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Col miele, e non coll' aceto si piglian le mosche.

_Italian Proverb_.

To My Children

These tales are most affectionately dedicated. They were written in
hours of sickness, but are intended to be read by the healthy and
joyous young: and to illustrate some favourite and long cherished

Margaret Gatty.

Ecclesfield Vicarage,
27th March, 1851.


The Fairy Godmothers

Joachim the Mimic

Darkness and Light

The Love of God

The design for the Frontispiece which adorns this volume is by the
pencil of the writer's kind and highly gifted friend, Miss Lucette E.


In one of the beautiful bays on the coast of Fairy Land, a party of
Fairies was assembled on a lovely evening in July. There are many
beautiful bays on the coast of England, and there is one especially,
my dear little readers, which you and I know of, where a long line of
grand old rocks stretches far into the sea on the left-hand extremity,
while in the distance to the right a warning lighthouse with its
changing lights gives an almost solemn beauty to the scene; for one
cannot help thinking, at the sight of it, of the poor storm-driven
mariner, whom even that friendly light may fail to save from a sad and
sudden death. But beautiful as this little bay is, of which I speak,
and fond as we are of it, it is nothing, I do assure you, compared to
the bays in Fairy Land! There, there are no light-houses reminding one
painfully of danger and destruction near, but all is loveliness and
peace; and even the rocks would be turned into soft pillows by the
good-natured Fairies who inhabit the country, should any strange
accident drive a mortal ship on that shore.

Also the bays in Fairy Land face to the west, which is a great
advantage, for in an evening there you may sit and watch the golden
sun dipping behind the waves; and the rich red tints he sends out upon
the rocks before he sets, are beyond measure beautiful and attractive.
Especially, I believe, the Fairies enjoy this time of day, for they
are odd little creatures, rather conceited, and fond of everything
pretty; consequently they like to be floating about the rocks in their
white dresses when the crimson and golden hues of sunset shine on
them, knowing very well they look like so many bright flowers on the

The day I speak of however had been very hot, and at the time I speak
of, the Fairies felt a little lazy and were reclining on some rocks
covered with sea-weed and amusing themselves by talking. In general
the conversation of these little creatures is rather light and
frivolous and gay; but it is really a fact that they were just then
all serious together and all were engaged in a very profound
conversation on human happiness.

I am sorry to have so many explanations to give, but I think it quite
necessary to tell you the reason of so uncommon an event as a party
of Fairies being serious. Well then, there were going to be, very
shortly, several extremely gay christenings in the world, and some of
the Fairies had been invited to attend at them as Godmothers, in order
that they might bestow Fairy gifts on the different infants.

Four or five of the christenings were to take place the next day, and
the Fairies who were going were discussing with each other what gifts
they should bestow, and as their only object was to ensure the
happiness of the children for whom they were interested, they
naturally fell into a discourse as to what gifts were most likely to
have so charming an effect. "Your Godchild is a girl too, I believe,"
said Euphrosyne to Ianthe [Fairies are privileged, you know, to have
romantic names] "what do you think of bestowing upon her?" "Why,"
answered Ianthe, "the old story, I suppose--BEAUTY: at least such
was my intention, but if you can any of you show me I am wrong in
supposing it a cause of happiness to the mortal race, why, I suppose
I must give her ugliness instead."

"Sister, I hope you will do no such thing," murmured a young Fairy who
lay near twining seaweeds into a wreath. "I never until this evening
heard a doubt upon the subject, and to tell you the truth the only
time I ever envy a mortal is when I see a regular beauty enter a large
assembly. Oh, the triumph of that moment! Every eye turned upon her;
murmurs of admiration, not unmixed with envy, greeting her as she
sweeps along; everyone courting her acquaintance; a word, a smile of
hers more valued than a pearl or a ruby. A sort of queen of Nature's
own making, reigning royally in undisputed sway, let her circumstances
of life be what they may! Look how mean the richest woman who is ugly
looks by the side of her! No no, dear Ianthe, make your little lady
handsome, and you have done the best that Fairy can do for her. I
declare I envy her beforehand! Here where we are all so beautiful
together there is no interest or excitement about it--it is quite
flat." And so saying the young fairy Leila laid herself down to her
wreath again. "Why, Leila, you are absolutely eloquent!" observed
Ianthe, "Beauty it certainly must be."

"Oh, I declare," pursued Ianthe, rousing up again, "I have sometimes
really wished myself ugly, that I might some day have the pleasure of
suddenly finding myself beautiful!"

"Oh, but then," said a Fairy from behind, "is there no danger of your
regular beauty, as you call her, getting as tired of being beautiful
as you are, and wishing herself ugly too?"

"Certainly, not," answered Ianthe, "for, for an earthly beauty there
would always be the excitement of being envied."

"Come, come," persisted the former speaker, "then the gift of being
envied would be the best thing to bestow, at all events a necessary

"Oh," cried Leila, stopping her ears, "I can't argue, I never could--I
can't hear any more, I am quite satisfied that I am right; you can't
argue away the pleasure of being a beauty in a ball-room. Ask any of
them themselves."

"Well," said Ianthe, "we need pursue the subject no further. I am
resolved. My baby is to be beautiful, beautiful as the dawn of the
morning; they shall call her Aurora!"

"I shall not follow your example," observed Euphrosyne, "I don't at
all like that notion of the necessity of _envy_ to make the beauty's
joy complete. Besides, I'm not at all sure beauty is not much more
charming in idea than in possession. Nobody spend their lives in
entering a ball-room, and one gets sadly tired of one's own face. I'm
sure _I_ do, beautiful as it is;" and as she spoke the Fairy stooped
over a clear tide pool which mirrored her lovely countenance; "and yet
look what a nose I have! It is absolutely exquisite! And this hair!"
and she held up her long silken curling tresses and looked at them
reflected in the water as she spoke. A musical laugh rang through the
fairy group. Euphrosyne resumed her seat. "There isn't a mortal damsel
in the world who would not go into raptures to resemble me," pursued
she, "and yet--but, oh dear, I am getting quite prosy, and it is quite
useless, for Ianthe has decided. I, on the contrary, am thinking of
something far less romantic and interesting, but I suspect far more
necessary to the happiness of mortals than beauty--I mean RICHES."

"Men are horribly fond of them, certainly," observed the Fairy from
behind, whose name was Ambrosia. "I can't endure men on that very
account. Look at the grubby wretched lives they lead in
counting-houses and banks, and dreadful dingy holes and corners of
great towns, where we wouldn't set the soles of our feet, and this for
forty or fifty years, perhaps, in order that in the fifty-first, or
perhaps later still, they may turn into butterflies for the little bit
of life that is left to them. And such butterflies, too! not knowing
what to do with their gay coats and fine wings when they get them at

"I think you are putting an extreme case," observed Euphrosyne.
"Though the grubs themselves may not thoroughly enjoy the riches they
have so laboriously acquired, their children or grandchildren may, and
live at ease and enjoy them. I should not think of bestowing great
riches on uneducated paupers. But it is another matter to give them to
people whom education has refined, and who would know how to enjoy and
employ them."

"I wonder," suggested a very little Fairy, scarcely grown to her full
size, "why you don't just give your Godchildren moderate good health,
and enough money to make them quite comfortable without puzzling

"You are a complete Solomon," observed Euphrosyne, "but you must know,
my dear, that moderate good health and a mere comfortable competency
would hardly be considered Fairy gifts by our friends in the lower
world. These things are, as it were, the absolute _necessities_ of a
happy life; they are the beef and mutton (to borrow an earthly simile)
of the entertainment. Fairy gifts form the somewhat unnecessary (and
questionably wholesome) second course, the sweets, the bonbons, the
luscious luxuries of the repast.

"Very few, by comparison, get them. Very few infants you know have
Fairy Godmothers, but we make it a rule that those who have, shall
always be distinguished from the crowd.

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