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Title: Much Ado About Something
Author: Lawrence, C. E.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Much Ado About Something" ***

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                       *MUCH ADO ABOUT SOMETHING*


                          *BY C. E. LAWRENCE*

                      AUTHOR OF "PILGRIMAGE," ETC.



                                 LONDON
                   JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.
                                  1909



                                   TO
                          MY FATHER AND MOTHER



                               *CONTENTS*

CHAPTER

      I. DOWN FAIRYLAND WAY
     II. THE MADNESS OF JUNE
    III. PARADISE COURT
     IV. COCKNEYDOM
      V. TOM TIDDLER’S GROUND
     VI. POST-PRANDIAL
    VII. ARCHIDIACONAL FUNCTIONS
   VIII. MAN AND SUPERMAN
     IX. THE PROGRESS OF OBERON
      X. THE IMPORTANCE OF BIM
     XI. A PROSE INTERLUDE
    XII. A NIGHT OUT
   XIII. IN SOCIETY
    XIV. CONVERTING A DUCHESS
     XV. LIBERTY HALL
    XVI. PROGRESS
   XVII. THE ARISTOCRACY MOVES
  XVIII. A COMPACT
    XIX. NEW YEAR’S DAY
     XX. IN PARLIAMENT
    XXI. OBERON AT LAST
   XXII. CROWNED



                              *CHAPTER I*

                          *DOWN FAIRYLAND WAY*


Fairyland!  Fairyland!

There was to be high revel in Fairyland.  From far and wide, from uphill
and down dale, from here, there and all about, the little people were to
gather in the Violet Valley.

Oberon and Titania were coming, as well as Mab, Puck, Gloriana,
Tinkerbell, and innumerable unnamable others of the princes, thrones,
dominations, powers of Elfdom.

Pixies, gnomes, kelpies, sprites, brownies, sylphs, every shadow and
shape owning allegiance to the Fairy King, would endeavour to be at that
congress of the mimic immortals.

It was a red-letter night in the history of the aristocratical
democracy: the greatest occasion of the kind since the year One.

To-morrow would be Mayday, and midnight was not just yet.

Nightingales were tuning, preparing.  The air was honeyed with the scent
of flowers.

A round white moon looked from a shining sky on the Violet Valley.  It
lingered; travelled tardily across mountains and spaces of
leisurely-drifting clouds, waiting with its best dilatoriness, intending
to see all that was possible of the approaching revels.

It looked upon and lighted a scene of young-leaved trees, grass of the
freshest green, new-come flowers, and sparkling waters.  The world which
is always beautiful wore its best loveliness then.

That was Fairyland.

Far away northwards there was a lurid, hazy glow in the sky.  Red, vast
and vague it loomed, obliterating the stars beyond, marking the place
where Fairyland was not.

That was the shadow which shone over London.

In the country there was peace--absolute peace; then, mellowed by
distance, the chimes of a church clock.

Twelve!  The fairy-time had come.

At once a nightingale began its emotional song; and others, scattered on
many trees, gradually joined in the throbbing chorus.  Every moment
their melody grew in joyousness, and, ever spreading, roused
nightingales on still more distant trees to join in the anthem of
rapture, until every glade in Fairyland was happier for their happiness.

There was some reed-fringed water in the centre of the Violet Valley.
It was a pond or lake, according to the charity and imagination of the
mortal who looked at it.  To the fairies it was a lake, large and
estimable enough for their most ambitious purposes.

A bright light appeared in the depths of that water, and slowly uprose
till it reached the surface, when the nymph of the pool appeared. She
sat, a shining figure, on a water-leaf and waved a glistening wand.

In prompt obedience gnomes appeared.  Pell-mell, up they came tumbling,
a multi-coloured host, every one with shining face and as full of
excitement, activities and the thousand mischiefs as is the moonlit
night of shadows.  So rapidly they swarmed, elbowing, scrambling,
hustling, stumbling, clambering, from hidden holes and grass-shrouded
crannies of earth that actually slender paths were worn bare by their
hurrying feet.  From the branches of trees they dropped, over hillocks
of grass they hastened, to prepare for the revels.  The gnomes are the
democracy of the Elf countries, and, like some of us mortals, are the
folk who do the necessary drudging work.

They set to labour with willingness.  Not often had fairy eyes seen such
obvious earnestness to be well done with irksome business.  Weeds, which
are really weeds, nauseous and mischievous, and not flowers become
unpopular, were carefully uprooted and packed away, fuel to feed the
fires of brownies’ anvils; a broad tract of green was made flawless that
fairies might dance there unhindered; glow-worms were coaxed or forcibly
carried to places where their blue-white lights would be at once
ornamental and useful; dew was scattered broadcast to reflect from
myriad points the diamond moonlight; the lamps of the flowers were
trimmed and lit, and soon, from all sides, were shedding gentle
radiance.  Dreams came drifting down from the opal spaces.

While the gnomes worked they whistled--not fairy songs, now; but
snatches of lame melodies borrowed from holiday mortals.  It was a
hotch-potch of sounds, a sizzling blur, not so unpleasing. Gnomes are
rather fond of that sort of thing. Their ear for music is, possibly,
imperfect.

Presently there was trouble.  Bim was a centre of petty uproar.

He was a gnome, very young as they go; and, from top to toe, red as a
holly-berry.

While his work-brothers rushed and bustled, Bim was languid.  Even
Monsieur Chocolat himself could hardly have been less useful.  He did
his best--little better than nothing; but then he was very tired.

All that day and through the previous night he had been travelling.
From the distant Land of Wild Roses he had toiled, following laboriously
the course over which a company of fairies had easily flown or danced.
They had been hastening to the valley of revels; and he must needs come
too, because June was amongst them.

It had been--such a journey!  The mere remembrance of the toil caused
him to ache through every one of his six inches.

He had started on the previous evening, the instant the moon had peeped
above the horizon. The fairy contingent had preceded him some hours
earlier.  He had only the vaguest notion of the way to take, never
having been out of the Land of Wild Roses before.

Three things kept him, more or less, to the right track.  He saw now and
then solitary fairies on the wing wending their ways towards the place
of assembly; more frequently, he passed flowers of sweetness so
refreshed that evidently they had been touched by beneficent wands but
recently.  Thrice owls, hooting, had spared a word of advice and
direction to the persevering wanderer.

The moon, which lighted his pathway, had followed her course till lost
in the shine of morning.  The stars had brightened and quivered and
gone.  The sun had lived his period of hours; the birds had worked and
sung, the flowers and grasses had waved through a long bright April day,
and still the determined gnome had laboriously journeyed on, following
the flight of the fairy June.

Bim had been several times led astray through his ignorance, but all his
wanderings, stumblings and weariness could not dim or lessen his
determination.  He rested but once, sleeping for a sunny hour in a
welcome bedroom of nightshade and nettles in white blossom.  At last he
came to the turning of his long, long lane.

Now he was in the Violet Valley, and pressed with the others of his
below-stairs brethren to the work of preparation: and he could not.  He
had the full weariness of a new arrival.  Those of the gnomes, even
those who had journeyed long distances, had been able to rest before
labouring.  There was no such fortune for Bim. Here he was, and at once
he must do his share. A great many gnomes, noticing his languor, ceased
work altogether to insist that he did not shirk.

So there was uproar.  Five minor tyrants--self-appointed foremen--began
to kick him.  Bim squealed like a tin whistle; then justice, in the
person of the nymph of the pool, intervened.

And thereby hangs this tale.

One word from the water-fairy was enough to release Bim from his
persecutors, and to send them hurriedly to work again--till all
preparation was ended and the Violet Valley was ready for rejoicing.

"Gnome," said the nymph, "you must be young as spring-time, or you would
not have come so far and arrived so late.  You are, I see, from the Land
of the Wild Rose.  So was I.  So is June--our June.  You shall be
favoured.  Lie under that dock-leaf; keep still and take rest. You shall
see the best of the wonders.  Lucky gnome!"

Bim obeyed, creeping to the hiding-place and lying there, resting, his
eyes alight, as quietly as a mouse with suspicions.

The gnomes, their business well ended, ran to points of vantage.  They
clambered along boughs, clung to tree-creepers and shrubbery, like blobs
of living fruit.  Cross-legged they perched on mounds, whistling,
singing, playing impish pranks, chaffing and chiding one another, in all
the happiness of easy idleness.  They were the jolliest mob in Fairyland
that night.  There was not a grumble in the whole assembly.

Then the fairies began to arrive.

From here and there, like musical snowflakes, they fell, flying down
from the skies.  They sparkled like gems, their wands were pointed with
brilliance, their wings shone with iridescence, their garments were
spangled gossamer. As each elf-knight alighted, he folded his wings and
marched, with lance or slender sword upraised, to an appointed place,
and stood there attentive, waiting, while in myriad gnome-voices the
heroes were acclaimed.  As every gentle fairy came to earth, she tripped
or lightly flew over the dancing-ground and sat or reclined among the
flowers.  The Violet Valley was thronged with a thousand pictures of
loveliness and enchantment.

All the while the gathering proceeded they and the fairies were singing
a world-old fairy-song.  The bells of Elfland musically jangled.

Bim and the stars were delighted.  So was the moon.  Fairy horns and
trumpets pealed: a fanfare of welcome rang with echoes over the
higher-land grasses.  For here are the royalties!

A procession worth seeing slowly approached and passed.  The pride and
panoply of mortal pageantry is tinsel and crudeness in comparison with
what the fairies can do.

Leading came a bodyguard of gnomes, looking quaint and important in
their warlike furniture. Their round faces, wearing expressions of
tremendous seriousness, their goggle-eyes, and legs, some spindle,
others bandy as half-way hoops, gave a sort of pantomime poetry to the
proceedings.

"Shiar-shiar-shiar!" shouted their commander in his best militarese.

They halted, turned inwards in two long lines, stepped backwards,
leaving a generous space between, and shuffled into comparative
exactness of places.  They were ranged in companies, according to
colour, the pride of position belonging to the sky-blue and grass-green
companies.

Following came the flower of fairy chivalry. Knights, whose duty it is
to control and imprison the dragons which long ages ago terrified and
destroyed humanity, passed along, proudly cheered.  Down into fiery
depths of earth these happy warriors go, and there, with infinite
courage, flashing swords and magic spears, do battle with and awe the
flame-breathing furies, preventing their escape to earth, where they
would wreak mischief, work havoc, and destroy. Fortunate for us--if only
we knew it--that we have the fairies to rid us of these monsters and
keep them in restraint.  Banish the elves from our imaginings and many
hidden horrors would rise again.  The old forgotten terrors and a
million uglinesses which ever threaten us would resume their evil
reigns.  Banish the elves, indeed!

There were knights tried by all manners of adventure, thousand-year-old
young heroes whose efforts always help in the battle of right against
wrong.  They are the joyous chevaliers. The fairies are bright, as their
services have been beneficent.  The best of the warriors are as dazzling
as sunlight at noontide; and as the knights marched in inverse order to
their prowess and worth, the most meritorious and honourable last, the
procession became brighter and brighter as it progressed, till only
elf-eyes could have endured its absolute brilliancy.  It was as a
rippling river of light, travelling through fields of melody.

Bim, to whom all this was a magnificent dream, trembled with excitement
and awe.  He had heard tales of majestic doings, told by gnomes who had
made adventures and seen; but nothing before had sounded so fine as the
mere shadow of this. He lay in his burrow, snug; and repeatedly pinched
his leg to remind himself of his wonderful good luck.

He saw the knights group themselves in a wide semicircle round a
double-throne, gem-built and golden, made by moonbeams and magic out of
a nest of wild-growth.  Jack o’ Lantern, Will o’ the Wisp, and their
shivering green company kept guard about it.

Goblins gathered on a poplar-tree.

Then after an interval came perfection at its best, sweetness in all its
qualities, loveliness beyond adjectives--the fairies who watch the
flowers in their building, and tend them that they may give generously
of their treasures in scent, colour and brightness; who teach birds
music and win from them their finest songs; who carry day-dreams to
those who require them--they only bring some of the dreams of night; who
help Santa Claus during his Christmas mission; who put hopes in the
hearts of the weary. They flew slowly, on fluttering wings, just over
the grass: the beads of dew beneath glistening sharply, a thousand
thousand points, reflections. Last of that chapter of the marvellous
procession came one whom the lookers-on acclaimed with ardour--the
heroine of that silver night.

"June!  June!  June!"

In her honour all this rejoicing was made. The great event of that
calendar night was to be the crowning of June.

Then with new trumpetings came Oberon and Titania, the most puissant of
kings and queens; whose realms and governance extend from the depths
beneath, where the brownies in their fire-shops labour and create, to
the high-built hidden palaces of the clouds.  All castles in the air are
in the kingdom of Oberon.  Remember that!  The royalties of Fairyland
are royal indeed.

They were accompanied by an escort of princes and princesses, of
knights, elves, and gnomes; until the procession ended.

Oberon and his queen sat on the double throne. He raised his sceptre in
signal; the revels began. Many of the fairies who had been waiting,
thereupon ran to the dancing-green, and on wings and feet as light and
graceful as moonbeams on flowing water, danced.  It was a vision of
loveliness, the perfect poetry of music and motion.  And so it went on
and on, a kind of dream and of worship, till every one of the fairies
had sung and danced her share.

All the while there was the singing of elf-songs, to an accompaniment of
nightingale voices, and joyous feasting on honeyed nectar and cates, the
produce of fairy kitchens.

The moon drifted along, jealous of the passing clouds which occasionally
veiled her view, watching, and, from her loneliness, rejoicing with the
fairies in their joy.

Till Oberon arose.  The birds ceased their songs.  An owl hooted five
times.  Bim, forgetting caution, came boldly out of his hiding-place,
the better to watch.  The king raised an opal cup and gave the word:

"June!"

Every voice in Fairyland echoed him.  The woods repeated the name:

"June!  June!  June!"



                              *CHAPTER II*

                         *THE MADNESS OF JUNE*


Throughout the revels June was sitting but three hand’s-breadth distance
from Bim, so that he--who is our chief authority for these pages of
history--better than anyone else could see, hear, and know all that
happened in Fairyland on that very, very young May morning.

June had been sitting there smiling, enjoying herself supremely.  It was
hard for her to believe that this banquet of sheer delight was entirely
to her honour.  Even Oberon, Titania, and those others whose names are
as immortal as the passing pages of the books of humankind can make
them, were there in a new relation--her subjects for the time being.

The crowning was the only event which remained undone: it was the
culmination of the revels, and would not happen until the cock which
crows in the last of the morning darkness had duly squawked and
shrilled.

Every year in Elfland the fairy credited with the greatest number of
kind doings, as entered in the Golden Book of Bosh, wears the magic
crown which the spirits of Merlin, Prospero, and Michael Scott met to
make and charge with their mystic powers on a howling night of eclipse.
Five-and-twenty sheeted spectres had watched its making and guarded the
crown when made.  It had been transported to the valley wherein Dante
met Virgil, to Ariel’s Island, to the Hill of Tara, to that Valley of
Shadow in which Christian fought Apollyon--who was Abaddon, to the altar
in the Chapel of Arthur’s Palace at Camelot, to the Never-Never-Never
Land; and in each of those places had rested for a year and a day,
gathering the mystical, magical powers of the place.

Now by unanimous acclaim, June was again the chosen favourite.  For the
second time in succession she had won the crown--a circumstance unique!
Never before in the long annals of Fairyland--in comparison with which
any mere national history is but the record of a few stained and noisy
days--had such a circumstance been. That was why there was so great a
gathering; why all the notables--and Bim--were there!

The crown which, with its changing colours, sparkled with brightness
better than sunshine had been placed on a cushion before the throne.
During the revels, chosen knights--proud sentinels--stood guard over it;
the brightest eyes of Elfdom watched it then.  June watched it too.

But there was something which, even in that hour of magic and of
triumph, troubled and perplexed her, and drew away her attention from
the revels.  It was as a shadow of sorrow overhanging the happiness; the
only blur on a condition of perfect contentment and peace.

Where she sat, facing Oberon and Titania, she also faced that vague and
lurid glow which showed where Fairyland was not.  It was strange and
weirdly troublesome to her.  There was no such dismal shadow over any
part of the Land of Wild Roses, and never before during her previous
visits to the Violet Valley had she seen that brooding glare.  But now
its ugly glory oppressed her. Again and again it won her eyes from the
happiness, and filled her heart with a growing burden of pain.

The owl had hooted.  "June!  June!  June!" had come the king’s, and then
the universal, cry.

Chanticleer gave the note for the crowning.

The king rose, took the crown from the chief of the knights attending,
and raised it that all of Fairyland might see.  The singing and the
laughter died away, and were hushed to a tremendous silence.

June flew towards Oberon, but suddenly stopped, and gave a cry of pain.

There was wild excitement at this.  It belied experience, was an unkind
precedent, made the long night’s harmony suddenly crooked and awry.
What ailed June that she should act so? The fairies with all their
wisdom were impotent to read the mystery.

But soon June made it plain.  She pointed her wand at the glow beyond,
and cried:

"Evil!  Evil!"

Every gnome, elf, fairy--all--turned to look at the vague red light over
the far-away city. Oberon and Titania alone did not move, but gazed at
June, solemnity in their eyes.  They knew.

"June," said the king to her, "that light is the shame of Fairyland.  No
one of our glad company can live beneath it.  It is the land of unhappy
ghosts, where the shadows called men make and endure infinite ugliness,
shame and pain.  Slowly the fairies who would have loved and helped them
have been driven away."

"I must go there," June said.

"No, no!" cried Titania, hurriedly stepping down from her throne, and
clasping the fairy’s shoulder, holding her wings.

"We can’t spare you, June," said the king. The hearkening elves sang
agreement with him. "It is all quite hopeless.  Time was when the
fairies ruled in London and the other great towns, and were believed in,
welcomed, appreciated.  In those days England was called ’Merrie,’ and
deserved the joyous name.  Then things began to change.  Men became less
in sympathy with the beautiful and the unseen; their faith in us
dwindled.  They wanted more than they should have done the dross called
riches; and in following and finding wealth lost much of their welfare.
It was a sad experience for fairies, who one by one deserted the
wilderness of streets and went to their work in the country.  The
condition of the towns grew worse and worse.  Then came that age of
material progress, the Mid-Victorian Period----"

"You should have seen their wall-paper, my dear!" Titania interposed.

"And in despair the last of the fairies went!"

June sighed.

"Is it hopeless?" she asked.

"Hopeless, hopeless!" declared the king solemnly.  "Only Death can do
away with that wilderness--Death and his cousin Decay.  More than that,
the men there would not be helped by us if we would.  They are vain.
They have no love for the fairies.  They like their grime and their
grubbing.  They hoard their dross and tinsel, and are greedy about it.
That world of stone and shadow beneath the red haze is marked with doom.
Let it alone, June, as we have done and are doing.  Fairyland is large
enough, and can spare to mortals those blotted areas."

June hid her face in her hands and shed fairy tears.  Tears on that
night of triumph!  A flower, close by, in sympathy quivered and put out
its lamp.  Titania felt her royal firmness oozing out of her wings.

"Let her go, Oberon!  Why should not fairies go even to the wilderness
if they can help there?"

"I cannot spare them," he answered.

"We should spare them," the queen asserted. June raised her head to
listen.

"Titania?" said Oberon, in surprise.

"The fairies ought not to have left London to ugliness," the queen
exclaimed; "besides--is it so ugly as you in your eloquence make out?"

"Titania?"

"Even if the fairies have deserted London--and shame to us for it--many
men and women, strengthened and inspired by us, have been doing
fairy-work there.  I am not so sure that London is so hopeless!"

"Titania?"

"May not June go?" the queen then asked.

"I said ’No!’" Oberon declared with loud authority.

"You are as obstinate as ever," Titania observed impatiently.  "Since
you played your trick on me with that oaf--that clown--that donkey’s
head; and foolishly I gave way to your tricks and pleading, you have
been----"

"Silence, Titania!  You are my own dearest queen; but I am your king and
the king of Fairyland. I forbid June to go."

There was an end of the suggestion.

Applause, loud and long, greeted the royal pronouncement.  The elves did
not wish their favourite to go.  They feared for her.  Titania,
realizing that the last word was said, for the time being--what a model
for some!--returned to her place by Oberon’s side, and June roused her
drooping happiness.

"Now, fairies," cried the king, "the triumph song!"

They sang.  All sang, proudly, proudly!  How it rose, swelled, rolled in
a volume of musical delight, over the tree-tops, waking any birds that
foolishly might have been sleeping, compelling them by its power, joy
and confidence to share the grand chorus.

Only June, of all the bright multitude on which the moon then looked,
was silent; only she, though sharing in the pride and happiness--how
could she have done otherwise?--stood, seemingly unemotional, there.
She was thinking, thinking, thinking of the great dim wilderness, whose
crowded wretchedness, referred to by the king, called for the gifts and
presence of the fairies, and could not enjoy them!

"Oh, sad city," whispered she to herself, while her comrades were
singing the triumph song. "Oh, pitiful shadows, foolishly imprisoned
there!"

Dawn came creeping up.  The moon grew pale with annoyance that daylight
was coming to close the revels.  The more timid of the stars closed eyes
and went to sleep.  Only the boldest lights in the greying sky fought
against the progress in the east.

Then the song ended--dying out with a note of long-drawn content, the
sigh of satisfied victory.  There was silence again except for the
awakened birds, which, well aware of the rapidly approaching day,
chattered and twittered with increasing energy, careless of the history
happening beneath them.

June was stirred from her inopportune reverie by the touch of the crown
which Oberon, descending from his throne, placed upon her.

A great shout went up.

"June, June, June!"

That was the moment of her triumph.  It was the moment of her madness
too.

The touch of the mystic rim quickened her indefinite aspirations and
sharpened her sadness. She would go!  Not Oberon and all his fairies
should prevent her.  The crown--charged with mighty powers--gave her
strange new determination and an influence more potent far than she had
ever possessed before.  That town-world might be hopeless, but she would
not say so till she herself was convinced of it.  She would go to
London.

Oberon, watching her face, was aware of this fleeting debate in her mind
and the disobedient decision.  He is the gentlest knight in Fairyland,
and for June, who deserved so well of everyone, had an especial
reverence and affection.  That she should disobey his public command
would be almost as hurtful to his pride as allowing a dragon, pent in
its subterranean prison, to escape.

"June," he said to her gently, "you will go back to your home in the
Land of Wild Roses. A hundred of the fairest knights will guard you and
the crown--your precious burden.  You will go at once.  The revels are
ended."

Daylight filled the sky.  The moon was a pallid shadow of her former
self; the stars had become invisible.  The birds, self-centred, were
flying hither and thither, bustling about for the wherewithal to live
and to help live.  One by one the flowers put out their ineffectual
lamps.

Ordinarily, the fairies would have decamped forthwith; the gnomes in
weary, grumbling, clumsily-clambering pell-mell, every one of them with
the fear at his elbow that he might be chosen for some fatigue duty--as
our straight-backed friends of the scarlet tunic expressively call it.
But on this occasion they stayed.  Not an elf stirred.  Everyone stared
and wondered.

"Was June in disgrace?" they asked of each other, "and if so, why?"

The questions were answered by further questions.  There was a jostling
of inquiries without any progress made.  Rumours rioted. It had been a
night indeed!

Again June made appeal.

"Let me go just to see--for only one day and a night!"

"Not for one hour can you go," the king obstinately replied.  "Men
through their meanness and worldliness have driven the fairies away. We
went regretfully, unwillingly; but we went, at last, absolutely.  There
are innumerable homes of men-folk where the elves are believed in and
are welcome.  We carry our gifts to them.  There the children have
smiling eyes and happy faces: but in the narrow world of mean streets
and mistaken people, over which that glare is a pall, the children fade,
are shrunken, neglected, have some of them forgotten how to smile."

"That is enough!" cried June, and she looked straight at Oberon.
"Wherever the children are neglected the fairies ought to go.  How can
you blame the people for being mean and the places ugly if the elves are
forbidden entrance there? Great king, I go!"

In the most daring manner, she raised her wand, made profound obeisance,
and was off, like light. Her wings shimmered in the shining of the
rising sun.

Fairies started forward to stop her; but she was away before they could
do so.

"I told you so!" said Titania, to nobody in particular.

"Stay, all of you," loudly commanded the king. "June has gone wilfully,
and must suffer.  I would not use the smallest power in Fairyland to
bring her back.  She has gone disobediently. She can return when she
will.  I will not send for her.  She has gone foolhardily, and must
endure alone.  We are all of us sorry.  There will be no more elfin
revels till June has come back again."

"The crown!  She has taken that!" said Titania.

Oberon echoed the queen’s words.  "She has taken that.  It cannot
perish.  June cannot keep it beyond the year.  She will have to bring it
back then, or earlier.  Now, fairies, May-day has come.  To your homes
and the daytime labours. Away, away!  The revels have ended indeed!"

Then there was hurry on the part of the gnomes. Oberon and Titania and
their sparkling company flew in a long procession on a winding aerial
course, to the palace of the king, which is hidden from eyes of men on
an Irish mountain.

They were there in a twinkling.  Wink thrice and a fairy’s journey is
ended, though it be over deserts and beyond seas.  It is not so with the
gnomes.  They must labour and struggle along, like mice and men.  But
the winged lords and ladies of Elfdom are the happy fortunate.  They can
put Time in a thimble when they please, and play leap-frog with
continents.

In less than three and a half minutes, as measured by a well-behaved
clock, the Violet Valley was deserted by all but the birds and Bim. Even
the nymph of the lake was invisible.  She had sunk to the depths of her
pellucid palace the moment June made her bold decision.

Bim waddled to the place where the throne had been.  It was rank
wild-growth again.  No one not a fairy could have dreamed that such a
sight had been there but a fragment of time before. He threw himself at
full length--such a little full length--on the grass where June had been
standing, and thought for a long while with his very best wits.

He made a soliloquy.

"King Oberon said we were not to go.  He said that June was to come back
alone.  He said no one was to follow her.  I shall be punished if I go.
Pricks and pains and aches and beatings! Ugh!  But would that be worse
than Fairyland without June?  No, it would not.  Fairyland will not be
Fairyland to me without June.  I am going after her; Oberon can beat me
till I’m blue."  So declaring, he sprang to his feet.

"Brave gnome!" said a voice behind him.

Bim turned about in fright.  The courage which had risen during his
soliloquy went--pluff!--like an unset jelly.

The nymph of the lake had spoken.  She had returned, and stood again on
her leaf in the middle of the pool.  He was pleased to see she looked at
him in the friendliest manner.

"We are behaving very badly indeed in being so disobedient," she said;
"but June is from the Land of Wild Roses.  So are you and I.  Go to her,
gnome.  She is alone, and even you from Falkland--I beg your pardon for
putting it so--are better than nothing.  I have no counsel to give you
but keep a stout heart.  You will need it. You don’t know the way!"

Here was the truth.  Bim was an expert in ignorance.

"You will find June in the wilderness of stone and evil.  In the daytime
it is covered by cloud and fog.  In the night-time the red glare of
lights reflected shines over it.  That is what to follow and where to
go.  When you come back I will find a gift for you.  Away with you.
Go!"

Bim went.



                             *CHAPTER III*

                            *PARADISE COURT*


There are many Paradise Courts in London. The one which comes into this
story is identifiable from the fact that a public-house is by its
entrance.

Probably this hostelry has given the court its name, for it was the
nearest approach to anything of an Eden character which that blotted
part of existence held.

The public-house has been known at various times by different names--The
Red Lion, The Green Man, The Blue Dragon, The Queen’s Head. Possibly it
is spoken of by another name now, for its management has always changed
pretty frequently, and almost as frequently celebrated the occasion with
a new title.  It may perhaps be called "The Laughter of June"--who
knows?--but digressions are sinful, when they anticipate. These facts
are stated to help the reader to find the Paradise Court of the
story--if he wants to.

To describe Paradise Court is to tell the picture of one or other of
more than a thousand of the mean ways of London.  It was narrow and
flagged, with cracked slabs of cold stone; was utterly dismal, dingy,
dull.  Its tenements were brown with years of smoked atmosphere; the
windows stained, or stuffed with paper, or empty of glass; the doors,
broken gates, giving entrance to inner realms of squalor and nakedness.
There is no place on earth more thoroughly hopeless and ugly than was
that dismal colony of condemned humanity.  The makers of Hell would
probably be ashamed to imitate this limbo, where the poorest of the poor
crowded and managed to exist.

Hunger and fear were unfading terrors in Paradise Court.  Every room was
haunted with the tragedy which never dies.  No tears were shed there,
for the heart which knows despair is dry as a river of sand.  In
Paradise Court only the babies could have any glimmer of hope, they
being utterly ignorant and unable to know.  The others were mere mute
bodies, too hurt and heavily burdened to feel weary and sore.

There were dangerous brawls sometimes amongst the Paradise
Courtiers--they hit their hardest and cunningest to kill; but,
fortunately, used fists or sticks--though sometimes the boot found play,
and always fought with drink-muddled senses.  The men, women and
children there knew how to blaspheme: and though the range of language
in use was limited, it was violent enough for any ordinary occasion.
Sometimes the supply of available adjectives was insufficient for a very
special purpose, and then Jim, Bill and ’Arry, Sal, ’Arriett and Liz,
repeated themselves unconscionably.  The ears of the neighbourhood were
not sensitive, which, perhaps, was as well.

Once upon a time a policeman, presuming on his proper faith in a new
uniform and the truncheon in his trouser pocket, followed and tried
unaided to capture a sneak-thief who had found refuge in its Alsatian
sanctuary.  When the policeman emerged from the court empty-handed, he
was limp and battered; and report--on the lips of the curate, who heard
it from someone, who was told by so-and-so, who learned it from somebody
else--asserts that his lost truncheon was used thereafter promiscuously
to settle private quarrels with.  Since that ill-advised adventure, the
police only entered the place when they had to, and then went in
adequate numbers. Paradise Court had become an independent republic,
where the King’s authority had ceased to run, and, in effect, was a
little farther out of civilization than the forests of Mumbo-Jumbo.

There were fourteen houses in the Court, with five rooms in each, a
passage and flight of stairs. On an average four persons slept in every
room, and in the summer months the stairs had their occupants, so that
the population of the place was as near three hundred as need be.

Paradise Court was, in brief, a piece of Black Country, given back to
Chaos and old Night, the haunt of such terrors as are bred of
insanitation, rack-rents, thriftlessness, drunkenness, extreme poverty,
utter and absolute neglect.  It was one of many wens in the metropolitan
wilderness.

On every side of it London stretched; immediately about it were
clattering thoroughfares, with hurrying streams of life, constant
processions of rumbling and jingling vehicles, and buildings, buildings,
buildings, streets after streets of them, nearly every one looking
jaded, faded, an edifice--fine word!--in despair.  Only the
public-houses remained clothed in glaring, brave livery, and looked
prosperous and vulgarly perky.

June found herself in Paradise Court in the course of that May-day
afternoon.  How she got there, even she did not know.

Out in the country her journey had been plain flying.  She had skimmed
over the fields and hills like light in a happy hurry.  But gradually
the air became heavier, and her wings, which in a joyous atmosphere
could have moved unweariedly for almost an eternal time, lagged. She
struggled along bravely, and, not for the shred of a moment, wavered in
her purposes: but eventually, bewildered by the clamour beneath her, the
closeness and thick smoke, which overhung everything--there was the pall
which, lighted, was visible from Fairyland--felt her powers vanquished.
She tried all her arts--the fairy arts--to make the way easier; but the
spoilt air of London oppressed her--it was to her--who more
sensitive?--as fiery breath from dragon’s nostrils, nauseous.

The crown pressed on her brow with a heavy rim of pain.  She clung to
remembrance of the children who needed her.

She became as helpless in the hands of circumstance as a snowflake, the
sport of winds; was borne hither and thither, buffeted up and down as
though mighty mischiefs made her their shuttlecock.

For hours she was hustled along in this condition of blind bewilderment:
and then--slap!--felt herself brought sharply against a window-pane, for
all the world as if she were a blind wasp or blue-bottle imprisoned in a
summer room.  She tumbled and clung desperately to the rough stone sill
whereon she found herself; and there rested, breathless, draggled,
exhausted.

She was the tiredest fairy in and out of Christendom.

So June found Paradise Court.

She rapidly recovered, and looked about her.

"This is very, very ugly," said she to herself.  "The fairies can’t have
been here for ages."

She touched the dingy window-pane with her wand.  The glass divided and
opened inwards, as if its two parts were separately hinged; but the
atmosphere of the room was so old and very evil that June waved the wand
and closed the pane in a hurry.  Human eyes, examining the glass, ever
so carefully, would have been positive it had never been parted.
Brothers, how blind we are!

"Can the fairies ever have been there!" murmured June to herself.

She cleared the pane with wishes.  It became so clear and burnished that
the glass itself seemed invisible; and then, pressing forward eagerly,
she looked inside the room, and examined mankind in one of its cages.

"It is a good thing they are shadows, and cannot know or feel very much.
If they were as real as we are, that would be bad--bad!  Even now I
should like to turn them into sparrows; they would be far more fortunate
so.  Poor people! And there is a child!"

The sight of Sally Wilkins working constantly with ever-weary hands,
made June so to tremble and shake with agitation, that she nearly
dropped her wand and fell from the sill; but once more she clung with
her infinitesimal hands to the narrow column of wooden framework, and,
beginning now to feel indignant and angry, looked still more eagerly
into the room.

The picture she saw was, alas! not uncommon. Ten thousand interiors of
London life down in the grey parts where grinding Poverty is king, were
more or less repetitions of the sight June gazed upon.

Two women squatted on the floor, sewing rapidly, with machine-like
steadiness.  A third suckled as well as her poor means allowed a feeble
baby.  The mother stared before her with eyes which were very tired.
Unlighted--as grey stones in a hollow face--they gazed at a present and
a future, too dreary for dreams.  All her life was a stain and a grief.
One of the women, her companion, was racked with a consumptive cough.

There was by the inside wall of the room, a pile of half-completed
clothing--raw material for sweated needles to work upon--and very little
else.  There were a frameless looking-glass; a few bottles; a battered
beer-pot, stolen from the haunt of liquid happiness at the entrance to
the Court; one chair, which served as table, cradle and cupboard, when
there was something to hoard underneath it; a verminous straw mattress;
and some broken wood, cardboard, and rags--the gleanings of rubbish
boxes.  That is a complete inventory of the furniture, the ornamental as
well as the useful.

On the window-ledge were broken crusts, as stale as the phrases of
charity, and a black-handled fork, with pieces of string, cotton,
needles, several empty reels, which would make firewood some day, and
cards of buttons, the capital and essentials of those women’s industry.

June, fresh from the revels of Fairyland, was appalled at her picture,
and as near to tears as an indignant fairy could be.  She felt hot anger
against Oberon.

Then again she gazed at Sally Wilkins and studied the hapless child.
The fairy’s whole being was eager sympathy and love.  June knew Sally’s
history at once through the influence of her powers and the crown.

That was a child who had never seen a green field, or heard any wild
birds singing; though very well she knew, as every town-child must do,
the twittering of the pert sparrows in the streets. Sally was a lump of
solid ignorance.  She had heard of God because His name was some
necessary part of several favourite swear-phrases; but of the fairies
and other sweet realities she had heard just nothing.  She lived--poor
lass!--in so narrow and limited a world that she might as well have been
born in a grave as to the child’s destiny in Paradise Court.

She sewed and she sewed, with hardly a pause--"seam and gusset and
band"--though in her case it was buttons and buttons and buttons.  So
constantly was she threading her way through the dark material that life
was to her nothing more than a dreary pilgrimage into and out of eternal
button-holes.  Her fingers were the all-important machines.  Her brain
was dulled: her soul unquickened.  She was twelve years old; and
composed of skin, bones, hunger and weariness, wrapped in a modicum of
Nothing.

June could not endure the sight any more. Her wings quivered with
indignation.  She touched the window, flew into the room, and alighted
on Sally’s shoulder.

The child, without her fingers resting from work for the least part of
an instant--time means life to the working poor--looked up wondering.
Why did she seem suddenly lighter?  Was there sunshine in the room?  No,
everything appeared precisely as before: though--yes, somebody had
certainly, through an obvious misunderstanding, been cleaning the
window.

June took off the fairy crown and perched it on Sally’s tangle of hair.
The consequence was amazing.

Sally began to dream for the first time in her life.  A new world was
opened to her.  She was in a wonder country, and felt she had enjoyed as
much food as she wanted--plenty of hot gravy. Her thoughts were always
drifting on a river of gravy, towards the promise of pudding.

Under her feet was a kind of green hair--grass--far stretches of it, as
cool as the night-wind, but infinitely pleasanter.  Flowers, looking for
all the world as if they had been picked off stuck-up ladies’ bonnets,
were pushed into the ground, where they waved, looked and smelt as
delicious as--more gravy, Sally’s only simile.

The sky was strangely blue, and much broader and higher than the London
sky ever was.  How did they keep it so clear?  She could not see a
house, but there were any number of trees shading the grass, trees of
all sorts and sizes, some so high that their tops tickled the sky;
others with branches so broad and full of leaves that a hundred children
like herself could have slept without quarrelling in the shade of any
one of them.  What a very nice world this was!

There was more still, for look at that very round "spadger" with the red
breast that perched on a branch, and went twit, twit perkily, and that
very large bird--could that be a spadger too?--with brown speckled
breast, and that tiny blue upside-down, eager thing with its sweet
chirrup, chirrup; and the other mite of a brown creature, with saucily
upturned tail; and this scolding black gentleman with his yellow bill;
and more birds too, many more.  What a lot there were! Why don’t we have
fellows who look and pipe like them down our court?--and don’t they sing
cheerily?  My!

There is one going up and up, as if it were climbing a round stairway
which couldn’t be seen, singing all the while like--like--a tune gone
balmy. Sally could hear the soft prevailing sound, and opened her eyes
wide--to hear better!  There was a brown cliff, and down, tumbling with
much splashing and thudding, came water in a shining flood.  At first
she shivered--water is so cold, and cleansing; but the fright went
suddenly when Sally, examining herself, found that though she had no
recollection of the horrible process of washing, she was quite clean.
So she need not wash, and could, without fear, admire the falling water.
Hooray!  This was a splendid country. She revelled in its light, warmth,
freedom, happiness.

There were loud unsteady footsteps on the stairs.  June removed the
crown, without removing the sweetness of the dream-world from Sally, and
flew to the empty keyhole to reconnoitre.

A man, one of the masters of Paradise Court, was stumbling upstairs,
making hob-nail progress.  He was mazed; because of the public-house at
the corner--the nearest place where the community could discover the
correct time.  Long experience of similar circumstances safely guided
his feet up that rickety rat-haunted staircase, and he lurched into the
room, clumsily kicking the door to after he had entered.  June hovered
over him, flew round and round his head, and still more puzzled his
foolish wits.

"’Ave I got ’em?" he asked most seriously, and stared at the revolving
wall.

The three women looked at him listlessly.  One spoke.

"Shut yer jaw, Bill," she said, and paused to thread her needle.
"’Ullo, brought some beer?" she continued, when she saw the tin can he
dangled.  "Give us a drop, mate!"

June, steadying herself by grabbing his stubbly beard--for fairies are
not entirely impervious to the law of gravitation--leaned forward and,
just as he had said "Garn!  I brought it for----" touched his lips with
her wand.  He substituted "Sally" for "myself."

Bill put the beer-can on the chair, and rallied himself with an effort.

"I _am_ drunk!" he asserted most seriously, as though a mighty
uncertainty had suddenly been put straight.

Sally was still in the green joy-land, whereto June had enchanted her;
but she took the can dreamily, and put it to her lips.

That was too much for the man.  He stooped forward and grabbed the can.

"Not ’arf!" he said, as he took it from her, spilling some of the
contents.

Sally’s thoughts were torn from the trance-world. She was snatched from
the green dream-country, brought back summarily to the hungry, grey
realities of the present.  She looked at Bill, and then blasphemed
fluently.  June, horrified by the child’s fierce anger, touched her lips
with the wand.  Sally was obediently silent, though still her mouth
moved with muted imprecations.  The two women had, meanwhile, gone on
with their work, and the mother stared, her eyes two stones.

Bill sprawled on the boards, and pillowed his head and shoulders on the
pile of half-completed clothing.  He supped at the beer with long
luxurious satisfaction, and slowly tumbled into sleep.  The emptied can
slipped from his fingers and rolled half-way across the room.

June, who in the presence of this experience had been bewildered and
unprepared, flew to where it was lying, and contemplated it
thoughtfully.

"There has been magic there," she declared, "worse than the evil of
witches."

Sally went on with her sewing.



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                              *COCKNEYDOM*


That night June made her nest among the chimney-pots.  There was a broad
cleft in the mortar which bound the stack, and a black hammock of thick
cobweb swinging as the wind-drift blew upon it.  June put the crown for
safety underneath her; and, clasping the wand with both her guarding
hands, reclined on the cobweb and waited for slumber.

Ordinarily sleep comes to fairies as it comes to birds, instantly and
absolutely.  But now June could not lose herself in its blessed
forgetfulness. For a very long time she lay awake, staring at the veiled
sky and listening with strained attention to the eternal throb and hum
of the moving life around her.

Very far away, it seemed--far higher than ever in Fairyland it had
appeared--the moon was ghostily journeying.  There was now no such
expression of interest on the lunar countenance, as there had been on
the previous night, but dull wakefulness and watchful indifference.  All
the elves might have run awry and the flowers have withered, for aught
the moon appeared to care.

June felt lonely then, especially as not a star was showing, and there
were no nightingales. Fairyland seemed millions of miles away.  She
began to feel strange depression, to fear she had not done well in
taking on herself the impossible quest.  Just as every Quixote smarts
from the despondence of folly, during the cold periods of a divine
pilgrimage--so then did she.

June was as dismal as London could make her during those hours of
involuntary vigil.  As she swung in her cobweb, and stared at the
starless mirk, she tried hard to impress on herself the need of her
service, and the wisdom of that adventure.  Owing to much weariness and
the gloom, she took a lot of convincing.

The life of those mortals was truly a sad business.  To think of Sally
and her grown companions working continually for the sake of mere
existence, enduring a life of want and ugliness, with the fairies
nowhere near, was truly very sad!  All the more need for her to go on
and labour.

So it was settled.

The thought was so comforting that her wakefulness came to an end.  She
fell asleep almost at once, and dreamed she was resting in her own
home-bower, in the Land of Wild Roses.  Happy cobweb!

The moon went into the clouds, and the hours marched by.

June was awakened by a shrill whistle.  A factory called, and the fairy
rose.

London at dreary dawn!  It was more than ever a dismal scene which
greeted her on that grey young morning.  Her despairing hopes of the
previous evening went down, plumb, to zero. She looked at the miles of
black roofs and dingy chimneys.  What a hideous world it was!  Not so
great a wonder, after all, that the elves had determinedly deserted it.

She preened herself carefully, tested both wings to see they were
uninjured, fared on the magic food which fairies can, when necessary,
make from dew and the west wind, and then felt ready for a day’s
activities.  Her remedial work was to begin at once.  To watch evil, and
not to check it, was to invite despair and failure; but to displace bad
with good was encouraging, and the fairy’s business!  June put on the
crown and began.

Her first duties were with the folk of Paradise Court.  She spread wings
and was wafted down to the window-ledge.  Early as it was, the women and
Sally were already labouring with their needles.  They were breakfasting
while they sewed.  Their fare was stale bread, rejected refuse from
middle-class tables, and some fearful meat bought--a pound for a
penny--from Mother Wolf, a hag in the neighbourhood who made profit by
selling offal for human food.  How that purveyor of nauseousness escaped
the penalties due for so doing is a mystery; but so she did.

Bill was still sleeping, another man by his side. The lords of creation
had the pile of clothing to themselves for bed, pillow and quilt.  The
feminine members of the establishment had managed as well as they might
do, lying close together to keep each other warm.  That was the usual
order of things.

June entered by the magic way of the window, and tickled Bill’s nose
with her wand.  He sneezed, stretched, got up; his first words were just
a little lively language--an ungenial good-morning to his companion in
luxury, which effectually roused that gentleman.

The men put on their caps--so completing their toilette--yawned, and,
without saying a word to the women, went out to look for work. That was
their profession--looking for work. They never found it, but ever
continued seeking.  They breakfasted on beer, bread and grease at the
hostelry which gave joy to Paradise Court. The liquid part of their meal
lasted till not another copper could be found, borrowed or cadged.
Bill’s life was a long process of idleness, blessed with beer.

In the morning the clothing that was finished had to be taken to the
tailoring firm in the City for which it was made.  The various garments
were arranged in a bundle, tied round with one of the treasured pieces
of string, and perched on Sally’s narrow shoulder.  She clasped it
tightly with her thin hands, trying to believe it was a baby to be
nursed.

June decided to go with Sally, to help her bear the burden.  This she
managed to do by sitting upon it, using the wonderful wand, and wishing
the bundle should seem only a tenth part of its real weight.  So it was
made to be; but Sally, who had not been encouraged to observe things, or
to estimate differences, did not become aware of its lightness.  In any
case, the burden, even when reduced by June, was full heavy enough for a
child of her strength and years.  But many another like Sally was
bearing a similar burden.

Down the stairs and out of Paradise Court went the girl and the fairy;
along a dreary, slippery pavement, passing a thousand people,
self-interested, self-centred and hurrying, who might laugh, talk,
bustle and frown in their individual ways, but who still to June, as to
Oberon and all else of the better land, were poor, pitiful shadows,
journeying, worrying, moiling for a few thousand days until the
extinguisher was put over them.

Yellow and blue tramcars went jangling by. June, seeing people get into
and out of them, was minded to make one of them stop, so that Sally
could ride; but it was better this first time for Sally to go her own
gait as usual.  Anyhow, June was alert to be helpful, and handled her
wand as the infant spendthrift fingers his penny, determined to use it
as speedily and extravagantly as possible.

Sally toiled along slowly.  She kept to the chief road, never daring to
relax her hold of the bundle, because of the difficulty of recovering
it.

She came to a wide crossing--a tramway and omnibus terminus--and passed
through a maze of carts and people.  June began to feel frightened
because of the clamour and crowding, but soon lost her unworthy fears by
remembering that these creatures and things--in comparison with
herself--were only shadows, permitted to dwell for a little while in the
beautiful world which belongs to the fairies, and others of spirit-land.
She had more power in her wand and will than they in any or all of their
Brobdingnagian faculties.

June was profoundly impressed by the wonderful powers of the police.
The way the helmeted man of authority stood in the midst of the press
and ruled it, appealed to her as nothing had done since she had
witnessed Oberon in his majesty commanding the shapes and princes in the
Violet Valley.  As Sally went slowly by the policemen, June gave each a
fairy’s blessing. They became thereafter, and are to this day, more than
usually polite and attentive to the timid.

Sally plodded along steadily.  She passed a pump dripping with water.
June saw several fat sparrows before it, squabbling over the corn which
had fallen from a horse’s nosebag.  She went to chide them, as fairies
do to birds in the country when their manners would bear mending; but
these town sparrows, in their Cockney ignorance, never having seen a
fairy, or dreamed there was anything in existence more important than
themselves and perhaps some thin stray cat, pecked at her
disrespectfully.  As she paid no attention to their surliness, they took
sudden panic and fled in a fright, chattering at one another in fine
unanimous complaint.

June resumed her perch, but now on Sally’s hat.  She throned herself on
its broken brim, and viewed London with exalted detachment.

The squalor was left behind, but to fairy eyes the City was particularly
dreary.  The buildings withal so heavy, high and ambitious, wore looks
of decay, and were stained with grime.  The coarseness of the
atmosphere, too, was oppressive.  What a life!  What a place!  June
could not resist wistfully thinking of that happier world where the
flowers are free and soft winds kiss them.  She deeply pitied the folk,
who, voluntarily or not, were foolishly imprisoned in the stuffy
stone-land.

Sally turned down a court and threaded a series of alleys, bewildering
to a stranger, till she came to an ill-painted door and rang a bell.

She lowered her bundle gladly and sat on the step in a state of weakness
and exhaustion.  The powers within were dilatory or inattentive.  She
had to wait a good long while before the door was abruptly opened by a
lantern-jawed youth, with red bristles on his upper lip, hair plastered
with oil, and a paste diamond pin stuck in his yellow necktie.  His
associates knew him as Ernie Jenkins.

"Why wasn’t you ’ere earlier?" he asked. "You’ll ’ave to wait now.  Mr.
Oldstein’s out and I’m busy.  You seem to think you can come when you
like.  But you can’t.  See?  You can leave the goods inside and ’ook it
for a time.  Now remember, and look alive next week.  See?  Come back in
three-quarters of an hour and get yer money."

The door--the back-entrance to Mr. Emmanuel Oldstein’s wholesale
tailoring emporium--was forthwith shut.  Sally, meanwhile, must amuse
herself as best she might.  Again, with the patience of the starved, she
sat on the step to wait, and sufficiently forget herself to think she
would like to cry.  However, she refrained from tears--the neglected
have none to spare--and, as usual, centred her mind on things to eat.
Food, food, food--there was her aspect of Eden.  The object of her
particular desire was again, as always, gravy, "’ot and smelly."

June read her thoughts, and went to work to realize them.

A school-boy was going by, whistling.  He had been excused his lessons
for the day and was cheerily hurrying to the Oval to see the year’s
first cricket-match.  A white-paper parcel, spelling lunch, was tucked
under his arm.

June gazed fixedly at him, waved her wand, and willed him to look at
Sally.

He did so.  The spell was on him.  One glance was enough to influence
his inexperienced heart--he was not old or wealthy enough to have
learned caution in his charity.  He could not now have enjoyed his
cricket, remembering, as he must do, the pale, starved face of that
weary child, and not have helped her.

He hid his actions in the shelter of a convenient doorway, opened the
packet, took out two sandwiches and a chunk of cake, shoved the rest in
his jacket-pocket, and, running shamefacedly by, dropped the provender
on Sally’s lap.  He heard her give a gulp of joy as he went on with
singing heart, to be the happiest lad in Kennington.

Surrey did better than usual that day.

While the child greedily munched and waited, June, grudging the wasting
of time, flew skywards to investigate.

She was soon above the roofs, and awed by the myriad chimneys.  Her
attention was caught by the dome of St. Paul’s, which gloomed like a
round purple cloud, over and above all else. It was, as it is, the crown
of London.  She had never seen anything like it in Fairyland, and
wondered at the patience of men.  Truly, they were poor things,
transient creatures, and all that; but they have faith in what is
material, and manage many things in their few years.

Her wings moved rapidly.  She sped like a flash of fragrant light over
the intervening courts and houses, and quickly came to St. Paul’s
Churchyard.  She passed between the branches of the trees in the railed
garden, greeting sparrows and pigeons as she went, and wishing--wishing
heartily--she could meet some of those bright-hued, happy-songed friends
of hers, who bless the friends and skies of the country.  But that could
not be.  The birds she loved had followed the fairies, leaving prose in
feathers behind.

She circled slowly right round the big dome, and wondered more than
anything else at its crusted dirt--which dated from the Stuarts.  She
settled on the weather-ruined statue of an apostle--whom it represented
being as indistinguishable as Shem in the nursery Noah’s Ark--and gazed
with wonder and without admiration at the moving, stretching scene--the
live panorama--before her. Roofs and steeples and streets--stretching on
and on--that was the picture seen by the fairy.  It had its wonders, no
doubt; but oh, the pity of it, the crowding and the treelessness!  What
a woeful waste of space!

The fairies, amongst their shortcomings, have absolutely no sense of
political economy.  Had June been told that ground-rent on Ludgate Hill
is so many pounds sterling a square inch, she would have been totally
unimpressed and possibly bored.

"Where could the children find room to play?" she said to herself.  "And
the flowers must all be smothered!"

She flew to the open space below, and perched on the statue of Queen
Anne, to watch with sorrowing eyes the tired and hurrying people.  Poor
shadows!  In a little while they would be back again in the ground which
gave them, their opportunities for kindness and happiness ended; and
here they were, thinking only of to-day’s gains, rushing after the
mirage, losing what mattered.

She had grown weary almost to weeping of the sordid scene, and was
thinking miserably of its contrast with Fairyland.  Oh, why had the
elves forsaken London?--when--there was Bim!

The gnome was toiling up Ludgate Hill.  He seemed to have shrunk and
become a very pale red.  Weariness and bewilderment had, for the time
being, taken the colour out of him.  He was awe-struck and terrified by
the rolling volume of traffic, which, though it could not possibly have
hurt him, seemed very formidable.  He looked with round eyes at the
lumbering vehicles, and though to him they were really but shadows
bearing all manner and shapes of shade, he was bewildered by their
multitude and variety.

With its shining slope and insistent traffic, he found Ludgate Hill a
trying and slippery ordeal.

He was repeatedly in straits during that scrambling ascent.  The horses
could see him; the human beings could not.  Time and again a boot
threatened him, a skirt swished by him; the wheels of a vehicle often
seemed over him; but always he managed--though not without numerous
sprawls and tumbles--to avoid contact with the objectionable shadows.

He reached the top of the hill and stood panting and triumphant.
Suddenly he saw June, a fairy crowning the effigy of the queen who is
dead. He squealed with joy and stared in goggle-eyed rapture.
Hoo-oo-oo-oo-ray!

His happiness received a check.

A scavenger boy, running along, crouching, scooping up refuse, scooped
up Bim!  Before the gnome could say "Robinson" he was up, carried away
to a receptacle for dirt, and forthwith tumbled in.

He crawled out puffing and disillusioned.  He blessed the scavenger boy
thoughtfully for his hospitality; squatted bewildered upon the kerb;
then, remembering, turned about and lost all woes, aches and weariness
in the joy of seeing June.

"Bim, my brave Bim," she greeted him.

He stared open-mouthed, panting and smiling. He had now no words for
answer, and needed none.



                              *CHAPTER V*

                         *TOM TIDDLER’S GROUND*


Bim was almost top-heavy with joy at meeting June just when his hopes
had been at their lowest; she was hardly less delighted at seeing him.
For not only was the gnome something from Fairyland, a reminder of its
dear delights and golden days, and the means of strengthening her
strained determinations; but he had come from her own particular corner
of the delectable realm, the Land of Wild Roses, and brought to jaded
Cockneydom some fragrant home memories.

But she must get back to Sally.  She flew down to Bim, and held out her
wand.  he grasped it, and forthwith was up in the air, magically borne
along by the hurrying fairy.

It was no new thing for Bim to have an aerial journey.  One of the
favourite games of gnomes--naturally no more able to fly than a pig is
capable of "Bo"--is to grab the legs of a pigeon and cause the silly
bird to go circling.  This was the first time his means of sky-progress
had been a fairy. It was an experience strange, terrible and new, to be
dragged and wafted over that wilderness of roofs.  But it was also
exhilarating.  He began to sing in his croak of a voice an old elf-song
about moonbeams that became icicles.  June, listening to him, and
watching the scene beneath, vowed and vowed again that she would not
rest till London was restored to Fairyland.

Bim had no consciousness, as he croaked and dangled there, of the
effects of his influence on the fortunes of the dark city: London
likewise had no idea of it.

Sally was still waiting, though the passing of people on business to and
from the Oldstein establishment had required her to move to another
doorstep, where she sat and watched for the summons.

This seeming neglect on the part of the red young man so irritated June
that she flew in hottest haste, head first, through the opening for
letters in the door, prepared energetically to remind him.

He was sitting on a counter with stacks of clothing about him--how musty
it all smelt!--hard at work reading a worn "horrible"--"Sweeney Todd"
its hero--and yawning. Atmosphere, rather than weariness, caused the
gape, which came to an abrupt close.

As June was entering the warehouse from the back way, Max Oldstein, the
only son of the "firm," was to be heard descending the stairs opposite.
Jenkins was off his perch in an instant, and busily tumbling a bale of
clothing from the counter to the floor.

June viciously poked with her wand the scraggy nape of his neck to
remind him of Sally. Her protest was effectual.  He went to the door and
shouted:

"Come in, Kid!"

Sally eagerly entered.  She stood on the door-mat trembling.

"Pay her four and twopenth," said the master, as he put a tick on the
paper he held, "and tell ’er that if ’er people don’t do the work
betterth, they’ll be wantin’ it."

Max turned abruptly, and went to the other end of the shop, where he
lighted a cigarette and thoughtfully admired the great gold ring on his
large little finger.  June, feeling angry because of his blatant
unpleasantness, wished him a punishment of pain, which he felt.

"My corn!" he said, "it’th goin’ to rain."

Meanwhile Jenkins was addressing Sally.

"You ’eard what the young guv’nor said? And don’t you forget it!
There’s the oof--count it!--and ’ere’s another lot of material.  See?
Twenty pieces.  Now, you can sling your ’ook!"

Sally poised the pile of cloth on her shoulder and went.  June followed
her into the street, made the load as light as good wishes and touch of
wand permitted, and instructed Bim, who during her absence had fallen
fast asleep in the gutter, to clamber on Sally’s hat and go
home--"home"--with her, to guard her.

Then she returned to see what could be done with Max Oldstein, whose
ripe, unusual vulgarity fascinated her.

Sally, with Bim sprawling along her hat-brim like invisible red
trimming, jogged slowly eastward.  The exhausted gnome was soon again in
his own little nod-land--sleep pulled so hard at his eyelids--and did
not return to this world of the infinite unrealities till Sally was in
the bed-workroom at Paradise Court, and the weary women had greedily
counted and grumbled over the few coins brought to them.

At once they returned to the sewing, and plied desperate needles through
the new mass of half-made clothing.  So wore away more hours of their
unblessed lives.

Bim, awakened and sent tumbling by Sally’s doffing her hat, crawled into
the beer-can, which still was lying where it had rolled when Bill
dropped it; curled himself up like a squirrel in its winter fastness,
and was asleep again.  This shows how over-tired the poor fellow was;
Bim was, however, not too weary for dreams, and in the visions of
slumber, once more made that fearsome journey from Fairyland which ended
with the finding of June.  This proves that gnomes can ride nightmares
too; a fact for the Psychical Society.

Max Oldstein puzzled June.  She could not make him out.  His interests
and actions seemed so purposeless and mean.  During that busy morning he
was forty unpleasant persons rolled into one. When a customer who spelt
prosperity arrived, Max lost himself in oily politenesses.  He laughed
vigorously at humour hardly there, and smirked and toadied like a
_nouveau riche_ at a Primrose tea-fight.

When there followed a journeyman-tailor who had wasted his opportunity
in drink, and was impelled by repentance and family needs to beg
pitifully to be taken on again, Max’s politeness went like a bang.  He
snubbed the tailor-man for his ingratitude, and abruptly closed the poor
fool’s pleadings with a turn of his back.

There were so many other starvelings to take that wretch’s place.

In the course of the morning Max showed himself shrewd, petty, fawning,
arrogant, determined, stupid, vulgar, and cruel.  Ernie Jenkins, who
copied his manner as well as he was able to, lived in mortal terror of
him.  To Ernie, Max Oldstein was a mean necessity, his bread and butter,
his all.  To lose that hateful, pitiful employment would be to cut off
every one of his private luxuries--his evening glass of bitter, with its
opportunity for badinage with a barmaid, the Woodbine cigarettes, the
weekly visit to a music-hall, the Sunday walk with Emily.  So he went
on, like a hundred thousand others of his kind--selling his life for a
pittance, swallowing infinite insults, cringing and mean.  Poor Ernie!
What is to be done with such humans as he?

At one o’clock Max hurried to the "Haversack" for a large meal of stout
and boiled beef with carrots, and, while eating, read with sniggerings a
weekly pink paper, which gave oracular advice on race-horses,
interspersed with funny paragraphs about lodgers.  Also there was talk,
in which barmaids, customers and waiters joined familiarly--of the X
street murder, the betting prices, and the divorce case of the day with
its pretty details.

Then Captain Crowe, whom the folk of his world knew as "Charlie," came
in, and Max was pleased to speculate a shilling on a hundred up with
him, which the young man lost with a very bad grace, till the Captain,
who really had once upon a time held a subaltern’s commission in a
disbanded battalion, having borrowed half-a-crown from a casual
customer, who knew him but indifferently well, restored his opponent’s
good temper with the gift of a soda and whisky and some flowers of
speech, so leading the way to another game of billiards and another
defeat for Max.

June was awed by all she saw, and puzzled how to win back to
Fairyland--this!  She sat amongst used tumblers on the mantelpiece,
below the marker’s board, patiently watching and wondering. What could
she do to mend things?  How difficult it was!  Were human beings worth
saving? Was not Oberon in his ruling right, and she wickedly wrong?
These creatures--so mean and sordid--were worse than ever they had been
painted to her by their most candid critic in Fairyland.

Then she remembered Sally, and the sweated women in their evil home, and
decided to persevere.

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!" she said thoughtfully,
unconsciously plagiarizing.

The whisky ended, and the business of recreation done, Max Oldstein paid
his score unwillingly, and returned to headquarters.  Ernie met him at
the door-step.

"Guvnor’s come.  Been waiting an hour," he warned him.

Max ran upstairs, two at a time, to see his father, and hastily
concocted a detailed account of the business which had detained him.
The lie was not required that day.  He mentally pigeon-holed it for a
later occasion.

His senior greeted him with a loud, glad laugh. Max wondered.  His
father showed him an invitation card with the arms of the City upon it.

"Max, my boy!  Look at that!" cried the old man, clearing his throat.
"What d’ye think of Papa now, eh?"

He rose, chuckled violently and rattled his golden watch-chain.  Max
took the card and read it.  It was an invitation to dine with the Lord
Mayor and some representatives of commercial houses.  He felt a twinge
of envy, and then of pride.

"Bravo, Dad!" said the son.  They shook hands solemnly.  "It’th
to-night, too!"

"Yeth," said Emmanuel, taking the invitation and frowning at it.  "Thoth
idioth at the potht-offith nearly mitht my thecuring thith ’igh honour.
’Ere’s the envelope.  Look at the thtamp.  Pothted a week ago, and I
only got it to-day.  Put in the wrong letter-box.  I’ve written to the
Potht-mathter-General to complain.  A ’ot and strong letter I’ve
written.  Very nice of the Lord Mayor, ain’t it?"

"’Ow did you get it, Dad?"

"Lord knowth!  I lent one of ’is footmen money.  P’raps that ’elped!"

"’Ave you accepted?  You mutht, you know!"

"Twice; to make sure, I sent two letterth by expreth, from different
poth-offithes."

"My word, Dad, you are spendin’.  That’th what I call extravaganth."

"No, my boy, you muthn’t look at the pennieth when there’th a twenty-bob
dinner in store. That’th policy and busineth too.  You can’t teach Papa
nothin’, you can’t!  Now, ’ow are things?"

They talked of clothes, market-prices and details of their trade for a
couple of hours, while June listened and wondered.  How these mortals
did waste their time over the wealth which isn’t worth having!

She made up her mind to go to the banquet at the Mansion House.

When the office-clock chinkled five the elder Oldstein looked at his
watch to confirm the news, and hurriedly put away his papers.

"I mutht be off to dreth," he said to his son. "I’m going’ to ’ave a
bath."

He went, June after him.

He drove westward in a slow omnibus.  The fairy sat on his knee, and,
looking about her, felt disappointed with civilization.

At length they stopped by Maida Vale, and the wholesale clothier having
ridden his full three-pennyworth, waddled down two streets and arrived
at his dwelling.  It was one of a row of buildings, mostly
boarding-houses, in their dull unornamental dinginess strangely similar
to each other.  They were Mid-Victorian--the Drab Age!--and looked it
from boot-scraper to roof-tree. Oldstein’s private residence, like his
business house, seemed in dire need of paint.  What the household could
do was done.  What they could not do must be done without.

"Wathte of good money, my boy;" and then, "Next year, per’aps."  And so
on, season after season, year after year.  Like Alice’s to-morrow, the
Oldstein next-year never came.

The clothier and his family lived at forty-eight. The next house was
number fifty.  The two front-doors were immediately adjacent, the
entrances separated by a row of rusty railings.

As he ascended his steps, Emmanuel slyly slipped a folded, printed paper
out of his breast-pocket; and leaning over the railings, gently dropped
it into the next-door letter-box.

The same instant his front-door was opened by Hannah, the
ever-indignant, eldest daughter of the house.

"Those people have been at it again!" she said, and angrily crumpled up
and threw down a circular she had just taken out of the letter-box.

"The thame thort?" her father asked, shutting the door quietly.

"Yes, of course, this is the ninety-second they’ve dropped in.  It makes
me wild!  I’ve made up my mind when the hundredth comes--if it does
come--to give Aaron Hyam’s youngest tuppence to break their kitchen
window."

"Don’t waste yer money like that; am I a millionaire?"  He picked up and
smoothed out the circular, and began to read it aloud: "’Thothiety for
the Conversion of the Jews; an evenin’ meetin’ with addretheth.’  Oh,
put it with the retht, Max will make a spill of it.  Leave it to Papa,
dear.  I’ve got a better plan for dealing with ’em; I’ve begun to put it
in practice already."

"’Ave you, Dad?  I’d like to scratch that little nincompoop of a son of
theirs.  He makes me mad with his soppy smile, and sandy whiskers, and
conceited sanctimoniousness.  I’d give ’im hymns at the street corner."

"A much better plan, my clear.  You may as well give me them little
billths--all of ’em. They’ll be useful.  They’re poor, ain’t they?"

"They are--as synagogue rats--if the faces of the tradespeople are
anything to go by."

Hannah was very vicious.

"Well, then, leave it to me.  Every time they invite us to be converted,
I invite them to borrow money from me--from Jabez Gordon.  They’ve ’ad
fourteen of my circulars already.  I gave ’em a fifteenth to-day.
That’th the best bait for those birds.  Trust Daddy, my dear.  They will
bite--that sort of body always does.  Trutht a hymn-smiter for a quiet
gamble; and then----"

"You will fleece them?" she cried, with fierce exultation.  Something of
Jephthah’s daughter, of Deborah, of Hagar, of the ancient heroines of
Israel, lived in her breast.

"Oh no, Hannah!  Fleeth! we never fleeth. I will help them to some very
good bithness, that ith all."

"That will do!" she said.  "They convert _us_! The fools!"

"And ith the shirt well aired?" he asked.  "I’m nervouth of cold white
shirts."

"You’ll find everything all right, Dad.  Your bath-water will soon be
ready.  Mother’s in the drawing-room ironing your dress trousers.  Now
don’t you worry.  Just wait while I’m putting your things ready, and
listen to a tune on the gramophone.  You’ve plenty of time.  The
brougham won’t be ’ere for a good hour yet."

He went into the drawing-room.  June fluttered above him.  Her
brightness was faintly reflected on his dingy bald head.  She was
strangely curious for a high-minded fairy.  The home of want she had
seen; now for the home of the master!

The sight awed and depressed her.  She perched on the chandelier and
studied everything closely, while beneath her a gramophone--set going by
Becky, the second and last of the daughters--blared a blatant anthem of
the streets.

The furniture was worthy of the house--Mid-Victorian to the last.  A
green mirror with gilded frame, a golden eagle perched at the top of it,
reflected an untrue version of the objects before it.  There was a
clumsy clock, with black ornaments to match it on either side; at each
end of the mantelpiece was a lustre with spills stuck into it.
Photographs of Hebrew celebrities--singers, actresses, and politicians
of a certain party complexion--were ranged about shelves and tables.
There were albums and unreadable books with cheap, bright covers here
and there.  Some coloured engravings of sentimental pictures hung
against the red wall.  A dead musical box, waxen water-lilies in a glass
case, and--but enjoyable as it is to take a verbal photograph of a
characteristic, respectable British interior, it is unnecessary to do so
here.  We shall not require to enter that room again.

The more June watched the place and its people, the more she wondered.
And then, while she waited for Mr. Oldstein to bathe and adorn himself
in glistening raiment, she decided on a plan of campaign.  In her dreams
of prediction, even then, in that centre of hopeless banality, she saw
Fairyland exultant where vulgarity gloomed.

The crusade was to begin that evening.  So let London hope!



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                            *POST-PRANDIAL*


Mr. Oldstein drove to the Mansion House in a hired brougham.  Hannah
travelled with him, for the sake of the drive.  He talked of his father,
who had been a publican in Petticoat Lane.

June was on the box with the coachman most of the time.  She found
looking at the passing lights and strange shops more entertaining than
the conversation inside, which, indeed, was no better than the ordinary
stodge most of us talk.

The fairy rested.  She still felt the strain of the crowds, the noise,
and the atmosphere; but not so severely as she had done during her
entrance to London yesterday.  She rested her very best.

They arrived at Walbrook in good time. Emmanuel had no intention of
missing anything. This was a chance to be swallowed whole.  The carriage
found its place in the gathering queue, and slowly approached the side
of the Mansion House where the guests were alighting.

June watched a few belated pigeons which had not yet gone to roost.  An
idea came.  Dim would be of use that evening.

She charmed one of the birds to her, put her spell upon it, and
despatched it at its special speed to Paradise Court.  The pigeon flew
well; it was to be rewarded.

In twenty-five minutes it was back again, with Bim clinging to its feet.
June praised the pigeon and touched it, giving it nobler plumage.  It
was no longer grey and ordinary, but brightly speckled and a pouter.
Sudden pride ate up its quieter qualities.  It did not wait even the
tail-end of a minute, as courtesy required, but was up in the pigeons’
dormitory over the architrave, as swaggering and important as Bumble,
showing off and strutting before its mate, who woke from domesticated
dreams of well-laid eggs to gaze and grumble.  She had been quite
contented with the lord and master as he was.

Bim’s sleep had restored him.  He was once again his old berry-hued
self, and June’s as devotedly as ever.

Mr. Oldstein had long since entered the Mansion House and been welcomed
by the host and Chief Magistrate of the City, Sir Titus Dodds; but not
all the guests had yet arrived.  The most important--the representatives
of the Church, the State and the halfpenny Press--were in fact but then
arriving.  So June flew and Bim scrambled up the red-covered steps
together, and entered the palace of feasting in good time to share the
greatest event in Oldstein’s life.

Bim stared at the stockings of the footmen, awed, and Emmanuel followed
his example.  He admired and examined the mayoral furniture,
appurtenances, ornaments; the busts, pictures and tapestry, appraising
their value with eager professional interest.  It must have cost a good
twenty thousand pound!  He determined to remodel his own drawing-room on
Mansion House principles, provided he had good luck in Wardour Street.

He regretted now that he had not sought civic responsibilities and
honours for himself.  Dear, dear!  Economy is a bad policy when it costs
anything.  He began to know golden-chained hopes; but the ambition never
extinguished the tradesman.  He wondered whether he might
surreptitiously drop one of his Jabez Gordon circulars on that corner
ottoman, and decided not to do so.  There were too many risks.

He wished that his wife, Hannah, Becky, Max, could have seen him in his
glory, waiting amidst that high company, and that they might have
watched him shaking hands with the Lord Mayor--his fingers tingled with
pleasure still. He must have an appropriate coat-of-arms--something gold
and scarlet, with a rampant lion if possible.  Social ambitions
quickened within his brain.  Yes, he would come into public life, if it
did not cost too much.

So Emmanuel Oldstein went on building his castles--forgetting,
forgetting they were based on piles of clothing sewed and made saleable
by the needles of sweated women.  That aspect of facts did not even for
a half-moment occur to him. This was the prevalent fact--that he was a
gentleman, enjoying the company of baronets and Common Councillors,
received within the hospitable walls of that Zion of commercial probity
and prosperity--the Mansion House.

The welcome summons came at last, and, the Lord Mayor leading, the
guests trooped into the Egyptian room, place of daytime dullness and
evening festivities.

The banquet was begun.

June, who afterwards confessed herself much impressed by the Lord
Mayor’s robes and diamonds, perched herself on an epergne full of
delicious spring flowers.  She feasted on their delicate scents and
colours, while Bim sprawled lazily on a jelly.  Little did the masters
of Gog and Magog, feasting there on their soups and meats and sweets,
dream that a fairy and a gnome were watching them.  June was thinking
hard about Sally, and the hunger of the slums.

A solid hour was eaten away.

The loving-cups were brought in, and distributed to the various tables.
Now was the time to act.  June gave Bim her wand.  In obedience to her
command he dipped it deep in the spiced wine of the loving-cups.  Never
a common drink, it was nigh to nectar now.  There was magic in it, and
liquid warmth-of-heart, a loving-cup indeed!  Every man drank the new
ambrosia and passed the cup to his neighbour.  So the fairy’s influence
went round, and the distinguished company of commoners was linked
together in a union nobler than any of them knew.

The fun was beginning.  How likeable seemed their fellow-guests! what a
nice bright kindly world it was!  They thought this generosity of
feeling was their ordinary post-prandial satisfaction, fed upon warm
meats and the drinks that are Philistine; but the fairy at the board
knew better.  Later on, some of the guests realized the difference too,
for they are astute--those gentlemen in the City.

The toast-master made himself evident.  He had a magnificent voice, and
a big broad beard, which would get entangled with his watch-chain. Bim
could not resist it.  He gazed with longing, and then tucked the wand
under his elbow, took a flying leap on to the arm of the mayoral chair,
ran up to the back of it, and sprang at the beard.  There he clung, and
hid, peeping out of the brown forest at the concourse of happy
gourmands.

The loyal toasts were given, cheered and sung. There was conversation
and amateur music by Guildhall scholars.

The Lord Mayor uprose to propose the toast of the evening, "The Commerce
of London."  He was a picture of rubicund prosperity, a man of drab and
scarlet.  He began a pompous speech.

"My lords and gentlemen, the Lord Mayor and the ancient Corporation of
London have often greeted at their hospitable board gatherings similar
to this, yet never before, my lords and gentlemen, never before, has any
Lord Mayor had the high honour of welcoming to his table a more
distinguished gathering of leaders in commerce than that which graces it
now."

The orator stopped to look at his notes.  A rolling round of applause
told him he was doing well enough.

Emmanuel Oldstein, whose seat was some distance from the speaker, craned
forward better to hear.  He--a leader in commerce!  Good!

"Round this table," the Lord Mayor continued, with a sweep of his white
fat hand, "are magnates of banking houses, shippers, merchants of all
kinds of produce brought from the farthest ends of the earth, heads of
railways, representatives of all departments of commercial industry. The
prosperity of the United Kingdom--let me say the British Empire--is
represented here.  It’s a happy, a very happy, condition of things."

Another pause for note-reading; another roll of hand-clapping and "Hear,
hears."  Cigars were lighted, wine sipped; the audience was in a
particularly sympathetic mood.  It is flattering and delightful to be
reminded you are rich, and--the wand in the loving-cup had done its
work.

The fairy who ruled the feast was frankly bored by this display of
prose.  To her critical ears it was drivel.

Some use must be made of this talkative gentleman, round whom the
incense of tobacco--how can men make that stifling smoke?--was being
assiduously burned.  She flew to his shoulder, hovered for one
deliberative moment above his head, and forthwith crowned him with the
fairy crown.  It shone like a golden drop on the shining bald space--a
glorious globule on a barren sphere; but none of the mortals could see
it.

The Lord Mayor at once threw down his notes. He had gained the
confidence of Demosthenes. He smiled, and braced himself for an effort.
His pomposity was forgotten; his hesitancy gone.

June was making a miracle.  The wonders went on.  Never before at a
Mansion House festival had any such speech been heard as was then to be
delivered; but now it was heard--and applauded.  June flew back to the
epergne to listen.  She had reasons for being interested now. Bim,
seeing his mistress’s activities, crept out of his tangle and returned
to sit cross-legged on the table to watch and listen with eyes and mouth
at their widest, till the warmth and the smoke took their toll, and he
lapsed into sleep.

"Now, my friends and fellow-citizens, I want to speak to you as man to
men.  I put a plain question plainly, and you will accept its truth.
What is the good of our wealth if it is not well used?  How can it bring
us true happiness, if it does not bring others happiness too?  Would you
like to think that your possessions meant want in others?"

"No!" shouted Emmanuel Oldstein.

"No!" shouted everyone else.

"Of course No.  You are true men.  Princes of Commerce!  And yet look
facts in the face. Does our wealth bring those others who help us to
create it anything like an adequate return for their labours in
happiness or kind?  It does not!"

Men rose from their seats to shout agreement with this utterance.

Was this the Tory City or an improved Tower Hill?

The toast-master--in his private life a talking Radical, who always
voted Conservative--listened with perturbation and amazement.  He had
not drunk of the loving-cup as had the guests.  The speech was not
strange to them; they understood, they sympathized, and at intervals
punctuated it with rousing cheers.  It was the very thing they wanted.

Archdeacon Pryde, who all his life had persistently blocked progress
with many words of heartfelt sympathy, smiled benediction, and tapped
the table, loudly encouraging the Lord Mayor to go on with his
revolution.  The Lord Mayor went on.  Nay, he broke another record,
established another precedent for the Mansion House, did what Mr.
Pickwick did--stood on his chair that he might be better heard.  The
toast-master watched and hearkened, deeply grieved.

"It is just six months since the City did me the honour of electing me
Chief Magistrate.  I have tried to do my duty.  I have tried to serve
the City well."

"You have, you have!"

"Half my term of office has ended.  The second half begins.  During the
time remaining I intend to do something to make my year of office more
than ever memorable and worthy of the City.  I am going to use my
opportunity and my wealth to set an example and undo some of the evil
that many of us have thoughtlessly done.  I depend on the leaders of
Commerce to help me. Gentlemen, will you?"

He looked around from his chair, the Olympian citadel, and was
encouraged to continue.  All the guests were listening eagerly.  Cigars
were going out.  The wine in the glasses was forgotten.  The speaker’s
face was the focus of eight hundred eyes.

"Money is a good thing," he went on.  "It is necessary for economic
activities and commercial life.  In private hands, well used, it yields
comfort, freedom, happiness, to countless homes. Never let us despise
the goodly things of life!"

"Hear, hear!" said Archdeacon Pryde.

"But too much wealth in a few hands is an evil bringing disastrous
results.  Where is there greater unhappiness than with those
multi-millionaires, in America especially, whose mass of possessions
grows and grows, increasing their harassing responsibilities and
anxieties, haunting them with panic fears of rapid ruin; useless in its
vastness, mischievous, greedy?  Like a golden horror, this
Frankenstein-monster of overgreat wealth brings sleeplessness, madness,
death, in its train.  There you see money a burden and a curse."

Sir Titus paused again; and once more swept the faces of his hearers
with a keen glance.  The room was as still as a tired church.  The
toast-master now shared the interest of the guests. June sat on the
epergne smiling.  Bim noiselessly snored.

"It is trebly a curse when, its creator dead, it passes to the children.
Think of those victims of fortune, and pity them.  In the beginning they
are glad because they own so much.  They plan the enjoyment of an
infinity of pleasures, and wonder how they can spend the hoard their
fathers have left them.  They are victims caught in the toils.  The
great machine goes on.  Still the wheels of its production are moving;
the labourers are toiling, aching, and wanting.  But the brain which has
guided their operations has become cold.  The new controllers of the
machinery are comparatively effete.  The old genius is gone. Hired
managers do their best, no doubt; but the master, the head of the
enterprise, is dead, and his place cannot be filled."

"Hear, hear!  Hear, hear!  Hear, hear!"

Agreement came in a rumble, followed with appeals to hush.

"There are dislocations in the machinery, labour troubles, angers,
strikes.  I need not detail to you the consequences of swollen
industrial organizations, or the infinite troubles which come to
enterprises over-capitalized or run by incompetence.  Let me, at
present, be content to remind you of the effects upon the
fortune-ridden, unfortunate children.  The worldly folly of the fathers
is visited on them.  All their lives they have been preserved from
experience.  They have not been allowed to learn from contact with the
roughnesses of the world.  They have been spoiled babes, pampered
children, gilded youths; and so grow up to responsibilities which they
cannot realize, and are perpetually blind to facts, victims to the
rapacity of rascals, puppets of fashion, tools and fools--wasting,
extravagant, weak, morally ruined.  The greatest evil a man can do is to
leave his sons so much money that they need not work.  The only
occupation left them is play; and so they spend their lives, pitting
excitement against ennui.  Better far be poor with brains and character
than rich with the fortune of Dives and Croesus.  Is it not so?"

"It is!" agreed the Archdeacon, looking down his nose.  He had a fine
voice, kept in condition with constant lozenges, so that his approval
was heard all over the room.

"Hear, hear!" cried others.

"The useless children of the over-rich are with rare exceptions
prodigal, spendthrift, the gulls of unscrupulous rogues--no curse can be
greater than the glaring and manifold inequities which come from undue
wealth.  I need not further remind you of these facts, for you are
thoughtful men and sympathetic.  But this counsel I venture to give, and
this counsel henceforth I pledge myself to keep.  When you have secured
your sufficiency for comfort, for legitimate industrial enterprise, and
for the proper training and equipment of those dependent on you, don’t
you think it better, instead of accumulating and still accumulating
loads of unrequired wealth, to use the surplus for the communal good,
for the improvement of the locality, and the betterment of your
neighbours and fellows?  I shall do this, I pledge my word to it.
To-morrow I go to my office, and will ensure that every one of my
employés has a fair wage and a secure prospect, provided he does his
duty."

Such applause of approval went up, breaking the Lord Mayor’s speech,
that Bim awoke with a start.  He sat up and looked around affrighted;
but seeing June sitting among her flowers, laughing, he became the
courageous gnome again.

He picked up the wand, and went for a stroll down the table, wantonly
touching men’s hands as he went by, impelling them to clap and thump the
louder.  He was delighted to be wielding such powers.  It was a comedy
out of Fairyland, a farce with an effective ending.

The Lord Mayor stepped down from his chair and lifted his glass of
champagne.  His voice took on new seriousness:

"My lords and gentlemen, I have not forgotten the toast I am asking you
to drink.  ’The Commerce of London’ is a mighty fact, a tribute to our
national energies and honourable name.  It is potent; yet its power
might be greater than ever for securing human happiness.  All that is
required is a little more humanity, sympathy, imagination, easy
sacrifice on the part of--_us_! We, the masters, can do great things.
Let us manage this.  We shall not make our means and wealth appreciably
less by securing that those dependent on us have sufficient to live on
in decency and comfort; nor shall we lose anything worth the keeping if
we resolutely refuse to condescend to such shoddy evils as sweating,
jerry-building, wild-cat speculations, and the maintenance of the slums.
Let us live well, and avoid dying leaving preposterous fortunes behind
us. Let me make a public confession.  I own five houses in a street in
South London.  They are old, ill-built, badly-drained, rack-rented.  I
know it well, but have never thought of the true facts about them till
now.  Those houses shall be destroyed; and, in their stead, buildings
erected that will provide decent and comfortable homes at a fair rent
for the present occupiers.  I shall not lose much, if anything, through
the improvement; but the happiness I shall in consequence gain will be
immeasurable.  There will be no skeletons in my cupboard henceforth.  My
lords and gentlemen, am I to go on this crusade alone? Will you join me
in this effort for human good?"

Every man in the assembly, including the toast-master, rose in his place
and shouted "Yes!"

"Then may I suggest that each of you takes his menu and writes on it
resolutions--no pie-crust promises these, no New Year good intentions,
but resolutions to be lived up to and with determination kept?  If I
fail in my intention, hoot me and stone me at the end of my year of
office; but I will not fail!  I will not fail!"

June flew, and kneeling on the top of the Lord Mayor’s head--so round
and smooth and shiny--kissed it delightedly.  A new inspiration
thereupon came to him:

"Above the resolutions write--’Let us make London fit for the fairies!’
My lords and gentlemen, I give you the toast."

They drank it in bumpers.



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                       *ARCHIDIACONAL FUNCTIONS*


When the excitement which followed the Lord Mayor’s speech had to some
extent subsided, there was a hurried borrowing and sharpening of
pencils.

The Lord Mayor wrote his resolutions with a flourish.

"I’ll have that framed," he said, as he gazed with head a-slant at the
inscribed menu.  The Archdeacon wrote his in Latin verse.  Emmanuel
Oldstein--far away--began his with a gold pencil as large as a cigar;
and then paused, puzzled.

"’Ow d’ye thpell fairieth--oh, and what are fairieth?"

He had a faint fear that they were something to do with the Book of
Common Prayer.

The man he addressed was a Personage, the Past-Master of a City
Company--which had no longer a Hall, and was blessed with a dwindling
income of seventy pounds per annum.

"The fairies," he began, with a tremendous air of authority--"tales, you
know--ah!--the fairies--."

Bim, who happened to be wandering along his part of the table, hearing
this hesitancy on the most real and important subject under the sun and
moon, raised the wand and gave him a punishing rap on the knuckles.  At
once the Past-Master was an informed authority.  He talked like a school
child who knows his lesson too well, hurriedly, glibly.

"The fairies are the mimic rulers of the world. Where beauty is, where
purity is, where love is, there is Fairyland.  Oberon is the king,
Titania queen.  The little people are the only living realities.
We--you--I, these others--are shadows, only shadows!"  He paused.  "May
I trouble you to pass that candle?" he asked, and lighted a new cigar.

Oldstein was impressed.  He wrote his resolutions--there were
necessarily many, as his past social defects had been numerous--with
firmness and slow care, in a good commercial hand.  While he did so, the
music was playing, and there were brief, ecstatic, uninspired speeches,
built on the lines of the Lord Mayor’s.  June waited for higher game.

At last the Toast-master’s voice rang out for the last of their orators.

"My lords and gentlemen!  Pray silence for the Venerable Archdeacon
Pryde!"

The ecclesiastic slipped a final voice lozenge between his lips and
calmly absorbed it, while the applause which welcomed his rising went
on. The hand-clapping and table-rapping coming unexpectedly and abruptly
to an end, he swallowed the last of the lozenge with a gulp.

"My lords and gentlemen, the toast which it is my privilege to propose
is in an especial manner also the toast of the evening.  I am going to
ask you to drink with me the health of our host, the Right Honourable
the Lord Mayor!"

During these words Bim had been clambering up the Archdeacon’s right-arm
coat-sleeve.  It was a fine piece of mountaineering.  He arrived safely
at the summit, and squatted cross-legged on the speaker’s right
shoulder, proud and pleased, intending to lead the cheering with waves
of the wand.  June decided once more to be an influence at the board, so
she fluttered up to the archidiaconal head, and reverently topped its
raven tresses with the crown; then she reclined on the gentle slope of
his left shoulder.  Again the effect of the crown was instantaneous.

The Archdeacon, let it be confessed, had prepared a speech.  It was to
be full of adulation and carefully considered impromptus.  There were to
have been a Greek epigram, two quotations from Shakespeare, one from
Stow, one from the Archdeacon’s own version of the "Georgics," two old
stories from Punch, and a reference--dragged in somehow--to the
Oxyrhynchus papyri. The peroration, as devised, was a golden picture,
with purple slabs, of the wide, wide, circling Empire, with the Lord
Mayor’s bounteous table as its hub.  That speech was like the heroine of
an old-fashioned love tale, beautiful and doomed.

The speaker gasped when the crown touched him, and cried, "Ahem!"  Then
the words came in a torrent, tumultuous, tumbling, liquid, verbal waters
of Lodore.  He clenched a fist and looked sternly at his hearers.

"This is no conventional evening.  The Lord Mayor--honour to him!--has
set an example of high purpose and pluck, which I shall unhesitatingly
follow.  Once upon a time, dear friends, I was a curate, pale and young,
’tis true, but also ambitious and hopeful.  I saw the world as a vast
wilderness, waiting to be redeemed from its emptiness, to be adorned
again with blossoming roses.  As the immortal Bard of Avon has told
us--but never mind that now!  I said to myself in those young days, Here
am I, chosen to share in the greatest work that can be done by man.
Here am I, dubbed by my fellows reverend. The task I have to do is a
great one.  I will do it.  Gentlemen, I did not do it.  For seven months
I laboured as I should have done, then adulation and tea-parties made
mischief of me. I forgot my early aspirations, lost my young ideals,
forgot the sacred character--the responsible privilege--of my calling,
and began that long process of careful courtliness which has brought me
worldly appreciation, a large correspondence, many paragraphs in the
papers, and a useless life.  Behold in me an Archdeacon who has lost the
illusions!--an Archdeacon who will find them again!"

Bim waved his wand; and, the Lord Mayor leading, the excited gathering
broke into a round of applause.  The Archdeacon looked about him
gratified: not often did his words gain appreciation like this!  The
idea that he too should mount the chair the better to speak flashed
through his brain.  But that was not to be.  Archidiaconal dignity is no
light thing; even the power of June could hardly have lifted it.

The ruling fairy, reclining on his left shoulder, her head resting
against his coat-collar, forgot the present in waking-dreams.  In her
mind-world she wandered again through glades of Fairyland, sun-lighted,
flower-haunted, and shining with dew; and was singing a song to an
audience of wrens and squirrels.  The even flow of clerical oratory,
though so near, seemed to her dream-laden senses merely the sough of the
wind through charmed branches, the roll of a distant sea, the murmur of
waterfalls drumming on swollen rivers--musical, soothing.

"My friends, we need the illusions: even more than dividends we need the
dreams.  Have not we, the practical men, lost very much through our mere
matter-of-factness?  We have been too careful, we have neglected the
gift of vision, and the world has lost immeasurably thereby.  The time
has surely come when Quixote should live again.  We want one brave
enough and sufficiently unselfish to tilt against the windmills,
possibly to destroy the ugly shadows which frighten, certainly to
recreate Knight-errantry, and give Mrs. Grundy, the better-half of
Mammon, her right dismissal.  Ah, brethren, how much I am asking!
Convention is the greatest of citadels for weak men to conquer.  It were
easier to put the Monument into a cigarette-case than remove the
formalities, snobbery and narrownesses--due to lack of sympathy, and
loss of the touch-faculty, as Ruskin calls it--which hinder man’s
humanity. What said Tennyson--yes, I must give you this quotation--

"’Sweet St. Francis of Assisi, would that he were here again!’--would
that he were here, to sweeten the selfish world of to-day as he
sweetened the Middle Ages!  And not he only.  We want the saints--every
one--with their selflessness and rapture, to come again.  Oh, that we
could once more see haloes about the heads of men.  Joan of Arc, too,
the lily-maid of Domremy, we want her; would that she could return,
bringing the inspiration of her Voices to help us throw off the tyrants
of selfishness, lust, foolish formality, and greed, which burden and
endanger our beloved land!"

The Archdeacon paused--he was thoroughly enjoying his eloquence--to
moisten his lips with wine.  Bim touched the golden liquid with the
wand, drawing the speaker’s purpose fairywards.

"Joan of ’oo, did ’e say?  Joan of what?" asked Emmanuel of the
Past-Master.

"Hush, friend!" was all the answer he received. The Past-Master meant to
say "Shut up!"; but the influence in the loving-cup compelled
euphemisms.

"The Lord Mayor, in a moment of splendid inspiration--yes, splendid
inspiration--bade us so live and do that London should be rendered fit
for the fairies.  A delightful idea!  Let us live up to that bidding.
But primarily shall we pause and think?  What are the fairies?  What but
sweet invisibles, the fruits of happy imagination, through whose
influence the buds open and become beautiful flowers, the birds lift
their songs, and all of us are kind.  Delightful fancies!  Delightful
fancies!  Truly it were well for ourselves and our fellows if we could
make this great City, this hub of Empire--may we not regard this
bounteous table as the core of that hub?--this influential centre of the
wide world, a joy to the dainty denizens of Fairyland?  We may make it
so; and, friends, we will make it so--I repeat, we will!"

Bim was quite frantic at this bold announcement. To have a real
Archdeacon pronouncing benediction on Fairyland was beyond expression
delightful. No suburban aristocrat paragraphed in a London paper could
have rejoiced more fully. He lost himself in ecstasy, and compelled that
audience to cheer for three solid minutes, till they were hoarse and
began to feel foolish.  The Archdeacon took advantage of the well-spread
enthusiasm to eat another voice lozenge.

"The fairies will be with us in our enterprise; the angels also.  Both
these spiritual forces are on our side.  Dear me! dear me!  How
wonderful it seems!  Now to facts!  Naturally from my office I am most
concerned with the materialism about us, a materialism which finds
expression in the hateful cocksure ugliness abounding in this London of
ours, as well as in the devil-may-care thriftlessness, the drunkenness
and vice, the mean excitements of gambling in its many forms, the
squalor, the poverty, the want, which make wide areas of this unequalled
Metropolis a Devil’s City. Everyone here knows, as well as I do, the
shame of it all; and the greater shame which hangs over us, the
practical men, for the existence, persistence, continuance of this state
of things.  It is iniquitous, intolerable; yet it goes on.  How much
longer shall it continue?  For years, or for weeks, or for days?  That
rests with us.  All here, following the Lord Mayor’s example, have
written down resolutions, which, if they are kept, will modify this evil
everywhere, and end it in parts.  The more thoroughly we live up to our
intentions, and redeem our voluntary pledges, the sooner the end of
these iniquities will come.  For mark this, gentlemen.  The greed or the
carelessness--more the latter than the former--of individuals has
wrought the havoc.  The unselfishness and scrupulous care of individuals
alone can undo it.  It is no good crying for Government to do the work."

"Hear, hear!"

"The Ministerial machine is a lumbering instrument. It takes the breath
of gods to inspire it, to get it to move along the right way, and then
is apt to break down suddenly and finally, in an amazingly human manner.
The State is a sleepy inconsequent monster, which when it acts is apt to
do so like a thunderstorm, with violence and but casual good results.
It is individuals--you, I, the man in the street--who can do things, if
we will: and now we must do them.  We are pledged to it.  Our words have
been taken down by the Mercuries of the Press to be--within an hour or
so--flashed to all parts of England, eventually to reach the farthest
limits of the earth.  We are bound, in honour, to keep our words!"

After that mouthful of eloquence the Archdeacon was compelled again to
pause.  But the audience, their due excitement heated and quickened by
Bim’s insistence, cried incessantly, "Go on!  Go on!" while June, far
away from this effort of prose statesmanship, was dreaming of Faerie.

She was back in the Violet Valley.  She saw Oberon and Titania, with
their most wonderful court.  She heard the silver melody of countless
elf-voices, she hearkened with worshipful intent to the trills and
throbbings of nightingales, she knew the welcome of the flowers, the
breath of a soft wind journeying over grasses; and then, through the
joys of dreaming, those influences called to her--called to her
pleading, to leave her wild mistaken quest in that world of dust and
shadows, and return to the happiness and beauty of the old loved life.

Fairyland, in all its voices, pleaded with her earnestly; it drew her
heart with its magic, and made her yearn to go back again; but--no, it
should not be!

The Archdeacon went on talking.  Bim was satisfied now.  He lay down
once more to rest.

"I will follow our host’s example in telling you what I shall do.  My
income is a thousand a year, with a house.  What do I want, even after
satisfying the calls of necessary hospitality, with more than four
hundred a year?  I shall have to sacrifice some luxuries, true; but I
shall have found a new luxury--the best of all luxuries--of knowing that
through the wider use of my income, comforts--impossible before--will be
enjoyed in twelve poor clergyman’s homes.  By giving fifty pounds
annually to each of these deserving servants of the Church, I shall
reduce their anxieties, insure that they and their families have a
better standard of comfort, and so make these, my comrades of the cloth,
better and more efficient workmen for the cause.  I shall make it a
condition of the gift that every one of them acts cordially with the
other priests and ministers in his parish--whatever their denomination
may be; because, however much we must and shall differ on points of
doctrine--till the truth is found in the world invisible--we all should
be soldiers under the one banner, united for the one cause, though in
different regiments, to forward right, to end wrong, to raise the
fallen, to fight sin, to encourage the weak, to discover and destroy
those causes which, unchecked, lead to the starvation, disease and death
of body, mind, and soul.  For this purpose all men and women, members of
the churches, and those who follow the light without belonging to any
organized branch of the Church, should see in one another comrades,
united for the great purpose of making the world shine with beauty, love
and happiness."

Bim, tired through his past enthusiasm, had gradually sunk into slumber.
He grasped the wand firmly, though he was asleep.  June, on the left
shoulder, was still in fairy glades.  This is why the Archdeacon had
become so serious, and his style and words more suited to his gaiters.

The guests still followed his speech with eagerness, and were
strengthened in their new ideals and brave determinings by his bold,
plain speaking. It was the strangest banquet they had ever attended, but
none of them thought so; and the unconventional addresses seemed just
what should have been expected.

"One more personal word in my concluding remarks.  I have had many
critics, who have not hesitated to say that I lived up to the meaning of
my name.  Perhaps I have!  Perhaps they were right.  But, believe me, I
will study to reduce my pride.  I can see now, as I never saw before,
how mistaken I have been in forgetting humility. For a clergyman to be
worldly is for him to be unworthy of his faith.  It will be a hard
battle to be rid of old habits and tendencies, the results of long
custom; but I will try.  I will endeavour earnestly so to act that the
meanest tramp by the wayside, the poorest child, the humblest old man or
old woman, may see in me one like themselves, a comrade and a helper."

He paused and remembered the peroration, laboriously prepared under the
study lamp; and decided to abandon it.  He ended simply.

"It is the Lord Mayor, by his happy lead and example, who has begun what
I believe is to all of us a great revolution.  My lords and gentlemen, I
beg you to join with me in drinking his health."

They did so.



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                           *MAN AND SUPERMAN*


The banquet ended with a buzz of tongues.  The guests rose, and,
standing in clusters, eagerly gave expression to their views of the
evening’s happenings.  Emmanuel Oldstein, his nature softened by unusual
fare and strange appeals, went with a rush to button-hole the Archdeacon
and build a monument of promises.  The ecclesiastic, greatly daring,
asked him to tea--when the rapturous resolutions were fulfilled.

Such was the beginning of a revolution wrought by one Lord Mayor in
league with a fairy.  What could not such powers do, if they would
cooperate more frequently!

Sir Titus gave a general good-night, and retired to his private
apartments, to convert the Lady Mayoress to his views--no light task, as
Sir Titus very well knew.  June, with Bim--who as he went seized an
armful of fresh spring flowers--departed, and the mortals went their
ways.

The two from Fairyland stood by the Mansion House railings watching the
carriages draw up and drive away, bearing their excited loads of men
with purposes.  Not till the last had gone, and the City resumed its
wonted state of comparative peace, did June and he turn in the direction
of Paradise Court.

How to get there?  A solitary motor-cab waited by the pavement on the
other side of the road, the chauffeur talking of tyres and race-horses
to a loafer.  The driver was one of the impossible brigade, who mark
their superiority to ordinary folk by disdaining to accept passengers
save when it exactly suited them.  June saw this monarch of the road
reject the prayers of five stranded wayfarers for no other reason than
that his views on the coming Derby were not yet fully told.

So she acted.  She took her wand and waved it.  A puzzled expression
flitted over the face of the man.  He mounted the seat of the cab, moved
the steering wheel, jerked a lever, and drove to where the fairy and
gnome were waiting.  The loafer and an interested policeman who had
sauntered up looked amazed at this comedy of mystery.

They watched the machine stop, the driver alight and open the door with
a bow of great respect to--nothing.  They saw the cab at its best speed
pass rapidly into Cornhill and hurry eastward.  When it had glided out
of sight the loafer breathed an incredulous whistle, and the policeman
found words of wonder.  "Well, I’m blowed!" was the inadequate all he
could say.

Their astonishment was nothing to that of the driver.  He was astounded.
He could do nothing but continue his course, steering the car boldly
along clattering streets, travelling as if guided by an overwhelming
unseen influence, here and there, through tortuous strange ways, until
instinctively he applied the brake and stopped beside a mean
public-house at the entrance to an alley.

Hurriedly, as if fearful of keeping important patrons waiting, he sprang
from his seat, reopened the door of the apparently empty cab, and again
made obeisance.

Then, when the invisible passengers had alighted, he shut the door with
a bang, and swore thoroughly till he found relief.

June did not enter any of the houses, but with Bim dangling at the end
of the wand--his left arm still clasping the flowers--flew up to the
roof, carrying him with her.

At once reaction came.  The excitement and the interest of the day’s
proceedings had kept her going; but now, when the time for quiet had
come, she passed into a state of torpor and depression. She forgot her
triumphs, lost the exhilaration which success had raised in her, and
knew, even more than after her first arrival, the grossness and almost
hopeless ugliness which beset her.  For the first time in a delightful
life, she was visited with the blues.

That was an opportunity for Bim.

The long bouts of sleep had refreshed him, and he proved less sensitive
than June to the effects of their environment.  He took the flowers, and
with rapid fingers wove a fairy-bower about her. The white and yellow
cups and one purple violet, refreshed by his affection, revived in
sympathy. June, noting Bim’s helpfulness, took cheer and courage again.
For a whole day she remained harassed and weary; but on the following
evening she faced her task again.

She flew languidly to the brink of a chimney-pot and studied the world
around.  Black roofs, seedy houses, blank windows and glaring lights on
every side: over all stretched the haze that had frightened her.

"Poor humanity!" she murmured, "doomed day and night, year after year,
from birth to death, to be bricked in like that!"

She did not now waste energy in expressing apostrophe, but made
immediate plans.  She attended to the flowers which Bim had rescued from
death.

She touched the cut ends and strengthened their power of life; then
lovingly she arranged the best of them about the dusty base of the
chimney-stack.  They were precious possessions, treasures to hoard.

Bim had seen in a forgotten flower-box in a corner of the court mould,
gathered years before from a lost garden.  That would do!  He went to
get some, while June stood on the flat parapet and looked on the court
below.

Darkness, dirt, decay!  How very like life in the town!  She looked
above at the wounded sky.  Two planets and the moon shone dimly through
London smoke.  The fairy yearned to be above that cloud, to swim in the
azure ocean of night, to be closer to the stars, nearer the ideals,
farther from muck-raking men.  Up, up, and up!

She spread wings and climbed the skylark’s stairway.  Up and up she
went, deliriously happy now, thinking the thoughts the laverock sings.
For a while she absolutely forgot weariness and heartache, and only knew
gladness of life and the passion to be nearer the light.

Her wings did not cease their beating till she was out of the haze,
breathing again the untroubled air which is, indeed, to men and to
fairies, life.  Then resting on wings outspread, she hung motionless, an
atom of light potential, brooding over the miles of lurid city.

Her heart became heavy and sorry because of the burdens of men.  To her
sight, London was a ruined wilderness, lit here and there with yellow
flares.  Where the parks stretched was mere blackness, interspersed with
dimly shining slabs of pond and lake as the shrouded moonshine happened
to fall on them.  The Thames, except for occasional gleams of reflected
moonlight, was a grey ribbon, a wedge driven through luridness, a
forbidding fact.

The red canopy of haze which in Elfdom had oppressed her stretched
underneath.  It was a barrier between man and the stars--heavy and
palpable.  The shining worlds which lend magic to the night are so
potent an influence for mind-good, bringing exaltation and the high
dreams, that what hindered their contemplation was an evil to be
banished and destroyed.  So June argued, puzzling how to end it.  Fairy
cogitation!  Yet is it so futile?

She was glad to change her gaze and look above her.  There it
spread--star dust, the firmament, myriads of worlds and suns supremely
magnificent, infinite, uplifting, yet, with all the stir of the soul it
occasioned, bringing strengthening humility.  If men used their eyes and
minds and saw more of the shine of the universe; if they watched the
constellations in their annual orbits, knew the unique Sirius as a
friend, recognized Arcturus, greeted the Pleiades after their summer
absence, would not ideals be nobler, hopes happier, tolerance of
meanness in its many shapes impossible?

While the fairy rested in her blissful aerial loneliness, she became
aware of a gradual gladness, an added sense of joy--more subtle than had
blessed her spirits since her flight from the Violet Valley--visiting
her.  It roused her from reverie to realities.

Fairies--her own people--were approaching, calling her.  Their voices
and brilliance were better than pearls and wealth.

"June, our June, come back to us!  Come back!  Come back!"

The appeal was powerful.  With almost the swiftness of light the fairies
flew.  It was the company of knights, half a century strong, who had
been commissioned to conduct June after the crowning home to the Land of
Wild Roses.  She turned with gladness to greet them.  Like was coming to
like.  Sympathies were drawing together.  They were her own people, her
comrades; they pleaded with her to leave her crusade in the darkness,
and return to delight.

Their presence was welcome, but not even then could she forget the
children and those others whose plight required the gifts of the
fairies.  When the elf-world had helped them, she would go back gladly,
but--not yet.  She could not leave Sally and her mates of Paradise Court
or the other dim millions whose need of beauty and joy and light she
knew.

She closed her wings and sank to earth, leaving the knights above the
cloud, wheeling and calling to her in vain.  They looked through the
veil at the world beneath and reluctantly flew back to Fairyland.

She found Bim busy, home-building.  He had gathered some "smoke-dried"
moss from roofs and chimneys, wondering the while at the angular world
he clambered over, and had beaten it into a bed for her, with cobwebs
for coverlet.  He was coaxing the newly-planted flowers to feel at home,
and all the while was singing, croakingly and cheerily, as if a draughty
roof over Paradise Court was as near Fairyland as need be.  So it was to
him then, while working for June.

She did not interrupt him--his activity and happiness were balm and
strength to her--but descended the chimney into the room.

Sally was fast asleep, so were the two men and the mother of the babe.
The infant was weakly crying.  The two other women were awake and
working, toiling by the light of a candle. Their eyes were dazed and
weak through its flickering uncertainties, but the effort had to be. All
the protest they made was to curse and chide the wailing infant.  June,
heedless of the economies, touched them to sleep, and prudently put out
the light.

She gave the sleepers dreams to cheer and comfort them.  Sally was back
once more in the land of the glorious waterfall.  Bill was tramping
along a dusty road with the promise of beer ahead.  Then June quieted
the baby by kissing its eyes, giving the hungry mite the comfort of
slumber.

What was to become of that mortal, born to be blighted and doomed?
There she touched our heaviest problem.  The fact of life meant misery
to that mite.  The fairy noted with sadness its sunken eyes, pinched
cheeks, and limbs no thicker than firewood, and wondered and wondered
what to do.  If that child was left so, neglected and starved through
the innutrition that was all its mother could give it, it would die.
Should that be?

She wished that some of the wasted provender from the Lord Mayor’s board
could be given to the children who needed food, and decided forthwith to
fetch some for the many infant victims of Paradise Court.

She passed through the window, waving to it to open and shut as she
went, and was away like light on her quest.

She flashed along the silent streets, rose to pass over the City,
brushed with her left wing the dragon on Bow Church steeple, fluttered
for a contemplative moment over the west door of St. Paul’s, came to
earth at the Griffin.

She watched omnibuses and cabs go by, and streams of belated people.
She looked eagerly into their faces, but found none quite to her liking.
So she resumed her flight along the Strand and rested on the railings
before Charing Cross.

Two gilded youths came swaggering along, helping and hindering each
other, their arms linked.  They had white, empty faces, crush-hats were
villainously aslant on their heads, their black cape coats were open,
showing broad shirt-fronts with shining diamond studs.

They sometimes sang a spasm of chorus, sometimes peevishly quarrelled,
sometimes were uncomplimentary to passers-by.  They were adopted sons of
Silenus, swollen with insolence and wine.

June descended to the junction of their linked arms, and poked each
vigorously, thrice, with her wand, putting good purposes into their
muzzy brains.

Their ideas became clearer.  They stopped, lurched, and with a fine
effort stood upright like manly men.  One assumed his monocle, and said,
"Jove!"  They crossed the road, ignoring the rapid traffic as if it were
not, and entered a confectioner’s shop, which remained open nightly till
the fairy hour.

Each planked down two sovereigns.

"Buns," said one.

"Milk," demanded the other.

"Chocolate."

"Cups!"

The weary waitresses thought the youths were making fun of them, but
seeing the gold, and glad to be rid of their balance of scones and buns,
they piled all they had before these customers, brought great tins of
milk, and packets full of chocolate, with all the chipped, cracked cups
they could hurriedly find and spare.

One of these unwitting philanthropists stared at the sixpence-halfpenny
change which a conscientious cashier had put in his gloved hand; the
other gazed through his eyeglass, startled by the quantity of their
purchases.  June smilingly approved their deeds and intentions.

"We’ll have a growler!" they declared together.

A curious crowd of waitresses and passers-by helped them to load the
vehicle, repeated their united command to go "That way"--Eastward--and
sped them on their journey with a laughing cheer.

"What have we done this for?" said the one to the other.

"Lord knows," was the answer, "but we’ll do it."

Lulled by the closeness of the cab, the smell of the buns, the rattle of
the cups, and their innate sense of virtuous doing, the happy couple put
heads together and slept, till they were wakened by the rattling and
clattering of the cab passing over a granite causeway.

The Jehu came to his senses first.  June, who had been standing in his
chest pocket, where he illegally kept his badge, stopped him by Paradise
Court.

"I dunno why I done it, but I did!" he said to a policeman, who, seeing
a waiting cab, had sauntered up.

Bim came scurrying down from the roof.

"Sit on his head," June commanded him.  The gnome perched on the
policeman’s helmet. "Make him help!"

The youths dragged at and lifted down their tins of milk.  Then the
cabman, policeman, and they boldly entered the court, crept into every
room of every house--there are few locks in Paradise Court, and bolts
are seldom shot there--and put by each sleeping child a cup of milk, a
bun and a piece of chocolate--surprises for their awakening.

The good things were just enough for the number needing them, with five
buns left over, which the cabman pocketed.

The human quartet eventually emerged from the court, radiant with
kindness.

"I could do a drink," said the policeman, darkening his bull’s-eye
lantern.

"Same ’ere," said the heated charioteer.

"And so say all of us!" chimed the youths.

The policeman gave a peculiar whistle.  An upper window of the
public-house was quietly opened.

"’Oo goes there?" whispered Bung.

"Us, Tim," said the policeman.

"Right-oh, Alfred! ’arf a mo’."

The wearer of the monocle produced some silver.

"My turn," he said; "four whiskies."

While these givers of goodness rewarded themselves, June went to her
nest for sleep.

"This is the beginning of the new Fairyland," she said gratefully to
Bim, who beamed.



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                        *THE PROGRESS OF OBERON*


The Lord Mayor’s Banquet became history, though in the beginning the
newspapers were inclined to pay slight attention to it.  If it had
happened in the dog-days, when attractive "copy" for holiday idlers is
at a premium, it would without any especial effort on the part of the
fairies, have been seized by journalists and made the easy rage of a
summer season.  It would have swamped the sea-serpent, rendered the
giant gooseberry an unblown bubble, prevented imaginative pessimists
from indulging annual fears of the future of our daughters and the
failure of our marriages; would have made the ordinary Silly Season a
period of real, recreative, intellectual bliss.

But June, in her decisions, had no concern for any mere editor’s
convenience, and caught the powers of Fleet Street just at their busiest
time. Parliament was still mouthing about the Budget, and adding to the
troubles of Tadpole and Taper; a miniature General Election--three
by-elections at once--was in progress; the summer worlds of sport were
getting into swing; an earthquake had played havoc with the island of
Zikki-baboo; the natives of the North-West Frontier of India had been
once more at their sniping, inviting a new punitive expedition to be
despatched; Gertie Feathergirl of the Gaiety had become romantically
engaged to the Hon. Stanley Stallboys, and was making her last
appearances--to the delight of a gushing multitude--before she retired
to private life and the management of a motor business; the Very Grand
Duke of Hotzenbosch had written a postcard, marked private, which
necessitated the rapid commissioning of two flying squadrons: in brief,
everything that could possibly happen at that crowded time was
happening; and news-editors began to wonder why they lived.

Then June came to town, and what had to occur did occur!  The Lord Mayor
made his speech, the Archdeacon followed suit.  A revolution in ideals
was blowing up.  What was Fleet Street to do?  Should the circumstance
be made a splash of; or interned in a few facetious paragraphs? What a
pity, said they, it had not been kept till the year was in its
wilderness!

The facts were too important to be buried and ignored.  A Lord Mayor is
not original, an Archdeacon not on the heights, for nothing!  Editors
can do most things; but any attempt on their parts to smother the
influence of the fairies is as futile as the broom of Mrs. Partington;
it merely demonstrates that they are only human after all.

The banquet and its tendencies had to be reported and commented on, with
headlines.  So the papers took it up.

Parliament, Gertie Feathergirl, war, actual and diplomatic, with all
other matters of passing concern, were compelled to take their proper
subordinate places in the daily prints and public interest.

The best of the newspapers, that which you and I support, O reader,
began the Press crusade.  It gave four columns of description and appeal
on its principal page; and this was the heading:

                         OBERON SHALL BE KING.


And all the while Oberon was in one or other of his castles--in Ireland,
in Wales, in Spain, in that dim country where the dreams are made, in
Weissnichtwo--living the fairy life, making the birds, flowers, clouds
and rivers happier; yet, never for the tithe of an instant, forgetting
the madness of June.

The particular newspaper we refuse to have anything to do with, O
reader--the newspaper whose opinions we despise and deplore--scoffed at
the fairies in its usual cocksure way, as was to be expected!  It
professed to regard the Lord Mayor’s plea as the agreeable sentiment of
a well-dined gentleman, and made play with a leaderette in which Titania
was called a myth and the fairies fruits of nightmare.

Such conduct on the part of a widely-read journal had to be answered.

June--let it be granted--treated its iconoclastic persiflage with the
toleration of contempt.  She, too, did not read the newspapers; but
Archdeacon Pryde, who recognized that Sir Titus would not condescend to
defend himself against such an attack, and remembering that he also was
involved in that halfpenny condemnation, called a cab, packed a
snuff-box with voice-lozenges, and went with heat and dudgeon to the
headquarters of the offending newspaper.

He was welcomed with a military salute by the commissionaire at the
gate; snapshotted thrice--when paying the cabman, eating a lozenge, and
handing his card to a youth in the enquiry office. When inside the
editorial sanctum, he was induced to pose for two flash-light
photographs--one showing him engaged in earnest talk with the great man,
the other with his hand resting on the tousled head of a printer’s
devil.

These pictures were to illustrate an "interview"--dictated to a
shorthand writer--which explained the Archdeacon’s ideas and intentions
in connection with his and the Lord Mayor’s new determinings, and so
gave the Editor an excuse for a _volte-face_.

The Archdeacon was in a rapture of enthusiasm white hot.  This prominent
usefulness, or useful prominence, was gratifying.  He promised to send
his menu, that the inscribed resolutions might be reproduced in
facsimile for the morrow’s issue; and ended by asking the Editor to tea.

He went home more conscious than ever of being a man of influence and
work.

So even the paper which you and I, O reader, habitually dislike and
ignore, came over to the side of light.

The great organs of the Press, with amazing unanimity, rolled their
machines, blew trumpets, and beat drums, in the interests of Fairy
Reform. It was no sudden affair, that splendid combination; but a
gradual all-round awakening to the benefit, delight, and need of
preaching the causes of Elfdom.

The sober weeklies followed with such assumption of authority that they
seemed to think they were leading.  They had no hesitancy.  The
monthlies and quarterlies also, in due time, continued the chorus.  It
took about four months to bring this trend of influence to perfection,
but then the cause went on like a tidal wave.

Oberon and Titania, strangely unconscious of the new-won rage for fairy
goodness, became social factors; they left the select preserve of the
Folklorists to become magazine favourites, the darlings of Fashion, high
and low.

But this is very like anticipation, that bugbear of the sober historian,
so we return to the present, as it was.

Emmanuel Oldstein found the keeping of his ideals a hard business.  His
midnight enthusiasm had strangely waned by the time of the milkman’s
chant.

The breakfast-table on the morrow morn was very like a battlefield;
there were storms in five tea-cups.  His family opposed his good
intentions with earnestness, broken English, and some quotation of the
Pentateuch, and thereby through the rule of contrariness, kept him to
his purpose. Their obstinacy strengthened his.  He stuck gamely to his
guns, and began his course at once by doubling Ernie Jenkins’ wages,
enabling that young patriot to enlarge his indulgence in bitter beer, to
wear three clean collars a week, and to promise Emily--with a few
safeguarding "ifs"--that some day she might be "Mrs. J."

Emmanuel’s family yielded to his wishes when he bought them over.  He
gave Mrs. Oldstein a purple silk dress trimmed with jet, a big bangle,
and a gold watch so small that its works could never move.  Max, who
presumed to strange heights of impudent sarcasm on the subject of "the
guvnor’s flum," was given a minor partnership in the emporium, provided
he was not merely just, but generous, in all his dealings.

He quickly agreed, and became a pompous person, forgetful of old
associates.

Keeping the resolutions was certainly a hard and bitter business to the
old man; but it did him good.  He never lost sight of the promise of tea
with the Archdeacon.

The hardest effort came when those pious folk next door took the bait,
and approached Jabez Gordon of Jermyn Street for a loan--"to extend
their efforts for the Cause."

Emmanuel unwisely informed Hannah of the fact.  Her eyes blazed with
angry happiness. At last!  At last!

"Now squelch ’em, Pa!" she pleaded, in her commanding manner.

"Thertainly, my dear!" he said evasively; and hurriedly put on his hat
to commune with himself in a walk round the squares.  Here was a pass!

The undying remembrance of persecution, endured through ages by his
people, flamed within him.  Years of petty trading and the practices of
sharp finance had not entirely subdued his inherited racial fire.  And
of all the Anti-Semite persecutors, none were so exasperating as those
infatuated, contemptible sentimentalists--the pin-prick fanatics--who
hoped to "convert" him, asking him to exchange the breadths of his own
faith, based on centuries of national sacrifice and fighting history,
for their traditionless, unimaginative, sapless sectarianism.  It was a
hard effort to spare those people at that moment of possible revenge.

Shylock had his twentieth-century opportunity.

When Emmanuel reached home again he was still undecided.  An ancient
battle was furious in his breast.  He slept that night with a pile of
the offensive mission notices beside his pillow, and turned and dreamed
in a troubled way, murmuring Yiddish.

During breakfast he came to a decision, which he kept to himself.

"Father, I am glad you can punish them," said Hannah significantly, as
she helped him with his outer coat.  That was the only remark passed on
the subject.  Wisely, he held his peace.

He wrote from his office of finance in Jermyn Street--at first view you
would think it a place of sale for strong cigars and strange red
wines--to the sanctimonious young man, inviting Mr. Lemuel Buskin Junior
to call upon Jabez Gordon "to complete the little matter of business
about which Mr. Lemuel Buskin Junior had written."

Then Oldstein went on to the City, and got from Max a list of the
workers--the sweated workers--who gave their lives to the making of his
wealth.  He would visit them all, and investigate their condition, doing
whatever he could--be it little or much--to modify their wants and
sufferings.  The last on that list of mean, poor ones, was Sally Wilkins
of Paradise Court. Already he had arranged or made purposes to pay every
one of his employees a living wage, whatever the result might be in the
increase of prices and consequent possible loss of customers. It was a
bold policy.  To Emmanuel Oldstein, even still more to Max, it was very
like inexcusable sin.  To pay more than need be for anything was to
blaspheme against the gods of Economics.  But he insisted on doing it,
and did it.  To anticipate for the last time, the policy paid.

Emmanuel’s blood was up.  He kept his written resolutions before him
wherever he went.  They and the menu reminded him of the Lord Mayor’s
appeal, of his own pledges, of his hopes of civic advancement, of the
Archdeacon’s invitation to tea. Again that night a battle raged in his
breast. Hannah kept watchful eyes upon him.

On the following morning money-lender and victim emerged from their
front-doors simultaneously. Neither appeared to notice the
other--according to the canons of the unwritten law which rules the
no-relation of next-door neighbours. None so far away as at the other
side of a party wall!

The heir of the Buskins was less beautiful than good.  His nose was the
index to his mind.  It pointed heavenwards.  His thoughts were built of
texts and depression.  He had a saddened soul, but was never bankrupt of
pious hope.  He yearned that sinners should walk with him on the pearly
pathways, and knew the naughty when he met them.  So, in any case, it
was not to be expected he should notice Oldstein, who in every respect
offended and roused his religious antipathies.  Lemuel was one of those
whose thoughts reach the heights of the chimney-pots; they soar, yet are
smothered with smuts.

Emmanuel noticed him.  The Jew’s keen eyes with a glance read the story
told by the other’s clothes.  Lemuel was in blacks--his Sunday best. The
coat had a tail; the hat was silken.  He carried brown gloves and his
mother’s umbrella nicely rolled.  His little sleek yellow moustache had
upward twists; the whiskerettes which roused Hannah’s ire and contempt
were carefully trimmed. He wore a tartan necktie--to gratify that
Scotsman, Jabez Gordon.

Oldstein grunted--there was joy in his nose--as they climbed into an
omnibus together.  The merchant took out his notebook and soon was
controlling figures, while Lemuel stared at the advertisements or table
of fares, stroked the careful crease in his trousers, and nervously
fingered the points of his collar.

The omnibus stopped at Piccadilly Circus; they alighted.  Lemuel had to
ask the way to Jermyn Street; Oldstein knew it, and was soon in his
office eagerly attacking a pile of letters. Five minutes later his one
clerk--a magnificent creature whose greatest asset was a capacity for
being stylish on very little--brought in Buskin’s name.

"He must wait," said the master gruffly, "while I dictate letters.
Hurry!"

He solemnly put the pile of mission notices on the desk before him, and
closely attended to his correspondence.

Lemuel was waiting with the pitiful patience of a deserted lamb.  His
little heart was excitedly fluttering.  He felt strangely fearful.  He
was not used to business.  He would have given sixpence to have seen
himself in a looking-glass, to be sure his hair was tidy, his tie
straight.  He eyed the dingy furniture of the stuffy room, and felt his
courage going.  He had expected to see more adornment than this; but he
had read that the truly wealthy make the least display.

He fixed his gaze steadily on the door through which the clerk had gone,
regarding it with mingled dread and longing.  "Lasciate ogni speranza,
voi ch’ entrate" might well have been written above it.

Twenty minutes passed--Father Time, to spite his impatience, grossly
enlarged every one of the twelve hundred seconds--before the splendid
clerk reopened the door, ostentatiously closed an untidy shorthand book,
and said: "Will ye go in?"

Lemuel Buskin rose trembling.  His knees seemed to have forgotten their
strength.  But he remembered his mother’s counsel, plucked up courage,
and repeated mentally the stimulating chorus of a hymn.  He was, as he
entered the private office and took the offered seat, in such a whirl of
confusion that he did not at once recognize the person of the financier.

Suddenly he was aware of Oldstein’s identity, and blushed hotly.

"I ca-came to see Mr. Gordon!"

"I am Mithter Gordon!"

"Ja-Jabez Gordon?"

"Jabez Gordon! and you are Mithter Buthkin."

"But you--I--oh!"

"Exthactly!  Oh! ith jutht the word.  Mithter Buthkin, I’m glad to thee
you.  We’re old acquaintanthes, we are, although you may not know it!
You ask my daughter ’Annah ’ow much indebted to you we feel.  My ’Annah
lookth on you ath a brother, a Christian brother.  Thee them
billth?"--Emmanuel slapped the pile of mission notices with a dingy
hand.  Lemuel’s last shadow of pluck was evaporating fast; but Oldstein
with the question challenged his fanaticism.

"I’m proud to be a labourer in the vineyard!" was the surly defiant
reply.

"And well may be!  But you’re an unthkilled labourer, Mr. Buthkin.  Now
I’m glad you’ve called, for I want to talk to you; you’re goin’ to
listen and then we may do bithness."

Lemuel, surprised and unprepared, was cowed by Oldstein’s decision and
speech.  He had bitterness on his tongue, but refrained from any retort.

"Do you believe in the fairieth, Mithter Buthkin?" was the unexpected
question.

Lemuel could only stare and wonder.

"Answer me!"

"Certainly I do not!"

"That’th a pity.  I do."

"I believe in higher things."

"And do you live up to them?"

Lemuel gasped.

"I didn’t come here to be insulted."

"No, Mithter Buthkin, and I don’t go ’ome to be inthulted with them
things--do you recognithe ’em?--in my letter-box.  Who put ’em there?
Look at ’em well!  You did.  Why?  Because you’re a tuppenny little
thkunk--I leave your parenth out of it, for they’re too old to know
better; they’re past mendin’--you’re a little tuppenny thkunk who
prethumes to think that your belief ith the whole and only truth, and
that my belief--which my fathers and their fathers ’eld for thouthandth
on thouthandth of yearth, long before London wath more than a puddle,
ith--I don’t know what you think it ith.  You can’t compre’end it,
Mithter Buthkin, no, you can’t!"

The old man paused and watched his victim keenly.  He then burst out
with speech of passion.

"You to convert uth!  You to wish to make uth such Christians as
yourselves--nuisances in the street--thingin’, blarin’, thpeakin’
uncharitably of our neighbourth!  To convert uth! Father Abraham!  I’d
rather be a persecuted Jew, stoned, starved, beaten, ’ated--as we have
been ’ated, starved and stoned for thousandth of yearth--than such a
Christian!  Even if I ’ad to be a damned thoul burnin’, rottin’,
stinkin’ in Gehenna for ever afterwardth, I would not be such a
Christian!  Thit down, Mithter Buthkin!"

Lemuel hesitated, but obeyed.  He hated and feared this old man of
anger, whose voice had become powerful with passion.  Somehow the
armoury of texts seemed insufficient.

"I athked you jutht now if you believed in the fairieth, and you thaid
’No.’  Well, I do believe in ’em, and it ith well for you I do.  I meant
to punish you for worryin’ us with them billth.  I meant to crush you,
to end you.  There’th nothin’ tho easy in bithness life ath for a
finanthier to crush a poor man, if ’e likes.  I meant to crush you and
your people because of your cruelty to uth.  I’d ’ave lent you moneys at
such a rate of interest, on such artful terms, that you couldn’t ’ave
paid it back; and I’d ’ave bought you up and broke you, body and soul.
But the other night I wath dinin’ at the Mansion ’Ouse with the Right
Honourable the Lord Mayor and my friend the Venerable Reverend
Archdeacon Pryde, who’s athked me to tea with him. You read what
appeared in the papers, ’aven’t you?  Everyone there made resolutions,
and, like the others, I made promises, which I’m goin’ to keep.  Lucky
for you, Mr. Buthkin, that I did. Now I’ll begin by makin’ you a
prethent.  I give you back them billth.  Here they are.  What common
paper you do use for ’em!  I could put you in the way of buying much
better quality at the price you pay, I bet!  Burn ’em!  Take ’em ’ome
and burn ’em!  And now, if you like, we’ll talk bithness.  Mithter
Buthkin, I was glad you wrote to me.  Ha, ha!"  His laugh was not
musical.  "You must ’ave been agreeably surprithed when you found Jabez
Gordon was me! ’Annah would laugh, too, if I were to tell ’er ’ow you
looked.  But bithness now!"

Lemuel, who had just been feeling limp, made an effort to rouse himself.
The genial note in Oldstein’s voice was to him as balm in Gilead.

"You want a ’undred poundth--to thpread the cause, ath you call it.
Well, I ain’t goin’ to lend you money to thpread any cause, but I’ll be
better than my bond: I’ll lend you a ’undred at 10 per thent--50 per
thent. would be low enough, too low for such rotten thecurity ath you
can give--on condition that you pay your family’s debts with it.  I know
about ’em, Mithter Buthkin; E. Oldstein’s a knowing one.  Also, that not
one ’alfpenny of it goes to convertin’ anybody.  I’ve never made such an
offer ath this before, and if any man ’ad told me a year ago I’d do it,
I’d ’ave called ’im somethin’.  You can thank the fairieth for it.  But
that ain’t all!  I’ll give you ten pound at once--’ere they are, nice
fat yellow boys, ain’t they?--to buy food and clothin’ for poor
Christians--Christians, mind!--who need it.  I’ll trutht you to
dithtribute the moneys honestly.  Put ’em away carefully, Mithter
Buthkin.  To-night you can come to my ’ouse--it’s next door to
yours--number forty-eight, and fetch the loan and sign the document.
Jutht realithe thith, Mithter Buthkin, I’m treatin’ you wonderfully
well--the fairieth ’ave made me do it!--but, mind my words, put another
paper of any kind into my letter-box, or let me find you even printin’ a
bill about the Conversion of the Jewth--and fairieth or no
fairieth--I’ll crush you!"

Oldstein sat down exhausted.  He took a strong cigar out of a drawer,
cut and lighted it with quivering fingers.

Lemuel’s mind was in a riot of confusion. Qualms of conscience, of
gratitude, of fear swept through him.  He rose mechanically, picked up
and pocketed the ten sovereigns, and feebly squeezed Oldstein’s
proffered hand.

"Do you thmoke, Mr. Buthkin?" asked Emmanuel.

"No!"

"Does your Dad thmoke?"

"No!"

"That’th a great pity.  So good for the ’eart! If you wanted to buy
thome cigarth at any time, real ’Avanah, I could get you a ’undred--good
uns, mind; strong, with a flavour--for a very low price.  Well, theven
o’clock to-night!  ’Annah will be pleased to see you!"

Lemuel walked the whole way home, and more than once said, "Dash!"



                              *CHAPTER X*

                        *THE IMPORTANCE OF BIM*


It was some few weeks before Emmanuel Oldstein was able to fulfil his
good intention of visiting Paradise Court.  Sally was the last on his
list, and not till June’s name-month was half-way through could he come
to her.

Meanwhile things had been happening.  The newspaper crusade was going
well, and the two from Fairyland were using their efforts to help it
forward.

The gnome was becoming influential in Paradise Court.  It was in
especial his province.  June, with her wings and magic, could visit a
wide area; but he, with his poor inches and limitations, was necessarily
stay-at-home.  Partly through accident he began a revolution which was
fated to have important effect in the recovery of London.  This is how
it happened.

The old flower-box whence he had taken the mould for their flourishing
roof-garden was a faded, decrepit affair; otherwise its meagre quantity
of wood would surely, long ago, have been broken and used as fuel.  For
years it had stood in a dank corner, barren and forgotten.  Then, in a
fit of prankishness, Bim carried down a violet, the only one gathered in
the Mansion House posy, and planted it.  June had given it power of
life; with the tenacity of its kind it had struggled, flourished and
come to bloom.

It was the gnome’s treasure.  He was proud of its being, and looked
after it in a spoilt parental way, exaggerating its few qualities,
blessedly blind to its defects.

For some days it bluely blushed unseen; and then came into a prominence
which half pleased, half frightened it.

Poll Skinner cast her husband-blacked eyes upon it.

"Lor’ lummy!" she cried, "a voilet!"

She looked at the flower and thereupon fell in a dream.  A violet in
Paradise Court!  For the first time for years she was out of the ugly
present, away from the base life about her.

Memories of old days, clean days, lived again. She saw herself as she
was, before sin, want and selfishness had claimed and kept her.  As she
was!  As she was!  She remembered her father’s cottage, with its garden
of pinks and wallflowers. She remembered a wood near an ivied church;
and was once again a girl, hunting for primroses, bluebells and violets.
She remembered her white pinafore and her cleverness at weaving
daisy-chains.  How clean in all ways was that maiden life!  And now----
Paradise Court!  Drink and the devil had taken their toll!  God!

Poll found tears in her eyes when she woke to the present.  She wiped
her face with grimy hands and left traces.

"Blimey, ’ere’s old Poll drunk again!" said one of the knights of the
place, a hulking fellow who called himself a dock-labourer, but whose
idle hands were almost rooted to his pockets.  "What yer starin’ at,
Poll?"

Poll indicated the flower.  He saw it and stretched forth a hand.

"There ain’t much to blub about in that!"

"Leave it be, Mike!" she cried, fearing his destructiveness.  "Leave it
be!  It’s a voilet!"

"A what?  Let’s ’ave a look!  Who are ye shovin’?  I want to look at
it."  She resisted him.  "I’ll wipe yer eyes if ye don’t!"

He pushed forward with all his strength, intending, in sheer debasing
mischief, to grab and crush the flower; but Poll struggled like a
cat-woman to prevent him.  He lost temper and struck her in the face.
She, shrieking and shrill, tore his forehead with her nails, and tried
to bite him. Her hair came loose.  There was blood on her cheek.  The
animal emerged from Man.

The tumult of shuffling feet and foul speech brought others of the Court
to doorways and windows.  Women, who knew nothing of the cause of the
combat, added their voices to Poll’s in vigorous denunciation of Mike.
The men--brave fellows!--looked on and grinned.  One slunk away from the
scene of the encounter; that was Skinner, Poll’s natural protector and
supposed husband.  He went into the public-house and ordered beer.

The battle ended when Mike had accomplished his purpose and grasped the
flower.  He threw it on the pavement and ground it with his boot. Then
he went away leisurely to enjoy refreshment after victory.  His thirst
had found an excuse.  Poll’s fury lapsed into noisy tears.  She entered
her one room, threw a rusty flat-iron on the floor, and nagged at the
children.

Bim had watched this commotion from the parapet above.  He sprawled on
the cement-work, peeped at the tangle of heads below, and felt
thoroughly frightened.  Deeply did he regret that June was not there.
She would have fought on the side of Poll and the violet, and given them
victory.  Had only her wand been left behind he could and would have
intervened effectively.  But nothing could be done.  When he saw
brutality win, he went moodily back to the fairies’ garden, and pondered
on ugly things.

The blues drove him into a brown study.  He decided the affair should
not end there.  He uprooted a lingering primrose, and crept down with
it.  He carefully grubbed the mould in the box to freshen its jadedness,
and planted the yellow flower--the fairies’ oriflamme.

Back to the parapet he clambered to wait and watch.

Hours passed by.  Nothing happened that day to reward his patience.  The
people of Paradise Court are not observant.  The primrose lived and
shone without appreciation until the morrow, when June magically drew
attention to it.  Some children first caught sight of it and curiously
poked at it with sticks.  It was a new wonder to them.

Poll saw the group about the box, and came to look.  The wrath of
yesterday was requickened within her.  The children in their wisdom
edged away from the virago, who carried the box to the sill outside her
window, dumped it down; and then, in a voice of challenge, screamed out:

"’Ere’s a primrose come!  If anybody touches this, by Gawd, I’ll murder
’im!"

Mike, having won his battle yesterday, was quite good-tempered to-day.
He sauntered up to look at the flower and laughed.

"I won’t touch it, Poll.  You can ’ave yer measly primrose," and went
off for another drink.

Poll hesitated, then followed him: their feud was drowned in beer.

The primrose lived for a week, and held a sort of continuous reception.
Bim was as proud as a peacock about it.  He got stiff-neck staring over
the parapet, straining to hear the compliments and praise.  Everybody in
the Court paid it a daily visit and undue tributes.  The children could
hardly be induced to keep their hands from it.  Their fingers itched to
pluck; but Poll Skinner was a power to be feared.  She kept sober in
order to be the better sentinel.

Mike suddenly shifted the interest of Paradise Court to his abode by
bringing home three flowerpots containing hyacinths--how he obtained
them had better not be asked.  As at the same time the primrose happened
to fade, and its plant had no promise of buds, Poll felt chagrin.  The
balance of her world was shifted.  Mike held the hub of the hemisphere.

She drank herself silly with gin, and beat her children frightfully; but
the return of sober sanity brought new ideas.  Poll rose to the
occasion. She sent her "old man" to a distant churchyard to steal some
good new mould; and then bought--actually bought--from the publican’s
wife, a rose-plant warranted to flower.

Poll bore it home triumphantly, while Paradise Court smiled.

Mike’s hyacinths--in comparison with Poll’s aristocratic plant--had now
to take a second place, very far-behind, in the public interest. And it
was no good making reprisals.  Neither his wits nor his wealth would
enable him to do better than Poll.  Moreover, the fashion of flowers was
spreading.  Three other residents in the colony had put up rough
window-boxes, with green things in them; and the children, keen to
follow their elders, found tins, jam-pots, pickle-jars, and planted
within them anything they could get; grass, if nothing of the flower
kind was available.

Bim felt a third of an inch taller; he trod with an airier tread, now
that his influence over Paradise Court had become so manifest.  He
laboured with Salvationist ardour to help the people; supplementing and
moderating their energies, and encouraged the flowers to live.  For
hours he would sit in blest invisibility by one or other of the plants,
enjoying the admiring remarks addressed to them, sharing the general
satisfaction.

Families came to talk of weedy green things as if they were spreading
chestnut-trees; while those members of the community who, having gone
"hopping," had actual experience of wild life and woodland facts were
regarded as travellers and oracles.  Living up to their opportunities,
they told vegetable counterparts of certain fish stories.  Bim’s blessed
interference certainly caused some white stealth and a multitude of
tarradiddles.

Nor was the indirect influence of the gnome yet at an end.

’Arry Bailey was the instrument of the next progressive step.  He had
some nasturtiums and was ambitious of getting them to climb in festoons
round his window.  He used nails, string, language and glue.  At last he
succeeded.  For a time his nasturtiums were the rage.  Their blazing
colours and rapid growth made them popular.  But Bailey, in whom the
æsthetic sense must have been recovering after years of hibernation,
felt that something was lacking.  He smoked three ounces of shag and
scratched his chin for hours on end before it dawned on him what it was.

Then he said "By gum"--that was all he said--and proceeded to surprise
the Court by cleaning his window.  One of the panes was badly cracked,
the mark of some midnight fracas; so--more surprising still--he measured
the gap, bought glass and putty, and entertained a Sunday crowd of
chaffing, envious lookers-on by mending it himself, making a clumsy good
business of it.

Bailey’s act of reformation occasioned criticism and imitation--action
is mostly imitation in Paradise Court.  Before a further seven days had
dawned and darkened not a window on any floor in the Court but was
washed and polished.  In cases where there was no money for mending, new
paper--preferably illustrated--was put in broken places, window-sills
and doorsteps were whitened.

The inhabitants began to feel proud, to give themselves airs, to wash
their necks.

Curtains of all shapes and colours appeared, rooms became tidied: homes
tolerable.  Men stayed indoors to smoke their pipes and gossip, going
less frequently to the public-house.  Not that the improvement was so
rapid as to seem violent.  Paradise Court was, is, and will be till the
trump, a home of conservatism.  Its motion is that of a glacier.  Yet it
does move, and did.  Though drunkenness and slovenliness, with
brutalities of words and of fighting, were still over-frequent, there
was real improvement, and a quiet growth of self-respect, which, after
the lapse of months, had borne remarkable fruit. Bravo, Bim!

The gnome extended his efforts further afield, and was constantly
dropping flowers before children in the alleys and other drearinesses of
London, in order that they might be picked up, taken home, appreciated,
loved, and wanted.

June, learning from him, was glad to follow his example.  She scattered
love-bringing blooms and blossoms--gathered without permission from the
parks--wherever there were brown plain walls and ugliness.  She wanted
the fairies to come back to their ancient rights and rule; but felt they
certainly would not stay where flowers were forgotten.

She longed--longed desperately--for the return of the elves to their
ancient dominion over the town.

One night a company from Elfland made grand appeal to her.  It was a
full hour and more after midnight, and absolutely dark.  No moon shone
on the scene, no stars shed brightness from the sky.

Bim was sprawling on the roof-gutter lost in dreams.  His head rested on
a sparrow’s deserted nest.  June was in her bower, too weary for
visions, even too weary for sleep.  She was tired at heart, thoroughly,
utterly tired!  Her only comfort came from the flowers beaming about
her.  She felt the loneliness of London.  Fairy memories called and
called and called to her.  She was weary of burdens.  This pilgrimage in
the dark city was dreary, heavy, grievous and horrible.  But still, she
must stay.

Her quick ears caught the rustling of many fairy wings in the distance;
only one with sympathies sensitive and truly attuned to the wafting
could have heard them so far away.  She sat and saw elves on the wing.
They were haze-shrouded, high in the sky above.  Would they penetrate
the murky canopy?  Had they come in late answer to her appeals, to help
with the burden, to share in the task of re-creating beauty in the
wilderness?

She watched them wheeling in the upper air in distant luminousness,
curving, descending.  She grasped her wand and followed their progress
intently, hoping all things, yearning to be with them again.

The flowers about June’s bed, the flowers in the court below, lifted
glad heads in greeting. They freshened visibly.  Bim in his slumbers
sighed, and comfortably turned as he slept.

The elves alighted on the roofs around.  There were thousands of them.
Half the folk of the Violet Valley, of the Land of Wild Roses, of other
parts of Fairyland, must have been there.  They were multitudinous,
innumerable, and clustered on rims of chimneys, on angles of houses, on
street-lamps and window-sills, making of dull commonplace a remarkable
series of pictures.  All the while they were singing songs of sweet
appeal.

June donned her crown, while they hovered and settled, and stood to
greet them.  Some sparrows, surprised by the unwonted spectacle, woke
and began chirping.  It was beggarly music, monotonous the word for it:
but it served. London, alas! had nothing better and the sparrows did
their best.  Fairy kindness overlooked the deficiencies.

Suddenly there was silence: elves and birds hushed.

"Welcome, sweet comrades from Fairyland!" said June.  "I am glad you
have visited me amongst these shadows.  Will you stay and help to
restore London to Oberon?"

"Nay, nay," answered a hundred voices, slender and silvern, from here
and from there.

"June, our June!" a sparkling knight then cried to her.  "Your going has
brought gloom into the elf-countries.  Oberon and Titania have been
grieved and absent since your flight; all others of us have felt the
changes.  Come back to us!  It is like living in a valley with the
sunshine and moonlight always gone; like living in a wood where the
flowers for want of blessings and dew are shrivelled.  Change this for
us, June!  Come back, come back!"

"Come back, come back!" echoed the wide chorus, plaintively, pleadingly.

Clocks struck two.  A cold wind came from the sea.

"Sisters and knights from the delightful countries," June answered.  "To
hear your voices is music to a heart which has hungered for melody.  To
be with you again and for ever is the dream of these days and nights.  O
Fairyland, Fairyland!  But for me that cannot be, until this world-town
of vanity and darkness is a part of Fairyland too.  Help us, and work
with us. Already Hope shines through the misery. Already we have been
rewarded--Bim and I.  We have begun well.  Laughter and flowers bloom
where a few weeks ago they could not.  We are going to win.  Men have
listened to our bidding. Elf-rule is leading them.  Their puppet limbs
are bending to the light.  They are beginning again in the darkest parts
to live with beauty and love the fairies.  Bear with us: and help them.
Before next Mayday comes, I must deliver up this crown.  Sweet knights
and sister elves, so work with us that Oberon may be ruling over London
again."

In answer a fairy song went rolling from the assembly, up and up,
piercing the cloud overhead, discovering the stars.  June rejoiced at
the hearing, though still it was an appeal to her--a yearning appeal to
her--to be done with her madness, to submit to Oberon, to return.  June
felt alone.

The new song wakened Bim.  He sat up suddenly, ears pricked sharply with
eager attention.  Fairies in London!

He clambered amazedly up the slanting roof and knelt by the side of
June.  She laid hands on his shoulders.  The two waited and watched.

In twos and threes, reluctantly, the fairies opened wings, and went
away.  Over the houses they journeyed, a glittering, saddened
procession. Higher and higher, and farther and farther they flew.  The
sound of their chorus gradually diminished till there was silence--the
silence of sleep-bound London--again.

Gone!

June gazed on her garden of flowers.  The gnome crawled away sadly, and
squatted by the chimney-pot, dangling his feet.  He felt a solid piece
of melancholy.

"That was a very nice dream," he said for comfort’s sake; and found the
words not comforting.

"Let us be doing things," June counselled.



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                          *A PROSE INTERLUDE*


Oldstein came at last to Paradise Court, and two good things
resulted--Sally was taken out of her slave-life and sent to a
boarding-school at the expense of her former task-master, and June went
to tea with the Archdeacon.

Emmanuel had been for six weeks living up to his ideals.  It was the
hardest of tasks to him, but obstinate doggedness pulled him through. He
had come actually to like doing good, and realized the subtle joys which
live in generosity. He developed a habit--learned indirectly from the
goodly practices of Dr. Johnson--of keeping chocolates and pennies in
his pocket, and dropping one or other of them surreptitiously into the
laps, pockets, or hands of children.  June was proud to smiling-point of
this, her least-likely pupil.  He was doing the fairies’ work so
pleasantly.

And virtue brought other rewards--as it must do in a properly regulated
existence.  Emmanuel gave and gave, and still had a golden reservoir of
wealth for capital use and enjoyment.

At last he felt justified in accepting the Archidiaconal invitation to
tea.  He paved the way of welcome characteristically by sending an
express letter of reminder and explanation, and walked from Paradise
Court to where the blue tramcars were running.  After riding here and
walking there, he arrived at the canonry.

June and Bim accompanied him; the fairy on the brim of his glossy hat,
the gnome in the bulging breast-pocket.  Bim gazed with insatiable
curiosity at the passing phantasmagoria of human shadows.  What a
strange grey comedy it was!

The London streets were still a troublesome ghost-world to Bim.  He
could not overcome an unconquerable prejudice against shadows.  They
were born of the darkness; he liked things to be moonlit at least.

They came to the Archdeacon’s garden.  Its delicious peacefulness was to
June the first thing in Cockneydom reminiscent of elvish glades.
Enchantment seemed brooding over it.

The ancient trees and young dusty flowers, with the twittering of
sparrows--only sparrows--about them, gave new significance to the hum of
the distant traffic.  It made the medley music. The old-world atmosphere
of blessed repose brought solace to both of them.  It gave June hope.
It made her for the first time thoroughly confident of fulfilling her
purpose.

Why should not a similar spirit of peace hold governance over every
garden and public park in London?  Wherever it reigned there would be
sanctuaries for tired minds and strained nerves--havens of refuge from
uproar and vulgarity.  If Oberon’s rule returned, anything and
everything of the kind was possible; and something was begun.

Emmanuel pressed the button of the door-bell; and, having done so,
trembled.  A funeral-faced footman appeared and ushered him in.

The charm of the garden reigned also within the house.  A silver-tongued
clock sang five.  It reminded June of Titania’s voice when, once, the
fairy-queen had surprised a blue-bell valley with a passing song.

June entered with Oldstein.  Bim remained in the garden, playing
puss-in-the-corner with some sparrows, to their fearful delight.

Evidently the footman did not approve his master’s guest.  There was an
unnecessary air of imitation-lordliness in his demeanour, as he marched
before Emmanuel.  His body seemed mere idiotic backbone.  His face wore
an expression of patronage.  June, indignant at his sublime
churlishness, tossed a handful of magic over him, and watched the
conceit shrivel.  The pillar of salt turned to man.  He was never a mere
flunkey thereafter, and in course of time became a Sunday-school
teacher.

"Delighted, delighted!" said the Archdeacon, pressing Mr. Oldstein’s
hand.  Had it not been for the fairies the welcome would assuredly have
been less cordial; but since the evening of Mayday there had been
changes.  The ecclesiastic was living up to his creed.  He greeted
Oldstein warmly, and wondered why he had come.

Emmanuel was awed and enchanted.  Never had he dreamed that life could
be so clean and precious as here he found it.  He felt, poor man in the
egoism of humble ignorance, a vulgar intruder; and for the first time in
his span of existence, realized that his hands were large and his
manners out of polish.  Somehow the rings he wore made his fingers
uglier.

Tea was brought in on a silver tray.  The food was daintily
insufficient.  The Archdeacon sipped at a cup and talked long words.
Oldstein said "Yeth," mumbled at his slices of butter spread with bread,
and heard nothing.  He mentally kicked himself for having blundered into
that Anglo-celestial place.  So it went on for a time.

The Archdeacon was bored.

The fairy seeing things awry, hastened to put them right.  She hovered
before the Archdeacon’s head--her moving wings made music which only
fairies could hear--and touched his lips with her wand.  She recognized
that he was the man to lead the talking.  He became at once more
sociable.

"Do you golf?" he asked.

"No, but I’ve thold golf-balls."

"Ah, you should play.  You should join my new Association which pledges
every member to use one club only--preferably the mashie--on a round."

Golf remained the subject while the tea lasted. The Archdeacon kept the
talk going.

"So our movement of fairy reform goes ahead admirably," Dr. Pryde
exclaimed, coming to the real subject at last, as he rose, stretched,
and posed by the mantelpiece.  "We are comrades under Oberon’s
banner--comrades in a growing and victorious army."

He admired his rolling periods, and took his box of lozenges from a
drawer.

"Yeth," said the other, who still felt that his feet were all boots.

"I had a letter from the Lord Mayor this morning.  Sir Titus--a
wonderful man, wonderful man, truly one of us!--is instituting a new
league--Titania’s Bodyguard it is called, consisting of all sorts and
conditions of old men and maidens, young men and children; to remove the
blemishes which uglify--’uglify’ is Alice’s word, not mine--which uglify
London."

He ceased his pompous talk to look pomposity. He caught his reflection
in a mirror, and improved his deportment.

"Yeth," again Emmanuel faltered.  He wanted to express views, but in
that present state of shyness and nervousness his mind seemed mere whirl
and pudding.

"Talking of Alice, we could do with a little more topsyturvydom in real
life, could not we?"  June smiled.  Here was proof that she had him. "I
wish Harlequin with his wand would transform some of our business men
and Bumbles and give them better sympathies and wits."

"’Ear, ’ear!"

"What is generally wanted--almost before anything else--is the power to
get out of the ruck of the commonplace, to look at facts from a new
point of view.  How blind we are to the obvious! It is possible every
day to pass by and not notice a view which, if it were in another
country, we should travel for days in discomfort to see. And why?--I ask
you why?"  He gazed at the ceiling, and waved a graceful hand.

"Goodneth knowth!"

The Archdeacon puckered his brows, and looked down at his interrupter
with an expression of gentle remonstrance.

"The question was rhetorical, Mr. Oldstein," he said, in mild rebuke.
"I repeat, Why? Because we are so used to it.  A Londoner will see more
beauty in a wood in May or June than the man who lives at its edge; but
bring the yokel to London, and he will open his mouth with awe at
buildings of beauty and history upon which the Cockney will strike the
cheaper kind of matches.  Familiarity breeds blindness."

"Yeth."

"It does indeed!  The first thing is to teach the uses of the eyes; the
next the joys of imagination.  Those are indirectly the purposes for
which the Lord Mayor’s new movement--Titania’s Bodyguard--is instituted.
What a work we of the Bodyguard--I am its chaplain--what a work we have
to do!  To get representatives on the Borough Councils pledged to fulfil
the gospel of sweetness and light; to insure that no houses designed and
built in the future shall be hideous, or contradictions in style to each
other--the brown Victorian age of architecture is past; to insist that
exteriors be clean, and, where possible, brightly painted; and
advertisements artistic; to take measures to abolish smoke and dust and
flies; to distribute bulbs and flowering-plants, and give prizes for the
best-loved gardens and windows; to encourage the growth of creepers
about buildings; to plant trees, and establish fountains in the
streets."

"Dear, dear! it’ll cost a lot!" thought Emmanuel.

"There is much to be done even at the beginning.  Then the next stage.
To remove monstrosities in houses, courts, and slums; and generally to
undo Mr. Jerry Builder.  What a work!  All but a few of the statues
which frown on our squares and gardens must be chipped into little bits
for road-mending.  Throughout London, throughout England, there are
statues not worth their weight in mud.  They are mere blackened
bathos--futile memorials to the generally forgotten: tasteless,
obstructive, stupid.  Down with the bronze gentlemen in mutton-chop
whiskers and Roman togas who pose like sorry Pecksniffs."

"’Ear, ’ear!" said Mr. Oldstein, who was beginning, at last, to feel at
home, though who Pecksniff was, bless you! for his life he didn’t know.

June had indeed used her wand with effect. Host in his eloquence, and
guest in his appreciation, beamed on each other, mutually pleased. The
Archdeacon was delighted with his flow of words.  The fact that his new
elf-induced ideas were fresh to him increased the interest and
respectful admiration with which he always heard his own utterances.  He
actually forgot the lozenges in his excitement; and noted the admiration
shining in Oldstein’s eyes.  He felt a reformer, a builder of progress,
a force and a light on the side of the angels.  He was pleased with
himself.

The fairy was satisfied with her work.  She fluttered, singing the
while, through the open window, to quicken the slumbering joys of the
garden.  She lingered among the flowers, giving them refreshment and
radiance; and hovered about the branches of the trees, studying their
conditions, admiring their long patience.

She called Bim to her, gave him her wand, sent him out to the world
wandering.  The sparrows chirped good-night, and went their ways to rest
before another day of struggle, squabble and feasting.

Meanwhile, the Archdeacon continued happily in full swing.

"All forms of stone memorial are futile," he declared, pushing back his
hair.  "The day must come when they are mere lumber, commemorating
foolishness.  The builders of the pyramids are now but names.  The
Pharaohs hoped, by constructing those colossal tombs, to buy themselves
eternal glory; but we, remembering the cruelties--the blood and the
suffering--which went to their building, think of them only as colossal
mementoes of shame."

The Archdeacon frowned, shook his head, and felt the artistic call for a
significant pause.

Oldstein was fired by the reference to the first oppressors of his
People.  He forgot his awkward shyness, and broke out with vigorous
expressions of approbation and agreement.  He was not rebuked now.
Applause is tolerable even to the elect.  The Archdeacon graciously
beamed.

It was then that June returned to the room, and realizing that the
privilege of speech had so far been made a monopoly, threw a spell at
Emmanuel.

Her will was a law obeyed.

The Archdeacon found himself not merely mum, but verbally besieged.  He
tried to make sorties, to resume the thread of his argument; but until
June’s spell was worn away, Oldstein’s eloquence proved irresistible.
His host could only fumble about his desk and pockets searching for the
lozenge-box which was on the mantelpiece behind him, and occasionally
agree with "Yes."

"That wath a great evenin’ at the Mansion ’Outh," he declared.  "I shall
never forget it; and, Mithter Archdeacon, nothing throughout the
proceedings imprethed me like your appeal for charity among workerth for
the cauth of right.  I thaid to mythelf, ’That’th a man’--I thaid--’and
thith ith a lethon!  If that dignitary of the Church ith brave enough to
thay thith, there’s ’ope.’  I altho thaid to mythelf, ’It ithn’t many
parsons with the pluck to make such an appeal to people who would most
thertainly take ’em at their word.’  But you did it, Mithter Pryde! you
did it!  At my synagogue at all events your words ’ave been acthepted."

"Yes?"  This tribute to his influence was delightful, flattering.  It
compensated for the interruption of speech.

"Yeth!  Our pastor went out of ’is way to order some coals from the
local churchwarden last week, and expressed the ’ope that before long
some prayer said in churches against Turks, Jews and Infidels might be
left unthaid!"

"Ah!"

The Archdeacon sat in his chair, and hid his face in his hands,
thinking.

"Make your appeal again, Mithter Pryde; and again and again.  It ith, I
assure you, very poor fun being the under dog, as we Jews ’ave been for
ages!  Even nowadays it ith only necessary to be a Jew to know what it
ith to be despithed.  Not that thome of uth mayn’t detherve to be
despithed. We ’ave black sheep among us, as you ’ave, and it’th easy to
be ’orrid when you’re ’ated.  I’ve been ’ated and struck"--there was
fire in Oldstein’s glance--"and I’ve ’it back, and taken good care to
’urt.  Well, I’m sorry for many things.  I wath a ’ard master.  I worked
’ard mythelf, and worked others to the uttermost.  I took all the
shekels that were due to me, and would have taken more if I could ’ave
got ’em--yeth, I would. People theemed to expect me to plunder ’em; I
did my best not to dithappoint ’em.  And why was I so ’ard?  Why did I
’ate all Gentiles? Why was my ’eart full of bitter malice to all exthept
my own people?"

"Ah, who knows? who knows?" the Archdeacon said to the ceiling.

Oldstein, carried away by the passion of his own words, glared at the
questioner.

"The quethtions were rhetorical, Mithter Pryde," he answered softly.
"Why?  Becauthe I was fighting the old old battle which my fatherth and
their fatherth ’ad to fight since sin made my people subject."  He
raised his voice.  It was as the voice of a prophet.  The Archdeacon,
listening, wondered, and forgot to notice the slurred words and broken
pronunciation which proclaimed this Jew a stranger within the gates.
"Yearth ago--in the dayth of the Pharaoh you mentioned--the Curse was
fastened upon uth; even now the yoke ith not removed; we are tortured
with its barbs and burdened with its misery.  We are, even now, regarded
by many as rogues and thieves and money-tyrants, but with all our faults
as a race we do not detherve it.  It ith ath a race we are judged, and
ath individualth of a race we are punished.  We are regarded as unwashed
foreigners, as unclean beasts.  The whole tone of religion is in this
rethpect againtht its true thelf. In teaching love for all men, it
alwayth forgeth the foreign Jew.  Mithter Pryde, will you preach and
teach and act so that we--the poorest and the ’umblest and the worst of
us--may get the tolerance and fair play which is every man’s right?"

Oldstein had exhausted the spell.  He had said his say, had spoken for
his people, with warmth and earnestness.  His burst of eloquence was
done.  He was again one of the rank and file of Judaism, conscious of
his pride of race, conscious at the same time of an incomprehensible
sense of inferiority to this large, clean, pompous, well-intentioned
Englishman.  Why was it so?  Was it because, for years upon years, he
and his forebears, though inheriting the responsibilities of agelong
aristocracy, had forgotten their inheritance, and been content to cringe
before the powerful and wealthy, pleased to pander to their vanity and
vices, for the sake of the shekels of trade?

There was silence--almost noisy with thought--for more than a minute.

June with her wand had stirred deep pools. The insoluble problems of
Israel were for awhile alive again.  Another stage in the long-drawn
opposition of Gentile and Jew was manifested. Can that antagonism ever
be ended?  Is such a fact to be numbered among human possibilities?
Questions, questions!

The Archdeacon, touched by Oldstein’s earnestness, lost his pomposity,
and forgot his poses. He leaned forward; put a hand on his guest’s
shoulder.

"I wish we could all of us get hold of the larger charity," he said
earnestly.  "When I spoke at the Lord Mayor’s table, I confess to you I
did not quite know all that there was in my words.  I gave rein to ideas
I had never allowed to have expression, even in my thoughts, before.
The fairies--we put it all down to them, don’t we?--the fairies must
have made me speak as I did. That was a strange night.  Reform was in
the wine-cups.  We built Quixotic dreams, and pledged ourselves to abide
by them.  Well, I won’t repine.  I am heartily glad I spoke as I did.
You remind me of the obligations which fall upon every responsible
religious man.  I will try harder to live up to the ideals.  Never again
will I, by thought or implication, judge or condemn the honest opinions
of others; but will believe that all in some measure or degree are
pushing forward God’s progress.  Our differences, at their greatest, are
trivial; in much of our work we should unite."

They shook hands, confirming the pledge.

The clock sang six-thirty.

"How the time has flown!" cried the Archdeacon, glad to be out of a
scene.  "Will you excuse me?  I must hurry and dress.  I dine at eight
with the Duchess of Armingham.  I was going to say such a great deal to
you about cemeteries.  But another time!  So glad to have seen you.
Good-bye!"

Oldstein went.  Good-bye to him also, so far as this historical work is
concerned!

June decided to accompany her ecclesiastic to the Duchess’s table.  She
had seen the under side, now for the over side of human life.  Sing Hey!
for the _haut ton!_ as a suburban poet would put it.

She sailed upstairs to the dressing-room and helped.  Never before had
razor shaved so smoothly, or valet been so perfect a machine.

When the Archdeacon drove westward, he was in the happiest condition of
mind.  He had become the compleat optimist.  Everything was for the best
in this best of all possible worlds.

The dear fairies!



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                             *A NIGHT OUT*


Gnomes are notoriously irresponsible; but town-life and a high purpose
had brought changes to Bim.  He crawled under the dark green gate which
bounded the carriage-drive, and strode into the world with something of
that air of responsibility which hedges the dignity of a newly-elected
alderman.

Bim had no illusions as to his present capacity. June’s wand made him a
power, and he knew it. He was able to control mortals; and confidently
promised himself happenings.

He wandered through streets and passages, indifferent and ignorant as to
where they should lead him, indeterminate as to what he should do. He
saw a hansom crawling.  This would help as well as anything.  Imitating
June’s action on the night of the banquet, he waved the wand, and by
elfin will-power compelled the cabman to rein in his drowsy steed.

Bim clambered up the horse’s off hind-leg, and ran along the dragging
reins to the roof.  As soon as he was comfortably installed there, the
driver, who took things quite as a matter of course, gave the necessary
click with his tongue, and started the many-times great-grandson of
Bucephalus and Rozinante.

Bim "did" some main streets.  He controlled the man, and induced him to
drive along the more ambitious ways and where there were shining shops.
He watched the coming and going of people, and made up his mind what to
do.

He was touched to see the streams of poor women and children shopping
and errand-running. His sympathy exaggerated their seeming fatigue.
They looked to him so weary that he commanded the cabman to invite some
of them to accept lifts along the way.

"Tired, mother?" the driver--good soul!--would say to an old lady,
toiling along with her evening burden of parcels.  "In yer git!"  Or to
a child, "Jump in, ducky!  I’d like to give _you_ a ride.  Where do you
want to go?"

So it went on for an hour.  Cabby felt like Christmas.

Then the unrewarded horse began to move wearily, and show other signs of
having done enough.  Bim removed the spell, clambered from his seat on
the roof down the back-way of the cab, and left the driver fastening the
horse’s nose-bag to its business-place.

"The time of my life," said Jehu enthusiastically to a surly colleague.
"I’ve had a most enjoyable time.  Now you ’ave a shot, old chap," and
explained in detail his actions and happiness.

"Eh?" grunted the other, contempt, incredulity, and refusal expressed in
the interjection.

That was enough for Bim.  He smote the churl sharply on the boot.
Conversion followed immediately.

"Well, suppose I do," he said, as he wiped imaginary froth from his
lips.  "I ’aven’t done so badly to-day.  I will for an hour--blowed if I
won’t!--then I’ll pass the job on."

Bim found himself on the Embankment near Cleopatra’s Needle.  He took
careful hold of the wand, and clambered to the head of the sphinx which
gazes eastward.  Seated there, he tried to think out a programme of
activities, and watched the grey river journeying on slowly, silently;
different, so different, from the flood of traffic, the lighted
tramcars, hooting automobiles, dashing carriages, with their freights of
mortals, which rushed noisily by.  Oh, the restlessness of man! The
gnome was impressed with the wisdom of the water.  It bore seaward,
silently, the thoughts of the sphinx, which with wide-opened eyes
watched London.

It was then that June saw him.  She was driving westward in the
Archdeacon’s brougham, and shone, a little being of light, gladdening
the gloom of the carriage.  Bim waved the wand triumphantly to her.  She
threw him smiles. Happy gnome!  His earnestness took fire immediately.
Then altruism merged with mischief. He threw his plans and programme to
the eight winds.  He would paint the town a fairy red. Why not run amok?

He jumped from the sphinx, plump on to the peaked cap of a passing
police inspector, and flooded the official with magic.  A sergeant came
up and saluted.

"Good-evening, Baines," said the inspector. "Tell the men to be extra
kind to all poor chaps to-night.  Tell ’em to have blind eyes for the
homeless and hungry.  The fairies would wish it. Tell ’em to pass this
order on; we must please the fairies."

The sergeant stared.  This was unprecedented. What was authority coming
to?

"Right, sir," he answered, and saluted again. "I’ll see to it," and did
so.

The inspector marched on to Scotland Yard, more than usually pleased
with himself.

Bim happened then to notice a strange creature sprawling at the end of a
seat.  Curiosity compelled him to spring.  He alighted on a lap.

Everyone in Fairyland is naturally partial to poetry and in love with
love.  One of the purposes of the elves is to help the affected and
idealize the sentiments of lovers, making them worthy of their
privileges.  They fulfil this purpose faithfully.  When the courses of
Cupid run smoothly the elves have been helpful. Unhappy love-affairs are
invariably those unblessed by Oberon’s people.  They keep sharp eyes
ready for the hindering of the plans of worldly-wise parents.

Bim studied a strange-looking beast.  It seemed to consist of a large,
much-ribboned hat, several arms, and a sprawl.  Lovers!  The nose of Her
was in His neck.  There was an occasional move and tremor, followed by a
sounding kiss, one of the kisses that hit.  Passers-by were many, but
Love cared not a jot for anything--but Love! The curious and
contemptuous had a hundred opportunities for cynical judgment; which
they used, only to be entirely ignored.

Throughout the parks and places of London, similar exhibitions of vulgar
bathos, flopping and unashamed, were to be witnessed; every pair of some
hundred thousand lovers being splendidly indifferent to all else but
their own sufficient selves.

Meanwhile, the gnome sat on the lap, and wondered, awed and troubled:
listening eagerly, waiting impatiently, for honeyed words of love.

Silence brooded.  Big Ben struck.

"Eight o’clock!" said Strephon to Phyllis, and kissed her.

The silence brooded again.

Bim fled in dismay to the next seat, where another love-bitten couple
happened to be sprawling. He witnessed a similar feast of brazen bathos.

Stupid silence still gloomed over the rapture. He waited.

The great clock chimed again.

"Quarter-past," said she, and a kiss flew skywards.

From seat to seat Bim went; every move was marked by the chimes of the
Parliamentary clock. "Half-past."  "Quarter-to."  "Nine."

Such was love’s dialogue.  O time!  O manners! Where are our raptures,
our sonnets and rhapsodies?

Bim became furious.  He ran at full speed along the Embankment,
viciously poking with his wand every love-lorn pair: and on, through
Story’s Gate into St. James’s Park.  As he went he passed scores of
strolling lovers.  He put his spell on every pair of them.

Through the Green Park he hurried, and across Piccadilly into Hyde Park.
Wherever he went he carried magic, and produced its consequences. Love’s
multitudinous tongues were no longer tied. Thoughts hitherto dumb found
glowing speech.

The gnome had run amok with a vengeance.

"Darling, darling, darling, darling!" said one young man in an ecstasy
increasing with every syllable.

"Darling, darling, darling!" came the feminine answer, in tones that
thrilled.

Then another sweet voice was gently borne upon the westering wind.

"I know where there’s the teeniest duck of a saucepan set which will
just suit our wee little homey."

The stars twinkled.

"Does-um!" was the masculine answer.

Still the stars twinkled.

"Ted," said Emma, "do you love me, love me?"  She had been to a series
of popular melodramas, and saw herself languid and rapturous.  She asked
questions emotionally, with the emphasis that comes with repetition.

"That I do just, old gell!" came the reply.

"And will you, my heart, always love me, love me?"

"S’welp me! old gell, I will!"

"Then another, Ted."  There was a noise as of machine guns barking at a
blue distance.  Emma seemed satisfied.

Bim was pleased.  He had not been looking for words in purple, and so
was unable to feel disappointed.  But as he worked from chair to chair
he could not help accumulating the wish that more of the minor poet had
been born in the common people.  The prose that came was better than a
mere bald narrative of time; but, surely, was not worthy of Aphrodite’s
doves.

Gradually the better came.  It was the work of unconscious imitation.

Examples were being quickly followed in many directions.  Several
cabmen, having earned their day’s requirements and a little over, were
now using their cabs and still unwearied horses to convey for short
distances fares too poor to pay for a ride.  Motor-cabs and private cars
actually buzzed with philanthropy.  Policemen, carrying out and carrying
on the inspector’s orders, were urgently helping down-at-heel gentlefolk
to be as comfortable as out-of-door conditions permitted.

So, too, lovers on that blessed evening, influenced by Bim, began to be
worthy of Juliet, and their fellows of the Heaven-kissed company to whom
passion has become sanctified, and the possession of love is a joy
crowned, a power enthroned, making of its votaries queens and
princes----  Ah me, and so on!  The series of lovers multitudinous
gradually became ashamed of their ungracefulness.  They walked now, or
sat with some better sense of picturesque propriety.  Sprawling and
hugging were postponed for the armchairs at home.  The parks became
tolerable to the married.

Here and there a joyful swain reclined at his lady’s feet.  The methods
of musical comedy were fittingly applied to the prose of life.  Ernie
Jenkins was one of these recumbent swains.  It was his weekly evening
with Emily, who sat on a chair under a chestnut-tree steadily absorbing
acid-drops.  His red hair was stubbly, but he brushed his brow as if it
were thick with love-locks.

"Emily!  Emily!" he murmured repeatedly. Never had his feeling for her
been so romantic as it now seemed.  His narrow chest expanded with
rapture and contracted with sighs.  He knew himself fortunate.  Bim had
nearly prevailed on him to make the plunge.  Though unable to go that
length, Ernie mentally vowed to reduce his weekly allowance of bitter
beer, the better to provide a nest-egg for furniture--which sounds like
a mixed metaphor, but isn’t; and if it were, can be put down to the
fairies, who may do anything grammatical they please, even to the extent
of splitting infinitives, which mortal authors may never do.

Hyde Park grew more and more delightful to Bim during that evening of
bliss.  He flitted about as if wings were on his feet, and with June’s
wand helped flowers, birds, grasses and winds to become more fairylike.
Those blessed existences behaved as if they realized and enjoyed the
change; and, to their credit be it said, no leafy, green space in
crowded London had so much in accord with Falkland as the flowers,
birds, grasses, winds, in Hyde Park then.  Nature is, after all, a jolly
good poet.

A new moon made its appearance.  It peeped from a cradle of clouds.
Venus and Jupiter gleamed underneath it.  Other stars in their places
shone.  That was the first night to gladden London since the Mayday of
June’s madness; and as for the long, long time before that--oh dear! oh
dear!

June, peering through a ducal window, realized the improvement, and was
delighted with Bim. She knew it was largely his doing--his and the
wand’s.  Her sympathy grew radiant towards him.  He was a good gnome,
and when they had returned, victorious and forgiven, to the Land of Wild
Roses--as she had no doubt they would do eventually--he should be
rewarded.  Perhaps she would kiss him.

Slowly, but all too speedily, the time went by. The band which for three
comfortable hours had been stirring the hearts of hundreds, played the
Good-night National Anthem, and put out its lights.  Two by two the
lovers turned homewards, each couple happily emotional, joying in the
enthralment, delightfully subdued.  There were more marriages determined
upon, more attachments confirmed and made love-affairs during that
evening, than ever before--with the possible exception of the last of
the supralapsarian days.

The author of this splendid improvement sat, smiling and tired, on a
discarded cigarette-box. He joyed in the wide silence and the dewy
grass.

The park became more and more still.  On every side of it there was the
eternal hum of the traffic.  Solitary wayfarers passed silently along
the walks and faded into the darkness.  Now and then the shadow of
laughter was heard, occasional cab-calls, one distant bugle sounding the
last post, a man’s voice giving a hail.  Slowly even such sounds as
these were lost in the all-engulfing silence; the night was very still.

There was room for fairies here, thought Bim, but no fairies were there.
There ought to be rings of them, lightly laughing and dancing; making
merriment for the stars.  Hyde Park in its loneliness longed for them.
They, only, were needed to make it the perfect garden.

The places of the elves had been taken by creatures of a very different
clay.  An hour or so ago, and the park was thronged with youth, hopeful,
happy, confident.  The difference now!

In all directions there slept or grumbled on the grass the human waste
of our social system; the aged, the ugly, the hopeless, the infirm and
unfit; the thriftless, workless, worthless--worn remnants of all manner
of miserable humanity. Poor wretches whose days had long been damned!
Their backs are weak with burdens.  They have not even a hope in their
pockets.  They have sinned and suffered; have learned the many lessons
of bitterness, and been crushed.  They have hungered and had to continue
hungry; have been wet, cold, and, in their shivering, had no better
shelter than some broken penthouse or windy archway; their only
friendships have been with members of their own dismal fraternity.
Fortunate was Lear!  They have touched desire with crime and been
compelled to pay the law’s and the world’s penalties.  There is short
shrift for such as these, the drift of the cities.  Born are they to
suffer, to endure; to know only shame; to die.

The gnome resumed his wanderings, and gazed wonderingly at the many
sleeping faces.  It was the most amazing of all the sights he had seen.
The marks of meanness and want were stamped on them.  Yes, June was
right in her madness. The fairies ought to have prevented this.  Tragedy
is permissible when it is romantic, but such tragedy of squalor as was
lighted by the starshine then was ugly, evil, the first and last of the
shames.  The gnome came across Lazy Tim, who stretched on an open
newspaper, fast asleep, snoring with his mouth wide open.

Tim was a ne’er-do-well.  He had not one scruple, hope, ambition, or
blessing.  His father and mother had been ne’er-do-wells also.  Beyond
them he had no history.  He had never been inside a school, or known
what discipline--other than that of the gaol and casual ward--meant. He
had never formed a taste for work, but, thanks to sharpened half-wits,
had here and there earned many crooked pence.  He had been taken on as a
farm-hand and a factory-hand times out of counting; but the monotony of
the one employment and the prison-like character of the other had always
driven him into the free-lance world again.  Tim was unmoral and
incorrigible. He had known no guidance whatever in his ways.  He had an
idea that it was wise to dodge any man in uniform, and that was about
all.

Experience had, however, taught him many of the tricks of cheap cunning.
He could, when in the humour, pitch a yarn about his non-existent wife
and children and the bronchitis, which would make a stone moist with
sympathy.  He had even on one extraordinary occasion obtained sixpence
from a local secretary of the Charity Organization Society, and
frequently had charmed the generosity of not a few religious ladies with
his sighs and aspirations.  He would have taken any religion you liked
for a course of square meals. Once there was, possibly, good material in
Tim; but it had run to seed and been lost.  He had not enjoyed one fair
chance.  He had come into the world inopportunely.  The fates were
sleeping when he was born.  Ever since infancy he had starved, stolen,
sinned--if such as he can "sin"--been punished and neglected; and so was
wrecked.

Bim, studying the sleeping face, was stirred with fairy’s pity.  He knew
nothing of Tim’s past experience, of the opportunities grudged, denied,
and lost; but could see the man was inherently unhappy.  That was
enough.  Poor wretch!  Something must be done for him at once.  He
wished June had been there to prescribe the remedy.  But there was no
use in fruitless wishing.  Such is not Elfland’s way.

He marched up Tim’s body, and felt the wasted form under his feet.
Bones and hunger, that was the story; bones and hunger and rags.  He
stood by the tangled beard, and with the end of the wand gently stroked
the lined and scraggy face.  Tired, ugly face!  It looked so weak, ay,
and so brutal in the night’s dark light.  Scars were cut into the cheeks
and forehead; the nose was debased, and bore the marks of drink and
fighting.  The hair, in a grey and filthy tangle, streamed from under a
broken hat.  Here was a man in the prime of life, finally ruined.

Tim would wake presently.  What was the use of his waking?  Better
always to sleep and dream than to live again for the day’s despair and a
life’s long misery.

Bim laid the point of the wand on the sleeping man’s forehead, and
thought of these things.

Suddenly Tim awoke, stretched, rose, shook himself, burst out into
laughing.  He took off his hat and looked carefully at it.  "A kingly
crown!" cried he.  He stroked his rags, and was joyful. "Ermine and
purple."  His hunger was forgotten; his thirst--his only ever-faithful
companion--no longer made pleadings.  "Feasts in plenty!" he exclaimed,
lifting arms delightedly to the stars. "What a palace I have!  What a
kingdom!  Oh, my royal heritage!  It is good to be alive--to be king,
king, king!"

Tim had found happiness.  Never again could he know the evils of bitter
reality.  Henceforward he was blessed with the illusions.  He was
"touched."  Bim and the wand had wrought the marvel.

Blessed are the poor whom the fairies have touched.  Hats off to them,
gentlemen!  They are far beyond life’s miseries.  They are kings in
their own right--happy kings.  We who have the blue and yellow worries,
even though we can jingle coins in our pockets, are far less happy than
they.

Bim climbed a chestnut-tree, and found slumber in a throstle’s nest.



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                              *IN SOCIETY*


As the Archdeacon’s carriage rolled westward, June watched the people in
the crowded streets, and made some estimate of the task in front of her.

Already she and her squire had done much. They had speeded the efforts
of the good folk always at work.  They had guided the benevolent and
beneficent along the wise ways.  They had done much--very much, but it
was as nothing in comparison with the need.  North, south, east and
west, she had flown in her peregrinations, only to find much the same
problems, similar squalor, selfishness, ugliness and want--unhappy
legacies of past carelessness and misdoings--prevalent in all parts.
Slums and indifference abounded wherever she flew.  It was the
indifference which particularly troubled her.  She rested her head on
the Archdeacon’s watch-pocket and wept.

The prospect before herself and Bim seemed appalling.  Only the gnome
and she--two, when what really was wanted was an organized army from
Elfland of gentle spirits with magic besoms and enchanted swords.

But it was no use sighing for the unavailable. She must go on as well as
she could, making the most of her own powers, intentions and Bim.

Armingham House stands in a dull respectable square.  Two stone armorial
beasts keep guard of its ugly gateway.  They are legendary monsters, not
wyverns, or griffins, or unicorns, or mock-turtle, but something of a
combination of all of these.  On the arch of the gate is a broken motto,
which means something heroic in very bad French. It originated from a
martial medieval incident; nobody remembers what.  One of the advantages
of long descent is a convenient haziness as to certain events and
beginnings.

The Duke of Armingham possessed every one of the characteristics of
extreme aristocracy.  His blue blood, high nose, arched eyebrows and
slender hands could only be improved on by an idealistic
portrait-painter.  They were the sure marks of class and culture.  He
had the gentle voice, deliberate manner, and a habit of waving his
pince-nez when he was speaking, which mark authority.  Throughout his
life, whenever he had spoken, others had to be silent; it was therefore
unnecessary for his voice to be raised, or his tones to become strident.

His fashions were those of the early seventies. Until that period he had
out-dandified the dandies and been glorious in the forefront of his
time. Then his style stayed still.  Any more recent order of dress than
that which Louis Napoleon affected was out of date, he declared.  He
was, in these later days, a dear old thing, kind and as perfectly happy
as a duke can be.  He bore the disadvantages of his wealth and position
with wonderful lightheartedness, and was able by taking thought to avoid
being envious of his inferiors.  He feared nothing except lightning, mud
in Piccadilly, and his Duchess on a Court day.

His wife was even more assuredly an exalted being.  Rumour said that in
her young days she had been a nursery governess; but those who ought to
be authoritative on the subject declared that rumour lied.  Anyhow, the
gilt and scarlet books which tell the tales of the titled, gave her a
colonel for father, so that her blood was likely to be something blue.
In her gowns and graces she certainly looked every inch a Duchess, and
there were many inches.

Her influence in the world was worthy of her station.  She had eyes
which commanded, and could make presumption feel like a doormat on a
rainy day.  She never forgot her coronet and was not genial; indeed, she
looked on mankind through diminishing lorgnettes, and saw it small. She
was one of the two hundred and twenty-three ladies, all the world over,
who know they are Supermen.

When June and the Archdeacon arrived at Armingham House, the fairy had
not quite recovered from the dumps.  She had for a little while lost
confidence in herself, and felt no longer militant.  She clung to the
Archdeacon, and was borne by him up the white and blue stairway between
footmen with heads of silver.  The scene where the guests were welcomed
was magnificent. The servants in their yellow livery, the ladies with
their jewels, the sparkle, the laughter, and the flowers, made splendid
circumstance.

The picture, beautiful though it might be to mortal eyes, could not win
June from her state of weary self-consciousness.  She listened to the
talk, and watched the movement listlessly.  It was all the matter of
dream.  In comparison with the wealth and royalty of Fairyland, it was
mere shadow, noise, nonsense and tinsel!

She was certainly feeling unappreciative and depressed.

The Archdeacon passed through the business of greetings, and fell into
talk with Lord Geoffrey Season, the Duke of Armingham’s third and
youngest son.

Lord Geoffrey was a golden youth of twenty-seven.  Since his sixth
birthday he had been destined for Parliament.  There was a county
constituency waiting for him to accept its suffrages at the next General
Election; while family influence and the way he wore his clothes made it
certain he would be entrusted with office early. Up to the present he
had done little more than always the proper thing.  He had the
statesman-like quality of never being original, could express the
obvious with an air of profundity, and gave promise of not making any
mistakes, which, after all, is somewhat less than the heaven-sent
destiny. He was moreover--at present--something of a prig.

June awakened from her lethargy to take an interest in him.  She liked
his wavy hair and china blue eyes, but still her energy was sleeping.
She would keep her eyes on Geoffrey.  She saw in him possibilities.

Watching the guests, idly studying their brightness of mind, and evident
bodily content, noting the luxury of the surroundings, she, perforce,
must come to the building of comparisons and contrasts.  Different this
from the squalid misery she had witnessed and endured since her entry
into London!  It was not Paradise Court alone which formed the great
contrast, but slums innumerable in all parts of the Metropolis; and,
linked with them, those dun habitations of struggling respectability,
the hundred thousand ugly houses in dull inglorious streets, occupied by
drudges, who, day after day, through the years, toil in shops and
offices, selling their God-given lives for a little dross, a little
patronage, and some spells of conventional happiness.

(This is the Fairies’ judgment.)

After those years of little-profitable labour--away from Nature, away
from the large reality--and after the faithful practising of ritual,
according to the gospel of Mrs. Grundy, the poor things become brothers
and sisters to the vegetables and die.  So drift their lives away!

And here--at the very other extreme--was this great ducal casket of
luxury and laughter, giving welcome to a limited select circle of people
who need, if so they willed, do nothing but be happy and enjoy
themselves.  Heigho! paradoxes a hundredfold abide in the shadows by
every street corner.

June remembered the phantoms of Paradise Court, and, in a different
manner from the Pharaoh whom Moses chided, hardened her heart.  Oberon,
or no Oberon, the fairies should come back to London town!  For the sake
of the so-called rich, as well as for the sake of the very poor, they
must re-create Elfdom within the seven square miles, and carry their
blessed influence through Suburbia.  If this could not be before she
must yield up the crown, then it must be after.  In any case, it must
be.  That was certain, flat, absolute.  London should be reclaimed.

The Archdeacon’s table-partner was Mrs. Billie Thyme, a small pink,
flaxen lady, whose over-rich elderly husband financed her fads, and in
consequence gave her ample opportunity to shine in the personal
paragraphs of evening newspapers. Mrs. Billie was not the least bit
_blasée_, although even she was sighing for new excitements to conquer.

She was always in an infinite vein of flutter and chatter.  Most exalted
personages were glad to talk nonsense with her; at bazaars and
garden-parties her skirt-dancing drew the crowd.  She was a prime
favourite of the Duchess, and kept the dinner-circle well entertained
with tinkling talk.

It was she who began on the fairies.  They were seldom left out of the
conversation of these times.  June was still dreamily inert, throned on
a large silver salt-cellar, watching and indifferently wondering, not
yet vividly interested enough to use these puppets for the march-forward
of her ideas.

"And what are we to think of this fairy craze?" Mrs. Thyme asked of the
company generally.

There was no immediate response.  The Archdeacon left the question for
someone else to answer.  In Society he tried habitually to sit on the
fence.

"A nine-day’ wonder!" said Lord Geoffrey. "Mere nonsense, as ping-pong
and diabolo were."

"A folly to-day; forgotten to-morrow; and afterwards a sad
reflection"--this from a novelist of the moment--"democracy is a baby
which quickly breaks its toys."

"It has already lasted nearby nine weeks," answered the Duke quietly.
"It is strange; I don’t understand it.  That Mansion-House fellow, the
Lord Mayor, began it.  The movement seems spreading.  Most movements do
spread nowadays. We didn’t do that sort of thing in the seventies."

"Indeed, no," agreed the Duchess, in her best commanding-officer voice.
"When I was a ’gairl,’ belief in the fairies lingered amongst the Irish
and nowhere else.  Those Board Schools and Trade Unions have caused this
nonsense, I’m sure."

"There is one encouraging fact, Duchess!" cried the novelist, of course
an egoist, who called himself Douglas le Dare, though his patronymic was
Barlow, and his father had christened him William.  "It is that in our
literature--the test of our minds--we keep to sane life and the plain
truth.  Fairy tales are not written nowadays; such originality is
futility.  We weave our romances round every-day life, we adorn dull
truth, and what’s the result?  I sold fifty thousand copies of my last
book."

"Did you really?" said Mrs. Thyme, opening her blue eyes to their
widest.  "I think I will write!"

"Ha!" he said, as he shook back his iron-grey locks--his hair was an
advertisement--"you should write, but deal with facts--facts--the
fairies--pah!--they are merely a sort of mental fungi.  The public wants
prose.  Always please the public!  That is the root of literary
success."

June was alive now.  Her wings quivered with indignation.  The crown on
her head blazed with elf-light.  She was angry, angry.  But she made no
movement, only sat upright on the salt-box, keenly attentive to what
those clay creatures would say.

"If you do start author, Katie," said the Duke to Mrs. Thyme, "you must
cultivate an eccentricity or two, mustn’t she, Mr. le Dare?"

"Oh, I don’t know, Duke!"

"Oh, must I?" she exclaimed, eagerness alight in her eyes.  "Do tell me
an eccentricity or two!"

"Sorry I can’t, Mrs. Thyme.  All my spare time is occupied with thinking
out my own eccentricities, what few I indulge in.  No; what you really
require is to be earnestly business-like, and to see well after the
advertisement of your books."

Then a bearded Baronet, who wore a sparkling monocle, and thought it
humorous to be interfering, joined in.

"Talkin’ of fairies and the Lord Mayor," he said, "weren’t you mixed up
in that little business at the Mansion House, Mr. Archdeacon?  Eh?
What?"

Eyes turned to the person addressed, who, finding his theories not
promising to be popular in that company, was willing to remain silent
while the tide of depreciation flowed.  All his life he had been on the
side of the cheers.  June looked at him.  She was eager to see how he
endured the test.  If he failed and proved faithless, the power of
Fairyland would be lessened thereby, for faith is the strength-giver.
She did nothing to influence him.  Though, in her indignation, magic
emanated from her personality, it was not to affect him.

He sipped his sherry, and answered with deliberation, while the others
hearkened with all their ears.

"I was there, Sir Claude.  It was a wonderful occasion.  The place
seemed charmed, enchanted. Everyone of the company--City magnates,
practical men, merchants, and so on--made resolutions for the good of
our fellows.  Under that influence of enchantment I made resolutions
also.  I believe we have all of us kept them."

There was a little while of silence only interrupted by the slithering
of the knives and forks.

"Archdeacon, do you really believe in the fairies?" asked Mrs. Thyme, in
her tingle-tangle voice.

June, piqued by the doubt in the question, wondered whether the colour
of Mrs. Billie’s hair was born or made.

"I do, absolutely.  I am proud to be positive that they exist."

"Tush!" said Douglas le Dare.

"They exist," the Archdeacon re-affirmed.

Victory!  June slid from the salt-cellar and began a dance of rejoicing,
of triumph--a _pas-de-seul_ among the wine-cups.  None of the company
could see her; it was loveliness lost to mortal eyes.  Only the
Archdeacon, who possessed some store of fairy faith, had a glimmering of
the gaiety and beauty of the motion-poem then being made.  It nerved him
to do battle for what he would have called Oberon’s cause.

The room became filled with magic.  Spells of pure joy were woven from
the tracery of June’s feet, and governed all but one.  The butler and
his men, waiting with the imperturbability of grenadiers on parade, were
inclined to dance in chorus; but discipline and the knowledge that the
Duchess’s eyes were upon them kept them prim.

Still the fairy danced.  Here and there she tripped over the damask,
flitting airily round the epergnes with their young summer flowers; then
up and about the heads of the guests, stimulating their ideas, giving
them delightful poetical fancies, poising now and then, with dainty foot
and wings outspread, on the brims of the glasses, making all of them
glad, all of them glad but--the Duchess.

She alone, during that period of enchantment, remained unimpressed and
obdurate.  Fashion is a petrifying influence.  Her Grace, who regarded
it as her duty always with stiff lips to overlook the unfashionable, was
at present beyond even the softening powers of June.  She remained as
stone, unsympathetic, uncomprehending. Conversation was dumb during that
terpsichorean spell.

June rested at length, and flew, well-pleased, to couch among the
flowers.

"Bravo!" cried Lord Geoffrey.

"Eh?" inquired the Duke, putting on his pince-nez, and peering through
them at his son. The word of applause seemed to fit in with his mood
exactly, but he did not understand its applicability.

"I said ’Bravo!’ bravo to the Archdeacon, who, with characteristic
courage, is going to justify his faith in those essences, the fairies."

"Ah yes, of course, of course!  Please instruct us; we are attentive,
Mr. Archdeacon."

It is not easy to make any detailed expression of opinion or
justification of faith over well-cooked food.  That is an occasion for
wit and brevity--epigram was born at a dinner-table.  The Archdeacon
felt his disadvantage, especially as the eyes of the Duchess, like the
orbs of a mild Medusa, were expressing disapprobation.

"I cannot pretend, your Grace, to be able, under the circumstances, to
justify my faith in the fairies," he declared, while thoughtfully
cutting his _poussin_.  "I can only assert that faith, and prove its
truth as I live by acting up to its principles and helping to make the
world more beautiful and happy."

"Ruskin and soda-water!  Eh?  What?" murmured Sir Claude, glancing round
for the laughter which did not come.

The Archdeacon, to whom flippancy was more than a venial sin, felt
inclined to crush the Baronet; but succeeded in effectually ignoring
him, which was worse.

"Imagination is, without doubt, required to realize the existence of the
fairies.  They are not tangible, as are, say, bricks.  But is that a
difficulty?  Imagination is requisite before we can appreciate the
existence of ether, and several other essences--to use Lord Geoffrey’s
word--which we know well are about us, and affect us, though we cannot
see, smell, taste, handle, or otherwise comprehend them."

"But surely, Mr. Archdeacon," the Duke intervened, for no other reason
than to give his guest opportunity to continue his meal.  "Surely you
would not in any way put together the results of scientific inquiry, the
fruits of the research of physicists, with--bogies and other dreams?"

A murmur of agreement ran round the table. A ducal host is certain of
support in any argument he undertakes.

"I don’t see why not, Duke.  They are obviously different in kind as you
broadly state them; but I believe they are really linked closer than we
yet know.  The fact is that every certainty is merely a drop in an ocean
of uncertainty, an ocean of unplumbable depths.  Science is always on
the edge of new discoveries, which can only be bridged at first by the
imagination.  Without imagination Newton would have seen nothing more
than an apple falling, when that simple fact--as common as
raindrops--brought to him revelation of the all-compelling law of
gravitation. Without imagination Watt could not have built his ’Rocket’
out of a kettle and a puff of steam. Imagination is a necessity in all
departments"--Le Dare sighed audibly--"except perhaps in some modern
books."

"A kettle! a kettle!" said the Duchess to herself--_sotto voce_--yet
very well heard.  "What may a kettle be?"

A judge who sat next to her hastened to instruct her, while the ensuing
course was served.

"Even the law of gravitation," the Archdeacon continued, after a period
of general conversation, of mixed comments and further challenges,
"cannot be absolutely proved, though we all accept it.  Nor can the
dogma that three times seven are twenty-one be proved, or the assertion
that a line is length without breadth, or--to come to a different kind
of example--the statements of historians that William of Normandy lived,
conquered and died.  Nothing can be proved to some people. It is a
matter of faith.  Why do we believe that William fought with Harold at
Senlac?  Because we are told so, and our imagination appreciates the
details of the narrative.  We accept the Saxon Chronicle as essentially
a true story, and Matilda’s Bayeux tapestry as representing real people
and actual scenes.  But they wouldn’t convince a determined sceptic, or
a school-boy faced with the authority of the text-books, if he were
sufficiently original, obstinate, incredulous, and without the
imaginative gift.  They may be regarded by some people as fraudulent
tales, or forged representations of the truth, and to any extent as
partial and prejudiced stories--(No more wine, thank you)--and who could
convince them otherwise?  So all these accepted assertions--scientific,
historical, personal--may be refused by one who has no imagination.
Just in the same way the existence of the fairies may be believed in or
disbelieved.  I admit it is beyond my capacity for demonstration to
prove that they exist.  I have never seen a fairy.  If you asked me
whether it was the size of a needle, a horse, or a haystack, I could not
say; and it would not matter.  Enough that, though invisible, they are
lovely and beneficent, and that their influence--be it illusory or
not--tends towards the betterment of human life.  I am content to assert
that I believe in these essences by results.  The facts of the Lord
Mayor’s feast were beyond ordinary comprehension, yet they actually
occurred, and caused some hundreds of prosaic business men--as staid and
reliable as any human beings can be--to make resolutions to be less
selfish and more socially useful; and actually to keep those
resolutions.  I am sorry to bore you with such a long discourse, but it
was necessary as the subject is so important.  I believe in the fairies,
and wish their governance was potent to-day."

"So do I," said the enthusiastic Mrs. Thyme. June instantly forgave her
past offences.

"Bravo!" cried Lord Geoffrey again.

"But do you know--I’m not referring to yourself, Mr. Archdeacon--do you
know for a fact that they did keep them?  Is that fruits of the
imagination too?  Eh?  What?"

The doubter was, as usual, the annoying Baronet.  June looked at him, a
tiny glint of anger in her eyes, and gave him twinges--the promise of
gout.

"Sir Claude, I do!  Only to-day I had a visit from a Jew, a City
tradesman, who had, throughout his long business life, sweated his
people.  This man--I need not mention his name--was a guest at the Lord
Mayor’s banquet.  He is now a model employer; tender-hearted, generous
and scrupulous. He ascribes his wonderful change entirely to the
influence of the fairies."

The pause which followed these words was testimony to their effect.
June began to dance again.  She was as pleased as Punch with her
protégé.  The Archdeacon had turned up trumps.

But the Duchess was not pleased.  Her old friend Archdeacon Pryde was
becoming dreadfully plebeian.  To talk at her table about a kettle, and
then about a Jew tradesman, was very like exceeding the social limit, so
she gave the hostess’s signal, and the ladies withdrew; while June flew
to the window and gained strength, inspiration and hope from the
brightness of the skies and the young summer moon.



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                         *CONVERTING A DUCHESS*


The fairy found the cigar-smoke abominable; and as the conversation of
the men, possibly because of the tobacco, lapsed towards dulness--it was
mostly about guns and turnips--she flew out of the dining-room to the
salon upstairs, to sit on the great piano and watch the Duchess and her
feminine friends enjoying coffee and Chopin, while the more ardently
idle of them babbled of nothings.

June seemed transported to a languid, lazy world, peopled by
disillusioned descendants of the lotus-eaters.  Except for the Duchess,
who always sat bolt upright--Mrs. Pipchin was, in that respect, her
democratic parallel--the ladies lounged in the luxurious chairs, slowly
waved fans, and drivelled.  During that period of supineness nothing
vertebrate was said, with the exception of one pious wish expressed by
Mrs. Billie Thyme.

"I wish those fairies would bring the men along!"

At that remark three ladies feebly smiled.  The others--with the
exception of the Duchess, who never forgot her dignity--lounged lazily,
thought sleepily, and, when they spoke, drawled.

June yawned.  For the first and last time in the history of Fairydom she
did so, and knew herself bored utterly.

That yawn roused her: it annoyed her.  She would endure no more of that
overpowering influence of laziness.  She flew straight to the Duchess,
circled thrice about her chair, and then, standing on the grey coiffure,
wantonly disarranged the tiara, dragging it back to put in its place the
crown.  She dumped the symbol of sovereignty down with a shadowy thump.

Her Grace of Armingham blinked.  Something had happened.  What?  Strange
thoughts began to bubble.  Her brain was a maze of topsy-turvydom.  She
wanted to laugh aloud and laud the fairies.  She fixed her mind on her
present amazing irresponsibleness, and tried to banish the demon of
discord that prevailed.  It was no good.  The more she endeavoured to
fashion her ideas according to their customary crystallized pattern, the
more they resisted.  She possessed a burning desire to make a pun.  She
wrestled stubbornly with the horrid inclination.  Setting her brows in a
frown, her lips in a thin red line, she determinately withstood the
mocking influence that held her.

June settled on the top of a large ottoman, whence she could comfortably
watch the battle. It was magnificent, and it was war.  She determined to
bring an expression of light-heartedness to that handsome stubborn face.
She bent her powers of mind and magic to the proper subduing of the
stately dame, and had by no means the best of it.  The crown was potent.
It held the best magic of Elfland; but against that particular example
of pride, coldness and contempt, it was ineffectual as yet.  It was like
melting a glacier with lucifer matches.

Meanwhile the mind of the Duchess was in a buzz of contradictory
humours.  She was uncertain of herself.  She wanted to express ideas the
very opposite of her age-worn convictions. For the first time she saw
herself as not quite the most important creature amongst the stars.
Beyond all else, above all else, at that phase of the conflict, the
insatiable desire to make a pun beset her.  Horrible!  Horrible!  The
better half of her mind, the predominant partner of her will, bravely
and silently exclaimed against its dreadfulness.  But imps seemed
playing pranks with her, giving her a thousand opportunities for some
infamous punning.  The propensity had hold of her like neuralgia; it
needed all her firmness and stolid prejudice to counteract the tendency,
and prevent the commission of that lowest form of verbal play.  During
the whole of the battle Strauss and Chopin were supplying their
melodies; and June was feeling fiercely unmerciful.

Then the men came drifting in.  The ladies woke from their languors.
Bridge was mentioned.

Geoffrey, seeing the frowns and energy in his mother’s face, wondered
who had offended.  He looked sharply at Mrs. Thyme; she was evidently
not the culprit.  He found her smiling at Sir Claude, and making room
for him by her side on a settee.  The Baronet had always some
entertaining ill-natured tattle at the end of his tongue. He was the
Autolycus of tinted gossip.  June, in sheer puckishness of spirit,
touched the Baronet with a spell.  His stories became Sunday tales. They
were dilatory and improving.  Mrs. Billie frankly told him he bored.

It was the Duke who noticed the tiara out of place.  He sauntered over
to his wife, wondering how this could have happened.  He saw new
wrinkles about her eyes.  Her face had an east-wind expression.

"Edith," he murmured, "look in the mirror. Your tiara."

The pained look went.  Her fashionable callousness for a moment melted.
She raised her hands to the tiara to mend the mischief.  A pun--the only
pun possible under the circumstances--was on her lips.  It came to the
edge of expression; she to the brink of defeat.

She rallied her forces desperately.  She would not be beaten.  But the
magic was potent.  She had to say it, and did--to herself.  Her lips
moved mutely.  That was the beginning of the fairies’ victory.

Suddenly June felt pity for the _grande dame_, who, in her solitude of
station, knew no better. Already with her keen susceptibilities she
could see the real aspect of sadness in that golden scene.  Paradise
Court had its hopelessness, its waste and poverty; so had Armingham
House--hopelessness, waste, poverty, as actual, if not worse, though
different, very different, from what the poorest know.

Nothing in all London had struck her as more pitiable than the
barrenness of interests and fetters of wealth which starved and prisoned
those unawakened rich.  The more she saw of them, the more she felt for
them.  Their selfishness was mainly the selfishness of ignorance. They
needed to know; they needed to do.  It was the fairy’s function to give
them opportunities for knowledge and for helpful deeds.  To quicken
their atrophied usefulness must be her work. Then Fairyland would have
flown closer to the fireplace.

June released the Duchess and recrowned herself. Weary of lotus-eaters
and emptiness, she crept out through the opened window into the garden
to recreate her purposes among the shadows under the stars, but some of
her influence lingered behind and was effectual.

It was not quite the same Duchess who governed her guests that evening
and guided the party along its dull, appointed way.  Again and again the
Duke, Lord Geoffrey, the Archdeacon, noticed in her touches of unusual
geniality.  They were only occasional gleams; but those who knew her
best saw the difference.  The inconsequent pun had shifted a load of
stratified self-conceit.  Out of irresponsibility sympathy had come.

The fairy, when her wearied strength was renewed, for the strain and the
atmosphere of London still weighed heavily upon her, revelled in that
garden.  She sang as she flitted here and there, helping the helpable.
The moonlight glimmered on her rapid wings.  The stars became still
brighter for joy of her eagerness.  The flowers, parched and starving
for fairy-love, turned towards her, listening to her songs, inviting the
gifts of her hands.  She lighted their jaded lamps and gave them
happiness.

Then she felt sad because of the waste and the need.  Where were the
elves for this garden?

She looked towards Fairyland, and wished with all her powers.  Was it a
waking dream, or was she really aware of mimic voices, far, far away, in
the glades of Elfland answering her--promising to break the indifference
of Fairyland and to come?--or was the wish foster-mother to the fancy?
Had she merely imagined the desired reply?

When, returning, from her own world, she re-entered Armingham House, the
party was over. Its livelier members had gone to other staircases. The
Archdeacon, as became his office, went straight home to bed.  Lord
Geoffrey, caped and hatted, strolled quietly to "Liberty Hall," the
town-house of an Anglicized American, Mr. Barnett Q. Moss, who had
fifteen millions and dyspepsia.

The very last ball of a lively season was there in full swing.  Geoffrey
enjoyed watching the plutocracy at play, and sharing their wildness. It
was tonic to his well-bred nerves.  After three hours of a perfect
mother, it meant a bracing change.

June went too.

Meanwhile Bim had tucked himself up in the throstle’s nest and slept
like a top--however that may be.  He did not stir till the morning was
white.  Then he rose--a mite refreshed--and came down from his fastness
with a run.

He found Tim, and listened to him talking in his sleep.  The royal tramp
in his dreams was addressing legions.  Bim awoke him.  Tim continued his
oratory to the trees.  He was Cæsar and Buonaparte--two gentlemen in
one.  He seemed from his description to be wearing a laurel wreath round
his neck, and trousers of imperial purple, ermine-lined.  Every woe
which wandering mankind suffers from was instantly and absolutely
abolished--so far as mere words could abolish them--by autocratic
decree.  His Majesty Tim!

He stood up, wiped his feet on the grass, and looked about at the park.
The pride of ownership shone in his eyes.  All this belonged to him. His
face had a new expression containing something of noble gentleness, a
very pale reflex of the divinity that doth hedge a king.  He wiped his
lips with his sleeve and smiled.  He settled his battered hat--his
diamonded golden crown--daintily on the forefront of his head, and
shambled towards Oxford Street for the tramp-man’s breakfast, which,
thanks to Bim of Fairyland, would taste henceforth as some delicious
repast on a golden dish.  His future tasks--poor casual ward
businesses--would be noble services performed to aid mankind.

Being a king incognito, Tim did not advertise his estate.  He and the
fairies--they alone--knew of his royalty.  There are more such monarchs
amongst us than we wot of.

Bim was contemplating the tramp’s retreating figure when happiness came
to him.  June would enjoy the delights of victory yet.

Her appeal to Elfdom had been answered.  Here was one to help.  Down
from the skies and over the grass a fairy was hurrying.  It was Auna of
the Violet Valley; her purple wings fluttered wearily.  There was no
happiness in her mien. The oppressiveness of London was upon her.

"Gnome!" she asked weakly, "where in this horrid world is June?"

So saying, she drooped her limp figure on the wet grass and waited
awhile, mute with disillusionment and weariness, stricken with the sorry
prospect before her.  Auna had no more dignity, then, than a broken
butterfly.  She had come to the wilderness, sharing the madness of June;
and now, knowing its dreariness, remembered the deserted happiness.  She
was the first recruit to the glorious company of the disobedient.

Bim had not time to frame an answer to her question before his delight
received another delicious shock.  Here actually was one more fairy from
Elfland--Laurel of the Golden Uplands--where the broom is in its glory
and the brave gorse glows.  She, too, had flown thither in obedience to
June’s appeal, and brought smiles with her.  There was bravery in her
eyes, but the influence of the elfless Metropolis affected her as it had
affected June and Auna.  She, also, drooped on the grass.

There followed others.  Bim’s eyes and mouth opened wider and wider as
the numbers grew. It was a wonderful morning.  One by one the fairies
came, until seventeen of all degrees--knights and sweet
presences--studded the grass beside him.  He was flabbergasted.  His
wits, through this feast of joyous surprises, were stunned and groping,
until, with a long, long pull, he got himself together again.

For a full half-hour the fairies rested.  Bim felt the flattery of fine
company.  He forced himself to sit severely upright, as if he were one
with them, as indeed he deserved to be, and kept the wand prominently
forward.  He felt towards them somewhat as a longshoreman does to the
week-end tripper.  He could speak with uncontradictable authority.  He
knew London; these, his masters, were novices.

The sun rose, swathing every dew-burdened grass-blade with light.  An
elderly starling and several sparrows gathered about the fairy circle,
curious of these new-comers.  Bim, seeing the gaping wonder of the drab
creatures, "shoo-ed" them; but back they came, and always came, to
chatter with many twitterings about these mimic immortals, whose
existence in that jerry-built world they had learnt to be ignorant of.
More and more sparrows arrived, with a few larger birds--draggled
thrushes and shabby blackbirds, but no smaller birds of beauty.  The
sparrows had taken care of that.

It was the chattering of this inquiring concourse which roused the
fairies from stupor. One of the knights--Felcine of the Silver
Wings--addressed himself to Bim.

"You are the gnome who accompanied June?"

"I am," he replied proudly.  "I am her servant and companion.  What
London was before we came--ah!"  Bim drew a sweeping line with the wand,
in gesture expressive.

"Then tell us what you have done," Felcine commanded.

Bim in his best voice told his tale to the hearers.  It was, doubtless,
a lame epitome of recent history, but it served to quicken their
interest in the new departure, and to intensify their shame for having
been so long in coming. He spoke of Paradise Court and Sally, of the
want and the sweating; then of the improvements wrought in that colony
of the very poor. He enlightened them about the world of commerce, the
Lord Mayor’s banquet, the Oldsteins’ emporium; told of the Archdeacon’s
efforts; of the visit to Armingham House; of innumerable other episodes
and experiences, many of which have necessarily been excluded, even from
this chronicle and history.  Not a word did he say of the coming of the
fairy host to Paradise Court, or of its going again.  Bim--tactful
fellow!--knew how to dodge the disagreeable.

The gnome was not an orator at this period of his career; but his tale,
to those hearers, was highly interesting.  It brought home to them--as
possibly the perorations of a Member of Parliament would not have
done--the need for fairy-work, for elf-reform, in the city of cities.

They, too, had not forgotten the coming and going of the fairy host.

"And where is June now?" asked Auna, when his story was ended.

Bim turned to point vaguely to westward; and, doing so, saw June herself
on the brim of Geoffrey’s hat.  His lordship was walking homeward
through the Park.  He was tired and very thoughtful.  Fairy influence
and the excitements and scenes of the party at Liberty Hall had set him
thinking.

Of a sudden June saw Felcine and his companions, and gave a glad cry.

Bim then knew the meaning of absolute happiness.  He turned turtle with
a whoop, and balanced himself on his head.  That was how he found
expression for his feelings.



                              *CHAPTER XV*

                             *LIBERTY HALL*


As Geoffrey Season wended his way from Armingham House to Liberty Hall,
June kept his thoughts busy.  That was an opportunity for profitable
self-examination, which she took care should be well employed.

Geoffrey was habitually frank with himself and others.  It had never
been necessary for him to suffer the least degree of self-deception, or
to imagine certain human beings were angels, when they were only
themselves.

So, with June on his hat-brim, and the Archdeacon’s homily fresh in his
memory, he began to measure established facts with new purposes, and
found that in several directions the two did not fit.

He felt as he sauntered through the silent streets to his noisy
destination something like a pioneer landed on a virgin shore.  New
possibilities--vague and unformed as yet--loomed before him.  These new
possibilities at once attracted and repelled him.  It was not to be easy
for him to get out of the comfortable ruck in which circumstances had
placed him.

Ordinarily, the way for him to take would be through sober
squares--oases of iron-railed respectability--given up at that dull hour
to cats, drowsy cabs, and constables.  Now the splendid dulness and
shuttered dinginess of the great houses under which he walked oppressed
him, and the impulse came to wander by more devious ways, through that
network of slums which all but touched the back-doors of the rich.

Never before in his easy-ordered life had such an impulse come to him.
He had--as became his mother’s son--instinctively refrained from looking
on the unpleasant.  Squalor and want existed to be avoided; they were so
hopeless and--oh, so ugly!  Unconsciously he had cultivated the happy,
blind eye, and habitually overlooked the obvious.  There was no
callousness in his case, but merely ignorance.  There are many like him.
He was one of a multitude unawake.

At last he was ripe to shed his priggishness. June vigorously spurred
his purposes.  His latent power for real social service was suddenly
quickened into life.

Marching into an area of meanness, which hitherto had been the Forbidden
Land, he was at once face to face with heavy problems.

He passed a public-house, as a drunken woman, a baby in her arms, was
put out from the portal. A whiff of hot air went with her.  The potman
who had turned her out--"chucked" is the word--talked to her in dingy
scarlet, and then returned to his damp altar of a decadent Bacchus.

Geoffrey gazed at the woman curiously.

The horror of it!  She was undivine, bestial, bloated; the victim--a
greedy victim--to gin. She stopped and turned clumsily to stare stupidly
at the lighted windows; then angrily, with hoarse voice, returned the
potman’s compliments. All the while the fragment of humanity was
wailing, cradled within her shawl.

The threats of this demoralized Venus merged gradually into a pitiful
whine--ah, the woes and wrongs she suffered from!--as she staggered
hurriedly along the causeway, came to the door of her dwelling, and
lurched over the step.  There was the home of that English child!

June flew after the infant in service bound, leaving Geoffrey weak and
numb with indignant horror and helplessness.  Here were problems indeed!

He awoke of a sudden to a sense of his responsibilities.  What had he
been living for? A shock of icy coldness swept through him. That was the
beginning of burdens.  He looked with new eyes at himself.

He was wealthy, leisured, destined for a prominent career in Parliament.
Till now he had contemplated a life of enjoyment, tempered with a
variety of pleasant experiences--sociability, applause and public
activities.  He had seen himself on platforms, happily eloquent;
standing before a green ministerial bench, banging a treasury box, while
men of note listened and cheered.

That had been the game as expected.  Now things were to be different.
Realities had challenged him.  The drunken mother and the doomed child
represented thousands.  He was to work for them and for such as they.

June rejoined him.  The mother and the infant were both asleep.  One
drop of elixir of fern-seed, a thousand and three years old, made from
Merlin’s ancient recipe; and the deed was done.

Fairy and lordling passed through human rookeries.  Geoffrey, eagerly
observant of facts on this shady side of life, was indifferent to
danger.  He was reckless.  Again and again a policeman sternly warned
him, and frequently accompanied him through the darkest, least savoury
parts.  He laughed scornfully at the need for caution, turned up his
coat-collar, covered his shirt-front, and went on, feeling more and more
reckless and angry as he went. This was revelation!  He clenched his
fists, and writhed at the manifold evidences of past indifference and
neglect.  But the anger went after a time, or was tempered with wisdom.

Children, children everywhere!  Always there were children.  Wherever he
wandered, late as it was, during that westward pilgrimage, he saw
them--the innocent, chief sufferers--bearers of the heaviest burdens.
They were born to woe; nearly always were to die of it.  Where was the
justice, where the justification of their pain? Let comfortable
sociologists prate; but why had they those hours and days of want and
suffering merely to die?  They had not offended.  They had not broken
laws of thrift, duty, love; yet they must endure evil and reap great
harvests of the sins their forebears had sowed.  It was pitiful,
shameful, appalling.

He saw little ones weary to death, forgotten, learning iniquities.  The
infinite waste of young humanity appalled him!  Something of the
nation’s life was decaying there, and so few seemed to care.

He came abruptly to the square which had Liberty Hall at its corner.
Before proceeding to the enjoyments awaiting him, he must calm and
recover himself.  He walked slowly along the three sides of the square.
He was still agitated by the disclosures that slum-experience had
brought him, so he walked again right round the inner circle of
railings, and forced himself into the guest-man’s mood.

He came, at last, to the crowded portal, begged and pushed his way
through triple lines of packed spectators--for the most part women who
had forgotten the lateness of the hour and their weariness in wonder and
curiosity at the costumes of the guests--and joined the procession of
the invited up red-carpeted steps.

June was troubled.  Liberty Hall gave her dismay.  Armingham House had
been stately, though somewhat oppressive; the loudness and glaring
brilliance of this assembly--this over-painted caricature of what is
splendid--bewildered her.  It reminded her--unjustly--of prosperous
public-houses.

Geoffrey surrendered his hat and cape to a footman--the livery of the
Mosses was moss-green and gold--and passed on to be received. He was
welcome.  Scions of the aristocracy had master-keys to that house, as
also had the over-rich.

The lady of Liberty Hall greeted him with heartiness.

"Very glad to see you, Lord Geoffrey; come right in!"

She was tall, thin and bony; framework _décolletée_. Her face was not
happy.  It was heavily lined, and bore the marks of ambition and strain.
Head, neck, arms, and corsage were ablaze with diamonds.  Three fortunes
gleamed and sparkled upon her.  A picture of the woman of the slums and
the neglected infant flashed through Geoffrey’s mind.  June, to whom
always human beings were merely as shadows burlesquing reality, became
actually afraid.  Her wings were constantly quivering.

There was a surging mob beyond this lady of jewels and angles--no less a
mob because its members were prosperous and expensively dressed.
Already the fairy had a foretaste of the vulgarity within, and feared
and trembled with hate of it.

Geoffrey said some small smiling nothing, and passed on to a second
effusive welcome--from his host, a man of restless eyes and heavy mouth.

"Barnett Q."--as his cronies called him--had made the best part of his
millions out of biscuits, the balance from high finance.  In his
home-place Barnett Q. was genial and hospitable; but put a deal in his
way, and he became on the instant keen, unscrupulous, inexorable,
flint-hearted.

"It’s a real good pleasure to see you, Lord Geoffrey.  If you don’t
jolly some, you mustn’t blame the wife and me.  This house is named
Liberty Hall, and I guess it’s got to live up to its cognomen."

The dancing had started.  It was already very like a whirlwind.  Young
folk, hot and flushed, were romping round like mad to the rhythm of a
two-step.  Geoffrey was caught in the riot.  A demoiselle who giggled
and called him Herbert seized his hand and began the gay canter.  He
threw himself into the spirit of the revel, neither pausing nor thinking
till the band with a crashing finale stopped, and his partner had
hurried him off to a refreshment-buffet.

There was perpetual laughter, peals of it now and then.  Humour was
cheap; mirth was easily aroused at that party.  A man with a false nose
was a great favourite, and when he suddenly startled a dowager and
caused her wig to shift there were shrieks of delight.  The catchwords
of the streets were popular and appreciated in Liberty Hall.  Champagne
and cocktails shed a genial influence over everything.  There was no
lack of liquid wealth in that bountiful establishment.

June, while the dancing lasted, escaped to the gallery where the band
was playing, and sat on the matted hair of a flautist, who forthwith
went flat.  Her thoughts for a while were far away in a night-world of
green shadows.

"Hello, Season!" cried a puffy, sleek young man, clapping Geoffrey
familiarly on the shoulder. "See my new mo. yesterday?  I’m Harris, you
know!  Met you at Monty Dizzler’s."

"No, Mr. Harris, I fear I didn’t see the machine."

"Don’t call me Mister, Season!  There’s no side between gentlemen, hey?
She’s a beauty! Light, and as for power and speed--well, I’m no orator!
Passed you in Sloane Street by Cadogan Square.  You were with a
specially nice little piece of frilling--girl with a hat all over her.
Gave four-fifty for her--the mo. I mean.  Don’t laugh.  T’other side of
Hounslow sent her along like blazes.  The bobbies couldn’t get ready for
me.  Rushed past three of them--traps and all--like a greased eel,
before they could doctor their watches.  Nearly knocked over one cop.
Ha! And not more than a mile further on went over a boy’s foot.  No
business playing in the roads, those kids!  You should have heard him
squeal. Talk of Wagner, and that rot!  This is private between you and
me, y’ know.  Fortunately, the mo. made such a dust they couldn’t see my
number. I--oh, if you don’t want to hear any more, you needn’t!  Shirty
dog!  Just because he’s a duke’s son, gives himself airs.  What’s a duke
nowadays? Pauper rats!  Hullo, Gertie; come and have some sup.  Liberty
Hall’s a rotter, but his cham’s worth drinking!  Then I’ll take you
home, little gell. You must see my new mo.----"

Geoffrey did not dance again.  The pause had given him an opportunity
for recollection.  He had since entering Mrs. Moss’s hospitable abode
somewhat forgotten his better purposes; but was already ashamed of his
recent excitement.  Though he started from Armingham House with the full
intention of getting as much enjoyment at Liberty Hall as possible, he
felt he ought to have remembered better the contrast of conditions
between this revel and the sordid misery and nakedness of the slums.

He stood underneath the gallery watching and beginning to wonder.  More
than one of his companion-guests chaffed him for his grave face and
preoccupied airs.  He answered their badinage with repartee good enough.

The dancing became still more violent.  Certain ladies, flaxen-haired
and well-complexioned--footlight favourites--punctuated the step phrases
of a barn-dance with high, high kicks.

Barnett Q. laughed with happy tolerance at the lace display, winked
archly at some elderly cronies, babbled that things were somewhat slower
in his young days, and went about murmuring to all and sundry, "Liberty
Hall!  Liberty Hall!"

Geoffrey felt the beginning of an angry shame--of himself first and
foremost.  Everything jarred on him now.  The fairies had hold of him;
but June, just then, was doing nothing.  She was far away among the
happy shadows.

The excitement had come to seem feverish, unreal; the laughter rang
untrue--a mockery of gaiety.  But still they laughed, as if they were
fey. Geoffrey had been at such gatherings four or five times before, and
had found them, with their colour, movement and irresponsibleness
extremely amusing.  They had sent him back to his world of ennui
refreshed, a restored superior gentleman. But to-night he was restless,
tired of the glamour; its gaiety was repulsive.

He put it down to the scenes of the slums and the sight of weary
children; of course, having no idea that a fairy was perched but a
little above him--that his state of dissatisfaction was mainly due to
her.

He could not help overhearing occasional snatches of conversation from
old and young; it was always loud-voiced, and invariably told one of
these tales--the pleasures of extravagance, the rounding of idleness,
the smart acquisition and showy expenditure of wealth.  Braggarts were
many.  Vanity Fair!  Vanity Fair!

June, awaking from her dreams and seeing his restlessness, sailed down
and throned herself on the silken lappel of his coat--a fairy as a
button-hole is a pretty sight, when we can see it.  He felt a sudden
increase of impatience: he must go. He wandered through the rooms,
hunting for the way of escape.

He met his hostess.  The poor lady looked thinner than ever.  Her face
had become white with excitement.  Her diamonds accentuated the
ghastliness.

"What is the matter?" she asked, with the drawl she sometimes affected.
"I hope you’re finding enjoyment in this country-cottage, but if your
face is telling the truth, your thoughts are pretty near the tombstones.
Now that won’t do! I reckon I must find some sweet young thing to bring
you back to Mother Earth.  You’re looking just too angelic for
anything."

Geoffrey, realizing the discourtesy of poor appreciation in a house so
overabundant with hospitality, hastened to set her social fears at rest,
and returned to the corridor leading back to the dancing room.

Suddenly there was tumult beside him.  A girl had been imbibing
cocktails carelessly.  She slipped, and to regain her balance, grabbed
at the arm of a man who was conspicuous in kilts. He, too, had been
enjoying the flowing tide of champagne, and being a proud MacCoolicky,
the chief of that ilk, was apt to be angry in his cups.

He steadied himself by clutching at some tapestry, and then, hearing
some laughter and seeing a man broadly grinning at him, viciously jabbed
him a blow on the arm.  There was at once the prospect of a scuffle.
The veneer of good manners on some of the guests was generally
exceedingly thin.  Geoffrey sprang between the scowling combatants; so
did two other men. They seized the MacCoolicky’s arms, and forced him
against the wall.  He began to sob, while the girl, the cause of his
mishap, restored by the excitement to her true self, amused the crowd by
describing his possible ancestors with their tails.

The MacCoolicky, for his part sobered too, writhed under the ridicule,
and went away furiously muttering elementary Gaelic.

Barnett Q. came hurrying up, pushing his way through the crowd like a
police-inspector.  His little grey eyes glittered, his thin lips were
pressed together in a very decided line.  The millionaire was a man of
flame and granite.

"You can do every blamed thing you like in this establishment," he said
to them generally; "but I’m darned if I’ll have any fraycars, and that’s
plain truth!"

"It’s all right, Barney; only a little high spirits. Boys will be boys!"
said a tiny old man from the edge of the crowd.  And so the trouble
ended.

The tumult took place near the door of a large room, which throughout
the evening had been a haven of great interest.  Geoffrey, parting from
his host, entered the room.

June flew ahead, curious to see what was doing at the green tables.  She
noted the faces which fringed the games, and was shocked by their
expressions.  Greed, cupidity, selfishness, weakness, brutal excitement,
sordid delight, mean disappointment were pictured there.  Horrible! It
was the card-room.  The place was packed to stifling.  Roulette,
baccarat, and bridge were hard a-swing.  Gambling was no new sight to
Geoffrey Season, but never before had he seen such greedy rabble as
that, or such extravagant, reckless stakes.

It was an occasion of unscrupulous business. Old and young, men and
maidens, crowded round the tables primed with the one desire--to make.
Mammon was their king.  There was no refinement or enjoyment about that
business; it was mere greediness on a very large scale.  Eyes,
fascinated, followed the running of the ball, the placing of the money,
the turn and manipulation of the cards, the sweeps and pushes of bankers
croups.  The excitement was tense.  Now and again hurried murmurs,
excited comments, soft hysterical laughter, contradictions and brief
disputes, broke the general silence.

Heigho!  It was a sight for the cynical.  If the devil has no humour, he
misses a lot of fun.

Young girls, hardly old enough for their education to be "finished,"
were fingering piles of gold, and placing coins with calculation,
according to some "system."  They had completed their education at Monte
Carlo.  An elderly man was the lucky one--if luck is really the word.
He neither smiled nor frowned, whatever his fortune might be; but calmly
paid his losses and as calmly took his gains--his calmness, either way,
was absolute.

Footmen came and went, carrying trays and glasses, but were not
especially welcomed.

A young man with waved hair and a pose--a forgotten ballad-writer, his
fame had flickered and gone out--happened to be standing beside
Geoffrey.  His eyes were alight with monetary desire.

"A sight well worth sinning for, Season," he said, with a nod at the
piles of gold and paper scattered about the board.

Geoffrey nodded in idle agreement.  The wealth displayed represented
thousands of pounds.  June kissed his cheek.

"Yet with all that wealth there is actual starvation not an eighth of a
mile from here," he said in obedience to her kiss, her command.

The poseur turned and stared.  He gaped with surprise.

"Good Lord, Season!  You ought to be a curate."

"It is, unfortunately, only the truth."

"Perhaps so.  Why not?  Anyhow, it’s no good talkin’ about it.  People
who starve have only themselves to blame.  Haven’t they hands to work?
Show me a poor man, and you’ll point to a fool.  That’s truth, too, if
it isn’t an epigram! Everyone with wits can get a good living if he
likes.  And if not--well, let those who can’t get take; that’s my motto.
I’m no high-priest of ordinary morality, I can tell you.  But--look, Sir
Gussie’s won again!  George! the luck of that fellow!  Let me come; I
must put a yellow boy on _impair_."

The yellow boy was not at once put on, for a climax had come.  A charge
of cheating was shrieked out by an excited woman playing bridge. Chaos
came again.  Men and women sprang to their feet to look, and crowded to
the centre of trouble.  There were words of eager accusation, of fierce
denial, of hot anger.  A table was overturned.  Gold tinkled to the
floor.  Two women--those chiefly concerned--had almost passed beyond
words.  It seemed, so agitated were they, and so fierce their looks as
they glared at each other, as if they would actually be fighting; but
cooler counsels urgently intervened, and the disputants were led away,
each grasping her stakes or winnings, each still making angry
assertions. For a little while the inherent vulgarity of the company had
violently broken out; it had set at defiance the thin varnish of
conventional politeness most of them wore.

Geoffrey turned, and pushed his way out of the room, out of the house.

A cold breeze blew on his forehead.  The stars were shining.

"Never again!" was his resolution.  "Never, never again!"

At that moment the prig in him finally went. He was humble now and
burningly sincere.

He realized his personal responsibility.  In the future it must be his
duty, in and out of Parliament, to modify the hideous inequality that
had been exemplified that night.  To have this waste, idleness, and
vulgarity--this undisturbed triumph of Moloch and Mammon--by the side of
extreme want and its manifold iniquities, was preposterous, humiliating,
intolerable.  The matter must be mended, if that could be.  He would
devote his years to the business.

But how to touch those extravagant idlers, the mischievous human
butterflies, the Smart Set? Ah, how?

Dawn had succeeded night.  Its greyness was shrinking under the promise
of the sun.  The Park gates were being opened as he came to them.  He
passed in to walk over the grass, preferring to return that way to
Armingham House while his brain strove and wrestled with teeming
problems.

Sudden inexplicable happiness seized him.  He felt momentary lightness
of heart.  His mood of depression went.  He felt surprisingly hopeful.
There must be a fine ending to all these quandaries.  But why was he so
hopeful?  He could not tell.

The reason was sufficiently simple.  June, in her hour of deepest gloom,
was encouraged by the sight of the fairies; and her joy at seeing them
there had permeated--had glorified--him.



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                               *PROGRESS*


Fairyland had begun to return to London.

The meeting of those elves with June was historic--an occasion for
joyance, and they rejoiced.  With songs, dances, and laughter they
expressed their happiness.  They ran gentle riot for a time.

Hyde Park took to them at once.  Birds congregated; park-keepers,
wondering why, came too.  But none so blind as park-keepers.  The
bewildered creatures scratched heads, tugged at moustaches, and tried to
reason it out; but of course they could not, so they weakly went away
and forgot the wonder.

The fairies, after their excusable interval of rings and roundelays,
winged to their headquarters in Paradise Court.  Bim, unblessed with
powers of flight, had to follow at the leisurely pace of a dray-horse,
which was contentedly dragging barrels of beer eastwards. He slept and
dreamed peacefully in a nosebag for most of the way.

June speedily decided how to use these her recruits.

There were the pillar-boxes.  Their scarlet bravery, punctuating the
drab shabbiness of the streets, had been to her something like
inspiration, glad breaks from London’s wide-flung monotony.  She would
rather their hue had been less crude, and not always red; but never mind
that!  They carried colour, that was virtue in such environment.

She decided to use every pillar-box as the centre for one fairy’s
activities.  On its smooth convexity a magic dwelling should be built,
round which fairy flowers would flourish.  No men would know of the
wonder; but that was their fault; they should use their minds and see.
From every such oasis of light and sweetness the power of Elfdom would
radiate, spread in larger and wider circles till Oberon’s reign in
London re-existed.  June enjoyed brave visions as she led her pioneers
eastward to the beginning of triumph.

Weeks went by.

The summer grew sultry.  The Clerk of the Weather, ensconced in cool
cloudland, harried old England with heat-waves.  Streets, courts, and
alleys became almost intolerable.  John Bull, with bovine heartiness,
grumbled, swallowed iced drinks, gasped and sweltered.  Children whose
playgrounds were the narrow courts and streets endured as best they
could.

The new-come fairies, during those weeks, went through a severe ordeal.
It was a bad business, that dull grind amongst ugly ways and dead
ideals, when the birds and the flowers out in Fairyland were calling.
June watched them, fearful lest they--on whom so much depended--should
falter and return to joys that would welcome them; but they were true;
they did not fail.

What a work they did!  To describe it were to write volumes!  The Lord
Mayor’s new organization--Titania’s Bodyguard--was rapidly getting into
being, testing its cog-wheels, preparing to buzz.  The fairies helped it
with wands and will.

There was everywhere infinite need for elf-work, therefore the effects
of that little company seemed by comparison but limited.  It was,
however, great and real; so great and real and gracious that mayors,
aldermen, and councillors, responsible for the welfare of the districts
blessed, found their heads swelling.  They thought this state of
betterment was due to them--the blockheads! June, for reasons, was
content they should enjoy what they could of the credit.  She was
nothing if not politic.

The fairies, giving the lead to the Bodyguard, which went to work with
the zeal of idealist youthfulness, made a dead set against unhealthy
houses.  Jerry the builder began to feel uneasy, and serve him right!

Leaky roofs, sinking walls, warped woodwork, and other results of the
jobbery of Jerry, the fairies touched with destructive wands and
hastened the decay.  The scamping engineer was hoist with his own
petard.  Ill-built houses, good only at the best for a few uncomfortable
years, became at once so outrageously bad, and obviously so dangerous,
that Studge, Snodge, Hopkins, and the rest of the gowned brethren on the
Borough Council, were compelled for a time to forget prospects of
pickings and the interested grinding of axes, in order to insure that
Jerry’s offensive structures were demolished to be reconstructed
promptly with conscience and workman-like bricks and mortar.

"If these shadows must have shells," said June, "let them be worthy and
pretty shells!"

That is the spirit in which the fairies approached contracts and
quantities.  They carried their influence abroad.

Jerry had the grey time of his life.  His pocket was suffering so
conspicuously that his conscience became pricked and tender.  He lay
awake o’ nights thinking copy-book mottoes. He was haunted by
goody-goody ghosts.  He wriggled, struggled--surrendered, coming
reluctantly to the conclusion that honesty was, after all, the best
policy.  He acted accordingly. Hopkins, Snodge and Studge, now becoming
passionately possessed of civic righteousness, kept eyes upon him, and
realized for themselves the blessed compensations of disinterested
public service.

The fairies made war on ugliness.  They made a dead set against
hideousness in all its aspects.  Whatever was bad and depressing in
public and private buildings went rapidly to decay.  Practical men were
puzzled.  They attempted to solve the mystery by rule of thumb, as
usual, and were always at fault.  There was more scratching of
contractors’ heads during those summer and autumn months than had been
since the building of Babel.

Men whose whole lives were an experience in joists and concrete, whose
favourite field of talk was estimates and specifications, were utterly
perplexed at the seemingly unreasonable circumstances which suddenly
beset their trade.  They asked each other desperate questions, and
spread bewilderment.  Why was rottenness so soon exposed?  Why did that
cornice which pleased them, though its adorned ugliness would have
infuriated Ruskin, begin to fall away in slabs? They could not answer;
but--it was!

A paradox lurked beside every doorway.  The curious thing was that
whatever was simple and beautiful lasted longer than usual, while the
ill-adorned, ugly and drab went speedily to bits.

The fairies’ policy was fruitful.  Mean streets slowly ceased to deserve
their adjective.  Slums disappeared--were transformed with wonderful
rapidity.  With lighter rooms and prettier houses laughter came!  Jerry
called himself Joseph, wore fancy waistcoats, and felt a patriot.  The
business of artists boomed.

The extraordinary transformation which splendidly uprose was, in truth,
an abiding, complete mystery to purblind practical men--they who measure
facts with foot-rules, and look at life through theodolites.  They could
not understand the true reason why they had to build better. But the
fairies knew; aha! the fairies knew.

June’s company went about brightening what they approved with invisible
paint, and gave cramp and spasms to folk with wilfully low ideals.  They
enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Bim was indefatigable in his efforts.

It was not only in the building-world that the fairies did so well.
Active as they were in arranging for the demolition and reconstruction
of certain districts of London, they also looked after humanity in many
other ways.

Here are a few instances of their manifold activities culled from
Blue-books on the subject.

Workhouses were made worthier, less frightening, more homely; they
became honourable retreats for the aged and unfortunate.  Workhouse
masters wore coloured shirts, encouraged the old men to play senile
games of cricket, called every old woman "Ma’am." ...

School-teachers had the happiest faculty for periodically ignoring the
time-table and telling the children unexpected fairy tales at hours
officially dedicated to sums.  The children came to school eagerly,
charmed there by this delightful uncertainty; and then in their homes
retold the tales to brothers, sisters, and parents.  The school-songs
and games became most joyous; elves helped the children to sing and
play....

Street-corner speakers grew wondrous gentle to each other.  The old
uncharity disappeared. Temperance orators tried the effects of
geniality, and began to make progress against the enemy. Time-worn
political opponents invited each other to share the top of a common tub;
and there, while differing, praised each other’s tolerance and
sincerity....

The front-door to Utopia was opening.

At a bye-election, politicians found themselves scrupulous; canvassers
stuck to the truth, took no unfair advantages, left personalities coldly
alone.  The Buffs, always well-provided, lent their enemy, the Blues,
whatever carriages and motor-cars they could spare.  Partisans of either
side went to chair the rival candidate, and in the friendliest manner
possible wished him to lose....

The causes which you, O reader, are opposed to fizzled out.

Roofs of city houses were covered with green plants, and turned into
gardens, enabling employés to do their business better because work was
punctuated with restful visits to the flowers....

Soap was vigorously used.  Cleanliness became a creed and a passion.
Morning faces, floors and doorsteps shone.  (Five fortunes would not
induce me to divulge the name of the favourite soap.)

All British birds in cages were taken into the country and released.
Gourmets started a league to prohibit the eating of larks.  The
woodlands, therefore, rang with happier songs, and Fairyland advanced
with seven-league boots....

Bean-feasters devoted evenings to the practising of glees, reviving
folk-songs, so that country roads were no longer rendered wretched with
the crude strains of music-hall choruses.  Delightful concerts were
organized for Londoners among the green fields.  England once more began
to be merry with song....

Vulgarity lost its flavour.  Rudeness was cold-shouldered.  Jokes which
were not nice were not laughed at.  They fell flat as recumbent
tomb-stones.  Humour--the real article--lived again. It was pleasant to
hear the persiflage of office-boys, which began to be original.  Omnibus
drivers and cabmen were sometimes really funny. As for judges, they
always joked in the right places....

The elves and the Bodyguard looked to the hoardings, which became more
pleasant and effective as the artistic charm of advertisements
increased.  Colours were chosen which combined harmoniously.  Passers-by
no longer suffered toothache and heart-spasm because of some militant
eyesore.  Those pestilent bobbly lights, that reiterate a trade-name at
night-time, were torn down by righteous raging mobs, hammered and
drowned....

What else the fairies did I need not detail here, for the reader who has
come to this page has proved perfectly capable of adding to the series
of their good effects.  It was all just splendid.

London surely and rapidly recovered itself; and as its appearance and
manners progressed towards perfection, more fairies, encouraged by the
brightness, came; more pillar-boxes were settled upon; the circle of
influence was still wider spread; the march of amelioration went on.

When a hundred fairies had arrived, and forty-three gnomes had followed
them--which was not until October, the sere of the year, had
arrived--June decided to give a garden-party on the roofs of Paradise
Court.

Bim was appointed major-domo, lord high-butler, and general factotum,
something like fifteen officials in one.  He swelled visibly with proper
pride.  His energy in making the preparations was so intense--he managed
so successfully to be in two places at once--that not a few of his
fellow-gnomes thought him blessed with invisible wings.  His dignity and
importance were unquestionable.  He wore the superiority, won through
being the first gnome to brave the rigours of London, so openly that his
brethren of the democracy became more than a wee bit envious.  Perhaps
Bim’s head had become very slightly swelled.

Meanwhile June was wondering what Oberon was doing.

That October night was an occasion to be well-remembered by fairy and by
man, though man remained blind to its doings, albeit benefiting by its
effects.  The moon, which since the affair of the Violet Valley had
disguised her interest in the rebellion of June, shone openly, and
looked with all her seas.  That London night was alive with vivid
beauty, every angle and chimney-pot of those decaying hideous houses
being beneficently illumined by her beams.

The roof-world was no longer a black and grey wilderness.  Elfin wands,
gnome labours, and many ingenuities had covered it with tiny lights and
fairy flowers, making it a piece with the dream-world.

June--hostess and heroine--wore her lustrous crown.  There were songs,
dances, and much great joy.  Gnomes, sitting in rows on chimney rims and
along the edges of stacks, sang and applauded.  Only one well-known song
in the anthology of Elfdom was not heard during that night of revel--the
triumph song, the chant reserved for the May-day crowning.

Mankind was still blind to these celebrations. It really seemed as if
men must be trying to see with their noses.  Such wonderful things were
happening just under their very eyes which they could not see, and in
their purblindness would not imagine.  It is a heart-breaking business,
the open-eyed blindness of men.

Later on, of course, they had better than glimmerings--but sufficient
for this chapter is what we have said.

One old woman, and one old woman alone, had glimpses of that revel.  She
was Irish.

Bridget Malone had oftentimes, in her young days, seen fairies round an
empty hearth in Connaught; but when she came to London, forty years
before, she had forgotten the precious faculty, and lost the power of
seeing the unseen.  This sight of triumphant elves restored the gift.

Bridget woke out of sleep.  Her bed was on the floor, but her bones were
accustomed to hardness, so that not want of warmth or any Sybarite
troubles caused her to wake.

She saw a strange light reflected on the tattered wall opposite the
window.  She breathed a prayer to Mary, and looked for the supernatural,
for this was not moon-rays or sunshine, but something of both blended
and idealized; something of the light which never was on sea or land.

Bridget, in her half-asleep wisdom, guessed it was the little people.
Her thoughts flew back in a flash to the days of childhood.  She
thoughtfully thanked her stars, and felt religious.

She had it in mind to wake her daughter and three grandchildren, all
sleeping in the same room, that they might share her good fortune, but
refrained.  If it were the fairies, they might not be pleased.  She
remembered the jealous secrecy reputed of the little people in the old
country, who could not bear their meetings to be overlooked.  So Irish!

Bridget, therefore, saw those revels alone.  She crept on her knees to
the window and watched, resting her chin on the sill.  It was so good a
sight that she did not know she had cramp, and quite forgot the
rheumatism from which she had made her family suffer for the last five
years. She was lost in a rapture.

"’Twas a soight to make ould eyes shparkle," she related afterwards.
"On the tip-top of that chimney-pot was a little rhound man for all the
worruld like a shwollen dumplin’, but as rid as holly-berries.  That was
a turr’ble important little gintleman.  He looked like the settin’ sun
full o’ twinkles; and the way he would come down and bless the others,
rhound lumps like hisself, as if he was cock o’ the dancin’, was a
wonder! And there, on a t’rone, made out of all sorts of fer-rns and
flowers, was a leddy-queen fairy. She had a cr-rown on her head that
would buy Ireland’s ransom; it shparkled and it shone, like the sun,
moon and shtars all togither, whan glancin’ on a lake in Connaught.  Her
face was a pictur’ of kindness.  Her eyes and her mouf were smilin’ like
blessin’s.  I’d have made her a cake for luck if I’d known how to get it
to her, and I didn’t want to frighten them away, the darlin’s, a-leppin’
and a-rompin’ so prettily.  So I put my daughter’s petticoat round me
and kept on lookin’.  There were hunderds and hunderds of fairies.  They
danced like anyt’ing; and waved about and looked so beautiful--it was a
pictur’! Hev ye iver heard nightingales in an Irish wood? Hev ye iver
seen moonbeams on an Irish river? No!  Dear, what can I say to ye?
Well, you’ve seen mother’s love in a woman’s face, so you’ll get some
ghost of a notion of the music and the poethry, and the ma’nifishence of
that dancin’. The light which came from the little people--it all came
from them, with a little moonlight t’rown in--was br-right as fire on
Tara....  And ye don’t belave it? ... Ah, ye makes a mishtake, young
gintleman!  If they weren’t fairies that I saw, and if I didn’t see
them, there’s no hope for you nor for me nayther, for as thrue as
Cuchulain killed his son they were there--as thrue as thruth they were
there.  I saw thim with these ould eyes....  See them?  Of course I did!
’Twas plain as ugliness, only ’twas beautiful as light could make it.
They kept on, they kept on, I tell ye, till afther the sun was up, and
the lasht I saw of thim was the fairy with the cr-rown on shmilin’ and
shmilin’!"

So much for the testimony of Bridget Malone. Strangely enough--although
the newspapers, thanks chiefly to the Venerable Archdeacon Pryde and Sir
Titus Dods, now in the last month of his mayoralty, had made Oberon
popular, and it was a beautiful commonplace to have faith in the
fairies--no one treated Bridget’s story with proper respect or even with
simple common sense. Paradise Court--her own country--was packed with
disbelievers, and--is it not always so?

Indirectly, however, her story had one good effect.  It set others
telling and inventing fairy-tales--spreading a fine fashion.  So June,
seeing that result, forgave the incredulity.  The imagination of the
people was awake.

Yes, Bridget had told the truth.  The fairy with the crown was "shmilin’
and shmilin’."  The last moment of the revel brought June its crowning
happiness, a great unexpected cause for joy.

As Bridget has told us, daylight was abroad, and the sun had risen,
before the fairy dancing ended.

A white cloud--or it may have been a gulp of white smoke from an
awakening workshop chimney--came sailing in the direction of the
roof-garden.  June watched it, wondering; it seemed charged with
mystery.

As it passed overhead, she realized its burden. The magic of the crown
gave her power to pierce its secret.

Hidden in the little white cloud was Oberon flying.  He had come in
disguise to spy out the land; had seen, had passed on his way.

Thus there was a fine full-stop to the revels.

Some notes of interrogation were added by June--"Would Oberon come to
resume his reign? Where might Titania be?  Was Fairyland at last on the
way?"

Not yet.  Not just yet!



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                        *THE ARISTOCRACY MOVES*


As soon as the campaign of the pillar-boxes had well begun, and fairy
progress was rapidly marching, June settled down to the siege and taming
of her Grace of Armingham.  That was a difficult fortress to reduce!
For weeks the fairy was baffled.

The Duchess, as we know, had many great qualities, which need no
advertisement here. Her main defect, which does matter, was a sublime
indifference to certain most important sub-lunar things.  She had at
this time no sympathy, imagination, or gift of genial make-believe;
there was nothing for the fairy to fasten to.  It was much like trying
to grow orchids in a vacuum.

June did not repeat her prankish experiment of the night of the party.
Now and then the Duchess of her own accord thought a pun--habit had
begun to pale the lurid hideousness of the thing--and actually came to
regard herself as possessing some sense of humour--in this case a
hopeful sign.  June was merciful and not unwise. Never again was the
Duchess urged by any invisible spirit of mischief to the brink of a
breach of decorum.

The fairy was tactfully careful to do nothing to lessen her Grace’s
self-respect.  The prize must be won with all flags flying.  A
discredited victim would mean no worthy--and possibly no
permanent--victory.  So the best order of diplomacy was required.  June
wove her spells, and brought magic to bear.  These influences had some
effect from the beginning; but it was to be a very lethargic conversion.
For a time the Duchess gave no signs of submission.

The Duke was more malleable.  June found it easy to influence him.  He
became quite a champion of fairydom over the dinner-table; and, when the
men were left to their cigars, toasted Titania daily, in the good
old-fashioned manner, with an apt quotation from the classics.

Nor did his enthusiasm and efforts finish there. Twice before the
session ended he drove down to the House of Lords to move a resolution
which would lead England elfwards; but, alas! on both occasions the
warmth of the Gilded Chamber and the influence of ministerial
explanations sent him to sleep.  He awoke each time to find the Woolsack
untenanted; the House adjourned; the opportunity gone.

The fairies took the will for the deed; and, after all, in those still
unregenerate days, it came to much the same thing.

It was Geoffrey from whom Elfland came to hope most.  He was young,
capable of enthusiasm, and was already, though only in a shadowy way, on
the side of the fairies.

He had thoroughly awakened to facts, and begun to take life very
seriously.  He went at his problems with a will.  He immersed himself in
Political Economy and the study of social problems, and sat at the feet
of the Professors. He went for miles tramping through mean streets,
studying conditions and people.  He marched along country roads and
noticed the empty and wasted fields, weed-choked streams, and infinite
other opportunities for national well-being lost.

Frequently Bim went with him.  For his own rest and comfort the gnome
furnished Geoffrey’s Homburg hat with a fairy hammock and gossamer
sleeping-suit.  His lordship became a walking bedroom, entertaining for
hours, just over his brainpan, a distant cousin of Puck.

Geoffrey became eager to do something, to create something, to make life
richer for his having lived.  He thought of many possible occupations,
chiefly mechanical; he felt he ought in his circumstance to do something
quite contrary to his rule, something grimy and disagreeable.  It
ended--after some loose-ends of effort--by his remaining satisfied to
prepare for Parliament.  So he continued to absorb fustily-immortal
works on the sciences of wealth and government, and practised the
writing of pithy pamphlets and the delivery of orations--addressing "Mr.
Speaker" and mighty demonstrations in the solitude of his bedroom.

In November the seat he was destined to, became vacant.  The writ for an
election could not be issued till after Parliament had reassembled in
February; so, meanwhile, he must wait, and woo the suffrages of his
future constituents.

He went to Armingham Castle, canvassed and took tea with several and
sundry, kissed babies, opened bazaars, delivered a series of addresses
of a pleasant Buff colour.  The fairies were not with him then; they
left that particular campaign alone.  The burgesses he was to represent
liked him well enough.  They regarded him as a nice, handsome, earnest
youth, whose speeches might well have contained more personalities and
fewer figures, but who was safe and his cheques generous.  He would do,
was the burden of general opinion.

The fairies knew well that he would--when he was wanted.

Life drifted on, till signs of the approach of Christmas began to
appear.  June saw, in the window of the public-house by Paradise Court,
a bill which advertised Peace, Goodwill, and a Goose-club.  That set her
thinking.  She put on her crown and considered.

She sent out a trumpeter and called a fairy-conference.  Every elf came
from his pillar-box to sit on her roof and consult.

Three more recruits from Fairyland appeared at the assembly.  The stars
heard the ring of their welcome.

A plan of campaign was decided upon.  The elves became still busier.
They spent more time perched on human heads, stimulating good thoughts
during those Advent weeks, than ever before.  Men and women began to
think of Christmas as Dickens did--but without the hot brandy.

The great occasion was approaching.  The Clerk of the Weather took it
into his official head to send something seasonable.  It became cold and
bracing; roofs, walls, and the roads--so long as the traffic would let
them--were elegantly robed with snow.  Ordinarily that snap of cold
would have roused a wail and a grumble; but not this year--thanks to
June and Company.  The seasonable weather was taken as a further excuse
for human kindness.  The wail was not heard because the want, its cause,
was removed.  As for the grumble, there was so much good-nature in the
improved world that to grumble was impossible, except for old soldiers
who had made a habit of it.

There was to be no hunger in England during that Christmastide; and for
the poor who tramp, none but actual marchers in the wooden-leg brigade
were to be without a pair of comfortable sound boots.

Such facts as these prove better than any mere words of pen with what
reality the purposes and ideals of the fairies had been accepted.
And--this to satisfy rigid economists and the mighty individualist--it
was all done by voluntary subscriptions.  There!

Houses and streets were decorated as they should be.  There were
archways of flags; but paper flowers were properly tabooed.  No fairy
could tolerate that kind of drivel.  Lamp-posts were wreathed with
holly; bunches of mistletoe hung at street-corners.  Kissing became
popular again.  Old maids, whose hearts had been starved for years and
years, grew gracious and watched for bearded policemen.

Every window and window-sill was decked with laurel and moss.  Chinese
lanterns were hung over gates and under porches.  Lighted lamps with
coloured shades shone through uncurtained windows, so that when night
fell every street and roadway became an illuminated avenue. Next-door
neighbours, who for years had taken obvious pains to be mutually
indifferent, exchanged greetings of good cheer, and admired each other’s
decorations.

June, who had felt some awe for the high-collar pride of little
Londoners, seeing this triumph of geniality, this evidence of the
lessening of two-penny vanity, sang joy-songs, and encouraged her
comrades.  They followed her lead with whoo-whooping!  What a time!

Then the newspapers and the pulpits began to speak.  A great project was
evolved and set in being.  There must be in every district--the press
panjandrums declared with elf-induced unanimity a Christmas supper,
after the good old jolly style.  Funds were started to save any call
upon the rates.  Gifts of edibles, drinkables, and current coin rolled
in.

Mayors and councillors, workers in churches, chapels, conventicles of
all sorts, and of no sort; political women and plodding housewives;
dukes’ sons, cooks’ sons, sons of belted earls with their sisters and
their cousins and their aunts; my Lady Bountiful and my lady who
scrubs--these with all and sundry came together in a spirit of splendid
camaraderie to consider ways and means of establishing the Christmas
joy-feasts.

Town-halls, village rooms, and other suitable places in all parts of
England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales were made ready for the great
celebration. Mountains of food and rivers of delectable liquid were
prepared.  Chefs, professional, amateur and very amateur, went to work
with a will. Localities bragged of their poultry and puddings. Small
boys walked about with glistening eyes; small girls, telling their
evening toll of fairy stories, got into the habit of ending their "happy
ever afterwards" with the assurance that not a year passed without the
wedded prince and princess having a Christmas supper with their people.

’Twas bliss to be alive.  Scrooges a thousand-fold were converted
wholesale.  The fairies, all were working during the entire twenty-four
hours of the day; and somehow--somehow they actually managed to squeeze
into that ordered period of time an additional twenty minutes. How it
was done they only know.  Really, they are wonderful--those fairies!

Nevertheless, despite this general agreement of feeling, and
unprecedented flow of goodwill, a few exalted persons and their
imitators had managed to keep apart from it.  They were but a few here
and there, but the fact of their silent opposition was painful.  There
were blots on the jollity.

The Duke of Armingham was not one of them. His Grace, during that period
of preparation, seemed to return to youth.  His energy was wonderful.
He became adept at hammering tacks, and probably nailed up more Goodwill
mottoes than anyone else of his years.  It was he who devised the plan
of plastering dead walls with red and green cartoons, representing
prominent men and women of all parties, sects, and classes united in the
goodwill of Christmas.

His posters added considerably to the brightness and humour of the
streets.  But the Duke went just a little too far; though, in the
Pepysian phrase, it did one’s heart good to see him scuttle round a
corner, after having pasted a picture to the front-door of a leading
militant suffragist.

He used to come home after the midnight hour, as trembling and wide-eyed
as the triumphant Brer Rabbit; his hands and clothing a-muck with
bill-stickery.  No mischievous bad boy could have been more happily
guilty than he; and the way he put on his pince-nez to brazen it out
before the Duchess, would have been a picture for Keene.

Certainly the Duke was not of the ungracious elect; but, alas, just as
assuredly his Duchess was!  Mrs. Barnett Q. Moss and her glistering
circle of human dross also remained significantly apart from the general
rejoicing and good-fellowship.

June determined to concentrate her attentions on the Duchess.

It was the week before Christmas.  The fairy preened herself carefully,
for who would conquer must wear nice clothes.  Bim placed the crown upon
her head and then clambered to the tip-top chimney-pot above Paradise
Court to watch her, as a flash of flower-light, journeying towards the
vanquishing of that opponent.

As June flew, she rejoiced at the sights beneath her.  London was now
rich with areas of sweetness and light--the reward of her influence.
Old blemishes and ugliness were for ever removed; colour and beauty
reigned.  It was a sight for tired fairy eyes.  The great metropolis was
positively handsome.

One by one, fairies who felt they deserved a holiday flew up and
followed her, so that by the time she arrived at Armingham House a train
of twenty attended her.  The more the merrier! They were a jovial
company.

The fairies settled on the steps by the great closed door.  June opened
it.  One touch of wand and it swung back obediently.  The Armingham
butler, then coming down the inside stairs, gaped with amazement.

"My gracious!" he exclaimed.  "Them fastenings are done for."

He shut the door with a slam, reopened it and examined the lock.  All
seemed in trim.  He tugged at his left whisker--sign of wine-cellar
perplexity.  "The world nowadays is getting that rummy," he
soliloquized.  "I dunno!  Those bloomin’ fairies, I suppose."

So it was.  Many a true word is spoken in bewilderment.  The
elves--delighted to hear this tribute, however involuntary, to their
effectiveness--joined hands, raced and sang in a ring about him.  They
were mad with happiness, jollier far than legendary grigs and sandboys.

The butler stood in the centre of the marble hall in a maze of
indecision, yet at the same time strangely pleased, till their romp was
ended.  Then with a shriek of joy, which his clay ears were incapable of
hearing, the fairies clambered about him.  From his waist upwards they
clung to him; made him their vehicle.  June sat enthroned on his
baldness.  He was an honoured man.

As he went upstairs, Sparks, the Duchess’s maid, happened to pass down
them.  She saw his smiling face, and crowsfeet of kindliness, not often
visible, about his eyes.

"La!  Mr. Gootle, what’s this?" she asked.

"Company for her Grace, Sparks," he answered, pompously.

The lady’s-maid stared, then ran on giggling. "Gootle’s got ’em!" she
murmured, not untruthfully. She saw possibility for sniggering gossip
when she reached the housekeeper’s room.

The Duchess was in the library going through her visitors’ list,
deciding on the guests to be invited to her next dinner-party, writing
the names of the selected on a large half-sheet.

The butler entered the library.  At once the fairies descended from him
and clustered about the Duchess and the writing-table.

Gootle was suddenly aware of the fact that his entrance was purposeless.
The object that had taken him there had departed.  He struggled with his
brains to think of a reasonable excuse for the intrusion.

"Yes, Gootle?" the Duchess inquired.

"Ahem, your Grace, the--front-door flew open."

The Duchess laid down her pen and--looked.

"Really, Gootle!  Should I have been troubled with that?"  Her glance
was ominous.

"Very sorry, your Grace, very sorry," he mumbled, fluttering his hands
like flappers, and withdrew.  He felt slapped.  He wanted to kick
himself.  "Mass! hass! hass!" he soliloquized. "What did I do that for?"
He paused on the stairs.  "Them bloomin’ fairies!" he said again.

June and her companions were ripe for their form of usefulness.  They
did nothing for the time, but sat silently, perched picturesquely on the
table, mantelpiece, chandeliers and bookcases, while the Duchess
continued the selection and completed her list.

She drew a line to indicate that it was ended.

June touched the pen.  The Duchess scrawled through the line, in effect
deleting it, and wrote an additional name.

"Mrs. Barnett Q. Moss."  Then she drew a second line.

She frowned and wondered at herself.  She ran her pen along the
intrusive name to cancel it, but made no mark; the ink was dry.  Her
frown was repeated.

The Duchess jabbed her pen into the inkpot, dipping viciously; and then,
instead of using it to complete the cancelling of the offending name,
wrote a letter.  She did not even use the form of the third person.


"DEAR MRS. MOSS,

"I have not exactly the pleasure of your acquaintance, but my son
Geoffrey has on more than one occasion enjoyed your hospitality, and has
spoken to me about your kindness to him. Will you give me the pleasure
of knowing you? If you could spare the time to take tea with me here
to-morrow at four o’clock, I should be very glad.

"I shall look forward to seeing you then, unless I receive a note or
telephone-message to the contrary.

"Yours sincerely,
       "EDITH ARMINGHAM."


She found the address in the Red Book, sealed the envelope, rang for
Gootle, and despatched the invitation.

Then she rustled to the fireplace and looked at the flames.

"Now why--why did I do that?"

There was no answer.  The fairies looked at each other and laughed.
Then they made slides on the lid of the piano.

The Duchess was angry.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

                              *A COMPACT*


The brougham which bore the delighted but highly nervous Mrs. Barnett
Moss to Armingham House set her down before the door at two minutes to
the hour.  To be two minutes better than punctual was one of the iron
rules of the millionaire; his wife remembered it when paying an
advantageous call.  As the clock in the boudoir struck four she entered
the presence.

June also was there.  Her companions of yesterday had returned at dawn
to their posts of duty, the pillar-boxes; but Bim she had fetched, in
measure to supply their places.

The elves had made a night of it, and what a night!

Every room, corner and cranny in the great establishment had been
visited and explored. The butler’s pantry they exulted in--to this day
Gootle does not know who put the salad-dressing into his particular
whisky.  The conservatory was for a time transformed.  The flowers
within it lost their lethargy, and knew again gladness of life.  The
fairies played hide-and-seek among the shelves and statuary of the
library.  The dining-table, whereon June had danced on the night of her
début at Armingham House, was in the evening used for many series of
fairy rounds--the full score of princely people tracing triumphant
dances around and about their leader and lady.

Only Geoffrey Season and his mother were dining at home that night, so
there was ample room for the elves to disport in.  The butler and his
footmen four, looking solemnly at the damask emptiness, were puzzled
by--they knew not what! There seemed to be things there, filling the
emptiness, that never were there.  O dear!  A strange world!

Geoffrey was the person most strongly impressed by the atmosphere of
enchantment.  His conversation shone with unusual brightness, it bubbled
with happiest effervescence; but the Duchess, conscious of the amazing
invitation to, and certain coming on the morrow of, the millionaire’s
wife, was far down in the glooms, weighed down with the dumps.  She
could not bring herself to tell even her son of that incomprehensible
accident; and went to bed early, giving Sparks an unheavenly time.

The hours of Faerie came.  When the moon was throwing a silver bar over
the blue silk coverlet; when stars peeped through the windows; when the
night-light’s tiny flame was modestly gleaming; when her Grace’s
breathing made music in the room; then fairies, a score and one, might
have been seen flitting about the bed and before the mirrors, swinging
on silver fittings, clinging to tapestry hangings, sleeping placidly,
sharing the laced pillow with the Duchess of Armingham.

And so for the night we leave that company of immortals and their
quarry, and come to the important to-morrow.

The Duchess woke with a light heart; and, when Sparks brought the
morning tasse, was inclined to carol.

The maid saw the unwonted gleam of geniality, precisely at the moment
when her mistress remembered Mrs. Moss.  Sparks watched the glow of
kindness fade, die, and the Duchess become herself again.

The state of high-born sulkiness did not last long.  June, except for
the hour of siesta wherein she returned to Paradise Court to fetch Bim,
was constantly beside the Duchess.  She spent the whole of that day in
preparing the atmosphere for a great conversion.  Her magic permeated
every part of and person in the great house--from boudoir to boot-boy.
Her influence, so real and sweetly haunting, affected the Duchess
deeply.  She still kept a proud face, but inwardly was sorely inclined
to surrender and give herself to the fairies.  Her heart was converted
already, but still she steadily resisted the new tendencies.

The Duchess was one of the obstinate company who insist on dying in the
last ditch.

Acute dislike at having to entertain Mrs. Moss was the obstacle which
blocked the fulfilment of her good intentions.  Yet that involuntary act
of hospitality was an essential step in the progress of Fairydom.  It
was necessary for June to govern the will of the Duchess in an affair
that mattered, and to conquer a great prejudice; but at this stage of
progress the prospect seemed retarding the march.  Her Grace fought hard
against the better inclinations.  She was afraid of vulgarity.  That was
the principal fear.  She had heard so much of Liberty Hall and its
parties--though not in an unkind way--from Geoffrey.

Mrs. Moss, for her part, also was fighting a battle--against strange
nervousness.  Ushered in by Gootle, she smiled painfully, mournfully
shook her head, and said "How-do!"  The Duchess received her with icy
graciousness.

The tea in the beginning was a commonplace festival; June knew better
than to make her puppets talk seriously during its earlier stages. It
was necessary for the Duchess to thaw somewhat; for Mrs. Moss to recover
confidence. They must have pause.

They had it, and discussed nonentities and silken politics.

At last June felt the opportune time for action had come.  She popped
her crown upon the Duchess’s head, while Bim, armed with the wand, made
himself comfortable in Mrs. Moss’s narrow lap.

December was suddenly turned to May.  Awkwardness went, geniality
prevailed.  The Duchess no longer wondered at having given the
invitation, or spent suspicious thoughts on her visitor. Everything was
natural, kind, and proper.  June had won at last.

"I am very glad you came, Mrs. Moss," she said heartily; "there is so
much I want to talk to you about."

"It’s very good of you to say so, dear Duchess," was the enthusiastic
answer.

Bim flourished the wand to stem a current of gush.  Mrs. Moss pursed
lips and waited.

The Duchess in her brain was wondering what next her tongue would say.

"Have you ever wondered," she asked, "how strange it is that people
should go through life, and wilfully refuse to become better acquainted?
Why should there be barriers between us or any people?  Caste,
class-distinctions, are merely artificial.  ’The rank is but the guinea
stamp,’ said Mr. Burns, the poet--it was quoted by the _Morning Post_
yesterday, in a striking article on ’The Aristocracy of Elfdom.’"

"Was it?" said Mrs. Moss, who was puzzled at this line of talk.

"Yes, and it is true."

"Oh, Duchess, if--if a Duchess says so; but I shouldn’t have
thought----" was the stammering reply.

The poor lady was bewildered.  Armingham’s Duchess had been in good
report and ill, especially ill, the proudest of the proud; fair game and
a favourite target for the derision and admiring envy of the merely
smart.  A thousand stories, increasing with piquancy as they aged, had
been set afloat in illustration of her arrogance. Thousand-leaved
fictions had blossomed about her.  Her origin and upbringing were the
kernels of many pretty tales.  If rancour wished--as rancour frequently
did wish--to hurl epithets at the coroneted caste, five to one the
Duchess of Armingham was its pet Aunt Sally.  No one in Society had been
more pilloried, abused, and envied.  The spite and verisimilitude of the
attacks were quickened and strengthened by the supreme, unaffected
indifference with which her Grace had disregarded them.

Mrs. Moss, although she made social use of Geoffrey, had taken her share
in throwing the garbage of scandal.  She had often seen the Duchess on
her drives through the Parks, and would have given much for a bowing
acquaintance with her; but as that was not to be, she, in sheer chagrin,
helped to increase the yellow stream of disparagement.

And now the longed-for impossible was happening--this great lady, this
enviable aristocrat, this butt for the diatribes of the little, this
queen of the exclusive few, was seated familiarly with her, entertaining
her, talking easily of democracy, aristocracy, equality.

No wonder Mrs. Moss was bewildered.  She pinched herself to be sure it
was not one of her dazzling dreams.  Bim, to fortify the reality,
pinched her too.  Yes, there could be no doubt. She could feel it was
true.

"A Duchess, you say?" and the hostess smiled sadly.  "The world is
mistaken when it thinks a woman of rank is to be envied."

"But the privileges!"

"The privileges, Mrs. Moss?  The responsibilities of station, I assure
you, outweigh them far.  Familiarity is apt to render them mere
nuisances.  What privileges do you particularly refer to?"

The guest in her turn smiled.  It was something of a pitying smile--ah,
the wisdom of the worldlings!  How much the dear Duchess must have been
misunderstood!

"Why, the entry everywhere.  I guess the folk who shut their doors on a
Duchess would soon be inmates of Bedlam.  You can talk as a partner with
any of the people at the top, can’t you? The wealthiest, proudest houses
welcome you."

"Is that a great privilege?" she was answered. "I confess I find the
social round dull--unutterably dull, with its receptions and dinners,
when you must attend them."

"I wish you and the Duke would honour my house one evening," Mrs. Moss
ventured to say. "I warrant you wouldn’t find our parties dull."

"Ah, my son Geoffrey"--she remembered only the milder stories about
Liberty Hall--"has told me of some pleasant little parties at your
house."

A pang went through the lady of Liberty Hall.

"So that is how he described them!" thought she.  Praise so comparative
stabbed her.  She was aggrieved and nearly brought to angry tears. Only
a few days earlier a weekly paper without a circulation had--for a
consideration--filled two columns with an illustrated description of her
latest affair, giving a long list of invited guests with swollen names,
and now--now--now! to have it referred to as a "pleasant little party"!
It was galling!

Bim, thinking she needed it, pinched her again.

Meanwhile, the Duchess was calmly talking pure democratics, to the much
amusement of June. The crown was working with a vengeance.  Its
impotence in that particular case was ended.  Six months of incomplete
success, commencing with absolute failure, had ended with this result.
No wonder the fairy and the gnome were feeling cock-a-whoop!
Victory--absolute Victory--was advancing.

The Duchess became serious.  She arrived at the fairy’s purpose, and
believed it to be her own.

"Are you a democrat, Mrs. Moss?" she asked, and put her lorgnette to her
eyes in order to see, as well as to hear, the answer.

Every nerve and atom of the vain and selfish lady quivered in protest at
such a question.

"No, madam, that I am not," was the decided answer.

"Dear, dear!" sighed the Duchess.

"I left all pretty fancies over yonder.  Mr. Barnett Q. Moss and I are
emphatically not anything so silly!"

"You left them over yonder?"

"Yes, we did!"

"In the United States?"

"In the U-nited States of America!"

"Dear, dear!" said her Grace again.

June was now on the Duchess’s shoulder, nestling in soft folds of Irish
lace.  She sat up eagerly, the better to hear the discourse.

"I am a democrat, Mrs. Moss!" the remark came sharply, like a shot.

"No, no, Duchess!  Impossible!"  The poor lady, in sheer amazement,
nearly shrieked the protest.  Her appeal made the teacups shiver. In her
mind’s eye she saw the Duchess waving a red flag, and bawling for rights
for somebody.

"Yes, a democrat!"

Mrs. Moss shuddered, and squeezed her mimic handkerchief into a ball.
She pressed her lips tightly together, and listened with horror.

"Yes, a democrat--one who believes that all human beings should
endeavour to give each other equal opportunities.  I did not always
think this.  Dear me, let me confess, I did not think it even yesterday.
Something has happened, something is always happening.  The world seems
getting topsy-turvy; no, not that; but certainly nearer the stars,
without being farther from the flowers.  Mrs. Moss, I was a proud and
unkind woman until yesterday.  But from the instant I penned my
invitation to you, my old pride, my old--yes, I must say it--arrogance,
obstinacy, emptiness of heart, gradually went from me.  It is like a
conversion.  I am changed, and--a humbler woman.  I recognize now, as I
have not done hitherto, my personal limitations, and the wrong I do my
fellow-creatures when I enjoy great good fortune without making any
return to mankind for it."

The Duchess was dreamily silent for a little while.  A mist was before
her eyes.  It seemed as if a cold mist had been removed from about her
heart.  She was no less the great lady for having discovered her older
isolation to have been a condition poorer far than this realization of
sisterhood with the rest of mankind.

Mrs. Moss did not venture on any answer. She was in a curious condition
of mixed emotions. Now and then, while her hostess had been talking she
had wondered whether some of the words used were intentionally barbed
and edged.  Why had the Duchess’s old pride begun to diminish when she
penned the invitation to her?  Was that Miching Malecho?  Did it mean
mischief?

Mrs. Moss fell into a brown study pondering this littleness.  She was no
fool; her personality was not quite all vanity, joy in wealth, and greed
for pleasure.  She had a methodical brain, and possibly a heart
somewhere under her corsets. The words addressed to her were effectual.

"You have not been negligent," at last she remarked gently.  "Your name
and the Duke’s are on all charity lists.  You help good objects with
what they ask for--money."

The Duchess shook her head.

"It was always a proud giving.  That charity did not come from kindness,
it came from pride."

"No, Duchess; you are taking an unfair advantage of yourself."

"I think not, Mrs. Moss.  But I need not talk penitence now.  If
this--this tendency holds me to-morrow, as I can truly say I hope it
will, I shall do better by expressing it in deeds.  I want now, if you
please, to speak with you on a more serious question, and to invite your
co-operation."

Mrs. Moss wriggled.  "It is coming!" she told herself.  This sounded so
like the familiar prelude to a begging appeal.

She was agreeably disappointed.  The Duchess did not even look the word
purse-strings, but still required something that involved sacrifice.

"You have, of course, heard of these municipal Christmas festivities?"
she asked.

"Only vaguely!" was the airy answer.

"But the papers have been full of them!"

"I only read certain pages of certain papers--in Society one must be
careful; but, yes, I have heard something about them--sufficient to know
that they are amusements for the many, not for the few.  I belong to the
few."

"They are for all," murmured the Duchess.

"Then I fear I can take but little interest in them."

Bim raised the wand vindictively; June motioned him to wait.  He obeyed.

"I am sorry to hear you say so!"  The Duchess was shocked at this
amazing indifference, being herself possessed of the convert’s
earnestness.

"Oh!"

There was a weight of meaning in the interjection. Not for the eighth of
an instant had Mrs. Moss dreamed that the supremely exclusive Duchess of
Armingham could truly sympathize or co-operate in those corporate
efforts.  She knew, only too well, that the "certain pages" she
condescended to read had mentioned the Duchess as one of the dissentient
minority, and because of that very abstention had herself refrained from
joining the movement, and had infected her followers with a similar
intention.

Now had come a new change.  Her keen, shrewd wits were absolutely
bewildered.  What should she do?  She answered her question by doing
nothing, by listening.

"I am sorry to hear you say so," the Duchess repeated, "because it is a
unique effort on the part of all.  Never before have we had such a union
of people of all degrees and classes, as are joined in making this
effort."

"But--but--forgive me, Duchess--surely you?" The question was not
verbally completed, but it shone in the lady’s eye.

"Were recently not in sympathy with the movement?"

"Yes, Duchess, that is my inquiry put into plain English."

"I confess that is so.  It was wrong of me to decide as I did, but it is
never too late to mend. I am going to help now with all my powers, as my
husband has done.  Will you join and help too?  My request to you to
come and meet me to-day was directly due to my zeal for the movement.
(’Dear me!’ thought the Duchess.  ’Was that so?’)  It seemed such a pity
that so noble and practically unanimous an effort should be ignored by
anyone who could help it--especially by people of standing."  The
flattery, though unintended, was not without effect.  "I knew you did
not purpose to participate in it; neither did I.  I have changed my
mind, and given up my unsocial intention.  Will you, Mrs. Moss?"

"No, Duchess, I cannot!"

"I am sorry you say so, but why?"

"It would make me the laughing-stock of my set."

June motioned to the gnome.  He clung to a hanging watch-chain, and held
the wand to the recalcitrant lady’s lips.  She resisted its power.  Her
mouth was obstinate.

"Surely not, Mrs. Moss.  I have heard you are the social queen of an
influential following. Those people, whoever they are, would surely come
with you, and so render our festivity representative and complete."

More flattery, insidious and unintentional--such tactics being as
foreign to the Duchess as grease-paint.  Oh, those fairies, the
diplomatists!

"It seems so unreasonable.  So like--so like a scene in a pantomime or
fairy-play."

"Exactly, that--that is the joy of it!"

June, delighted, kissed the Duchess.

"It is against reason and common-sense!"

"Oh no, Mrs. Moss.  It is the best kind of reason, and is absolute
common-sense!"

"But, please tell me; it’s beyond me--what good can the meeting, in such
manner, of all sorts of people--noble and shady folk--do?"

"Every kind of good.  It will teach the reality of human brotherhood,
and tend to make the shady folk--and the noble folk--nobler."

"To be utterly forgotten on the morrow!"

"I think not.  I hope not.  Once get representatives of all classes and
conditions to meet in considerate fraternal intercourse, dining together
fifty at one table, and gulfs of mutual suspicion, indifference,
dislike, will be crossed never, I hope, to be completely divided again.
It is a great idea, hazardous at first, daring always, but now
reasonable and most promising. A real step forward in human progress.  A
large fact of hope."

Her Grace was eloquent.  The fairy crown had certainly worked wonders.

Mrs. Moss hesitated still, and Bim lowered the wand with despair.  A
thick crust of vanity and pride in material things had to be dissolved.
She pursed her lips obstinately, and looked at the fire.  June thereupon
flew across and dumped the crown on her head.

It worked.

"Yes, on consideration, I agree," was the declaration.  "I shall be
delighted to co-operate. It will mean money--never mind that!  My
husband and I can afford to give.  It will mean service--devoted
service.  That, too, shall be gladly given by both of us.  It is an
object worth living for!  I will come, and make my friends come, too;
but, Duchess"--June removed the crown, and herself donned it--"I must
make one condition, please."

"Yes?"

"That you and the Duke come to my New Year’s party!"

"If you will invite us--with pleasure!"

"I do invite you--now!"

"Then I accept."

So the compact was made.

When the Duchess and Mrs. Moss were at last alone, each asked herself
this question: "What is the world coming to?"

June knew.  Bim knew.  Oberon in Fairyland had an inkling.



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                            *NEW YEAR’S DAY*


Croakers croaked, of course, but the Christmas Festival, accomplished,
was a great success, and no one enjoyed it more than the croakers--when
they knew themselves unnoticed.  It was a roaring win for optimists.
The expectations were everywhere excelled.  The dinner was worthy of the
intention.  The conversations, music, songs, and games, went with a
ring.  Not a dissentient note was heard.  High and humble, rich and
poor, met for that occasion as comrades, and the good effects of their
coming together remained.  The world was, henceforward, better humoured,
gentler, more considerate than ever it had been.

It was a triumph to fairies and to the less fortunate folk who are
human.  There let us leave it!

New Year--the Feast of Good Resolutions--arrived with its loads of
customary high intentions. That day brought an opportunity which the
fairies meant to make the most of.  But the task was not entirely easy,
for old habit would be potent.

A New Year’s resolution in the past had generally, almost invariably,
two necessary distinct parts--the making and the breaking.  That was its
history.  If New Year’s Day was the Feast of its Creation, Twelfth Night
might certainly be called the funeral day, belated.  The building and
the forgetting of good resolutions had become such a time-honoured
process that each of the stages was as easy as breathing. Lightly
entered into, the intention could be even more lightly lost.  That was
the fairies’ difficulty.  It would be simple enough to get people to
resolve well; but to prevent their having a Twelfth Night of
forgetfulness would be a task Titanic in comparison.  Still, they must
try.

June, by means of her myrmidons, hunted up the ex-Lord Mayor, Sir Titus
Dods--now a baronet in the courts of Edward and Oberon--and caused him
to come from his retirement at Hampstead to lead in the particular
effort.

He induced every newspaper as its special New Year supplement to give
away an attractive card on which practicable good resolutions could be
written.  The cards, inscribed, would be preserved until this New Year
was old and out.  It was the Mansion House procedure of last May-time
repeated, spread over a very far wider area, destined to be similarly
successful.

A change came over casual converse.  Instead of using such old phrases
and time-worn tags as "How d’ye do?" or "Cold day, isn’t it?" people
greeting each other asked, "Resolutions going strong?"

It was surprising how much more interesting meetings became, and how
invariably the answer was "Yes."  Self-respect struggled to attain the
affirmative answer.

So there was progress in all ways, splendid progress.

June’s company was growing so rapidly--every hour of the night and day
bringing at least one recruit--that her mighty mimic ladyship was able
to concentrate attention on the so-called Smart Set.  She remembered the
New Year’s party to be held at Liberty Hall and went to it, taking a
regiment of elf-folk with her--Bim the only gnome.

The fairies clustered about the door and stairways, and made fun of the
white-headed footmen.

"Why did these voluminous mortals wear that mess?"  The night was bright
with their satire.

Regularly and rapidly the company of guests arrived.  They came with
their usual boisterousness, and then--and then----

The influence of the elves had a curious effect on hosts and on guests.
It proved strangely restraining.  Barnett Q. felt like a Sunday-school
superintendent at a too-French French play, a humid pink of
uncomfortable propriety.  Mrs. Moss was, as usual, nervously fluttered
with a new anxiety frightening her heart--how would her guests, destined
to bask in ducal radiance, behave?

Liberty Hall was metamorphosed.  The noise, display, and wildness which
heretofore had made its functions famous were rapidly replaced by a
superfine straightness--a Bowdlerized bonhomie, self-conscious and
constrained.  The rabble of Comus was muzzled.

Hoary sinners and flaxen-headed _mondaines_ were prim, simpering,
moralizing, painfully on their goodily-good behaviour.  They were
nerve-fettered, with spirits weighed down.  They knew it, they felt it,
and could not comprehend or complain.  The fairies held them in thrall.
From the elves’ point of view it was supremely funny. Those
spirit-masters of the revels laughed till many of them became bright
scarlet.

The Duke and Duchess of Armingham, accompanied by Geoffrey--who had done
his best to induce his mother not to go--arrived at ten. Mrs. Moss
breathed a sigh of relief.  Now, come what might, her party was
justified.  Whatever the ultimate verdict might be, Vanity Fair must
approve something.  She had got the Duchess!

The new guests, followed by the fairies, trooped into the ballroom.  The
band struck up a barn-dance, which was footed with decorum. Everybody
was surprised, the Duchess agreeably so.

The Duke put on pince-nez, and went in search of the prettiest possible
partner he could find. He had come to his second youth, and meant to
enjoy it.  He found himself murmuring complimentary epigrams to Lalage
and Chloe, written by himself during college days when under the glamour
of Horace.  He wondered if they would do.

Geoffrey talked of New-Year reforms to Barnett Q. with the seriousness
of a budding legislator, and remembered his previous experience at
Liberty Hall.  What a difference!  Then had been riot; this was the
other extreme.  Where was the reason why?

The company consisted--he saw--mostly of the same people who previously
had wrought vulgar tumult there; every face was more or less familiar to
him; but their manners, hitherto blatant, were now positively
mealy-mouthed.  Roaring lions expressed themselves with the modesty of
penny whistles.  What did it mean?  Bounders, ninnies, minxes had left
off their meannesses and become decently human.

Any attempt at vulgarity was instantly hushed and checked.  Lame efforts
at ostentation were remorselessly snubbed.  Geoffrey had learned several
things during the last few days; his eyes had been better opened.  He
put this condition of strained propriety down to its right source, the
fairies; but her Grace, his mother, had also something to do with it.
Mrs. Moss was positive it was mainly due to the dear Duchess.

The coming of the Arminghams was certainly an event in the social
history of Liberty Hall.  If it had not been for the strange sense of
constraint which held her, Mrs. Moss would have exulted, pleased as a
young redskin with his first scalp. As it was, she fluttered like a
nervous hen round an ostrich-egg, knowing she had not lived in vain.

It was the Duke who, the fairies willing, broke down the barriers of
undue restraint.  The elf-atmosphere, which subdued the loud rich,
roused and awakened him.  He was inclined to rollick. Breaking through
the established order of things, he induced Barnett Q. to start an old
country dance.  The experiment took.  Feet which earlier in the evening
had been lamely waltzing or half-heartedly two-stepping became lively
with Sir Roger de Coverley.  It was a revolution, transformation
complete.

Clean simplicity came to people who had always deemed it folly to be
simple.  Whole-heartedly the guests joined in the dance--they hurried to
take places in long laughing rows--the Duchess herself came down from
the proud mountains to go trotting through a smiling avenue with her
partner, Barnett Q.  The fairies, too, made shimmering lines, and
improved on the movements of the human-folk.  There were no more
unsocial or ugly dances that night.  The party was for all the world
like one played by happy children.

Girls of blasée eighteen became young for the first time since they left
the nursery; gilded youths resisted tendencies towards brainless talk
and inelegant posing; oldsters, whose dyed hair and waxed moustaches
whispered grey stories, forgot affectations and selfishness; ladies of
middle age declined to be wall-flowers longer.  They asked idlers to
partner them in a natural feminine way.  Hilarity was alive.  The
card-room was abandoned.  Fairies were helping lovers along the happy
pathway.  The clock most musically clanged twelve in sympathy.

"My love," declared Barnett Q., panting, to his wife, "this is the best
we have ever had."

"The dear Duchess!" said she.  There was little credit for the fairies
from her.

The dance and the party went on, and momentarily grew brighter with joy.

Supper-time came.  The meal was to have been a series of snacks, fizz
and rushes as usual; but June ruled otherwise.  She had learned that the
time men are more likely to be serious, and are certainly most easily
influenced, is meal-time; so she ordained that the whole company of
guests should go to the supper-room together, and although this
necessitated some give-and-take and a great deal of squeezing--borne by
young couples with a patience beyond their years--it was managed. Plates
and cutlery were soon a-clatter, and the hum of happy conversation
arose.  Meanwhile, the elves distributed themselves amongst the company.
Their time had come.

June, with Bim marching behind her, went along the tables to make sure
that her helpers were in their places.  Wine-glasses were touched with
magic.  The champagne sparkled with extra enchantment.

June danced back to her place at the head of the chief table, and rapped
the knuckles of Mr. Moss. He rose, raised a glass, and proposed a loyal
toast. It was drunk with cordiality.  The company, sipping their wine,
absorbed magic.

"Now," he said, as June put the compelling crown upon him, "I’m going to
ask you to drink another toast, what I will call the toast of the
evening, ’The Fairies’!"

The outburst of enthusiasm that followed reminded June of the banquet at
the Mansion House. New wine, enchanted, was poured into glasses
wand-touched.  The liquor carried fresh inspiration to the human lips.

"The Fairies!  The Fairies!  Oberon!  Titania!" the guests cried.

June and Company--all except wingless Bim, who perforce must stay
squatting on a bunch of purple grapes--flew above and about, pouring
charms on the mortals; singing a song whilst flying which the men-things
nearly heard.

The flying procession went gaily trailing thrice round the room; then
the fairies dropped back to their proper places.  The shouting now must
wait a while.  June gave Barnett Q. a peremptory command.  He was
obedient as a marionette.

"May I make a speech?" he asked his guests.

"You must!" was the unanimous answer.

He struck the attitude of oratory, and successfully overcame his
lingering tendency to Yankee mannerisms.

"As we age," he began sententiously, "not many of us really grow wiser.
So, if you please, we will--every one of us--be young again--and
immediately.  That way, and that way only, can we do what the fairies
demand of us.  Those careless youths, the children, have amazingly good
opportunities, if only they knew it."

"Go right on, Barnett!" counselled his wife, who, even in this swelter
of excitement, was keeping anxious eyes on the Duchess, hoping she would
not be bored.  There was little fear of that happening, however bald the
new Moss philosophy might be.

The Duchess was, indeed, a fine picture of genial benevolence.  She
beamed and, practically a presiding presence there, enjoyed something of
the satisfaction felt by a patron saint.  Her former enemies would not
have known her had they dreamed of scrutinizing her in the old cruel
way.

"Are you in the mood for elf-wisdom?" the millionaire asked.

"We are!" Geoffrey answered, voicing the general feeling.

"Are you willing--ladies and gentlemen both--to be knights-errant, to go
on a quest for the sake of the fairies?"

"We are!  We are!"

Every one of them--men and women, boys and girls--answered this time.
Would-be Britomarts and Calidores were plentiful as mushrooms in
October; but the Blatant Beast they were to pursue was their own
vanities, selfishness, vices. "Very well.  The first requirement is that
you at once write on your dance-programmes some such resolution as this:
’Not a day in this new year shall pass without my having made someone in
the world happier by my works.’  Phrase it as you please, my friends,
but don’t mistake my meaning."

"But what kind of works?" asked Sir Gussie, the calculating and precise,
as he screwed in a heavy-rimmed monocle, to stare at this re-maker of
manners.

"Use your eyes, my boy, and decide for yourself," was the prompt answer.
"Look at the every-day sights of London, and then carry comfort to those
who need."

Barnett Moss was in his element.  He was the born manager.  He ruled
that assembly--by gracious permission of June--as effectually as he
would have dominated a Board meeting.  He would carry this thing
through.

The pencils attached to the programmes were busily inscribing the fine
promise.  The butler and footmen attending the table supplied cards to
those without them, and themselves surreptitiously wrote down similar
good intentions.  June, gratified by this pleasant spirit of theirs,
made them a little better-looking--rather a good form of reward.

Enchantment was potent everywhere in the large excited room.

"Is it down?" Barnett asked.  His little eyes glittered with excitement,
as they always glittered when he was governing a masterly transaction.

"It is," was after a while the general answer.

"Now how to keep it.  May I ask the Duchess of Armingham to assist the
fairies in this?"

The Duchess bowed assent.  The company clapped hands delightedly.  Her
Grace seemed changed.  Could that smiling presence be she who had for so
long been their bugbear?  Many of that company, had they not been caught
by the glamour of the occasion, would have doubted their senses as to
her identity.  The Duke poised his glasses and pursed his lips, studying
her. He hardly knew his own wife.

"Good!" commented Barnett Q., confirming her assent; "this is how the
Quest you knights are to follow shall be kept.  Once every month, by
call or by letter, every person here who has made and signed this
promise must report to the Duchess its fulfilment; and let no one"--his
voice took on accents of tremendous seriousness--"let no one who, by
breaking this exacting resolution, proves unworthy, presume to darken
the doorsteps of Armingham House!"

There was a great flutter and babble of talk as the serious words and
their full purport sank into the minds of those addressed.  To these
worldlings, even in this sublimer mood, no more acceptable bait could be
offered than the opportunity of a visiting friendship with the Duchess.
The front-door of Armingham House was to them as the entrance to
Paradise.  To consort with such as she--a real leader of high-placed
people--was a passport to supreme society, worth achieving, worth
enjoying, worth retaining--the thing they most desired.  It was the best
effective means for securing good behaviour and destroying vulgarity
that could be devised.  But the Duchess, what did she think of this
definite proposal?

The Duke, in his shrewd mind, had a good deal of doubt about it.  He
leaned forward to study the Duchess’s face, to read her intention; and
was amazed.  She rose to her feet to make pronouncement.

"I shall be willing and glad to do what Mr. Moss has asked of me.  He is
the mouthpiece of the fairies, I understand that.  I accept the task
from them; and shall be proud to number amongst my personal friends the
kind ones here who, by inscribing and signing their cards, as bidden,
have taken what may be called a vow of personal service, following the
quest of a social purpose.  The first Tuesday afternoon in every month
will be my reception day, when in town or at Armingham Castle.  Will my
new friends remember that?"

She resumed her seat.  The interlude was ended.  With new zest the
assembly returned to the ball-room, and enjoyed their games and play.
The artificial restraint that had held them earlier was gone.  They had
become gentle.

Some of them began their Quest that very night.

Sir Gussie, to whom gambling had been a profitable passion, and cards
the first of pastimes, resolved in future to play for counters; and, as
amends for past misgains, went along a dingy street and dropped a
sovereign into five-and-twenty shabby letter-boxes.

Ladies’-maids, who, yawning and jaded, had waited till dawn for their
mistresses, were greeted with smiles and thanks--a welcome change from
the wonted shrill-tempered crossness which almost invariably had been
their recompense hitherto.

One bright youth--with the earnestness of a beginner, which even when
misguided is something splendid--devoted his powers to helping a drunken
man homeward.  Another sparkling boy at once totted up a list of his
debts and made plans of economy whereby he might redeem them.  Another
went off post-haste to write an apology to a family he--through
selfishness--had wronged.  A fourth--Mr. Harris, a motorist, with whom
Geoffrey Season had half an acquaintance--vowed to walk five miles daily
for two months along a car-infested road, to see for himself what
road-hog tyranny meant.

And so on, and so forth, in all manner of ways, wise and unwise, but
always sincere and determined, the beginnings of the amelioration of the
Smart Set began.

It worked well, after a little while, as every movement launched by the
fairies is bound to do. The coming together of the sudden plutocracy
with true aristocrats had good effects--broadening and strengthening--on
both.  It taught restraint, consideration, responsibility.  Social
organizations increased in numbers, sway and influence.  No hospital or
charitable purpose was now hampered for lack of funds.  Processions of
the unemployed ceased to be.  There were fewer children in the streets
of poverty: the childless rich had adopted them.

Humanity was linked closer, with cords of great kindness.  No one was
better affected by it than the Duchess of Armingham.  She remained
genial, a power persuasive; and grew in bounty, charm and kindness.  She
felt something of a fairy queen herself.

So June won the stronghold.  The poor and the rich, the weak, the proud
and the great, were with her now.  She was leading a host, human and
immortal.  Her madness was justified.



                              *CHAPTER XX*

                            *IN PARLIAMENT*


February arrived, succeeding a period of immense elf-activity.  Mankind
was rapidly waking up to the improved condition of things; more and more
recruits were coming from Fairyland to keep men’s purposes kind and
bright; the metropolis was cleaning itself vigorously, and putting on
colour, so that from all parts of the world people journeyed to its
streets, to gather æsthetic inspiration and delight.

Londoners realized at last that they were people of a majestic city,
that the grime and sordid ugliness which for ages had shrouded their
buildings veiled a world rich with poetry and beauty.  With their civic
soul requickened, they studied and were proud of the thousand years of
living history--their heritage.  They wore their hats with a cock.
Their stride lengthened.  Their chins showed disdain for the gutter.
The ancient Romans, the Venetians and Florentines of medieval Italy,
were not more truly town-patriotic than were the inhabitants of the
rediscovered London.

February had arrived; and midway through the despised, misunderstood
month, the Houses of Parliament met.  Writs to fill vacant seats were
moved for.  Geoffrey Season was back at Armingham Castle, strenuously
electioneering, pursuing the last lap of his candidature.

The newspapers describe elections so well that it is not necessary for
this poor pen to tell the story of that particular battle between the
Buffs and the Blues.  It is enough to state that the foreseen took
place--it is, despite the Disraelian dictum, nearly always the expected
that happens--Lord Geoffrey Season was put at the top of the poll,
defeating his Blue opponent, Mr. Tutherman, by a few less than seven
hundred votes, which was rather better than the average in that
constituency.

He arrived at the House of Commons, the youngest, and, therefore, the
most sanguine member of Parliament, ten days after the session had
commenced.  He purposed determinately to carry into effect the projects
of the fairies.

When he was introduced to the Commons and took his seat, the Debate on
the Address was still proceeding turgidly.  Progress struggled feebly
against a stream of talk.

June and Bim entered the House with Geoffrey; and as nowadays she went
hardly anywhere in public without the accompaniment of a self-appointed
bodyguard, full fifty fairies grouped around her.  Queenly was her state
as she surveyed, from the vantage-ground of the clock, the languid,
sprawling gentlemen who comprised the House.  For quite a time the elves
watched the proceedings.  They were amused and puzzled by many things;
it would be inappropriate here to detail precisely what these were.

Then gradually the fairies grew bored; the infinite stream of talk went
on and on.  The light of their presences faded.  Their glory was
dwindling.  Their strength, which is expressed in brightness, was
gradually diminishing.

This wouldn’t do!  June roused herself, and gave Bim a push which sent
him spinning and then sprawling on the floor of the House below. He rose
indignant at this treatment, strode with his stiffest dignity to the
table, and, with a spring and some effort, perched himself astride the
mace.

From that moment the Commons began to be transformed.  The fairies
resumed their brightness, and shone with light which would have dazzled
humanity had eyes of clay been able to realize immortal glories.  The
clock stopped--its mechanism was more atune to elf-influence than that
of the prose-builders below.  Members--for no particular reason that
they knew--came trooping in; and within ten minutes every green bench on
the floor of the House and in the galleries was packed.

June spread her wings, and flew over the heads of the legislators.  Her
companions followed her example.  With wands they tapped the mighty
brows of legislators, and prepared their minds for obedience.  Members
wearing hats were poked in the nape of the neck.  All--without
exception--were inoculated with magic.  The Irish party became a little
uproarious, and effectively facetious.

The stream of prose went on.

June gave Bim her wand, and bade him take the chair.  He gravely
clambered along the Treasury table, came to the trio of clerks, and,
after bowing with due respect thrice, according to usage--his seat on
the mace had touched him with Parliamentary decorum--the intrepid
adventurer climbed the Speaker’s robes and squatted soberly upon his
wig.  The dignity of Parliament was enhanced.

The gnome knew he was making history, so he took care to keep awake.

Mr. Speaker began to feel strangely nervous, to have forebodings--as if
an unexpected precedent was about to be established.

Meanwhile the stream of prose went on.  The present malefactor was ----,
but his name shall not be immortalized!  This is all I will say, O
reader: he was of the opposite school of politics to you.  Even members
on his own side of the House began to be impatient.  A few cried
"’Vide!" but only feebly.  His misdoing was condoned by the general
indifference.

He went on lamenting and lamely protesting that the Government in the
King’s Speech had not included a Bill to regulate Charity Bazaars, and
was endeavouring to institute a comparison with the social system of the
ancient Assyrians. His peroration had been misplaced; he had begun with
it.  He had reached his seventhly.  There were no signs of the
approaching end, no means whatever of computing when that might be.  He
merely went on.  His speech was like a long and muddy road on a splashy
wet night.

June crowned Geoffrey.  Obediently he rose.

"Mr. Speaker," he said, with the gesture that practice in the bedroom
had made perfect.  "This intolerable flow of drivel----"

"Order!  Order!" cried a hundred voices.

The interrupted orator turned round to stare at Geoffrey with eyes of
angry surprise.

Intervention came from the proper place.  The Speaker was on his feet.
Bim clung to the wig to prevent his displacement.

"The noble lord," said Mr. Speaker, in his most conciliatory and
compelling manner, "is so young a member of the House that he merits
every indulgence; but I must remind him that to interrupt an honourable
member in any other way than by rising to a point of order is a serious
breach of the procedure and order of this House."

Geoffrey had, of course, resumed his seat immediately the Speaker rose;
but, authority having spoken, the crown would no more let him sit still,
acquiescent, than it had allowed any of its human wearers to remain
their normal selves.  He rose again.

A tornado of cries of "Order!" greeted Geoffrey’s further involuntary
breach of obedience.

June flew across to the Speaker.

Old Parliamentary hands turned to look at their new colleague.  His
further breach of order was done with perfect manner.  There was no
shouting vulgarity about his interruption, but a definite purpose,
pleasantly expressed.  They rapidly summed him up.  He was well-looking,
well-dressed, good House-of-Commons form, yet with a refreshing look of
determination in his eyes.  Far within themselves the veterans began to
admire and to wonder.  Geoffrey’s début, they felt, was full of promise;
it marked a man of the future as surely as the Hartington yawn had done.

"He will do," they said; "impudence and brains."  That was their verdict
in the beginning. Shrewd were those front-benchers, but they did not
quite know Geoffrey.

"May I apologize, Mr. Speaker, and explain----"

"I decline to give way," declared the important person whose pomposity
and portentous drivel had provoked the elves’ interruption.

"’Vide! ’vide!" cried a Labour man, merely in mischief.

June kissed the Speaker.  Without blushing, yet with perfect grace and
modesty, in the interests of true progress, she kissed him; while Bim,
lying full length along the top of his wig, pressed the wand against his
forehead, and willed him to do as the fairies required.  Could any man
successfully resist such powers?  No!  Even the first of Commoners could
not.

The Speaker, as he stood waiting to deliver judgment, knew he was,
though dazed through the brightness, even clearer-headed than usual.  He
was on the awesome edge of a precedent.  He wondered how the decision
then to be given would be received; ordinarily it would have filled the
House with amazement, but the earlier inoculation with magic had already
begun to take effect.  The Speaker was aware of strange powers and
presences about him.

The person of pompous prose, realizing that his dignity was endangered,
again cried a protest; but he was so far away from the sympathies of his
fellow-members--he had bored them so severely--that with clamour they
shouted him down.  Thanks to the fairies, every single member in that
House hurled "Order!" at him.

Though technically quite in order, he was forced to subside.  He felt
badly treated; he was badly treated: and serve him jolly well right!

During the whole of the subsequent scene--a glorious page in the new
English history--the nonentity sulked.  Bim after a while went to sit on
his knee, endeavouring to charge him with the elixir of elfdom; but it
was difficult, at that stage of chronic self-esteem, for any good
influence to pierce the crust of prejudice, jealousy, and indignation
which bound him.

But the gnome went on making effort, and eventually did soften the pride
of that creature of grandiose pomposity.

June’s kiss was momentous; it bore with it power.  The Speaker
throughout his being trembled at her intangible touch; a smile, which
would have been seraphic had it not been for the wig, brightened and
gladdened his face.

The old Parliamentary hands glanced with swift inquiry at each other;
then centred their gaze on him.  What was coming?

"This is an exceptional occasion," he ruled, in level, serious tones.
"It is an hour wherein a precedent may usefully be created.  The noble
lord may make his explanation.  The House will listen with attention."

To their own surprise, the members cheered. What they knew full well was
utterly wrong seemed to them then utterly right.  Geoffrey was
encouraged in his fairy courses.  The crown, pressed on his smooth
locks, filled him with elation of purpose.  He felt as light-hearted and
confident as a skylark--as powerful as a steam-engine; potent, joyful,
energetic, controlling.

"Mr. Speaker," he said, "I must and do apologize sincerely to the
honourable member for interrupting him in the manner I was compelled to
do; but the protest I was forced to make was done in obedience to some
superior power.  I feel--we all feel--that in these latter days new and
admirable forces have become effective in the national life."

"Hear, hear!" said the Leader of the Opposition.

"Ideals, opposed absolutely to many popular fixed opinions, are
prevalent.  The reign of ugliness, selfishness, materialism, is
threatened by new and admirable influences.  Old forms must modify
themselves to suit younger and nobler purposes.  It was, and is, as the
spokesman of those powers that I have ventured so soon to intrude on the
attention of the House."

A murmur of approval ran round the benches. No party was quite silent;
the only individual who regarded Geoffrey with suspicion and coldness
was the victim whom Bim was sitting on, trying to melt.

"I do protest," Geoffrey went on, "and I shall continue to protest, on
behalf of progress and humanity, against the waste of public time
through mere talk.  The House has listened for three-quarters of an hour
to the honourable member; and, I venture to say--with a further apology
to him--was in no way inspired or benefited by what he was saying.  His
speech merely occupied time which is urgently required by the country
for the fulfilment of practical, national business. In the name of the
fairies, I assert--and the House will uphold me--that whenever an
honourable member, no matter where his seat may be, obstructs or even
wearies the House with a dull, dilatory, or unnecessary speech, I shall
move that some Bill which makes for social progress, whether it appear
on the paper or not, be immediately considered, shelving at once the
subject under discussion at the time.  This will insure that, in a very
little while, what is publicly said will be worth saying, worth
listening to; and that true legislation will march.  For the purpose of
preparing the House for this new course of progress--thank the fairies
for the idea, Mr. Speaker, don’t thank me!--I respectfully inform you,
Sir, that I shall to-morrow bring in a Bill to abolish cemeteries, and
so to reform our burial customs, that God’s acre may be a pleasant
garden, wherein people may contemplate immortality without being shocked
by pagan stone-ware and unhealthy tombs."

The House thrilled at the calm words which expressed such revolution of
methods.  It was like suggesting that the world should be summarily
dissolved and rebuilt.  Yet members heard it like lambs, though even
then one voice of interruption was raised.

A member who had entered the Chamber but a few moments before, and
therefore was bewildered by the impropriety of Geoffrey’s action, and
astounded at the strained attention of the House, made formal inquiry.

"Is this in order, Mr. Speaker?"

"No," was the sharp reply, received in ominous silence.  "The noble lord
is quite out of order, but he may continue!"

Such a volley of cheering rang out that the lights overhead, behind
their glass partition, shivered.  A united sigh of satisfaction swelled
into sound.  Members were relieved that the outbreak against convention
was not summarily stopped.

June kissed the Speaker again.  She was proud, pleased, and grateful.
He who had raised the point of order--Mr. Wash, the member for
Somewhere--stared, staggered, subsided, squeezed himself into half a
seat, and soon found himself, too, under the spell of elf-influence and
in cordial sympathy with the reformer.

No more protests were made, then or thereafter, against Geoffrey’s
irregular courses.  He hurried along his fairy way, happily free.  He
felt more like a skylark than ever.  Admiration marched after him with
giant strides.  In those moments of Parliamentary début he was
establishing a reputation which years of official perseverance might
never have attained.

"Against useless speeches," he thundered, encouraged--the bedroom manner
was effective--"the fairies wage their war.  They have commissioned me,
also, to declare their absolute disapproval of mere party politics."

There were murmurs of doubt here.  The Irish party was even vociferous.
June waved the wand; the Speaker raised his hand; the sounds subsided
instantly.  Never before had the Chair been so willingly obeyed.

"I know," said Geoffrey, "that the party system is a natural
development, that without it political life would lose much of its
vitality; but it has become a mockery, a nuisance, a mischief; it has
gone too far."

"Hear, hear!" said an arch obstructor, the brim of whose silk hat was
gay with five fairies.

A loud burst of laughter echoed his words. Saul was indeed among the
prophets.  That arch obstructor was notorious for his tactics and skill
at the business.  His moves were dictated solely by party means for
party purposes.  They had caused more than one good movement, promising
the growth of national well-being, to be frustrated, injured or killed.

"I mean it!" he said emphatically, removing his hat to say so, and
thereby causing the five fairies to flutter, sparkling, for some moments
above him.  Their radiance shone on his high bald brow.  His fellow
members saw enough of the elf-brightness actually to think it the light
of his inspiration.  They cheered a volley. Encouraged by this amazing
tribute, much of it from men who hitherto had not admired him, he vowed
secretly never, never, never again wantonly to hinder or harm a possible
good cause by obstructive tactics.  Saul, better than a prophet now, had
become angelic.

"How many a Bill, supported by the most thoughtful members, in all parts
of this House, has been sacrificed to some supposed partisan advantage,"
Geoffrey continued.  "The history of legislation, Mr. Speaker, is choked
with statesmanlike intentions, spoiled wantonly.  That possibility must
not continue."

"Hear, hear!"

"It must not continue.  The fairies have given the word.  They must be
obeyed."

"Hear, hear!  Hear, hear!"

"The party organizations, of course, must remain; general business still
must be conducted along party lines, for opposition is practically as
necessary as government; but the tendency to use party forces as an
insensate block must be checked.  Hereby, Mr. Speaker, I respectfully
give notice that, while loyal to my party, the Buffs, I shall vote for a
good Bill promoted by the Blues whenever I think it is calculated
honestly to help the people.  Buff or Blue, progress is much the same.
I stand for true progress.  Will at least twenty members from every one
of the four parties in this House join with me, look with impartial
eyes, as I shall look, at any and all Bills presented to it, and make
efforts to pass them when their passage would be for the social good of
the nation?"

Voices from every bench on the floor of the House, as well as from the
parallel galleries above, cried accord with the intention.  Geoffrey had
his lead.

"Then that is settled.  We--this new National Party--will be strong
enough to help any Government, Buff or Blue, to carry good measures; and
strong enough to force reasonable amendments in otherwise desirable
Bills.  We shall hold the balance of power, and progress will be made
along a middle way.  Mr. Speaker, I have done! I thank the House for its
great consideration and courtesy to a new member.  I have been listened
to with a kindness which proves the patriotism of this historic House.
I am proud so soon to have been permitted to suggest remedies for the
congested condition of public business, and, thanks to the sympathy of
honourable members, to have been enabled to devise means whereby causes
inspired by the fairies will triumph."

He resumed his seat.  Excited applause broke out.  Members waved their
hats.  Three, at least, stood on the benches, the better to cheer.
Geoffrey Season was a made Parliamentary man.

The House hushed to hear its Leader.  Gracefully leaning on a Treasury
box, he smiled a smile of philosophic doubt.  Seeing this, June waved
command to a bevy of elf-princes, who forthwith transferred the crown
from Geoffrey’s head to his.  At once the smile broadened, its doubt
diminished, its philosophy increased.

"The House," said he, "has listened to the noble lord with considerable
interest and admiration; and rightly so.  He is, it is true, a child in
these things; but out of unsophisticated mouths the best wisdom
sometimes comes.  I am a House of Commons man myself, and any proposal
calculated to diminish, or actually to injure, the machinery of this
Chamber would be hotly resisted by me; but because a system has lasted a
great many years--as the party system has done--is that any reason for
its undisturbed continuance? My question must be answered in the
negative. I say No; and join with the noble lord in inviting honourable
members to look at all Bills with impartial eyes.  The Government will
do its best to meet the views of the new National Party.  I am inclined
to wish I could become a member of that party myself.  I congratulate
the noble lord on being its leader.  If it were not for the Labour
members--a most useful body--I should say that the old Fourth Party
lived again."  He paused. He sighed, "Ah me!" and then reclined again.

The House at once voted the Address.  Members hurried to remove from the
notice paper futile resolutions and blocking motions.  A score of bills,
prudently progressive, were at once formally introduced.  Parties vied
with each other in making constructive suggestions.  Parliament was full
of the spirit which made the Psalmist’s mountains skip like rams.  It
went to work with a will.

In the midst of this whirl of fine happenings the fairies departed.
They flew to the top of the Victoria Tower, and revelled; while Bim,
unblessed with powers of flight, went peacefully to sleep in Geoffrey’s
breast-pocket.



                             *CHAPTER XXI*

                            *OBERON AT LAST*


So far as the conquest of London was concerned, all was over except the
shouting.  June was triumphant.  There was no question about that.
Victory clung to her as a golden shadow.  More and more elves came from
Fairyland, each one increasing the area for good, and becoming a present
testimony to the truth of June’s victory.

Oberon was silent; as yet he made no sign--he remained far away, hunting
in the valleys of obstinacy; but no other in the shadow-lands of Faerie
hesitated to acknowledge the glorious truth. June’s madness--as they
called it--was justified.

Spring came creeping up.  Nature awoke; shook off her lethargy, and
cried welcome to the future.  The trees were cautiously putting on
raiment.  Birds found their forgotten voices, and began practising
anthems, preparing for the nesting season.  June, touched by the hope in
the air, and strengthened with the satisfaction of seeing a recovered or
recovering London, was modestly confident.

A human person, with such progress behind him, would have been cocksure;
but the fairies know better!

She showed her strength and content by an act of courage.  She sent the
crown back to Fairyland; Bim, as a special mark of honour, was
privileged to take it.

The gnome, through this great trust--so responsible, so ennobling--was
rapt up to the seventeenth realm of happiness.  The privilege filled him
with a fine humility.  He did not presume to wear the crown; he held it
with reverence in his hands, and when riding his pelican homewards--June
procured one for that mission from St. James’s Park--carried it
carefully under his arm.

He reached the Violet Valley, delivered the crown to its mystical
guardians, and then, eager to give expression to his wonderful
adventures, told to excited groups of immortals tales of the doings of
June.  His words came forth in torrents. He had so much to say.  He
developed unexpected powers of expression.  He found himself, while
detailing his epic, shining with the graces of minor poetry.  Nymphs,
gathering about him as he spoke, sweetened his narrative with chords
struck on harps of gold and starshine.  His tales were repeated by
tellers a hundredfold.  A fairy "Iliad" was in the making.  Not a flower
or frog in Elfland failed to receive a full, true, and particular
account of what the fairy and gnome had experienced, and of their
ultimate triumph.

The result was better than glorious.  Bim was acting as a first-rate
recruiting officer.  In consequence of his eloquence, the flow of
fairies townwards grew rapidly in volume.  The more he talked, the
faster they flew.  His ardour and loquacity were stimulated still
further by this increasing--and vanishing--evidence of his success.
Encouraged, he went on talking--explaining, appealing.  He stood on a
stump, an orator.  His persuasiveness and powers of speech were
depopulating Fairyland.  They harkened, ruminated, and fled.

Oberon, made aware of this, was roused at last to the seriousness of
things, and came back to Elfland in a panic.

"I told you so!" said Titania, with that inconsequence and gentle
insistency her lord so loved.

The king airily murmured a royal "Pooh!" and hid his thoughts in a mist.

Never before had the real Fairyland been so silent.  Many of the glades
were empty.  The flowers drooped.  Noxious insects took courage and
prowled.  The murmurs of chained dragons, subterraneously entombed, were
heard in the stillness for the first time for centuries; but they were
securely prisoned.

The fairy knights, their warders, strong in their high chivalry and
duteous devotion, resisted all inclination to follow the wings of their
fellows. They remained, abiding and true, at their arduous, difficult
posts, guarding the fiery caverns. Mankind has no idea of the dangers
that threatened them.  If those living, prehistoric creatures had
escaped--but, no!--no!--no more of that!  Let the horrors remain in the
ghastly depths, to be remembered only on those rare occasions when, with
their mighty convolutions, they cause earthquake.

The fairies flew crowding into London and the other cities which they
had forsaken; and did not come alone.  Gnomes, thousandfold, also came
riding in, mounted on all manner of birds--goldfinches and tits, robins
and wrens, and others of the fine companionage of the feathered kingdom.
The monopoly of King Sparrow was over.  He was kept in his proper place,
and became a decent and tolerant Bohemian.

Later in the summer season--when soft is the sun--bright-coloured
butterflies fluttered carelessly out of the country into the radiant
streets. Several birds went open-mouthed to greet them; but the fairy
power was so potent that the lingering things of beauty--the living
smiles of Psyche--were not touched.

Fire-flies were seen darting about the Royal Exchange.  Swallows played
over the waters of the Thames.

London became worthier still of its various newcomers.  It cleaned and
decked itself so rapidly that far-travelled sailormen, returning to the
Pool after merely a month of absence, saw the great difference, and,
knowing themselves deficient, earnestly signed the pledge.

Every pillar-box within an area of fifty square miles now had its fairy.
Gnomes, overcrowding, had to get lodgment where they could.  The
favourite habitation of these democratic gentry was a discarded silk
hat, of which there were many--for men had come to realize the ugliness
and discomfort of the chimney monster, and had flung it out of fashion.
Better ventilated, and with the nap rubbed the wrong way, they had
become agreeable gnome-dwellings.  There were long rows of them in
Victoria Park, and they were generously dotted about Lincoln’s Inn
Fields and the Embankment Gardens.

The happiest chapter in the progress of June now began.  It was nothing
other than the open faith of man in the reality and truth of the
fairies. Some of them, old people first, the youthful later, the
children last, saw them; saw fairies flying along happy streets or
proudly enthroned on the pillar-boxes, ruling with beneficence; saw
gnomes dangling and balancing on the iron arms of lamp-posts, seated in
rows on walls, sprawling among flower-pots on window-sills.

The discovery of this new vision had colossal results.  It set the whole
world writing paragraphs.  The newspapers, avid for facts, boomed the
revelation for all it was worth.  German metaphysicians put on
gold-rimmed spectacles and laboriously laid the foundations of
voluminous tomes dedicated to the scientific analysis and philosophy of
the new great influence which had come to advance mankind.  It was the X
rays and radium--advanced a long stage further.

Humanity generally woke up with a start to the better condition of
things, and set itself even more vigorously than before to the remedying
of wrongs and the removal of whatever rottenness had managed to survive.

Life became as an anthem with a jolly chorus. Croakers, and the
pessimists whose idea of duty is to hinder and delay, were pleasantly
pushed out of place, so that optimists, with vision and the will to do,
might get to work.

Those months of spring--until the almond was in blossom, and the daisies
began to bud--knew more eager preparation and the devising of true
artistic plans for the betterment and adornment of London, its suburbs,
and the other like places of England, than ever before.

What of poet and artist, lives somehow and somewhere, in every
individual, became, in the sunshine of ideas then warm in the world,
strong enough to emerge from its chrysalis state?  Facts were examined
in the light of informed ideas. Men went about with dreams in their
eyes, and worked with practical hands.

The smoke fiend was promptly abolished--the means for doing this had
long been waiting to be used; and at once London became brighter.  A
bottle of November fog was treasured in the British Museum.  The blue
skies, no longer veiled through the incense of black King Coal, shone so
brightly on streets and buildings, lighting them up, that the lurking
filth and dinginess despoiling worthy edifices became more than ever
eyesores and an annoyance.

St. Paul’s Cathedral was attacked with an army of brushes.  Before
Midsummer-day came, the great architectural crown of London emerged in
white glory from its setting of roofs--they were flower-filled now--and
soon would be pointing to the heavens, a burnished dome of bronze.

Trees were planted along the sides of every main thoroughfare.  Silent
motor-buses glided through green avenues.  Statues not doomed by the
order of ugliness were cleansed; and, where their subject allowed it,
were adorned with flowers festooned about their pedestals.

Trafalgar Square was, at last, in process of becoming worthy of its
position and opportunity. A new story, architecturally handsome, was
superimposed on the National Gallery, removing the past insignificance.
The Square itself became a joy in marble and roses.  Whitehall sparkled
with fountains.  The rails of the Parks were removed.

The Thames grew silvern again.  Men fished from boats alongside the
Embankment, and listened to the choruses of concerts in the gardens
which graced the fine thoroughfare.  It was a favourite sight in future
years to watch the salmon running down to sea, and, later, making their
willing return to the upper reaches beyond Teddington.

Members of Parliament--there were petticoats amongst them--in the
intervals of beneficent debate--threw food from the Terrace to fishes
and seagulls.

Cockneys hoped for a hay-harvest on Clerkenwell Green.

And that is all we need say to show how splendidly the fairies were
causing men to modify London.

Beauty was living; vulgarity was dying. Hopefulness, happiness, kindness
reigned.


We must go back to an earlier stage of the triumph of June, when the
happy developments, aforesaid, were generally but generating in men’s
minds, and had not come to actual processes of materialization.

It was April--the beginning of the last week of the joyous month; and
though on all sides of her there was bustling evidence of her absolute
victory, June felt sad, for Oberon had given no sign of his forgiveness.
He and Titania were the only fairies who had not come to justify her
happiness. Realizing this, she had almost enough sorrow for tears.  Why
did not the king come?  Could his displeasure still be active?

As she flew here, there, and all about the radiant Metropolis--from over
which the pall of evil had been finally removed--she sighed and sighed
again. Her comrades, seeing the sadness, her burden, were grieved.  It
was the only dark speck on a condition of absolute joy.

June visited her human friends--Sally Wilkins, the Oldsteins, Archdeacon
Pryde, the Mosses, the Duke and Duchess of Armingham, Lord Geoffrey
Season, Sir Titus Dods--and rejoiced to find them still at work on the
right lines, marching the way of fairy progress, but her yellow
depression clung to her and would not be shaken off.

Strange that even in the hour of fulfilled joy she should be haunted by
the spectre of disappointment; but so it was.

The last days of April drifted by.  It was the evening of its thirtieth
day.  Soon after midnight, in the first of the morning darkness, the
fairy of the year was to be crowned.

June hid herself in loneliness on her roof over Paradise Court, drooped
her wings, and was, in every respect, weary.  The hour of reaction, so
long resisted, at last had come.  She felt then that the successful
fulfilment of her quest, while lifting a weight from her, had also taken
away something that sustained and inspired her. With Bim far away--she
knew not where--and her multitude of comrades dispersed in all parts of
the Metropolis, or, she supposed, travelling to the new crowning, her
burden of weakness and weariness was heavy indeed.

She looked up to the sky, and remembered the evening of a year ago.  The
stars were shining now as they shone then.  The crescent moon looked
down.  Curious as ever, Diana, that prudish old maid, the Hellenic Mrs.
Grundy, peeped through the silver cranny, and watched the world, waiting
the crowning.

Memories of the last May-day came forcefully to June.  She recollected
Oberon’s appeal to her; Titania’s brief kindness of championship; her
own defiance and flight.  How changed things were since then!  She
longed to be back in the Land of Wild Roses, now that her task was
fulfilled.

Though the stars were shining brightly, life and the sky seemed to her
grey, and grey remained till the clocks struck eleven.  Roused by their
chorus from her depressing reverie, she flew to the highest chimney on
her roof, to contemplate in farewell the wonders surrounding her.

Bim’s garden was still flourishing.  Its flowers shone proudly with
fairy-light.  They--aha!--were not faint-hearted.  On many roofs
spring-time petals were looking upward, an elf-flame breaking from every
opening bud.  Fairyland was effectually translated; London transformed.

Good-bye for a time!  To-morrow she would leave all this--her particular
task was done.  She would, in the minutes before midnight, hasten to the
new crowning, wherever it might be, to congratulate the happiest fairy,
whoever that should be, and then, free, she would fly to the dear home
ways, to rest, refresh, rejoice.

But would the gentle King forgive her?  She remembered his command of a
year ago, and felt sorrow, which the record of a completed purpose and
victory won could not banish or diminish.

The question troubled her, till Oberon brought the answer.

She was seated brooding on the rim of the chimney, her deportment and
limp wings signs of extreme dejection, when she was aware of brightness
and happiness approaching.  She looked hastily about her.

Sorrow went.

Myriads of fairies were on the wing, coming fleetly towards her, singing
the songs that gladden the night of the crowning.  Their brightness was
such that for a time it paled the stars.  Then slowly, still chanting,
they ranged on the houses about her, or fluttered in laughing lines
under the sky.

Gnomes, eager to join in what was happening, came up, climbing
rain-pipes, and using other means of reaching the roof-country.

They reminded June of Bim.  She wished he, too, was there.  Why had not
he returned?  This procession and display meant honour and happiness
which he deserved to share.  But wherever he was, it was well with him;
that she knew.

She gave the whole of her attention to the wonders approaching.

On all sides about her fairies were ranged; the houses were outlined
with their radiance; every flower on window-sills and roof-gardens was
awake and shining.

Slowly now, gladly, majestically, the high aristocracy of Elfdom came.
They greeted June with the waving of wands, and then took places near
where she was sitting.

There was a burst of applause in melody. Oberon and Titania were
approaching.  June’s being trembled with rapture.  They had come! They
had come!  She rose to greet them; a great glad cry of welcome--welcome
from multitudinous elves rang up to the sky.

Their majesties of Fairyland came to Bim’s garden, and there were
enthroned, a brilliant escort of knights grouped behind them.

"June," said the King, so clearly that every elf could hear him, "a year
has passed since your act of disobedience.  Against our wishes, and
despite our will, you went to fulfil the impossible. You came to where
the cloud of evil--that ominous pall--hung over London, and proclaimed
the weakness of Fairyland!"

These words sounded so like a rebuke that June was fearful.  She bowed
her head, opened wings, and knelt mutely before her monarch. Oberon
smiled.

"You have done well, June!  You have accomplished the impossible.  You
have taught us never to despair.  For the first time in history a fairy
has disobeyed a King’s command and done right. Elves!" he cried to the
company, "the hour of the crowning has nearly come.  Who shall the
honoured fairy be?"

There was a moment’s silence.  Then, as a chord of music, far-flung,
unanimous, the answer came:

"June!"

Magnificent silence again.

The fortunate fairy, chosen, was still kneeling. Her great happiness
humbled her.  Her wings quivered.  She was enduring an ordeal.  Titania
raised her, kissed her, brought to her confidence. Then, hand in hand,
June linking the King and Queen, they flew westward.  The host of
fairies followed in a long line of golden light, cheerily singing.  A
comet would be a mere firework in comparison with their splendour.

As they made progress over the town, Oberon and Titania saw the fruits
of June’s efforts.  The great Metropolis shone beautiful beneath them.
There was no ugliness, want, or unkindness in London that night.
Streets and houses were full of inspiring brightness and noble delight.

As they passed, half circling, St. Paul’s Churchyard, a nightingale was
singing.

A great army of gnomes hurried along the roads, following the way of the
procession.  They were not going to miss the crowning--no, not they!
Policemen on duty were only half aware of the bustlement proceeding.

The crowning was to be celebrated in St. James’s Park.  A choir of birds
were already singing the opening anthem as Oberon and Titania, still
hand in hand with June, descended to thrones in the greenness.



                             *CHAPTER XXII*

                               *CROWNED*


Fairyland!  Fairyland!

Again there was high revel in Fairyland--revel heartier, happier than
ever before.  No wilderness was now left unlighted by elf-kindness.
Every brick and fragment of London town, as every grass-blade and flower
in the green country, was under the acknowledged dominion of the fairy
King.  The elves had come to their own again.

Oberon and Titania, with June seated between them, watched the
procession of infinite fairies arriving; saw the glorious presences
range themselves round the place of the coronation, while the
preparation of the Park’s smooth sward for feasting and dancing went
rapidly on.  Gnomes bustled about pell-mell, as they had done that night
of the year before, and soon made the wide, smooth lawn ready for
melodies of motion and song.

The heroes of old time came marching amid cheering to their places of
honour near the throne. They were shining with the pride wrought by
arduous duties done.

The cousins of Rumpelstiltzkin, belonging to the brotherhood which in
the far-away mountains of Knickerbocker had kidnapped happy-go-lucky
Rip, came up from their deep-down workshops--hammers in their hands--to
greet the fairy of the year.  They stood or sat in groups, wagging their
beards with crony’s talk, while gravely nodding in time with the music.
The hoarded gossip of months was then in circulation.

June was entranced by the wonders presented to her.  It was all so
happily old, and yet in every item and particle so freshly, entrancingly
new.

Nymphs came from the dim Down-There--an underground Kingdom with roads,
rivers and mountains, nearly as vast and wonderful as this over-world,
is hidden in Fairyland (its stories may be told some day)--to flit on
gossamer wings and feet of light over the grass.  Their motion touched
the winds with rapture, and gave to the night radiance and fragrance.

The daintiest and proudest of the immortals joined in the delight of the
dancing.  No happier evening in the long, long annals of Elfland has
been or can be recorded.  It was pre-eminently a brief series of hours
of triumph, without a single regret or fear to spoil or mar the
brightness and harmony.

Stars sent down their dearest beams laden with blessings for elfkind and
humanity.  A great planet crossed the sky, a dazzling miniature of the
moon at its full.

June’s only wonder during that period was--Bim! He could not be far
away.  Where was he?  It was strange he should not be there.

Meanwhile the revel went on, with its laughter, songs and feasting.

The time for the crowning came.  Oberon rose and raised his sceptre in
command.  A glad unanimous cry rang out.  Birds atune to the rapture
sang.  A chosen choir of a thousand nightingales expressed delight.

The time of the fairy year!  The crown, guarded by a score of sentinels,
was reverently borne towards the King and Titania by a gnome--by Bim.
He was by royal proclamation appointed, henceforth and for ever, to be
its especial keeper; and so reaped the reward of his year of devotion
and prowess.  June rose with delight to greet him.  She forgot all else
of that festival then, in gladness at seeing him.  For his part, in
return he smiled a smile broad enough to be a generous grin--no mere
plain prose words can express the fulness of his happiness.

June realized at once that he was changed, improved.  He was less gnome
now than fairy knight.  The nymph of the pool in the Violet Valley had
remembered the promise made on the early morning of his departure in the
wake of June.  Bim had received the reward she had predicted.  He was,
in that proud hour and for a while thereafter, unique in Fairyland;
having the distinction of being raised to a class by himself: less gnome
than knight: the rewarded hero; and no one was envious because of his
good fortune.

The gnomes, especially, were proud of their fellow, who by earning
honour for himself had thrown honour, reflected, on them.

The king took the crown from Bim, and held it above the happy fairy.

"June, June, June!" again and again that favourite name was raised.

The nightingales, unanimous, gave the guiding note, and the triumph
song--the anthem of that supreme hour--rang once again up to the stars.

London in sleep heard the song and dreamed of the fairies.

Oberon placed the crown on June’s head.  Hand in hand with Bim, she and
the comrade who had done so duteously walked slowly round the inside of
the great circle of elves.

It was the hour of triumph.  Victory, absolute and supreme, was
expressed in the music of that night.  Oberon ruled everywhere!

Fairyland!  Fairyland!



              BILLING AND SONS, LTD., PRINTERS, GUILDFORD



           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *



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                             *PILGRIMAGE.*


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