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The Fairy Nightcaps

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In the deep shadow of the Highlands, at the foot of the old Crow Nest Mountain, is a wild and beautiful hollow, closed around on every side by tall trees, interlaced together by the clasping tendrils of the honeysuckle, and the giant arms of luxuriant wild grape-vines.

The mossy edge of this magic circle is thickly embroidered with violets, harebells, perfumed clover-blossoms, and delicate, feathery ferns. A little brook, overhung with grasses and whispering leaves, dances and dimples in the bright sunlight and soft moonbeams, and then trips away, to offer the wild-rose leaves that have fallen upon his bosom to his beloved tributary lord, the great Hudson River.

Not a bat dare spread his unclean leathern wings across this charmed place, and the very owls that wink and blink in the hollow trees near by keep their unmusical "hoot toot" to themselves.

In the short young velvety grass, a starry daisy, or a sly little cowslip, peeps up here and there, but nothing else disturbs the lawn-like smoothness, save a tiny mound of green moss near the centre of the hollow, shaped marvellously like a throne.

It was the night of the eighteenth of June; and evidently there was something of importance about to happen in the beautiful hollow, for presently a train of glow-worms came marching gravely in, and arranged themselves in a circle around the mossy throne; while thousands of fire-flies flashed and twinkled through the trees. The soft, coquetting wind wandered caressingly among the flowers, and the moonbeams rested with a sweeter, tenderer light, upon the little brook which murmured and rippled, and gave back many a glancing, loving beam.

Suddenly a silvery tinkling bell was heard, like music at a distance. Twelve times it sounded; and immediately after an invisible chorus of sweet tiny voices were heard singing:

"Hasten, Elfin! hasten, Fay!From old Crow Nest wing your way;Through the bush and dewy brake,Fairies, hasten, for the sakeOf a mortal, whose pure breathSoon will fade, and sink in death:We for him sweet dreams will find,We will fill with balm the wind;Watch his young life glide away,Deck with beauty its decay—Till the closing earthly strife,Opens into heavenly life."

Instantly the air seemed filled with streams of light like falling stars; the booming sound of humble-bees was heard, as fairy knights and ladies came hastening to the call through the moon-lit air; the knights pricking their chargers with their wasp-sting spurs, and the ladies urging theirs quite as fast with their sweet, coaxing voices.

The grave, elderly fairies, came more soberly. They crept out from under the velvet mullen leaves, and gravely mounted their palfreys, which were small field mice, and held them well in, with corn-silk bridles; for elderly fairies are inclined to be gouty, and don't like to do any thing in a hurry; like other people, they are apt to go too fast when they are young—and to balance the matter, are very slow coaches when they are old.

Several ancient ladies, who had been napping in a secluded nook at the root of an old tree, waited for their nutshells and four to be brought up; and as the coach-horses were represented by hairy, white caterpillars—who were so short-legged, that they took the longest possible time to get over the ground—and as the ancient fairies had much ado to fold their wings, and arrange their crinoline in their carriages, you may be sure they were very fashionably late....