over? But I can see well enough how it was–I needn’t ask you that–
walking over sand-pits with your chin in the air, as usual.
Of course if you go among sand-pits like that, you must expect to tumble.
You should look.”
The Beetle murmured something that sounded like “I did look,” and Sylvie
went on again.
“But I know you didn’t! You never do! You always walk with your chin
up–you’re so dreadfully conceited. Well, let’s see how many legs are
broken this time. Why, none of them, I declare! And what’s the good
of having six legs, my dear, if you can only kick them all about in the
air when you tumble? Legs are meant to walk with, you know. Now don’t
begin putting out your wings yet; I’ve more to say. Go to the frog
that lives behind that buttercup–give him my compliments–Sylvie’s
compliments–can you say compliments’?”
The Beetle tried and, I suppose, succeeded.
“Yes, that’s right. And tell him he’s to give you some of that salve I
left with him yesterday. And you’d better get him to rub it in for you.
He’s got rather cold hands, but you mustn’t mind that.”
I think the Beetle must have shuddered at this idea, for Sylvie went on
in a graver tone. “Now you needn’t pretend to be so particular as all
that, as if you were too grand to be rubbed by a frog. The fact is,
you ought to be very much obliged to him. Suppose you could get nobody
but a toad to do it, how would you like that?”
There was a little pause, and then Sylvie added “Now you may go.
Be a good beetle, and don’t keep your chin in the air.” And then began
one of those performances of humming, and whizzing, and restless banging
about, such as a beetle indulges in when it has decided on flying, but
hasn’t quite made up its mind which way to go. At last, in one of its
awkward zigzags, it managed to fly right into my face, and, by the time
I had recovered from the shock, the little Fairy was gone.
I looked about in all directions for the little creature, but there was
no trace of her–and my ‘eerie’ feeling was quite gone off, and the
crickets were chirping again merrily–so I knew she was really gone.
And now I’ve got time to tell you the rule about the crickets.
They always leave off chirping when a Fairy goes by–because a Fairy’s a
kind of queen over them, I suppose–at all events it’s a much grander
thing than a cricket–so whenever you’re walking out, and the crickets
suddenly leave off chirping, you may be sure that they see a Fairy.
I walked on sadly enough, you may be sure. However, I comforted myself
with thinking “It’s been a very wonderful afternoon, so far. I’ll just
go quietly on and look about me, and I shouldn’t wonder if I were to
come across another Fairy somewhere.”
Peering about in this way, I happened to notice a plant with rounded
leaves, and with queer little holes cut in the middle of several of
them. “Ah, the leafcutter bee!” I carelessly remarked–you know I am
very learned in Natural History (for instance, I can always tell
kittens from chickens at one glance)–and I was passing on, when a
sudden thought made me stoop down and examine the leaves.
Then a little thrill of delight ran through me –for I noticed that the
holes were all arranged so as to form letters; there were three leaves
side by side, with “B,” “R,” and “U” marked on them, and after some
search I found two more, which contained an “N” and an “O.”
And then, all in a moment, a flash of inner light seemed to illumine a
part of my life that had all but faded into oblivion–the strange
visions I had experienced during my journey to Elveston: and with a
thrill of delight I thought “Those visions are destined to be linked
with my waking life!”
By this time the ‘eerie’ feeling had come back again, and I suddenly
observed that no crickets were chirping; so I felt quite sure that