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The Culprit Fay


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

The wood-tick's drum convokes the elves at the noon of night on Cro' Nest
top, and, clambering out of their flower-cup beds and hammocks of cobweb,
they fly to the meeting, not to freak about the grass or banquet at the
mushroom table, but to hear sentence passed on the fay who, forgetting
his vestal vow, has loved an earthly maid. From his throne under a canopy
of tulip petals, borne on pillars of shell, the king commands silence,
and with severe eye but softened voice he tells the culprit that while he
has scorned the royal decree he has saved himself from the extreme
penalty, of imprisonment in walnut shells and cobweb dungeons, by loving
a maid who is gentle and pure. So it shall be enough if he will go down
to the Hudson and seize a drop from the bow of mist that a sturgeon
leaves when he makes his leap; and after, to kindle his darkened
flame-wood lamp at a meteor spark. The fairy bows, and without a word
slowly descends the rocky steep, for his wing is soiled and has lost its
power; but once at the river, he tugs amain at a mussel shell till he has
it afloat; then, leaping in, he paddles out with a strong grass blade
till he comes to the spot where the sturgeon swims, though the
watersprites plague him and toss his boat, and the fish and the leeches
bunt and drag; but, suddenly, the sturgeon shoots from the water, and ere
the arch of mist that he tracks through the air has vanished, the sprite
has caught a drop of the spray in a tiny blossom, and in this he washes
clean his wings.

The water-goblins torment him no longer. They push his boat to the shore,
where, alighting, he kisses his hand, then, even as a bubble, he flies
back to the mountain top, dons his acorn helmet, his corselet of
bee-hide, his shield of lady-bug shell, and grasping his lance, tipped
with wasp sting, he bestrides his fire-fly steed and off he goes like a
flash. The world spreads out and then grows small, but he flies straight
on. The ice-ghosts leer from the topmost clouds, and the mists surge
round, but he shakes his lance and pipes his call, and at last he comes
to the Milky Way, where the sky-sylphs lead him to their queen, who lies
couched in a palace ceiled with stars, its dome held up by northern
lights and the curtains made of the morning's flush. Her mantle is
twilight purple, tied with threads of gold from the eastern dawn, and her
face is as fair as the silver moon.

She begs the fay to stay with her and taste forever the joys of heaven,
but the knightly elf keeps down the beating of his heart, for he
remembers a face on earth that is fairer than hers, and he begs to go.
With a sigh she fits him a car of cloud, with the fire-fly steed chained
on behind, and he hurries away to the northern sky whence the meteor
comes, with roar and whirl, and as it passes it bursts to flame. He
lights his lamp at a glowing spark, then wheels away to the fairy-land.
His king and his brothers hail him stoutly, with song and shout, and
feast and dance, and the revel is kept till the eastern sky has a ruddy
streak. Then the cock crows shrill and the fays are gone.

Next: Pokepsie

Previous: The Devil's Dance-chamber

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