"Man doth usurp all space,

             Stares thee, in rock, bush, river, in

                    the face.

             Never thine eyes behold a tree;

             'Tis no sea thou seest in the sea,

             'Tis but a disguised humanity.[km1] 

             To avoid thy fellow, vain thy plan;

             All that interests a man, is man."

                                        HENRY SUTTON.


The trees, which were far apart where I entered, giving free passage to the level rays of the sun, closed rapidly as I advanced, so that ere long their crowded stems barred the sunlight out, forming as it were a thick grating between me and the East[makoto2] .  I seemed to be advancing towards a second midnight. In the midst of the intervening twilight, however, before I entered what appeared to be the darkest portion of the forest, I saw a country maiden coming towards me from its very depths.  She did not seem to observe me, for she was apparently intent upon a bunch of wild flowers which she carried in her hand.  I could hardly see her face; for, though she came direct towards me, she never looked up.  But when we met, instead of passing, she turned and walked alongside of me for a few yards, still keeping her face downwards, and busied with her flowers.  She spoke rapidly, however, all the time, in a low tone, as if talking to herself, but evidently addressing the purport of her words to me.  She seemed afraid of being observed by some lurking foe.  "Trust the Oak," said she; "trust the Oak, and the Elm, and the great Beech. Take care of the Birch, for though she is honest, she is too young not to be changeable.  But shun the Ash and the Alder; for the Ash is an ogre,--you will know him by his thick fingers; and the Alder will smother you with her web of hair, if you let her near you at night." [makoto3]  All this was uttered without pause or alteration of tone.  Then she turned suddenly and left me, walking still with the same unchanging gait. I could not conjecture what she meant, but  satisfied myself with thinking that it would be time enough to find out her meaning when  there was need to make use of her warning, and that the occasion would reveal the  admonition.[makoto4]   I concluded from the flowers that she carried, that the forest could  not be  everywhere  so  dense  as  it appeared  from  where  I  was  now  walking;  and  I  was  right  in  this conclusion.  For soon I came t o a more open part, and by-and-by crossed a wide  grassy  glade,  on  which  were  several  circles  of brighter  green.  But even here I  was  struck  with  the  utter stillness.  No bird sang.  No insect hummed.  Not a living creature crossed  my  way.  Yet somehow the whole environment seemed  only asleep,  and  to  wear  even  in  sleep  an  air  of expectation.  The trees  seemed  all  to  have  an  expression  of conscious  mystery,  as  if  they  said  to  themselves,  "we could, an' if we would."  They had all a  meaning  look  about  them.[makoto5]   Then I remembered  that  night  is  the  fairies'  day,  and  the  moon  their sun;  and I thought--Everything  sleeps  and  dreams  now:  when the night  comes,  t will  be  different.  At the same time I, being  a man and a child of the day, felt some anxiety as to how I should fare among the elves and other children of the night who wake when mortals dream, and find their common life in those wondrous hours that flow noiselessly over the moveless death-like forms of men and women and children, lying strewn and parted beneath the weight of the heavy waves of night, which flow on and beat them down, and hold them drowned and senseless, until the ebbtide comes, and the waves sink away, back into the ocean of the dark.[makoto6]  But I took courage and went on.  Soon, however, I became again anxious, though from another cause.  I had eaten nothing that day, and for an hour past had been feeling the want of food.  SoI grew afraid lest I should find nothing to meet my human necessities in this strange place; but once more I comforted myself with hope and went on.


Before noon, I fancied I saw a thin blue smoke rising amongst the stems of larger trees in front of me; and soon I came to an open spot of ground in which stood a little cottage, so built that the

stems of four great trees formed its corners, while their

branches met and intertwined over its roof, heaping a great cloud

of leaves over it, up towards the heavens.[makoto7]   I wondered at finding

a human dwelling in this neighbourhood; and yet it did not look

altogether human[makoto8] , though sufficiently so to encourage me to

expect to find some sort of food.  Seeing no door, I went round

to the other side, and there I found one, wide open.  A woman sat

beside it, preparing some vegetables for dinner.  This was homely

and comforting.  As I came near, she looked up, and seeing me,

showed no surprise, but bent her head again over her work, and

said in a low tone:


"Did you see my daughter?"


"I believe I did," said I.  "Can you give me something to eat,

for I am very hungry?"

"With pleasure," she replied, in the same tone; "but do not say

anything more, till you come into the house, for the Ash is

watching us.[makoto9] "


Having said this, she rose and led the way into the cottage;

which, I now saw, was built of the stems of small trees set

closely together, and was furnished with rough chairs and tables,

from which even the bark had not been removed.[makoto10]   As soon as she

had shut the door and set a chair--


"You have fairy blood in you[makoto11] ," said she, looking hard at me.


"How do you know that?"


"You could not have got so far into this wood if it were not so;

and I am trying to find out some trace of it in your countenance.

I think I see it."


"What do you see?"


"Oh, never mind: I may be mistaken in that."


"But how then do you come to live here?"


"Because I too have fairy blood in me."


Here I, in my turn, looked hard at her, and thought I could

perceive, notwithstanding the coarseness of her features, and

especially the heaviness of her eyebrows, a something unusual--I

could hardly call it grace, and yet it was an expression that

strangely contrasted with the form of her features.  I noticed

too that her hands were delicately formed, though brown with work

and exposure.


"I should be ill," she continued, "if I did not live on the

borders of the fairies' country, and now and then eat of their

food.  And I see by your eyes that you are not quite free of the

same need[makoto12] ; though, from your education and the activity of your

mind, you have felt it less than I.  You may be further removed

too from the fairy race.[makoto13] "


I remembered what the lady had said about my grandmothers.


Here she placed some bread and some milk before me, with a kindly

apology for the homeliness of the fare, with which, however, I

was in no humour to quarrel.  I now thought it time to try to get

some explanation of the strange words both of her daughter and



"What did you mean by speaking so about the Ash?"


She rose and looked out of the little window.  My eyes followed

her; but as the window was too small to allow anything to be seen

from where I was sitting, I rose and looked over her shoulder.  I

had just time to see, across the open space, on the edge of the

denser forest, a single large ash-tree, whose foliage showed

bluish, amidst the truer green of the other trees around it; when

she pushed me back with an expression of impatience and terror,

and then almost shut out the light from the window by setting up

a large old book in it.


"In general," said she, recovering her composure, "there is no

danger in the daytime, for then he is sound asleep; but there is

something unusual going on in the woods; there must be some

solemnity among the fairies to-night, for all the trees are

restless[makoto14] , and although they cannot come awake, they see and hear

in their sleep."


"But what danger is to be dreaded from him?"


Instead of answering the question, she went again to the window

and looked out, saying she feared the fairies would be

interrupted by foul weather, for a storm was brewing in the west.


"And the sooner it grows dark, the sooner the Ash will be awake,"

added she.


I asked her how she knew that there was any unusual excitement in

the woods.  She replied--


"Besides the look of the trees, the dog there is unhappy; and the

eyes and ears of the white rabbit are redder than usual, and he

frisks about as if he expected some fun.  If the cat were at

home, she would have her back up; for the young fairies pull the

sparks out of her tail with bramble thorns, and she knows when

they are coming.  So do I, in another way."[makoto15] 


 At this instant, a grey cat rushed in like a demon, and

disappeared in a hole in the wall.


"There, I told you!" said the woman.


 "But what of the ash-tree?" said I, returning once more to the

subject.  Here, however, the young woman, whom I had met in the

morning, entered.  A smile passed between the mother and

daughter; and then the latter began to help her mother in little

household duties.


"I should like to stay here till the evening," I said; "and then

go on my journey, if you will allow me."


"You are welcome to do as you please; only it might be better to

stay all night, than risk the dangers of the wood then.  Where

are you going?"


"Nay, that I do not know," I replied, "but I wish to see all that

is to be seen, and therefore I should like to start just at


"You are a bold youth, if you have any idea of what you are

daring; but a rash one, if you know nothing about it; and, excuse

me, you do not seem very well informed about the country and its

manners.  However, no one comes here but for some reason, either

known to himself or to those who have charge of him; so you shall

do just as you wish."[makoto16] 


Accordingly I sat down, and feeling rather tired, and disinclined

for further talk, I asked leave to look at the old book which

still screened the window.  The woman brought it to me directly,

but not before taking another look towards the forest, and then

drawing a white blind over the window.  I sat down opposite to it

by the table, on which I laid the great old volume, and read.  It

contained many wondrous tales of Fairy Land, and olden times, and

the Knights of King Arthur's table. [makoto17]  I read on and on, till the

shades of the afternoon began to deepen; for in the midst of the

forest it gloomed earlier than in the open country.  At length I

came to this passage--


"Here it chanced, that upon their quest, Sir Galahad and Sir

Percivale rencountered in the depths of a great forest.  Now, Sir

Galahad was dight all in harness of silver, clear and shining;

the which is a delight to look upon, but full hasty to tarnish,

and withouten the labour of a ready squire, uneath to be kept

fair and clean.  And yet withouten squire or page, Sir Galahad's

armour shone like the moon.  And he rode a great white mare,

whose bases and other housings were black, but all besprent with

fair lilys of silver sheen.  Whereas Sir Percivale bestrode a red

horse, with a tawny mane and tail; whose trappings were all to-

smirched with mud and mire; and his armour was wondrous rosty to

behold, ne could he by any art furbish it again; so that as the

sun in his going down shone twixt the bare trunks of the trees,

full upon the knights twain, the one did seem all shining with

light, and the other all to glow with ruddy fire.  Now it came

about in this wise.  For Sir Percivale, after his escape from the

demon lady, whenas the cross on the handle of his sword smote him

to the heart, and he rove himself through the thigh, and escaped

away, he came to a great wood; and, in nowise cured of his fault,

yet bemoaning the same, the damosel of the alder tree encountered

him, right fair to see; and with her fair words and false

countenance she comforted him and beguiled him, until he followed

her where she led him to a---"


Here a low hurried cry from my hostess caused me to look up from

the book, and I read no more.


"Look there!" she said; "look at his fingers!"


Just as I had been reading in the book, the setting sun was

shining through a cleft in the clouds piled up in the west; and a

shadow as of a large distorted hand, with thick knobs and humps

on the fingers, so that it was much wider across the fingers than

across the undivided part of the hand, passed slowly over the

little blind, and then as slowly returned in the opposite



"He is almost awake, mother; and greedier than usual to-night."


"Hush, child; you need not make him more angry with us than he

is; for you do not know how soon something may happen to oblige

us to be in the forest after nightfall."


"But you are in the forest," said I; "how is it that you are safe



"He dares not come nearer than he is now," she replied; "for any

of those four oaks, at the corners of our cottage, would tear him

to pieces; they are our friends.  But he stands there and makes

awful faces at us sometimes, and stretches out his long arms and

fingers, and tries to kill us with fright; for, indeed, that is

his favourite way of doing.  Pray, keep out of his way to-night."


"Shall I be able to see these things?" said I.


"That I cannot tell yet, not knowing how much of the fairy nature

there is in you.  But we shall soon see whether you can discern

the fairies in my little garden, and that will be some guide to



"Are the trees fairies too, as well as the flowers?" I asked.


"They are of the same race," she replied; "though those you call

fairies in your country are chiefly the young children of the

flower fairies.  They are very fond of having fun with the thick

people, as they call you; for, like most children, they like fun

better than anything else."


"Why do you have flowers so near you then?  Do they not annoy



"Oh, no, they are very amusing, with their mimicries of grown

people, and mock solemnities.  Sometimes they will act a whole

play through before my eyes, with perfect composure and

assurance, for they are not afraid of me.  Only, as soon as they

have done, they burst into peals of tiny laughter, as if it was

such a joke to have been serious over anything.  These I speak

of, however, are the fairies of the garden.  They are more staid

and educated than those of the fields and woods.  Of course they

have near relations amongst the wild flowers, but they patronise

them, and treat them as country cousins, who know nothing of

life, and very little of manners.  Now and then, however, they

are compelled to envy the grace and simplicity of the natural



"Do they live IN the flowers?" I said.


"I cannot tell," she replied.  "There is something in it I do not

understand.  Sometimes they disappear altogether, even from me,

though I know they are near.  They seem to die always with the

flowers they resemble, and by whose names they are called; but

whether they return to life with the fresh flowers, or, whether

it be new flowers, new fairies, I cannot tell.  They have as many

sorts of dispositions as men and women, while their moods are yet

more variable; twenty different expressions will cross their

little faces in half a minute.  I often amuse myself with

watching them, but I have never been able to make personal

acquaintance with any of them.  If I speak to one, he or she

looks up in my face, as if I were not worth heeding, gives a

little laugh, and runs away."  Here the woman started, as if

suddenly recollecting herself, and said in a low voice to her

daughter, "Make haste--go and watch him, and see in what

direction he goes."


I may as well mention here, that the conclusion I arrived at from

the observations I was afterwards able to make, was, that the

flowers die because the fairies go away; not that the fairies

disappear because the flowers die.  The flowers seem a sort of

houses for them, or outer bodies, which they can put on or off

when they please.  Just as you could form some idea of the nature

of a man from the kind of house he built, if he followed his own

taste, so you could, without seeing the fairies, tell what any

one of them is like, by looking at the flower till you feel that

you understand it.  For just what the flower says to you, would

the face and form of the fairy say; only so much more plainly as

a face and human figure can express more than a flower.  For the

house or the clothes, though like the inhabitant or the wearer,

cannot be wrought into an equal power of utterance.  Yet you

would see a strange resemblance, almost oneness, between the

flower and the fairy, which you could not describe, but which

described itself to you.  Whether all the flowers have fairies, I

cannot determine, any more than I can be sure whether all men and

women have souls.


The woman and I continued the conversation for a few minutes

longer.  I was much interested by the information she gave me,

and astonished at the language in which she was able to convey

it.  It seemed that intercourse with the fairies was no bad

education in itself.  But now the daughter returned with the

news, that the Ash had just gone away in a south-westerly

direction; and, as my course seemed to lie eastward, she hoped I

should be in no danger of meeting him if I departed at once.  I

looked out of the little window, and there stood the ash-tree, to

my eyes the same as before; but I believed that they knew better

than I did, and prepared to go.  I pulled out my purse, but to my

dismay there was nothing in it.  The woman with a smile begged me

not to trouble myself, for money was not of the slightest use

there; and as I might meet with people in my journeys whom I

could not recognise to be fairies, it was well I had no money to

offer, for nothing offended them so much.


"They would think," she added, "that you were making game of

them; and that is their peculiar privilege with regard to us."

So we went together into the little garden which sloped down

towards a lower part of the wood.


Here, to my great pleasure, all was life and bustle.  There was

still light enough from the day to see a little; and the pale

half-moon, halfway to the zenith, was reviving every moment. The

whole garden was like a carnival, with tiny, gaily decorated

forms, in groups, assemblies, processions, pairs or trios, moving

stately on, running about wildly, or sauntering hither or

thither.  From the cups or bells of tall flowers, as from

balconies, some looked down on the masses below, now bursting

with laughter, now grave as owls; but even in their deepest

solemnity, seeming only to be waiting for the arrival of the next

laugh.  Some were launched on a little marshy stream at the

bottom, in boats chosen from the heaps of last year's leaves that

lay about, curled and withered.  These soon sank with them;

whereupon they swam ashore and got others.  Those who took fresh

rose-leaves for their boats floated the longest; but for these

they had to fight; for the fairy of the rose-tree complained

bitterly that they were stealing her clothes, and defended her

property bravely.


"You can't wear half you've got," said some.


"Never you mind; I don't choose you to have them: they are my



"All for the good of the community!" said one, and ran off with a

great hollow leaf.  But the rose-fairy sprang after him (what a

beauty she was! only too like a drawing-room young lady), knocked

him heels-over-head as he ran, and recovered her great red leaf.

But in the meantime twenty had hurried off in different

directions with others just as good; and the little creature sat

down and cried, and then, in a pet, sent a perfect pink snowstorm

of petals from her tree, leaping from branch to branch, and

stamping and shaking and pulling.  At last, after another good

cry, she chose the biggest she could find, and ran away laughing,

to launch her boat amongst the rest.


But my attention was first and chiefly attracted by a group of

fairies near the cottage, who were talking together around what

seemed a last dying primrose.  They talked singing, and their

talk made a song, something like this:




    "Sister Snowdrop died

        Before we were born."

    "She came like a bride

        In a snowy morn."

    "What's a bride?"

        "What is snow?

    "Never tried."

        "Do not know."

    "Who told you about her?"

        "Little Primrose there

    Cannot do without her."

        "Oh, so sweetly fair!"

    "Never fear,

        She will come,

    Primrose dear."

        "Is she dumb?"


    "She'll come by-and-by."

        "You will never see her."

    "She went home to dies,

        "Till the new year."

    "Snowdrop!"  "'Tis no good

        To invite her."

    "Primrose is very rude,

        "I will bite her."


    "Oh, you naughty Pocket!

        "Look, she drops her head."

    "She deserved it, Rocket,

        "And she was nearly dead." 

    "To your hammock--off with you!"

        "And swing alone."

    "No one will laugh with you."

        "No, not one."


    "Now let us moan."

        "And cover her o'er."

    "Primrose is gone."

        "All but the flower."

    "Here is a leaf."

        "Lay her upon it."

    "Follow in grief."

        "Pocket has done it."


    "Deeper, poor creature!

        Winter may come."

    "He cannot reach her--

        That is a hum."

    "She is buried, the beauty!"

        "Now she is done."

    "That was the duty."

        "Now for the fun."



And with a wild laugh they sprang away, most of them towards the

cottage.  During the latter part of the song-talk, they had

formed themselves into a funeral procession, two of them bearing

poor Primrose, whose death Pocket had hastened by biting her

stalk, upon one of her own great leaves.  They bore her solemnly

along some distance, and then buried her under a tree.  Although

I say HER I saw nothing but the withered primrose-flower on its

long stalk.  Pocket, who had been expelled from the company by

common consent, went sulkily away towards her hammock, for she

was the fairy of the calceolaria, and looked rather wicked.  When

she reached its stem, she stopped and looked round.  I could not

help speaking to her, for I stood near her.  I said, "Pocket, how

could you be so naughty?"


"I am never naughty," she said, half-crossly, half-defiantly;

"only if you come near my hammock, I will bite you, and then you

will go away."


"Why did you bite poor Primrose?"


"Because she said we should never see Snowdrop; as if we were not

good enough to look at her, and she was, the proud thing!--served

her right!"


"Oh, Pocket, Pocket," said I; but by this time the party which

had gone towards the house, rushed out again, shouting and

screaming with laughter.  Half of them were on the cat's back,

and half held on by her fur and tail, or ran beside her; till,

more coming to their help, the furious cat was held fast; and

they proceeded to pick the sparks out of her with thorns and

pins, which they handled like harpoons.  Indeed, there were more

instruments at work about her than there could have been sparks

in her.  One little fellow who held on hard by the tip of the

tail, with his feet planted on the ground at an angle of forty-

five degrees, helping to keep her fast, administered a continuous

flow of admonitions to Pussy.


"Now, Pussy, be patient.  You know quite well it is all for your

good.  You cannot be comfortable with all those sparks in you;

and, indeed, I am charitably disposed to believe" (here he became

very pompous) "that they are the cause of all your bad temper; so

we must have them all out, every one; else we shall be reduced to

the painful necessity of cutting your claws, and pulling out your

eye-teeth.  Quiet!  Pussy, quiet!"


But with a perfect hurricane of feline curses, the poor animal

broke loose, and dashed across the garden and through the hedge,

faster than even the fairies could follow.  "Never mind, never

mind, we shall find her again; and by that time she will have

laid in a fresh stock of sparks.  Hooray!"  And off they set,

after some new mischief.


But I will not linger to enlarge on the amusing display of these

frolicsome creatures.  Their manners and habits are now so well

known to the world, having been so often described by

eyewitnesses, that it would be only indulging self-conceit, to

add my account in full to the rest.  I cannot help wishing,

however, that my readers could see them for themselves.

Especially do I desire that they should see the fairy of the

daisy; a little, chubby, round-eyed child, with such innocent

trust in his look!  Even the most mischievous of the fairies

would not tease him, although he did not belong to their set at

all, but was quite a little country bumpkin.  He wandered about

alone, and looked at everything, with his hands in his little

pockets, and a white night-cap on, the darling!  He was not so

beautiful as many other wild flowers I saw afterwards, but so

dear and loving in his looks and little confident ways.