Read CHAPTER XIV - Reeds and rushes of Mopsa the Fairy , free online book, by Jean Ingelow, on

  ’Tis merry, ’tis merry in Fairyland,
    Where Fairy birds are singing;
  When the court doth sit by the monarch’s side,
    With bit and bridle ringing.

  Walter Scott.

There were many fruit-trees on that slope of the mountain, and Jack and Mopsa, as they came down, gathered some fruit for breakfast, and did not feel very tired, for the long ride on the wing had rested them.

They could not see the plain, for a slight blue mist hung over it; but the sun was hot already, and as they came down they saw a beautiful bed of high reeds, and thought they would sit awhile and rest in it.  A rill of clear water ran beside the bed, so when they had reached it they sat down, and began to consider what they should do next.

“Jack,” said Mopsa, “did you see anything particular as you came down with the shooting-stars?”

“No, I saw nothing so interesting as they were,” answered Jack.  “I was looking at them and watching how they squeaked to one another, and how they had little hooks in their wings, with which they held the large wing that we sat on.”

“But I saw something,” said Mopsa.  “Just as the sun rose I looked down, and in the loveliest garden I ever saw, and all among trees and woods, I saw a most beautiful castle.  O, Jack!  I am sure that castle is the place I am to live in, and now we have nothing to do but to find it.  I shall soon be a queen, and there I shall reign.”

“Then I shall be king there,” said Jack; “shall I?”

“Yes, if you can,” answered Mopsa.  “Of course, whatever you can do you may do.  And, Jack, this is a much better fairy country than either the stony land or the other that we first came to, for this castle is a real place!  It will not melt away.  There the people can work, they know how to love each other:  common fairies cannot do that, I know.  They can laugh and cry, and I shall teach them several things that they do not know yet.  Oh! do let us make haste and find the castle.”

So they arose; but they turned the wrong way, and by mistake walked farther and farther in among the reeds, whose feathery heads puffed into Mopsa’s face, and Jack’s coat was all covered with the fluffy seed.

“This is very odd,” said Jack.  “I thought this was only a small bed of reeds when we stepped into it; but really we must have walked a mile already.”

But they walked on and on, till Mopsa grew quite faint, and her sweet face became very pale, for she knew that the beds of reeds were spreading faster than they walked, and then they shot up so high that it was impossible to see over their heads; so at last Jack and Mopsa were so tired that they sat down, and Mopsa began to cry.

However, Jack was the braver of the two this time, and he comforted Mopsa, and told her that she was nearly a queen, and would never reach her castle by sitting still.  So she got up and took his hand, and he went on before, parting the reeds and pulling her after him, till all on a sudden they heard the sweetest sound in the world; it was like a bell, and it sounded again and again.

It was the castle clock, and it was striking twelve at noon.

As it finished striking they came out at the farther edge of the great bed of reeds, and there was the castle straight before them, a beautiful castle, standing on the slope of a hill.  The grass all about it was covered with beautiful flowers; two of the taller turrets were overgrown with ivy, and a flag was flying on a staff; but everything was so silent and lonely that it made one sad to look on.  As Jack and Mopsa drew near they trod as gently as they could, and did not say a word.

All the windows were shut, but there was a great door in the centre of the building, and they went towards it, hand in hand.

What a beautiful hall!  The great door stood wide open, and they could see what a delightful place this must be to live in:  it was paved with squares of blue and white marble, and here and there carpets were spread, with chairs and tables upon them.  They looked and saw a great dome overhead, filled with windows of colored glass, and they cast down blue and golden and rosy reflections.

“There is my home that I shall live in,” said Mopsa; and she came close to the door, and they both looked in, till at last she let go of Jack’s hand, and stepped over the threshold.

The bell in the tower sounded again more sweetly than ever, and the instant Mopsa was inside there came from behind the fluted columns, which rose up on every side, the brown doe, followed by troops of deer and fawns!

“Mopsa!  Mopsa!” cried Jack, “come away! come back!” But Mopsa was too much astonished to stir, and something seemed to hold Jack from following; but he looked and looked, till, as the brown doe advanced, the door of the castle closed, Mopsa was shut in, and Jack was left outside.

So Mopsa had come straight to the place she thought she had ran away from.

“But I am determined to get her away from those creatures,” thought Jack; “she does not want to reign over deer.”  And he began to look about him, hoping to get in.  It was of no use:  all the windows in that front of the castle were high, and when he tried to go round, he came to a high wall with battlements.  Against some parts of this wall the ivy grew, and looked as if it might have grown there for ages; its stems were thicker than his waist, and its branches were spread over the surface like network; so by means of them he hoped to climb to the top.

He immediately began to try.  Oh, how high the wall was!  First he came to several sparrows’ nests, and very much frightened the sparrows were; then he reached starlings’ nests, and very angry the starlings were; but at last, just under the coping, he came to jackdaws’ nests, and these birds were very friendly, and pointed out to him the best little holes for him to put his feet into.  At last he reached the top, and found to his delight that the wall was three feet thick, and he could walk upon it quite comfortably, and look down into a lovely garden, where all the trees were in blossom, and creepers tossed their long tendrils from tree to tree, covered with puffs of yellow, or bells of white, or bunches and knots of blue or rosy bloom.

He could look down into the beautiful empty rooms of the castle, and he walked cautiously on the wall till he came to the west front, and reached a little casement window that had latticed panes.  Jack peeped in; nobody was there.  He took his knife, and cut away a little bit of lead to let out the pane, and it fell with such a crash on the pavement below that he wondered it did not bring the deer over to look at what he was about.  Nobody came.

He put in his hand and opened the latchet, and with very little trouble got down into the room.  Still nobody was to be seen.  He thought that the room, years ago, might have been a fairies’ school-room, for it was strewn with books, slates, and all sorts of copybooks.  A fine soft dust had settled down over everything, pens, papers, and all.  Jack opened a copybook:  its pages were headed with maxims, just as ours are, which proved that these fairies must have been superior to such as he had hitherto come among.  Jack read some of them:

  Turn your back on the light, and you’ll follow a shadow. 
  The deaf queen Fate has dumb courtiers. 
  If the hound is your foe, don’t sleep in his kennel. 
  That that is, is.

And so on; but nobody came, and no sound was heard, so he opened the door, and found himself in a long and most splendid gallery, all hung with pictures, and spread with a most beautiful carpet, which was as soft and white as a piece of wool, and wrought with a beautiful device.  This was the letter M, with a crown and sceptre, and underneath a beautiful little boat, exactly like the one in which he had come up the river.  Jack felt sure that this carpet had been made for Mopsa, and he went along the gallery upon it till he reached a grand staircase of oak that was almost black with age, and he stole gently down it, for he began to feel rather shy, more especially as he could now see the great hall under the dome, and that it had a beautiful lady in it, and many other people, but no deer at all.

These fairy people were something like the one-foot-one fairies, but much larger and more like children; and they had very gentle, happy faces, and seemed to be extremely glad and gay.  But seated on a couch, where lovely painted windows threw down all sorts of rainbow colors on her, was a beautiful fairy lady, as large as a woman.  She had Mopsa in her arms, and was looking down upon her with eyes full of love, while at her side stood a boy, who was exactly and precisely like Jack himself.  He had rather long light hair and gray eyes, and a velvet jacket.  That was all Jack could see at first, but as he drew nearer the boy turned, and then Jack felt as if he was looking at himself in the glass.

Mopsa had been very tired, and now she was fast asleep, with her head on that lady’s shoulder.  The boy kept looking at her, and he seemed very happy indeed; so did the lady, and she presently told him to bring Jack something to eat.

It was rather a curious speech that she made to him; it was this:

“Jack, bring Jack some breakfast.”

“What!” thought Jack to himself, “has he got a face like mine, and a name like mine too?”

So that other Jack went away, and presently came back with a golden plate full of nice things to eat.

“I know you don’t like me,” he said, as he came up to Jack with the plate.

“Not like him?” repeated the lady; “and pray what reason have you for not liking my royal nephew?”

“O dame!” exclaimed the boy, and laughed.

The lady, on hearing this, turned pale, for she perceived that she herself had mistaken the one for the other.

“I see you know how to laugh,” said the real Jack.  “You are wiser people than those whom I went to first; but the reason I don’t like you is, that you are so exactly like me.”

“I am not!” exclaimed the boy.  “Only hear him, dame!  You mean, I suppose, that you are so exactly like me.  I am sure I don’t know what you mean by it.”

“Nor I either,” replied Jack, almost in a passion.

“It couldn’t be helped, of course,” said the other Jack.

“Hush! hush!” said the fairy woman; “don’t wake our dear little Queen.  Was it you, my royal nephew, who spoke last?”

“Yes, dame,” answered the boy, and again he offered the plate; but Jack was swelling with indignation, and he gave the plate a push with his elbow, which scattered the fruit and bread on the ground.

“I won’t eat it,” he said; but when the other Jack went and picked it up again, and said, “Oh, yes, do, old fellow; it’s not my fault, you know,” he began to consider that it was no use being cross in Fairyland; so he forgave his double, and had just finished his breakfast when Mopsa woke.