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have had daughters, for she liked bustling about her house, doing as much housework as she could find or invent, and daughters would have given her more to do and to fuss over: but there was no help for it now. The worthy pair had been married ten years without any child at all, so it would have been very ungrateful to repine. But you see Richard was not a comfortable son to have, he did not hang about his mother, doing little offices for her such as sons and daughters love doing when they are of the right sort; he was moody and abstracted, fond of taking long solitary walks, generally to the top of the hill, where he sat under the church wall, or sometimes climbed up to the steeple, but what his thoughts were about no one knew. His mother lamented loudly, and wished for daughters more than ever,-but that did no good.
"It's no use complaining, goodwife," said the father, "more especially as I have no doubt it's all your own fault.”
"My fault!" exclaimed the mother in great indignation. "Who ever thought I should have
such a son? I never was unnatural in my life, keeping my mouth shut all day, except to let my victuals in-"
No, I'll warrant you," chuckled her husband.
"And leaving my mother to drag great bundles of wood in by herself, not even offering to so much as lay the table!" continued the indignant housewife. "What do you mean, goodman ?"
"Well," said the father, "I never did hold much by fairies." And that was all he said. But the mother knew very well what he meant, and held her peace, for her husband, though he was the best man in the world, had a little foible of occasionally enforcing his arguments with his fists—it might have been in forgetfulness, or in sheer superabundance of animal spirits, but we all know that good wives must humour these little peculiarities in their husbands.
But in order to explain the good man's mysterious remarks, I must go back to the time when Richard was born.
His mother, in the height of her joy at having a child at last given her, had determined to have a
christening feast which should be the grandest ever known in Cornertown; and that's saying a good deal, for Cornertown was famous for feasts and festivals of all kinds. In order to make it very brilliant, and a return to the good old times of legendary lore, she invited the Fairy Rubinetta to be present, in the hope that a splendid gift might be forthcoming for the unconscious infant. Dame Rubinetta affably accepted the invitation, giving at the same time great offence to the other gossips of Cornertown, because she made her appearance in nothing better than the red cloak, cap, and mittens which had been hers from time immemorial, -her only ornament being a wreath of copperbeech leaves, which was pronounced by the guests to be an absurd affectation of juvenility.
I begin to think she is no fairy at all," whispered one gossip to another; "one hasn't heard of her doing anything extraordinary this long time."
"To be sure, the children do say that she shows them wonderful things," said another; "but then,. one can't trust children; they have so much imagination, the little dears."
"Just so," said a third; "but we'll soon see whether she is a fairy or not, by the present she gives the baby, bless it."
Dame Rubinetta meanwhile preserved her station at the head of the cradle with an air of solemn dignity which was very impressive, and somewhat reassured the anxious mother. A great number of costly presents were produced, and laid, as was the custom, in the cradle, the children meanwhile scattering flowers over the sleeping infant.
At last everything was done, and all eyes were turned on the Fairy Rubinetta. With the same immovable aspect, she advanced and bent over the cradle.
My son," said she, “I have but a simple gift to give thee, and it depends on thyself whether it be a blessing or a curse. Take, then, unconscious babe, and wear in thy heart of hearts the Passion Flower of Life."
With these words she laid a magnificent Passion Flower on the babe's bosom, and went silently away, without taking the least notice of anybody. The guests were stupified, and the poor mother,
who had expected to dazzle all eyes with the magnificence of the fairy's gift, was overwhelmed with grief and disappointment.
"Did you ever see anything so shabby?" said the gossips to each other; "a rich and powerful fairy to have nothing better to give than a paltry flower!"
"This comes of running after grand folks," said another, "and ought to be a lesson to the child's parents."
"I always thought she wasn't a fairy at all, and now I'm sure of it," said a third; "but I must say I pity the child's mother; it must be a great disappointment." And all the gossips condoled with the mother, their faces beaming with satisfaction. But the poor woman, exasperated with the fairy and with everybody else, turned fiercely on her friends, and declared that she was not a bit disappointed; it was only what she expected. The flower was sure to turn out something magnificent; probably it was a charm, which would make the child rich and prosperous all its days. Fairies did not give like other people; and, at all events, it was no business of theirs. After which valiant declara.