The Grey Fairy Book HTML version
A Fairy's Blunder
Once upon a time there lived a fairy whose name was Dindonette. She was the best
creature in the world, with the kindest heart; but she had not much sense, and was always
doing things, to benefit people, which generally ended in causing pain and distress to
everybody concerned. No one knew this better than the inhabitants of an island far off in
the midst of the sea, which, according to the laws of fairyland, she had taken under her
special protection, thinking day and night of what she could do to make the isle the
pleasantest place in the whole world, as it was the most beautiful.
Now what happened was this:
As the fairy went about, unseen, from house to house, she heard everywhere children
longing for the time when they would be ‘grown-up,' and able, they thought, to do as they
liked; and old people talking about the past, and sighing to be young again.
‘Is there no way of satisfying these poor things?' she thought. And then one night an idea
occurred to her. ‘Oh, yes, of course! It has been tried before; but I will manage better than
the rest, with their old Fountain of Youth, which, after all, only made people young again.
I will enchant the spring that bubbles up in the middle of the orchard, and the children
that drink of it shall at once become grown men and women, and the old people return to
the days of their childhood.'
And without stopping to consult one single other fairy, who might have given her good
advice, off rushed Dindonette, to cast her spell over the fountain.
It was the only spring of fresh water in the island, and at dawn was crowded with people
of all ages, come to drink at its source. Delighted at her plan for making them all happy,
the fairy hid herself behind a thicket of roses, and peeped out whenever footsteps came
that way. It was not long before she had ample proof of the success of her enchantments.
Almost before her eyes the children put on the size and strength of adults, while the old
men and women instantly became helpless, tiny babies. Indeed, so pleased was she with
the result of her work, that she could no longer remain hidden, and went about telling
everybody what she had done, and enjoying their gratitude and thanks.
But after the first outburst of delight at their wishes being granted, people began to be a
little frightened at the rapid effects of the magic water. It was delicious to feel yourself at
the height of your power and beauty, but you would wish to keep so always! Now this
was exactly what the fairy had been in too much of a hurry to arrange, and no sooner had
the children become grown up, and the men and women become babies, than they all
rushed on to old age at an appalling rate! The fairy only found out her mistake when it
was too late to set it right.