Two short pieces about mermaids, or under-water fairies.
The event I am writing about happened in Laughliroor Cove. Goodness knows why it was named that, or who named it; maybe it was because the little wavelets were forever dancing and laughing in the sun. One evening, after Laughliroor Cove had been silent all day, save for a fish jumping now and then, a mermaid rose from her enchanted palace in the depths, the wonderful depths haunted by strange fishes some luminous with strange beautiful lights, of a smoky purple or gray-green colour. And as she rose another creature, a fairy, glided down from the air to meet her. And the head of the fairy touched the water, just as the mermaid’s rose above. “Sirinda,” whispered the “under-water fairy” as many call mermaids, “Sirinda. Have you heard—anything?”
“Hist, Perndrainus,” replied Sirinda, the nymph, “for if—but no—I have heard!”
“Oh, tell me!”
“It lies, at least she said so, in that wondrous cave of her sister. Its roof is encrusted with wondrous shining rocks and sometimes even gems! There are pearls and moonstones along the bottom, too, she said, but one has to hunt for them. And oh! Perdrainee, there are such wonderful little fishes swimming about there, of blue and gold and vivid green.… Read more
Fairyland is a very neat little place, all through it are paths: there are green paths, blue paths, yellow paths, purple paths, glittering white paths, and sparkling yellow paths. The green paths are made of beautiful grass, the blue paths are made of the sky, the yellow paths are made of sunbeams, the purple paths are made of Fringed gentian, the glittering white paths are made of silver, and the sparkling yellow paths are made of gold. There are lots of tiny little houses in Fairyland, these are the fairy houses—they are made of pure silver with precious stones built into them so that the houses are different colors. The window-sills and the edges to the windows are made of gold, and on every window-sill there is a row of silver vases filled with flowers. The ceilings and floors are made of pearls. The walls are made of the same thing that the outside of the house is made out of. The rooms are divided off with thresholds of mica and doors of gold. Each house is surrounded with a golden path and a beautiful garden. The trunks and branches of the tree in fairyland are made of gold, and the leaves are made of pieces of the sky.… Read more
A little before her planned book about Farksolia, Barbara had the idea for one about Fairyland. Here is its Fairicter, or fairy descriptions.
F A I R I C T E R (or fairies)
The Common Fairy.
The common fairy, which of all the fairies, nymphs, gnomes, elves, or brownies is the commonest and almost the [most] beautiful I think I will start with for I suppose that you think most about her. I suppose that you have quarreled a good deal with your playmates about which varieties of fairies have wings, but one reason that I am writing this book is to tell you and I think that when you have found out that you will believe me and not quarrel about it any more. The common fairy has wings and uses them more than any other fairy. I can just hear you say now: “How about the breeze and cloud fairies? Don’t they have wings? Aren’t they in the air all the time?” Yes, they are but breeze and cloud fairies don’t have wings. They live in the air and play about in it without wings as well as you do in the grass.
The colour of the fairies’ wings are never green, orange, amber, red, pink, or blue, as some people think, for very commonly people get nymphs mixed up with fairies.… Read more
Mairuna, a girl of eleven, lived in a little stone house, trained all over with vines and flowers, with only her father and her old blind grandmother. Grandmother had not been blind always but still she had learned to do many fascinating things. She earned a few cents a day by making reed baskets and Mairuna loved to see her weave the reeds with amazing rapidity for even one who was not blind. Grandmother had traveled a lot when she had been young and she told little Mairuna fascinating stories of the things she had seen in France, Greece, Italy, India, Japan, and even Australia. She enchanted Mairuna by telling her about the deep sea diving for pearls and wonderful things off Australia, and Mairuna had determined to go there and see for herself. Her father was very busy and so she was left to herself a good deal of the time. One of her greatest pleasures was to slip away into the small barn in which were two handsome horses, one of which was her own, begin by giving her some little pieces of corn or an apple or two, and then mounting up a small step-ladder which led to the hay-loft, then slipping away in a passage which led to a windowless, dark, close, crowded storeroom.… Read more
Most of the letter from Barbara to Cousin Helen, July 6 1921:
I will now tell you about my cats. In the first place, Mr. Mcfarland has a cat named Booskey; and in the second place, I have a little kitten named Buff. I will not describe Booskey because he is just a plain black and white cat; but Buff is worth describing because there aren’t many cats like her. What is the use of describing a cat as common as Booskey? He is all described when you say he is black and white, and his spots aren’t in very good order, either. But Buff is a little beauty: all her feet are white, and her legs are yellow with spots of white; her tail is yellow with rings of white. She is white underneath, and the white gets narrower and narrower up to her sides; her back is yellowish-brown, and her head is yellowish-brown with two lines of white going up to her ears. You may think when you read her description that she is a very complicated cat to describe. When we found Buff in the yard at first Booskey would spit at her and then run away as fast as he could, and Mr.… Read more
Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess, and everybody called her the Princess of the Sea because she lived in a hummock of ice in the middle of the sea. She had light hair and up near her forehead several strands of her hair stuck out from under her crown, which was only a band of silver around her head, and at the front the silver went up in little bars, getting taller towards the center of her forehead. Her dress was white tinged with light blue, and the blue showed more in the wrinkles of her dress and at the bottom; there were some chips of gold, all the way around the dress for a little way up. There were also some chips of gold around her cuff and collar; her stockings were pearl white; her slippers were white celluloid with straps of emerald and buckles of topaz, and on all of her fingers there was a gold ring and tied on to the ring there was a gold thread, and at the end of the gold thread there was a large ruby. When she wanted to go to the shore she would flap her fingers and the stones would swish the air and make her go through the air.… Read more
In February 1922, a Mrs. Cooper sent Barbara a copy of “The Treasure of the Isle of Mist” by William Woodthorpe Tarn. On February 23rd Barbara wrote to thank her, and on March 23rd wrote again:
I have now finished The Treasure of the Isle of Mist, and it is one of the most beautiful books I ever read. Fiona in the Fairy-World is the chapter that adorns the book with beauty…. [The book] has got me so interested in treasure that I also wrote a book about treasure, called The Adventures of Curis. It was also about a little girl that went hunting treasure, as you may find out when I make a good copy of the story and send it to you, and I hope you will like it. As soon as I had finished that story, I began another one called The Magic Violin. This I wrote because I got extremely interested in the violin that I got for my birthday. If you like Curis, I will send you The Magic Violin; and if you like that I will send you the next story, The Allegro of the Earth, which is about a little kitten that was so happy and gay and bouncy all the time that people called her the Allegro of the Earth.… Read more
I should note that in transcribing Barbara’s writing, I’ve made minor corrections to her spelling and punctuation for easier reading. Sometimes a word has been garbled by the keys of Barbara’s typewriter (e.g. what looks like “grtal clear” in the excerpt below was intended to be “crystal clear”) but otherwise I haven’t rewritten anything.
THE ADVENTURES OF A LITTLE CHIPMUNK.
Once upon a time a certain pair of chipmunks were consulting each other how and where to build their nest. At length they thought of a very good plan, and went together to find a place to accomplish the task. They came to a grassy bank that sloped down to a little brook that ran babbling merrily over pebbles and stones. In a shelter of tiny birch trees they dug a home under a rock, very large and covered with moss, and surrounded by ferns and bracken.
“I’m sure nobody can ever find our home in these ferns,” said shy little Mrs. Chipmunk, and Mr. Chipmunk agreed.
After they had dug the home and made a bedroom lined with grass and milkweed they went down to the brook and began to follow it going in the same direction as the current.… Read more
Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, Mr. Rocking-Horse, and Mr. Rabbit Go Traveling
As I told you before Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, Mr. Rocking-Horse, Mr. Rabbit, and Miss Silver-Leaf all lived together in a house in the forest. It was a little white house with green blinds and a red roof. There was a rose vine climbing up the side of the house; the roses were both pink and white and the two colors together looked very lovely. Every day Mrs. Spinning-Wheel would go out and get a bunch of them and put them on a table in the library.
All around the place there were some oak trees which were so tall and so thick that you could hardly see the house. There were some chestnut trees too, and sometimes Mrs. Spinning-Wheel would go out in the yard and get some. She would roast them and eat them; and sometimes she would have a tea-party of just chestnuts, and maybe a little milk to drink with them because she thought chestnuts alone would be pretty dry.
One day while Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, Mr. Rocking-Horse, Mr.… Read more
THE LIFE OF THE SPINNING-WHEEL, THE ROCKING-HORSE, AND THE RABBIT
Once upon a time, though I can’t say exactly when, there lived in a far-off country a spinning-wheel, a rocking-horse, and a rabbit. They knew many of the people in that country. They lived in a house with many pretty things in it, such as I am going to tell you about: amethysts, turquoises, opals, pearls, diamonds, and rubies, and precious stones of all kinds.
One day when Mrs. Spinning-Wheel had her head stretched out of the window looking down upon the glorious garden of flowers, she was saying to herself, humming a low, sweet little song—”Oh dear! how I wish Mr. Horse were white!”
Mr. Rabbit was hiding in a corner behind the door, and he heard what Mrs. Spinning-Wheel had said. “Ha! Ha!” said Mr. Rabbit to Mrs. Spinning-Wheel, with a wiggle of his nose, “Mr. Horse shall be white, as white as you want him to be!”… Read more