The Fairy Spring
by Louisa M.
One summer morning a party of little wood-people were talking together
about something which interested them very much. The fruit-fairy was
eating her breakfast as she swung on a long spray of the raspberry-vines
that waved in the wind; a blue-bird was taking his bath in the pool
below, looking as if a bit of the sky had fallen into the water as he
splashed and shook the drops from his wings; Skip, the squirrel, was
resting on the mossy wall, after clearing out his hole of last year's
nuts, to be ready for a new supply; Spin, the spider, was busily
spreading her webs to bleach, and Brownie, the little bear, was warming
his fuzzy back in the sunshine, for his den was rather dark and cold.
"It is such a pity that no one understands what the brook is trying to
tell them. If they only knew about the fairy spring as we do, this is
just the day to set out and find it," said Iris, the elf, as she took
the last sip of raspberry shrub from the pretty red cup, and wiped her
lips on a napkin Spin had made for her.
"Ah, if they only did! how glad I should be to show them the way,"
answered the blue-bird, as he dried his feathers on a mossy stone, while
the caddis-worms all popped their heads out of sight in their little
stone houses for fear he might eat them up.
"I have called every child I see, and done my best to lead them up the
mountain; but they won't come, and I cannot make them understand the
sweet words the brook keeps singing. How dull human creatures are! Even
Brownie knows this song, though he is a dear, clumsy thing, always going
to sleep when he is not eating," said Skip, with a twinkle in his bright
eye; for he and the little bear were good friends, though one was so
brisk and the other so big and awkward.
"Of course I do; I've heard it ever since I was born, and the first long
walk I took was up the mountain to find the wonderful spring. I drank of
it, and have been the happiest creature alive ever since," answered
Brownie, with a comfortable roll on the green grass.
"I am too busy to go, but my cousin Velvetback often comes down and
tells me about the splendid life he leads up there, where no foot ever
treads on him, no hand ever breaks his webs, and everything is so still
and bright that he always is in a hurry to get home again. When my
weaving and bleaching are all done I am going up to see for myself;" and
Spin shook off the tiny drops of dew which shone like diamonds on her
"There is one child who comes every day to look at the brook and listen
to its babble as it runs under the little bridge over there. I think
she will soon hear what it says, and then we will lead her along
higher and higher till she finds the spring, and is able to tell every
one the happy secret," said Iris, shaking out her many-colored robe
before she skimmed away to float over the pool, so like a glittering
dragon-fly few guessed that she was a fairy.
"Yes, she is a sweet child," said the blue-bird, hopping to the wall to
look along the lane to see if she was coming. "She never throws pebbles
in the water to disturb the minnows, nor breaks the ferns only to let
them die, nor troubles us as we work and play as most children do. She
leans there and watches us as if she loved us, and sings to herself as
if she were half a bird. I like her, and I hope she will be the first to
find the spring."
"So do I," said Skip, going to sit by his friend and watch for the
child, while Brownie peeped through a chink in the wall that she might
not be frightened at sight of him, small as he was.
"She is coming! she is coming!" called Iris, who had flown to the
railing of the rustic bridge, and danced for joy as a little figure came
slowly down the winding lane.
A pretty child, with hair like sunshine, eyes blue as the sky, cheeks
like the wild roses nodding to her on either side of the way, and a
voice as sweet as the babbling brook she loved to sing with. May was
never happier than when alone in the woods; and every morning, with her
cup, and a little roll of bread in her basket, she wandered away to some
of her favorite nooks, to feast on berries, play with the flowers, talk
to the birds, and make friends with all the harmless wood-creatures who
soon knew and welcomed her.
She had often wondered what the brook sang, and tried to catch the words
it seemed to be calling to her. But she never quite understood till this
day, for when she came to the bridge and saw her friends—blue-bird,
squirrel, and dragon-fly—waiting for her, she smiled, and waved her
hand to them, and just at that moment she heard the song of the brook
"I am calling, I am calling,
As I ripple, run, and sing,
Come up higher, come up higher,
Come and find the fairy spring.
Who will listen, who will listen
To the wonders I can tell,
Of a palace built of sunshine,
Where the sweetest spirits dwell?—
Singing winds, and magic waters,
Golden shadows, silver rain,
Spells that make the sad heart happy,
Sleep that cures the deepest pain.
Cheeks that bloom like summer roses,
Smiling lips and eyes that shine,
Come to those who climb the mountain,
Find and taste the fairy wine.
I am calling, I am calling,
As I ripple, run, and sing;
Who will listen, who will listen,
To the story of the spring?"
"Where is it; oh, where is it?" cried May, when the song ended; for she
longed to see this lovely place and enjoy these beautiful things.
"Go up higher, go up higher,
Far beyond the waterfall.
Follow Echo up the mountain,
She will answer to your call.
Bird and butterfly and blossom,
All will help to show the way;
Lose no time, the day is going,
Find the spring, dear little May,"
sung the brook; and the child was enchanted to hear the sweet voice
talking to her of this pleasant journey.
"Yes, I will go at once. I am ready, and have no fear, for the woods are
full of friends, and I long to see the mountain top; it must be so
lovely up there," she said, looking through the green arches where the
brook came dancing down over the rocks, far away to the gray peak,
hidden in clouds.
There lay the fairy spring, and she was going to find it. No one would
miss her, for she often played all day in the forest and went home with
the lambs at night. The brook said, "Make haste!" so away she went over
the wall, with Skip leaping before her, as if to show the safest stones
to set her little feet on. Iris waved the raspberry-sprays, to attract
her with the ripe fruit, and when the basket was nearly full, Blue-bird
flew from tree to tree to lead her on further into the wood. Brownie
dodged behind the rocks and fallen logs, waiting for his turn to come,
as he had a fine surprise for the little traveller by and by.
It was a lovely road, and May went happily on, with thick moss
underneath, shady boughs overhead, flowers to nod and smile at her, and
friends to guard, guide, and amuse her. Every ant stopped work to see
her pass; every mosquito piped his little song in her ear; birds leaned
out of their nests to bid her good-day, and the bright-eyed snakes,
fearing to alarm her, hid under the leaves. But lovely butterflies flew
round her in clouds; and she looked like a pretty one herself, with her
blue gown and sunny hair blowing in the wind.
So she came at last to the waterfall. Here the brook took a long leap
over some high rocks, to fall foaming into a basin fringed with ferns;
out of which it flowed again, to run faster than ever down to join the
river rolling through the valley, to flow at last into the mighty ocean
and learn a grander song.
"I never can get up there without wings," said May, as she looked at the
high rocks with a tangle of vines all over them. Then she remembered
what the brook told her, and called out,—
"Echo, are you here?"
"Here!" answered an airy voice.
"How can I climb up?"
"Yes; but can I get through the vines?"
"Through the vines."
"It is very high, but I can try it."
"Try it, try it," answered the voice so clearly that May could not doubt
what to do.
"Well, if I'm brave I shall be helped."
"Be helped," answered Echo.
"Now I'm coming, and I hope I shall find you, sweet Echo."
"Find sweet Echo," sung the voice; and when May laughed, a softer laugh
answered her so gayly that she forgot her fear in eagerness to see this
new friend, hiding above the waterfall.
Up she went, and as if fairy hands cleared the way for her, the tangled
vines made a green ladder for her feet, while every time she stopped
for breath and called, as she peeped into the shadowy nooks or looked at
the dashing water, "Are you here?" the mocking voice always answered
So she climbed safely up and sat to rest at the top, looking down the
valley where the brook danced and sparkled as if glad to see her on her
way. The air blew freshly, and the sun shone more warmly here, for the
trees were not so thick, and lovely glimpses of far-off hills and
plains, like pictures set in green frames, made one eager to go on and
Skip and Blue-bird kept her company, so she did not feel lonely, and
followed these sure guides higher and higher, till she came out among
the great bare cliffs, where rocks lay piled as if giants had been
throwing them about in their rough play.
"Oh, how large the world is! and what a little thing I am!" said May, as
she looked out over miles of country so far below that the towns looked
like toy villages, and people like ants at work. A strong wind blew, all
was very still, for no bird sang, and no flowers bloomed; only green
moss grew on the rocks, and tiny pines no longer than her finger
carpeted the narrow bits of ground here and there. An eagle flew high
overhead, and great white clouds sailed by, so near that May could feel
their damp breath as they passed.
The child felt a little fear, all was so vast and strange and wonderful;
and she seemed so weak and small that for a moment she half wished she
had not come. She was hungry and tired, but her basket was empty, and no
water appeared. She sighed, and looked from the mountain top, hidden in
mist, to the sunny valley where mother was, and a tear was about to
fall, when Iris came floating to her like a blue and silver butterfly,
and alighting on her hand let May see her lovely little face, and hear
her small voice as she smiled and sung,—
"Have no fear,
Friends are here,
To help you on your way.
The mountain's breast
Will give you rest,
And we a feast, dear May.
Here at your feet
Is honey sweet,
And water fresh to sip.
Fruit I bring
On Blue-bird's wing,
And nuts sends merry Skip.
Rough and wild,
To you, dear child,
Seems the lonely mountain way;
But have no fear,
For friends are near,
To guard and guide, sweet May."
Then at the tap of the fairy's wand up gushed fresh water from the rock;
Blue-bird dropped a long stalk of grass strung with raspberries like red
beads; Skip scattered his best nuts; and Brownie came lumbering up with
a great piece of honey-comb, folded in vine-leaves. He had found a
wild-bees' nest, and this was his surprise. He was so small and gentle,
and his little eyes twinkled so kindly, that May could not be afraid,
and gladly sat down on the crisp moss to eat and drink with her friends
It was a merry lunch, for all told tales, and each amused the little
pilgrim in his or her pretty way. The bird let her hold him on her hand
and admire his lovely blue plumes. Skip chattered and pranced till there
seemed to be a dozen squirrels there instead of one. Brownie stood on
his head, tried to dance, and was so funny in his clumsy attempts to
outdo the others that May laughed till many echoes joined in her
merriment. Iris told her splendid stories of the fairy spring, and
begged her to go on, for no one ever had so good a chance as she to find
out the secret and see the spirit who lived on the mountain top.
"I am strong and brave now, and will not turn back. Come with me, dear
creatures, and help me over these great rocks, for I have no wings,"
said May, trudging on again, much refreshed by her rest.
"I'll carry you like a feather, my dear; step up and hold fast, and see
me climb," cried Brownie, glad to be of use.
So May sat on his fuzzy back as on a soft cushion, and his strong legs
and sharp claws carried him finely over the rough, steep places, while
Blue-bird and Skip went beside her, and Iris flew in front to show the
way. It was a very hard journey, and poor fat Brownie panted and
puffed, and often stopped to rest. But May was so surprised and charmed
with the lovely clouds all about her that she never thought of being
tired. She forgot the world below, and soon the mist hid it from her,
and she was in a world of sunshine, sky, and white clouds floating about
like ships in a sea of blue air. She seemed to be riding on them when
one wrapped her in its soft arms; and more than once a tiny cloud came
and sat in her lap, like a downy lamb, which melted when she tried to
"Now we are nearly there, and Velvet comes to meet us. These fine
fellows are the only creatures who live up here, and these tiny
star-flowers the only green things that grow," said Iris, at last, when
all the clouds were underneath, and the sky overhead was purple and
gold, as the sun was going down.
Velvet ran nimbly to give May a silver thread which would lead her
straight to the spring; and the path before her was carpeted with the
pretty white stars, that seemed to smile at her as if glad to welcome
her. She was so eager that she forgot her weariness, and hurried on
till she came at last to the mountain top, and there like a beautiful
blue eye looking up to heaven lay the fairy spring.
May ran to look into it, thinking she would see only the rock below and
the clouds above; but to her wonder there was a lovely palace reflected
in the clear water, and shining as if made of silver, with crystal bells
chiming with a sound like water-drops set to music.
"Oh, how beautiful! Is it real? Who lives there? Can I go to it?" cried
May, longing to sink down and find herself in that charming palace, and
know to whom it belonged.
"You cannot go till you have drunk of the water and slept by the spring;
then the spirit will appear, and you will know the secret," answered
Iris, filling a pearly shell that lay on the brim of the spring.
"Must I stay here all alone? I shall be cold and afraid so far from my
own little bed and my dear mother," said May, looking anxiously about
her, for the sky was growing dim and night coming on.
"We will stay with you, and no harm can come to you, for the spirit
will be here while you sleep. Drink and dream, and in the morning you
will be in a new world."
While Iris spoke Brownie had piled up a bed of star-flowers in a little
crevice of the rock; Velvet had spun a silken curtain over it to keep
the dew off; Blue-bird perched on the tallest stone to keep watch; and
when May had drunk a cup of the fairy water, and lay down, with Skip
rolled up for a pillow, and Brownie at her feet for a warm rug, Iris
waved her wand and sung a lullaby so sweet that the child was in
dreamland at once.
When she woke it was day, but she had no time to see the rosy sky, the
mist rolling away, or the sunshine dazzling down upon the world, for
there before her rising from the spring, was the spirit, so beautiful
and smiling, May could only clasp her hands and look. As softly as a
cloud the spirit floated toward her, and with a kiss as cool as a
dew-drop, she said in a voice like a fresh wind,—
"Dear child, you are the first to come and find me. Welcome to the
mountain and the secret of the spring. It is this: whoever climbs up
and drinks this water will leave all pain and weariness behind, and grow
healthy in body, happy in heart, and learn to see and love all the
simple wholesome things that help to keep us good and gay. Do you feel
tired now, or lonely, or afraid? Has the charm begun to work?"
"Yes," cried May, "I think it has, for I feel so happy, light, and well,
I could fly like a bird. It is so lovely here I could stay all my life
if I only had mamma to enjoy it with me."
"She will come, and many others. Little children often are wiser than
grown people, and lead them up without knowing it. Look and see what you
have done by this longing of yours for the mountain top, and the brave
journey that brought you here."
Then the spirit touched May's eyes, and looking down she saw the little
path by which she had come grow wider and smoother, till it wound round
and round the mountain like a broad white ribbon, and up this pleasant
path came many people. Some were pale and sad; some lame, some ill; some
were children in their mothers' arms; some old and bent, but were
climbing eagerly up toward the fairy spring,—sure of help and health
when they arrived.
"Can you cure them all?" asked May, delighted to see what hope and
comfort her journey had given others.
"Not all; but every one will be the better for coming, even the oldest,
the saddest, and the sickest; for my four servants, Sunshine, Fresh-air,
Water, and Rest, can work miracles, as you will see. Souls and bodies
need their help, and they never fail to do good if people will only come
to them and believe in their power."
"I am so glad, for mamma is often ill, and loves to come to the hills
and rest. Shall I see her soon? Can I go and tell her all I have
learned, or must I stay till she comes?" asked May, longing to run and
skip, she felt so well with the fairy water bubbling in her veins.
"Go and tell the news, and lead the others up. You will not see me, but
I am here; and my servants will do their work faithfully, for all who
are patient and brave. Farewell, dear child, no harm will come to you,
and your friends are waiting to help you down. But do not forget when
you are in the valley, or you will never find the fairy spring again."
Then the spirit vanished like mist, and May ran away, singing like a
bird, and skipping like a little goat, so proud and happy she felt as if
she could fly like a thistle-down. The path seemed very easy now, and
her feet were never tired. Her good friends joined her by the way, and
they had a merry journey back to the valley. There May thanked them and
hastened to tell all she had seen and heard and done. Few believed her;
most people said, "The child fell asleep and dreamed it." A few invalids
looked up and sighed to be there, but had no courage to climb so far. A
poet said he would go at once, and set off; so did a man who had lost
his wife and little children, and was very sad. May's mother believed
every word, and went hand in hand with the happy child along the path
that grew wider and smoother with every pair of feet that passed.
The wood-creatures nodded at May, and rejoiced to see the party go; but
there was no need of them now, so they kept out of sight, and only the
child and the poet saw them. Every one enjoyed the journey, for each
hour they felt better; and when at last they reached the spring, and May
filled her little cup for them to drink the sweet water, every one
tasted and believed, for health and happiness came to them with a single
The sad man smiled, and said he felt so near to heaven and his lost
children up there that he should stay. The poet began to sing the
loveliest songs he ever made, and pale mamma looked like a rose, as she
lay on the star-flowers, breathing the pure air, and basking in the
sunshine. May was the spirit of the spring for them, and washed away the
tears, the wrinkles, and the lines of pain with the blessed water, while
the old mountain did its best to welcome them with mild air, cloud
pictures, and the peace that lies above the world.
That was the beginning of the great cure; for when this party came down
all so beautifully changed, every one began to hurry away to try their
fortune also. Soon the wide road wound round and round, and up it
journeyed pilgrims from all parts of the world, till the spirit and her
servants had hundreds of visitors each day. People tried to build a
great house up there, and make money out of the spring; but every
building put up blew away, the water vanished, and no one was cured till
the mountain top was free again to all.
Then the spring gushed up more freshly than before; the little
star-flowers bloomed again, and all who came felt the beauty of the
quiet place, and were healed of all their troubles by the magic of the
hills where the spirit of health still lives to welcome and bless
whoever go to find her.