A Woodland Coronation
The sun rose slowly in the north revealing a scene in far away Spiria. It was the fifth month, the month of Beloron; when the sky is flecked with fluffy spider-web clouds; when the waxen wind-flowers or Indian pipes are blooming; when yellow stars are glowing in the grass; and when foam-flowers with white silver-tipped petals and bright gold centres are shooting on long stalks above the earth, and winding sinuously up the brown trunks of trees, their bright blossoms mingling with the green of the budding leaves; when great clumps of flowers like steeplebush with dark green leaves and silver veins are decking the pasture-lands; and when great wild poppies of a dark red with black stamens are nodding proudly in the deep forests and mingling exquisitely with the light and dark green of uncurling ferns which nod gracefully along a winding little path through the wood. Brown fern-flowers shoot up on tall stalks in the centre of a clump of flower-ferns—fern-flowers with brown petals and stamens of bright gold; trees are flowering, and sending sweet perfume in the wind—the warm wind all scented with flowers; and the cool smell of pines and scented ferns—such is the month of Beloron.
There was a little brown cottage on a grassy hill with a pine grove of white star pines nearby; and a little rippling lake down below, with the white spider-web clouds and tall stately pines reflected in it. In back the cottage lands were just meadows stretching away to a valley in which flowed a great river—beautiful flowery meadows, with cups-of-gold, cups-of-silver, blue stars and yellow stars—white stars and red stars, and butterflies—myriads of iridescent soft-winged butterflies—white ones, yellow ones—orange and red ones—purple butterflies and bronze and burnished green, playing and chasing each other over the flower-starred meadows—whirling and swooping and nestling in the flowers. On the side stretched away a heavenly orchard—which at this time was all in blossom with pink and white and red and lavender; and the blossoms forming a canopy overhead—the dead blossoms making a carpet beneath. Later beautiful golden fruit would take the place of those heavenly, sweet-scented blossoms—sweet golden fruit about the size of a pear, which before ripe would be white and sparkling with silver—like frost.
In front of the cottage was a beautiful little garden. There were tall hollyhocks, larkspurs of blue and purples, flaunting red lilies, nodding yellow and white ones speckled with brown and black inside, red and pink sweet peas, bushes with tiny white flowers, tall orchids, and nodding bell-flowers of burnished bronze and coppery green. And they were mingled together and set off with clumps of delicate ferns and flower-ferns. Bordering the pine grove were beautiful scarlet maples, whose leaves were always a bright autumn scarlet colour, and within the circle of these was the pine grove, carpeted with pine needles and cones and with the glorious white star pines above. There were nymphs there and fairies, and elves dancing, and at night the gliding fairies danced in a mad circle and glided down from their boughs, while in the centre of the circle of fairies danced the fairy angels, with white robes, golden-brown hair, and deep blue eyes. Around them burned an iridescent radiance, filling the grove with brilliant light. Fireflies sparkled and glimmered, and above it all stretched a shining iridescent bow.
Just beyond the grove were deep woodlands, down, down into the valley, and on the next hill was a pasture, where, in this season, could be seen even from the cottage far off the brilliant steeplebush-like flowers and the blazing blue of wild larkspur, lifting high its gorgeous blossoms. This pastured hill was the last of open lands, for beyond that stretched a range of mountains—glorious granite-peaked mountains reaching into the clear, sparkling sky. Far, far off, could be seen the ocean beyond the mountains. It could not be seen, but an arm of it—a cove stretched in a wide circle on the other side of the little lake and off around to where the bronze and shining towers of Queen Tirilome’s palace could be seen just above the grove of mighty oaks which surrounded it.
This, then, was the home of little Feldis, the eight-year-old daughter of Queen Windrileen. Her mother the queen and her older sister had died, leaving her all alone. And so she lived, in her beautiful little cottage on the hill. She knew that she would have to be crowned princess when she was eight years old—and she knew that she would be obliged to live with Queen Tirilome in the palace, for at that age she would become as Tirilome’s own child. And yet Feldis hated the thought of ever leaving her woodland home and her lovely flower garden and pine grove and her meadow with its bright wings of butterflies, and, as Queen Tirilome knew nothing of her whereabouts, the idea struck her that she might stay away purposely, but, the nearer the time came, the more she dismissed that idea. She could not be the first of the princesses of Spiria to break a coronation day. And so, when the day really came, she decided that she would go, but that, instead of rowing across the lake in her little boat as the shortest way, she would walk around the end and through the woods, so as to say goodbye to all her old woodland friends. She bade goodbye to her flowers, the meadow behind the house, and she went and sat for a long time in the grove of white star pines saying goodbye to the fairies which, though she could not see, she knew were there.
Then she went back into the cottage and put on her coronation dress. It had a tight black velvet bodice laced with a black silken cord on white pearl buttons. There was a white muslin guimpe, and the skirt was of deep blue silk with a many-coloured pattern in golden silk of butterflies and flowers on it. And last of all she had a necklace of light and dark green beads, eight of light, then eight of the dark, and so on around. At last she was ready to start—she looked sorrowfully at her beautiful little cottage and wept at the thought of all her flowers going to seed—uncared-for. And then, with a last sad look she stepped out into the woodlands. She went down through the pine grove once more, to be again under the protecting shelter of those gorgeous scarlet leaves. It was late in the afternoon, for Feldis had decided on sunset for coronation time. And she thought and thought about living with the queen in that grand palace. She felt decidedly like a princess without living there, and, somehow, the more she thought about it, the more she disliked it. Through the woodlands beyond the pine grove she went. The path led mostly through spruce and hemlock trees, with here and there a paper birch, and once a towering scarlet maple. The path led right beneath it, and Feldis remembered the many times she had lain down beneath those brilliant leaves and gazed up, up into that maze of colour. She remembered one year when the greenits had built their nest in that tree, and all she had heard around there during that season had been their cheery little songs as they hopped about, picking tiny insects and their eggs off the trunk and limbs of the tree.
After going on some distance Feldis came to where the path led across a little brook on a plank bridge. Right under it the brook stopped to rest a moment before continuing its merry course. In this little pool were silver minnows and kelly-fish with red sides, all playing happily together in a little school. Feldis stayed there a long time and watched them darting hither and thither—then she went on, through a sloping grove of glossy yellow pines, where a hermit thrush was singing, and going into trills and bubbles of delight in his long arpeggios. Here she stopped and sat down on a mossy stone to listen to him. And she listened so long that she became intoxicated with the music and fell into a dreamy doze. After a while she awoke with a guilty start, for the sun was getting low, and she still was far from the palace. And she ran on through the grove, regardless of the hermit thrush, who was still bubbling with melody from the top of the tallest pine.
After a while she came out into the pasture and began to climb steadily up the hill, gathering steeple-bush and wild larkspur and golden larkspur, to make a bouquet with which to present the queen. And after she had passed the hill she turned on another path which led around the lake to the palace grounds—but first through a long stretch of flower woods haunted by the fairies. They didn’t seem to want her to be coronated either, for the wood was certainly more lonely than usual.
First of all she entered a little patch of checkerberries, and she sat down and gathered some of the blossoms as they were just turning into berries, tucking a spray into her girdle and one into her golden-brown hair, which, for this special occasion, she wore in two loose braids, one on each side of her face. And as she went into the woods she passed under a spruce tree where needles carpeted the path—and there were nodding ferns on each side. She caught her breath, it was so lovely, and simply had to sit down and look.
And then she caught a glimpse of the sun, getting lower and lower. Oh, she would be too late! And she dashed forward. But she was checked before she had gone far. Regardless of the sun, the coronation—everything, she sprang back. On one side of the path was another of those superb scarlet maples, and on the other side a splendid green one. But climbing up both of them were those exquisite little foam-flowers with white, silver-tipped petals, the blossoms now and then peeping out between the leaves. And what was most beautiful was that, quite a way above the ground, a tendril from the green maple shot out until it reached the scarlet one, forming a perfect arch of those little star-like flowers and glossy green leaves. Underneath the green maple was a beautiful clump of waxen white Indian pipes, those beautiful little flower-fungi, with their bowed heads, and underneath the scarlet one was a clump of little flowers, of a heavenly sea-green colour, with four rounded petals. The centres were black, and the stamens yellow, tipped with red. Here Feldis had to sit down again, on a moss-covered log. She might have sat there forever, but a bird brought her to herself by his chirpings. Then she remembered her first experience, and looked at the sun again. And she gave another guilty start, for it was just about to enter a low bank of clouds that lay along the horizon. And she sprang along again, saying “Oh, dear, I shall be late—but I won’t stop again!”
She had forgotten that not long before she had not wanted to go—but now her only thought was of getting there as soon as possible, though, doubtless, if she had thought of her little cottage she would have felt as she had at first.
“No, I won’t stop again—I won’t,” she muttered to herself as she hurried along. Poor little Feldis. Just as she was determined to keep on this time, she spied a clump of bright red and yellow toadstools which she had to admire for awhile.
“This time I will do it—I will!” But oh—those poppies! And a little farther on, she was entirely overcome—forgetful of everything. What she saw was a clump of fern-flowers which filled the air with the sweetest woodland scent. And just beyond them she sank down on the leaves—entirely exhausted in her struggle against the enchantment. For she saw three or four tremendous clumps of the loveliest flowers: they were shaped like pyrola blossoms, but about the size of a hollyhock, with big petals curling inwards. These flowers, as she knew, would keep for a long time—even out of water. She sat down on the ground, took a long piece of Farksolian grass—like string—and bound a number of flowers together. In this way she made a wreath, and set it on her head.
And then she noticed a wonderful change. Everything seemed dark, rosy, golden. “Oh, the sunset!” she whispered. It was not the fact of the beauty of the end of day, but the fact that she realized she was defeated in her struggle, that she was late for the co ronation, and could never be crowned princess. But—“I am a princess all the same,” she whispered. After all, what difference did a pretty bauble make? None at all.
Suddenly she realized for the first time how glad she was—and then she watched the sunset grow rosy and become deeper and deeper red, and the clouds all outlined with that lovely colour, while the whole sky was flushed with a delicate rose.
She went back home again, stopping once more at each of the lovely places where she had lingered before; and when she reached her little brown cottage it was quite dark, and the stars were beginning to twinkle, while the last of the rose colour faded slowly out.
And as she undressed before the looking-glass she caught sight of the wreath of blue flowers about her golden-brown hair, and she murmured softly: “I am crowned—this bauble is prettier than the one they would have given me, and I have had this one without leaving the place I love.”
As she pulled the bedclothes over her that night, she caught a glimpse from out her little leaded casement of a light in the pine grove—and she knew that the fairies were having a dance. She could see them whirling round and round in their silken bright-coloured dresses, flying hair, and iridescent wings.
Again she whispered: “I am a princess—and I am crowned.”