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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Merlin’s Pet Fairy
By Augustin Eugène Scribe (1791–1861)
 
ONE night, Merlin, sad and dreamy, was gazing over the immensity of heaven. He thought he heard a light sound below him. A frightful tempest was upheaving the ocean. The waves, piled mountain high, scattered salt water to the skies. Merlin went higher to avoid a wetting; and by the light of the stars he saw, like an imperceptible point on the summit of the waves, a vessel about to sink. There was service to render, suffering to relieve. Merlin forgot his dreams and darted forth, but too late. Pitiless fate anticipated him; and the ship, dashed against the cliffs, was flying in a thousand pieces.  1
  All the passengers had perished except one woman, who was still struggling. She held a little daughter in her arms whom she tried to save.  2
  “Protecting angels,” she cried, “save her! watch over her!”  3
  When her strength deserted her she disappeared, just as Merlin descended from the clouds and touched the surface of the water. He heard the poor mother’s last words, caught up her child, and bore it back to the skies.  4
  He warmed the little creature’s chilled limbs in his hands. Was she still breathing? In doubt, he recalled her to life or gave her a new one by means of his magic power, with a ray of dawn and a drop of dew. Then Merlin gazed at the poor child with delighted eyes.  5
  “You shall be a fairy,” he said to her. “You shall be my pet fairy. The misfortune and death which presided over your birth can never thenceforth touch you.”  6
  The baby opened her eyes and smiled at him, and Merlin carried his treasure to his crystal and flowery palace in the clouds.  7
  The young fairy was charming, and Merlin wished to endow her with all gifts, all talents, all virtues. He gave her the heart which loves and is loved; the mind which pleases and amuses others, and the grace which always charms.  8
  He gave her his own power (without making her his equal, however), with only one condition: that she should love him, and prefer him to all the sylphs and heavenly spirits, however beautiful, who shone in Ginnistan. Mighty Alaciel, the supreme genie presiding over this empire, loved the enchanter Merlin, and consented to all his desires. All that he asked for the young fairy was granted and immutably ratified by destiny.  9
  Never had Merlin been more happy than while pretty Vivian was growing up under his eyes. That was the name he had given her, the name which was to make her immortal; for never has love been more celebrated than that of the enchanter Merlin for the fairy Vivian. All legends tell of it, all chronicles attest it, and traces of it are still preserved on the walls of old monuments.  10
  Merlin had no other delight than in Vivian; and she knew no joy apart from her benefactor. Although still very young, the wit and intelligence with which she was endowed soon taught her to appreciate his worth and all that she owed to him. Full of gratitude for his goodness and admiration for his talents, she listened to his lessons with an avidity and pleasure which flattered the scholar’s self-love; while, gracious and attentive, her cares for him delighted the old man’s heart.  11
  So she could not be separated from him, but accompanied him in all his journeys and investigations, and shared all his labors, which were pleasures for her. She loved to soar through space with him, admiring far off the stars, whose revolutions and movements in heaven he explained to her; then redescending toward earth, both invisible, they would hover over castles and cottages, inspiring noble lords with kind thoughts for their vassals, and bearing hope and consolation to the vassals. In sleep they showed the poor mother her absent son; to the young girl her lover; to all they sent golden dreams which later were realized. Do you see that pilgrim worn out with heat and fatigue sleeping under an elm on the wayside? He wakes consumed with hunger and burning thirst, and sees over his head a bough loaded with superb pears. O surprise! Where did this tree which he had not noticed before, come from? Or rather, what changed the sterile young elm into a fruit-tree during his sleep? It was Vivian!  12
  And that young girl, how unhappy she is! Sitting on the bank of a stream, she weeps and mourns! She had a gold cross, her only ornament, her riches! Taking it off to clean it or look at it, she has let it fall to the bottom of the deep water. Lost! lost forever! And just then she feels around her neck a wet ribbon, which an invisible hand has replaced; and at the end of the ribbon shines the gold cross, which she thought never to see again. The little fairy has plunged under the waves and brought it back.  13
  Another time a poor tenant, torn from his family, is being dragged to prison because he owes a pitiless master ten crowns rent, which he has not been able to pay! And suddenly his sobbing wife, who accompanies him, finds in her apron pocket twenty bright gold crowns which she does not remember ever putting there! Who slipped them there? Vivian’s little hand! Oh, kind pleasant fairy, delighting in the good she does—and Merlin still happier at seeing her do it!  14
  Months and years succeeded each other. Fairies grow quickly. Their beauty need not fear to ripen, as it is to endure always! Nothing more charming than Vivian ever shone in Ginnistan. Her pretty blonde hair, her blue eyes reflecting the sky, her dainty figure, light and airy, her quick smile, set her above other fairies.  15
  As to character, hers was charming and impossible to define. She was both reasonable and frivolous, equally serious over feasts and toilets, good works and pretty dresses; knowing a great deal, and as amusing as if she knew nothing. Coquettish in mind but not in heart, gracious and good, laughing and mischievous, above all kind and beloved by every one,—such was Vivian. With a word or a smile she triumphed over all resistance, overturned all obstacles; and when her pretty little hand caressed Merlin’s white beard, the great enchanter could refuse her nothing. Far more, he exercised all his art to discover her tastes and anticipate her wishes! To him science had no longer any end but that of creating pleasures for Vivian.  16
  Thus, anticipating by magic the genius of future ages, he devised wonders for her which we think we have discovered since then, but which we have only refound. Our new inventions are only copies, more or less able, of all Merlin’s secrets. Among them were prodigies compared with which those of steam are only child’s play,—the art of traversing air and directing one’s course at will on a cloud or winged dragon, and a thousand other sorceries which we do not know yet.  17
  Not content with creating palaces and aerial gardens for Vivian, to please her he descended to the least details. Our prettiest—I mean oddest—fashions, our most coquettish jewels, our most precious fabrics, were then invented for her. Her crystal palace was lighted by a thousand magical fires, which since we have learned to call gas or electric light.  18
  Within this palace he had raised a fairy temple, which many centuries later we thought to invent under the name of Opera! In rooms enriched with gold and velvet, Vivian and the court of Ginnistan gave themselves to noble pleasures. Dancing and music exerted all their allurements. There were delicious songs still unknown to earth, which later Merlin revealed to Gluck, Mozart, Rossini, Auber, Meyerbeer, unless indeed these stole them for themselves from heaven.  19
  Thus Merlin watched over the amusements of his young fairy, and still more over the happiness of her every minute; for he had taught her never to be idle. Under her skillful fingers the brush or the needle created little masterpieces, so perfect and elegant that they gave rise to the expression “to work like the fairies”!  20
  And note that before Vivian, fairies did nothing. Their only diversion was to busy themselves with love affairs or intrigues on earth. Their home was most monotonous, and they did not know what to do with themselves in heaven. There, as in all courts of any rank, the receptions and companies almost killed one with their dullness. Drawn up in a circle on feast days, the fairies gazed upon each other in fixed beauty, which they did not have even the fear of losing or seeing change.  21
  As to the sylphs and genii who stood behind them, they too yawned in their immortality. Judge then how they appreciated the presentation to court of a witty, amiable, vivacious fairy. She turned all heads, and drew all attention. They knew the distractions of love; and the genii thought it would be delightful to rob the old enchanter of the charming young girl he was guarding.  22
  One morning in Merlin’s absence, Vivian found a satiny little note on her dressing-table, containing a declaration of love, signed Zelindor. Zelindor was the handsomest and most foppish of all the genii. In manner and bearing, in his least actions, he concerned himself with only one thing,—to know if he was admired; and his eyes, which were superb, seemed to have been given him only to see whether or not he was being noticed.  23
  That evening Vivian found in her work-basket a dozen other little satiny papers.  24
  As soon as Merlin returned, she carried him the whole collection. The indignant enchanter wanted to rage.  25
  “Read them first,” she said.  26
  He read, and then tremblingly asked what she thought of all these demonstrations of affection.  27
  “I think,” she answered, “that they are very badly written.”  28
  “They say nothing to your heart?”  29
  “Nothing.”  30
  Merlin wore two rings on his left hand. One was an emerald: when he took it off his finger and held it to his mouth, he ceased to be invisible, and appeared under his true form to mortal eyes. The other, more useful and more to be feared, was of a single ruby. With this ring he could read hearts, and see what every one was thinking.  31
  He seized this ring, regarded it attentively, and was soon convinced that Vivian had spoken the truth.  32
  “Yes! yes!” he cried. “You are indifferent to Zelindor and all the other sylphs, and prefer me.”  33
  “Ah! that’s unkind!” cried Vivian interrupting him, “very unkind!”  34
  “To convince myself of your friendship?”  35
  “No! But to surprise the secrets that I want to have the pleasure of telling you.”  36
  “Ah! you are charming!” cried Merlin, transported with joy. “So you love me, then?”  37
  “Aren’t you my friend, my benefactor, my father, to whom I owe everything?”  38
  “Yes,—it is true,” said the enchanter, only half satisfied: “and I love you too, Vivian, ardently, passionately; and that is the way I want you to love me.”  39
  “I don’t understand,” said Vivian. “I prefer you to all whom I see or hear,—to all who are about us.”  40
  “Yes,” said Merlin to himself, “that is just what I once asked from Alaciel, and which he has granted. But,” he said, speaking out loud without meaning to do so, “I made a great mistake in not asking more.”  41
  “And what more do you want?” she asked with an affectionate smile.  42
  “When you are with me, does your heart beat more quickly?”  43
  “No,” answered Vivian in a pure, candid voice.  44
  “And yet you love me a little?”  45
  “Better than all the world.”  46
  “And you consent, dear child, to be mine?”  47
  “Yes.”  48
  Merlin kissed the fresh rosy cheek of the young fairy, and trembling with emotion, let himself fall into a chair, gazing after Vivian as she bounded away and disappeared behind the clumps of lilacs.  49
 
 
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