|Newspaper Title||The Dawn (Sydney, NSW : 1888 - 1905)|
|Trove Title||The Queen of the Fairies: A Christmas Story for Young Australians|
The Queen of the Fairies.
A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR YOUNG AUSTRALIANS,
BY MRS. R. H. TODD.
"GWEN" said little Bertie Fraser, suddenly to his
sister, "do you know what father said yester- day ?" Gwen was busily absorbed in the new doll's dress she was making, but she looked up enquiringly at her brother's earnest face. "He said," continued Bertie [t]hat Australia was such a dreadfully new country that there was no ro—ro— I forget the word."
"Romance," suggested Gwen.
"Yes, that's it, and when I asked him what he meant he said there were no fairies here or little elves, or any ghosts or queen things, not even any Father Christmas and he couldn't come here because if he did his beard of snow would all melt, and Father Christmas wouldn't be anything without his beard !"
"Oh dear !" sighed Gwen, "how I should like to see the snow ! Mother told me all about it ; she says that when the days are cold, and all the poor little flowers are shivering, the kind snow comes and wraps them up warm and sends them to sleep, and when they wake up again the spring has come, and then the sun shines, and they are quite happy and open their little buds. I wish
I could see it all !"
"When I am a man," replied Bertie, "I shall see it, for I mean to travel everywhere and see everything, and when I come I'll tell you all about it."
"And I shall stay at home and take care of mother," said the sedate little Gwen.
The two children were sitting on the broad verandah just outside the long, straggling, weatherboard cottage in which they lived. A broad river rolled at their feet, and behind the house the "everlasting gum trees" gave a pleasant shade. The scent of roses filled the air, which was alive with the hum of the crickets and the song of the birds. They were both born in this pretty home, to
which Colonel Fraser had brought his young bride some eight or nine years previously. He belonged to a good old English family, but being a younger son without for- tune, he made a somewhat imprudent marriage with a penniless girl. She made him a brave wife however, and encouraged by her, Colonel Fraser determined to leave the army and to seek his fortune across the seas. His knowledge of horses served him in good stead, and by economy and perseverance, and with a certain amount of luck, he was soon able to improve his circumstances. Unfortunately, however, he met with a very serious ac- cident whilst riding an untrained colt in his usual reck- less fashion, and the strong man was crippled for life. Thanks to his energy during the early days of his settle- ment in Australia he had been able to put by enough to secure a moderate income for the rest of his life, and he was able too, by the help of a competent overseer, to continue to provide well-bred and carefully broken horses for the markets of the large Australian towns.
Meantime we have left the children chatting together and wondering, as they often did, what the old home was like of which their parents talked so affectionately.
"But are there really fairies in England ?" asked Gwen a little doubtfully.
"Of course," said Bertie. "Don't you remember all the stories Uncle Harry used to tell us of the funny little men who worked underground, and only sometimes were seen by the travellers who came home and told their children all about them ? And then the beautiful Queen of the Fairies, how lovely she must be in her dress of butterflies' wings, and her little crown of moonbeams ! How I wish she would come to Australia ! Suppose,"— and the big eyes opened wider—"Suppose, Gwen, that we were to write to her, do you think she would be
Gwen looked doubtful, "Well, Bertie, we might try,
Bertie, full of his new idea, rushed off for paper and pencil, and soon the two children were deep in the con- coction of the important letter. How to begin it was the first difficulty. Bertie wanted to begin "My dear Queen of the Fairies," but Gwen objected that this was not nearly polite enough, she remembered that the Queen of England was always called "Your Majesty" and surely the Queen of the Fairies was at least as important a lady as Queen Victoria ! At last after a good deal of discus-
sion the letter was written as follows : —
"May it please your dear Majesty.—We are two little children in Australia, and we have never seen any fairies. We want to see some very much and we cannot go to England till we are big. Please, beautiful Majesty, we want to see a fairy very much, and if you are too grand or too busy to come yourself, will you spare us just one little fairy to come and see us. And, please, dear Fairy Queen, Uncle Harry says you can give people what they wish for, and we wish so much for dear father to get well. Please, dear Majesty, he got dreadfully hurt when the poor horse fell, and mother is so sad about it, she sometimes cries. Please forgive us for writing to you, dear Queen. Your humble servants,
GWEN AND BERTIE FRASER.
The next puzzle was, how to send it ? After a while however, they decided to entrust it to Uncle Harry, and to ask him to send it on to the Queen.
Needless to say the children often talked over the im- portant letter, and wondered whether the Queen would ever get it, and whether she would take any notice of it.
About a month afterwards, however, their thoughts were turned in a different direction by the news that they were to go away on a visit to their aunt and cousins in Sydney, and leave their parents for the first time in their lives. The pain of saying goodbye was softened by anti- cipations of the delights of a visit to the town. They were to see shops, and streets, and railway trains for the first time, and they were full of eager curiosity at the thought of all the wonders they were to see.
They had been in town about a fortnight when, to
their surprise and delight they received the following
"My dear Children,—Your nice letter pleased me very much, and I will do what I can to please you. Remem- ber that even fairies cannot do everything, but what can be done shall be done. Be patient and wait.
The children stared breathlessly at each other ; this was beyond their wildest hopes, and they eagerly awaited the result of the Queen's mysterious hints.
At last came Christmas Eve, and their aunt announced her intention of taking them with their cousins to see the new pantomime. The children from the bush did not even know the meaning of the word, but seeing their cousin's excitement their hopes were raised to the highest pitch. The delight of country children in seeing a pan-
tomime for the first time can be better imagined than described, and the story of Dick Whittington and his cat held them speechless and enthralled.
But the greatest surprise came towards the end of the evening when they gazed for the first time on the won- ders of the transformation scene. The subject chosen was the Four Seasons. First came Spring, a beautiful maiden, her hair garlanded sitting on a mossy bank, whilst a profusion of flowers and foliage covered every inch of the ground. Then the lights changed, and presently was seen a corn field with bright scarlet poppies springing up everywhere, whilst the busy reapers were sharpening their scythes, ready to cut it all down. Then appeared a forest, such as no Australian child had ever seen, every tint seemed to be there, and the eye was almost dazzled with the brilliant reds and yellows, fading away in to brown and deepest greens. A youth and maiden were seen walking hand in hand through the shade.
Then suddenly the whole colouring changed once more, and the little ones held their breath and gazed awe- struck at the exquisite scene before them. Millions of tiny stars sparkled everywhere like diamonds on the trees, the ground was white and dazzling, the stems of the trees rose like silvery spires, all was gleaming with a whiteness and a purity such as they had never imagined. Presently they heard strains of music and a little to the right they saw a cave, from the mouth of which came dancing a number of small and exquisitely dressed crea- tures, each with a tiny wand in her hand. "Fairies," whispered one of the cousins, and the children looked at each other for a moment, and then once more watched the stage with breathless attention. Suddenly the fairies with one consent, raised their little wands, the snow and the ice melted away, all was once more green and fresh, and the curtain fell, leaving the fairies triumphant even
"Gwen," said Bertie, when the brother and sister reached home, "if the Queen could do all that, don't you think that perhaps"—Gwen understood his thought though neither of them dared to put it into words.
Next day was bright and hot, but with a breeze off the sea which tempered the heat. Soon after breakfast their aunt came into the room, and who should be with her but their dear Uncle Harry whom they fancied miles away at his home in Forbes !
"Oh ! Uncle Harry, we never thought we should see see it in Sydney !" They both looked as if they had more to say, but their aunt's presence restrained them.
" I am going to take you out now, chicks," said their uncle, "get dressed as fast as you can. " Dr. Fraser was a great favourite with the children, and a trip with him was looked upon as the greatest possible treat. Soon they were dressed, their uncle had a cab waiting at the door, in which they were driven off rapidly in the direc- tion of Newtown. Presently they came to a large and handsome building, surrounded by beautiful grounds, bright with flowers. The children looked inquiringly at their uncle, but said nothing, and as the cab stopped at the big gate, he lifted them carefully out. Taking a hand
of each he led them through a large hall, into a long pas- sage, and presently they stopped before a door leading
into a small room.
"Children," said their uncle in a grave voice, but with eyes that sparkled wonderfully, "are you ready for a great surprise ?" They looked up eagerly, "Yes, Uncle Harry," they said, "you know we have had so many surprises since we came to Sydney, but I hope this is a nice one." At this moment they heard a well-known voice, and suddenly the door opened and they saw their mother, who kissed them fondly. "Where is father ?" were their first words, and then suddenly— could they believe their eyes—their father rose and walked, yes, positively walked to where the astonished children were standing. Slowly and somewhat feebly to be sure, and his dear cheeks were pale and thin, nevertheless, the fact was plain, that their father, whom they scarcely remem- bered, save as a helpless invalid, was standing before them, with one arm thrown round his wife, whose proud eyes gazed fondly from her husband to her to children, from her children to their uncle. Gwen and Bertie meantime stood bewildered and incredulous. "The
Fairy Queen," they whispered in awe-struck tones. Their mother looked puzzled, but at this point Uncle Harry
came forward. "My dear children," he said, "you must
forgive me for having taken advantage of your confidence, but under the circumstances I think I may claim your pardon. These dear little ones," he said, turning to their parents, ''wished, I suppose, to test the accuracy of the fairy stories with which I used sometimes to amuse them, and they wrote a letter for me to forward to the Queen of the Fairies, begging her to cure their father.
What was I to do ? It would never have done for me to confess the truth, you know," he said, with a twinkle in his eyes, ''so I had to weave a plot, and was lucky in succeeding in snaring you all. I had long believed that the cure of my dear brother was possible, and you know I gave you no peace till you consented to submit to the operation. The rest was easy enough,—you, my dear sister, were so absorbed in your husband that you agreed to my plans with regard to the children, and Aunt Annie who was in the plot, seconded all my efforts."
"In fact," said Colonel Fraser, with a merry laugh. "You are the Fairy Queen, though a somewhat substan- tial one, and we are all ready to forgive you your wicked scheme, and, by-the-bye, we must not forget to wish one another 'A MERRY CHRISTMAS !' "