"But you can't do that," answered the little creature quickly. "Mortals can't become fairies, you know--although I believe there was once a mortal who was made immortal."
"But fairies can become anything they desire!" cried Berna.
"Oh, no, they can't. You are mistaken if you believe that," was the reply. "I could change YOU into a fly, or a crocodile, or a bobolink, if I wanted to; but fairies can't change themselves into anything else."
"How strange!" murmured Seseley, much impressed.
"But YOU can," cried the fairy, jumping up and coming toward them. "You are mortals, and, by the laws that govern us, a mortal can change a fairy into anything she pleases."
"Oh!" said Seseley, filled with amazement at the idea.
The fairy fell on her knees before the baron's daughter. "Please--please, dear Seseley," she pleaded, "change me into a mortal!"
4. Prince Marvel
It is easy to imagine the astonishment of the three girls at hearing this strange request. They gazed in a bewildered fashion upon the kneeling fairy, and were at first unable to answer one word. Then Seseley said--sadly, for she grieved to disappoint the pretty creature:
"We are but mortal children, and have no powers of enchantment at all."
"Ah, that is true, so far as concerns yourselves," replied the fairy, eagerly; "yet mortals may easily transform fairies into anything they wish."
"If that is so, why have we never heard of this power before?" asked Seseley.
"Because fairies, as a rule, are content with their lot, and do not wish to appear in any form but their own. And, knowing that evil or mischievous mortals can transform them at will, the fairies take great care to remain invisible, so they can not be interfered with. Have you ever," she asked, suddenly, "seen a fairy before?"
"Never," replied Seseley.
"Nor would you have seen me to-day, had I not known you were kind and pure-hearted, or had I not resolved to ask you to exercise your powers upon me."
"I must say," remarked Helda, boldly, "that you are foolish to wish to become anything different from what you are."
"For you are very beautiful NOW," added Berna, admiringly.
"Beautiful!" retorted the fairy, with a little frown; "what does beauty amount to, if one is to remain invisible?"
"Not much, that is true," agreed Berna, smoothing her own dark locks.
"And as for being foolish," continued the fairy, "I ought to be allowed to act foolishly if I want to. For centuries past I have not had a chance to do a single foolish thing."
"Poor dear!" said Helda, softly.
Seseley had listened silently to this conversation. Now she inquired:
"What do you wish to become?"
"A mortal!" answered the fairy, promptly.
"A girl, like ourselves?" questioned the baron's daughter.
"Perhaps," said the fairy, as if undecided.
"Then you would be likely to endure many privations," said Seseley, gently. "For you would have neither father nor mother to befriend you, nor any house to live in."
"And if you hired your services to some baron, you would be obliged to wash dishes all day, or mend clothing, or herd cattle," said Berna.
"But I should travel all over the island," said the fairy, brightly, "and that is what I long to do. I do not care to work."
"I fear a girl would not be allowed to travel alone," Seseley remarked, after some further thought. "At least," she added, "I have never heard of such a thing."
"No," said the fairy, rather bitterly, "your men are the ones that roam abroad and have adventures of all kinds. Your women are poor, weak creatures, I remember."
There was no denying this, so the three girls sat silent until Seseley asked:
"Why do you wish to become a mortal?"
"To gain exciting experiences," answered the fairy. I'm tired of being a humdrum fairy year in and year out. Of course, I do not wish to become a mortal for all time, for that would get monotonous, too; but to live a short while as the earth people do would amuse me very much."
"If you want variety, you should become a boy," said Helda, with a laugh, "The life of a boy is one round of excitement."
"Then make me a boy!" exclaimed the fairy eagerly.