The Fairy Box by Louisa M. Alcott
"T wish I had a magic bracelet like
Rosamond's, that would prick me when I was
going to do wrong," said little May, as she put
down the story she had been reading.
There was no one else in the room, but she
heard a sweet voice sing these words close to
"Now hark, little May,
Under your pillow
If you have been good
A gift you will find,
But if you have been
A bad thing will come
So try, little dear,
How easy and sweet
To grow good it will be."
May was very much surprised at this, and
looked everywhere to see who spoke, but could
find no one.
"I guess I dreamed it; but my eyes are wide
open, and I can't make up poetry, asleep or awake."
As she said that, some one laughed; and the
same voice sang again,--
"Ha, ha! you can't see,
But listen to what
Tell no one of this,
My fun will be spoilt,
But if you are good,
A real fairy will come
"Oh, how splendid that will be! I 'll try hard,
and be as good as an angel if I can only get one
peep at a live fairy. I always said, there were
such people, and now I shall know how they
look," cried the little girl, so pleased that she
danced all about the room, clapping her hands.
Something bright darted out of the window
from among the flowers that stood there, and no
more songs were heard; so May knew that the
elf had gone.
"I 've got a fine secret all to myself, and I 'll
keep it carefully. I wonder what present will
come to-night," she said, thinking this a very
She was very good all day, and made no fuss
about going to bed, though usually she fretted,
and wanted to play, and called for water, and
plagued poor Nursey in many ways. She got
safely into her little nest, and then was in such
a hurry to see what was under her pillow that
she forgot, and called out crossly,--
"Do hurry and go away. Don't wait to hang
up my clothes, you slow old thing! Go, go!"
That hurt Nurse's feelings, and she went away
without her good-night kiss. But May did n't
care, and felt under her pillow the minute the
door was shut. A lamp was always left burning;
so she could see the little gold box she
"How pretty! I hope there is some candy
in it," she said, opening it very carefully.
Oh, dear! what do you think happened? A
wasp flew out and stung her lips; then both
wasp and box vanished, and May was left to cry
alone, with a sharp pain in the lips that said the
"What a dreadful present! I don't like that
spiteful fairy who sends such horrid things," she
Then she lay still and thought about it; for
she dared not call any one, because nobody
must guess the secret. She knew in her own
little heart that the cross words hurt Nursey as
the sting did her lips, and she felt sorry. At
once the smart got better, and by the time she
had resolved to ask the good old woman to
forgive her, it was all gone.
Next morning she kissed Nursey and begged
pardon, and tried hard to be good till tea-time;
then she ran to see what nice things they were
going to have to eat, though she had often been
told not to go into the dining-room. No one
was there; and on the table stood a dish of
delicious little cakes, all white like snowballs.
"I must have just a taste, and I 'll tell mamma
afterward," she said; and before she knew it one
little cake was eaten all up.
"Nobody will miss it, and I can have another
at tea. Now, a lump of sugar and a sip of cream
before mamma comes, I so like to pick round."
Having done one wrong thing, May felt like
going on; so she nibbled and meddled with all
sorts of forbidden things till she heard a step,
then she ran away; and by and by, when the
bell rang, came in with the rest as prim and
proper as if she did not know how to play
pranks. No one missed the cake, and her
mother gave her another, saying,--
"There, dear, is a nice plummy one for my
May turned red, and wanted to tell what she
had done, but was ashamed because there was
company; and people thought she blushed like
a modest little girl at being praised.
But when she went to bed she was almost
afraid to look under the pillow, knowing that
she had done wrong. At last she slowly drew
out the box, and slowly opened it, expecting
something to fly at her. All she saw was a tiny
black bag, that began at once to grow larger,
till it was big enough to hold her two hands.
Then it tied itself tight round her wrists, as
if to keep these meddlesome hands out of
"Well, this is very queer, but not so dreadful
as the wasp. I hope no one will see it when
I 'm asleep. I do wish I 'd let those cakes and
things alone," sighed May, looking at the black
bag, and vainly trying to get her hands free.
She cried herself to sleep, and when she woke
the bag was gone. No one had seen it; but she
told her mamma about the cake, and promised
not to do so any more.
"Now this shall be a truly good day, every
bit of it," she said, as she skipped away, feeling
as light as a feather after she had confessed her
But, alas! it is so easy to forget and do wrong,
that May spoilt her day before dinner by going
to the river and playing with the boats, in spite
of many orders not to do it. She did not tell
of it, and went to a party in the afternoon, where
she was so merry she never remembered the
naughty thing till she was in bed and opened
the fairy box. A little chain appeared, which
in a flash grew long and large, and fastened
round her ankles as if she were a prisoner. May
liked to tumble about, and was much disgusted
to be chained in this way; but there was no
help for it, so she lay very still and had plenty
of time to be sorry.
"It is a good punishment for me, and I
deserve it. I won't cry, but I will--I will
remember." And May said her prayers very
soberly, really meaning to keep her word this time.
All the next day she was very careful to keep
her lips from cross words, her hands from
forbidden things, and her feet from going wrong.
Nothing spoilt this day, she watched so well;
and when mamma gave the good-night kiss, she said,--
"What shall I give my good little daughter,
who has been gentle, obedient, and busy all day?"
"I want a white kitty, with blue eyes, and a
pink ribbon on its neck," answered May.
"I'll try and find one. Now go to bed, deary,
and happy dreams!" said mamma, with many
kisses on the rosy cheeks, and the smile that
was a reward.
May was so busy thinking about the kitty and
the good day that she forgot the box till she
heard a little "Mew, mew!" under her pillow.
"Mercy me! what's that?" And she popped
up her head to see.
Out came the box; off flew the lid, and there,
on a red cushion, lay a white kit about two
inches long. May could n't believe that it was
alive till it jumped out of its nest, stretched
itself, and grew all at once just the right size to
play with and be pretty. Its eyes were blue, its
tail like a white plume, and a sweet pink bow
was on its neck. It danced all over the bed,
ran up the curtains, hid under the clothes,
nipped May's toes, licked her face, patted her
nose with its soft paw, and winked at her in such
a funny way that she laughed for joy at having
such a dear kitty. Presently, as if it knew that
bed was the place to lie quiet in, puss cuddled
down in a little bunch and purred May to sleep.
"I suppose that darling kit will be gone like
all the other things," said May, as she waked up
and looked round for her first pretty gift.
No; there was the lovely thing sitting in the
sun among the flower-pots, washing her face
and getting ready for play. What a fine frolic
they had; and how surprised every one was to
see just the pussy May wanted! They supposed
it came as kitties often come; and May never
told them it was a fairy present, because she had
promised not to. She was so happy with little
puss that she was good all day; and when she
went to bed she thought,--
"I wish I had a dog to play with darling
Snowdrop, and run with me when I go to walk."
"Bow, wow, wow!" came from under the
pillow; and out of the box trotted a curly black
dog, with long ears, a silver collar, and such
bright, kind eyes May was not a bit afraid of
him, but loved him at once, and named him
Floss, he was so soft and silky. Pussy liked
him too; and when May was sleepy they both
snuggled down in the same basket like two
good babies, and went to by-low.
"Well, I never! What shall we find next?"
said Nurse, when she saw the dog in the morning.
"Perhaps it will be an elephant, to fill the
whole house, and scare you out of your wits,"
laughed May, dancing about with Snowdrop
chasing her bare toes, while Floss shook and
growled over her shoes as if they were rats.
"If your cousin John wants to give you any
more animals, I wish he 'd send a pony to take
you to school, and save my old legs the pain of
trotting after you," said Nurse; for May did
have a rich cousin who was very fond of her,
and often gave her nice things.
"Perhaps he will," laughed May, much tickled
with the idea that it was a fairy, and not Cousin
John, who sent the cunning little creatures to her.
But she did n't get the pony that night; for
in the afternoon her mother told her not to sit
on the lawn, because it was damp, and May
did not mind, being busy with a nice story. So
when she took up her box, a loud sneeze seemed
to blow the lid off, and all she saw was a bit of
"What is this for?" she asked, much disappointed;
and as if to answer, the strip of flannel
wrapped itself round her neck.
"There! my throat is sore, and I am hoarse.
I wonder how that fairy knew I sat on the damp
grass. I 'm so sorry; for I did want a pony, and
might have had it if I 'd only minded," said May,
angry with herself for spoiling all her fun.
It was spoilt; for she had such a cold next
day she could n't go out at all, but had to take
medicine and keep by the fire, while the other
children had a lovely picnic.
"I won't wish for anything to-night; I don't
deserve a present, I was so disobedient. But I
have tried to be patient," said May, feeling for
The fairy had not forgotten her, and there was
a beautiful picture-book, full of new, nice stories
printed in colored ink.
"How splendid to read to-morrow while I 'm
shut up!" she said, and went to sleep very happily.
All the next day she enjoyed the pretty
pictures and funny tales, and never complained or
fretted at all, but was so much better the doctor
said she could go out to-morrow, if it was fine.
"Now I will wish for the pony," said May, in
her bed. But there was nothing in the box
except a little red-silk rope, like a halter. She
did not know what to do with it that night,
but she did the next morning; for just as
she was dressed her brother called from the
"May, look out and see what we found in
the stable. None of us can catch him, so do
come and see if you can; your name is on the
card tied to his mane."
May looked, and there was a snow-white pony
racing about the yard as if he was having a fine
frolic. Then she knew the halter was for him,
and ran down to catch him. The minute she
appeared, the pony went to her and put his
nose in her hand, neighing, as if he said,--
"This is my little mistress; I will mind her
and serve her well."
May was delighted, and very proud when
the pony let her put on the saddle and bridle
that lay in the barn all ready to use. She
jumped up and rode gayly down the road; and
Will and mamma and all the maids and Floss
and Snowdrop ran to see the pretty sight. The
children at school were much excited when she
came trotting up, and all wanted to ride Prince.
He was very gentle, and every one had a ride;
but May had the best fun, for she could go
every day for long trots by the carriage when
mamma and Will drove out. A blue habit and
a hat with a long feather were bought that
afternoon; and May was so happy and contented at
night that she said to herself as she lay in
"I 'll wish for something for Will now, and
see if I get it. I don't want any more presents
yet; I've had my share, and I'd love to give
away to other people who have no fairy box."
So she wished for a nice boat, and in the box
lay a key with the name "Water Lily" on it.
She guessed what it meant, and in the morning
told her brother to come to the river and see
what she had for him. There lay a pretty green
and white boat, with cushioned seats, a sail all
spread, and at the mast-head a little flag flying
in the wind, with the words "Water Lily" on it
in gold letters.
Will was so surprised and pleased to find that
it was his, he turned heels over head on the
grass, kissed May, and skipped into his boat,
crying, "All aboard!" as if eager to try it at
May followed, and they sailed away down the
lovely river, white with real lilies, while the
blackbirds sang in the green meadows on either
side, and boys and girls stopped on the bridges
to see them pass.
After that May kept on trying to be good,
and wishing for things for herself and other
people, till she forgot how to be naughty, and
was the sweetest little girl in the world. Then
there was no need of fairies to help her; and
one night the box was not under the pillow.
"Well, I 've had my share of pretty things,
and must learn to do without. I 'm glad I tried;
for now it is easy to be good, and I don't need
to be rewarded," said May, as she fell asleep,
quite happy and contented, though she did wish,
she could have seen the fairy just once.
Next morning the first thing she saw was a
beautiful bracelet, shining on the table; and
while she stood admiring it, she heard the little
"Here is the bracelet
To wear on her arm
When it shines like the sun,
But when you are bad,
Farewell, little girl,
Make a fairy-box, dear,
And take out for all
Till all the year round
As the last words were sung, right before her
eyes she saw a tiny creature swinging on the
rose that stood there in a vase,--a lovely elf,
with wings like a butterfly, a gauzy dress, and
a star on her forehead. She smiled, and waved
her hand as she slowly rose and fluttered away
into the sunshine, till she vanished from sight,
leaving May with the magic bracelet on her
arm, and the happy thought that at last she had
really seen a fairy.