Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Women's Genre Fiction Project

Fairy Book, an electronic edition

by Sophie May [Clarke, Rebecca Sophia, 1833-1906]

date: 1865
source publisher: Lee and Shephard; Lee, Shephard & Dillingham
collection: Genre Fiction

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"A king lived long ago,
In the morning of the world,"
who had two children, Despard and Goldilocks. They were twin brother and sister, but no more alike than a queen-lily and a nightshade, a raven and a dove.

Goldilocks was a bright young damsel, with hair like fine threads of gold, and a face so radiant that people questioned if the blood in her veins might not be liquid sunshine. Her eyes were as soft as violets; and her laugh was like the music of a spring robin.

Despard, on the other hand, was as melancholy as an owl. His raven hair cast gloomy | | 161 shadows, and his mournful eyes pierced you with a sudden sorrow. He was too low-spirited to chase butterflies, weave daisy-chains, and dance with Goldilocks among the flowers. He liked better to play at a mimic funeral, and deck himself as chief mourner, in a friar's robe with sable plumes. He could never understand why laughing Goldilocks should object to making believe die, and be buried in the large jewel-coffer, which stood for a tomb.

He always said that, if he lived to be a man, he should grow all the more wretched, and creep over the earth like a great black cloud. When Despard spoke so hopelessly, Goldilocks paused in her song or her play, and stealthily brushed a rare tear from her eye. She was afraid her brother's words might prove true.

These children lived in what is called the | | 162 Golden Age, when the rivers flowed with milk and wine, and yellow honey dripped from oak-trees. Their childhood would probably have lasted forever; but the Silver Age came on, and every thing was changed. Then, it was sometimes too warm, and sometimes too cold. People began to live in caves, and weave houses of twigs. The king, their father, died, and went, so it was said, to the "Isles of the Blessed."

The children were shipwrecked upon a foreign shore, all because of a sudden swell of the ocean. Here they were desolate and homesick. The strange people among whom they had fallen did not know they were the children of a king. No one was left to care for them but their old nurse, named Sibyl.

This aged woman was growing lame, and her hair was gray; yet she loved the twins, and would spin all the day long, to buy black | | 163 bread for them, and now and then a little choice fruit.

"Alas," she sighed, "alas, for the Golden Age, when the forests had never been robbed, when oxen were not called to draw the plough, and the beautiful earth laughed, and tossed up fruit and flowers without waiting to be asked!"

The frocks that Sibyl made for Goldilocks were coarse; but on fair spring days she took from the chest a delicate, rosy robe, embroidered with gold, and smiled to see how it adorned the child.

But as for Despard, she had no hope that he would ever look well in any thing. She would part Goldilocks' wonderful hair, and say,--

"Old Sibyl knows who is her love; she knows who would be glad to give her pomegranates and grapes, when she is too old to spin, and too weak to sit up."

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Little Goldilocks would laughingly reply,--

"And I know, too: when I am a woman I shall weave a net of my hair, and fish up all the gold that has sunk to the beds of the rivers. Then I know who will have a set of hard gold teeth, and a silver rocking-chair."

"Thou art lovely enough to be a goddess, little Goldilocks. And what wilt thou do with the rest of the gold?"

"Oh, Despard shall have all he can carry; for Despard is good, let people say what they may. And I will have a crown made for him, with diamonds set in it as plenty as plums in a pudding."

"Listen, my children," said the old Sibyl, sadly: "there will be no one to give me grapes and pomegranates when I am faint and weak. I can read by the stars that you are soon to go on a pilgrimage, and leave | | 165 your old nurse behind. You may well weep, my good little boy: there is to be no rest for your feet till you have travelled over the whole world, from north to south."

Despard groaned aloud; but Goldilocks clapped her hands and laughed. "Oh, let us start to-night," she cried.

"When the sun-god has made twelve journeys in his winged boat," sighed Sibyl, "and when the young moon has arisen out of the ocean, then you may go."

And, at the appointed time, the faithful nurse, with many tears, prepared her foster-children for their long journey. She took from a worm-eaten coffer some family heirlooms, which had been lying since the days of the Golden Age, enveloped in rose-leaves and gold paper.

She placed in the hand of Despard a dagger with a jewelled hilt, a quiver of poisoned | | 166 arrows, and a glittering sword, with a blade sharper than a serpent's tooth.

But to Goldilocks she gave a flask of smooth, fragrant oil, a vase of crystal-bright water, and a fan made of the feathers of the beautiful bird of Paradise.

Kissing the little pilgrims, she said,--

"These gifts have been saved for you these many years: use them as an inward voice shall whisper you: I give you my blessing. The gods attend you! Farewell."

The children at first walked on sorrowfully; but soon the gay spirits of Goldilocks rebounded, and she waltzed hither and thither, like a morsel of thistle-down.

"See, brother," said she, "we almost fly! What a glorious thing it is to go on a pilgrimage! I am glad the beautiful Silver Age has come, and Jupiter has given us leave to take a peep at the world!"

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"All very well for you to say," moaned Despard; "you flit about as if you had wings on your feet; while, as for me, it is true I move with equal speed, but so painfully that I wonder my footprints are not stained with blood."

Soon the children observed, not far off, a party of youths rowing on the bosom of a lake. They sat in a rocking, unsteady little bark, but were in gay spirits, blowing bubbles, watching idle clouds, and throwing up empty shouts to be caught up and echoed by the hills.

"I wish we had not seen these happy people," sighed Despard; "for, if you can believe me, sister, I really feel as if I must pelt them with my arrows."

So saying, little Despard began to fire his poisonous darts at random.

"Why, brother," cried Goldilocks, in alarm, | | 168 "are you possessed by the furies? Take care how you aim, or you will surely do mischief."

Even as she spoke, several of the gay youths dropped to the bottom of the boat, apparently wounded. Their companions pushed for the shore; and Goldilocks almost flew, to pour into the red wounds her brother had made the smooth healing oil from her flask.

"Poor dears," said she, pitying their pain, "I have done my best; and, see! these ugly gashes are almost healed. I cannot promise you, though, that they will not leave scars."

The youths thanked the sweet girl, and assured her it was almost a pleasure to be wounded, if one might be nursed by such gentle hands as hers. But as for Despard, it was hardly strange that they should look upon the poor boy as a wicked little highwayman; or, at best, a saucy, careless fellow.

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Some of the older youths, however, patted him on the shoulder, and said, "For your sweet sister's sake we can even endure your pranks."

"Do not despise me," said the boy, sadly; "for as I am moved, so must I do. Not for the whole world would I fire a poisonous arrow, if the mighty Jove did not compel me."

As they walked on, Despard, against his will, flung into the air a quantity of winged torments, which he found stowed away in his wallet, such as gnats, wasps, and flies.

"There, now," said sweet Goldilocks, ready to weep, "why could you not look before you, and see those pretty children playing yonder in that fragrant meadow?"

"I saw them," said Despard; "but what good did that do?"

"0 brother, I wish the Golden Age would | | 170 come again, and then you would cease scattering mischief and trouble."

The little ones, suddenly stopped in their play by the army of insects, ran hither and thither over the meadow, screaming with pain. But Goldilocks appeared in the midst of them, with her shining hair, violet eyes, and laugh like the music of a spring robin.

"Come to me," said she; "let me kiss away the stings."

In a very short space the children were soothed, and had forgotten their trouble. Then they threw their little arms about Goldilocks' neck, and begged her to stay and play with them.

"Sweet children, it is my mission,--so the stars say,--to travel all over this world, from north to south. But, for all that, I will frolic with you till the sun sets."

"Will the sad boy come too? "asked the children.

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Goldilocks shook her bright curls. "He is planting a garden," said she; "no need to ask him; he hears nothing while he is at play, and his games are as solemn as midnight."

The children made believe that the beautiful Goldilocks, in her rose-colored dress, with her beaming hair and flying feet, was a great butterfly, which they were trying to catch. Now here, now there, the glowing butterfly flitted from flower to flower, leading her followers a merry chase. Every child thought to seize and hold her, for a kiss. She laughed; and the breezes danced with her hair, like--

"Zephyr with Aurora playing,
As he met her once a-Maying."
But before any one had kissed or even touched her, she had disappeared, leaving | | 172 the children gazing into the air, and seeking their late companion with tearful eyes.

Goldilocks had only gone back to Despard, who was still planting flower-seeds.

"What a miserable game," said Goldilocks; "it is worse than playing funeral! Who thought you could make flowers grow? Our old nurse said it was only Demeter, the goddess, who could do that. Here, now, you have called up a bristling crop of thistles and brambles! On my word, Despard, it is a pity!"

"Well, well, Goldilocks, see what you can make of them. I am doomed to work, though I don't wish it; and my work is always disagreeable, though I can't tell why!"

Goldilocks knelt, and blew on the prickly plants with her sweet breath. By the nodding of the next breeze, they were changed to roses, violets, and hare-bells.

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"It is pleasant to see any thing smile, even a flower," said Goldilocks, laughing as she spoke.

"I think," replied Despard, "that this is a strange pilgrimage. I believe our very thoughts are alive. I wish I could stop thinking."

By and by they came to a rude house,--as fine a one, though, as people in the Silver Age had yet learned how to build. Despard paused, and knocked gently. "Why linger here?" whispered his sister.

"I know not," sighed the boy, "but so must I do."

"How now, little ones? you startled me so!" cried a woman, opening the door by the width of a crack.

"Let us come in," said Despard, sorrowfully; "we are two little wanderers; and our hairs are wet with night-dews."

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"Come in, then, little ones, and welcome; but never, at any one's door, knock so loud again," added the woman, pressing her hand against her heart.

"I only tapped with the ends of my fingers," said the boy.

"Ah," said the woman, "it was louder to me than thunder." Then, after she had set before them a supper of bread and milk, she rocked her baby, and sang to it a sweet cradle-song about mother Juno and high Olympus.

The children lay down on beds of rushes; and Goldilocks, soothed by the lullaby, fell asleep; but soon awoke, and saw her brother leaning, on tiptoe, over the osier basket. The baby's face looked, in the moonlight, white and pinched; and its sick hands were pressed together like two withered roseleaves.

"Let me kiss him," whispered Goldilocks | | 175 smiling. But bitter tears rolled down Despard's cheeks. Drawing his little sword from its sheath, he pricked the baby's heart till one red drop, the life-drop, stained the steel. The sick baby ceased to breathe.

"0 Despard, what have you done?" cried Goldilocks, seizing his arm.

"I know not," said the boy; "but as my heart moves me, so must I do."

Hearing voices, the mother awoke, and, as her habit was, turned at once to the cradle. The baby lay there beautiful and still; the pinched look gone, and its furrowed brow smoothed into a baby's smile. The mother wept bitterly.

"Ah, little stranger," said she, turning to Despard, "I knew you when I let you in. Why did I open the door for you?"

"Poor mother," said the boy sorrowfully, "if you had not opened the door, I must have come in by the window."

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But Goldilocks threw her soft arms about the woman's neck, and comforted her till it was morning, and the "gilded car of day" had risen from the ocean. The tears on her cheeks she dried with her fan, made of magical feathers.

When the children set out again on their journey, the woman gave Goldilocks a loving kiss, and then embraced Despard, saying,--

"For the sake of your sweet sister, I love even you."

"Poor little brother," said Goldilocks when they had gone farther on their journey, "you are as good as I; but how is it? you make people weep, while I must go with you to dry the tears you call forth."

"I am a black cloud," groaned Despard, "you a sunbeam."

"But I like to have a cloud to shine on," said loving little Goldilocks.

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Footsore and weary, the little pilgrims travelled on; and, when they had gone from north to south, and back again, the Sibyl met them with tender kisses; and, when they were refreshed, bade them go forth again.

"For," said she, "this world is always new, my dears. The people who are born today were not here yesterday; and every mortal must see the faces of my foster-children."

It was now the Brazen Age, and Despard and Goldilocks had grown to be a youth and maiden; but still they travelled on. The Iron Age came; and Despard's raven hair was frosted; but Goldilocks' curls never faded. Let her live as long as live she may, she can never grow old.

Their pilgrimage is not over yet; nor will it be while the earth revolves about the sun. | | 178 The brother and sister come to every house; they knock at every door.

To all the children who open their eyes upon the light, come Despard and Goldilocks, the bitter and the sweet of life, the twin angels of Happiness and Sorrow.