Read CHAPTER FOURTH. THE MAGIC CIRCUS of The Counterpane Fairy , free online book, by Katharine Pyle, on ReadCentral.com.

Teddy was still in bed, though the doctor had said that very soon he might have the big chair wheeled up to the window and sit there awhile. Now he was propped up against the pillows playing with the paper circus his mother had brought to him the day before.

His little cousin Harriett had come in yesterday to spend the afternoon with him, and together they had cut out the figures the clown, the ring-master, the pretty lady on the white horse, the acrobat on his coal-black steed, and all the rest.

This morning he had put some large books under the bedquilt, and smoothed it over them so as to make a flat plane, and was amusing himself setting the circus out, and arranging his soldiers in a long procession as if they were the audience coming to see it.

He seemed so well entertained that his mother said she would go over to the sewing-room for a little while to run up some seams on the machine.

When Teddy was left alone he still went on playing very happily, but as he set out the soldiers two by two, he was really thinking of the Counterpane Fairy and her wonderful stories.

The evening before he had fallen asleep while his mother was reading something to his father (for they both sat in Teddy’s room in the evenings now that he was ill), and when he woke they were talking together about him. They did not see that his eyes were open, so they went on with what they were saying. It was his mother who was speaking. “He’s such an odd child,” she was saying; “just now he is full of this idea of the Counterpane Fairy and her stories, and he talks of her just as though she were real. I don’t know where he got the idea. It isn’t in any of his book and I thought you must have been telling him about it.”

“No,” said papa, “I didn’t tell him.”

“Perhaps it was Harriett,” said mamma, and then she saw that he was awake and began to speak of something else.

Teddy wished his mother could see the Counterpane Fairy herself, and then she would know that it was a real fairy and not a make-believe. When he saw the Counterpane Fairy again he was going to ask her if he mightn’t take his mother into one of the stories with him.

He was thinking of her so hard that it did not surprise him at all to hear her little thin voice just back of the counterpane hill. “Oh dear, dear! and the worst of it is that I hardly get to the top before I have to come down again.”

“Is that you, Counterpane Fairy?” called Teddy.

“Yes it is,” said the fairy. “I’ll be there in a minute;” and soon she appeared above the top of the hill, and seated herself on it to rest, and catch her breath. “Dear, dear!” she said, “but it’s a steep hill.”

“Mrs. Fairy,” said Teddy, “I want to ask you something. You know my mother?”

“Yes,” said the Counterpane Fairy, “I know who she is.”

“Well,” said Teddy, “she’s just gone over into the sewing-room, and I want to know whether you won’t let me take her into a square sometime.”

“My mercy, no!” said the fairy. “Have you forgotten what I told you the first time I came?”

“What was that?”

“I told you I went to see little boys and girls. I don’t go to see grown people. They wouldn’t believe in me.”

“My mother would,” said Teddy. “She plays with me and she likes my books and I tell her all about you.”

“No, no!” cried the Counterpane Fairy, “I couldn’t think of it. I’m very glad to take you into my stories, but if you don’t care to go by yourself ” and she picked up her staff and rose as though she were going.

“Oh, I do, I do!” cried Teddy. “Please don’t go away.”

“Well, I won’t,” said the fairy, sitting down again, “if you really want me to show you another. Have you chosen a square?”

“No, I haven’t yet,” said Teddy. He looked the squares over very carefully, and at last he chose the black-and-white one where the circus was standing.

“Very good,” said the fairy. “Now I’m going to begin to count.” Teddy fixed his eyes on the square and she commenced.

Gradually he began to feel as though the white silk of the square was a pale cloudy sky. Before him stretched a white streak, and in the distance were some things like black squares; he did not know quite what.

“Forty-nine!” cried the fairy.

When Teddy looked about him he and the Counterpane Fairy were journeying along a dusty white road together, and the fairy looked just as any little old woman might, except that her eyes were so bright behind her spectacles.

Before them lay a city with black roofs and spires; there was a sound of drums and music in the distance, and a faint noise as though a crowd of people were shouting a great way off.

“What are they doing over there?” asked Teddy, hurrying his steps a little. “Is it a parade?”

“No,” said the fairy, “it’s not a parade, but it is a grand merrymaking, and it’s because of it that I’ve brought you here. But I’m tired and hungry, for we’ve come a long way, so let us sit down by the roadside a bit, and while we rest I’ll tell you all about the goings on and what we have to do with them.”

Teddy was quite willing, so he and the Counterpane Fairy sat down together on the soft grass beside the road, with the mild and misty sky overhead, and the fairy took from her pocket a piece of bread and cheese; she broke it in half and one part she gave to Teddy. It seemed to him that he had never tasted anything so good, for, as the fairy remarked, they were both of them hungry.

After they had finished it all to the very last bit, the fairy brushed the crumbs from her lap, and, sitting there with the soft wind blowing about them and the black roofs of the city in the distance, the Counterpane Fairy told him the story of the King of the Black-Country and the Princess Aureline.

“Far off yonder toward the east, where the sky looks so pale and bright,” began the fairy, “there lives a king, who is called King Whitebeard, because his beard is as white as snow. He had only one child, a daughter named the Princess Aureline, and she was as beautiful as the day and as good as she was beautiful.

“Because she was so good and beautiful princes used to come from all over the world seeking her hand in marriage, and among them came the King of the Black-Country, the richest and most powerful of them all.

“The Princess Aureline would have nothing to say to him, however, because he was wicked as well as rich, so at last the King of the Black-Country gathered his army together and marching against King Whitebeard he conquered him and carried off the Princess Aureline captive.

“Now there are great rejoicings in the Black King’s country, but the Princess Aureline sits and grieves all the time, and nothing the King can do can make her smile. The more the Black King does, the more she grieves, but she is so very beautiful that the King would deny her nothing except to let her go home to her father.”

“I should like to see a princess,” said Teddy.

“So you shall,” said the fairy, “for you are a great magician now, and you have come here to do what no other hero in the world dares to do; you have come to rescue the Princess Aureline and carry her back to her own country.”

“Do you mean I am a real magician?” asked Teddy.

“Why, yes,” said the fairy. “Don’t you see you are dressed in a magician’s robe? And there is your magic-chest on the grass beside you. Look!” So saying the fairy drew a mirror of polished steel from under her cloak and held it up before Teddy, and as he looked into it he hardly knew himself; he was dressed in a black hood, and a long black robe strangely woven about the hem with characters in white, and he held a white staff in his hand. Beside him on the grass was a box bound round with iron, and that was his magic-box.

After he had looked in the mirror for a while the fairy hid it away again under her cloak. “Now come,” she said, “for it is time we were journeying on.”

“But what have I in my box?” asked Teddy, as he picked it up and joined the fairy, who was already hobbling along toward the city.

“Don’t you remember?” said the fairy. “It’s your circus.”

“Oh, yes, I remember now,” said Teddy.

After a while he and the fairy reached the city, and everywhere along the street were people laughing and dancing and feasting, and all the houses were hung with white and black flags. The black flags were for the King of the Black-Country, and the white flags were for the Princess Aureline. Everywhere they came the people made way for them and whispered, “Look! look! That is the great magician who had come to show his magic before the Princess Aureline.”

At last they reached an open square, and there was the greatest crowd of all. On a raised platform covered with silver cloth, and with steps leading up to it, were two thrones; upon one of the thrones sat a tall, fierce-looking man dressed in black velvet, and with a crown upon his head cut entirely from one great black diamond; upon the other throne sat a beautiful young princess. She was as pale as a lily and as beautiful as the day, and was dressed in shimmering white. Her hands were clasped in her lap and her face was very sad.

On the steps that led to this platform stood two heralds in black and white with trumpets in their hands, and all about were ranged soldiers two and two. They made Teddy think of the toy soldiers he had been playing with, only they were as big as men, and instead of being gay with red paint they were in black.

As soon as Teddy and the Counterpane Fairy appeared in this square, the two heralds blew a loud blast and come down to meet them. “Make way! make way for the magician!” they cried, and they escorted him and the fairy through the crowd to the foot of the steps.

The King of the Black-Country stared at him, and his eyes were so black and piercing that Teddy felt afraid.

“Are you the great magician?” he asked.

“Yes, I am,” answered Teddy, bowing.

“Then let us see some of this magic that we have been hearing about,” said the King; “and harkye, Magician, if you can make the Princess smile you shall have whatsoever you wish, even to the half of my treasure.”

Teddy bowed again, and then he set the chest on the ground, and drawing from his girdle an iron key he unlocked it and put back the lid. There was the paper circus, just as he and Harriett had cut it out: the acrobat and the lovely lady, the horses, the clown, the ring-master, not one of them was left out.

With his magic wand, Teddy drew upon the ground a circle, and then, while everybody round craned and stretched their necks to see what he was about, he took out the figures and set them, one by one, in the ring. Then he waved his wand over them and cried “Abraca-dabraca-dee!”

All the people stood on tiptoes, and the King himself leaned forward to see, but nothing happened.

“Abraca-dabraca-dee!” cried Teddy again.

Still nothing happened; he looked around at the crowd of people, at the grim-looking soldiers, and the King, and his heart sank.

“Abraca-dabraca-dee!” he cried for the third time, striking the ground with his wand.

Then a wonderful thing happened. The circle he had drawn upon the ground began to spread, just as a circle does in the water after one has thrown a stone into it. Now it was a great circus ring, and the paper circus itself had changed to a real circus. The clown walked about, joking, with his hands in his pockets; the ring-master cracked him whip; the paper horses were two magnificent steeds, one as black as night, and one as white as milk, that cantered round and round, while the music sounded, and all the people far away on the outside of the ring clapped and applauded.

“Wonderful! wonderful!” cried the King of the Black-Country.

But now there was something more that was wonderful. As the black horse cantered round, Teddy ran to him and leaped upon his back, light as a feather, and there he rode, his black robe with the white figures flying and fluttering around him.

Then, still riding around, he unfastened his gown and threw it from him, and there he was dressed in white and silver, and his magic wand was changed to a little silver whip.

After that he leaped up into the air, and turned a somersault, lighting again upon his horse, while the music played louder and louder.

Teddy rode round and round, now riding backward, now forward, now on one foot, now on his hands with his feet in the air. Then he leaped upright, and putting his fingers to his mouth he gave a shrill whistle. At that the white steed suddenly dashed into the ring and galloped up beside the black one, and now Teddy rode with a foot on each. Faster and faster he rode, crying “Houp-la!” and even the King clapped his hands. Once and twice he rode round the ring and past the platform, but as they came round for the third time, Teddy waved his whip in the air. “Houp-la!” he cried. “Up! up!”

With that his steeds suddenly leaped from the ring and up the steps of the platform to the very top. There Teddy sprang from them and caught the Princess Aureline by the hand. “I have come to rescue you!” he cried, and before the King could move or speak he had set her upon the white horse, he had sprung upon the black, and with a clatter of hoofs they were dashing down the steps and across the square.

Then the King of the Black-Country started to his feet. “Stop them! stop them!” he cried.

The soldiers had been standing as though turned to stone, but at the King’s voice they started forward, reaching out to catch the bridles of the horses, but again Teddy raised his magic whip.

“Abraca-dabraca-dee!
As you were once you shall be!”

he cried.

At the magic words every soldier’s arm fell by his side, their eyes changed to little black dots, their faces grew rounder, their legs stiffened, and there they stood, nothing more nor less than wooden soldiers just like the one were they his own soldiers? And the Princess! Was she only the doll that Harriett had forgotten the night before and that Teddy had set up against his knees to watch the show? Were the streets only black and white silk?

There he was, back in his own room with the little wooden soldiers and the paper circus. There was the square of silk with the book under it, and the Counterpane Fairy sitting on his knees.

“Oh! but, Counterpane Fairy,” cried Teddy, “what became of us? Did we get away? Oh, I didn’t want to come out of the story just yet!”

“Why, of course you escaped,” said the fairy. “How could the King stop you after you had changed his soldiers into wood?”

“And what became of you?” asked Teddy.

“Oh, I took the clown’s cap,” said the fairy, “for it was the wishing-cap, and fast as you and the Princess rode back to the country of King Whitebeard I was there before you.”

Teddy thought for a while and then he heaved a deep sigh. “I wish I really had a circus horse,” he said, “and could ride round and have all the people watching and shouting. But what did the Princess say when she found I had rescued her?”

“Hark!” said the fairy, “isn’t that your mother coming along the hall? I must be going. Oh, my poor bones! What a hill it is to go down! Oh dear, dear, dear!”