In Titania's Bower
"Is it really as bad as that?"
said Queen Titania, shaking her dainty head disapprovingly; "poor, pretty little ill-used dears, we must certainly do something for them! My lords and ladies, I crave your counsel in this matter.
Pipistrello, it is well; you may retire."
Pipistrello, or, as he was generally called, Pip, having told his tale, backed out with two airy skips from the royal presence.
Titania, who had chosen a buttercup for her throne, began to swing thoughtfully backwards and forwards, and as the court hastened to follow her example, it looked as if all the flowers in the dell were seized with a passion for bending and nodding.
Chancellor Perriwiggin held his chin consideringly, the Minister of War glared at a small spider that was racing over his boot, Counsellor Fandango rubbed his ear with an air of profound wisdom, while all the maids of honour tried to look as much like the Queen as possible.
Not that they quite succeeded, because there never could be such a perfectly charming creature as Titania; and just now she was looking especially sweet and lovely, for she was thinking of Pip's tale of two little children, whom nobody seemed to want.
Now there are, as perhaps you know, different sorts of fairies.
Some attend to the flowers, wash their faces every morning with fresh dew, comb their tendrils, brush their leaves nicely, and make them tidy for the day.
Others have charge of the baby-plants, wake them when it is time to rise, tuck them up at night, and teach them all sorts of things good and useful for a young plant to know.
A third set attend to the trees, and weave mantles of green moss for them; and besides these there are the beetle fairies, the spider fairies, the mushroom fairies, and a host of others.
But loveliest of all are the children's fairies; they stand in the first rank, and Titania always chooses them herself.
Some say, too, that the Queen loves them more than any of her other subjects.
Pipistrello was only a garden elf, but he was smart, active fellow, and he had come flying back to the fairy dell with a tale that he hoped would win promotion for him.
Her Majesty at length clapped her hands.
"Come, noble lords and fair ladies, what do you suggest?"
Heartsease, the prettiest of the maids of honour, who had been watching her mistress eagerly, leaned forward and said in a pleading tone:
"Let me go and fetch the children here, gracious Queen; where could they be so happy as in Fairyland?"
Titania shook her head; observing which, the Chancellor hastened to shake his, and the rest of the courtiers to shake theirs.
"It may not be," said the Queen, half sadly.
"Mortals they are, and such they must remain; they are not things of air and light and fire as we are, my Heartsease."
"Then let us take Fairyland to them," cried Heartsease boldly; and Titania, after looking at her inquiringly for a moment, smiled.
"Good, good! A game of play for the fairy-folk, with two little human creatures for audience; a ‘Midsummer Night's Dream’, to be managed by ourselves! My lords and ladies, we approve, and that right merrily.
Heartsease is appointed Mistress of the Revels, with Pipistrello to help her."
"Ugh! Private theatricals and the like tomfoolery!"
growled the Lord Treasurer in his beard; but nobody paid any attention to him.
At a signal from the Queen, the whole joyous court descended from their swaying seats; the royal band, composed of grasshoppers and crickets, struck up a lively tune, and soon the fairies were tripping it gaily upon the green sward.
The prettiest maid of honour, however, was not among them.
Far away from the enchanted dell, Heartsease and Pip were gazing at two children asleep in two little beds in a large dull room, with never a picture to brighten it.
They were boy and girl, and both had the same wealth of tumbled yellow curls, the same soft flushed cheeks and dimpled chins.
"How very pretty they are!"
murmured Heartsease tenderly.
She stooped and kissed the little girl, who smiled in her sleep as at some pleasant dream.
"And so they are orphans and nobody wants them, poor little souls! What are their names, Pip?"
"Their names," replied Pip, complacently — for were not the children his discovery?
—" are Max and Molly.
They are just as old as each other; if you call one, both come; they are as sweet as honeysuckle, and deserve to be as happy as tom-tits."
"They are going to be happy," said the Maid of Honour, with decision; "you and I will see to that, Pip.
Good-night, little dears! good-night, Max and Molly!"
Pip, in sign of adieu, waved the long peacock's feather that he was carrying.
He had just, and only just managed to keep from tickling the children's faces with it; they looked so temptingly soft.
he whispered, and shook out his gauzy wings.
An old professor who liked to stroll about his garden in the twilight, thought he saw two fireflies darting past.
But he was mistaken, although he was an exceedingly clever old gentleman; for it was Heartsease and Pip flying back to Fairyland.