Once there was a little bit of a thing,—not more than so high,—and her
name was Ruth Page; but they called her Teenty-Tawnty, for she was the
daintiest little creature you ever saw, with the smoothest hair and the
brightest face; and then she was always playing about, and always happy;
and so the people that lived in that part of the country, when they
heard her laughing and singing all by herself at peep of day, like
little birds alter a shower, and saw her running about in the edge of
the wood after tulips and butterflies, or tumbling head-over-heels in
the long rich grass by the river-side, with her little pet lamb or her
two white pigeons always under her feet, or listening to the wild bees
in the apple-blossoms, with her sweet mouth "all in a tremble," and her
happy eyes brimful of sunshine,—they used to say that she was no child
at all, or no child of earth, but a fairy-gift, and that she must have
been dropped into her mother's lap, like a handful of flowers, when she
was half asleep; and so they wouldn't call her Ruth Page,—no indeed,
that they wouldn't!—but they called her little Teenty-Tawnty, or the
Little Fairy; and they used to bring her fairy tales to read, till she
couldn't bear to read anything else, and wanted to be a fairy herself.
Well, and so one day, when she was out in the sweet-smelling woods, all
alone by herself, singing, "Where are you going, my pretty maid, my
pretty maid?" and watching the gold-jackets, and the blue dragon-flies,
and the sweet pond-lilies, and the bright-eyed glossy eels, and the
little crimson-spotted fish, as they "coiled and swam," and darted
hither and thither, like "flashes of golden fire," and then huddled
together, all of a sudden, just underneath the green turf where she sat,
as if they saw something, and were half frightened to death, and were
trying to hide in the shadow; well and so—as she sat there, with her
little naked feet hanging over and almost touching the water, singing to
herself, "My face is my fortune, sir, she said! sir, she said!" and
looking down into a deep sunshiny spot, and holding the soft smooth hair
away from her face with both hands, and trying to count the dear little
fish before they got over their fright, all at once she began to think
of the water-fairies, and how cool and pleasant it must be to live in
these deep sunshiny hollows, with green turf all about you, the
blossoming trees and the blue skies overhead, the bright gravel
underneath your feet, like powdered stars, and thousands of beautiful
fish for playfellows! all spotted with gold and crimson, or winged with
rose-leaves, and striped with faint purple and burnished silver, like
the shells and flowers of the deep sea, where the moonlight buds and
blossoms forever and ever; and then she thought if she could only just
reach over, and dip one of her little fat rosy feet into the smooth
shining water,—just once—only once,—-it would be so pleasant! and
she should be so happy! and then, if she could but manage to scare the
fishes a little,—a very little,—that would be such glorious fun,
too,—wouldn't it, you?
Well and so—she kept stooping and stooping, and stretching and
stretching, and singing to herself all the while, "Sir, she said! sir,
she said! I'm going a milking, sir, she said!" till just as she was
ready to tumble in, head first, something jumped out of the bushes
behind her, almost touching her as it passed, and went plump into the
deepest part of the pool! saying, "Once! once!" with a heavy booming
sound, like the tolling of a great bell under water, and afar off.
"Goody gracious! what's that?" screamed little Ruth Page, and then, the
very next moment, she began to laugh and jump and clap her hands, to see
what a scampering there was among the poor silly fish, and all for
nothing! said she; for out came a great good-natured bull-frog, with an
eye like a bird, and a big bell-mouth, and a back all frosted over with
precious stones, and dripping with sunshine; and there he sat looking at
her awhile, as if he wanted to frighten her away; and then he opened his
great lubberly mouth at her, and bellowed out, "Once! once!" and
"Luddy tuddy! who cares for you?" said little Ruth; and so, having got
over her fright, she began to creep to the edge of the bank once more,
and look down into the deep water, to see what had become of the little
fish that were so plentiful there, and so happy but a few minutes before.
But they were all gone, and the water was as still as death; and while
she sat looking into it, and waiting for them to come back, and
wondering why they should he so frightened at nothing but a bull-frog,
which they must have seen a thousand times, the poor little simpletons!
and thinking she should like to catch one of the smallest and carry it
home to her little baby-brother, all at once a soft shadow fell upon the
water, and the scented wind blew her smooth hair all into her eyes, and
as she put up both hands in a hurry to pull it away, she heard something
like a whisper close to her ear, saying, "Twice! twice!" and just then
the trailing branch of a tree swept over the turf, and filled the whole
air with a storm of blossoms, and she heard the same low whisper
repeated close at her ear, saying, "Twice! twice!" and then she
happened to look down into the water,—and what do you think she saw
"Goody gracious, mamma! is that you?" said poor little Ruth; and up she
jumped, screaming louder than ever, and looking all about her, and
calling, "Mamma, mamma! I see you, mamma! you needn't hide, mamma!" But
no mamma was to be found.
"Well, if that isn't the strangest thing!" said little Ruth, at last,
after listening a few minutes, on looking all round everywhere, and up
into the trees, and away off down the river-path, and then toward the
house. "If I didn't think I saw my dear good mamma's face in the water,
as plain as day, and if I didn't hear something whisper in my ear and
say, "Twice! twice!"—and then she stopped, and held her breath, and
listened again,—"if I didn't hear it as plain as I ever heard anything
in my life, then my name isn't Ruth Page, that's all, nor Teenty-Tawnty
neither!" And then she stopped, and began to feel very unhappy and
sorrowful; for she remembered how her mother had cautioned her never to
go near the river, nor into the woods alone, and how she had promised
her mother many and many a time never to do so, never, never! And then
the tears came into her eyes, and she began to wish herself away from
the haunted spot, where she could kneel down and say her prayers; and
then she looked up to the sky, and then down into the still water, and
then she thought she would just go and take one more peep,—only
one,—just to see if the dear little fishes had got over their fright,
and then she would run home to her mother, and tell her how forgetful
she had been, and how naughty, and ask her to give her something that
would make her remember her promises. Poor thing! little did she know
how deep the water was, nor how wonderfully she had escaped! once, once!
twice, twice! and still she ventured a third time.
Well and so—don't you think, she crept along, crept along to the very
edge of the green, slippery turf, on her hands and knees, half trembling
with fear, and half laughing to think of that droll-looking fat fellow,
with the big bell-mouth, and the yellow breeches, and the grass-green
military jacket, turned up with buff and embroidered with gems, and the
bright golden eye that had so frightened her before, and wondering in
her little heart if he would show himself again; and singing all the
while, as she crept nearer and nearer, "Nobody asked you, sir, she said!
sir, she said! nobody asked you, sir, she said!" till at last she had
got near enough to look over, and see the little fishes there tumbling
about by dozens, and playing bo-peep among the flowers that grew
underneath the bank, and were multiplied by thousands in the clear water,
when, all at once, she felt the turf giving way, and she put out her
arms and screamed for her mother. Goody gracious! how she did scream!
and then something answered from the flowing waters underneath, and from
the flowering trees overhead, with a mournful sweet sound, like wailing
afar off, "Thrice! thrice!" and the flashing waters swelled up, saying,
"Thrice! thrice!" and the flowering branch of the tree swept over the
turf, and the sound was the same, "Thrice! thrice!" and in she went,
headlong, into the deepest part of the pool, screaming with terror, and
calling on her mother to the last: poor mother!
Well and so—when she came to herself, where do you think she was? Why,
she was lying out in the warm summer air, on a green bank, all tufted
with cowslips and violets and clover-blossoms, with a plenty of
strawberries underneath her feet, and the bluest water you ever saw all
round her, murmuring like the rose-lipped sea-shells; and the air was
full of singing-birds, and there was a little old woman looking at her,
with the funniest cap, and a withered face not bigger than you may see
when you look at the baby through the big end of a spyglass: the cap was
a morning-glory, and it was tied underneath the chin with bleached
cobweb, and the streamers and bows were just like the colors you see in
"Goody gracious! where am I now?" said little Ruth.
"Yes, my dear, that's my name," said the little old woman, dropping a
low courtesy, and then spinning round two or three times, and squatting
down suddenly, so as to make what you call a cheese.
"Why, you don't mean to say that's your real name," whispered little
"To be sure it is! just as much as— And pray, my little creature,
what's your name?"
"Mine! O, my name is Ruth Page, only Ruth Page." And up she jumped,
and spun round among the strawberries and flowers, and tried to make a
courtesy like the little old woman, and then they both burst out
"Well," said Goody Gracious, "you're a nice, good-natured, funny little
thing, I'll say that for you, as ever I happened to meet with; but
haven't you another and a prettier name, hey?"
"Why, sometimes they call me little Teenty-Tawnty," said Ruth.
"Fiddle-de-dee, I don't like that name any better than the other: we
must give you a new name," said the little old woman; "but first tell
me,"—and she grew very serious, and her little sharp eyes changed
color,—"first tell me how you happened to be here, in the very heart of
Fairy-land, with nobody to take care of you, and not so much as a wasp
or a bumble-bee to watch over you when you are asleep."
"Indeed, and indeed, ma'am, I don't know," said little Ruth; "all I do
know is, that I have been very naughty, and that I am drowned, and that
I shall never see my poor dear mamma any more!" And then she up and told
the whole story to the little old woman, crying bitterly all the while.
"Don't take on so, my little dear, don't, don't!" said Goody Gracious;
and out she whipped what appeared to Ruth nothing but a rumpled leaf of
the tiger-lily, and wiped her eyes with it. "Be a good child, and, after
a trial of three days in Fairy-land, if you want to go back to your
mother you shall go, and you may carry with you a token to her that you
have told the truth."
"O, bless your little dear old-fashioned face," cried Ruth; "O, bless
you, bless you! only give me a token that will make me always remember
what I have promised my poor dear mother, and I shall be so happy! and I
won't ask for anything else."
"What, neither for humming-birds, nor gold-fish, nor butterflies, nor
diamonds, nor pearls, nor anything you have been wishing for so long,
ever since you were able to read about Fairy-land?"
"No, ma'am; just give me a ring of wheat-straw, or a brooch from the
ruby-beetle, if you like, and I shall be satisfied."
"Be it so; but, before I change you to a fairy, you must make choice of
what you want to see in Fairy-land for three days running; for, at the
end of that time, I shall change you back again, so that if you are of
the same mind then, you may go back to your mother, and, if not, you
will stay with us for ever and ever."
"For ever and ever?" said Ruth, and she trembled; "please, ma'am, I
should like to go now, if it's all the same to you?"
"No! but take this flower," and, as she spoke, she stooped down, and
pulled up a forget-me-not by the roots, and breathed upon it, and it
blossomed all over; "take this root," said she, "and plant it somewhere,
and tend it well, and at any time after three days, if you get tired of
being here, all you have to do will be just to pull it up out of the
earth, and wish yourself at home, and you will find yourself there in a
moment, in your own little bed."
"Goody gracious! you don't say so!"
"But I do say so."
"I declare, I've a good mind to try!"
"What, pull it up before you have planted it? No, no, my dear. It must
be left out threescore and twelve hours, and be watered with the dews
and the starlight of the South Sea, where you are now, thousands and
thousands of miles from your own dear country; but there is one thing I
would have you know before you plant the flower."
"If you please, ma'am," said little Ruth.
"It is given to you, my dear, to help you correct your faults; you mean
to do right, and you try pretty hard, but you are so forgetful, you
"Well, now, but just so long as you tend this plant with care, and water
it every day at the same hour,—every day, mind you, and at the same
hour,—you will be growing better."
Ruth was overjoyed.
"But," continued the fairy, "if you neglect it for a single day, it will
begin to droop and wither, the leaves will change, and some of the
blossoms will drop off, and your mother will begin to feel unhappy and
"O yes; but I never shall, ma'am,—never, never!"
"Don't be too sure; and if you neglect it for two whole days running,
all the flowers will drop off but one, and your mother will take to her
bed, and nobody but you will know what ails her."
Poor Ruth began to tremble, and the tears came in her eyes.
"But," continued the fairy,—"but if you should neglect it for three
days running, my poor child,—but for three days running,—the last
flower will drop off, and your mother will die of a broken heart."
"O mercy, mercy!" cried poor little Ruth. "O, take it! take it! I
wouldn't have it for the world!" And she flung it down upon the loose
earth, and shook her little fingers, just as if something had stung her.
"It is too late now. See, my dear, it has already taken root, and now
there is no help for it. Remember! your mother's health, happiness, and
life depend upon that flower. Watch it well! And now, daughter of
earth," and, as she spoke, she stooped, and pulled up a whole handful of
violets, dripping with summer rain,—and repeating the words, "Daughter
of earth, away! Rosebud, appear!" shook the moisture all over her; and
instantly the dear child found herself afloat in the air, with pinions
of purple gauze, bedropped with gold, with millions of little fairies
all about her, swarming like butterflies and blossoms after a pleasant
rain, and welcoming their sister Rosebud to Fairy-land.
"Well," thought Rosebud,—we must call her Rosebud now,—"well, if this
being a little fairy isn't one of the pleasantest things." And then she
recollected that she had only three days to stay there and see the
sights, and she looked round her to ask if there was anybody near to
help her, and take charge of her, and tell her what to do and where to
"Daughter," said a sweet voice that she knew, though it appeared to come
out and steal up from the leaves of another morning-glory,—"Daughter!"
"Mother," said Rosebud.
"You may have your choice to-day of these three things,—a
butterfly-hunt, a wedding, or a play."
"O, a wedding, a wedding," said Rosebud. "O, I have always wanted to see
"Be it so," said the voice; and instantly a sweet wind arose, and lifted
her up, and swept her, and thousands more like her, over the blue deep
so swiftly that nothing could be seen but a mist of sparkles here and
there, till they all found themselves on the sea-shore, at the mouth of
a deep sparry cave, all hung about with the richest moss, and lighted
with pearls in clusters, and with little patches of glow-worms, and
carpeted with the wings of butterflies. In the midst were a multitude of
little fairies, hovering and floating over a throne of spider-net ivory,
on which lay the bride, with a veil of starlight, interwoven with the
breath of roses, covering her from head to foot, and falling over the
couch like sunshine playing on clear water.
By and by a faint, strange murmuring was heard afar off, like the
ringing of lily-bells to the touch of the honey-bees, growing louder and
louder, and coming nearer and nearer every moment. Rosebud turned toward
the sea with all the other fairies, and held her breath; and after a few
moments a fleet of little ships, with the most delicate purple and azure
sails, so thin that you could see the sky through them, came tilting
along over the sea as if they were alive,—and so they were,—and drew
up, as if in order of battle, just before the mouth of the cave; and
then a silver trumpet sounded on the shore, and a swarm of hornets
appeared, whizzing and whirring all about the cave; and then there was
another trumpet, and another, about as loud as you may hear from a caged
blue-bottle, and compliments were interchanged, and a salute fired,
which frightened the little lady-fairies into all sorts of shapes, and
made the little fairy-bride jump up and ask if her time had come, though,
to tell you the truth, the noise did not appear much more terrible to
Rosebud than her little brother's pop-gun; and then a sort of barge, not
unlike the blossom of a sweet pea in shape, was manned from the largest
of the fleet, and, when it touched the bright sparkling sand, out leaped
a little prince of a fellow, with a bunch of white feathers in his hat,
plucked from the moth-miller, a sword like the finest cambric-needle
belted about his waist, and the most unimpeachable small-clothes.
This turned out to be the bridegroom; and after a few more flourishes,
and not a little pulling and hauling among the bridesmaids, the bride
and the bridegroom stood up together, and looked silly and sheepish, as
if butter wouldn't melt in their mouths; and after listening awhile to
an old droning-beetle, without hearing a word he said, they bowed and
courtesied, and made some sort of a reply, nobody could guess what; and
then forth stepped the master of ceremonies, a priggish-looking
grasshopper, with straw-colored tights, and a fashionable coat,
single-breasted, and so quakerish it set poor little Rosebud a-laughing,
in spite of all she could do, every time she looked at his legs; and
then! out ran the ten thousand trumpeting bumble-bees, and the katydid
grew noisier than ever, and the cricket chirruped for joy, and the
bridegroom touched the bride's cheek, and pointed slyly toward a little
heap of newly gathered roses and violets, piled up afar off, in a
shadowy part of the cave, just underneath a trailing canopy of
changeable moss; the bride blushed, and the fairies tittered, and little
Rosebud turned away, and wished herself at home, and instantly the bride
and the bridegroom vanished! and the ships and the fairies! and the
lights and the music! and Rosebud found herself standing face to face
with the little withered old woman, who was looking mournfully at the
drooping forget-me-not. The tears came into her eyes, and for the first
time since the flower took root,—for the very first time,—she began to
think of her mother, and of her promise to the fairy; and she stooped
down, in an agony of terror and shame and self-reproach, to see how it
fared with her forget-me-not. Alas! it had already begun to droop and
wither; and the leaves were changing color, and the blossoms were
dropping off, and she knew that her mother was beginning to suffer.
"O that I had never seen the hateful flower!" cried Rosebud; and then
instantly recollecting herself, she dropped upon her knees, and kissed
it, and wept upon it, and the flower seemed refreshed by her tears; and
when she stood up and looked into the face of the good little fairy, and
saw her lips tremble, and the color change in her sweet mournful eyes,
she felt as if she never should be happy again.
"Daughter of earth! child of the air!" said the fairy, "two more days
remain to thee. What wouldst thou have?"
"O nothing! nothing! Let me but go back to my dear, dear mother, and I
shall be so happy!"
"That cannot be. These trials are to prepare thee for thy return to her.
Be patient, and take thy choice of these three things,—a tournament, a
coronation, or a ball!"
"Goody gracious! how I should like to see a coronation!" cried
Rosebud; and then she recollected herself, and blushed and courtesied,
and said, "if you please, ma'am."
"Call me mother, my dear; in Fairy-land I am your mother."
"Well, mother," said Rosebud, the tears starting into her eyes, and her
heart swelling, as she determined never to call her mamma, no,
never!—"well, mother, if you please, I would rather stay here and watch
the flower: I don't want to see anything more in Fairy-land; I've had
enough of such things to last me as long as I live. But O, if I should
happen to fall asleep!"
"If you should, my dear, you will wake in season; but take your choice."
"Thank you, mother, but I choose to stay here."
At these words the fairy vanished, and Rosebud was left alone, looking
at the dear little flower, which seemed to grow fresher and fresher, and
more and more beautiful every minute, and wondering whether it would be
so with her dear mamma; and then she fell to thinking about her home,
and how much trouble she had given her mother, and how much better she
would always be after she had got back to her once more; and then she
fell asleep, and slept so soundly that she did not wake till the sun was
up, and it was time to water the flower.
At first she was terribly frightened; but when she remembered what the
fairy told her, she began to feel comfortable, and, lest something might
happen, she took a little sea-shell that lay there, and running down to
the water, dipped it up full, and was on her way back, thinking how
happy her poor dear mamma would feel if she could only know what it
was and who it was that made her so much better, when she heard the
strangest and sweetest noises all about her in the air, as if the whole
sky was full of the happiest and merriest creatures! and when she looked
up, lo! there was a broad glitter to be seen, as if the whole population
of Fairy-land were passing right over her head, making a sort of path
like that you see at sunrise along the blue deep, when the waters are
motionless and smooth and clear.
"Well," said she, looking up, "I do wonder where they are going so
fast,"—and then she stopped,—"and I do think they might he civil
enough just to let a body know; I dare say 'tis the coronation, or the
butterfly-hunt, or the tournament, or the— O, how I should like to be
No sooner was the wish uttered, than she found herself seated in a high
gallery, as delicately carved as the ivory fans of the east; with
diamonds and ostrich-feathers all about and below her, and a prodigious
crowd assembled in the open air,—with the lists open,—a trumpet
sounding,—and scores of knights armed cap-a-pie, and mounted on
dragon-flies, waiting for the charge. All eyes were upon her, and
everybody about was whispering her name, and she never felt half so
happy in her life; and she was just beginning to compare the delicate
embroidery of her wings with that of her next neighbor, a sweet little
fairy who sat looking through her fingers at a youthful champion below,
and pouting and pouting as if she wanted everybody to know that he had
jilted her, when she happened to see a little forget-me-not embroidered
on his beaver; and she instantly recollected her promise, and cried out,
"O mamma! mamma!" and wished herself back again, where she might sit by
the flower and watch over it, and never leave it, never! till her three
days of trial were ended.
In a moment, before she could speak a word, or even make a bow to the
nice little boy-fairy, who had just handed her up her glove on the point
of a lance like a sunbeam, she found herself seated by the flower. Poor
little thing! It was too late! Every blossom had fallen off but one, and
that looked unhealthy, and trembled when she breathed upon it. She
thought of her mamma, and fancied she could see them carrying her up to
bed, and all the doctors there, and nobody able to tell what ailed her;
and she threw herself all along upon the grass, and wished all the
fairies at the bottom of the Red Sea, and herself with them! And when
she looked up, what do you think she saw? and where do you think she
was? why, she was at the bottom of the Red Sea, and all the wonders of
the Red Sea were about her,—chariots and chariot-wheels and the
skeletons of war-horses, and mounted warriors, with heaps of glittering
armor, and jewels of silver and jewels of gold, and banner and shield
and spear, with millions and millions of little sea-fairies, and Robin
Goodfellows, and giants and dwarfs, and the funniest-looking monsters
you ever heard of; and the waters were all bright with fairy-lamps that
were alive, and with ribbons that were alive, and with changeable
flowers that swam about and whispered to each other in a language of
their own; and there were great heaps of pearl washed up into drifts and
ridges, and a pile of the strangest-looking old-fashioned furniture, of
gold and ivory, and little mermaids with their dolls not longer than
your finger, with live fishes for tails, jumping about and playing
hide-and-seek with the sun-spots and star-fishes, and the striped
water-snakes of the Indian seas,—the most brilliant and beautiful of
all the creatures that live there.
And while she was looking about her, and wondering at all she saw, she
happened to think once more of the forget-me-not, and to wish herself
back again! At that instant she heard a great heavy bell booming and
tolling,—she knew it was tolling—and she knew she was too late—and
she knew that her mother was dead of a broken heart,—and she fell upon
her face, and stretched forth her hands with a shriek, and prayed God to
forgive her! and allow her to see her mother once more,—only once more!
"Why, what ails the child?" whispered somebody that seemed to be
stooping over her.
It was her mother's voice! and poor Ruth was afraid to look up lest it
should all vanish forever.
"Upon my word, Sarah," said another voice,—it was her father's,—"upon
my word, Sarah, I do not know; but the poor little creature's thoughts
appear to have undergone another change. I have heard nothing to-day of
the forget-me-not which troubled her so the first week, have you?"
"She has mentioned it but once to-day, and then she shuddered; but
perhaps we had better keep it in the glass till we see whether it will
bear to be transplanted, for she seems to have set her little heart upon
having that flower live; I wish I knew why!"
"Do you, indeed, mamma?" whispered poor Ruth, still without looking up;
"well, then, I will tell you. That flower was given me by a fairy to
make me remember my promises to you, my poor, dear, dead mamma; and so
long as I water that every day at the same hour, so long I shall be
growing better and better, and my poor dear mamma,—boo-hoo! boo-hoo!"
and the little thing began to cry as if she would break her heart.
"Why, this is stranger than all," said the father. "I can't help
thinking the poor child would be rational enough now, if she hadn't read
so many fairy-books; but what a mercy it was, my dear Sarah, and how
shall we ever be thankful enough, that you happened to be down there
when she fell into the water."
"Ah!" Ruth Page began to hold her breath, and listen with the strangest
"Yes, Robert; but I declare to you, I am frightened whenever I think of
the risk I ran by letting her fall in, head first, as I did."
Poor Ruth began to lift her head, and to feel about, and pinch herself
to see if she was really awake.
"And then, too, just think of this terrible fever, and the strange, wild
poetry she has been talking, day after day, about Fairy-land."
"Poetry! Fudge, Robert, fudge!"
Ruth looked up, full of amazement and joy, and whispered, "Fudge, father,
fudge!" and the very next words that fell from her trembling lips as she
sat looking at her mother, and pointing at a little bunch of
forget-me-nots in full flower, that her mother had kept for her in a
glass by the window, were these, "O mother! dearest mother! what a
terrible dream I have had!"
"Hush, my love, hush! and go to sleep, and we will talk this matter over
when you are able to bear it."
"Goody gracious, mamma!"
"There she goes again!" cried the father; "now we shall have another
"Hush, hush, my love! you must go to sleep now, and not talk any more."
"Well, kiss me, mamma, and let me have your hand to go to sleep with,
and I'll try."
Her mother kissed the dear little thing, and took her hand in hers, and
laid her cheek upon the pillow, and in less than five minutes she was
sound asleep, and breathing as she hadn't breathed before since she had
been fished out of the water, nearly three weeks back, on her way to