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Phil's Fairies by Mrs. W. J. Hays

CHAPTER I

THE WIND HARP

"Oh, Lisa, how many stars there are to-night! and how long it takes to count just a few!" said a weak voice from a little bed in a garret room.

"You will tire yourself, dear, if you try to do that; just shut your eyes up tight, and try to sleep."

"Will you put my harp in the window? there may be a breeze after a while, and I want to know very much if there is any music in those strings."

"Where did you get them, my darling,"

"From Joe."

"Joe, the fiddler?"

"Yes; he brought me a handful of old catgut; he says he does not play any more at dances; he is so old and lame that they like a younger darkey who knows more fancy figures, and can be livelier. He is very black, Lisa, and I am almost afraid of him; but he is so kind, and he tells me stories about his young days, and all the gay people he used to see. Hark! that is my harp; oh, Lisa, is it not heavenly?"

"I don't know," said poor, tired Lisa, half asleep, after her long day's work of standing in a shop.

Phil's harp was a shallow box, across which he had fastened some violin strings rather loosely; and Phil himself was an invalid boy who had never known what it was to be strong and hardy, able to romp and run, or leap and shout. He had neither father nor mother, but no one could have loved him more or have been any gentler or more considerate than was Lisa—poor, plain Lisa—who worked early and late to pay for Phil's lodging in the top of the old house where they lived, and whose whole earthly happiness consisted in making Phil happy and comfortable. It was not always easy to do this, for Phil was a strange child; aside from the pain that he suffered, he had odd fancies and strange likings, the result of his illness and being so much alone. And Lisa could not always understand him, for she lived among other people—rough, plain, careless people, for whom she toiled, and who had no such thoughts as Phil had.

From the large closet that served as her bedroom Lisa often heard Phil talking, talking, talking, now to this thing, now to that, as if it were real and had a personality; sometimes his words were addressed to a rose-bush she had brought him, or the pictures of an old volume she had found on a stall of cheap books at a street corner, or the little plaster cast that an image-seller had coaxed her to purchase. Then, again, he would converse, with his knife and fork or plate, ask them where they came from, how they were made, and of what material. No answer coming, he would invent all sorts of answers, making them reply in his own words.

Lisa was so used to these imaginary conversations that they did not seem strange to her.

Phil had, too, a passion for music, and would listen intently to the commonest strains of a hand-organ, and Lisa had given him a little toy harmonica, from which he would draw long, sweet tones and chords with much satisfaction.

Old Joe, who blackened boots for some of the lodgers, had heard the child's attempts at music, and had brought his violin and played for him. One day, happening to leave it for a while on the window-ledge, Phil's quick ear had detected a low vibration from the instrument. This circumstance, and something he had read about a wind harp, had given him the wish to make one—with what success he was anxious to find out, when Lisa laid it in the open window for him.

A soft south wind was blowing, and, as Phil spoke, it had stirred the loose strings of the rude Aeolian harp, and a slight melodious sound had arisen, which Phil had thought so beautiful. He drew his breath even more softly, lest he should lose the least tone, and finding that Lisa was really asleep, propped himself up higher on his pillows, and gazed out at the starlit heavens.

He often talked to the stars, but very softly and wonderingly, and somehow he could never find any answers that suited him; but to-night, as the breeze made a low soft music come from his wind harp, filling him with delight, it seemed to him that a voice was accompanying the melody, and that the stars had something to do with it; for, as he gazed, he saw a troop of little beings with gauzy wings fluttering over the window-ledge, and upon the brow of each twinkled a tiny star, and the leading one of all this bevy of wee people sang:

"Come from afar,
Here we are! here we are!
From you Silver Star,
Fays of the Wind,
To children kind."

"How lovely they are!" thought Phil. "And so these really are fairies. I never saw any before. They have wings like little white butterflies, and how tiny their hands and feet, and what graceful motions they have as they dance over my harp! They seem to be examining it to find out where the music comes from; but no, of course they know all about it. I wonder if they would talk to me?"

"Of course we will be very glad to," said a soft little voice in reply to his thoughts.

"I was afraid I would frighten you away if I spoke," said Phil, gently.

"Oh no," replied the fairy who had addressed him; "We are in the habit of talking to children, though they do not always know it."

"And what do you tell them?" asked Phil, eagerly.

"All sorts of nice things."

"Do you tell them all they want to know?"

"Oh no," laughed the fairy, with a silvery little voice like a canary-bird's. "We cannot do that, for we do not know enough to be able to: some children are much wiser than we. I dare say you are."

"Indeed I am not," said Phil, a little sadly; "There are so many things that puzzle me. I thought that perhaps, as you came from the stars, you knew something of astronomy."

"What a long, long word that is!" laughed the fairy again. "but we are wind fairies; and yet the Father of the Winds is called Astraeus: that sounds something like your long word, does it not?"

"It sounds more like Astrea, and that means a star."

"Why, where did you learn so much?"

"I saw it in a big book called a dictionary."

"Another long word. Doesn't your head ache?"

"Sometimes, not now. I have not any books now, except picture-books."

"Did you ever have?"

"Oh yes; when papa was living we had books and pictures and many beautiful things; but there was a great fire, and all sorts of trouble, and now I have only Lisa. But Lisa does not understand as papa did; it was he showed me that word in the dictionary."

"Oh, don't say that great ugly word again! Shall I tell my friends to make some more music?"

"Yes, please."

The wind fairy struck her little hands together, and waved her wings. In a moment the little white troop danced over the strings of the harp, and brought out sweet, wild strains, that made Phil nearly cry for joy. They seemed to be dancing as they did it, for they would join hands and sway to and fro; then, parting, they wound in and out in graceful, wreath-like motions, and the tiny stars on their foreheads flashed like diamonds. Up and down they went, the length of the strings, then across, then back again; and all the time the sweet wild music kept vibrating. "How lovely! how lovely!" said Phil, when there was a pause.

"I am so glad you like it! we often make music for people, and they hardly hear it," said the fairy.

"I do not see how they can help hearing," said Phil.

"Why, I'll tell you how: we frequently are in the tree-tops, or whirling about low bushes; every soft breeze that blows has some of our music in it, for there are many of us; and yet very few people pay attention to these sounds."

"When the wind screams and roars in winter, is it you, then, who does that too?" asked Phil.

"Oh no," said the fairy, rustling her wings in some displeasure. "We are of the South Wind only, and have no such rude doings; I hope I may never have any work to do for the North Wind, he is so blustery. Now it is time you went to sleep, and we cannot stay longer, for if the moon rises we cannot see our star-beams, and might lose our way. We will just fan you a little, and you will soon be in Dream-land."

As she spoke, Phil saw her beckon to her troupe, and they all flocked about him, dazzling him so with their starry coronets that he was forced to shut his eyes, and as he closed them he felt a gentle wafting as of a hundred little wings about his forehead, and in another moment he was asleep.


CHAPTER II

PHIL'S NEW FRIEND

Old black Joe had not always been either a boot-black or fiddler. In his youthful days he had been a house-servant, and had prided himself on his many accomplishments—his dexterity at dinners, his grace at evening parties, the ease and unconcern with which he could meet embarrassing emergencies at either. But times had changed for him: his old employers had died, a scolding wife had made his home unhappy, he had lost the little money he had saved, and he was no longer the bright, cheerful young fellow he had been. Age and rheumatism had made him crusty; but beneath the outward manner, which sometimes was very cross, he had a tender heart and a pitiful nature.

Of late years he had picked up enough for his support in the many little ways incident to city life. He could whitewash, sweep chimneys, run on errands—or rather walk on them, and that, too, very slowly. He shovelled snow and carried coal, sawed wood and helped the servants at whose homes he was employed.

His occupations took him about to many houses, but he always irritated the people with whom he came in contact by invariably assuring them that their masters and mistresses were not of the real stuff that ladies and gentlemen of his day were made of; that fine feathers did not make fine birds; that people nowadays were all alike, and had no manners.

He made one exception only, in favor of a maiden lady whose parents he had known, whose servants were kind to him, and whose retired and dignified way of living quite suited his fastidiousness.

This was a Miss Schuyler; and nothing pleased Joe more than to have this one person, whom he regarded with unqualified admiration, send for him to bestow the monthly allowance she was in the habit of giving him. On the day that he expected this summons he always gave an extra touch to his toilet, exchanged his torn coat for a patched one, his slouch hat for a very much worn beaver adorned with a band of rusty crape, and out of the pocket of his coat, but never upon his hands, was to be seen an old pair of yellow kid gloves.

In the course of Joe's wanderings he had chanced to, hear of the invalid boy Phil, who liked to listen to his fiddle, and it did not take long to strike up an acquaintance between them.

Often on a rainy day, or when work was dull, Joe would spend an hour or two with Phil, relieving his loneliness, soothing his pain, and cheering him with his music and his rambling talk about "old times" and the people he had seen.

It was the latter part of May, and had been very warm; but Joe buttoned up his best coat and donned his beaver, for his pay was due at Miss Schuyler's. She lived in a large house, rather imposing and handsome, and in the gayest part of the city; but she was by no means imposing or gay in her own person. A little figure, simply dressed, a kind face without beauty, a gentle manner, and a certain gracious kindliness and familiarity had endeared her to Joe. On this day she was not, as usual, sitting with her work in the library, where the sun poured in on the bronzes and richly bound volumes, on the old engravings and the frescoed ceiling—for Miss Schuyler liked light and warmth and color—but she was away up in the top of the house, directing her maids in the packing of blankets and woollens and furs, preparatory to leaving her house for the summer. Joe had mounted stair after stair seeking her, and by the time he reached her was quite out of breath; this, and the odor of camphor and cedar-wood, made him sneeze and cough until Miss Schuyler said to one of the maids in a whisper, "The poor old soul would have been black in the face had he ever been white."

To Joe himself she said, very kindly, "My good old friend, you need not have taken so much trouble to see me; I could have come down to you."

"Laws, Miss Rachel, I knew you was busy, and nuffin's ever a trouble to do for you; I go to the tops of houses often—just come from one where poor Phil's a-groanin' with pain. That chile'll die if somebody don't do suthin' fur him soon."

"What child?" asked Miss Schuyler, whose tender point was her love of children. "You haven't any grandchildren, Joe, have you?"

"No, Miss Rachel, de Lord nebber trusted me with any chil'en."

"Well, who is Phil?" said Miss Schuyler, absently; adding, to one of her maids, "Take care of that afghan; wrap it in an old linen sheet; it was knitted by a very dear friend, and I do not want it moth-eaten; I had rather lose a camel's-hair shawl." Which evidence or regard seemed very extravagant to the girl who was obeying instructions, but which Joe thought he appreciated.

"Haven't I tole ye about Phil, Miss Rachel?"

"I don't know. I don't think you have. But come down to my room, Joe, and then I can listen to your story."

Giving a few more directions, Miss Rachel led the way to a lovely sunny room, with flower-baskets in the windows, soft blue draperies, and delicate appointments. Seating herself at a desk and pointing Joe to a chair, upon which the old man carefully spread a silk handkerchief lest his clothes should soil the blue cushions, she counted out the money due him, and placed it in an envelope, saying as she did so, "Now tell me about that child."

"It's a white chile, Miss Rachel."

"Well, I like white children, Joe, though I must confess the little colored ones are much more interesting," said Miss Rachel, smiling.

"I thought you liked my people, Miss Rachel; but this poor Phil's a gentleman's son, very much come down far's money goes. He is too young to know much about it, but the girl who takes care of him was brought up in his family, and she says they was well off once."

"But what about the boy?" asked Miss Schuyler, a little impatiently.

"He's a great sufferer, but he's a wonderful chile. He loves to have me play for him, and then he tells me the thoughts that come to him from the music. I's no great player, Miss Rachel," said Joe, modestly, "but you'd think I was, to hear him talk. He sees fairies and he dreams beautiful things, and his big brown eyes look as if he could a'most see 'way up into heaven. Oh, he's a strange chile; but he'll die if he stays up in that garret room and nebber sees the green fields he's so hungry for."

Miss Rachel's eyes were moist, but she took a card and pencil from her desk. "Where does he live—in what street and what number?"

"I'm sorry, Miss Rachel—You jess go up the Avenue, and turn down the fourth or fifth street, and up a block or two, and it's the fust house with a high stoop and green shutters. I allers go in the alleyway, so I forgit numbers."

Miss Schuyler bit her lip to keep from smiling, thought a moment, scribbled a memorandum, rang the bell, and gave some more directions; left the room, and came back with her bonnet on. "Can you show me the way to Phil's house, Joe?"

"Course I can, Miss Rachel," replied the old man, delighted that his words had aroused his listener's sympathies.

"It's not very far; he's all alone, 'cause Lisa has to be away all day. And I shouldn't wonder"—here he dropped his voice to a whisper—"if sometimes he was hungry; but he'd nebber say so."

This latter remark made Miss Schuyler bid Joe wait for her in the hall, while she went to a closet, found a basket, in which she placed a snowy napkin, some biscuit, some cold chicken, and a few delicious little cakes. In her pocket she put a little flask of some strong cordial she had found of service on her many errands of charity.

How proud Joe was to be her escort! but how meekly he walked behind the lady whose footsteps he thought were those of a real gentlewoman, the only one to whom he would accord this compliment, although he passed many elegant dames in gay attire.

The little gray figure, with its neat, quiet simplicity, was his embodiment of elegance, for somehow Joe had detected the delicate perfume of a sweet nature and a loving heart—a heart full of Christian charity and unselfishness.

They walked for some distance, and the day was so warm that Miss Schuyler moderated her usual rapid pace to suit the old man's feebler steps. Off the Avenue a long way, up another, down a side street, until, amid a crowded, disagreeable neighborhood, Joe stopped.

"You had better lead me still, Joe. The boy might be frightened or annoyed at seeing a stranger: I dare say he's nervous. Go up, and I will wait outside the door while you ask him if I may come and see him. Wait, there's a flower-stall a little way from here; I will get a bunch. Take my basket, and I will be back in a few moments. I am glad I thought of the flowers; children always like them."

She hastened off, while Joe leaned on his cane and muttered blessings upon her; but some rude boys beginning to chaff him, he turned on them with his usual crustiness, and quite forgot his beatitudes.

Miss Schuyler came back in a few minutes with a lovely bunch of bright blossoms embosomed in geranium leaves.

"Now, then, Joe, this shall be my card; take it in, and tell Phil I am coming."

"God bless you, Miss Rachel!" was all Joe could reply.

Miss Rachel had her own way of doing things. It was nothing new for her to carry flowers and dainties to the sick poor. She had been much with sick people, and she knew that those who have no luxuries and few necessaries care for the things which do not really sustain life quite as much as do those who can command both.


CHAPTER III

PHIL HAS A VISITOR

Phil was alone, as indeed he was always, except on Sundays, or the few half-holidays that came to Lisa. Once in a while Lisa begged off, or paid another woman for doing an extra share of work in her place, if Phil was really too ill for her to leave him. The hot sun was pouring into the garret room, though a green paper shade made it less blinding, and Phil was lying back in a rocking-chair, wrapped in a shawl. On a small table beside him were some loose pictures from a newspaper, a pencil or two, and an old sketch-book, a pitcher of water, and an empty plate.

The boy opened his closed eyes as Joe came in, after knocking, and looked surprised.

"Why, Joe, what is the matter?" he asked. "You do not come twice a day very often."

"No," said Joe, "Nor are you always a-sufferin' as you was this mornin'. I've come to know how you are, and to bring you that," said he triumphantly putting the nosegay before the child's eyes.

The boy nearly snatched the flowers out of Joe's hand in his eagerness to get them, and putting them to his face he kissed them in his delight.

"Oh, Joe dear, I am so much obliged! Oh, you darling, lovely flowers, how sweet you are! how delicious you smell! I never saw anything more beautiful. Where did they come from, Joe?"

"Ah, you can't guess, I reckon."

"No, of course not; they are so sweet, so perfect, they take all my pain away; and I have been nearly smothered with the heat to-day. Just see how cool they look, as if they had just been picked."

"It's a pity the one who sent 'em can't hear ye. Shall I bring her in?"

"Who, Joe—who do you mean?"

"Joe means me," said a soft voice; "I sent them to you, and I am Miss Rachel Schuyler, an old friend of Joe's. I want to know you, Phil, and see if I cannot do something for that pain I hear you suffer so much with. Shall I put the flowers in water, so that they will last a little longer? Ah, no! you want to hold them, and breathe their sweet fragrance."

Miss Schuyler had opened the door so gently, and appeared so entirely at home, that Phil took her visit quite as a matter of course, and though astonished, was not at all flurried. He fastened his searching gaze upon her, over the flowers which he held close to his lips, and made up his mind what to say. At last, after deliberating, he said, simply, "I thank you very much." His thoughts ran this way: "She is a real lady, a kind, lovely woman; she has on a nice dress—nicer than Lisa's; she has little hands, and what a soft pleasant voice! I wonder if my mother looked like her?"

Miss Schuyler's thoughts were very pitiful. She was much moved by the pale little face and brilliant eyes, the pleased, shy expression, the air of refinement, and the very evident pain and poverty. She could not say much, and to hide her agitation took up the sketch-book, saying, "May I look in this, please?"

Phil nodded, still over the flowers.

As the leaves were opened, one after the other, Miss Schuyler became still more interested. The sketches were simply rude copies of newspaper pictures, but there was no doubt of the taste and talent that had directed their pencilling.

"Have you ever had any teaching, Phil?" she asked.

"No, ma'am," answered Joe for Phil, thinking he might be bashful. "He hasn't had no larnin' nor teachin' of anythin'; but it is what he wants, poor chile, and he often asks me things I can't answer for want of not knowin' nuthin' myself."

"And what is this?" said Miss Schuyler, touching the box with violin strings across it, which was on a chair beside her.

"Please don't touch it," answered Phil, anxiously; then fearing he had been rude, added, "It is my harp, and I am so afraid, if it is handled, that the fairies will never dance on it again. You ought to hear what lovely music comes out of it when the wind blows."

Phil spoke as if fairies were his particular friends. Miss Schuyler looked at him pitifully, thinking him a little light-headed. Joe nodded, and looked wise, as much as to say, "I told you so."

Just then Phil's pain came on again, and it was as much as he could do not to scream; but Miss Rachel saw the pallor of his face, and turning to Joe, asked:

"Does he have a doctor? Is anything done for him?"

"Nuthin', Miss Rachel, that I knows of. I never knew of his havin' a doctor."

"Poor child!" said Miss Rachel, smoothing his forehead, and fanning him. Then she tucked a pillow behind him, and did all so gently that Phil took her hand and kissed it—it eased his pain so to have just these little things done for him. Then she poured a little of her cordial in a glass with some water, and he thought he had never tasted anything so refreshing. She sent Joe after some ice, and spreading her napkins out on Phil's table, set all her little store of dainties before him, tempting the child to eat in spite of his pain.

Phil thought it was all the fairies' doing and not Joe's—poor pleased Joe—who looked on with a radiant face of delight. Phil would not eat unless Joe took one of his cakes, so the old fellow munched one to please him.

Meanwhile Miss Schuyler gazed at the boy with more and more interest; a something she could hardly define attracted her. At first it had been his suffering and poverty, for her heart was tender, and she was always doing kind deeds; but now as she looked at him she saw in his face a likeness to some one she had loved, the look of an old and familiar friend, a look also of thought and ability, which only needed fostering to make of Phil a person of great use in the world—one who might be a leader rather than a follower in the path of industry and usefulness. The grateful little kiss on her hand had gone deeply into her heart. Phil must no longer be left alone: he must have good food and medical care and fresh air, and Lisa must be consulted as to how these things should be gained. So while Phil nibbled at the good things, and Joe chuckled and talked, half to himself and half to Phil, Miss Schuyler wrote a note to Lisa, asking her to come and see her that evening, if convenient, explaining how her interest had been aroused in Phil, and that she wanted to know more about him, and wanted to help him, and was sure she could make his life more comfortable, and that Lisa must take her interference kindly, for it was offered in a loving spirit. Then she folded the note, and gave it to Phil for Lisa, and arranging all his little comforts about him, bade him good-bye.

Phil thought her face like that of an angel's when she stooped to kiss him; and after Joe, too, had hobbled off, promising to come again soon with his violin, he took up his pencil, and tried to sketch Miss Schuyler. Face after face was drawn, but none to his taste; first the nose was crooked, then the eyes were too small, then the mouth would be twisted, and just as Lisa came in, with a tired and flushed face, he threw his pencil away and began to sob.

"Why, my dear Phil," said Lisa, in surprise, "Are you so very miserable to-night?"

"No, I am not miserable at all," said Phil, between his tears; "That is, I have had pain enough, but I have had such a lovely visitor!—Joe brought her—and I wanted to make a little picture of her, so that you could see what she looked like, and I cannot. Oh dear! I wish I could ever do anything!"

"Ah, you are tired; drink this nice milk and you will be better."

"I have had delicious things to eat, and I saved some for you, Lisa. Look!" and he showed her the little parcel of cakes Miss Schuyler had left. "And see the big piece of ice in my glass."

"Some one has been kind to my boy."

"Yes; and here is a note for you; and you must dress up, Lisa, when you go to see our new friend."

Lisa looked down at her shabby garments; they were all she had; but she did not tell Phil that her only black silk had been sold long ago. She read the note, and her face brightened. There seemed a chance of better things for Phil.

"I will go to-night, if you can spare me."

"Not till you have rested, Lisa; and you must drink all that milk your own self. Did you ever hear of Miss Schuyler?"

"I don't know," said Lisa, meditating; "The name is not strange to me. But there used to be so many visitors at your father's house, Phil dear, that I cannot be sure."

"She is so nice and tender and kind—Have you had a tiresome day, Lisa," added Phil, quickly, fearing Lisa might think herself neglected in his eager praise of the new friend.

"Yes, rather; but I can go. So Joe brought her here?"

"Yes; and see these flowers—yes, you must have some. Put them in your belt, Lisa."

"Oh, flowers don't suit my old clothes, child; keep them yourself, dear. Well, it is a long lane that has no turning," she said, half to herself and half to Phil. "Perhaps God has sent us Miss Schuyler to do for you what I have not been able to; but I have tried—he knows I have."

"And I know it too, dear Lisa," said Phil pulling her down to him, and throwing both arms around her. "No one could be kinder, Lisa; and I love this old garret room, just because it is your home and mine. Now get me my harp, and when you have put it in the window you can go; and I will try not to have any pain, so that you won't have to rub me to-night."

"Dear child!" was all Lisa could say, as she did what he asked her to do, and then left him alone.


CHAPTER IV

A PROMISE OF BETTER TIMES

When Phil was alone again, he waited impatiently for the long twilight to end in darkness, and the stars to come out. It seemed a very long time. Once in a while a faint murmur came from his harp, but it was a mere breathing of sound, and he turned restlessly in his chair. Then he closed his eyes and waited again, and his waiting was rewarded by a small voice in his ear whispering,

"Here we are! here we are!"

"Oh," said Phil, "I thought you never would come again."

"Tut, tut, child, you must not be so doubtful," said the little voice again, and the starry coronet gleamed in his eyes. "I have brought you some sweet odors of wild-flowers, and spicy breath of pine and hemlock, for I thought you needed a tonic."

Phil smelled something exquisite as she spoke, but all he said was,

"What is a tonic?"

"Something the doctors give when children are pale and thin, and do not have enough fresh air. I don't pretend to know what it means, but I often go to see sick children in hospitals, and so I hear about such things."

"Hark! is that my wind harp?—why, it sounds like water dropping and gurgling over stones."

"It is the song of a mountain brook that my friends are singing as they dance over your harp. Look!"

Phil looked, and saw the flock of fairies like white butterflies swarming again over his harp, and heard the soft, sweet singing which kept time to their steps.

"Oh, how beautiful! how beautiful!" said Phil.

"When you hear a brook singing, you must remember us," said the fairy.

"Indeed I will; but I am afraid I shall never hear one: only the hoarse cries of the street and the rumbling of wagons come to me here."

"Ah, better times are coming; then you will not need us."

Phil lay still in his chair, listening intently; the white figures glanced in shadowy indistinctness across the window, only the starry ray from each little brow lighting their dance. They swept up and down, and swayed like flowers in a breeze, and still the little clear notes of their song fell like dripping water in cool cascades. Now it flowed smoothly and softly, again it seemed to dash and foam among pebbly nooks.

"Does it rest you? are you better?" asked the one little fairy who did all the talking.

"Oh, so much!" said Phil.

After a while the song stopped, and the fairies drew all together in a cluster, and were quite still.

"What does that mean?" asked Phil.

"They are disturbed; there is a storm coming. We shall have to return."

"I am so sorry! I wanted to know more about you, and to see what you wear."

"Mortals must not approach us too nearly. We may draw near to you. See, I will stand before you."

"You seem to be all moonshine," said Phil.

"Yes," said the fairy, laughing merrily; "These robes of ours are of mountain mist, spangled with star-dust so fine that it makes us only glisten. We have to wear the lightest sort of fabric, so that we are not hindered in our long flights."

"Do you know flower fairies?"

"Yes; but we are of a very different race. I suppose you thought we dressed in rose-leaves and rode on humble-bees, but we do not; we are more—now for a long word—more ethereal." And again the fairy laughed.

"Ether means air," said Phil, quite proudly. "Do you know any fairy stories?" he asked.

"Yes; shall I tell you one next time I come?"

"Oh do, please. So you will come again."

"Yes, if I can. Now I must go. I thought I heard distant thunder. We must fly so fast—so fast! Good-bye—good-bye."

There was a long rumbling of thunder far off in the distance, and a cooler air in the hot, close room. Phil lay and dreamed, wondering how long it took the wind fairies to reach their home. Then the sweet, spicy odors came to him again, and he lifted the languid flowers Miss Schuyler had brought him, and put them in his glass of water.

He dreamed of fair green fields and meadows, of silent lakes bordered with rushes, out of which sprang wild-fowl slowly flapping their broad wings; of forests thick and dark, where on fallen trees the green moss had grown in velvet softness; of mountains lifting their purple tops into the fleecy clouds, and of long, shady country roads winding in and out and about the hills; of lanes bordered with blackberry-bushes and sumac, clematis and wild-rose; of dewy nooks full of ferns; of the songs of birds and the chirp of insects; and it seemed to him that he must put some of all this beauty into some shape of his own creation—picture or poem, song or speech; and then came a sudden sharp twinge of pain, and the brightness faded, and the room was dark, and he was hungry, and only poor little Phil, sick and sad and weary and poor.


CHAPTER V

LISA VISITS MISS SCHUYLER

"So you are Phil's good friend Lisa?" said Miss Rachel Schuyler, sitting in her cool white wrapper in the dusk of this warm May evening. "I want to hear more about Phil. The dear child has quite won my heart, he looks so like a friend of mine whom I have not seen for many years. How are you related to him, and who were his parents?"

"I am not related to him at all, Miss Schuyler."

"No?" in some surprise. "Why, then, have you the care and charge of him?"

"I was brought up in his mother's family as seamstress, and went to live with her when she married Mr. Randolph, and—"

"Who did you say? What Mr. Randolph?"

"Mr. Peyton Randolph."

Miss Rachel seemed much overcome, but she controlled herself, and hurriedly said, "Go on."

"There was no intercourse between the families after the marriage, for Mrs. Randolph was poor, and they all had been opposed to her. I suppose you do not care to hear all the details—how they went abroad, and Mr. Randolph died there; and while they were absent their house was burned; and there was no one to take care of Phil but me, for Phil had been too sick to go with his father and mother; and Mrs. Randolph did not live long after her return. I nursed them both—Phil and his mother; and when she was gone I came on to the city, thinking I could do better here, but I have found it hard, very hard, with no friends. Still, I have pretty steady work now as shopwoman, though I cannot do all that I would like to do for Phil."

Miss Schuyler was crying.

"Lisa, you good woman, how glad I am I have found you! Phil's father was the dearest friend I ever had."

"Phil's mother gave the child to me, Miss Schuyler."

"Don't be alarmed. I do not wish to separate you. How can I ever thank you enough for telling me all this? And what a noble, generous creature you are, to be toiling and suffering for a child no way related to you, and who must have friends fully able to care for him if they would!"

"I love him as if he were my own. Sometimes I have thought I ought to try and see if any of his relatives would help us, but I cannot bear to, and so we have just worried along as we could. But Phil needs a doctor and medicine, and more than I can give him."

"He shall have all he needs, and you too," said Miss Schuyler, warmly.

At this Lisa broke down, the kind words were so welcome. And the two women cried together; but not long, for Miss Schuyler rose and got Lisa some refreshing drink, and made her take off her bonnet and quiet herself, and then said:

"Now we must plan a change for Phil, and see how soon it can be accomplished. And you must leave that tiresome shop, and I will give you plenty of work to do. See, here are some things I bought to-day that I shall have to wear this summer."

She opened the packages—soft sheer lawn and delicate cambric that gave Lisa a thrill of pleasure just to touch once more, for she loved her work. "I shall be so glad to sew again, and I wish I had some of my work to show you."

"Oh, I know you will do it nicely. I am going out of town in a few days, and I want you and Phil to go with me. Do you think you can?"

"I am a little afraid," said Lisa, hesitating, "That we are not fit to; and yet—"

"I will see to all that. Now I suppose you cannot leave Phil alone much longer—besides, there is a shower coming. To-morrow I will bring a doctor to visit the dear boy, and we will see what can be done"; and she put a roll of money in Lisa's hand, assuring her that she should be as independent as she pleased after a while, and repay her, but that now she needed help, and should have it, and that henceforth Phil was to be theirs in partnership.

Lisa hurried away with a light heart. She had indeed toiled and suffered, striven early and late, for the child of her affections, and this timely assistance was a source of great joy.

She was too happy to heed the dashing shower which was now falling. Herself she had never thought of, and her dear Phil now was to be helped, to be cheered, perhaps to be made strong and well, and able to do all that his poor weak hands had tried to do so ineffectually.

She opened the door softly when she reached her room. A little shiver of sweet, sad sounds came from the wind harp. She lighted a candle, and looked into the pale face of the sleeping child as he lay in an attitude of weariness and exhaustion, with hands falling apart, and a feverish flush on his thin cheeks.

"My poor Phil! I hope help has not come too late," she whispered, as she began her preparations for his more comfortable repose.

The next day Miss Schuyler came, as she had promised, and brought a physician—a good, kind surgeon—who examined Phil, and pulled this joint and that joint, and touched him here and there, and found out where the pain was, and what caused it, and said nice, funny things to make him laugh, and told him he hoped to make him a strong boy yet. And then they whispered a little about him, and Joe was sent for, and a carriage came, and Phil was wrapped in a blanket and laid on pillows, and taken out for a drive alone with Miss Schuyler, who chatted with him, and got him more flowers; and when they came back there was a nice dinner on a tray, and ice-cream for his dessert, and Joe was to stay with him until Lisa came home; and before Lisa came there was a nice new trunk brought in, and several large parcels. And Phil thought he had never seen such a day of happiness. After his dinner and a nap, and while Joe Sat and played on his violin, Phil sketched and made a lovely little picture of flowers and fairies, in his own simple fashion, to give to Miss Schuyler. And then Lisa came home, and the parcels were opened; and there were nice new dresses for Lisa, and a pretty, thin shawl, and a new bonnet; and for Phil there was a comfortable flannel gown, and soft slippers, and fine handkerchiefs and stockings; and Phil found a little parcel too for Joe with a bright bandanna in it, and the old man was very happy.

"It seems like Christmas," said Joe.

Phil thought he had never seen quite such a Christmas, and said, "It seems more like Fairy-land, and I only hope it will not all fade away and come to an end, like a bubble bursting."

"To me," said Lisa, "It is God's own goodness that has done it all, for it was He who gave Miss Schuyler her warm, kind heart."

"And, Joe," said Phil, "We are to go to the country, and you are to go with us; is not that nice?"

"Very nice, Phil. I'm glad Miss Rachel's found out your father was her friend."

Then Joe took up his violin again, and played "Home, Sweet Home," and "Auld Lang Syne"; and Phil fancied the violin was a bird, and sang of its own free-will, and thinking this reminded him how soon he would hear the dear wild birds in the woods, and he wondered if the fairies would come to him there.

Then Joe went home, and Lisa had errands to do, and again she put the wind harp in the window, and left Phil alone, keeping very still in expectation of another visit from his fairy friend.


CHAPTER VI

THE FAIRY'S STORY

"I promised you a story," said the little voice, to his ear again.

"Yes, I know you did; can you tell it now?"

"To be sure I can, if I only have time. I did not bring any of my people to-night; they are helping some of the herb elves. It is a little late in the season, and some blossoms have been slow in opening, so that we have to urge them."

"How?" asked Phil.

"By coaxing and persuasion for some of them; others we have to blow upon quite forcibly."

"I am ready for the story when you are," said Phil.

"It is a wild affair, and one that all children might not care to hear; but to you, I fancy, nothing comes amiss."

"No, I like almost everything," said Phil.

"I shall begin just as my grandmother used to. Once upon a time, in the days of enchantment, there was a dreadful old ogre—"

"Do not make him too dreadful, or I shall have bad dreams," interrupted Phil.

The fairy laughed and flapped her little wings. "Now you must not be afraid; it will all come out right in the end. When I said the ogre was dreadful, I meant he was ugly-looking; we fairies like everything beautiful. Shall I go on?"

"Oh yes, and please forgive me for stopping you."

THE APPROACH OF THE SWANLIKE BOAT
THE APPROACH OF THE SWANLIKE BOAT

"This ogre was ugly, with a shaggy head, a shaggy beard, and fierce eyes, and he lived all by himself in a great stone castle on the shore of a large lake. His principal pleasure consisted in tormenting everything and everybody he came near; but if he had any preference, it was for boys; to tease and ill-use them had the power of affording him great happiness. Lazy, loitering little fellows were in especial danger, for he would catch them quite easily by throwing over their head's the nets he used in fishing, drag them off to his castle, and keep them in a dungeon until there would be no chance of discovery, and the boys' parents would think them lost forever. Thus he would gain a very useful, active set of laborers for a stone wall he was building, for so afraid were they of his displeasure, and so fearful that they might be starved, since the only food they received was dried and salted fish, that these boys worked like bees in a hive, only it was a sullen, painful sort of working, for they never sang or shouted, whistled or talked, and they were thin and wretched, and more like machines than boys.

"Now in this lake, on the shore of which was the ogre's castle, was an island, where lived a Princess whom the ogre had bewitched, but who had also regained her liberty, and near whom the ogre could never again come; even to land on her island or bathe in the water near would at once change him into a shark.

"This Princess, passing the ogre's castle in her beautiful swan-like sailing-boat, had seen the unhappy little boys at work on the stone wall; her sympathies had been aroused at so sad a sight, and she determined to wait her chance, and do what she could to relieve them. The chance came one day when the ogre had gone on a fishing excursion, from which he would not return till night. He had given the boys their rations of salt fish, and had commanded them in the gruffest tones to be sure and do an unusual amount of work in his absence, or they should all have chains on again; for when they were first caught he always chained them for fear they might try to escape; but they so soon lost all spirit and all desire for freedom that their chains were removed to enable them to work more easily.

"He had no sooner disappeared in his great clumsy craft, laden with seines and harpoons, and baskets and jugs, than a whispering began among the boys, a sad sort of sighing and crying, almost like the whispering of wind in the tree-tops, which changed again to looks and glances of surprise as a beautiful vessel with silken sails floated up to the wharf, and a lovely, gracious-looking lady clothed in white stepped from the boat, and came rapidly towards them.

"'Boys,' said she, addressing them in a very soft, sweet voice, 'I have come to release you from this cruel bondage; will you trust me, and go with me?'

"'Yes, yes,' came from more than a dozen little tongues.

"'Come, then, at once. Drop your work, get into my boat, and we will be off. We have no time to lose, for your cruel master might possibly change his course and overtake us; then we should be in great danger.'

"The boys crowded about her, and with a wild cry followed her to her little vessel, and almost tumbled into it in their delight. It was with some difficulty that she kept them balanced, and prevented their falling out; but once packed, there were so many of them that they could not move. The vessel seemed to start of itself; its sails swelled out and spread themselves like wings, and away they dashed over the rippling waves, which rose and fell and hurried them on their way. The ogre's castle was quickly left far behind, and the tired boys breathed more freely as it disappeared entirely from their view. In another minute they fell fast asleep, and did not waken till the motion of the boat ceased, and they found themselves gliding into a quiet harbor, fringed on each side with lovely shrubs that dipped their beautiful flowers into the calm water. Then the lady bade them follow her as she stepped from the boat on to the soft grass, and led them past fruits and flowers, and winding walks and fountains, up to the dazzling crystal palace in which she lived. Here the boys were halted while she made them this little speech: 'Boys, this is my home, these are my gardens; for a while you will have to remain here. We may have trouble with the ogre, but I want you to have no trouble among yourselves. Kindness, good-humor, pleasant looks and words, must prevail. There must be no envy, no selfishness, no desire to get the better of each other in any way. I demand obedience. If I receive it, all will be well; if I do not, you will have to suffer the consequence. Now I have said all that I need. These flowers, these fruits, are yours to enjoy in moderation.'

"As she ceased speaking she clapped her hands, and a troop of servants appeared. They led the boys to marble baths, where waters gushed and flowed in liquid beauty, and groves of orange-trees made a dense thicket about them. Here each boy was made sweet and clean, and provided with a suit of white clothes. When they emerged from the baths, they saw before them on the lawn tables filled with tempting food—roasted meats, broiled birds, pitchers of milk and cream, biscuits and jellies and ices.

"The utmost order prevailed. Starved as the poor boys were, the grace and beauty of their surroundings made them gentle and patient. At each plate was a tiny nose-gay held in the beak of a crystal bird, the body of which was a finger-bowl. Every plate was of exquisite workmanship. Some had birds of gay plumage; some had fierce tigers' heads or shaggy-maned lions; others bore designs of tools or curious instruments; but that which most delighted the boys was a dish of crystal, an exact imitation of the Swan—the Fairy Swan—in which they had sailed to this lovely island. It was laden with choice fruits. While the boys feasted as they had never before, strains of sweet music became audible; they could also hear the soft splash of the waves on the shore, or the dripping of fountains, as the waters sparkled and fell in their marble basins.

"After they had feasted, the boys wandered off in most delightful idleness to all parts of the island. They climbed the trees, which bore blossoms, fruits, and nuts, all at the same time; they fished in the little coves; they waded in the shallow basins; and nothing would have marred their happiness had not one tall boy, with unnaturally strong and keen vision, declared that he saw the ogre's sail coming in the direction of the island.

"This was terrible, and had the effect of bringing all the boys together from their various amusements, just as chickens run from a hovering hawk. Together they crowded for a moment in mute dismay, unable to speak, to even hide, waiting the approach of their cruel foe.

"Nearer came the sail, and now they could all discern it. Its great clumsy shape, its heavy lumbering action, were not to be mistaken.

"What should they do?

"'Run for the Princess,' said one.

"'Too cowardly, that,' said another; and indeed their good, abundant meal had begun to put strange courage in their little hearts.

"'Let's meet him, and fight him,' said one.

"'Let's upset his boat,' said another.

"'How?'

"'By pelting him with stones when he comes near enough.'

"'Good!' cried they all; and they began gathering all the bits of rock and pebbles they could find.

"Now came a roar of ogreish rage from the boat as it neared them.

"'I'll have ye again!' screamed the ogre.

"Then began the attack—a volley of small stones, nuts, fruits, anything they had in their pockets.

"One of the ogre's eyes was closed, so certain had been the aim of the tall boy who acted as leader.

"but the boat came nearer, and they were very much afraid the ogre would leap from it, when one of the boys whispered, 'I'll go out to tempt him. Once get him in the water, and he's a goner. He'll be bewitched.'

"So he off with his jacket, and out he waded, while the others looked on in breathless admiration.

"The ogre looked with his one eye in eager derision; then forgetting his danger, and regarding the boy much as he might do an unwary fish that he would gobble up, he sprang from his boat into the shallow water, preparing not only to snatch the one boy, but to seize them all in a great seine he dragged after him, when suddenly the waves from the centre of the lake began hissing and seething, a tremendous swell set in towards the shore, driving the brave little fellow who had gone out to tempt the enemy completely off his legs, and obliging him to swim to the land, which he had no sooner reached than a great shout from all the boys made him look back, when, lo and behold! there was no ogre, only a great shark, with open jaws and a shining row of teeth, floundering about, and dashing himself in angry transports against the sides of the ogre boat, which he vainly attempted to board. And now could be seen swarms of little fish attacking the great one, darting hither and thither, now at his head, now at his tail, but keeping well away from his open jaws. And the waves began to be colored with the shark's blood. At last, wearied and wounded, with an angry snap of his jaws he dived down, and was seen no more.

"Then the boys gave another loud huzza, when, like a broad flash of sunshine, the lovely Princess came among them.

"'Boys,' said she, 'you have proved yourselves brave youngsters. The ogre can never again trouble you. He will be a shark for three thousand years, and he will not care to stay in these waters, with so many enemies about him. Now, when you have regained your good looks and strength, I will take you all home. Here is the key to my sweetmeat closet. Run off, now, and have a good time.'

"The sweetmeat closet was a large enclosure where grew sugar-almond trees, candied pears, candied plums, and where even the bark and twigs of trees and bushes were of chocolate. In the centre was a pond of quivering jelly. Mounds and pyramids of jumbles and iced cakes abounded. They were too tempting to be long looked at without tasting, and the boys helped themselves gladly.

"A long, sweet strain from a bugle called them away from this delightful spot, and on a broad, smooth field they found bats and balls, tenpins and velocipedes—in short, everything a boy could want to play with.

"After this they supped in simple fashion, each boy with only a great bowl of bread and milk. Then to more music they were marched to their beds—downy white nests, in a great room arched with glass, through which they could see the moon and stars shining, and where the dawn could awaken them with its early light.

"Such was their life for two of the most happy weeks of their lives, and never did boys thrive better. They grew fat and rosy; they sang, they danced, they played. Every time the Princess came among them they shouted with glee, and nearly cracked their young throats in doing her honor. But all fine things come to an end some time. Once more they were packed in the Fairy Swan, and away they sailed for the land of reality and for home. The Princess gave them each a beautiful portrait of herself, of the island, and of the Swan. And each boy promised that whenever he had a chance to perform a kind action he would do it in remembrance of the gentle courtesy of the Princess. And so ends my fairy story. Good-night, Phil."

"Good-night. Oh, how nice it was! I thank you so much!" and sleepy Phil turned to see the little white butterfly wings skimming out of the window, while a long, sweet sigh came from his wind harp, sounding like, "Good-night—good-night," again.


CHAPTER VII

FAREWELL TO THE CITY

A day or two later, Phil, wrapped in shawls, was carried by Joe to a carriage, and the carriage rolled away to a wharf where puffed numerous steamboats; and here he was taken on board one of the river-steamers, and safely placed in the midst of a heap of pillows on deck, where he could see all the busy life about him—see the newspaper boys and the orange women, and the hurrying hacks and the great teams, and all the stir and tumult of the city's busiest hours. Miss Schuyler, in her cool gray suit, was on one side of him, and Lisa, looking tranquil and thoroughly glad and grateful, on the other, and Joe, just the happiest darkey in the world, sat at his feet, ready to take charge of all and everything.

They sailed and they sailed, away from the city and its many roofs, from the factory chimneys and the steeples, from the cloud of smoke which hung between the sky and house-tops, until they came to the hills and dales of pasture-lands and villages. Then they landed, and were whirled away in the cars, and Phil enjoyed it all, even the fatigue which made him sleep; and Joe carried him about as if he were a baby.

It was quite dark when, after a drive over a rather rough road, they reached the lake-side cottage which was Miss Schuyler's summer home, and Phil was glad to be put in bed, for the old pain had begun again.

When he opened his eyes the next morning, it was with a strange feeling of wonder at his new surroundings. Birds were twittering out-of-doors, and there was a soft lapping of water on the shore. The green boughs of a cherry tree almost brushed against the window-panes. He was no longer in his old garret room, but in a pretty apartment, with bunches of rosebuds on the walls, and scent-bottles on the toilet-table, and muslin curtains, and a bright carpet, and pretty book-shelves, and brackets, and lovely child-faces in the engravings; and on a broad table was a little easel, and a paint-box, and drawing-paper; and here too was his old box with the violin strings.

"Oh," said Phil, softly, "I wonder if heaven is any better than this!"

He had closed his eyes as he said it, and went over his usual morning prayer of thankfulness; and when he opened his eyes, there was Lisa with his breakfast-tray—poached eggs and toast, and a goblet of milk.

"Lisa, Lisa, is not this too nice for anything?" asked Phil.

"Yes, indeed, dear, it is nice. Miss Schuyler says you must hurry and get strong, so that you can make the acquaintance of the hens that laid these eggs for you, and the cow whose milk is to do you so much good."

"What is the cow's name, Lisa?"

"I don't know," said Lisa.

"It is Daisy," said Miss Schuyler, coming in to say good-morning. "She's a lovely little Alderney, and her milk is like cream. Oh, you will soon be strong enough to row my boat for me."

"A boat! Have you a boat?"

"Yes, and you are going out on the lake in her this very morning."

"It is just too much happiness, Miss Schuyler."

"Well, we will not overpower you. For a day or two you must rest, and do nothing but breathe the sweet air. I have to be busy getting things in order and looking after my garden. Lisa will take her work on the piazza, and you can lie in one of the easy-chairs. Joe is to wait on you, and do a little weeding, and keep the paths in order, and bail out the boat; and the old man seems to be very much at home already. So that is the order of the day. Now good-bye, and don't do too much thinking."

"One moment, Miss Schuyler; do you believe in fairies?"

"Just a little," said Miss Schuyler, with a quizzical smile.

"Well, I believe in them," said Phil, "And I think you are one of the best of them."

"Oh no, I am very human, dear Phil, as you will find out. And now I must go look after my strawberry-beds. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," said Phil, waving her a kiss. "Only think, Lisa, we will actually see strawberries growing! It is quite fairy-land for me."

After that he was carried down to the easy-chair on the piazza, where he could see the lawn sloping down to the lake, and watch the birds lighting on the rim of a vase full of daisies and running vines. He could see that the cottage was low and broad, and painted in two shades of brown; and that there were arbors covered with grape-vines on one side, and on the other he knew there were flower-beds and fruit-trees, for every once in a while Miss Rachel was to be seen emerging from there in a broad straw hat and with buck-skin gloves, trailing long bits of string or boughs of green stuff, with scissors and trowel and watering-can.

Lisa had her work-basket, and with deft fingers and a little undertone of psalmody was fashioning a pretty summer garment. Then Miss Rachel came and tossed a basketful of early roses and syringa down beside Phil, and put a little table beside him, with some slender glass vases and a pitcher of water, and asked him to arrange the flowers for her. This he was glad to do, and made the bunches up as prettily as his nice taste suggested. But he was really wearied with great happiness. It was all so new, so charming, every sense was so satisfied, that at last he closed his eyes and slept.

It seemed to him only a little while, but when he opened his eyes again Lisa was beside him with his dinner; and after dinner he slept again, and when he awakened the lawn was in shadow, and the sun low in the sky, and the birds were twittering and seeking their nests, and Miss Rachel was telling Joe to put cushions in the boat, the Flyaway; and presently Phil found himself floating gently on the lovely water of the lake, and the cottage and lawn and arbors were looking like a pretty bit of landscape he had seen in books.

He dipped his fingers in the clear water, and looked down at the pebbly bottom, and listened to the even dip of the oars, as old Joe rowed farther out from shore.

"It must be fairy-land," thought Phil, but he said nothing; he was too happy to talk. And so the day ended—the first day in the country.


CHAPTER VIII

THE NEW COMPANION

Miss Schuyler was a very active, industrious lady, and her time was fully occupied. She had her house and grounds to attend to, her business affairs, her domestic duties, and her poor people—for paradise or fairy-land, whichever Phil chose to call his present abode, was not without its poor—and so, during the day, Lisa was mostly with Phil; but he and Miss Rachel had always a pleasant chat after breakfast; and in the evening many a long talk made known to Miss Rachel more of Phil's character than he had any idea of; and the more she knew of the boy, the warmer her heart became towards him, and the more thankful she was that she had been able to do for him just what was wanted, and just at the right time.

Already there was a little color in his pale cheeks, and an eagerness for his meals. He could endure more fatigue, and he suffered less pain. Indeed, Dr. Smith, who lived half a mile off, had promised to send his son, a lad of twelve, down to see Phil in his stead. "For," said he, "Graham does not know one bone from another, and will soon help Phil to forget all about his, or whether they ache or not."

And so Graham Smith, a ruddy-cheeked fellow, full of life and spirit, came to see Phil.

It was a warm June day when they first saw each other.

Phil was sketching, and Lisa was sitting beside him sewing. Joe was Phil's model, standing patiently by the hour to be made into studies of heads, arms, trunk, or the whole man.

Suddenly there was a loud bark of welcome from Nep, the Newfoundland dog—who greeted tramps with growls—and Graham Smith came up the garden path, followed by Nep, leaping frantically upon and about him.

He nodded in a brusque way to Lisa and Phil, and without a word bent down over the sketch, gave a long, low whistle, and said, "Isn't that bully?"

"If I knew what bully meant, I could answer you, perhaps," replied Phil, gazing up with admiration at the brown and red cheeks, the clear blue eyes, and the tough, hardy-looking frame of his new acquaintance.

"I'm not sure I can tell you; only you can beat all the boys I know at this sort of work," said Graham. "Where did you learn how to do it?"

"Oh, I have not learned yet; I am only just beginning."

"Haven't you had any lessons?"

"No; it comes naturally to me to draw. I wish I could do it better, that's all," said Phil, with a little sigh.

"I wouldn't want to do any better than that," said Graham.

"Oh yes, you would," replied Phil, very much pleased, however, with such heartfelt admiration of his drawing.

Just then Nep made another leap upon Graham, and the two, after a friendly tussle, had a race down to the lake, where Graham tossed a stick, and sent the dog after it.

"That is something I cannot do," said Phil, as the boy came up to him again; "And yet you do it as easily as I draw."

"What—shy that stick off on the water? Then you don't play ball?"

"I don't even walk," said Phil.

Graham seemed both astonished and sorry, so he turned it off with, "but you are going to, you know, when you get well—and you can do more than any of us now. Let's go out on the water. May we?" he asked, turning to Lisa.

"Oh yes," said Lisa; and Joe was glad to get the Flyaway ready for a start.

Phil was placed in the stern, where Graham promised to show him how to steer. Phil was an apt scholar, and delighted to be of use. Joe addressed Graham as "Captain," and complimented him on the fine feathering of his oar. The lad was a good oarsman, and made the boat respond to her name.

"Where shall we go, mate?" asked Graham of Phil.

"The Captain must give orders," was Phil's reply.

"Have you been down to Point of Rocks?" asked Graham, directing Phil's eyes to a distant promontory.

"No, I have not been so far yet."

"There are lots of water-lilies there."

"Oh, do go there, then! I want some to copy."

"All right. Pull on your starboard oar, Joe; there, that will do. Now we will soon reach it."

It was a lovely little nook where grew the lilies, after they had turned around the jutting stones which gave a name to the spot, and Phil soon had his hands full of fragrant buds. The water was so clear that he could see their long green stems away down to the black mud from which they sprang. They moored the boat, and Graham got out to ramble, returning with ferns and mosses and wild-flowers for Phil.

"Now," said he, "If you don't mind, I'm going to have a swim just around the rocks here where the water is deeper and not so full of weeds. I wish you could come."

"So do I," said Phil, watching with admiration every movement of his lively companion. Besides admiration, too, there was a twinge of envy, which he really did not know to be that hateful fault; but it passed in a moment, and he laughed loudly to see Graham's antics in the water.

The bath over, they turned homeward. Miss Rachel was entertaining guests in the parlor. Lisa had gone off for a walk. Graham had to go home, but promised frequent visits; and as Phil was tired, Joe carried him up and laid him on his bed, putting his mosses on the table, and the water-lilies in an oblong vase which was usually filled with fragrant flowers. The wind harp was there, too, and as Phil, with closed eyes, was resting in the half-twilight made by shut blinds, there came from it a little murmur, which grew into a long, sad monotone. He dared not move, and would not speak, but between his eyelids, partly raised, he thought he saw the familiar little winged creature who had comforted and entertained him in his wretched city home.

"How little people know what they are doing when they pull up ferns and mosses in the woods!" said the soft voice. "I was sleeping soundly on the nicest bed imaginable, having travelled far for just a whiff of water-lily odor that I thought might refresh a poor little hospital patient tossing with fever in the city, when with a violent wrench I found myself borne off from my sheltered and dusky resting-place, and tossed into a boat in the blinding glare of the sun. Fortunately, I had wrapped myself in some broad grape-vine leaves, and was mistaken for a moth cocoon; else, dear Phil, I had not been here."

"I am so glad, so very glad, to see you again!" murmured Phil, softly.

"And I am so glad you are in the country! You could not have lived long in the city. What are you doing now?"

"Getting well, they tell me."

"Do you ever think of the ones who cannot do that?"

"No, I do not," said Phil, in some surprise.

"Ah, there are so many. I see them often—little creatures who are friendless and helpless. You should not forget them."

"It is not that I forget, I do not think of them at all. I suppose I would if I saw them."

"Well, you must think of them, and do something for them. Oh yes, I know you do not believe you can, but the way will come if you try. All that I do is to whisper soft songs in their ears, or give them a little waft of summer freshness, but it sometimes stops their painful tossing, and brings sleep to their tired eyes."

"I will think; I will try," said Phil.

"That is right," replied the fairy. "Now I will call some of my friends, the flower fairies, hidden in these water-lilies, and you shall see them dance." She clapped her hands softly together, and out of each lily crept a tiny shape of radiant whiteness and lily-like grace, so pure, so exquisite, that they did indeed seem to be the very essence and spirit of the flower. And now began another of those fantastic movements which Phil had before witnessed. Now in wreaths, now apart, and again in couples, they swayed about in an ecstasy of mirth, and the wind harp gave out strains of wild and melodious sound. They nodded to each other in their glee, and Phil could hardly tell whether they really were fairies or flowers, for they looked just as the flowers might when blown about in a breeze. As he gazed, his eyelids began to droop. He was very tired. The music grew fainter and fainter. He seemed to be again in the boat, listening to the water lapping its sides, and Graham seemed to be with him, reaching out for lilies; and then all faded, and Phil was fast asleep.


CHAPTER IX

A VISIT FROM THE YOUNG DOCTOR

"Now, Phil," said Miss Rachel, "I am not going to be so busy for a while, and though you cannot study yet, for the doctors say you must not, I shall read aloud to you a little every day. Graham has promised to come often to visit you, and with our boating and driving, and pleasant friends coming to stay with us, I think we shall have rather a nice summer. What do you think?"

Phil's face lighted up with a grateful smile, which grew into rather a sober expression.

"I think it is all delightful; but—"

"But what, my dear; are you not contented?"

"Oh yes, more than that: I am as happy as I can be; but—"

"Another but."

"Miss Rachel, what becomes of all the poor sick children in the city who have no such friend as you are to me?"

"They suffer sadly, dear Phil."

"Then don't you think I ought to remember them sometimes?"

"Yes, in your prayers."

"Is there no other way?"

"I am not sure that there is for a child like you. Perhaps there may be, and we will think about it; but you must not let such a thought oppress you; it is too much for a sick child to consider. Be happy; try to get well; do all you can to make everybody about you glad that you are here, by pleasant looks and good-nature. There, that is a little sermon which you hardly need, dear, for you are blessed with a sweet and patient temper, and are far less troublesome than many a well child."

"I suppose I do not deserve any praise if I was made so," said Phil, laughing.

"No, not a bit; the poor cross little things who fret and tease and worry are the ones who should be praised when they make an effort not to be disagreeable. But I am not going to preach any more. I am going down-stairs to make some sponge-cake for the picnic you and Lisa and I are going to have to-morrow."

"A picnic! a real one in the woods?"

"Yes, and here comes Graham with a basket. I wonder what is in it. Good-bye. I will send him up to you."

Graham came up in a few moments with the basket on his arm.

"Guess what I have here, Phil."

"How can I?"

"Oh yes, you can—just guess."

"Something to eat?"

"No, little piggy; or rather yes, if you choose."

"Well, chickens or eggs?"

"No, neither."

"Fruit?"

"Guess again."

"Medicine for some of your father's sick people?"

"No."

"Flowers? Oh no, one cannot eat flowers if they choose. I give it up."

"Well, then, watch," and lifting the cover slowly, three cunning white rabbits poked their little twitching noses over the edge of the basket.

Phil gazed at them delightedly. "And you call those little darlings something to eat, do you?"

"If you choose, yes."

"As if any one could choose to be such a cannibal! What precious little beauties they are! Oh, how pretty they look!"

"They are for you."

"Really! Oh, thank you, Graham. But you must ask Miss Schuyler."

"I did, and I am to build them a hutch. Until I do, there is an empty box in the barn where they can stay."

"And you can build—handle tools like a carpenter? How nice that must be!"

"Oh, that's nothing; all boys can do that."

Graham forgot that Phil was one boy who could not, but seeing the shade come over his friend's face made him repent his hasty speech.

"I beg your pardon," he said, in a low voice.

"No, you need not, Graham. I must get used to being different from other boys. Well, these are just the loveliest little things I ever saw. What do they live on?"

"Almost any green thing; they are very fond of lettuce. When you are able you must come and see my lop-ears."

"Have you many rabbits?"

"Yes, quite a number. Let me see: there's Neb (he's an old black fellow—Nebuchadnezzar), and Miss Snowflake, Aunt Chloe (after the one in Uncle Tom's Cabin), Fanny Elssler (because she jumps about so), and Mr. Prim—- he is the stillest old codger you ever saw."

"What other pets have you?"

"I've lots of chickens, three dogs, two cats, a squirrel, and a parrot."

"A large family."

"Yes, almost too large; they will have to be given up soon."

"How soon?"

"In the fall, I suppose; I am going to boarding-school."

"What fun!"

"You would be amused with Polly. She is a gay old thing—laughs, sings, and dances."

"Oh, Graham, can she do all that?"

"Indeed she can; sometimes she sings like a nurse putting a child to sleep, in a sort of humming hush-a-by-baby way; then she tries dance-music, and hops first on one foot, then on the other—this way," and Graham began mimicking the parrot, and Phil laughed till the tears came.

"She screams out 'Fire!' like an old fury, but she is as serene as a May day when she gets her cup of coffee."

"Is that your parrot, Graham?" asked Miss Schuyler.

"Yes, ma'am, that's our green-and-golden Polly."

"We will have to pay it a visit. Can you join our picnic to-morrow? it is Phil's first one."

"Really! why, he has a good deal to learn of our country ways."

"Yes, and I have a little plan to propose in which you may help us. Promise you will come."

"Oh, I am always ready, thank you, Miss Schuyler. Shall we go by boat?"

"To be sure, to Eagle Island."

"Then we will go early, I suppose, as it is quite a long pull. What must I bring, Miss Schuyler?"

"Only your arms, Graham, for alone Joe will perhaps find the rowing a little too much in the warm sun. I am Commissary-General for the party. That means, Phil, that I furnish the provisions: a Commissary-General has to see that his troops are well fed."

"There is no danger about that, I am sure," said Graham, gallantly, "If Miss Schuyler leads us."

"Well, then, to-morrow at nine, before the sun is too high—earlier would not do for Phil. And now be off with yourself: and your bunnies, Graham, leave them in the barn; and tell your good, kind father that you are an excellent substitute for himself, that Phil is improving even faster with your visits than he did with his."

"Good-bye, then, Phil; good-bye, Miss Schuyler. To-morrow at nine."


CHAPTER X

THE PICNIC

It was a perfect morning. Blue sky, with pure little snow-drop clouds, as if the angels had dropped them from their baskets as they tended the flowers in the heavenly gardens. The lake sparkled and glistened in the sunshine, and every wave seemed to leap joyously as it broke in soft foam on the shore. In one end of the Flyaway sat Phil, on a pile of shawls; in the other were stowed a large basket, a pail of ice, and a pail of milk, and in between were Miss Rachel, Lisa, Joe, and Graham. Phil had twisted up a little nosegay for each, and had pinned a broad wreath of grape-leaves around Joe's straw hat, making the old fellow laugh at his nonsense. They were just pushing off, when a sudden rattling of chain and some impatient barks from Nep showed that he began to feel neglected.

"I thought we could get away unnoticed," said Miss Rachel, "but I find myself mistaken."

The boys pleaded for Nep. "Ah, let him come, please let him come."

Nep's leaps becoming frantic, Miss Rachel yielded, and Graham soon had him loosened. He jumped at once into the boat, and crept under Phil's feet, making a nice warm mat.

"Poor Nep," said Phil, patting him, "he felt neglected"; and the big tail wagged thankful thumps against the boat.

The morning air was sweet with all manner of herbage yet fresh from the morning dew. The trees were in their most brilliant green, and every leaf seemed newly washed.

Graham began a boating song, and Miss Schuyler joined in the chorus. Old Joe chuckled and grinned; even quiet Lisa hummed a little as the song rose louder; and Phil, dipping his hands in the clear water, imagined that the fishes were frisking a waltz in their honor. They glided past Point of Rocks, past huge beds of water-lilies, past lovely little coves and inlets, and spots where Graham said there was excellent fishing; finally Eagle Island became more distinct, and its pine-trees began to look imposing.

"Here we are!" said Graham at last, bringing the Flyaway up nicely on a pebbly beach, in good boating style.

Graham and Joe made a chair with their hands and arms, and so carried Phil very comfortably to the place under the trees which Miss Rachel had chosen for their encampment.

"Now," said Miss Rachel, as she brought out Phil's portfolio, a book, her own embroidery, and Lisa's sewing, "I propose that Graham, being a more active member of society than we are, go off with Joe and catch some fish for our dinner."

"Just the thing!" said Graham; "but I did not bring a line."

"Joe has everything necessary—bait and all," said Miss Schuyler.

"Now," said Miss Rachel, when the fishermen had gone, seeing Phil's longing look, and knowing well how much he would have liked to go with them, "We must go to work too, so that we may enjoy our play all the more afterwards. I could not let you go with Graham, my dear Phil; it would have fatigued you too much; but I want you to try and draw me that drooping bush on the edge of the water, and while you draw I will read aloud for a while."

Miss Schuyler read, explained, talked to Phil about his drawing, and gave him the names of the trees about him.

The time flew fast, and it seemed a very little while when Miss Schuyler said to Lisa, "I think I hear oars; we had better be getting our feast ready."

They brought out the basket and pails, spread a nice red dessert cloth down on a smooth patch of grass, laid broad green leaves down for the rolls and biscuits; golden balls of butter were in a silver dish of their own, and so were the berries in a willow basket, around which they put a few late wild-flowers.

"Now we want a good flat stone for our fireplace, and—Ah! here come our fishermen just in time."

Graham and Joe now appeared with a few perch, but plenty of catfish. They went to work with zeal, and soon had enough brush for the fire, which they built at a good distance. And while Graham fed it, Joe skinned his catfish, salted the perch, and laid them on the stone.

Then they all sat around their grassy table, and Joe served them in fine style, bringing them their fish smoking hot on white napkins.

How merry they were over the good things, and how eager Graham was to cook fish for Joe, and serve the old fellow as nicely as he had done all of them! And Phil cut the very largest slice of cake for Joe.

"It is just the jolliest picnic I ever was at," said Graham, helping to wash and clear away, and re-stow spoons and forks.

"Of course it is," said Phil. "There never can be another quite so nice: it is my first one, you know."

"Yes; just think of it, and it's my fiftieth, I suppose; but then you must not think all picnics like this. It is something really remarkable to have everything go off so smoothly. Why, sometimes all the crockery gets smashed, or the fire won't burn, or if it does, you get the smoke in your eyes, or your potatoes get burned, and your lemonade gets in your milk, or somebody puts your ice in the sun, and, to crown it all, down comes a shower."

"Dear, dear, what a chapter of accidents, Graham!"

"Are you listening, Miss Rachel?" said Graham, with a quizzical look. "I was only letting Phil know how much better you manage than most people."

"Well, when you and Phil are ready, I want to tell you about something else I should like to manage. Come, put away all the books and work, and listen to my preaching."

Miss Rachel sat on a fallen tree, leaning against some young birches. "Phil was asking me, yesterday," said she, "What becomes of all the poor sick children in the city, and he seemed to think he ought in some way to help them; so I promised to think about what he had been considering, and a little plan came into my head in which I thought you could help us, Graham."

Graham looked up with a pleased face, and nodded.

"It is just this. In the city hospitals are many sick children who have to stay in bed almost all the time. Now Phil and I want to do the little that we can for them, and it seems to me it would be nice to send fresh flowers and fruit—all that we can spare from our gardens—once or twice a week to some of these sick city children. What do you think, boys?"

"It would be lovely, Miss Schuyler," said Phil, "only I do not see how we could help; it would all come from you."

"Not all, dear child. I mean to give you both a share of the work—you in your way, and Graham in his. Are you interested? Shall I go on and tell you?"

"Yes, indeed," both exclaimed.

"I propose that we set aside a certain part of our flower-garden and our fruit-trees, you and I, Graham (for I know you have a garden of your own), which we will call our 'hospital fruits and flowers,' and Phil is to assist in making up boquets, hulling berries, and packing to send away; besides that, he is to make some little pictures, just little bits of sketches of anything that he fancies—a spray of buds, a single pansy, Joe's old hat and good-natured face beneath, a fish, or a bit of vine-covered fence—and we will sell them for him, and the money shall help pay the express charges upon our gifts to the sick children, so that Phil will really be doing more than any of us. How do you like my plan?"

The boys were pleased, and had begun to say so, when a shout came from the other part of the island from Joe, and Nep set up a violent barking.

"Hi! look up dar, Miss Schuyler!" called out Joe.

"Quick, Phil!" said Graham; "look! there's an eagle. How fortunate we are! There he goes, sailing away in all his glory"; and sure enough, the great bird floated farther and farther up in the blue sky.

Still Nep kept on barking, and Graham ran down to see what was the matter. He came back with something dangling from his hand, Joe and Nep following.

"LOOK! THERE'S AN EAGLE"
"LOOK! THERE'S AN EAGLE"

"A black snake—oh, what a dreadful creature!" exclaimed Lisa.

"Yes, indeed, ma'am," said Joe; "And if Nep hadn't barked so, the drefful cretur would have bitten me sure. That dog knows a heap; you'd better allus take him with you in the woods, Miss Rachel. I was lyin' off sound asleep, with this critter close beside me, when Nep come up, and barked just as plain as speakin'. 'Take care,' says he, 'ole Joe, you're in danger,' an' with that I woke in a hurry, an' jist then I saw that big eagle come soarin' overhead, and then Marsa Graham come and give that snake his death-blow."

"How did you do it, Graham?" asked Phil, excitedly.

"Oh, I pounded him on the head with a stone as he was making off. He is a pretty big fellow, and he must have swum from the main-land, Miss Schuyler."

"Yes, I never saw a snake on this island before."

"Come here, Nep," said Phil, "dear old fellow; good dog for taking care of Joe. Your head shall be my first picture for our sick children."


CHAPTER XI

A PAIR OF CRUTCHES

Aunt Rachel's plan was entered into most heartily by both boys, and Graham became so much interested as to act as express agent on his own account, going to the city with what he called his first load of berries and flowers; but on his return was so silent and uncommunicative that Phil asked him if anything had gone wrong.

"Don't ask me to tell you what I saw," said he, in reply; "it was more than I could stand." Then, as if sorry for his short answer, he added, "It was the most pitiful thing in the world—such a lot of little pale faces all together! and when I came to give them their share, as the lady in charge told me to do, I cried right out like any baby—there, now! But you have no idea how they brightened up, and how glad they looked when they took the posies. I don't want to go again, though, unless Miss Rachel asks me to. I shall see those poor wizened little things as long as I live. I am going to sell all my pets this fall and give the money to St. Luke's Hospital, and I shall sell every egg my chickens lay, for the same purpose."

After that Phil asked no more questions, but worked harder than ever at his drawings, and as the season advanced, and flowers and fruit grew more abundant, they were able to despatch a basket twice a week.

Every day was filled with new life and pleasure. Increasing strength alone would have been a source of happiness, but in addition to this Phil had the benefit of Aunt Rachel's loving-kindness, Lisa's nursing, Joe's good offices, and Graham's pleasant, friendly attentions. Then he was learning constantly something new, with eyes and ears, from the book of nature, with all its wonderful pictures, and from the other books allowed him.

Driving behind old Slow Coach and floating on the lake in the Flyaway were some of the delights, and when more visitors came, and two charming young cousins of Aunt Rachel made the house resound with melody, Phil thought his happiness complete. But a new surprise was in store for him when, after repeated consultations and measurements and whisperings, a huge parcel was brought to his room, and Aunt Rachel and Lisa took off the wrappings. Neither of them looked particularly joyful as a pair of stout crutches made their appearance, but their faces changed wonderfully when Phil gave a cry of glee, and said, hilariously, "Now I can walk! now I can walk!"

He was eager to use his new helps, but it took a longer time than he had imagined to get accustomed to them, and it was many weeks before he could go down the garden paths (followed by Nep with much gravity, as if Phil were in his especial care) with desirable ease.

Coming in from one of these rather tiresome attempts one warm morning, and hearing music and voices in the parlor, Phil strayed into the dining-room, which was darkened and cool, and fragrant with fresh flowers. He lay down on a lounge, with his crutches beside him, and was listening to the pretty waltz being played in the other room, when he thought he saw a tiny creature light upon one of his crutches. Supposing it, however, to be a butterfly, he watched it in a sleepy, dreamy fashion, until it approached more nearly, and these words startled him:

"You do not know me?" said a tiny voice, rather reproachfully.

"What! is it you, my dear little wind fairy?" he asked. "I never dreamed that I should see you again. How did you get here?"

"Blown here, to be sure, as I always am, only I have to pilot myself, or what would be the use of having wings? I came on some thistle-down this time, for I wanted to have another peep at you, and I have had hard work to follow you in here, I assure you; but the vibrations of that lovely music helped me, and here I am. Do not talk—let me do it all. I never have much time, you know, and I want to thank you for your goodness in taking my advice, and helping some of my little sick friends. You do not begin to know what good you have done—nobody does; but doing good is very like the big snowballs that children make in winter—a little ball at first, but as they roll, it grows bigger and bigger, almost of itself, until it is more than one can manage. So it has been with your kind action: many have imitated it, and flowers come now to the hospitals by the bushel. Not only children, but grown people, sad with suffering, have been cheered and benefited. And you too are growing strong: how glad I am to see it! Your cheeks are tinged with just a delicate bloom, and you have grown taller. Ah, the country is the place for you children! I saw one of your sketches in the hospital the other day, hung under a little cross made of moss; it was a water-lily, and out of it was stepping some one who looked like me. The child who owned it said it came to her tied to some roses. She did not know I heard her; she was telling a visitor, and she said it made her happy every time she looked at it. That was a pretty thought of yours. This is my last visit for a long while. I am to be sent off to fan her Royal Highness, the Queen of Kind Wishes, when her coronation takes place. She lives in her palace of Heart's Ease, in a far-away island. I am to sail part of the way in a nautilus—one of those lovely shells you have seen, I dare say."

"No," said Phil, "I never saw one. And so you are going away—"

"Never saw a nautilus!" interrupted the fairy, as if afraid Phil was going to be doleful over her departure. "It looks like a ship, for all the world, and it is a ship for me, but it would not hold you—oh no! not such a gigantic creature as a boy"; and the fairy laughed aloud.

"Dear me," said Phil; "No more visits, no more fairy stories. What will I do?"

"Shall I tell you just one more story before I say good-bye?"

"Please do."

"Well, shut your eyes and listen."

Phil obeyed, and the fairy began:

"In the days when fairies had much more power than they now have, there lived in a little house on the edge of a wood haunted by elves and brownies a boy named Arthur. He was a bright, handsome lad, but a little lazy, and much more fond of pleasure than of work; and he had a way of flinging himself down in the woods to lounge and sleep when his mother at home was waiting for him to come back with a message, or to do some little promised task. Now the fairies knew this, and it displeased them; for they are as busy as bees, and do not like idleness. Besides, as one bad habit leads to another, Arthur, in his lounging ways, would often do great damage to the fairies' flower-beds, switching off the heads of wild-flowers in the most ruthless fashion, and even pulling them up by the roots when he felt like it.

"One day he had been indulging this whim without any motive, hardly even thinking what he was doing, when he began to feel very strangely: a slight chill made him shiver; his eyes felt as if they were coming out of his head, his legs as if they were getting smaller and smaller; he had an irresistible desire to hop, and he was very thirsty. There was a rivulet near, and instead of walking to it he leaped, and stooping to drink, he saw himself reflected in its smooth surface. No longer did he see Arthur; no longer was he a mortal boy. Instead of this, a frog—a green speckled frog, with great bulging eyes and a fishy mouth—looked up at him. He tried to call, to shout, but in vain; he could only croak, and this in the most dismal manner. What was he to do? Sit and stare about him, try to catch flies, plunge down into the mud—charming amusements for the rest of his life! A little brown bird hopped down for a drink from the rivulet; she stooped and rose, stooped and rose, again and again.

"A great green tear rolled down from the frog's bulging eye, and splashed beside the bird's drinking-place. She looked up in alarm, and said, in the sweetest voice imaginable, 'Can I do anything to assist you?'

"'I am sure I don't know,' croaked Arthur, hoarse as if he had been born with a sore throat.

"'But what is the matter?' persisted the little brown bird, as more green tears splashed beside her.

"'The matter is that I am a frog, I suppose,' said Arthur, rather rudely.

"'Well, what of that?' still said the little bird. 'Frogs are very respectable.'

"'Are they, indeed; then I'd rather not be respectable,' said Arthur.

"'You shock me,' said the bird.

"'I don't wonder; it has been a great shock to me,' responded Arthur.

"'What has?' said the bird.

"'Being a frog,' replied Arthur.

"'Have you not always? Oh no; I presume you were once a tadpole; all frogs are at first.'

"'Indeed I never was a tadpole,' said Arthur, indignantly; and then, it seeming somewhat a funny idea to him, he began to laugh in the hoarsest, croakiest kerthumps, which brought him to his senses again. Then he added, to the little brown bird which fluttered about him in some agitation, 'No, I never was a tadpole—I was a boy named Arthur a few moments ago.'

"'Aha!' twittered the little brown bird, 'I see now: you have been bewitched.'

"'I suppose so,' said Arthur, 'and I would gladly be bewitched into a boy again, if that would do any good.'

"'I must try and see what I can do for you. I am very busy repairing my nest—it was injured in the last storm; but I will go as soon as I can to see one of the herb elves, and find out what is to be done. You must have displeased them very much.'

"'You are very kind,' replied Arthur, taking no notice of the latter words.

"'Oh no, not at all; it is a pleasure,' said the little brown bird.

"'Can I do anything for you?' asked Arthur, roused into politeness by the pleasant manners of his little friend.

"'You might gather some twigs or moss. Oh no, it would be all wet, and I should have great bother in drying it,' said the little house-keeper. 'I am equally obliged, but you had better just stay quiet and keep cool till I return'; and she flew softly away.

"'I can keep cool enough,' repeated Arthur; 'when one's legs are in the water, it would be pretty hard to do anything else.'

"It seemed dreadfully long to wait, when all he could do was to wink and yawn and gobble flies, and yet lounging in the woods and killing flowers had never seemed tedious when he was a boy. He tried to go to sleep, but was in too great a bewilderment to quietly close his eyes in slumber, so he gazed at the brook, and wondered when the little brown bird would reappear."


CHAPTER XII

THE FAIRY'S STORY CONTINUED

"Sooner than he had supposed, Arthur heard the soft little twitter of his new friend.

"'I have flown really quite a distance, and had the good-fortune to see the elf who has charge of these woods. He is very much vexed with you, and will not listen to any excuse; though knowing so little about the matter, I hardly knew what to offer. I pleaded your youth, however, and made bold to promise your good behavior in the future, and while I was speaking one of the lesser elves twitched my wing a little, and whispered,

"'"Promise him something he likes as a ransom, and perhaps he will answer your request."

"'"but I do not know what he likes," I replied. "Can you suggest anything?" I added, in the same whisper.

"'"He is very much in need of some sea-weed. I heard him say the other day that he wanted some iodine, and that he would have to send a party of us off to the sea-shore to get sea-weed, from which we make iodine. Now, if your friend can get it, he would be so much pleased that I am sure he would be willing to forgive him, and restore him to his proper condition."

"'After hearing this, I made the offer in your name, and received a favorable reply. You are to get two pounds of sea-weed in less than a fortnight. It is to be laid on the large flat rock which you will see lower down the stream, under the chestnut-tree. You are to leave it there, and by no means to remain there, but return here, and your reward will await you.'

"Arthur thanked the little bird warmly, but inwardly despaired of accomplishing anything so difficult.

"The little bird hopped restlessly about. 'You will try to do this, will you not?' she asked.

"'Of course I will try,' said Arthur, rather ashamed, and striving to put a bold face on the matter. 'I will try, but I do not know exactly what to do first.'

"'Streams run into rivers, and rivers to the sea,' twittered the bird.

"'Yes; but I hardly think frogs swim in deep water. I will have to contrive a boat or a float of some sort.'

"Just then a huge trout sprang up after a fly and missed it. Quick as a flash the little bird darted up, caught the fly, dropped it into the trout's open mouth, and twittered something unintelligible to Arthur. He heard, however, a curious sound of words from the trout.

"'Jump on my back, jump on my back, and be off, alack!'

"'Go,' said the bird, quickly.

"Arthur made a bound, and found himself on Mr. Specklesides's back in an instant.

"'Good-bye,' sang the little bird, loudly, for already the trout had flashed away into a dark pool beneath a cascade, where the falling waters made a deafening noise. In another instant he made another dart, and quick as lightning they were in broad, shallow water. Again they were whirled from eddy to eddy, and already the stream had widened into a little river. The bending trees, the weeds, and grasses, were mirrored in its cool depths, as now with long, steady stroke the trout swam on.

"Suddenly another shape darkened the glassy surface of the water. It was the figure of a man in slouched hat and high boots, and long tapering rod in hand. He seemed to be quite motionless, but far out near the middle of the stream, just where the trout was swimming, danced a brilliant fly. A leap, a dash, and then began such a whirling mad rush through the water that Arthur knew he would be overthrown. The trout had seized the fly, and the fisherman, rapidly unreeling his line, waited for the fish to exhaust himself. Before this was done, however, Arthur was thrown violently off the trout's back, and by dint of desperate efforts reached the shore, where for a long while he lay motionless.

"When he revived he found himself in long sedgy grass, well shielded from observation. The trout was nowhere to be seen, and Arthur knew that it was idle to search for him. Poor fellow! his fate had found him, and no doubt he was lying quietly enough now in the fisherman's basket.

"'"Streams run into rivers, and rivers to the sea," and I must look for some other method than the trout's back.'

"He hopped about wearily, ate a few flies, and then, quite worn out, fell fast asleep. When he awoke it was dark. Fire-flies flashed about him brilliantly; stars beamed so brightly that they seemed double, half above in the sky, and half below in the water. From some overhanging boughs came a dismal hooting.

"'Hush!' cried Arthur, impatiently. 'Why do you want to spoil the night with such wailing?'

"'I have lost three lovely little owlets,' was the response. 'Darling little fluffy cherubs! Never had an owl-mother three such beauties!'

"'Where are they?' asked Arthur.

"'Devoured by a horrible night-hawk,' sobbed the owl.

"'Where has the night-hawk flown?'

"'Far down the river after prey.'

"'Why do you not go after him and punish him?'

"'It is too far, and I am too sorrowful.'

"'You have no spirit. I would peck his eyes out were I in your place.'

"'Ah! you are young and strong and brave.'

"'Take me on your back, and we will fly after him.'

"'Come, then, and do battle for me, noble friend.'

"Down flew the owl, and up jumped Arthur quickly on its back, inwardly wondering how a frog could be a match for a night-hawk, but quite resolved to aid the poor owl if he could. With a delightful sense of freedom and glorious liberty, such as he had never before even imagined, they rose high above the tree-tops.

"The moon had now risen, and the air seemed transparent silver.

"Keeping near the border of the river, which had greatly widened, they emerged from one forest only to enter another.

"The wild cries of loons saluted them; herds of deer, cooling themselves in the water, glanced up with startled gaze as they passed.

"A dark bird flapped low over the water as a fish leaped from the waves.

"'It is my enemy,' whispered the owl.

"'Pursue him,' returned Arthur.

"'My heart sinks within me; the memory of my owlets subdues all revengefulness. Though I should make him suffer, it would not return to me my children.'

"'But if we kill him he can do no further mischief.'

"'True, true; but he is a fearful fellow. What weapons have you with which to meet him?'

"'None but my eyes and legs; a frog is a poor despicable wretch under such circumstances. Our weight together might sink him. You must fly at him with one tremendous blow, get him down in the water, and all the fish will assist to punish him, for all owe him a grudge. Or stay: fly close to him, and I will leap upon him; the weight will surprise and annoy him, and you must then make a dash for his eyes. Pluck them out if you can; it will be worse than death for him.'

"'Barbaric torture! But the memory of my owlets hardens my motherly heart; it pulsates with tremendous force; their loss is the world's loss. I hasten to the combat.'

"They swept down low as the hawk swooped for fish; Arthur sprang upon its back; the owl darted at the creature's eyes, and with a furious blow, first at one then at the other, made her enemy sightless. The hawk, with a cry of pain, fell into the water. Instantly an enormous fish dragged him beneath, and it was only by wonderful dexterity on the part of the owl and of the frog that the latter was unhurt. He nestled once again among the owl's soft feathers, and they sought the shore.

"'Now how shall I repay you, my brave friend?' asked the owl, as Arthur leaped upon land.

"'I do not wish for any reward,' replied Arthur.

"'Nevertheless, you will not refuse to grant a sorrowful and stricken mother the little balm which her grateful spirit seeks in the return or acknowledgment of so vast a favor as you have conferred upon me.'

"Arthur thought a moment, and then told the owl of his journey and errand to the sea-shore. 'Perhaps, as you are so famous for wisdom, Mother Owl, you may be able to give me some advice which will assist me to get the sea-weed, and return as speedily as I can,' he said, as he finished his narration.

"'I will consider,' replied the owl, bending her searching gaze towards the earth. After a few moments' reflection, in which she rolled her luminous and cat-like eyes about, ruffled her feathers, and uttered a few soft 'to-whit to-whoos,' she murmured, 'I have it. Seldom do I require to deliberate so anxiously, but parental anguish has clouded my active brain; the recent combat, also, has exhausted my nervous system. I have the happy thought at last, though, and you shall be assisted. We will fly to the nest of an old friend, a celebrated kingfisher. He lives not far from here; he knows the coast well, and will aid us. Come, mount upon my willing back, and we will fly at once.'

"This was no sooner said than done. They flew swiftly over the now broad expanse of water, rolling in a powerful stream, bordered by a wild and harsh-looking forest. A few tall and leafless trunks in a cluster contained, high among the bare boughs, a huge nest. From it, aroused from his sleep, sullenly flapped a large bird.

"'Wait a moment, my friend,' called the owl, in her most beseeching manner. 'I have a favor to ask. I wish to appeal to your intelligent geographical, topographical, and comprehensive intellect for guidance. You know the coast; lead us to it before the dawn of day.'

"'A most unwarrantable request, upon my word,' was the answer, in a gruff voice. 'Why should you thus disturb my slumber, and demand of me this journey in the night?'"


CHAPTER XIII

THE FAIRY'S STORY CONCLUDED

"The owl replied softly, telling her errand, praising the bravery of the frog, and evidently pleasing the kingfisher with the news of the death of his enemy the night-hawk.

"'I will go,' he answered. 'I do not pretend to be chivalric; I should prefer to sleep; nevertheless, I will go. Rise, follow-me. I expected to breakfast at home; now we will get some seafood.'

"'He is always thus,' whispered the owl, as Arthur and she rose high in the air. 'He is a wonderful naturalist, a student of ichthyology, has a vast and profound fund of knowledge, but a great gourmand, always considering what he will eat; but he is reliable; we may trust him.'

"They sailed now high, now low, over ravines and gulfs, until the continuous murmur which had accompanied them deepened into the steady, solemn roar of the ocean. Great crags, broad sands, and huge waves tossing their white crests now met their eyes.

"The soft faint gray of early dawn lit the heavens. The kingfisher perched himself on the top of a rock, and watched the seething waves with a steady and keen outlook. The owl fluttered down to the long line of breakers, and bade Arthur notice the immense quantity of sea-weed fringing the rocks in all directions.

"'Now how to carry it back is the question,' said Arthur, rather dolorously.

"'My friend, have no fear,' said the owl. 'Go to work bravely, and gather all you can, then we will arrange to transport it. Hasten, however, as much as you can.'

"Arthur hopped about zealously. He was half deafened with the thunder of the waves, half blinded with the dashing spray, half drowned with the salt-water pouring from every cliff and cranny of the rocks. Still he tore and clutched at the sea-weed, dragging it in masses larger than his own frog body to where the owl waited for him on the beach, in a sort of grotto hollowed out by the waves. There they piled it until they both were assured they had the proper quantity. Then the owl flew to a promontory and hailed the kingfisher. Arthur, quite worn out, fell asleep. When he awoke, he found him self most strangely placed.

"So soundly had he slept that the owl and kingfisher, having completed their arrangements for the removal of the sea-weed, had removed Arthur also, and he woke to find himself on the back of an enormous sturgeon, with sea-weed under him, over him, and about him. Tightly about the sturgeon was bound an old rope, which the kingfisher had procured from the remains of a wreck on the rocks, and in which he had entangled the sturgeon; this rope the owl and kingfisher took turns in holding, keeping the sturgeon near the surface of the waves by its check upon his movements, which were very bold and rapid. Thus, by the double force of flying and swimming, Arthur was carried with immense speed into the quiet waters of a bay from which they had emerged on arriving at the ocean.

MAKING THE STURGEON USEFUL
MAKING THE STURGEON USEFUL


"From the bay they sailed up into the river, and were coursing rapidly on to its narrower surface, when the sturgeon suddenly gave a great leap, very nearly throwing Arthur and his precious load off his back.

"The owl screamed, the kingfisher shouted hoarsely, but tightened his hold upon the rope, while the sturgeon dashed madly on.

"Again he made another frantic leap, whereupon the kingfisher gave him a thrust with his beak, to which the sturgeon replied,

"'The current is becoming too shallow; I can go no farther. I must have air. How can you expect me to go up this trout stream? have you no mercy for such a beast of burden as you have made me?'

"'Forward again!' shouted the kingfisher, tightening the rope once more.

"Arthur felt the sturgeon shiver, and was conscious that his movements were weaker. Another leap, and he burst the rope; but as he jumped he tossed his load of sea-weed high in the air; it fell, and Arthur with it, on a rock.

"The owl gave a long, dismal cry, the kingfisher swept madly away after the sturgeon, and Arthur, bruised and sore, lay panting on the rock. For a long while he could do nothing. The owl went off in search of food, promising to return at nightfall. The day wore on. Arthur, weak with hunger, tried to devour some of the sea-weed. It was too bitter and salty. Leaning over the edge of the rock, he saw a shoal of tiny fishes playing hide-and-seek in the eddies of the stream. He clutched at one of them and devoured it. Never had he tasted a sweeter morsel. He caught another, and another, until his hunger was fully appeased. Evening came again; the moon shone early; Arthur was awakened from a long nap by the hooting of the owl, which said,

"'Here I am again, my distressed friend.'

"At the same moment the kingfisher swooped down on them, and stood tilting and flapping his wings on a corner of the rock. 'Now,' said he, 'as I am a bird of my word, and have promised to help you, we will proceed to business. This sea-weed is dry, as you see, and very much lighter. You, Mrs. Owl, can easily carry it, while I will take your young friend Mr. Frog. Let us be off at once, you, madam, directing the flight.'

"The kingfisher and Arthur then heaped the sea-weed upon the owl, and Arthur, clambering on the rather oily back of the kingfisher, was once again going over the tree-tops.

"Before morning they had reached the desired spot, the flat rock under the chestnut-tree, placed the sea-weed upon it, and, hardly waiting for thanks, the kingfisher left them.

"Arthur thanked the owl warmly, assuring her of his deep gratitude. To which the owl replied, 'You have done me quite as good service, and my thanks are quite as due to you. I return to my empty nest a desolate mother, but never shall I forget your generous sympathy. Possibly I may find consolation, but should I ever raise another brood, it could never equal the beauty of my lost darlings. Alas! we feathered creatures have great trials: we toil diligently for our families, build nests at great cost of time and effort, often to see them swept away by the winds; or, our nests lasting, and unattacked by enemies, many a young bird is thrown to the earth by the violence of storms, and comes to an untimely end through starvation. Sympathy, therefore, we appreciate; it helps us to bear our sorrows with becoming fortitude. Never shall I forget your gallantry, my friend; the thought of it will cheer many a solitary hour when all the world is asleep. I bid you farewell.' So saying, the owl flapped her wings and was gone.

"Arthur hopped away from the chestnut-tree to the place where he had lost himself. It was early morning, but he was wearied, and slept in spite of all his anxiety. When he awoke he was no longer a frog, but a very hungry boy. The noonday sun was shining, and at his side hopped a little brown bird. It twittered gladly, as if congratulating him, but not one word could he understand. Before this adventure he would have probably frightened it away, but now he reached out his hand softly and stroked its feathers, then seeking berries, he placed them where the little creature could feast upon them. It peered at him with its bright little eyes, and even perched upon his shoulder. Never again did Arthur idly destroy any living creature of the woods—not the humblest weed or flower, bright-winged insect or speckled egg. Nor did he loiter again when sent upon errands. The elves thereafter left him in peace."

"Good-bye, dear Phil; I am off now. This is my last story."

"Where am I? Has the music stopped? Was it my wind harp—my poor little wind harp?"

"Why, Phil, your wind harp is broken. Did you not know that it fell from your window last night?" said Lisa, coming into the dining-room.

"No. I wonder if I shall ever see the wind fairy again?"

"Dreaming again, Phil?" said Lisa.

"You always think I dream, Lisa, whenever I speak of fairies."

"Do I, dear? Well, you must get ready now for Graham; he is coming to take you out on the lake. Miss Schuyler will not be home to dinner, and we three are to have ours on Eagle Island."

Phil went up-stairs and gathered together the broken pieces of his wind harp. He folded each piece up carefully in paper, and put them all away. "No more fairy stories," he said to himself. "Well, I suppose I am getting beyond them, and must put up with sober facts; but they are not half so nice," he said, with a sigh—"Not half so nice." Then he took out his sketch-book and pencils, and prepared for work.


CHAPTER XIV

PLANS FOR THE WINTER

Summer had gone. Visitors had gone. Graham had gone to school. The banks of the lake were red and yellow, brown and purple, with autumnal foliage. Aunt Rachel was superintending the making of preserves. Lisa was at work on the piazza. Phil was sketching.

Slowly up the garden path came old Joe. He took off his hat and stood still a moment waiting for Phil to speak.

"Well, Joe, what is it?" said Phil, hardly looking up, he was so busy.

"This is just as fine as ever the garden of Eden was, but old Adam had to go, you know, Massa Phil." He had lately, of his own accord, put the Massa before Phil's name.

"What are you driving at, Joe?" asked Phil, absently.

"I mean I's a-gwine home, Massa Phil."

"To the city?" said Phil, surprised into attention.

"Yes, back to New York. I wants to go to work."

"Have you not enough to do here?"

"No," said Joe, with a chuckle. "It's all play here—no real hard work sich as I's customed to."

"It is time you took it easy, Joe," said Phil.

"True nuff, but I's not one of the easy sort. Besides, who knows, Massa Phil, but there may be other chillen—poor sick chillen—waitin' for to hear my fiddle an' be comforted?"

Phil looked up hastily; a bright look of gratitude and love came into his eyes.

Just then Miss Schuyler appeared, with a glass jar of jelly in her hand; the maid was following with a trayful.

"Joe wants to go to the city, Aunt Rachel," said Phil.

"I dare say," was the ready response. "He wants a little gossip over the kitchen fires, and he wants this nice jar of jelly for his bread-and-butter when he has company to tea; and as we all are going home next week, he may as well wait for the rest of us."

"Aunt Rachel!" said Phil, in dismay. Going home to the city seemed like going back to poverty and illness, and the garret room he so well remembered.

Aunt Rachel divined it all. "You belong to me now, Phil. Lisa and I are partners henceforth; and while you and I travel in search of health, study, and improvement, Lisa is going to keep house for us in her own nice, quiet way."

"Travel!—where?—when?" said Phil, eagerly.

"The doctors suggest our going abroad—to a warm climate for the winter—where we please; in summer, to the German baths."

"Oh, Aunt Rachel!"

This was enough for Phil to think of and wonder about all the rest of the happy days at the lake. He could walk now with comparative ease, not of course without crutches, and the gold and scarlet glory of the autumn leaves was a perpetual delight to him. He gathered them for wreaths and bouquets; he pressed them and ironed them and varnished them, and tried every method suggested to him for keeping them; and when it came packing time it was found necessary to get an extra trunk to contain all the woodland treasures.

The happy summer had ended, and not without a lingering look of regret that it could not last longer was the farewell said to the house and lake and every pretty graceful tree or plant that adorned them.

They found the city house all in nice order for them, for Aunt Rachel was always wise in her forethought and provision for future comfort.

Phil's little room near her own had been especially attended to, and he found it, in all its arrangements, as complete and satisfactory as the lovely summer nook he had vacated.

In three weeks' time they were to start for Europe. The days were spent in preparation. Phil must have a steamer-chair, plenty of clothes, wraps, and contrivances. All Aunt Rachel's thoughts were for Phil's comfort; but it did not spoil him nor make him selfish; he had the happy faculty of receiving kindness gracefully, as if glad to be the means of making others happy by his gratitude, not as if it were his due in any way. And in his turn he was thoughtful and considerate for others, in trifles light as air, but nevertheless showing by the gentle, tender manner that he meant them as evidences of his affection. He knew Lisa dreaded parting from him, so before her he was quite silent as to his expected pleasures, although his imagination was constantly picturing the details of an ocean voyage. His sketch-book was getting full of yachts and craft of all sorts and sizes—some that would have astonished a sailor very much. Whenever he met Lisa he kissed her, whether with hat on she was hurrying out on some errand for Miss Schuyler, or on her return, with arms full of bundles, she was hastening through the hall.

He was necessarily left much alone, and thus had the chance to draw a charming little picture for Lisa, and frame it with acorns, lichen, and red maple leaves. He hung it in her room one day when she was out, and, to his surprise, the next day it was missing. He had expected some recognition of it, but none coming, he kept still, wondering what Lisa had done with it. The secret came out in due time.

A day or two before their departure Lisa came to him with tears in her eyes and a little package in her hand.

"Open it, dear; it is for you."

It was a tiny leather purse with four dollars in it.

"Lisa, you must not give me all this."

"Yes, it is yours—your own earnings. I sold your little picture, and bought this purse with part of the money, so that you might have something to spend just as you pleased."

"Oh, Lisa!" was all Phil could say, for though grateful, he was yet disappointed that Lisa had not kept his picture.

"Now, dear," she said, "you can buy some little trifle for Joe, and any one else you want to make a present to."

"Thank you, Lisa; yes, I will. It is a very nice purse," he replied; but as soon as he could find Miss Schuyler he unburdened his heart.

"After all the pains I took with that little picture, Aunt Rachel, to think of Lisa's selling it! Oh, how could she?"

"Hush, dear Phil; Lisa is the most unselfish creature in the world. Has she not given you up to me? And for the pleasure she supposed it would give you to have money of your own earning, she was willing to part with even a thing so precious as a picture painted by you for her. Do not question her motive for a moment. Take the money, and buy her something useful. Come, we will go get a pretty work-basket; she will find it even more to her taste than a picture."

So they went out and bought a light, nicely shaped basket, with little pockets all around it, and Aunt Rachel made it complete with a silver thimble, a strawberry emery cushion, a morocco needle-book, and an ample supply of silk, thread, needles, pins, and buttons.

Lisa was delighted; but Phil could not be satisfied until he had painted another little picture, and made Lisa promise that no one else should ever have it.

Joe was made happy with some new bandanna handkerchiefs in brilliant yellows and reds, a pipe, some tobacco, and a suit of clothes from Miss Schuyler.

It was a tranquil, lovely day in the fall when the steamship sailed with Aunt Rachel and Phil on board. All the bay sparkled in the sunshine, and boats of every shape and size danced upon the blue water. After the bustle and confusion of getting off, the leave-takings, the cries and shouts of sailors, the blowing of whistles and ringing of bells, they sat quietly down to watch the receding shores, and look out upon the glittering water.

"Aunt Rachel," said Phil, "It all seems like another fairy story to me, and we are sailing in a nautilus to the island of Heart's Ease."

"Yes, dear child, so it does. And let us hope that we shall find that beautiful island, and never wish to leave it."