"A boy!" they all cried in consternation. And Seseley added:
"Why--you're a GIRL fairy, aren't you?"
"Well--yes; I suppose I am," answered the beautiful creature, smiling; "but as you are going to change me anyway, I may as well become a boy as a girl."
"Better!" declared Helda, clapping her hands; "for then you can do as you please."
"But would it be right?" asked Seseley, with hesitation.
"Why not?" retorted the fairy. "I can see nothing wrong in being a boy. Make me a tall, slender youth, with waving brown hair and dark eyes. Then I shall be as unlike my own self as possible, and the adventure will be all the more interesting. Yes; I like the idea of being a boy very much indeed."
"But I don't know how to transform you; some one will have to show me the way to do it," protested Seseley, who was getting worried over the task set her.
"Oh, that will be easy enough," returned the little immortal. "Have you a wand?"
"Then I'll loan you mine, for I shall not need it. And you must wave it over my head three times and say: 'By my mortal powers I transform you into a boy for the space of one year'."
"One year! Isn't that too long?"
"It's a very short time to one who has lived thousands of years as a fairy."
"That is true," answered the baron's daughter.
"Now, I'll begin by doing a little transforming myself," said the fairy, getting upon her feet again, "and you can watch and see how I do it." She brushed a bit of moss from her gauzy skirts and continued: "If I'm to become a boy I shall need a horse, you know. A handsome, prancing steed, very fleet of foot."
A moment she stood motionless, as if listening. Then she uttered a low but shrill whistle.
The three girls, filled with eager interest, watched her intently.
Presently a trampling of footsteps was heard through the brushwood, and a beautiful deer burst from the forest and fearlessly ran to the fairy. Without hesitation she waved her wand above the deer's head and exclaimed:
"By all my fairy powers I command you to become a war-horse for the period of one year."
Instantly the deer disappeared, and in its place was a handsome charger, milk-white in color, with flowing mane and tail. Upon its back was a saddle sparkling with brilliant gems sewn upon fine dressed leather.
The girls uttered cries of astonishment and delight, and the fairy said:
"You see, these transformations are not at all difficult. I must now have a sword."
She plucked a twig from a near-by tree and cast it upon the ground at her feet. Again she waved her wand--and the twig turned to a gleaming sword, richly engraved, that seemed to the silent watchers to tremble slightly in its sheath, as if its heart of steel throbbed with hopes of battles to come.
"And now I must have shield and armor, said the fairy, gaily. "This will make a shield,"--and she stripped a sheet of loose bark from a tree-trunk,--"but for armor I must have something better. Will you give me your cloak?"
This appeal was made to Seseley, and the baron's daughter drew her white velvet cloak from her shoulders and handed it to the fairy. A moment later it was transformed into a suit of glittering armor that seemed fashioned of pure silver inlaid with gold, while the sheet of bark at the same time became a handsome shield, with the figures of three girls graven upon it. Seseley recognized the features as those of herself and her comrades, and noted also that they appeared sitting at the edge of a forest, the great trees showing plainly in the background.
"I shall be your champion, you see," laughed the fairy, gleefully, "and maybe I shall be able to repay you for the loss of your cloak."
"I do not mind the cloak," returned the child, who had been greatly interested in these strange transformations. "But it seems impossible that a dainty little girl like you can ride this horse and carry these heavy arms."
"I'll not be a girl much longer," said the little creature. "Here, take my wand, and transform me into a noble youth!"
Again the pretty fairy kneeled before Seseley, her dainty, rounded limbs of white and rose showing plainly through her gauzy attire.