The Little House in the Fairy Wood
Ethel Cook Eliot
Part 2 out of 2
But she did not look at the quaint flowers in their golden vases. And
when the Witch ran to her and kissed her she did not even look at her.
She looked only at Eric, and her eyes said, "I have come to free you."
"Oh, so you did want to try on the pretty frock after all," cried the
Witch, and drew her up the stairs. Eric followed to the yellow room.
"No," said Ivra. But the Witch brought it out and tried to slip it over
her head. It was sheerest gossamer web, and shimmered like moonlight.
And the little rosebuds seemed to make it belong to Ivra.
Eric forgot all about being a prisoner, and forgot the little caged
creatures around the wall. He was delighted with the frock being pushed
down on Ivra's shoulders. "How beautiful you'll be!" he cried. But Ivra
wriggled away from it and stood clear. Her rudely made brown frock and
worn sandals looked odd in that satin room. "I didn't come to see the
frock," she said, shaking her head till her pigtails bobbed. "I came to
The Beautiful Wicked Witch laughed. "Get him if you can," she said. Then
she turned her back on the children and began to braid her black hair
among the mirrors.
They went to the window and waited there, watching her.
"The door doesn't open out,--only in, I think," Eric whispered. "So we
can't get out."
"Mother has told me how it would be," Ivra whispered back. "We'll have
to wait until she's asleep and then find a way."
Then Ivra sat down on the floor and began to rock back and forth and
sing a lullaby. It was a lullaby her mother had sung to her all her
babyhood, Ivra sang in a very little voice, almost a murmur only, but by
listening Eric and the Beautiful Wicked Witch could catch the words. She
sang the same words over and over and over.
Night is in the forest,
Tree Mother is nigh.
Sleep is in the forest--
His feathers brush your eye.
Mother's arms are holding you,
Forest dreams are folding you.
The Beautiful Wicked Witch sat down before the mirrors after a while,
still watching her reflection, but listening to the song, too. Her head
gradually sank lower and lower, first resting chin in hand and at last
right down on her arm stretched along the floor. Her face lay turned
towards the children, and they saw the mirth slowly fade in her great
black eyes, the lids drop lower and lower,--and then she was asleep
suddenly. Now she looked almost as young as themselves, and like a pale
child who has fallen to sleep at its play.
But the children did not stop to look at her. Once they were sure she
was asleep they were off searching for the door. Up and down the stairs
and all around the rooms they ran on tiptoes. But it was no use, and at
last they came back to the window.
"We must jump," whispered Ivra.
Eric looked down, and wondered. It was a long way to the ground!
"The snow is soft beneath the crust," Ivra said. "It will only cut us a
"Let's take the bird," Eric said. Ivra ran to it, and opened the cage
door. It hopped onto her finger eagerly, and she held its bill so that
it would not sing.
Eric opened the window. "I'll jump first," he whispered.
But Ivra said, "Oh, let's hold hands and jump together."
The Beautiful Wicked Witch felt the cold night air from the window on
her face, and stirred in her sleep. Her eyelids quivered. So the
children did not wait a minute more. They climbed up onto the window
sill, Ivra still holding the bird. "One, two, three," she whispered, and
Out and down they went like two shooting stars and plunked through the
snowcrust. They were up in a second. Their wrists and elbows were a
little bruised and cut, but they were not really hurt at all. But
strange and strange, the bird had fluttered near Ivra's hand for that
second, and then flew straight back up and into the open window. It had
been caged so long it did not really want its freedom after all. Eric
cried out with regret.
But Ivra seized his hand, and they ran home together through the cold,
starlit forest. Before they leapt the hedge into their own garden Eric
saw the firelight blossoming in the windows. But he stood still outside
the door, after Ivra had gone in, for a time, breathing the cold air and
the clear silence right down into his toes.
"To-morrow is the shortest day in the year," Ivra told Eric one night
after they were in bed. He did not answer, for he was very sleepy. But
after a minute she spoke again. "It's my birthday too!"
Then he opened his eyes and sat up, for her voice sounded very queer and
far away. He saw that she too was sitting up, her hands folded under her
chin. "Mother always had a party for me," she said. "Such fun!"
"Perhaps one will happen to-morrow even with her away," Eric comforted.
"Oh, goody! I do hope so!"
"Perhaps. Anyway I'm going to pretend there's a party waiting for me
to-morrow. You pretend too, Eric, and then even if it doesn't come true
we will have had the pretending at least."
Eric agreed to pretend. It was one of his favorite games. And very soon
the two children nestled down under their covers and drifted into sleep
and dreams of a party.
They were roused early in the morning by something tapping lightly on
the doors and windows. Eric was out of bed first, and saw the Wind
Creatures, half a dozen or more of them, looking in and beckoning. Their
purple wings gleamed gold in the early morning sun. Wild Star was
standing in the open door.
"Happy birthday!" he cried and tossed a snow ball into Ivra's bed. She
popped to her knees, laughing and rosy with sleep. But then she was
grave in a minute. "There's to be no party, Wild Star," she said.
"Mother's not back yet. Are you all here for that?"
"Yes, we're here for that, and there is to be a party, an all day one
too. Your Forest Friends have seen to that."
The children were radiant with joy. And Ivra whispered to Eric, "We had
our pretending, too!"
The Wind Creatures would not come in to breakfast, for of course they do
not like in-doors at all, and besides, they need very little food. So
they played in the garden while the children dressed and ate. Very soon
the children were done, though, and came leaping out ready for a day's
The Wind Creatures led them then out through the forest. The Tree Girl
was watching for them at her door. It was plain to be seen, when she
joined them, that she carried something in her arms very secretly under
her white cloak. But no one mentioned it. Ivra knew it must be a
surprise for her birthday. Where the party was to be no one told her,
and she did not ask. She liked surprises.
They came to the Forest Children's little moss village. The youngest
Forest Child of all was the only one up so early. He was busily breaking
dead twigs from bushes to build his morning fire and making up a little
rhymeless song about Ivra's birthday as he worked.
This is her birthday,
Spring's little daughter--
Spring's little daughter--
This is her birthday.
Wake now, wake now,
All you Forest Children,
Wake for her birthday
And tie your sandals on.
When he saw them he cried, "Hurrah! Happy birthday, Ivra!"
At his cry all the little windows in the little moss houses opened and
there were the tousled heads of the Forest Children, their eyes blinking
sleepily against the gilded morning light.
"Thank you, thank you," Ivra cried back to the youngest Forest Child.
"Hurry and follow."
Before they had gone on their way five minutes more the Forest Children
were up with them, tugging at buckles and sandal strings as they ran,
begging not to be left behind. Soon they came to Big Pine Hill, a hill
deep in the forest with no trees but a giant pine at the top. The Wind
Creatures had built a slide there by brushing away the snow and leaving
a broad track of shining blue ice. Up under the pine were sleds enough
for every one, made all of woven hemlock branches. They needed no
runners for the ice was so slippery and the hill so steep _anything_
would go down it fast enough. Ivra's Forest Friends must have worked all
the day before to make those sleds--and now her shining face and clasped
hands were reward enough.
She was the first to try the hill. She threw herself on her sled and
down she flashed. At the bottom she tumbled off, and still on her knees
shouted up to Eric and the others at the top, "Oh, it's splendid! Come
Then the hill was covered with speeding sleds. The Bird Fairies had none
of their own, for they were so little they might have come to harm on
that hill. But they had just as good a time for all of that, catching
rides with the others, clinging to shoulders or heads or feet as it
Every one was there, even the Snow Witches who had not been invited.
They came whirling and dancing through the forest almost as soon as the
sliding had begun. Ivra gave them glad welcome in spite of their rough
ways and stinging hair. For she, the only one of all who were there,
liked them very well and had made them her comrades often and often on
windy winter days. And they, who cared for nobody, cared for her. "She
is not like anybody," they explained it to each other. "_She is a great
But they would not take Ivra's sled as she wanted them to. They had not
come to spoil her fun. Instead they raced down the hill behind her or
before her, pushing and pulling, their stinging hair in her face. But
that only made her cheeks very red, and she did not mind them at all.
Then she tried sliding down on her feet, with the long line of witches
pushing from behind, their hands on each other's shoulders. That was the
best fun of all, and almost always ended in a tumble before the bottom
was reached. Though the others avoided the witches as much as they could
they admired Ivra for such hardy comrading.
Before noon every one was very hungry. Then the littlest Forest Child
said, "Follow me. The Tree Girl has gone ahead."
It was true, she had slipped away when no one noticed.
The littlest Forest Child led them away to a little valley-place where
hemlock boughs had been spread to make a floor and raised on three sides
to make a shelter. When they had come close enough for Ivra to see what
it was perched so big and white in the middle of the hemlock floor she
stopped and sighed with joy while she clasped her hands.
It was a beautiful frosted birthday cake with nine brave candles of all
colors and burning steadily, just the kind of cake her mother had always
baked for her birthdays.--Only last year there had been eight candles.
She had not hoped for this final delight. She ran quickly forward and
was the first to kneel down by it. The Tree Girl was there waiting, and
now Ivra knew it was the cake that she had been carrying so secretly
under her cloak.
The Snow Witches did not follow into that shelter. They have a great
fear of shelters, you must know, for when forced into them they quickly
lose their fierceness, and their fierceness is their greatest pride. But
before they left the party one of them came close to Eric, so close that
tears were whipped into his eyes and quickly froze on his lashes. "Take
this to your little comrade," shes said, thrusting a box made of pine
cones into his hands. "It's for her to keep her paper dolls in. We
witches made it."
Then all the witches went screeching and swirling away through the
forest, and Ivra, Eric and the others settled down to the business of
eating the birthday cake.
But first the Tree Girl, who is very sensible, insisted that they eat
some nuts and apples. Indeed, she would allow no one a bite of the
wonderful cake until he had eaten at least one apple and twenty nuts.
Before Ivra cut the cake the others blew out the candles, one after
another, and made her a wish in turn for every candle. The Tree Girl
wished her a bright new year, the Bird Fairies that her mother would
soon return, the Wind Creatures that she would keep her gay heart
forever, the Forest Children that she would become the most famous story
teller in the Forest World.
And then it was Eric's turn. He had never been to a birthday party
before, and never had he made a wish for some one else. So he was a
little puzzled. But at last he had an idea and cried, "I wish that your
hair will grow golden and curly before to-morrow morning." All
princesses Ivra had ever told him about had curly golden hair, and
though she had never said it, Eric had suspected for some time that Ivra
would like that kind of hair herself. Then he puffed his cheeks and blew
out his candle, a fat green one. Ivra laughed.
"The Snow Witches would never let me keep curly hair," she said. "They'd
whip it straight in an hour."
That reminded Eric of the pine cone box and he gave it to her and told
her about it. She was almost as delighted with that as with the cake.
What a wonderful cake it was! Such food Eric had never dreamed of, and
he was a great dreamer! The frosting was over an inch thick.
Then, of course, Ivra must tell them stories. All the Forest People
loved her stories. They built a fire to keep from freezing. The Wind
Creatures sat a little way off where it was cool enough for their
comfort, but not too far to hear Ivra's clear voice. This time she told
all she knew about the birthday of this Earth, one of the most magical
and splendid and strange of her stories.
But it was the shortest day in the year, Ivra's birthday, and night fell
all too soon. Then the Tree Girl, who seldom forgot to be sensible, said
they had better go home. The littlest Forest Child was already asleep,
curled close by the fire. They roused him gently. Good-nights were
called and a few minutes after, the shelter was deserted, and the fire
out. And by starlight could be seen many footprints leading away in the
white snow out into all parts of the Forest.
Eric and Ivra walked toward home hand in hand. They had to pass the
morning's slide on the way. When they came in sight of it they began to
walk more quickly and quietly and to look intently. The blue ice shone
bluer than ever in starlight, but more than the ice shone. Shining
_people_ were using the sleds and the hill was covered with them.
"Why, they must be Star People," Ivra cried excitedly.
When they were quite near they stood to watch.
The strange Star folk were very silent, never calling and laughing as
those who had slid there in the morning had done. Two, a little boy and
a young girl, came spinning down on the same sled and stopped so near
that Ivra and Eric might have touched them by leaning forward. But the
Star-two must have thought the Forest-two shadows, for they paid no
attention to them at all.
Now that they were so near Eric could see that their hair was blue, like
the shadows on snow, and their faces a beautiful shining white. Their
straight short garments were blue like shadows, too, and their arms,
legs and feet were bare. But they did not seem conscious of the cold.
Eric did not hear them speak, but they looked at each other as though
they _were_ speaking, and then suddenly the little boy laughed merrily,
as though the young girl had just told him something very amusing.
Soon the girl turned and ran away up the hill. But the little boy was as
quick as she and threw himself on the sled while she never slackened her
pace, but drew him straight and fast up the steep slope.
"I have never seen them before," Ivra whispered to Eric. "But mother has
told me of them. They don't talk as we do you see. They don't _have_ to.
They know each other's thoughts. They almost never leave their Stars. Do
you think--perhaps, to-night they saw our slide shining, and wondered so
much about it they had to come down? Even mother has never seen them.
It was Tree Mother told her."
Eric was very silent, for he had never seen such beautiful people. The
little boy had had a face like a star, and great shining eyes. The young
girl had been clear like the day, and without smiling her face had been
brimmed with happiness.
But now he felt Ivra trembling. She whispered again, "You know, Eric, it
is wonderful for us to see them like this. Some day, mother says, we may
get to be like them!"
"And speak without words?" Eric asked wondering.
"Yes, and more than that. We may be as _alive_ as they. Now we're only
Forest people, and not all _that_ even--almost dreams. They are _real_!"
Then she took his hand and drew him away. "I cannot look any more," she
said; "can you? They are too beautiful!"
Eric put his fingers to his eyes as he walked. "Yes, it's hard to see
the ground now. My eyes ache a little."
But how the children wished their mother were waiting for them in the
little house to hear the tale!
One afternoon Eric and Ivra started out for the Forest Children's moss
village to play with them. But when they got there they found all the
little houses deserted: not a Forest Child was to be found. They must
have gone into some other part of the forest to play. So Ivra and Eric
wandered on and on, a little lonely, a little tired of just each other
for comrades, till at last they came to the very edge of the
forest,--and there was Nora's farm, a rambling red brick house, with a
barn twice its size behind it. Down in the pasture by the house half a
dozen Snow Witches were dancing in a circle, now near, now far, all over
the pasture, and sometimes right up to the farm-house windows.
Ivra clapped her hands and bounded forward. Eric did not follow. He
stood to watch. When the Snow Witches saw Ivra running to them they
rushed to meet her. For a minute she was lost in a cloud of blown snow,
and then there she was dancing in their circle back and forth across the
pasture, and then away, away, away! But before she frolicked quite out
of sight she turned to look for her playfellow, and beckoned to him.
"Come on," she called. "We're going to slide on the brook below the
But Eric did not follow. He did not like the Snow Witches. And just as
Ivra and the Witches drifted out of sight, he thought he heard the
Forest Children laughing. The sound came from the barn. So Eric ran to
the door. It was a big sliding door, and now stood open on a crack just
large enough for a child to slip through. Eric went in.
The barn was tremendously big, a great dusty place full of the smell of
hay. Ahead of him were two stalls, with a horse in one. But Eric was
most interested in the empty stall, for it was from there the laughter
seemed to come. He stood looking and listening, and then right down
through the ceiling of the stall shot a child, and landed laughing and
squealing in the hay in the manger. She sat up, saw Eric and stared. She
was a little girl about his own age, freckle-faced, snub-nosed and
red-haired. She had the jolliest, the nicest face in the world.
Eric opened his mouth to say, "Hello," but kept it open, silent in
amazement, for another child had shot through the ceiling and landed
beside the girl. This was a boy. He was red-headed, too, freckle-faced
and snub-nosed. He looked even jollier than the girl.
Before Eric had closed his mouth on his amazement, "Whoop!" and down
came another boy. This boy was red-haired, freckle-faced and snub-nosed,
and he looked jollier than the other two put together, if that were
possible, for his red hair curled in saucy, tight little ringlets, and
his mouth was wide with smiles.
It was this last one who said, "Hello, who are you?"
"Eric,--who are you?"
"Nora's grandchildren, of course. Come up. We're having sport."
The three children ran across the barn to a ladder and scrambled up and
disappeared through a trap door at the top. Eric followed. The attic was
full of hay in mountains and little hills,--hay and hay and hay. He
followed the children around the biggest mountain, through a tunnel--and
there they vanished!
He found the hole in the stable ceiling and looked down. Not very far
below him was the manger full of hay and red-headed children. "Look out
down there! Whoop!" cried Eric, and dropped, landing among them.
Then the four laughed heartily together and ran across the barn again,
up the ladder, around the hay mountain and dropped down the hole. They
did that dozens of times until they were tired of it.
Then they played hide-and-go-seek in the hay country, and after that
Blind Man's Buff in the barn below. The little girl was Blind Man first.
They tied a red handkerchief tight over her eyes. Then they ran about,
dodging her, calling her, laughing at her groping hands and hesitating
steps. But after a few minutes she became accustomed to the darkness and
ran and jumped about after them until they had to be very wary and swift
indeed. Soon she caught Eric and then he was Blind Man.
By and by they played tag, just plain tag, and Eric liked that best of
all. Back and forth across the great room they raced,--up the ladder,
over the hay, through the hole into the stable, round and round, in and
out, up and down until they were too tired and hot for any more.
Then they lay up in the hay where there was a little window, looking far
out across the meadows.
Eric saw Ivra out there in the first field, wandering around alone and
now and then looking up at the barn. She must have heard their shouts
and laughter. He pointed her out to the other children. "That is my
playmate out there," he said. "Let's open the window and call to her to
come up. She'll tell us stories."
The children looked out eagerly. "But there's nobody there," they said.
Eric laughed. "No, look!" He pointed with his finger. "Over there by the
white birch. Look! She sees us." He waved. "Quick, help me open the
He could not find the catch. The window was draped with cobwebs and
dusty with the dust of years. It looked as though it had never been
The little red-headed girl put her hand on his arm. She was laughing.
"Don't be silly," she said. "There's no one by the white birch. You're
"Why, look! Of course she's there!" Eric was impatient. "She's moving
now, waving to us. Of course you see her!"
"Yes," said the jolliest of the boys. "We do see it--faintly. We've seen
it before too,--a kind of a shadow on the snow. But father says it's
nothing to mind. Imaginings. Nothing real, just spots in our eyes or
Then Eric remembered all that Ivra had told him. She was half fairy.
People could see her if they looked hard enough. But they were not apt
to believe their own eyes when they had looked. That was dreadful for
her. She had not said so, but he had guessed it from her face when she
told him. Well, well, now he understood a little better. These were
Earth Children, with shadows in their eyes. Ivra could never be their
But _he_ could see her well enough because his eyes were clear. And
presently he would run out to her and they would go home together. But
just now it was jolly and cozy here in the barn, and these Earth
Children were good fun. He hoped she would wait for him, but if she did
not he would find his way alone easily enough.
"You don't really believe in it, do you?" the red-headed girl was
asking. "If you do,--better not. Grown-ups will laugh at you."
"Nora, your grandmother, won't laugh," said Eric. "She knows Ivra well
enough, and Helma, too."
"Oh, yes," said the jolliest boy. "But she is queer. We love her, and
she's a fine grandmother, I can tell you. And she tells the best
stories. But she's queer just the same, and she can't fool us."
"Let's go in and get some cookies from her," said the other boy. "They
must be done by now."
So up they hopped, and without another look towards the shadow out on
the snow by the white birch, jumped down the hole, and ran out of the
barn into the kitchen.
Nora was there knitting by a table, two big pans of cookies just out of
the oven cooling in front of her.
How good they smelled! Eric had never tasted hot ginger cookies before,
and when Nora gave him one, a big round one all for his own, he almost
danced with delight. He perched on the edge of the table and ate that
one and many another before he was done.
"This boy, grandma," began the red-headed girl.
"His name is Eric," interrupted Nora, handing him another cookie. "I
know him very well."
"Well, he saw It while we were looking out of the barn window! And he
said It was real and his playmate, and he wanted to call It in to tell
"Don't say 'It,'" said Nora. "Her name is 'Ivra.' But of course you
can't play with her. She isn't an Earth Child. She's a fairy. So don't
say anything about it to your father when he comes home to-night. It
would make him cross."
"But it doesn't make you cross," laughed the jolliest boy. "And so won't
you tell us some stories about it now. You know,--the little house in
the wood, the Tree Man, the Forest Children, Helma, Ivra and all the
rest of it."
"Do tell us a story," begged the other two.
So Nora put down her knitting, and taking the cat on her lap, a great
sleepy white fellow who had been purring by the stove, she began to tell
She told stories about Helma and Ivra, the Wind Creatures, the Snow
Witches and many more. The children listened eagerly, clapping their
hands now and then, and at the end of every story asking for more.
But Eric was lost in wonder. The children thought the stories were not
true,--just fairy stories told them by a grandmother. And Nora had
evidently long ago given up expecting them to believe. Her black eyes
twinkled knowingly when they met Eric's puzzled ones.
And all the time Eric had only to turn his head to see Ivra walking out
there around in the field, looking at the farm house, waiting for him.
But gradually, as the stories went on the little figure out there grew
more and more to look like just a blue shadow on the snow, paler and
paler. Finally he had to strain his eyes to see it at all.
Then he jumped down from the table and said he must go home. His heart
was beating a little wildly. For he was afraid Ivra might fade away from
him altogether. These red-headed children were fine playfellows. He
liked them,--oh, so much! He wished he could stay and play with them
for--a week. Yes. But he must go now. That blue shadow on the snow
"Take her some cookies," said Nora, filling his pockets. The children
laughed at the top of their voices. "Yes, take some cookies to the
fairy. But you can eat them yourself and pretend it is the fairy eating
them," they cried.
Nora laughed with them, and so after a minute Eric joined in. But he and
Nora looked at each other through their laughter and nodded
When Ivra saw him at last come out of the farm house door, she didn't
wait longer, but ran away into the wood. He overtook her a long way in,
"Did you have a good time with the witches?" he asked.
"Why didn't you come, too?" she said
"Oh, it was too cold. Nora's grandchildren are awfully good fun. We
played hide-and-go-seek, just as we played it at the Tree Man's party."
"Did they laugh at me?"
" . . . No, they laughed at me. They thought I was a funny boy."
"To have me for a playmate?"
Then Eric began to think that Ivra was not very happy. Perhaps she had
"You're always running off with the Snow Witches," he said. "But I won't
play with Nora's grandchildren any more unless they'll let you play too.
I won't, truly!"
Ivra laughed. And it was like spring coming into winter. "Yes, play with
them all you like! I love them, too. I've often watched them. The
littlest boy, the one with the funny curls, laughs at me and stares and
stares. But the other two . . . they just give me a glance and then forget
all about me. They don't think I'm real. But they are awfully jolly. You
play with them and when you tell me about it afterwards I'll pretend I
was there playing too."
Then the two clasped hands and went skipping home.
One morning when Ivra woke up she knew spring had come before her eyes
were open. But Eric had to go outdoors to make sure. He was sure enough
when he smelled the ground, a good earth smell. Snow still clung to the
garden in spots here and there, but the warm sun promised it would not
be for long. Something in the sky, something in the air, a smell of
earth, and a stirring in his own heart told him it was true. Spring had
Ivra had felt and known it before her eyes were open, and now that they
were open, those eyes of hers looked like two blue spring flowers just
awake. She hopped about in the garden poking and prodding the earth with
a stick, looking for her violets, her anemones, her star flowers. Not a
green leaf was pushing through yet, but oh, how soon there would be!
Suddenly she stopped and stood still looking away into the forest. Then
she ran to Eric on the door stone. She cried, "Mother will come now.
Don't you feel it? She will come with the spring!"
Eric did feel it. For there was magic in the day. The magic came to him
in the air, in the smell of the earth, in the new warm wind and said,
"Everything is yours that you want. Joy is coming." And Mother Helma was
what he wanted. So he felt sure she was on the way.
"She must have found the key,--or do you suppose she climbed the gray
wall?" wondered Ivra.
"Shall we go to meet her?" asked Eric.
"No, no. We must get the house clean and ready for her. We must hurry."
And then such a house-cleaning was begun as you or I have never seen.
The Forest Children had been up at dawn to greet the spring, and now
they came running to tell Ivra and Eric about it. When they heard that
Helma was at last coming back and the house was to be cleaned they
wanted to help. First it was decided to wash the floor. Pail after pail
of water from the fountain they splashed on it. Streamlets of water
flowed into the fireplace and out over the door stone. Out and in ran
the Forest Children trying to help, and with every step making foot
prints on the wet floor, muddy little foot prints, dozens of them and
finally hundreds of them.
Then the windows were washed. And because the Forest Children could not
run on those they were made bright and clear. But soon the Forest
Children pressed their faces against the panes to watch for Helma, and
as the minutes passed breath-clouds formed there, spreading and
deepening until the glass sparkled no more. But no one noticed. No one
cared. For now they were shining up the dishes, polishing them with
cloths, and setting them in neat rows in the cupboard.
Then Wild Star appeared, his hands full of spring flowers that he had
found deep in the forest in the sunniest and most protected place, the
very first spring flowers. "Helma must have gotten past that wall, now
it's spring," he said; "and here are some flowers to greet her. See, I
left the roots on, the way she likes them. Let's plant them by the door
They dug up the earth with their hands, Forest Children's hands, Wild
Star's hands, Eric's and Ivra's,--and planted the flowers all about the
door stone. Then Wild Star flew away a little languidly.
Ivra looked after him. "He'll soon find the deepest, darkest, coolest
place," she said, "make himself a nest of smooth leaves and dream away
the summer. Fall and winter are his flying times. We shall see him at no
more parties for a while."
"And the Snow Witches? What will become of them?" asked Eric.
"They will get into hollows of old trees and under rocks, draw in their
skirts and their hair, curl up and sleep."
"Good news!" thought Eric. But he did not say it for he knew Ivra liked
the Snow Witches almost best of all to play with and would miss them.
Now the Tree Girl came through the gap in the hedge. She was wearing a
green frock, green sandals, and pussy willow buds made a wreath in her
"Spring, spring!" she cried as she came up the path. "We heard the sap
running in our tree all night. Father has gone on a spring wandering,
and I shall stay within tree no longer for a while."
"We know, we know!" crowed Ivra. "_I_ knew before my eyes were open this
morning. Eric had to smell the ground first. Imagine! We have been
cleaning house. Mother will surely come now. Don't _you_ feel it?"
The Tree Girl lifted her face up in the new warm wind. Her soft hair
floated feather-like. "Yes, I feel it. She is on the way. Spring brings
A bird flashed from the trees. It lighted on the hedge for a second and
was away again. But Eric had had time to recognize the beautiful bird he
had seen caged in the Witch's fir.
"The caged bird!" he cried to Ivra. "It is free! It is flying away."
The Bird Fairies were flying away, too. They were going to meet the
birds corning up from the south and teach them their songs as they flew.
They came to say good-by to the children.
"Look for us next winter," they called back, as they fluttered off in a
And finally, at high noon, just as Ivra had known she would since early
morning, Helma came,--running through the forest, jumping the hedge, and
gathering Ivra and Eric into her arms.
They three knelt on the ground by the spring flowers embracing each
other for a long, long minute.
"Did you find the key to that gate?" Eric asked when his breath came
back, "Or did they let you come at last."
"I didn't have to find the key, and they didn't let me come. They would
never have done that. But the minute I had on a light spring frock I
found I could climb the wall easily enough, and so I came running all
the way. And now they shall never get me back behind doors again. I am
free! I am as free as you, my children!"
She held them off and looked into their eyes.
She was dressed in a brown silk gown, all torn and stained from her
wall-climbing and rush through the bushes. Her feet were bare, for she
had kicked off her funny high-heeled city boots the minute she had
reached the forest. Her hair had grown to her shoulders and looked more
like flower petals than ever. But her face was not brown and serene, as
Eric had first seen it. It was pale and wild.
"They don't believe in you, children," she said. "They don't believe in
me, not the me that I am. And from morning to night they made me a
slave. They made me wear such ugly, hurting things, and then they made
me dance! Every night we danced in hot rooms and ate strange bad-tasting
food. They called dancing like that a _party_. But I could only remember
our forest parties, and our dancing here under the cool moon.
"The only glimpse of the forest I had was your Snow Witches, Ivra.
Sometimes I saw them from my bedroom window, 'way out in the fields,
whirling and scudding in mad games. And then at last one morning some
Wind Creatures flew by, above the garden wall! But when I called Wild
Star back and tried to ask him about you, children, as he perched on the
wall, they came rushing into the garden and dragged me away. They said
it was time for luncheon, and I must change my frock. But let us forget.
I am here! It is spring!"
She jumped up and stood just as the Tree Girl had stood earlier that
morning, her face lifted in the wind. Slowly that face grew calm and
warm color flooded it.
"How nicely cleaned the house is!" she exclaimed when at last they went
in. For she did not see the tracks on the floor nor the clouded windows.
All she saw was that the children had worked there to make it fit for
Ivra was proud and glad that she noticed. "I have made you a spring
frock too," she said, bringing it out. "And Eric has made you some
sandals. He makes fine sandals now!"
The frock was a brown smock with a narrow green belt.
The sandals were well made, and very soft and light.
Helma stripped off the tattered silk frock, the funny thing with its
long sleeves and stiff lace collar, and hid it away out of sight. On
went the new smock over her head in a twinkling. She stepped into the
sandals. And there was their mother, the Helma Eric had first seen.
"The garden now, we must see about that," she said in her old quiet way.
Then they went out into the garden, and Helma began to plan just where
there should plant seeds and just what must be done. The children clung
to her hands, looking up into her face, and would not let her take a
step away from them. When she stood still they leaned against her, one
against either side, and wound their arms about her.
In mid-afternoon, Spring came--not the spring of the year, but Spring
himself, the person the season is named for. He was a tall young man,
with a radiant face, and fair curls lifting in a cloud from his head.
Where he walked the earth sprang up in green grass after his bare feet,
and flowers followed him like a procession. Helma ran to him, swifter
than the children, and he kissed her lips. He lifted Ivra nigh on his
shoulder for one minute where she thought she looked away over the
treetops hundreds of miles to the blue ocean. But it may have been only
his eyes, which were very blue, that shee was looking into.
With him came two Earth Giants. They were huge brown fellows with
rolling muscles and kind, sleepy eyes. They crouched down at the opening
in the hedge and waited for Spring to go on with them.
"Shall we plant the garden, Helma?" asked Spring.
"Yes, yes," cried the children, and Helma said, "Yes, yes," as eagerly
So the Earth Giants came in and plowed it all up with their
hands,--hands twenty times as large as an Earth Man's! When they were
done, the garden was a rich golden color, and right for planting. Then
Helma pointed out to Spring where she wanted the seeds to be, violets
here, roses there, lilies there, pansies there and daisies there. Spring
gave some seeds to the children and sowed some himself. Helma sat on the
door stone and joyously directed the work.
By twilight the garden was done, and Spring went away with his Earth
As he went out through the forest, flowers and green grass followed
him--and the next morning even the dullest Earth Person would know that
Spring had come.
As for Helma and Ivra and Eric, the house would not hold their joy, and
so they dragged out their beds and slept that night in the new-plowed,
"There goes another," said Helma as she stood in the door the very next
morning after her return. "The littlest Forest Child that was, and all
by himself. He seems rather small to go spring-wandering alone."
"He likes to go alone," Ivra answered. She was setting the table for
breakfast, and Eric was helping her. "'Most always he's playing or
wandering off by himself somewhere."
Helma stood watching the little fellow until he had vanished amid the
delicate green of the forest morning. Then she tossed back her hair with
a shake of her head and cried gayly, "Let's go wandering ourselves,
pets. It's good to be home, but we have all our lives for that now.
The children were overjoyed. They did not want to wait for breakfast.
But Helma thought they had better, for no one knew where, when or how
their next meal would be. Of course, though, it was hard to eat. You
know yourself how you feel about food when you are going on an
adventure. However the bowls of cereal were swallowed somehow. Then the
stoutest sandals were strapped on, and the three were ready to set out.
First they went to Nora's farm and before they had waited many minutes
in the shadow of the trees on the edge of the field Nora came from the
door carrying their jug of milk. They ran to meet her and tell her not
to leave any more milk until they should come back. How glad the old
woman was to see Helma. "I thought spring would bring you," she said.
"Spring frees everything."
Then Helma, Ivra and Eric were off for their spring wandering. It seemed
as though every one else was wandering, too, for they could hardly walk
a mile without meeting some friend or stranger Forest Person. All gave
them greeting, whether stranger or friend, and all looked very glad that
Helma was in the forest again, for good news travels fast there, and
even the strangers knew of her home-coming.
In a secret wooded valley, walking softly to hear the birds and the
thousand little other songs of earth, they suddenly came upon a strange
and thrilling sight. A party of little girls and boys all in bright
colored frocks, purple, orange, green, blue, yellow, were putting the
finishing touches on an air-boat they were making. It was built of
delicate leaved branches and decorated with wild flowers. A great anchor
of dog-tooth violets hung over the sides and kept it on the ground.
When they saw Helma and the children coming so silently toward them they
jumped into the boat and crowded there looking like a bunch of larger
spring flowers. Then they drew in the anchor rapidly. But the little
girl sitting high in the back, the one in the torn yellow dress and with
blowing cloud-dark hair, cried, "Oh, no fear, it's Ivra and her mother
and the clear-eyed Earth Child. Want to come, Ivra? We're off spring
wandering among the white clouds."
Ivra shook her head and called, "Not unless three of us can come."
"Too full for that," called down the yellow-frocked one, for now the
boat had lifted softly almost to the tree tops. "Your Earth Child would
weigh us down. So hail and farewell. Good wandering!"
So the three on the ground stood looking up and waving and calling back,
"Good wandering!" until the green boat had drifted away and away and was
lost in the spring sky. But for a long time after, there floated down to
them in the valley far laughter and glad cries.
The spring nights were cold, and so at twilight they made themselves a
shelter of boughs. They slept as soon as it was night and woke and were
off at the break of dawn. Helma carried sweet chocolate in her pockets,
and forest friends and strangers offered them from their store all along
the way. Sometimes when they were tired or warm with walking they would
climb into the top of some tall tree, and there swinging among the cool
new leaves, Helma began telling them her World Stories again, while the
children looked off over the trembling forest roof and watched for
But when the hemlock and fir trees began to crowd out the maples and
oaks, Helma said quietly one day, "We are nearing the sea." "The sea,"
cried Eric almost wild with sudden delight. "Shall we see it? Shall we
swim in it? Oh, I have never seen it!"
"Oh, I saw it from Spring's shoulder," Ivra cried--she really thought
she had--"But mother, mother, what a wonderful surprise you had for us!"
They began to run in their eagerness. But Helma held them back. "It's a
day's journey yet," she said. And so they walked as patiently as they
could down a long, long slope through dark firs and hemlocks.
It was noon of the following day when they finally came to the sea. They
had struggled through a thick undergrowth of thorned bushes where the
great arms of the firs shut out everything ahead. Then suddenly they
were out of it, in the open, on the shore with the waves almost lapping
their toes. It was high tide. The blue sea stretched away to the blue
Eric's legs gave way under him, and he knelt on the white sand, just
looking and looking at the bigness of it, the splendor of it, the color
of it, and listening to the music of it. Ivra ran right out into the
foam brought in by the breakers, up to her waist, where she splashed the
water with her palms until her hair and face were drenched with salt
spray. Helma stood looking away to foreign countries which she could
But they were not left long to themselves. The heads of a little girl
and boy and a young woman appeared over the crest of a great wave, and
the three were swept up to the shore. They grabbed Ivra and drew her
along with them as they passed, laughing musically. Ivra did not like it
at first, and sprang away from them the minute she could shake herself
free. But when she saw their merry faces and heard them laugh, she
The children were about Eric's and Ivra's ages, and the young woman was
their mother. The children's names were Nan and Dan, and the woman's
name was Sally. But though they had Earth names they were of the
fairy-kind,--called in the Forest "Blue Water People."
Just peer into a clear pool or stream, almost any bright day, and you
will be pretty sure to see one of them looking up at you. They are the
sauciest and most mischievous of all fairies. Only stare at them a
little, and they will mock you to your face with smiles and pouts, and
will not go away as long as you stay. For they have no fear of you or
any Earth People. They follow their streams right into towns and cities,
under bridges and over dams. You are as likely to find one in your city
park as in the Forest.
Helma spoke to Sally, while the children eyed each other curiously. She
said, "How happy you Blue Water People must be now Spring has freed you
Sally dropped down on the beach, her dark hair flung like a shadow on
the sand. Her laughing face looked straight up into the sky. She
stretched her arms above her head.
"He came just in time. Another day--and we would have had to break
through the ice ourselves. Truly. We've never had such a long winter.
Why, a _month_ ago we began to look for Spring. We lay with our faces
pressed against the cold ice for hours at a time, watching. We could
just see light through, and shadows now and then."
"And then I saw him first," cried Dan, who was listening to his mother.
"No, I!" cried Nan.
"No, no," Sallv laughed. "I heard him, singing, a long way off. And I
called you children away from your game of shells. When his foot touched
the ice we danced in circles of joy, and tapped messages through to him
with our fingers. The ice vanished under his feet, and our stream rushed
hither away to the sea. We came with it, and waved him hail and farewell
as we poured down. Who can stop at home in spring-time? And we had been
ice-bound so long!"
"And now we're here," boasted Dan, "I'm going to swim across the sea
to-morrow,--or the next day!"
"You're too little for that. Calm water is best, or little rushing
streams," warned Sally.
"What is it like across the sea?" asked Eric. "Another world?"
"I'll tell you about it in the next story," promised Helma. "And then
when I have told you, Eric, you may want to go across yourself and see
Eric drew a deep breath. "Yes, you and Ivra and I. In a boat." He
pointed to a white sail far out stuck up like a feather slantwise in the
Ivra clapped her hands.
But Helma shook her head. "When you go, it must be alone, Ivra and I
belong to the Forest."
"Why, then I don't want to go, ever." Eric shook the thought from him
"Well, let's swim across now," Dan shouted, and ran into the waves,
falling flat as soon as he was deep enough and swimming fast away. The
other children followed him, ready for a frolic. You or I would have
found that water very cold, but these were hardy children; and one of
them all winter had made comrades of the Snow Witches, remember.
They waded out to the surf and plunged through it, head first. They took
hands and floated in a circle beyond, rising and falling in the even
motion of the rollers. Nan was very mischievous, and soon succeeded in
pushing Eric out, under where the waves broke. When he looked up
suddenly and saw the great watery roof hanging over him, he was
terrified but he did not scream. People who comraded with Ivra could not
do that. He shut his eyes tight, and then thundering down came the
water-roof, and a second after, up bobbed Eric like a cork, choking and
sputtering. They were laughing at him, even Ivra. The minute the salt
water was out of his eyes he laughed, too, and tried to push Nan into
the surf. But she was too quick for him, and slipped away, farther out
Then began a game of water tag. Eric, because he was not such a good
swimmer as the others, was It most of the time. But Ivra had to take a
few turns as well. It was impossible to catch the other two. They moved
in the water as reflected light moves along a wall, not really swimming
at all, but flashing from spot to spot.
Helma and Sally lay on the sand in the spring sunshine and talked about
"Nan and Dan tear their clothes so," sighed Sally, "I could spend all my
"I must make little Eric some new clothes," said Helma. "I hope I have
cloth enough at home."
"Nan is naughty, but she is a darling," laughed Sally as Eric was pushed
under the surf.
Helma waited to see that he came up smiling and then said, "Ivra and
Eric never quarrel. They play together from morn till night like two
. . . They all had lunch together on the shore. The Blue Water Children
instead of eating smelled some spring flowers which Sally had found.
That is the way they always take their nourishment. Helma turned some
little cakes of chocolate out of her pockets, and though at first it
seemed like a small luncheon, when it was all eaten they felt satisfied.
All the afternoon the children played up and down the beach. They found
a smooth round pink sea-shell which they used for a ball. Eric was the
best at throwing. It made him happy and proud to excel in something at
last. He taught them how to play base ball, which he had once watched
Mrs. Freg's boys playing on Sundays in the back yard. They used a piece
of drift wood for a bat, and when the shell got accidentally batted into
the sea the Blue Water Children fielded it like fishes.
When they were tired of ball, the Blue Water Children drew lines on the
sand for "hop scotch,"--a game they had sometimes watched city children
playing in a park,--and taught Ivra and Eric about that.
Then they built a castle of sand, and walled it in with sea shells.
Helma showed them how to make the moat and the bridge, and Sally and she
took turns and made up a story about the castle and told it to them.
Towards evening some Earth People came by, near to the shore, in a
little steam launch. There were men and women and several children in
it. They crowded into the side of the boat towards the shore to stare
curiously at Helma and Eric. They could not see the others, of course.
Helma with her free, bright hair and bare feet looked very strange to
them. And they could not understand what Eric was doing with his arms
held straight out at each side. He was between Dan and Nan, holding
their hands, and standing to watch. But the Earth People looked right
through the Blue Water Children, or thought they were shadows perhaps.
One of the men put his hands to his mouth like a megaphone and called to
Helma, asking her if she did not want to be picked up. They thought her
being there in that wild place with a little boy, alone, and barefooted,
very singular. They thought she might have been shipwrecked. But Helma
shook her head, and so they had to take their wonder away with them. The
boat swept by.
Ivra ran out into the waves waist deep to watch the strange thing. She
had never seen a steam launch before, or anything like it. A baby, held
in his nurse's arms, caught sight of her and waved tiny dimpled hands,
calling and cooing. She saw his sparkling eyes, his light fuzzy hair,
his little white dress and socks. She ran farther into the water, waving
back to him and throwing him dozens of kisses. But no one else in the
boat saw her, and after a minute the baby's attention turned to a sea
gull flying overhead.
Ivra returned to shore, her face shining. There had been no doubt of
it--the baby had seen her at once, and had had no doubts. He had laughed
and reached his hands to her. The little Fairy Child almost hugged
herself with delight. . . .
They built themselves shelters of drift wood when night fell. Eric's was
just large enough for him to crawl into and lie still. One whole side of
it was open to the sea. Soft fir boughs made his bed, and Helma had left
a kiss with him. But he did not sleep for a long while. He lay on his
side looking out over the star-sprinkled water and up at the
star-flowering sky. And he could not have told how or from where the
command had come, but he knew as he looked that he must cross that sea
and go into the new world beyond it and see all things for himself.
World Stories were good. But they were not enough.
How he was to go, or how live when he got there--he did not once think
of that. Just that he _was_ to go filled his whole mind. He forgot that
he had said he would not go without Helma and Ivra. He did not think of
them at all. He just lay still listening to the sea's command to go
beyond and beyond.
OVER THE TREE TOPS
He was waked by Ivra's joyous cries just at dawn, and rolled out of his
shelter, rubbing his eyes and stretching his arms and legs. But as soon
as his eyes were well open he jumped up and uttered a cry of joy
himself. For hanging just above the water on the edge of the sea was a
great blue sea-shell air-boat with blue sails; and the Tree Mother stood
in it, talking to Helma and Ivra who had run down to the water's edge.
The boat and the sails were blue. Tree Mother's gown was blue. The sea
and the sky were blue. Tiny white caps feathered the water. Tiny white
clouds feathered the sky. And Tree Mother's hair was whiter and more
feathery than either. Her eyes were dark like the Tree Man's, only
keener and softer, both. And in spite of her being a grandmother her
face was brown and golden like a young out-of-door girl's, and she was
slim and quick and more than beautiful. Eric stood beside Ivra, his face
lifted up to the Tree Mother's, aglow and quivering.
"She is going to take us home," Ivra said softly.
Then Tree Mother turned the boat, and it drifted in and down on the
sand. The children and Helma climbed in. The Tree Mother said very
little on the long ride, but her presence was enough. The three were
almost trembling for joy, for the Tree Mother's companionship is rare,
and one of the splendidest things that can happen to a Forest Person.
The minute they were in the boat, it shot up and away towards home.
"Where are the Blue Water Children?" Eric cried, suddenly remembering
their playmates of yesterday.
"Have you been playing with Blue Water Children?" asked Tree Mother.
"They are gypsy-folk and you never know where you will find them next.
They are probably miles away by now."
"Faster, faster, Tree Mother," begged Ivra, who was hanging over the
side of the boat and losing herself in joy with the motion and height.
"Faster?" said the Tree Mother. "Then take care! Hold on!"
The boat shot forward with a sudden rush. The spring air changed from
cool feathers to a sharp wing beating their faces. Eric and Ivra slipped
to the floor and lay on their backs. They dared not sit up for fear of
being swept overboard. They could see nothing but the sky from where
they lay, but they loved the speed, and clapped their hands, and Ivra
cried, "Faster, faster!"
The Tree Mother laughed. "These are brave children," she thought. "Shut
your eyes then," she said, "and don't try too hard to breathe."
They swept on more swiftly than a wild-goose, so swiftly that soon the
children could neither hear, speak nor see. And then at last they were
traveling so fast that it felt as though the boat were standing
perfectly still in a cold dark place.
Gradually light began to leak through their shut eyelids, the wing of
the wind beat away from them, and the boat rocked slower and slower in
warm, spring-scented air. But in that brief time, they had traveled
many, many miles.
Now when the children leaned over the side, they saw that they were
sailing slowly over their own Forest. The tree tops were like a restless
green sea just a little beneath them. They flew low enough to hear bird
calls and the voices of the streams.
It was then they suddenly noticed that the littlest of the Forest
Children was there curled up fast asleep at Tree Mother's feet. Ivra
cried to him in surprise, and he woke slowly, stretching his little
brown legs, shaking his curly head, and lifting a sleepy face. He was
puzzled at seeing others beside Tree Mother in the boat. He had been
riding and awake with her all night up near the stars, and had dropped
to sleep as the stars faded.
She bent now and took his hand. "I picked these wanderers up at dawn,"
she said, "and now we are all going back together. We are well on the
They had left the forest roof and were sailing over open country,--a
short cut, Tree Mother explained.
"Oh, look," cried Ivra excitedly, almost tumbling over the edge in her
endeavor to see better, "isn't that the gray wall off there?"
Yes, it was the gray wall, the gray wall that had prisoned their mother
all winter. The boat went slower and slower as they neared it and then
almost hung still over the garden. The garden was full of people, having
some kind of a party, for many little tables were set there with silver
and glass that shone brilliantly in the sun. Servants were hurrying back
and forth carrying trays and their gilt buttons sparkled almost as much
as the silver.
But how strange were the people! Eric and Ivra and the littlest Forest
Child laughed aloud. They were standing about so straight and stiff,
holding their cups and saucers, and their voices rising up to the
air-boat in confusion sounded like a hundred parrots.
"Why don't they sit down on the grass to eat?" wondered the littlest
Forest Child. "And why don't they wash their feet in the fountain? They
look so very hot and walk as though it hurt!"
"Sitting on the grass and washing their feet in the fountain is against
the law there," Helma said.
But neither Ivra nor the littlest Forest Child knew what "against the
law" meant. Eric knew, however, for he had lived nine years, remember,
where most everything a little boy wanted _was_ against the law.
"But why do they stay?" Eric asked.
Helma looked a little grave. "Why did you stay, dear, for nine long
He thought a minute. "I hadn't seen the magic beckoning," he answered
"Neither have they," she said, "and perhaps never will, for their eyes
are getting dimmer all the time."
"But how can they _help_ seeing it?" cried the littlest Forest Child.
"See, all around the garden!"
It was true. All around the garden the tall trees stood and beckoned
with their high fingers, beckoned away and away with promise of magic
beyond magic. But the people in the garden never lifted their eyes to
see it. They were looking intently into their tea cups as though it
might be there magic was waiting.
"They are prisoners," said Tree Mother, "just as you were, Helma, with
this one difference. You were locked in, but they have locked themselves
in and carry their keys like precious things next their hearts."
Helma sighed and laughed at once. Then she leaned far out and tossed a
daffodil she was carrying down on the heads in the garden, shaking her
short, flower petal hair as she did it--she had cut it before starting
on the adventure--in a free, glad way.
No one looked up to see where the flower had dropped from. The people
down there were not interested in offerings from the heavens. So the
boat sailed on. Away and away over the canning factory they drifted,
where the little girl looked out from her window and up, and waved her
hands. "What are you waving at like that?" a man asked who was working
near. "Oh, just a white summer cloud," she said. For she knew very well
he did not want the truth. And I might as well tell you here that that
pale little girl was a prisoner who had not turned the lock herself, and
did not carry the key next her heart. Others had done that before she
was born. And she had seen the beckoning in spite of the lock and now
was only waiting a little while to answer it.
The children were glad to find the forest roof beneath them again. It
was noon when they sank down in the garden at their own white door
stone. Tree Mother left them there and flew away with the littlest
Forest Child, the one who liked to wander alone by himself.
Nora was in the house when they ran in. She had cleaned it with a
different cleaning from what it had had for Helma's first return. There
were no little foot prints on the floor now, and the window panes shone
like clear pools in sunlight. Three dishes of early strawberries and
three deep bowls of cream were standing on the table before the open
door. And then besides there was a big loaf of golden-brown bread.
"I thought you would be hungry," said Nora, pointing to the feast.
They were hungry indeed, for they had had nothing at all to eat since
yesterday's lunch of chocolate. They very soon finished the strawberries
and cream, and a jug of milk besides.
"You are a good neighbor, Nora," Helma said gratefully.
All Nora wanted in return for her labor and kindness was the story of
their adventure. She listened eagerly to every word. "I shall tell this
to my grandchildren," she said when the story was done, "and they will
think it just a fairy tale. They'll never believe it's fairy truth! Oh,
if they would only stop pretending to be so wise they themselves might
some time get the chance of a ride over the tree tops with Tree Mother.
But they never will. Come play with them again sometime, Eric. They
often talk about you."
"I'll come to-day and bring Ivra if they'll play with her, too!"
But Nora shook her head as she went away. "They don't believe in Ivra.
How could they play with her? Their grandmother can teach them nothing.
But they'll like the story of this adventure none the less for not
When she was gone the three took the dishes into the house and washed
them. Then they went out and worked in the garden until dusk.
THE JUNE MOON
Now every day Eric was becoming acquainted with strange Forest People:
those who had hidden away from winter in trees, and those who were
wandering up from the south along with the birds, and Blue Water People,
of course, all along the Forest streams. The Forest teemed with new
playmates for him and Ivra.
Hide-and-go-seek was still the favorite game. And now it was more fun to
be "It" than to be hiding almost, for one was likely to come upon
strangers peeping out of tree hollows, swimming under water, or swinging
in the tree tops, any minute. When the person who was "It" came across
one of these strangers he would simply say, "I spy, and you're It." Then
he would draw the stranger away to the goal, where he usually joined the
game and was as much at home as though he had been playing in it from
the very first.
The day that Eric found Wild Thyme so was the best of all,--or rather
she was the best of all. And that was strange, for when he first spied
her he did not like her at all. Her dress was a purple slip just to her
knees, with a big rent in the skirt. Her hair was short and bushy and
dark. And her face was soberer than most Forest People's faces. She was
sitting out at the edge of the Forest on a flat rock, her chin in her
hands, and she did not look eager to make friends with any one.
But he cried, "I spy! You're It!" just the same. She did not lift her
eyes. She only said, "You must catch me first. I am Wild Thyme, and that
will be hard!"
Eric laughed, for she was not a yard away from him. And he sprang
forward as he laughed. But she was quicker than he. She had been at
perfect rest on the rock, her chin in her hands, and not looking at him,
but the instant he jumped she was off like a flash, a purple streak
across the field.
But Eric did not let his surprise delay him. He ran after her just as
fast as he could, and that was very, very fast, for running with Ivra
had taught him to run faster than most Earth Children ever dream of
running. Soon, Wild Thyme slowed down a little, and faced him, running
backward, her bushy hair raised from her head in the wind of her
running, her little brown face and great purple eyes gleaming
mischievously. Eric sprang for her. She dodged. He sprang again. She
dodged again. He cried out in vexation and sprang again, straight and
sure. He caught her by her bushy hair as she turned to fly.
And a strange thing happened to him in that second, the second he caught
her hair. Instead of Wild Thyme and the sunny field, he was looking at
the sea. He was standing on the shore, looking away and away, almost to
foreign lands. Now ever since that spring night on the shore he had been
thinking of the sea and longing with all his might to cross it and see
foreign lands for himself. Only that had seemed impossible, and
something he must surely wait till he was grown up to do. But now, in a
flash, as his fingers closed on Wild Thyme's hair, he knew that he could
indeed do that, and anything else he really set his heart on.
No girl, even a fairy, likes to have her hair pulled. So Wild Thyme was
angry. She pinched Eric's arm with all her strength. Then _he_ was
angry. And so they stood holding each other, he her by the hair, and she
him by the arm, staring hotly into each other's faces. But slowly they
relaxed, and becoming their own natural selves again, broke into
"You'll play with us, won't you?" Eric asked.
"Of course," she said, "and I _am_ It!" And away they ran to find the
others, Ivra, the Tree Girl, the Forest Children, and Dan and Nan. When
those saw who it was Eric had captured they ran to meet her, shouting
gayly, "Wild Thyme! Goody! Goody! Hello, Wild Thyme!" They seemed to
have known her always. She and Ivra threw their arms about each other's
shoulders and danced away to the goal.
Wild Thyme was a wonderful playfellow. She was so wild, so free, so
strong, so mischievous. And when the game was ended she invited them to
a dance that very night. "It's to be around the Tree Man's Tree," she
said. "And all come--come when the moon rises."
. . . Perhaps Eric's good times in the Forest reached their very height
that June night of the dance. He had never been to a dance before, and
just at first he did not think there would be much fun in it. But Ivra
wanted him to go, and offered to show him about the dances. So they ran
away from the others to the edge of the field where Eric had discovered
Wild Thyme, and there on the even, grassy ground Ivra showed him how to
dance. It was very easy,--not at all like the dances Earth Children
dance. It was much more fun, and much livelier. The dances were just
whirling and skipping and jumping, each dancer by himself, but all in a
circle. Eric liked it as well as though it had been a new game.
Late that afternoon Helma and Ivra and Eric gathered ferns and flowers
to deck themselves for the evening. They put them on over the stream,
which was the only mirror in the Forest.
Helma made a girdle of brakes for herself, and a dandelion wreath for
her hair. She wove a dear little cap of star flowers for Ivra, and a
chain of them for her neck. Eric crowned himself with bloodroot and
contrived grass sandals for his feet. But the sandals, of course, wore
through before the end of the first dance and fell off.
They had a splendid supper of raspberries and cream, which they sat on
the door stone to eat, and then told stories to each other, while they
waited for the moon to rise. It came early, big and round and yellow,
shining through the trees, flooding the aisles of the Forest with silver
light until they looked like still streams, and the trees like masts of
great ships standing in them.
Then the three hurried away to the Tree Man's. They ran hand in hand
through the forest aisles, their faces as bright to each other as in
daylight. But before they even came in sight of the tree they heard
"Thrum, thrum, thrum, thrummmm, thrummmmmmmmmmmm." Very soft, very
insistent, very simple and strangely thrilling. When they came to the
tree, there were the Forest Children, who had come early, whirling
around in a circle, and the Tree Girl in the center of the circle making
music with a tiny instrument she held in one hand and touched with the
fingers of the other.
Soon Forest People began arriving from every direction. There were the
Blue Water Children, bright pebbles around their necks, and white sea
shells in their blue hair. The Forest Children were crowned with
maidenhair fern. The Tree Girl was the most beautiful of all in her
silver cobweb frock and her cloudy hair. The Tree Man stood still in the
shadow, but his long white beard gleamed out, and his deep eyes. Wild
Thyme wore a rope of the flower that is named for her around her neck,
but there was a new rent in her purple frock and her legs were scratched
as though she had remembered her dance only the last minute and come
plunging the shortest way through bushes, which was true.
Thrum, thrum, thrum, thrummmmmmmmmm.
Every one except the Tree Man was dancing, bewitched in the moonlight,
all over the grassy space around the great tree. The grass was cool and
refreshing under Eric's bare feet, and he often dug his bare toes into
the soft earth at its roots as he leapt or ran just to make sure he was
on earth at all. For he felt as though he were swimming in moonlight, or
at least treading it.
Thrum, thrum, thrum, thrummmmmmmmmm.
When the Tree Girl's music stopped between dances, then it would go on
in Eric's head. It was just the sound of the night after all. Once Eric
noticed that the Beautiful Wicked Witch was dancing next to him in the
circle but he was not afraid of her there with the others, and in bright
moonlight. And she was plotting no ill. Her face was sparkling with
delight and she had utterly forgotten herself in the dance.
When the great moon hung just above them, and shadows were few and far
between, the Tree Mother came walking through the Forest, quieter and
more beautiful than the moon. Wild Thyme ran to her and laid her bushy
head against her breast. For Wild Thyme only of all the Forest People
loved her without awe. The Tree Mother put her hand on Wild Thyme's head
and stood to watch the dancing. Her robe gleamed like frost, and her
hair was a pool of light above her head.
Thrum, thrum, thrum, thrummmmmmmmm.
Wild Thyme jumped back into the dance and the Tree Mother stood alone.
But although she stood as still as a moonbeam under the tree, she made
Eric think of dancing more than all the others put together. It was her
eyes. The thrum, thrum, thrum, thrummmmmmmmmm was in them, and the rest
of that night Eric felt as though the music-instrument the Tree Girl was
swinging was silent, and that all the music flowed from Tree Mother.
But Eric, after all, was only an Earth Child, and his legs got very
tired in spite of the music and the moonlight. So at last he slipped out
of the circle, and stumbling with weariness and sleepiness went to Tree
Mother. She picked him up in her arms, and the minute his head touched
her shoulder he was sound asleep, the music at last hushed in his head.
When he woke it was summer dawn. The birds were flitting above in the
tree-boughs and making high singing. He was alone, lying beneath a
silver birch, his head among the star flowers.
He knew that Helma and Ivra had not wanted to wake him, but had gone
home when the moon set, and were waiting breakfast for him there now. So
he jumped up and ran home through the dew.
THE DEEPEST PLACE IN THE WOOD
It was on the hottest day of all the hot days of summer that Eric found
the deepest place in the Forest. He wandered into it while he was
looking for Wild Thyme. Ivra had been no good to him that day. She was
usually ready to play in any weather; but on this, the hottest day of
the year, she stayed indoors, where it was a little cooler, and lying on
the settle she drew paper dolls on birch bark, and afterwards cut them
out. Yes, even fairy children love paper dolls and Ivra loved them more
than most. Eric wanted her to go swimming in the stream, but he teased
her to in vain, for she was entranced with the dolls and would hardly
lift her eyes from them.
Helma was swinging in a vine swing she had made for herself high in a
tree above the garden. One of the Little People was perched on a leaf
just over her head, and they were chattering together like equals. Their
eager voices floated down to Eric standing disconsolate near the door
stone. But Helma usually knew when her children were in trouble, no
matter how tiny the trouble, and so before Eric had stood there long or
dug up more than a bushel of earth with his bare toes, she leaned over
the nest and called to him.
"Why don't you go and play with Wild Thyme? She doesn't mind the heat.
Every one else is staying quiet till sundown."
Wild Thyme was a happy thought, and Eric walked away in search of her.
But she was in the very last place he would have thought to look on such
a scorching day, and that is how he missed her. She was lying full
length on the hot burnt grass in the field at the Forest's edge, loving
the heat and sunshine, which covered her like a mantle. If Eric had seen
her it is probable he would not have known her or stopped to look twice.
He would have thought her just a little patch of the flower that is
named for her.
So he wandered on and on, looking high and low and all about for her,
and he went deeper and deeper into the Forest. The deeper he went the
cooler it became, for the forest roof kept out the sunshine. The light
grew dimmer and dimmer too. Eric had never been so far in before and
everything was strange to him.
He saw no Forest People except a little brown goblin who peered at him
from some underbrush and then scuttled away into the darkness of denser
brush. Eric had never seen a goblin before, but he had no fear of
goblins, and so this one did not bother him at all. He heard others
scuttling and squeaking, and one threw a chunk of gray moss at him. He
stopped and picked it up and threw it back with a laugh in the direction
it had come from.
"Come out and play, why don't you?" he called. "I know where there's a
fine swimming pool." But there was no answer to his invitation. Instead
there was sudden and utter silence. He was disappointed, for he did want
a playmate, and he had almost given up looking for Wild Thyme.
After walking for a long while he came at last to one of the windings of
the Forest stream, and gratefully stepped into the shallow, clear water,
dark with shadows. His feet were burning, and his head was hot. So he
drank a long drink of the cold, delicious water, ducked his head, and
finally washed his face. Then he waded on with no purpose in mind now
but just to keep his feet in the water.
It was so he came to the deepest place; where not even Ivra had ever
been. It was almost cool there, and more like twilight than early
afternoon. And right in the deepest place, in a nest of smooth leaves,
with his feet in the water, lay Wild Star. When Eric first caught sight
of him he thought he was asleep, for his wings were lying on the leaves
half folded and dropped, and his knees were higher than his head. But
when Eric went close enough to see his eyes he knew that he was very
wide awake, for they were wide open, watchful and intent,--and purple
like the early morning. Such wide-awake eyes were startling in such a
sleepy, still place. Eric expected him to spread his wings in a flash
and dart away. But the wings stayed half open, purple shadows on the
leaves, and Wild Star did not even raise his head. Only his eyes greeted
But Eric knew without words that Wild Star was glad to see him. So he
stepped up out of the water and stretched himself on a mound of silvery
moss near by. With his chin resting in his palms and his elbows
supporting, he faced the Wind Creature, his clear blue eyes open to the
intent purple ones.
It was Wild Star who spoke first.
"I thought, little Eric, you would have crossed the sea before this, and
be out of the Forest. I expected to find you next fall on the other side
of the world."
Eric was amazed, for he had not said one word of his dream about that to
any one. "How did you know I wanted to go?" he cried.
"Oh, you are an Earth Child, after all, and I knew you would want to be
going on, as soon as you saw the sea."
"But _why_ do I want to go on?" asked Eric, his face clouding with the
puzzle of it. "I am so happy here, and Helma is my mother now. There
can't be another mother across the sea for me. And if there were I
wouldn't want her,--not after Helma! No, Helma is my only mother, and
Ivra is my comrade. And still I want to leave them,--and go on and away
over there. It is very funny."
"No," said Wild Star. "It isn't funny. You are a growing Earth Child,
not a fairy. It is your own kind calling you. It is the music of your
"I don't know what you mean," said Eric.
"It is like this: you know when you begin to sing a song, you go on and
on to the end without thinking about it at all. It is the theme that
carries you. Well, a human life is made like a song,--it carries itself
along. You do not stop to think why. It can't stop in the middle, on one
chord, for long. Yours now is resting, on a chord of happiness. But soon
it will go on again. You want it to. Life in the Forest, though, isn't
like that. Here it is music without any theme, like the music we dance
to. Thrum, thrum, thrum, thrummmmmmmm. But there is more than that to an
Earth Child's life. It runs on like this stream. The stream is happy
here in the Forest, too, but it goes on seeking the sea just the same."
There was a long stillness while Eric looked down into the green depths
of the water. At last he asked, "But how could I ever get across the
sea? And when I got there how could I get back?"
"Time enough to think about getting back when you are there," laughed
Wild Star. "But as to getting there, Helma is the one to tell you that.
She has been an Earth Child, too, you know. She felt just as you did,
that spring night on the shore. She has felt it many times. It is only
Ivra that keeps her in the Forest. Ivra docs not belong out in the world
of humans, and Helma will never leave her. But she will understand
your longing. All you have to do is tell her."
Eric clapped his hands, a habit he had caught from Ivra. "Oh, I shall
cross in a ship," he cried, "and see all the foreign lands. And when I
come back, think of the World Stories I shall have to tell Helma and
He sprang up in his joy, and felt as though he had wings on his
shoulders like Wild Star, and had only to spread them out to go beating
around the world. For a second the Wind Creature and the Earth Child
looked very much alike. And indeed, the only difference was that Wild
Star had to wait for the wind, and Eric need wait for no wind or no
season. His wings were _inside of his head_, but they were as strong as
Wild Star's. And he had only to spread them and lift them to go anywhere
Now he wanted to get back to Helma and tell her all about it. Wild Star
pointed him the shortest way, and off he ran, jumping the stream and the
moss beds beyond, and disappearing into the underbrush.
"I'll look for you next time the other side of the world!" Wild Star
shouted after him.
It was twilight when he reached home. Helma and Ivra were sitting on the
door stone, hand in hand. They made room for Eric. But he did not
snuggle up. He stayed erect, his face lifted towards the first dim
stars, and told Helma all about his wanting to go away from them out
through the Forest and across the sea, and all that Wild Star had said
about music and Earth People's lives. And he told her, too, of the
vision of success he had had when he caught Wild Thyme that first day by
her bushy hair.
Helma listened quietly, and said nothing for many minutes after he was
through. But at last she spoke, putting a hushing hand on Eric's
"I understand," she said. "I knew you would want to go on sometime. And
I have a friend across there who will help us. He has a school for boys
and I got to know him very well behind the gray stone wall. He asked me
about the Forest and you children. And he said that Eric sometime would
surely want to go back to humans, and when he did he would help him. He
understands boys. It is to him you had better go, Eric, and when you are
really ready I will tell you how, and start you on your way."
Eric sighed with contentment, and leaned his head against Helma's
But Ivra stayed at her mother's other side, as still and silent as a
shadow. Soon the fireflies began their nightly dance in the garden. But
Ivra did not go darting after them as usual to make their dance the
swifter. And Eric's head was too full of dreams and his eyes too full of
visions of the sea to notice them at all.
MORE MAGIC IN A MIST
Indian summer had come round again before Eric really made up his mind to
go. The flowers were asleep in the garden, and there was a steady,
gentle shower of yellow leaves down the Forest. That morning when he
woke the little house seemed suspended in a golden mist. As he stood in
the doorway he felt as though it might drift away up over the trees and
into space any minute. But after a little he knew it was not Helma's
little forest house that was to go swinging away into space and
adventure,--it was himself. And suddenly he wanted to go _then_,--to the
sea and over and beyond. He called the news in to Helma and Ivra, who
were still within doors. Helma came swiftly out to him.
"The trees are beckoning again, mother," he cried. "The way they did a
year ago when I first came here. Now it is just as Wild Star said. The
music is beginning to go on. There's magic out to-day. Oh, what made
Wild Star know so much?"
"Sit down," said Helma. She took his hand and drew him down beside her
on the door stone. Then she held it firmly while very slowly and
distinctly, but once only, she gave him directions about how to go,
where to go and what to do, so that he might follow the magic.
Eric sat and listened attentively, in spite of the high beating of his
heart, and the magic working in his head. As soon as she was done, he
wanted to go right away that minute. For even in his happiness he knew
that saying good-by to all his friends in the Forest would be too sad a
task. They did not say good-by when they went on long adventures, or
followed summer south. They simply disappeared one day, and those who
stayed behind forgot them until next season. So Eric would do as they.
Only last week Helma had made him a warm brown suit for the coming
winter. The new strong sandals on his feet he had made himself. His cap
was new, too, and Helma had stuck two new little brown feathers in it as
in the old one; so he still had a look of flying. There was really
nothing to delay his departure further. Helma called to Ivra, and she
came out slowly. There was no need to explain things to her, for she had
Helma lifted Eric's chin in her palms and looked long and earnestly at
the child she was letting go away from her all alone out into the queer
world of Earth People. She picked him up in her strong arms then, as
though he were a very little boy, and kissed him. She ran with him to
the opening in the hedge and set him down there, laughing.
"Run along now 'round the world," she said. "And when you come back
bring a hundred new World Stories with you!"
Eric laughed too, and promised and stood on tiptoes to kiss her again.
He stroked her short flower petal hair, and kissed her cool brown cheek
over and over. But he did not cling to her. And he did not say another
word, but ran to catch up with Ivra who was to walk with him until noon
and had gone on ahead.
The children did not scuffle through the banks of leaves, or jump and
run and burst into play as they were used to doing. They walked steadily
forward, saying very little, neither hurrying nor delaying their steps.
Once when Eric's sandal came untied Ivra knelt to fix it, for she was
still more skillful with knots than he.
But when the sun showed that it was noon, Ivra's steps grew slower and
slower, dragged and dragged, until at last she stood still in a billow
"I have to go back now," she said.
In a flash all the magic swept out of the day for Eric. He knew he could
never say good-by to Ivra, so he stayed silent, looking ahead into the
fluttering, golden forest. But even as he looked the trees began to
beckon with their high fingers, and 'way away, down long avenues of
trees he _almost_ glimpsed the sea.
Ivra threw her arms about his neck and kissed him. "Good-by, comrade,"
was all she said.
He kissed her cheeks. "I'll come back," he promised. But before he had
gone many steps he turned to see her again. She was standing in the
billow of leaves, a lonely-looking little girl, her face paler than it
had been even on that day of the wind-hunt. He wanted to run back to her
and tell her he would be her playmate always, and never leave the
Forest. But he wanted, too, to go on and across the sea and into foreign
lands. He stayed irresolute.
And then quite suddenly, standing just behind Ivra, he saw Tree Mother.
She was not looking at him at all, but at Ivra, and her eyes were kind
stars. When Ivra turned to go home she must walk right into Tree
Mother's arms and against her breast. So Eric was happy again, Ivra
could not be lonely with dear Tree Mother. Perhaps she would take her up
in her air-boat high above the falling leaves, where she could look down
on the magic. He waved, calling, "Remember me to the Snow Witches when
they come." That was not because he really wanted to be remembered to
them but because he knew that Ivra liked them best of all, and it
would please her.
She nodded and waved too, and threw him a kiss. Then a shower of
fluttering leaves came between the playmates.
When it was clear again Eric had run on out of sight, and was lost to
Ivra in the Forest. On and on and on through the showers of golden
leaves he went, magic at his elbow and around him, and beckoning ahead
of him. And after long walking and many thoughts, at last he did see the
sea, gleaming blue and white sparkles between the golden trees.
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