Fragrance in Literature-The Fairy Nightcaps, by Frances Elizabeth Barrow

The Fairy Nightcaps, by Frances Elizabeth Barrow

And now a strain of delicious music filled the air, the glow-worms lighted up brilliantly, and the dew grew heavy with [Pg 15] fragrance, as the Fairy Queen, with a bright train of attendants, floated past in dark green phaetons, made of the leaves of the camelia, and drawn by magnificently painted butterflies, harnessed and caparisoned with gold.
The dignity and queenly presence of her Majesty would have rendered her conspicuous above the rest, even if her tiny golden crown and sceptre, tipped with a diamond that blazed like a meteor, had not indicated that she was a monarch; and the acclamations that rose on all sides attested the attachment her subjects felt for her person.

Oh! how soundly the children slept that night with the "fragrant stillness" all around them, far away from the roar and whirl of the great city. The moonlight, sweet and [Pg 70] mournful, flooded the earth, and a white ray stole into the room where Charley lay and rested lovingly above his head.

The window was wide open, and the room was bright with moonbeams; but now a softer, tenderer light, shone through the apartments; the air was filled with delicious [Pg 79] fragrance, and low sweet music was heard: afar off, a halo in the moonlight was seen; it came near and nearer; now it was close to the window, and one could plainly perceive that it was a shining band of fairies, floating on the moonbeams with their beautiful Queen at their head.

"Open lily—blossom rose,
Shed around thy perfume light;
Heliotrope—thy sweets disclose
To the fragrant dews of night.
Dogwood grim we fairies banish;
Purple nightshade! fly! evanish!
We are hastening at the call;
'Tis the great midsummer ball.

With a loving smile the beautiful elfin fluttered her wings and flew into his breast, where she lay nestling like a little white dove. Charley tenderly lifted her up, kissed her soft tiny cheek, touched her golden ringlets, and felt her breath, fragrant as the perfume of violets, fanning his face. He was silent with happiness, painting over in his mind Fancy's magic pictures. The beautiful [Pg 140] Queen sat watching him, and enjoying his delight, when a far-off sound startled them both—a sound of acclamation. Nearer and nearer it came, till the air rang with tiny shouts and joyful clapping of hands. The voices were respectfully hushed as a crowd of fairies advanced into the Queen's presence; and Charley saw that Slyboots was in their midst, weary and breathless, his wings still hidden in the spider-net, but exultantly dragging the dead wasp by the corn-silk cord. His wee face looked pale; but his eyes shone with the old brightness, as the Queen's glance fell kindly and approvingly upon him.

Then they went softly down stairs and [Pg 147] out into the fresh delicious air. The birds were chanting their morning hymns; the lawn was golden green with the sun's rays, and spangled with dew. Bees were dreamily humming over the wealth of honeysuckles and roses that covered the cottage-wall, gathering their sweet and fragrant food at their leisure.

And now the children began to descend a winding path, and wandered down a beautiful road where the trees met overhead. The air was fragrant with the woodbine which curled round the trunks of the trees, while, at their feet, tiny harebells and the purple violet modestly peeped up.

Of course the elderly gentlemen fairies lounged among the honeysuckles, and talked politics, and quarrelled dreadfully about who should be the next President; for they took an immense interest in the affairs of us mortals; and the elderly lady fairies just as much, of course, pulled the characters of their best friends to pieces, without so much as a single regret; while the lovely young Queen, with half-a-dozen of her favorites, after dancing once, to set the fashion, ordered her pages to shake down a perfect shower of wild-rose leaves, on the edge of the hollow, of which they made soft and freshly perfumed couches; and there they listened to the exquisite music, and watched the dancers, and gaily devised plans for the [Pg 26] comfort of our dear little friend, Lame Charley.

"I swept my wings lightly across her brow, and bade her waken. She opened her eyes, looked upon Charley, and rising, with a sigh of relief, she murmured: 'I have thee yet, oh my child! my darling!' and hastening to him, she softly drew back the golden curls from his forehead, sprinkled a few drops of grateful, refreshing perfume upon his pillow, and then, tenderly touching his cheek with her loving lips, went comforted back to her couch.

The fairy rose from his knee, bowed low, and sped away. In an instant he returned in company with the daintiest, most ethereal [Pg 130] little elf in fairy-land. Her wings were of air—her golden ringlets danced in the "tremulous, singing wind," giving out the perfume of the blossoming lily; her tiny rose-bud of a mouth opened, disclosing the whitest and smallest seed-pearl teeth, as with a smile beaming with love and sweetness, she said:
"Beloved Queen, most gladly have I come at your bidding. Deign but to command, and I will hasten to obey."

"Gently, sweet summer wind,
All things in perfume steeping;
Breathe in her sorrowing soul,
'He is not dead, but sleeping;

It was perfectly well understood, for in an instant, a hundred small pink and white mushrooms sprang out of the earth, making [Pg 31] the most delightful little tables imaginable, quite equal to the finest satin-wood, upon which the fairy servants and pages hastened to place dishes of rose-leaves filled with honey-dust, and golden buttercups of sparkling May-dew, which, having been bottled up for six weeks, foamed and effervesced, and gave out a most exquisite aroma.