THE FAIRY REVELS ON THE "GUMP", ST. JUST.
LONG has the Gump been the reputed playground of the Small People. Many of the good old people were permitted to witness their revels, and for years they have delighted their grandchildren with tales of the songs they have heard, and of the sights they have seen. To many of their friends those fairies have given small but valuable presents; but woe to the man or woman who would dare to intrude upon the ground occupied by them at the time of their high festivals. There was a covetous old hunks in St Just--never mind his name, he was severely punished, let that suffice--well, this old fellow had heard so much of the riches displayed by the little people, when holding holiday on the Gump, that he resolved to get some of the treasures. He learned all he could learn from his neighbours, but kept his intention to himself. It was during the harvest-moon--the night was a softened day--and everything abroad on such a night should have been in harmony with its quiet brilliancy. But here was a dark soul passing along, making a small eclipse with his black shadow. The old man stole towards the rendezvous of the "good people," as some were fond of calling them, anxiously looking out for the treasures which he coveted. At length, when he had not advanced far on the Gump, he heard music of the most ravishing kind. Its influence was of a singularly mysterious character. As the notes were solemn and slow, or quick and gay, the old man was moved from tears to laughter; and on more than- one occasion he was compelled to dance in obedience to the time. Notwithstanding that he was almost bewildered by the whirling motion to which he was compelled, the old man "kept his wits awake," and waited his opportunity to seize some fairy treasure; but as yet nothing remarkable had presented itself. The music appeared to surround him, and, as he thought, to come closer to him than it was at first; and although its sound led him to believe that the musicians were on the surface, he was impressed with an idea that they were realty beneath the earth Eventually there was a crash of sound, startling beyond description, and the hill before him opened. All was now ablaze with variously-coloured lights. Every blade of grass was hung with lamps, and every furze bush was illuminated with stars Out from the opening in the hill marched a host of spriggans, as if to clear the road. Then came an immense number of musicians playing on every kind of instrument. These were followed by troop after troop of soldiers, each troop bearing aloft their banner, which appeared to spread itself, to display its blazonry, without the assistance of any breeze. All these arranged themselves in order over the ground, some here and some there. One thing was not at all to our friend's liking; several hundreds of the most grotesque of the spriggans placed themselves so as to enclose the spot on which he was standing. Yet, as they were none of them higher than his shoe-tie, he thought he could "squash" them easily with his foot if they were up to any mischief and so he consoled himself. This vast array having disposed of themselves, first came a crowd of servants bearing vessels of silver and vessels of gold, goblets cut out of diamonds, rubies, and other precious stones. There were others laden, almost to overflowing, with the richest meats, pastry, preserves, and fruits. Presently the ground was covered with tables and everything was arranged in the most systematic order,--each party failing back as they disposed of their burdens.
The brilliancy of the scene nearly overpowered the old man; but, when he was least prepared for it, the illumination became a thousand times more intense. Out of the hill were crowding thousands upon thousands of lovely ladies and gentlemen, arrayed in the most costly attire. He thought there would be no end to the coming crowd. By and by, however, the music suddenly changed, and the harmonious sounds which fell upon his ears appeared to give new life to every sense. His eyes were clearer, his ears quicker, and his sense of smell more exquisite.
The odours of flowers, more delicious than any he had eves smelt, filled the air. He saw, without any disturbing medium, the brilliant beauty of the thousands of ladies who were now upon the Gump; and their voices were united in one gush of song, which was clear as silver bells--a hymeneal symphony of the utmost delicacy. The words were in a language unknown to him, but he saw they were directed towards a new group now emerging from the hill.
First came a great number of female children clothed in the whitest gauze, strewing flowers on the Gump. These were not dead or cut flowers, for the moment they touched the ground they took root and grew. These were followed by an equally large number of boys, holding in their hands shells which appeared to be strung like harps, and from which they brought forth murmurs of melody, such as angels only could hope to hear and live. Then came--and there was no end to their coming--line upon line of little men clothed in green and gold, and by and by a forest of banners, which, at a signal, were all furled. Then, seated on thrones, carried upon a platform above the heads of the men, came a young prince and princess who blazed with beauty and jewels, as if they were suns amidst a skyey host of stars. There was much ceremonial marching to and fro, but eventually the platform was placed upon a mound on the Gump, which was now transformed into a hillock of roses and lilies; and around this all the ladies and gentlemen walked, bowing, and each one saying something to the princess and the prince,--passing onward and taking their seats at the tables. Although no man could count the number of this fairy host, there was no confusion; all the ladies and gentlemen found, as if by instinct, their places. When all were seated, a signal was given by the prince; servants in splendid liveries placed tables crowded with gold-plate and good things on the platform, and every one, the prince and princess included, began to feast with a will. Well, thought the old man, now is my time; if I could only crawl up to the prince's table, I should have a catch sure enough, and become a rich man for life. With his greedy mind fixed on this one object, and unobservant of everything else, he crouched down, as though by, so doing he could escape observation, and very slowly and stealthily advanced amongst the revellers. He never saw that thousands of spriggans had thrown little strings about him, and that they still held the ends of the threads. The presence of this selfish old mortal did not in any way discompose the assembly; they ate and drank and were as merry as though no human eye was looking on them. The old man was wondrous cautious lest he should disturb the feasters, consequently a long time was spent in getting, as he desired, to the back of the mound. At length he reached the desired spot, and, to his surprise, all was dark and gloomy behind him, but in front of the mound all was a blaze of light. Crawling like a serpent on his belly, trembling with anxiety, the old man advanced close to the prince and princess. He was somewhat startled to find, as he looked out over the mound, that every one of the thousands of eyes in that multitude was fixed on his. He gazed a while, all the time screwing his courage up; then, as a boy who would catch a butterfly, he took off his hat and carefully raised it, so as to cover the prince, the princess, and their costly table, and, when about to close it upon them, a shrill whistle was heard, the old man's hand was fixed powerless in the air, and everything became dark around him.
Whir! whir! whir! as if a flight of bees were passing him, buzzed in his ears. Every limb, from head to foot, was as if stuck full of pins and pinched with tweezers. He could not move, he was changed to the ground. By some means he had rolled down the mound, and lay on his back with his arms outstretched, arms and legs being secured by magic chains to the earth; therefore, although he suffered great agony, he could not stir, and, strange enough, his tongue appeared tied by cords, so that he could not call. He had lain, no one can tell how long, in this sad plight, when he felt as if a number of insects were running over him, and by the light of the moon he saw standing on his nose one of the spriggans, who looked exceedingly like a small dragon-fly. This little monster stamped and jumped with great delight; and having had his own fun upon the elevated piece of humanity, he laughed most outrageously, and shouted, "Away, away, I smell the day!" Upon this the army of small people, who had taken possession of the old man's body, moved quickly away, and left our discomfited hero alone on the Gump. Bewildered, or, as he said, bedevilled, he lay still to gather up his thoughts. At length the sun arose, and then he found that he had been tied to the ground by myriads of gossamer webs, which were now covered with dew, and glistened like diamonds in the sunshine.
He shook himself, and was free. He rose wet, cold, and ashamed. Sulkily he made his way to his home. It was a long time before,his friends could learn from the old man where he had passed the night, but, by slow degrees, they gathered the story I have related to you.