, and love you
still more fondly than before.”

Then Thistle, with a last look on the little friend he loved so well,
set forth alone to his long task.

The home of the Earth Spirits was the first to find, and no one
would tell him where to look. So far and wide he wandered, through
gloomy forests and among lonely hills, with none to cheer him when
sad and weary, none to guide him on his way.

On he went, thinking of Lily-Bell, and for her sake bearing all;
for in his quiet prison many gentle feelings and kindly thoughts had
sprung up in his heart, and he now strove to be friends with all, and
win for himself the love and confidence of those whom once he sought
to harm and cruelly destroy.

But few believed him; for they remembered his false promises and
evil deeds, and would not trust him now; so poor Thistle found few
to love or care for him.

Long he wandered, and carefully he sought; but could not find the
Earth Spirits’ home. And when at length he reached the pleasant
garden where he and Lily-Bell first parted, he said within himself,–

“Here I will stay awhile, and try to win by kindly deeds the flowers’
forgiveness for the pain and sorrow I brought them long ago; and they
may learn to love and trust me. So, even if I never find the Spirits,
I shall be worthier of Lily-Bell’s affection if I strive to atone for
the wrong I have done.”

Then he went among the flowers, but they closed their leaves, and
shrank away, trembling with fear; while the birds fled to hide
among the leaves as he passed.

This grieved poor Thistle, and he longed to tell them how changed
he had become; but they would not listen. So he tried to show, by
quiet deeds of kindness, that he meant no harm to them; and soon
the kind-hearted birds pitied the lonely Fairy, and when he came near
sang cheering songs, and dropped ripe berries in his path, for he
no longer broke their eggs, or hurt their little ones.

And when the flowers saw this, and found the once cruel Elf now
watering and tending little buds, feeding hungry insects, and
helping the busy ants to bear their heavy loads, they shared the pity
of the birds, and longed to trust him; but they dared not yet.

He came one day, while wandering through the garden, to the little
rose he had once harmed so sadly. Many buds now bloomed beside her,
and her soft face glowed with motherly pride, as she bent fondly over
them. But when Thistle came, he saw with sorrow how she bade them
close their green curtains, and conceal themselves beneath the leaves,
for there was danger near; and, drooping still more closely over them,
she seemed to wait with trembling fear the cruel Fairy’s coming.

But no rude hand tore her little ones away, no unkind words were
spoken; but a soft shower of dew fell lightly on them, and Thistle,
bending tenderly above them, said,–

“Dear flower, forgive the sorrow I once brought you, and trust me now
for Lily-Bell’s sake. Her gentleness has changed my cruelty to
kindness, and I would gladly repay all for the harm I have done;
but none will love and trust me now.”

Then the little rose looked up, and while the dew-drops shone
like happy tears upon her leaves, she said,–

“I WILL love and trust you, Thistle, for you are indeed much
changed. Make your home among us, and my sister flowers will soon
learn to love you as you deserve. Not for sweet Lily-Bell’s sake,
but for your own, will I become your friend; for you are kind and
gentle now, and worthy of our love. Look up, my little ones, there is
no danger near; look up, and welcome Thistle to our home.”

Then the little buds raised their rosy faces, danced again upon
their stems, and nodded kindly at Thistle, who smiled on them through
happy tears, and kissed the sweet, forgiving rose, who loved and
trusted him when most forlorn and friendless.

But the other flowers wondered among themselves, and Hyacinth said,–

“If Rose-Leaf is his friend, surely we may be; yet still I fear he may
soon grow weary of this gentleness, and be again the wicked Fairy he
once was, and we shall suffer for our kindness to him now.”

“Ah, do not doubt him!” cried warm-hearted little Mignonette; “surely
some good spirit has changed the wicked Thistle into this good little
Elf. See how tenderly he lifts aside the leaves that overshadow pale
Harebell, and listen now how softly he sings as he rocks little
Eglantine to sleep. He has done many friendly things, though none
save Rose-Leaf has been kind to him, and he is very sad. Last night
when I awoke to draw my curtains closer, he sat weeping in the
moonlight, so bitterly, I longed to speak a kindly word to him.
Dear sisters, let us trust him.”

And they all said little Mignonette was right; and, spreading wide
their leaves, they bade him come, and drink their dew, and lie among
the fragrant petals, striving to cheer his sorrow. Thistle told them
all, and, after much whispering together, they said,–

“Yes, we will help you to find the Earth Spirits, for you are striving
to be good, and for love of Lily-Bell we will do much for you.”

So they called a little bright-eyed mole, and said, “Downy-Back,
we have given you a pleasant home among our roots, and you are
a grateful little friend; so will you guide dear Thistle to the
Earth Spirits’ home?”

Downy-Back said, “Yes,” and Thistle, thanking the kindly flowers,
followed his little guide, through long, dark galleries, deeper
and deeper into the ground; while a glow-worm flew before to light
the way. On they went, and after a while, reached a path lit up by
bright jewels hung upon the walls. Here Downy-Back, and Glimmer,
the glow-worm, left him, saying,–

“We can lead you no farther; you must now go on alone, and the music
of the Spirits will guide you to their home.”

Then they went quickly up the winding path, and Thistle, guided
by the sweet music, went on alone.

He soon reached a lovely spot, whose golden halls were bright
with jewels, which sparkled brightly, and threw many-colored shadows
on the shining garments of the little Spirits, who danced below
to the melody of soft, silvery bells.

Long Thistle stood watching the brilliant forms that flashed and
sparkled round him; but he missed the flowers and the sunlight,
and rejoiced that he was not an Earth Spirit.

At last they spied him out, and, gladly welcoming him, bade him join
in their dance. But Thistledown was too sad for that, and when he
told them all his story they no longer urged, but sought to comfort
him; and one whom they called little Sparkle (for her crown and robe
shone with the brightest diamonds), said: “You will have to work
for us, ere you can win a gift to show the Brownies; do you see
those golden bells that make such music, as we wave them to and fro?
We worked long and hard ere they were won, and you can win one of
those, if you will do the task we give you.”

And Thistle said, “No task will be too hard for me to do for dear
Lily-Bell’s sake.”

Then they led him to a strange, dark place, lit up with torches;
where troops of Spirits flew busily to and fro, among damp rocks, and
through dark galleries that led far down into the earth. “What do
they here?” asked Thistle.

“I will tell,” replied little Sparkle, “for I once worked here
myself. Some of them watch above the flower-roots, and keep them
fresh and strong; others gather the clear drops that trickle from the
damp rocks, and form a little spring, which, growing ever larger,
rises to the light above, and gushes forth in some green field or
lonely forest; where the wild-birds come to drink, and wood-flowers
spread their thirsty leaves above the clear, cool waves, as they go
dancing away, carrying joy and freshness wherever they go. Others
shape the bright jewels into lovely forms, and make the good-luck
pennies which we give to mortals whom we love. And here you must toil
till the golden flower is won.”

Then Thistle went among the Spirits, and joined in their tasks;
he tended the flower-roots, gathered the water-drops, and formed the
good-luck pennies. Long and hard he worked, and was often sad and
weary, often tempted by unkind and selfish thoughts; but he thought
of Lily-Bell, and strove to be kind and loving as she had been; and
soon the Spirits learned to love the patient Fairy, who had left his
home to toil among them for the sake of his gentle friend.

At length came little Sparkle to him, saying, “You have done enough;
come now, and dance and feast with us, for the golden flower is won.”

But Thistle could not stay, for half his task was not yet done; and
he longed for sunlight and Lily-Bell. So, taking a kind farewell,
he hastened through the torch-lit path up to the light again; and,
spreading his wings, flew over hill and dale till he reached the
forest where Lily-Bell lay sleeping.

It was early morning, and the rosy light shone brightly through the
lily-leaves upon her, as Thistle entered, and laid his first gift
at the Brownie King’s feet.

“You have done well,” said he, “we hear good tidings of you from
bird and flower, and you are truly seeking to repair the evil
you have done. Take now one look at your little friend, and then
go forth to seek from the Air Spirits your second gift.”

Then Thistle said farewell again to Lily-Bell, and flew far and wide
among the clouds, seeking the Air Spirits; but though he wandered till
his weary wings could bear him no longer, it was in vain. So, faint
and sad, he lay down to rest on a broad vine-leaf, that fluttered
gently in the wind; and as he lay, he saw beneath him the home
of the kind bees whom he had so disturbed, and Lily-Bell had helped
and comforted.

“I will seek to win their pardon, and show them that I am no longer
the cruel Fairy who so harmed them,” thought Thistle, “and when they
become again my friends, I will ask their help to find the Air
Spirits; and if I deserve it, they will gladly aid me on my way.”

So he flew down into the field below, and hastened busily from
flower to flower, till he had filled a tiny blue-bell with sweet,
fresh honey. Then he stole softly to the hive, and, placing it near
the door, concealed himself to watch. Soon his friend Nimble-Wing
came flying home, and when he spied the little cup, he hummed with
joy, and called his companions around him.

“Surely, some good Elf has placed it here for us,” said they; “let us
bear it to our Queen; it is so fresh and fragrant it will be a fit
gift for her”; and they joyfully took it in, little dreaming who had
placed it there.

So each day Thistle filled a flower-cup, and laid it at the door;
and each day the bees wondered more and more, for many strange things
happened. The field-flowers told of the good spirit who watched
above them, and the birds sang of the same kind little Elf bringing
soft moss for their nests, and food for their hungry young ones;
while all around the hive had grown fairer since the Fairy came.

But the bees never saw him, for he feared he had not yet done enough
to win their forgiveness and friendship; so he lived alone among the
vines, daily bringing them honey, and doing some kindly action.

At length, as he lay sleeping in a flower-bell, a little bee came
wandering by, and knew him for the wicked Thistle; so he called his
friends, and, as they flew murmuring around him, he awoke.

“What shall we do to you, naughty Elf?” said they. “You are in
our power, and we will sting you if you are not still.”

“Let us close the flower-leaves around him and leave him here
to starve,” cried one, who had not yet forgotten all the sorrow
Thistle had caused them long ago.

“No, no, that were very cruel, dear Buzz,” said little Hum; “let us
take him to our Queen, and she will tell us how to show our anger for
the wicked deeds he did. See how bitterly he weeps; be kind to him,
he will not harm us more.”

“You good little Hum!” cried a kind-hearted robin who had hopped near
to listen to the bees. “Dear friends, do you not know that this is
the good Fairy who has dwelt so quietly among us, watching over bird
and blossom, giving joy to all he helps? It is HE who brings the
honey-cup each day to you, and then goes silently away, that you may
never know who works so faithfully for you. Be kind to him, for if
he has done wrong, he has repented of it, as you may see.”

“Can this be naughty Thistle?” said Nimble-Wing.

“Yes, it is I,” said Thistle, “but no longer cruel and unkind. I have
tried to win your love by patient industry. Ah, trust me now, and you
shall see I am not naughty Thistle any more.”

Then the wondering bees led him to their Queen, and when he had told
his tale, and begged their forgiveness, it was gladly given; and
all strove to show him that he was loved and trusted. Then he asked
if they could tell him where the Air Spirits dwelt, for he must not
forget dear Lily-Bell; and to his great joy the Queen said, “Yes,”
and bade little Hum guide Thistle to Cloud-Land.

Little Hum joyfully obeyed; and Thistle followed him, as he flew
higher and higher among the soft clouds, till in the distance they saw
a radiant light.

“There is their home, and I must leave you now, dear Thistle,” said
the little bee; and, bidding him farewell, he flew singing back; while
Thistle, following the light, soon found himself in the Air Spirits’

The sky was gold and purple like an autumn sunset, and long walls of
brilliant clouds lay round him. A rosy light shone through the silver
mist, on gleaming columns and the rainbow roof; soft, fragrant winds
went whispering by, and airy little forms were flitting to and fro.

Long Thistle wondered at the beauty round him; and then he went
among the shining Spirits, told his tale, and asked a gift.

But they answered like the Earth Spirits. “You must serve us first,
and then we will gladly give you a robe of sunlight like our own.”

And then they told him how they wafted flower-seeds over the earth,
to beautify and brighten lonely spots; how they watched above the
blossoms by day, and scattered dews at night, brought sunlight
into darkened places, and soft winds to refresh and cheer.

“These are the things we do,” said they, “and you must aid us
for a time.”

And Thistle gladly went with the lovely Spirits; by day he joined
the sunlight and the breeze in their silent work; by night, with
Star-Light and her sister spirits, he flew over the moon-lit earth,
dropping cool dew upon the folded flowers, and bringing happy dreams
to sleeping mortals. Many a kind deed was done, many a gentle word
was spoken; and each day lighter grew his heart, and stronger his
power of giving joy to others.

At length Star-Light bade him work no more, and gladly gave him
the gift he had won. Then his second task was done, and he flew gayly
back to the green earth and slumbering Lily-Bell.

The silvery moonlight shone upon her, as he came to give his second
gift; and the Brownie spoke more kindly than before.

“One more trial, Thistle, and she will awake. Go bravely forth and
win your last and hardest gift.”

Then with a light heart Thistle journeyed away to the brooks and
rivers, seeking the Water Spirits. But he looked in vain; till,
wandering through the forest where the Brownies took him captive,
he stopped beside the quiet lake.

As he stood here he heard a sound of pain, and, looking in the tall
grass at his side, he saw the dragon-fly whose kindness he once
repayed by pain and sorrow, and who now lay suffering and alone.

Thistle bent tenderly beside him, saying, “Dear Flutter, do not
fear me. I will gladly ease your pain, if you will let me; I am your
friend, and long to show you how I grieve for all the wrong I did you,
when you were so kind to me. Forgive, and let me help and comfort

Then he bound up the broken wing, and spoke so tenderly that Flutter
doubted him no longer, and was his friend again.

Day by day did Thistle watch beside him, making little beds of
cool, fresh moss for him to rest upon, fanning him when he slept,
and singing sweet songs to cheer him when awake. And often when
poor Flutter longed to be dancing once again over the blue waves,
the Fairy bore him in his arms to the lake, and on a broad leaf,
with a green flag for a sail, they floated on the still water; while
the dragon-fly’s companions flew about them, playing merry games.

At length the broken wing was well, and Thistle said he must again
seek the Water Spirits. “I can tell you where to find them,” said
Flutter; “you must follow yonder little brook, and it will lead you
to the sea, where the Spirits dwell. I would gladly do more for you,
dear Thistle, but I cannot, for they live deep beneath the waves.
You will find some kind friend to aid you on your way; and so

Thistle followed the little brook, as it flowed through field and
valley, growing ever larger, till it reached the sea. Here the wind
blew freshly, and the great waves rolled and broke at Thistle’s feet,
as he stood upon the shore, watching the billows dancing and sparkling
in the sun.

“How shall I find the Spirits in this great sea, with none to help or
guide me? Yet it is my last task, and for Lily-Bell’s sake I must not
fear or falter now,” said Thistle. So he flew hither and thither
over the sea, looking through the waves. Soon he saw, far below,
the branches of the coral tree.

“They must be here,” thought he, and, folding his wings, he plunged
into the deep, cold sea. But he saw only fearful monsters and dark
shapes that gathered round him; and, trembling with fear, he struggled
up again.

The great waves tossed him to and fro, and cast him bruised and faint
upon the shore. Here he lay weeping bitterly, till a voice beside him
said, “Poor little Elf, what has befallen you? These rough waves are
not fit playmates for so delicate a thing as you. Tell me your
sorrow, and I will comfort you.”

And Thistle, looking up, saw a white sea-bird at his side, who tried
with friendly words to cheer him. So he told all his wanderings,
and how he sought the Sea Spirits.

“Surely, if bee and blossom do their part to help you, birds should
aid you too,” said the Sea-bird. “I will call my friend, the
Nautilus, and he will bear you safely to the Coral Palace where the
Spirits dwell.”

So, spreading his great wings, he flew away, and soon Thistle saw
a little boat come dancing over the waves, and wait beside the shore
for him.

In he sprang. Nautilus raised his little sail to the wind, and the
light boat glided swiftly over the blue sea. At last Thistle cried,
“I see lovely arches far below; let me go, it is the Spirits’ home.”

“Nay, close your eyes, and trust to me. I will bear you safely down,”
said Nautilus.

So Thistle closed his eyes, and listened to the murmur of the sea,
as they sank slowly through the waves. The soft sound lulled him
to sleep, and when he awoke the boat was gone, and he stood among
the Water Spirits, in their strange and lovely home.

Lofty arches of snow-white coral bent above him, and the walls
of brightly tinted shells were wreathed with lovely sea-flowers, and
the sunlight shining on the waves cast silvery shadows on the ground,
where sparkling stones glowed in the sand. A cool, fresh wind swept
through the waving garlands of bright sea-moss, and the distant murmur
of dashing waves came softly on the air. Soon troops of graceful
Spirits flitted by, and when they found the wondering Elf, they
gathered round him, bringing pearl-shells heaped with precious stones,
and all the rare, strange gifts that lie beneath the sea. But Thistle
wished for none of these, and when his tale was told, the kindly
Spirits pitied him; and little Pearl sighed, as she told him of the
long and weary task he must perform, ere he could win a crown of
snow-white pearls like those they wore. But Thistle had gained
strength and courage in his wanderings, and did not falter now, when
they led him to a place among the coral-workers, and told him he must
labor here, till the spreading branches reached the light and air,
through the waves that danced above.

With a patient hope that he might yet be worthy of Lily-Bell,
the Fairy left the lovely spirits and their pleasant home, to toil
among the coral-builders, where all was strange and dim. Long, long,
he worked; but still the waves rolled far above them, and his task was
not yet done; and many bitter tears poor Thistle shed, and sadly he
pined for air and sunlight, the voice of birds, and breath of flowers.
Often, folded in the magic garments which the Spirits gave him, that
he might pass unharmed among the fearful creatures dwelling there,
he rose to the surface of the sea, and, gliding through the waves,
gazed longingly upon the hills, now looking blue and dim so far away,
or watched the flocks of summer birds, journeying to a warmer land;
and they brought sad memories of green old forests, and sunny fields,
to the lonely little Fairy floating on the great, wild sea.

Day after day went by, and slowly Thistle’s task drew towards an end.
Busily toiled the coral-workers, but more busily toiled he; insect
and Spirit daily wondered more and more, at the industry and patience
of the silent little Elf, who had a friendly word for all, though
he never joined them in their sport.

Higher and higher grew the coral-boughs, and lighter grew the Fairy’s
heart, while thoughts of dear Lily-Bell cheered him on, as day by day
he steadily toiled; and when at length the sun shone on his work,
and it was done, he stayed but to take the garland he had won, and
to thank the good Spirits for their love and care. Then up through
the cold, blue waves he swiftly glided, and, shaking the bright drops
from his wings, soared singing up to the sunny sky.

On through the fragrant air went Thistle, looking with glad face
upon the fair, fresh earth below, where flowers looked smiling up,
and green trees bowed their graceful heads as if to welcome him. Soon
the forest where Lily-Bell lay sleeping rose before him, and as he
passed along the cool, dim wood-paths, never had they seemed so fair.

But when he came where his little friend had slept, it was no longer
the dark, silent spot where he last saw her. Garlands hung from every
tree, and the fairest flowers filled the air with their sweet breath.
Bird’s gay voices echoed far and wide, and the little brook went
singing by, beneath the arching ferns that bent above it; green
leaves rustled in the summer wind, and the air was full of music.
But the fairest sight was Lily-Bell, as she lay on the couch of
velvet moss that Fairy hands had spread. The golden flower lay
beside her, and the glittering robe was folded round her little form.
The warmest sunlight fell upon her, and the softest breezes lifted
her shining hair.

Happy tears fell fast, as Thistle folded his arms around her,
crying, “O Lily-Bell, dear Lily-Bell, awake! I have been true to you,
and now my task is done.”

Then, with a smile, Lily-Bell awoke, and looked with wondering eyes
upon the beauty that had risen round her.

“Dear Thistle, what mean these fair things, and why are we in this
lovely place?”

“Listen, Lily-Bell,” said the Brownie King, as he appeared beside her.
And then he told all that Thistle had done to show his love for her;
how he had wandered far and wide to seek the Fairy gifts, and toiled
long and hard to win them; how he had been loving, true, and tender,
when most lonely and forsaken.

“Bird, bee, and blossom have forgiven him, and none is more loved
and trusted now by all, than the once cruel Thistle,” said the King,
as he bent down to the happy Elf, who bowed low before him.

“You have learned the beauty of a gentle, kindly heart, dear Thistle;
and you are now worthy to become the friend of her for whom you have
done so much. Place the crown upon her head, for she is Queen of all
the Forest Fairies now.”

And as the crown shone on the head that Lily-Bell bent down on
Thistle’s breast, the forest seemed alive with little forms, who
sprang from flower and leaf, and gathered round her, bringing gifts
for their new Queen.

“If I am Queen, then you are King, dear Thistle,” said the Fairy.
“Take the crown, and I will have a wreath of flowers. You have toiled
and suffered for my sake, and you alone should rule over these little
Elves whose love you have won.”

“Keep your crown, Lily-Bell, for yonder come the Spirits with their
gifts to Thistle,” said the Brownie. And, as he pointed with his
wand, out from among the mossy roots of an old tree came trooping
the Earth Spirits, their flower-bells ringing softly as they came,
and their jewelled garments glittering in the sun. On to where
Thistledown stood beneath the shadow of the flowers, with Lily-Bell
beside him, went the Spirits; and then forth sprang little Sparkle,
waving a golden flower, whose silvery music filled the air. “Dear
Thistle,” said the shining Spirit, “what you toiled so faithfully
to win for another, let us offer now as a token of our love for you.”

As she ceased, down through the air came floating bands of lovely
Air Spirits, bringing a shining robe, and they too told their love
for the gentle Fairy who had dwelt with them.

Then softly on the breeze came distant music, growing ever nearer,
till over the rippling waves came the singing Water Spirits, in their
boats of many-colored shells; and as they placed their glittering
crown on Thistle’s head, loud rang the flowers, and joyously sang
the birds, while all the Forest Fairies cried, with silvery voices,
“Lily-Bell and Thistledown! Long live our King and Queen!”

“Have you a tale for us too, dear Violet-Eye?” said the Queen, as
Zephyr ceased. The little Elf thus named looked from among the
flower-leaves where she sat, and with a smile replied, “As I was
weaving garlands in the field, I heard a primrose tell this tale
to her friend Golden-Rod.”

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