The Faery Tales of Weir

Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Mary Meehan, and the Project
Online Distributed Proofreading Team

The Faery Tales of Weir

By Anna McClure Sholl





[Illustration: THE TOWN OF WEIR]


Only in far-away towns are the real faery tales told in shadowy nurseries
whose windows in summer open upon shimmering gardens and on whose walls
in winter the fire-goblins dance. Weir is one of these towns—a sweet,
hushed place, lying where the hills spread broadly to the south sun, and
the trees are thick as in a painting.

There are shops, too, with bulging windows through which you can scarcely
see the toys or the flowers or the sweetmeats, because Time has
finger-marked the glass with violet and crimson stains that shift and
merge so that the contents of the windows are seen as through wavering
sea-water. Beyond the shops are the houses asleep beneath great trees,
their warm red bricks showing where the ivy has thinned. Their stacked
chimneys send out faint blue spirals of smoke, to let you know that the
fires are on the hearths and about the hearths the children are gathered.

The little old churches placed where Weir drowses out into the country,
have hoarse, sweet bells like the voices of old women who whisper of the
Christ Child at Christmas time; and in the churches are windows as full
of color as the gardens of Weir.

The sleepy, forgotten town was famous for nothing but its faery tales
told long ago to children whose bright eyes have looked by now on wider
scenes, and whose voices have died away on that wind upon which all
voices sink from hearing at last. I sometimes wonder whether in
imagination they all troop back at the twilight hour: Hubert to cuddle up
in the wing-chair; James to stretch out on the hearth-rug; Veronica and
little Eve to nurse their dolls and gaze through the nursery window half
fearfully at the striding dusk, or to listen to the tap upon the panes of
flying leaves when the great winds rise. Where is Richard who always
wanted “a tale never told before,” and small Spencer with his dreaming
eyes and baby mouth? Where is quaint Matilda with her plaid dress and her
straight black hair; where is Ruth?

Wherever they are, I like to think that to them Weir is always their true
home; and their hearts really live in that broad shadowy house where the
steps of the staircase were so wide and shallow that each was a little
landing in itself; and where the candles flamed at night in high sconces;
and in the halls was a rustling of silk; and in the air the smell of
flowers and burning wood. The nursery was high up under the eaves, so
that the rest of the house seemed far-away—a wonderful region where
music might sound, or where, by stealing down, one might see fair ladies
like the princesses of the tales smiling at gallant gentlemen. One’s own
mother might turn, indeed, into a princess just before it was time to go
to bed, with white arms and jewels upon her neck.

Then one fell asleep knowing that no day in Weir could be without its
enchantment, whether the clouds seemed caught in the tree-tops, or the
snow flew and made the red roofs white; or whether the sun danced on the
green lawns, for each day ended with a faery tale, and these are the
tales of Weir.


The King of the South country was not as happy as a king ought to be
whose subjects are both peaceful and industrious. Every night when the
moths were flying and the tall candles were lit in the hall, when the
soft air was musical with the strumming of harps, and the sweet
complaint of violins, he would walk out on the great parapet with one
hand under his chin and his head drooping; then the courtiers would say,
“The King is sad.”

If he looked out he could see town after town, like strings of pearls and
corals, with blue smoke coming from the chimneys of red-roofed houses,
and beyond the towns the sea like a green bowl. If he looked straight
down he could see a rush of color, as if the flowers were coming up to
him in billowy waves.

But the King was not happy, for the reason that he wanted to marry his
three sons, and he didn’t know of any princesses who would, so to speak,
fill the bill. He had journeyed over the mountains to inspect several
little ladies who were brought to him, in their stiff satin gowns to
make their curtsey and smile their prettiest, but none of them seemed
desirable for a daughter. The King knew, indeed, very much what he
wanted. She mustn’t chatter and she mustn’t be too fond of chocolates in
gold and enameled boxes; and she mustn’t have likes and dislikes; and
she must be patient, for all really royal people know how to wait; and
she must possess the beautiful art of smiling. The King had seen her in
the frames of old paintings, still and sweet and jeweled, but never
alive and lovely.

On the evening when this tale begins the King was watching the three
princes play at ball. The ball was of scented Spanish leather covered
with crimson silk on which was stamped the sporting dolphin of the royal
house. Sometimes it would drop to the green turf where the parrots would
peck at it, thinking it a gorgeous apple. The hooded falcon on the
jester’s arm knew better, for the jester fed him real apples.

Prince Hugh, Prince Merlin, and Prince Richard were as supple as willows,
as straight as pines, as graceful as silver birches. Their blond hair
hung thick and straight against their necks and was cut square above
their level brows. Their manners were so good that their father didn’t
quite know their characters; and that made the problem of their marriages
more difficult.

All at once, as on a stage, they stopped playing ball and began to look
at something or someone. The King followed their eyes, and saw a strange
sight. A young girl with a great dog at her side was coming slowly over
the grass, her hands clasped above her breast, her long golden hair
hanging nearly to the hem of her gown which was of coarse brown wool. She
had no stockings, and on her feet she wore wooden shoes.

That a peasant girl should walk across the royal gardens was enough to
make the princes stare. Then the King saw that they were looking at
the girl’s hands, of which one was bare. On the other was a glove of
blue cut-velvet, heavily embroidered with a design of flowers which
circled themselves about a tiny mirror set exactly on the wrist; no
glove for a peasant!

She came slowly up the great stairs of the terrace as if she were
expected. By this time the court-lackeys had rushed out, full of
officiousness, to stop the outrage; but the King, at the end of a puzzled
day, was in no mood to hinder the least diversion. He advanced to meet
the visitor, who raised to him a pair of beautiful blue eyes and smiled.

“Where did she learn to smile?” thought the King, conscious that the gaze
of the three princes was still upon the girl.

She held out the gloved hand. “King Cuthbert, I am sent to your court by

King Luke. Will you be pleased to look in my mirror?”

Her wrist was raised to the level of his eyes. “What do you see?” she
asked in a soft, solicitous voice.

“Myself, maiden,” he replied.

She sighed, and the tears came in her eyes.

“Who else could I see?” he exclaimed.

She smiled and shook her head, then she nodded towards the three straight
boys on the lawn. “Those are your sons?”

“Mine, indeed, maiden.”

“I am sent to make their acquaintance. I am the niece of King Luke, the

Princess Myrtle.”

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