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The fairy shoes

THE FAIRY SHOES

Once upon a time a baby boy was born in a little brown house, far away
in a country village, and everybody was invited to his christening and
everybody was glad to come.

Now the baby’s mother had a fairy godmother of whom she was very fond.
This fairy was rich and all the people said, “Surely she will bring a
present to the baby on his christening-day, that is worth a great deal
of money.” But, at last when the time came, what do you suppose she
really brought?–a pair of stout little leather shoes with copper toes.

In spite of the disappointment at the fairy’s present the festivities
went merrily on and, when the party was over and the fairy bade her
god-daughter good-bye, she said: “My little present is not quite as
shabby as it looks. Those shoes will never wear out and, besides, the
little feet that have them on can never go wrong. When your baby has
grown large enough to wear those shoes, if you send him on an errand,
and tell him to come back quickly, and he forgets and stops to play,
those little shoes will help him to remember by pinching his feet and
pulling and twitching at his ankles until he will be glad to go on
again. They will remind him to go straight to school and to come
straight home again as you have bidden him. Indeed, wherever he is
sent he will be quite sure to go, and he will come back again at just
the right moment and, by the time his feet have grown too large to wear
the little shoes, he will no longer need their help.”

Days passed by, months passed by. The boy was no longer a baby, but
had grown large enough to wear the fairy’s shoes and, just as she had
said, they always helped him to go the right way.

Months sped and years sped and another baby boy came to stay in the
little brown house, and then another and another and another, until the
mother had nine boys. Each one in turn wore the little shoes and, just
as the fairy had said, they never wore out. At last they descended to
the ninth and youngest boy and became Timothy’s shoes.

Now the eighth little boy had rather small feet and had worn the shoes
longer than the others, besides Timothy was the baby and, for one
reason and another like these, his mother hated to put the rough little
shoes upon him. For a long time Timothy had gone his own way, which
was rarely the right way. At last he played truant from school so
often and was late to dinner so many times, that his mother said she
could bear it no longer, he must wear the fairy shoes. So she had them
freshly blackened and the copper tips newly polished and, one morning,
she brought them out and told Timothy to put them on.

“Now, Tim dear,” she said, “go straight to school this morning. If you
don’t these little shoes will pinch your feet terribly.”

But Timothy did not mind. It was a bright, sunny morning in May and,
if he had loitered on the way when the cold March winds blew up his
jacket sleeves and made him shiver, and when the snow lay in great
drifts by the roadside, how could he help wishing to linger now when
every bush held a bird and every bank a flower?

Once or twice Timothy stopped to pick spring flowers, but the shoes
pinched his feet and he ran on again. At last he reached the bank
overlooking the swamp and, gazing down, he saw great clumps of
cowslips, with their dark green leaves and crowns of beautiful yellow
flowers.

Then Timothy forgot all about school, forgot what his mother had said,
forgot the shoes and their pinches and thought only of the cowslips.
Oh, he must have some!

In a moment away went his satchel on the grass and away went the
flowers he had picked and he began scrambling down the bank toward the
swamp as fast as he could go. But the little shoes, they meant to go
another way. They meant to go to school and they pinched Timothy’s
feet and pulled and twitched at his ankles, trying to make him turn
about and go in the right way, until he thought his feet would be
wrenched off. Timothy was very determined, the harder the little shoes
pinched the more he was bound to have the bright yellow flowers; so, in
spite of the pain, he kept on going down toward the swamp.

When at last this little boy reached the foot of the bank and came to
the edge of the swamp he found that the cowslips were all out of reach.
Still he would have them. Round and round the swamp he went, the shoes
pinching and pulling harder at every step, till at last he grew quite
desperate and, giving a big jump, he landed right out in the swamp in
the very middle of a large clump of the flowers. Then something
strange happened, his feet sank down, down into the mud and water until
the little shoes were soaked right off. Poor, wayward Timothy’s best
friends were gone, but he did not know that. He just waded around in
the swamp and picked cowslips to his heart’s content.

At last, however, Timothy grew very tired. He hurt his foot on a sharp
stick. A great green frog jumped into his face and startled him. He
had more flowers than he could carry. Suddenly he remembered school
and his lost shoes and thought of what his mother had told him. Oh!
how he did wish now that he had done just as she asked him to do.

“What shall I say to the teacher?” he thought. “Oh, what shall I do?
How I wish I had gone straight to school as the little shoes tried to
have me go!”

Weary and sad Timothy climbed the bank. Wiping the mud from his
clothes with his handkerchief and taking his satchel, he started slowly
for school again, all the time wondering what he should say to the
teacher about being late. At last he reached the door and prepared to
tiptoe quietly in, but he had no sooner put his head inside and
commenced to make an excuse than all the children began to laugh.
Timothy was very much ashamed. He looked to find, what they were
laughing at and saw–What do you suppose he saw? Standing in the
middle of the floor, in the place in the class where he himself should
have stood, were his little shoes, very muddy indeed and with a cowslip
in each one of them.

“You have been in the swamp, Timothy,” said the teacher. “Put on your
shoes.”

When his lessons and his punishment were over, Timothy was very glad to
let the little shoes take him quickly home. And always after that he
tried to do what his mother and the little shoes wished him to do.