Tales of Chinese Children
The Garments of the Fairies
 

Why do we never see the fairies?" asked Mermei.

"Because," replied her mother, "the fairies do not wish to be seen."

"But why, honorable mother, do they not wish to be seen?"

"Would my jade jewel wish to show herself to strangers if she wore no tunic or shoes or rosettes?"

Mermei glanced down at her blue silk tunic embroidered in white and gold, at her scarlet shoes beaded at the tips so as to resemble the heads of kittens; and looking over to a mirror hung on the side of the wall where the sun shone, noted the purple rosettes in her hair and the bright butterfly's wing.

"Oh, no! honorable mother," said she, shaking her head with quite a shocked air.

"Then, when you hear the reason why the fairies do not appear to you except in your dreams, you will know that they are doing just as you would do were you in a fairy's shoes."

"A story! A story!" cried Mermei, clapping her hands and waving her fan, and Choy and Fei and Wei and Sui, who were playing battledore and shuttlecock on the green, ran into the house and grouped themselves around Mermei and the mother. They all loved stories.

"Many, many years ago," began the mother of Mermei, "when the sun was a warm-hearted but mischievous boy, playing all kinds of pranks with fruits and flowers and growing things, and his sister, the moon, was too young to be sad and serious, the fairies met together by night. The sun, of course, was not present, and the moon had withdrawn behind a cloud. Stars alone shone in the quiet sky. By their light the fairies looked upon each other, and found themselves so fair and radiant in their robes of varied hues, all wonderfully fashioned, fringed and laced, some bright and brilliant, others, delicate and gauzy, but each and all a perfect dream of loveliness, that they danced for very joy in themselves and the garments in which they were arrayed.

"The dance being over, the queen of all sighed a fragrant sigh of happiness upon the air, and bowing to her lovely companions said:

"Sweet sisters, the mission of the fairies is to gladden the hearts of the mortals. Let us, therefore, this night, leave behind us on the earth the exquisite garments whose hues and fashions have given us so much pleasure. And because we may not be seen uncovered, let us from henceforth be invisible."

"We will! We will!" cried the sister fairies. They were all good and kind of heart, and much as they loved their dainty robes, they loved better to give happiness to others.

"And that is why the fairies are invisible, and why we have the flowers."

"The flowers!" cried Mermei. "Why the flowers?"

"And the fairies' garments! Where can we find them?" asked Fei with the starry eyes.

"In the gardens, in the forests, and by the streams," answered the mother. "The flowers, dear children, are the bright-hued garments which the fairies left behind them when they flew from earth, never to return again, save invisible."