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Amelia And The Dwarfs
by [?]

My godmother’s grandmother knew a good deal about the fairies. Her grandmother had seen a fairy rade on a Roodmas Eve, and she herself could remember a copper vessel of a queer shape which had been left by the elves on some occasion at an old farm-house among the hills, The following story came from her, and where she got it I do not know. She used to say it was a pleasant tale, with a good moral in the inside of it. My godmother often observed that a tale without a moral was like a nut without a kernel; not worth the cracking. (We called fire-side stories “cracks” in our part of the country.) This is the tale.


A couple of gentlefolk once lived in a certain part of England. (My godmother never would tell the name either of the place or the people, even if she knew it. She said one ought not to expose one’s neighbours’ failings more than there was due occasion for.) They had an only child, a daughter, whose name was Amelia. They were an easy-going, good-humoured couple; “rather soft,” my godmother said, but she was apt to think anybody “soft” who came from the southern shires, as these people did. Amelia, who had been born farther north, was by no means so. She had a strong resolute will, and a clever head of her own, though she was but a child. She had a way of her own too, and had it very completely. Perhaps because she was an only child, or perhaps because they were so easy-going, her parents spoiled her. She was, beyond question, the most tiresome little girl in that or any other neighbourhood. From her baby days her father and mother had taken every opportunity of showing her to their friends, and there was not a friend who did not dread the infliction. When the good lady visited her acquaintances, she always took Amelia with her, and if the acquaintances were fortunate enough to see from the windows who was coming, they used to snatch up any delicate knick-knacks, or brittle ornaments lying about, and put them away, crying, “What is to be done? Here comes Amelia!”

When Amelia came in, she would stand and survey the room, whilst her mother saluted her acquaintance; and if anything struck her fancy, she would interrupt the greetings to draw her mother’s attention to it, with a twitch of her shawl, “Oh, look, Mamma, at that funny bird in the glass case!” or perhaps, “Mamma, Mamma! There’s a new carpet since we were here last;” for, as her mother said, she was “a very observing child.”

Then she would wander round the room, examining and fingering everything, and occasionally coming back with something in her hand to tread on her mother’s dress, and break in upon the ladies’ conversation with–“Mamma! Mamma! What’s the good of keeping this old basin? It’s been broken and mended, and some of the pieces are quite loose now. I can feel them:” or–addressing the lady of the house–“That’s not a real ottoman in the corner. It’s a box covered with chintz. I know, for I’ve looked.”

Then her mamma would say, reprovingly, “My dear Amelia!”

And perhaps the lady of the house would beg, “Don’t play with that old china, my love; for though it is mended, it is very valuable;” and her mother would add, “My dear Amelia, you must not.”

Sometimes the good lady said, “You must not.” Sometimes she tried–“You must not” When both these failed, and Amelia was balancing the china bowl on her finger-ends, her mamma would get flurried, and when Amelia flurried her, she always rolled her r’s, and emphasized her words, so that it sounded thus:

“My dear-r-r-r-Ramelia! You must not.”

At which Amelia would not so much as look round, till perhaps the bowl slipped from her fingers, and was smashed into unmendable fragments. Then her mamma would exclaim, “Oh, dear-r-r-r, oh, dear-r-Ramelia” and the lady of the house would try to look as if it did not matter, and when Amelia and her mother departed, would pick up the bits, and pour out her complaints to her lady friends, most of whom had suffered many such damages at the hands of this “very observing child.”