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STORIES FOR THE YOUNG. FLOWERS.
V. THE FAY'S MISSION
THE fairies are very like mortals in one particular, they are fond of variety, and love change; and thus it chanced that a certain fay, who dwelt in the bosom of the flowers, under the shade of the green wood, petitioned her queen, Titania, for permission to travel abroad. She was wearied with swinging in hare-bells, and sipping honey-dew from the cups of the violets; she had painted the early crocus, and spangled the fields with daisies; had sailed on sparkling bubbles, and formed rainbows with the spray of mimic waterfalls; had woven robes for herself from the threads of the sunlight, and danced in the moonbeams to the music of fairy lutes; and now, with her gauzy wings folded droopingly about her, she sought permission of the queen to leave these woodland haunts awhile, and seek the abode of mortals.
Her prayer was granted: the queen warning her, that should mortal eye e'er behold her, she could return to her native woods no more.
The happy fay waited no farther words, but gaily springing upon a winged seed that was floating by, sailed with it until it dropped at its appointed place by the wayside. The sprite, weary with her long flight, crept into the bosom of a wild rose that grew in the hedge, and was preparing to sip the dew from its heart, when she felt the flower hastily torn from its stem, and presently was conscious of being conveyed away. She ventured to peep out over the edge of the flower, and found herself in company with a cluster of wild roses, which were carefully carried by a ruddy-faced boy.
Quite pleased with her adventure the fay rested content, and even indulged in a doze. When she awoke and looked about her once more, she found the roses where she nestled were on a stand in a little room, very plain and still; and seated near the open window, propped up with pillows, sat a pale boy, whose dark, earnest eyes rested fondly upon the flowers.
The rosy-cheeked lad was leaning ten
derly over the invalid, and the healthful hue of his blooming face contrasted sadly with the ashy, suffering countenance beside him.
See, I have brought you roses, Willie dear," said the boy gently; "I gathered them at the roadside this morning. You love the flowers so well, they will serve you for companionship while I am gone."
"Yes," returned the other sadly, while tears filled his eyes, "they bring me tales of the woods and fields I never shall see again; oh! it is very sad to be crippled and poor; where are my bright dreams now?"
Hush, brother mine! "cried the other, cheerfully; you shall dream bright dreams in your quiet room, while I toil in the open field, and shall weave them into golden fancies to welcome my return; and by-and-by, when you grow strong, you shall lie under the trees and dream as of yore, and we will be happy again."
The suffering boy closed his eyes, and the tears fell slowly upon his cheek; the brother took his hand gently, and held it till the invalid sank into a soft slumber; then he stole quietly away.
All this while the little fay had listened earnestly to what passed; and now as she looked upon the sunken cheek of the suffering boy, and marked the languor of his drooping head, she felt how fearful was the doom of mortals, and grieved that the invalid should be shut out from the bright world he so much loved.
She softly whispered in his dreaming ear pleasant thoughts of the woods and fields, and watched until a gentle smile rose to the faded lip, ere she floated away through the open casement into the sum
A new world seemed spread before the wondering fay as she soared away over the gardens that were blooming around. She scarcely recognized the anemones and roses, in their new and beautiful varieties, while to many flowers she was an utter stranger.
The travelling fay enjoyed the change wonderfully, and was delighted with all she saw. During the day she hid away in the cups of the flowers, and after the sun had gone to rest came forth to trip in the moonlight and quaff the new fallen dew. But the flowers did not seem to yield any
honey so sweet as that of her native blossoms, and there were no sister fays to join in her dance upon the velvet turf.
So the little sprite grew very lonely at last, when there was none to love her-for Eden itself would seem a wilderness without the light of tenderness; and then her thoughts reverted to the suffering boy, so young and yet so sad. She spread her gauze-like wings, and once more floated into the silent room, where she found him sleeping lightly upon his little bed; there was an expression of pain upon his brow, and his face was pale and wan.
Then the fay gathered the pale moonbeams that fell through the lattice; and, circling about the sleeping boy, wove with them the delicate tracery of dreams, and flung it over his brow; and when a look of calm repose overspread his countenance, and a faint smile rested upon his lip, she lingered awhile upon his pillow, and murmured soft visions of her own woodland home. She told how the fairies dived in pearl-shells and brought up golden sands to spangle the flowers; how they hid amid the clustering leaves, and answered the songs of the birds in strains as sweet as their own; how they taught the bees to seek honey in the blossoms, and from the brilliant insects stole golden fires, to deck their banquet-halls among the trees.
The rest of the boy was sweet that night, and the fay floated away before the dawn and hid among the vines at the window. When he was seated in his favourite place near the lattice, she looked out from her leafy screen upon him, and there was a gleam of light in his dark eyes, and a faint rose-tinge upon his cheek that the fay loved to see. Her spells had not been powerless; the fairy-like part of his being had responded to hers; the visible world controlled not all his thoughts, beautiful images crowded his soul, and the fay was no longer alone.
And now each night she came with moonlight and fragrance to weave her charms about him, and even in his day dreams, her sweet influences were felt. His eye beamed with new lustre, his heart swelled with brighter thoughts, and now his little room was no longer desolate, nor his crippled frame a prison-house. The sick boy was happy in the new world
which was open in imagination before him, and the little fay was happy, too, in the new home she had found.
All this while the healthy brother toiled on in his garden. He had planted his peas just beneath the window, that the invalid might look down upon him, and they could exchange words as he worked. When the vines put forth their blossoms, the fay took up her abode therein, she could nestle so securely in the folded leaf, and carry whispered imaginings to the sick boy, as the wind waved the slender vine to and fro.
Then when the little fay sent bright visions to the mind of the boy, he wove them into graceful fancies, and repeated them to his brother, and they lightened his toil, and made the hours pass gladly and pleasantly to both.
And was not the little fay happy in sweetening, by her viewless influence, the lives of the two brothers? In all the amusements of her wooded home, she had known no happiness like the luxury of doing good; and she loved her modest dwelling in the heart of the pea-blossom, because the vine, like herself, was useful as well as beautiful.
The invalid boy declared the fragrance of the pea-blossom excelled that of the sweetest rose; and what wonder when it exhaled the odorous breathing of fairy land? and ofttimes when the tinge of the fay's bright wings shone through the pure leaves, he marvelled at its rare and exceeding beauty.
Gradually the boy grew better, and was at last able to walk feebly, with lame uncertain step about the garden; now, how he enjoyed the flowers, and loved to sit beneath the trees, or beside the gurgling brook for hours.
But he felt no longer alone-the spells of the fay were over his imagination and his heart; the passing wind and the bending grass had each a voice for him; the little stream spoke to him in silver tones, and the flowers wafted music toward him upon their fragrant breath.
Then the little fay felt that her mission was accomplished; that she had not journeyed in vain; and she began to think of returning to her early home once more.
The boy sat in the moonlight one still night, and his gaze rested fondly upon the
sweet pea-blossom, the moonbeams fell full upon it, and the colours of the fay's wing shone delicate and clear. She had dwelt in it so long that its leaves had imbibed her exquisite tints, even as the boy's soul had become imbued with her visions of beauty.
The boy bent tenderly over the blossom, and the fairy trembled; she knew that however easily she might conceal herself in the garish sunlight, there was a mysterious influence in the moonbeams that would reveal her to mortal gaze; and when once seen, she never could return to her woodland home again. She dared not hesitate; but breathing upon the blossom, she bade it retain the hues and fragrance of fairy-land for ever; and then veiling herself in her glistening wings, fell like a dew-drop from the heart of the flower,and was gone.
It is said the boy lived many years; and though weak and crippled, his soul sent forth beautiful imaginings that delighted thousands, and made himself happy; while, as to the little fay, none can penetrate the dream-like haze that envelopes fairy-land to learn her destiny; but she had done good, and thus carried a fresh lustre ever upon her wings.
One thing is very certain, the sweet pea is still fragrant and delicately painted, but whether it is fairy work remains for you to judge.
MARRIED AND SINGLE.-I have observed that a married man falling into misfortune is more apt to retrieve his situation in the world than a single one; partly because he is more stimulated to exertion by the necessities of the helpless and beloved beings who depend upon him for subsistence; but chiefly because his spirits are soothed and relieved by domestic endearments, and his self-respect kept alive by finding that, although all abroad is darkness and humiliation, yet there is still a little world of love at home, of which he is the monarch. Whereas a single man is apt to run to waste and selfneglect, to fancy himself lonely and abandoned, and his heart to fall to ruin, like some deserted mansion, for want of inhabitants.-Washington Irving.
Mr. Macgillivray, in his "History of British Birds, published by Messrs. Orr and Co., gives a pleasing account of the habits of eagles, vultures, and other distinguished members of the feathery tribe. The following extract will be additionally interesting to our readers from the recent death of the eminent and amiable author :
"When watching for eagles in a covered pit, I have seen it come to the carrion, alight at a little distance, look around, walk up to it with short steps, and commence tugging at the entrails, or tearing morsels from the flesh. In this it is sometimes joined by the herring gull. Should a raven arrive, the gulls continue their repast, the parties not interfering with each other, if the object be large; but to the eagle, whether the golden or the white-tailed, they feel obliged to yield, retiring to a short distance, and walking impatiently about, until the unwelcome intruder departs. *
"Chief of its tribe, and tyrant of the seas, it evinces a haughty superiority which none of our aquatic species seem inclined to dispute. Little disposed to associate with its inferiors, it passes its leisure hours, or periods of repose, on unfrequented parts of the sands, or on shoals, or islets, often on the bosom of the sea, just behind the breakers, where it floats lightly on the waves, presenting a beautiful appearance as it rises and falls on the ever-varying surface. In winter it is scarcely gregarious, more than a few individuals being seldom seen together; but when there are shoals of fish in the bays or creeks it mingles with the other gulls, from which it is always easily distinguished by its superior size and very loud clear cry, which may be heard in calm weather at the distance of a mile. Frequently when flying it emits also a loud, rather hoarse cackle, having affinity in sound, although not analogous in nature, to a human laugh. All the larger gulls are in one sense laughter-loving birds; but if we take note of the occasions when their cachinnations are emitted, we discover that so far from being the expressions of unusual mirth, they are employed
to express anxiety, alarm, anger, and revenge. Its flight is strong, ordinarily sedate, less wavering and buoyant than that of smaller species, but graceful, effective, and even majestic. There, running a few steps, and flapping its long wings, it springs into the air, wheels to either side, ascends, and on outspread and beautifully-curved pinions, hies away to some distant place. In advancing against a strong breeze, it sometimes proceeds straight forward, then shoots away in an oblique direction; now descends in a long curve so as almost to touch the water, then mounts on high. When it wheels about, and sweeps down the wind, its progress is extremely rapid. It walks with ease, using short steps, runs with considerable speed, and, like the other gulls, pats the sand or mud on the edge of the water with its feet. It generally rests standing on one foot, with its head drawn in; but in a dry place it often reposes by laying itself down. Its food consists of small fishes, which it picks from the water while flying, of larger fishes cast on the shore, of crustacea, shell-fish, echini, and marine worms. In winter it frequents the hills and moors in search of carrion, and in summer and autumn often preys upon the young of various sea-birds. I have seen it eating the flesh of a stranded whale along with the raven, and carrion on the hills along with that bird and the eagle. Sometimes, but not often, it searches the ploughed fields for worms. *
"Let us view the marine vulture in a different way. Here we are, in a small boat, rowed by four persons, on the smooth bosom of the Atlantic, two miles from that grim promontory of Toe-head, and drawing near to the little island of Copay. It is a bright day, in the beginning of June; the elements have proclaimed a cessation of hostilities, and we are ready to wage war upon nature, having our two guns in trim, and a large basket to contain the spoils of many nests. Some cormorants on the headland, stretching out their long necks, seem to be preparing for flight; a flock of gray geese has already left the island; many gulls have taken the alarm, and are hovering over the crags; a little band of oyster-catchers on the shore seem, by their cries, to be consulting among themselves; and there,
as we draw near, one after another, the spotted guillemots, leaving their nests, arrange themselves in lines along the edges of the shelves. Now then, fire! Eight or ten of them remain. But what an uproar! The isle has been frightened from her propriety.' Herring gulls, common gulls, and oyster - catchers, wheel and scream in alarm, confusion, and despair. We are now at the landing-place, which is rather slippery; but we have nimbly leaped on shore, and advance toward the grassy bank. Under these large stones, confusedly heaped together, are many nests of the spotted guillemot, which, contrary to the assertions of many authors, lays three eggs on the bare gravel or rock. In these holes, which seem to have been originally made by rats in the turf, are nests of the starling. Here is the first gull's nest, with its three eggs; another, and another; but you must look well, otherwise many will escape notice. Let us leave our guns here, and fill our hats with eggs. There! a duck has flown, and we find a nest of the eider, with its five eggs, wrapped in gray down. The screams of the poor gulls are almost deafening; yet few of these birds come very near, and of the fifty or sixty black-backed species which we see, some are hovering far aloft, some perched on distant crags, and some running forward and backward on the grass, within gunshot. Their eggs are larger than those of the herring gull; otherwise you can hardly distinguish them here. Those of the oyster- catcher, generally three, are easily known by having their spots darker and more defined than those of the smaller gull. The wild geese have nibbled the grass quite bare in most places; but their nests are never found in this island. The crew of our boat are running about gathering eggs; but we have had enough of them, and therefore we shall return for our guns, and endeavour to procure some specimens of the great gull, which even here, in presence of their nests, it is not very easy to do, some of them even having flown far off to sea.
"It is a lovely night in June; the moon slowly emerges from behind the distant mountains; the northern horizon is still red with the glare of the departed sun;
the winds have sunk to rest, and no sound is heard save the faint murmur of the waves that clash over the distant reefs. Yet, hark! the terns are abroad, and their shrill cries come faintly on the ear from the far-off sand-point, where, no doubt, they are engaged with a shoal of launces. Listen again! The oystercatchers intermingle their clamorous and curiously modulated cries; and now, louder than all, is clearly heard the call of the black-backed gull, faintly seen in the dim light. Here is one of his breeding-places, a turf-crowned crag, torn, as it were, from the rocks, and forming an inlet, inaccessible to human feet. Creeping stealthily among the crags, we faintly perceive the birds as they sit on their nests; but some of them have observed
All spring on their feet, and a few launch into the air, uttering loud cries, which alarm the birds around. It is vain, you perceive, to try to surprise them by night or by day. Wander as long as you will in these places, what more can you see? Perhaps a more acute observer may."
Ir was at the beginning of the fourth century, when the persecutions under the Roman emperors extended to Britain, that a Christian priest, pursued on account of his religion, found refuge in the house of a pagan, named Alban, who resided in the neighbourhood of Verulamium. The gentle manners of the Christian, the pure and unselfish morality which he inculcated, won the admiration and esteem of Alban, and induced him to inquire more narrowly into the faith of his guest, till, at length, he too became a Christian.
"You are a Roman," said Alban one day to him; were you brought up a Christian, or are you a convert from paganism ?"
"I was brought up a Christian," replied Amphibalus, "and yet I may call myself a convert too. You will scarcely understand the seeming contradiction. I was early left an orphan, and with an only sister, educated in the Christian faith, by a maternal uncle-the Bishop Caius. But I was a Christian only in name. Although
I offered no homage to the gods of heathen Rome, yet my heart adored the still more engrossing idols of ambition and pleasure. I might have continued in my ignorance and guilt till this hour, had not the sight of the decimation of a legion of six thousand soldiers, for refusing to take the oath for extirpating Christianity in Gaul, awakened me to the reality of that religion which could lead them thus calmly to endure death itself. From that day I determined to devote my life to the propagation of the Christian faith. I was ordained to the priesthood by my uncle, and as the good old man gave me his parting benediction, he said to me, 'Amphibalus, know that in the ardour of your new convictions, you would glory in suffering torments and death for Christ's sake; but remember that martyrdom is to be suffered, not sought. Go forth as the ambassador of Christ; stand against the temptations of the world; you may give higher proof of your devotion, by patiently labouring in the vineyard of the Lord than by enduring a violent death. I charge you to give this proof; and as long as you can preserve your life without a compromise of your faith, preserve it as a continual sacrifice unto God!' I obeyed him; and following his injunctions I left Rome, and have wandered to Britain. But even here the arm of Dioclesian is extended to destroy Christianity; orders have arrived for its suppression, and if it had not been for your timely shelter, I should now have been in the power of his officers."
Not many days after, the retreat of Amphibalus was discovered.
"Amphibalus," said Alban to him, "you are discovered; the officers of Dioclesian will be here presently; save yourself for the sake of those who, like myself, may be blessed by your ministry; change dresses with me and escape."
Alban quickly arrayed himself in the hair cassock of the priest, and throwing his own garment over his companion, bid him a hasty farewell. Amphibalus had searcely quitted the house, when the officers entered, and seizing Alban, led him before the governor of Verulamium. His disguise was soon penetrated; many of the poor who had experienced his bounty, wept when they beheld their benefactor a prisoner.