The Fairy Amoureuse

Do you hear the rain, Nanon, beating against the windows? And the wind sighing through the long corridor? It’s a horrid night, a night when poor wretches shiver before the gates of the rich, who dance indoors in rooms bright with many gilded chandeliers. Take off those silk slippers of yours, and come sit on my knee before the blazing hearth. Lay aside your gorgeous finery: I’m going to tell you a pretty fairy tale this evening.

Once upon a time, Nanon, there stood on the top of a mountain an ancient castle, somber and forbidding to look upon. It was a mass of turrets and ramparts and portcullises with heavy clanking chains; men-at- arms clad in steel from top to toe stood guard night and day on its battlements. Of those who came to the castle only warriors found a welcome at the hands of its master, Count Enguerrand.

If you had seen this old warrior stalking through the long galleries, and heard the sudden outbursts of his dry and menacing voice, you would have trembled with fright, just like his niece Odette, a pious and pretty little lady. Have you ever seen an Easter daisy among the nettles and briars open its petals in the early morning to the first kiss of the sun? Odette was like that, living among the rough knights in attendance on her uncle. Whenever she caught sight of him she would suddenly stop playing, and her eyes fill with tears. She had grown tall and fair, and often sighed with a vague desire for she knew not what; and every time the Lord Enguerrand appeared she was seized with an unspeakable and growing dread.

She had her room in a turret in a distant part of the castle, and spent her time embroidering lovely banners; she found repose in praying to God and in looking out of her window at the emerald landscape and the azure sky. How often, at night, had she risen from her bed and gone to the window to gaze at the stars! How often had the heart of this sixteen-year-old child leaped up toward the vasty spaces of the heavens, asking her radiant sisters of the firmament what it was that so troubled her! And after these sleepless nights, these first stirrings of her yet unconscious love, she would have strange promptings urging her to embrace the rough old knight her uncle. But a short answer or a stern glance would check her impulse, and all atremble she would take up her needle again. You are sorry, Nanon, for the poor child: she was like a fresh-scented flower whose loveliness and scent are alike spurned.

One day as poor Odette was sitting at her window following with her eyes the flight of two doves, she heard a soft voice far below her at the foot of the castle wall. She leaned out and saw a handsome young man who, with a song on his lips, demanded hospitality of the inmates of the castle. Though she listened intently, she could not understand what he said, but the sweet voice made her heart heavy, and the tears ran slowly down her cheeks, wetting the sprig of marjoram which she held in her hand.

But the castle gates were not opened, and a man-at-arms cried out from the walls:

“Stand back. Only soldiers are admitted here.”

Odette continued to look out of the window. She let slip the flower from her hand, still wet with her tears. It fell near the feet of the singer who, raising his eyes and seeing the fair hair of the girl, kissed the sprig and turned away, though he stopped at every step to look back. After he had disappeared, Odette went to her prie-dieu and prayed a long time. She gave thanks to heaven, she knew not why; she felt happy, though she did not suspect the reason of her happiness. And that night she dreamed a beautiful dream. She saw again the sprig of marjoram she had thrown to the young man. Slowly, out of the midst of the quivering leaves, there emerged a tiny fairy, with flame-colored wings, a crown of myosotis and a long robe of green, the color of hope.

“Odette,” said the fairy in a soothing voice, “I am the Fairy Amoureuse. It was I who sent the young man Lois to you this morning—the young man with the enchanting voice. It was I who, seeing your tears, wanted to dry them. I go about the world seeking lonely hearts and bringing together those who sigh in solitude. I visit the peasant’s hut as well as the lord’s manor, and at times I see fit to unite the shepherd’s crook with the king’s scepter. I sow flowers under the feet of those I protect. I enthrall them with bonds so precious and sweet that their hearts throb with joy. My home is among the green things

  By PanEris using Melati.

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