THE FAIRY WIDOWER.
NOT many years since a very pretty girl called Jenny Permuen lived in Towednack. She was of poor parents, and lived in service. There was a good deal of romance, or what the old people called nonsense, in Jenny. She was always smartly dressed, and she would arrange wildflowers very gracefully in her hair. As a consequence, Jenny attracted much of the attention of the young men, and again, as a consequence, a great deal of envy from the young women. Jenny was, no doubt, vain; and her vanity, which most vain persons will say is not usual, was accompanied by a considerable amount of weakness on any point connected with her person. Jenny loved flattery, and being a poor, uneducated girl, she had not the genius necessary to disguise her frailty. When any man told her she was lovely, she quite admitted the truth of the assertion by her pleased looks. When any woman told her not to be such a fool as to believe such nonsense, her lips, and eyes too, seemed to say you are only jealous of me, and if there was a pool of water near, nature's mirror was speedily consulted to prove to herself that she was really the best-looking girl in the parish. Well, one day Jenny, who had been for some time out of a situation, was sent by her mother down to the lower parishes to "look for a place." Jenny went on merrily enough until she came to the four cross roads on the Lady Downs, when she discovered that she knew not which road to take. She looked first one way and then another, and she felt fairly puzzled, so she sat down on a boulder of granite, and began, in pure want of thought, to break off the beautiful fronds of ferns which grew abundantly around the spot she had chosen. It is hard to say what her intentions were, whether to go on, to return, or to remain where she was, so utterly indifferent did Jenny appear. Some say she was entirely lost in wild dreams of self-glorification. However, she had not sat long on this granite stone, when hearing a voice near her, she turned round and saw a young man.
"Well, young woman," says he, "and what are you after?"
"I am after a place, sir," says she.
"And what kind of a place do you want, my pretty young woman?" says he, with the most winning smile in the world.
"I am not particular, sir," says Jenny; "I can make myself generally useful."
"Indeed," says the stranger; "do you think you could look after a widower with one little boy?"
"I am very fond of children," says Jenny.
"Well, then," says the widower, "I wish to hire for a year and a day a young woman of your age, to take charge of my little boy."
"And where do you live?" inquired Jenny.
"Not far from here," said the man; "will you go with me and see?"
"An it please you to show me," said Jenny.
"But first, Jenny Permuen,"--Jenny stared when she found the stranger knew her name. He was evidently an entire stranger in the parish, and how could he have learnt her name, she thought. So she looked at him somewhat astonished. "Oh! I see, you suppose I didn't know you; but do you think a young widower could pass through Towednack and not be struck with such a pretty girl? Beside," he said, "I watched you one day dressing your hair in one of my ponds, and stealing some of my sweet scented violets to put in those lovely tresses. Now, Jenny Permuen, will you take the place?"
"For a year and a day?" asked Jenny.
"Yes, and if we are pleased with each other then, we can renew the engagement."
"Wages," said Jenny.
The widower rattled the gold in his breeches-pocket. "Wages! well, whatever you like to ask," said the man. Jenny was charmed; all sorts of visions rose before her eyes, and without hesitation she said--"Well, I 'II take the place, sir; when must I come?" "I require you now--my little boy is very unhappy, and I think you can make him happy again. You 'll come at once ?" "But mother"--"Never mind mother, I 'll send word to her." "But my clothes " --. "The clothes you have will be all you require, and I 'll put you in a much gayer livery soon."
"Well, then," says Jane, "'tis a bargain "--"Not yet," says the man; I 'ye got a way of my own, and you must swear my oath."
Jenny looked frightened.
"You need not be alarmed," said the man, very kindly; "I only wish you to kiss that fern-leaf which you have in your hand, and say, 'For a year and a day I promise to stay."
"Is that all?" said Jenny; so she kissed the fern-leaf and said--
"For a year and a day
I promise to stay."
Without another word he walked forward on the road leading eastward. Jenny followed him--she thought it strange that her new master never opened his lips to her all the way, and she grew very tired with walking. Still onward and onward he went, and Jenny was sadly weary and her feet dreadfully sore. At last poor Jenny began to cry. He heard her sob and looked round.
"Tired are you, poor girl? Sit down--sit down," says the man, and he took her by the hand and led her to a mossy bank. His kindness completely overcame her, and she burst into a flood of tears. He allowed her to cry for a few minutes, then taking a bunch of leaves from the bottom of the bank, he said, "Now I must dry your eyes, Jenny."
He passed the bunch of leaves rapidly first over one and then over the other eye.
The tears were gone. Her weariness had departed. She felt herself moving, yet she did not know that she had moved from the bank. The ground appeared to open, and they were passing very rapidly under the earth. At last there was a pause.
"Here we are, Jenny," said he, " there is yet a tear of sorrow on your eyelids, and no human tears can enter our homes, let me wipe them away." Again Jenny's eyes were brushed with the small leaves as before, and, lo! before her was such a country as she had never seen previously. Hill and valley were covered with flowers, strangely varied in colour, but combining into a most harmonious whole; so that the region appeared sown with gems which glittered in a light as brilliant as that of the summer sun, yet as mild as the moonlight. There were rivers clearer than any water she had ever seen on the granite hills, and waterfalls and fountains; while everywhere ladies and gentlemen dressed in green and gold were walking, or sporting, or reposing on banks of flowers, singing songs or telling stories. Oh! it was a beautiful world.
"Here we are at home," said Jenny's master; and strangely enough he too was changed; he was the most beautiful little man she had ever seen, and he wore a green silken coat covered with ornaments of gold. "Now," said he again, "I must introduce you to your little charge." He led Jenny into a noble mansion in which all the furniture was of pearl and ivory, inlaid with gold and silver, and studded with emeralds. After passing through many rooms, they came at length to one which was hung all over with lace, as fine as the finest cobweb, most beautifully worked with flowers; and, in the middle of this room was a little cot made out of some beautiful sea-shell, which reflected so many colours that Jenny could scarcely bear to look at it. She was led to the side of this, and she saw, as she said, "One of God's sweetest angels sleeping there." The little boy was so beautiful that she was ravished with delight.
"This is your charge," said the father; "I am the king in this land, and I have my own reasons for wishing my boy to know something of human nature. Now you have nothing to do but to wash and dress the boy when he wakes, to take him to walk in the garden, and to put him to bed when he is weary."
Jenny entered on her duties, and gave, and continued to give, satisfaction. She loved the darling little boy, and he appeared to love her, and the time passed away with astonishing rapidity.
Somehow or other she had never thought of her mother. She had never thought of her home at all. She was happy and in luxury, and never reckoned the passing of time.
Howsoever happiness may blind us to the fact, the hours and days move onward. The period for which Jenny had bound herself was gone, and one morning she awoke and all was changed. She was sleeping in her own bed in her mother's cottage. Every thing was strange to her, and she appeared strange to everybody. Numerous old gossips were called in to see Jenny, and to all Jenny told her strange tale alike. One day, old Mary Calineck of Zennor came, and she heard, as all the others had done, the story of the widower, and the baby, and the beautiful country. Some of the old crones who were there at the time said the girl was "gone clean daft." Mary looked very wise--" Crook your arm, Jenny," said she.
Jenny sat up in the bed and bent her arm, resting her hand on her hip.
"Now say, I hope my arm may never come uncrooked if I have told ye a word of a lie."
"I hope my arm may never come uncrooked if I have told ye a word of a lie," repeated Jenny.
"Uncrook your arm," said Mary.
Jenny stretched out her arm.
"It is truth the girl is telling," said Mary; "and she has been carried by the Small People to some of their countries under the hills."
"Will the girl ever come right in her mind?" asked her mother.
"All in good time," said Mary; "and if she will but be honest, I have no doubt but her master will take care that she never wants."
Howbeit, Jenny did not get on very well in the world. She married and was discontented and far from happy. Some said she always pined after the fairy widower. Others said they were sure she had misbehaved herself, or she would have brought back lots of gold. If Jenny had not dreamt all this, while she was sitting picking ferns on the granite boulder, she had certainly had a very strange adventure.