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The Fairy Painters - from Harper's

 

The Fairy Queen had built herself a palace of gold and crystal. The rooms were hung with tapestry of rose leaves, and the floors were carpeted with moss. The great hall was the grandest part of all. The ceiling was made of mother-of-pearl, and the walls of ivory, and the lights which hung from the roof sparkled with diamonds. These ivory walls were to be covered with paintings; so the Queen called the fairy artists, and bade them all paint a picture for her by a certain day. "He whose picture is best," she said, "shall paint my hall, to his everlasting renown, and I will raise him, besides, to the highest fairy honors." The youngest of the fairy painters was Tintabel. He could draw a face so exquisite, that it was happiness only to gaze at it, or so sad that no one could see it without tears. No fairy longed as he did for the glory and renown of painting the Queen's palace.

He wandered out into the wood to dream his idea into loveliness before he wrought it with his hand. "Never shall be picture like my picture," he said aloud; "I will steal the colors of heaven, and trace spirit forms." But Orgolino, that wicked fairy, heard him. Now Orgolino painted very grandly. He could draw wild and strong and terrible beings, which thrilled the gazer with wonder and awe. Of all his rivals he feared Tintabel only. So, when he saw him alone in the wood, he rejoiced wickedly, and said, "Now I will rid myself of a foe;" and he flew down upon the poor Tintabel, and being a more powerful fairy, he caught him, and pinned his wings together with magic thorns, and fastened him down with them among the fungus and toad-stools of the damp wood. Then he flew away exulting, and painted day and night. It was a magnificent picture, with stately figures, powerful and triumphant, and Orgolino's heart swelled with pride at his work, and he said to himself, "I might have left that poor wretch alone. The weakling could do nothing like this."

Meanwhile Tintabel cried bitterly, because his hope was lost, his praise would never be heard among the fairies, and the beauty he had hoped to create he should never see. The elf that lived in the toad-stool looked up as the tears fell upon him, and gathered them up from his fungous coat, where they sparkled like dew.

"What sweet water!" he said.

"Alas!" sighed Tintabel—"alas for my vanished hopes! Oh! how lovely should my picture have been, and now I am bound down here to uselessness;" and he could not feel the pain of his bruised and bound wings because of the pain at his heart. The elf in the toad-stool looked up and said,

"Fairy, paint me a picture, here on the smooth surface of the toad-stool, for I have never seen one."

Tintabel stopped his wailing to think how wretched was the elf who had never seen a picture.

"Ah! elf," he said, "I have neither pencil nor colors. How can I paint?"

But the elf pointed to one of the thorns which fastened Tintabel's wings. The end was long, so that the fairy could reach it.

"There is a pencil," said the elf; and the artist's longing came upon the fairy, and he seized the thorn. Poor hurt wings! how they quivered and pained as the point of their fastenings pressed hither and thither over the surface of the toad-stool, and crushed and dragged and rent them in its course! But the thorn had a magic in it, and Tintabel found it possessed more than fairy power. The sharper his pain, the more perfect the stroke he could make. As the delicate film of the wing was torn, the rainbow tints dropped off, and gave him lovelier colors than the hues of heaven; and the elf held up his tears as water for the painting. He painted his remembrance of fairy-land and his weariness of earth.

When the appointed day came, the Fairy Queen called her painters together. The great hall was filled with them, but of all the pictures none was so great as Orgolino's. He had painted "The Triumph of Strength." Then said the Queen, "Where is Tintabel?" and no one knew.

"He has not cared to obey your Majesty's command," said Orgolino.

But the Queen looked at him steadily, and said, "Tintabel must be found."

Then all the fairies went in search of him. Soon one returned and said, "Tintabel is bound in the wood among the fungus and toad-stools, and before him is a picture more beautiful than any fairy ever saw."

"Come," said the Queen; and her subjects followed her to the wood.

There, on the white toad-stool's top, was a tiny picture, lovelier and grander at once than any fancy could dream, and it showed "The Triumph of Pain."

Then Orgolino was turned out into the wood among the cold and creeping things, and Tintabel was taken to great honor.