MOPSA THE FAIRY
BY JEAN INGELOW
Little, Brown, and Company
DEDICATED TO MY DEAR LITTLE COUSIN JANE HOLLWAY.
[Illustration: THE ENCHANTED BAY.
"Look at those five grand ones with high prows: they were part of the
Spanish Armada."--PAGE 16.]
I. Above the Clouds. 1
II. Captain Jack. 14
III. Winding-Up Time. 23
IV. Bees and Other Fellow-Creatures. 42
V. The Parrot in His Shawl. 60
VI. The Town With Nobody in It. 80
VII. Half-A-Crown. 91
VIII. A Story. 106
IX. After The Party. 121
X. Mopsa Learns Her Letters. 133
XI. Good-Morning, Sister. 146
XII. They Run Away From Old Mother Fate. 158
XIII. Melon Seeds. 174
XIV. Reeds and Rushes. 187
XV. The Queen's Wand. 199
XVI. Failure. 219
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
The Enchanted Bay. Frontispiece
Jack's New Friend. 82
Jack's Slave. 98
A Story. 107
The Queen. 114
The Apple Woman. 156
They Run Away From Old Mother Fate. 162
The Queen's Farewell. 234
ABOVE THE CLOUDS.
"And can this be my own world?
'Tis all gold and snow,
Save where scarlet
waves are hurled
Down yon gulf below."
"'Tis thy world, 'tis my world,
City, mead, and shore,
For he that hath his own world
Hath many worlds more."
A boy, whom I knew very well, was once going through a meadow, which
was full of buttercups. The nurse and his baby sister were with him;
and when they got to an old hawthorn, which grew in the hedge and was
covered with blossom, they all sat down in its shade, and the nurse
took out three slices of plum-cake, gave one to each of the children,
and kept one for herself.
While the boy was eating, he observed that this hedge was very high
and thick, and that there was a great hollow in the trunk of the old
thorn-tree, and he heard a twittering, as if there was a nest
somewhere inside; so he thrust
his head in, twisted himself round, and
It was a very great thorn-tree, and the hollow was so large that two
or three boys could have stood upright
in it; and when he got used to
the dim light in that brown, still place, he saw that a good way above
his head there was a nest,--rather a curious one, too, for it was as
large as a pair of blackbirds would have built,--and yet it was made
of fine white wool and delicate
bits of moss; in short, it was like a
goldfinch's nest magnified three times.
Just then he thought he heard some little voices cry, "Jack! Jack!"
His baby sister was asleep, and the nurse was reading
a story-book, so
it could not have been either of them who called. "I must get in
here," said the boy. "I wish this hole was larger." So he began to
wriggle and twist himself through, and just as he pulled in his last
foot, he looked up, and three heads which had been peeping over the
edge of the nest suddenly popped down again.
"Those heads had no beaks, I am sure," said Jack, and he stood on
tiptoe and poked in one of his fingers. "And the things have no
feathers," he continued; so, the hollow being rather rugged, he
managed to climb up and look in.
His eyes were not used yet to the dim light; but he was sure those
things were not birds,--no. He poked them, and they took no notice;
but when he snatched one of them out of the nest, it gave a loud
squeak, and said, "O don't, Jack!" as plainly
as possible, upon which
he was so frightened that he lost his footing, dropped the thing, and
slipped down himself. Luckily, he was not hurt, nor the thing either;
he could see it quite plainly
now: it was creeping about like rather
an old baby, and had on a little frock and pinafore.
"It's a fairy!" exclaimed Jack to himself. "How curious! and this must
be a fairy's nest. Oh, how angry the old mother will be if this little
thing creeps away and gets out of the hole!" So he looked down. "Oh,
the hole is on the other side," he said; and he turned round, but the
hole was not on the other side; it was not on any side; it must have
closed up all on a sudden, while he was looking into the nest, for,
way he would, there was no hole at all, excepting a
very little one high up over the nest, which let in a very small
Jack was very much astonished, but he went on eating his cake, and was
to see the young fairy climb up the side of the hollow
again into her nest, that he laughed heartily; upon which
all the nestlings popped up their heads, and, showing their pretty
white teeth, pointed
at the slice of cake.
"Well," said Jack, "I may have to stay inside here for a long time,
and I have nothing to eat but this cake; however, your mouths are very
small, so you shall have a piece;" and he broke off a small piece, and
put it into the nest, climbing up to see them eat it.
These young fairies were a long time dividing and munching the cake,
and before they had finished, it began to be rather dark, for a black
cloud came over and covered the little sunbeam. At the same time the
wind rose, and rocked the boughs, and made the old tree creak and
tremble. Then there was thunder
and rain, and the little fairies were
so frightened that they got out of the nest and crept into Jack's
pockets. One got into each waistcoat
pocket, and the other two were
very comfortable, for he took out his handkerchief
and made room for
them in the pocket of his jacket.
It got darker and darker, till at last Jack could only just see the
hole, and it seemed to be a very long way off. Every time he looked at
it, it was farther off, and at last he saw a thin crescent
shining through it.
"I am sure it cannot be night yet," he said; and he took out one of
the fattest of the young fairies, and held it up towards the hole.
"Look at that," said he; "what is to be done now? the hole is so far
off that it's night up there, and down here I haven't done eating my
"Well," answered the young fairy, "then why don't you whistle?"
Jack was surprised to hear her speak in this sensible
manner, and in
the light of the moon he looked at her very attentively.
"When first I saw you in the nest," said he, "you had a pinafore on,
and now you have a smart little apron, with lace round it."
"That is because I am much older now," said the fairy; "we never take
such a long time to grow up as you do."
"But your pinafore?" said Jack.
"Turned into an apron, of course," replied the fairy, "just as your
will turn into a tail-coat when you are old enough."
"It won't," said Jack.
"Yes it will," answered the fairy, with an air of superior wisdom.
"Don't argue with me; I am older now than you are,--nearly grown up,
in fact. Put me into your pocket again, and whistle
as loudly as you
Jack laughed, put her in, and pulled out another. "Worse and worse,"
he said; "why, this was a boy fairy, and now he has a mustache
sword, and looks as fierce
"I think I heard my sister tell you to whistle?" said this fairy, very
"Yes, she did," said Jack. "Well, I suppose I had better do it." So he
whistled very loudly indeed.
"Why did you leave off so soon?" said another of them, peeping out.
"Why, if you wish to know," answered Jack, "it was because I thought
something took hold of my legs."
"Ridiculous child!" cried the last of the four, "how do you think you
are ever to get out, if she doesn't take hold of your legs?"
Jack thought he would rather have done a long-division sum than have
been obliged to whistle; but he could not help doing it when they told
him, and he felt something take hold of his legs again, and then give
him a jerk, which hoisted him on to its back, where he sat astride,
and wondered whether the thing was a pony; but it was not, for he
presently observed that it had a very slender
neck, and then that it
was covered with feathers. It was a large bird, and he presently
that they were rising towards the hole, which had become so very far
off, and in a few minutes she dashed through the hole, with Jack on
her back and all the fairies in his pockets.
It was so dark that he could see nothing, and he twined his arms round
the bird's neck, to hold on, upon which this agreeable
fowl told him
not to be afraid, and said she hoped he was comfortable.
"I should be more comfortable," replied Jack, "if I knew how I could
get home again. I don't wish to go home just yet, for I want to see
where we are flying to, but papa and mamma will be frightened if I
"Oh no," replied the albatross (for she was an albatross), "you need
not be at all afraid about that. When boys go to Fairyland, their
parents never are uneasy
"Really?" exclaimed Jack.
"Quite true," replied the albatross.
"And so we are going to Fairyland?" exclaimed Jack; "how delightful!"
"Yes," said the albatross; "the back way, mind; we are only going the
back way. You could go in two minutes by the usual route; but these
young fairies want to go before they are summoned, and therefore
and I are taking
them." And she continued to fly on in the dark sky
for a very long time.
"They seem to be all fast asleep," said Jack.
"Perhaps they will sleep till we come to the wonderful river,"
replied the albatross; and just then she flew with a great bump
against something that met her in the air.
"What craft is this that hangs out no light?" said a gruff voice.
"I might ask the same question of you," answered the albatross,
"I'm only a poor Will-o'-the-wisp," replied the voice, "and you know
very well that I have but a lantern
to show." Thereupon a lantern
became visible, and Jack saw by the light of it a man, who looked old
and tired, and he was so transparent
that you could see through him,
lantern and all.
"I hope I have not hurt you, William," said the albatross; "I will
light up immediately. Good-night."
"Good-night," answered the Will-o'-the-wisp. "I am going down as fast
as I can; the storm blew me up, and I am never easy excepting in my
Jack might have taken more notice of Will, if the albatross had not
begun to light up. She did it in this way. First, one of her eyes
began to gleam with a beautiful green light, which cast its rays far
and near, and then, when it was as bright as a lamp, the other eye
began to shine, and the light of that eye was red. In short, she was
lighted up just like a vessel
Jack was so happy that he hardly knew which to look at first, there
really were so many remarkable
"They snore," said the albatross, "they are very fast asleep, and
before they wake I should like to talk to you a little."
She meant that the fairies snored, and so they did, in Jack's
"My name," continued the albatross, "is Jenny. Do you think you shall
remember that? because, when you are in Fairyland and want some one to
take you home again, and call 'Jenny,' I shall be able to come to you;
and I shall come with pleasure, for I like boys better than fairies."
"Thank you," said Jack. "Oh yes, I shall remember your name, it is
such a very easy one."
"If it is in the night that you want me, just look up," continued the
albatross, "and you will see a green and a red spark moving in the
air; you will then call Jenny, and I will come; but remember that I
cannot come unless you do call me."
"Very well," said Jack; but he was not attending, because there was so
much to be seen.
In the first place, all the stars excepting a few large ones were
gone, and they looked frightened; and as it got lighter, one after the
other seemed to give a little start in the blue sky and go out. And
then Jack looked down and saw, as he thought, a great country, covered
with very jagged snow mountains with astonishingly sharp peaks. Here
and there he saw a very deep lake,--at least he thought it was a lake;
but while he was admiring the mountains, there came an enormous
between two of the largest, and he saw the sun come rolling up among
them, and it seemed to be almost smothered.
"Why, those are clouds!" exclaimed Jack; "and O how rosy they have all
turned! I thought they were mountains."
"Yes, they are clouds," said the albatross; and then they turned gold
color; and next they began to plunge
and tumble, and every one of the
peaks put on a glittering crown; and next they broke themselves to
pieces, and began to drift away. In fact, Jack had been out all night,
and now it was morning.
"It has been our lot to sail with many captains, not one
of whom is fit to be a patch on your back."--_Letter of
the Ship's Company of H. M. S. S. Royalist to Captain W.
All this time the albatross kept dropping down and down like a stone,
till Jack was quite out of breath, and they fell or flew, whichever
you like to call it, straight through one of the great chasms which he
had thought were lakes, and he looked down, as he sat on the bird's
back, to see what the world is like when you hang a good way above it
It was a very beautiful sight; the sheep and lambs were still fast
asleep on the green hills, and the sea-birds were asleep in long rows
upon the ledges of the cliffs, with their heads under their wings.
"Are those young fairies awake yet?" asked the albatross.