Old-Fashioned Fairy Book, The


APOOR woman and her daughter, who were on the verge of starvation, saw a little green bud of a plant growing through their cottage floor. They watered it, and in a day or two it sent forth long shoots, and became a vine, fine and delicate to look at, but tough as an iron wire. The vine put forth leaves, soon covering the inner walls of the cottage. The tendrils waved longingly toward the sun, and so the mother and daughter set their lattice window open, when, lo! the vine escaped as if it had wings and grew quickly heavenward. Lovely flowers bloomed on it, in shape like morning-glories, and rare birds came to drink the honey of their chalices. The maiden leaned out of her window and looked up. Higher, higher climbed the vine, till it was lost in the blue sky above them. The girl was seized with a yearning desire to climb up and see what[82] could be seen. Her mother gave her leave, and she set out. Up, up, she went, and the mother watched below till the clustering green and many-colored bells hid her child from sight. At last the girl reached a wonderful new country, and stepped off the vine upon a shining silver path, which she followed through a green meadow till she came to a house made of honey-comb that glittered, oh! so beautifully. The columns of the porch were sticks of lemon-candy, and there were little benches to rest yourself upon, made of maple-sugar and cushioned with gingerbread. Annette, for so the girl was called, ventured to open the door of the house and peep in. There she found more beautiful things than I can tell you of—toys and books and pictures—and all the furniture was made of cake with raisins in it, so that, if one sat down to read, one need only turn around and nibble a knob off the chair, or pick raisins out of the arm of the sofa. Annette played a little and read a story-book, then she fell asleep on a couch made of apple-dumplings. Suddenly in came three goats, who were the servants of the fairy to whom this house belonged. "Let us butt her to death," said the oldest goat. "Let us trample on her, and bite her," said the second goat. "Let her[83] alone," said the third goat, who was a kind little fellow with golden horns. "If she holds her tongue, and if she don't find out the secret of the golden coffee-mill, our mistress will let her stay here and work for her."

Annette heard this while pretending to be asleep, and when the fairy came home, she jumped up and made a nice little courtesy, begging to be allowed to do the housework. "Well," said the fairy, after looking at her sharply, "I will try you; only don't undertake to grind my coffee for me, and don't gossip with the goats."

Annette lived there for six months, and learned to make all kinds of goodies; for the fairy was the queen's confectioner in that country. You might eat all you pleased, provided you didn't talk; and not a word spoke Annette, and not a word spoke the goats. Every day the fairy went into a pantry and there ground her coffee; and every day she carried two or three bags full of something heavy, and put them in her chariot, and drove off with them. The coffee-mill looked like any other one, and Annette wondered vainly what its secret was. At last curiosity overcame her, and she stole into the pantry and began to grind the mill. Down fell a stream of pure gold-dust,[84] and it powdered Annette all over till she looked like a golden image. "How shall I get rid of this?" she said, trying to shake it off, but the gold dust stuck fast. She cried and sobbed, for she knew that now the fairy would certainly find her out. In came the friendly goat. "Cheer up," said he. "That was the way my horns came to be gilded, because I yielded to my curiosity about the mill, when I first came here to live. The fairy wanted to kill me, but she let me off when I vowed to serve her faithfully for seven years. The time is just up, and so I propose that we escape together. Take the magic mill under your arm and get upon my back, and we will go down to your world."

Annette joyfully obeyed the friendly goat, and carrying the coffee-mill they set off from the fairy's house. Unfortunately she did not know how to stop the mill from grinding, and it left a path of gold-dust behind them as they fled, which showed the way to the fairy. The fairy followed them, riding on a silver broom-stick; but the goat was swift as the wind, and Annette clung to his golden horns, and held the magic mill tight under her arm. By good luck they reached the opening, near which the vine was growing, and,[85] just as the furious fairy got near enough to stretch out her long arm after them, down went Annette, goat, and coffee-mill, through a rift in the clouds, to a land where their enemy could not follow them. The faithful vine caught them as they fell, and held them up stoutly. When they had climbed down, and touched the earth in safety, Annette was astonished to see her goat turn into a handsome young prince, with curling golden locks and kind blue eyes.

"You have freed me from my enchantment, beautiful maiden," he said, kneeling upon the grass at her feet. "Long years ago I and my wicked brothers were captured by the fairy and became her slaves under the form of goats, as you saw. For fear that they may find out some way to[86] follow us, we must cut down this vine, and then we shall be free forever from all dread of disturbance."

Annette's mother came running out, kissed her child, and listened with wonder to the tale of her adventures. All this while the mill had gone on grinding, and before they knew it the cottage floor was knee-deep in gold-dust. "We shall be smothered at this rate," cried the prince laughing, and he hastened to make a magic sign he had learned from the fairy. The mill ceased to flow, and then the prince took an axe and cut the beautiful vine at its root. Annette wept to see the lovely leaves and blossoms shrivel up, but in a short time they vanished entirely from sight. The prince married Annette, and every day the mill ground gold enough to pay all the expenses of their palace and servants and horses, and also the expenses of Annette's mother, who had a separate palace for herself over the way.

The country people, for years after the time when Annette and the prince came down the magic vine, showering gold-dust along their way, continued to talk about the wonderful rain of stars they had seen in the sky that moon-lit night.


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