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WHY CHESTNUTS ARE IN PRISON
 ONCE upon a time the water fairies made a piano for the Singing Brook.
It took them days and days to gather up enough rocks to make the piano, but
they worked hard, and by and by there was a pile of smooth white pebbles and
gray granite stones, of all shapes and sizes—some of them
which made the music very soft.
These they placed across the pathway of the Singing Brook, that she might
find it as a sweet surprise, and the songs she sang as she trailed her
waters across the fairy piano were beautiful indeed.
She sang of the soft twitter of woodland birds, of the sunlight sifting
through the trees, and of the dance of the moonlight zephyrs with the
leaves. One morning two little brownies, hand in hand, walked through the
forest in search of something to do. They were
 dressed in suits of
velvety brown, with deep collars of lace about their throats, and sashes and
slippers of brown.
On and on through the woods they walked, forgetting that the Wide-Spreading
Chestnut Tree had told them not to go far.
She it was who was their only mother, and gave them a place to sleep in her
shady hollow. She it was who loved them most, and lent her branches to the
spinning spiders who spun for them their beautiful collars, and she it was
who hushed them to sleep at night with story and song, and sheltered them
when winds and rain raged,—safe from all harm.
A loving stepmother was the Wide-Spreading Chestnut Tree, and the little
brownies knew no other.
But to-day they had wandered away from her watchful care, and were following
along the mossy path that lay like a ribbon of green through the woods.
By and by they came to the side of the Singing Brook, and clapped their
hands at the pretty piano the water fairies had
 made for her surprise.
But the Singing Brook was fast asleep.
It is sad to tell, but the little brownies thought it would be great fun to
throw stones, so without stopping to think who had gathered the stones and
placed them there for the Singing Brook, they began to throw, and threw them
First, they tried to see which could throw higher; then, which could throw
further. And then they began throwing at the spotted frogs that hopped in
the grass, and at the frightened birds, hurrying home to their birdlings,
and at the bushy-tailed squirrels, and at the little white rabbits who, with
ears laid back and short tails raised, scurried through the woods as fast as
ever they could to get out of reach of the flying stones.
By and by all the stones were gone, and not one was left for the pretty
Singing Brook. When she woke up and found someone had taken away her pretty
piano she was very sad indeed, and ran quickly away to tell the water
fairies, crying as she ran.
 "Hush, hush, pretty one!" said the queen of the water fairies; "a
little brook should only sing. We will try and find thy pretty piano, or
else make thee another one."
So up and down the banks the water fairies searched, but no piano could they
find,—so at last they climbed into their sunbeam chariots and rolled
through the forest woods, hunting every nook and corner for the piano of the
By and by they found a stone here, and a stone there, and a stone yonder,
and,—yes, by and by they found the two little brownies, each with a
shut close in his hand,—lying asleep in the hollow of the
"Wake, wake!" cried the water fairies, sprinkling rain drops into their
faces. "Why have you taken away the Singing Brook's piano? She is sad and
wishes it back again."
"Oh, we did not know!" mumbled the drowsy brownies. "We are sleepy; let us
"Did not know?" stormed the water
 fairies. "Did not know? That
is never an excuse for anyone! Those who do not know should be kept in
prison and not allowed to roam the forest woods.
"To-day we have found delicate flowers bruised and broken, we have found
frightened birds with blood-stained wings, we have found timid white
rabbits, stiff with fright, and squirrels with broken limbs! And yet, you
did not know!
"To be stoned as you have stoned shall be your fate, that you may do no more
But the poor little brownies did not want to be stoned, and they were too
stiff with fright themselves to move, so I do not know what they would have
done had it not been for their stepmother, the Wide-Spreading Chestnut Tree.
She was both grieved and surprised at what she had heard; surprised to hear
that the brownies she sheltered and loved would take away the piano from the
Singing Brook,—grieved that they would stone the timid wild creatures
woods. What a pity they did not know!
 "Kind fairies," she said, rustling her leaves ever so softly, "will you
listen to me?
"The brownies you see there have no mother; perhaps that is the reason why
they did not know. Because of this I have sheltered and loved them, though
when they strayed away I could not follow to teach them right from wrong.
"Spare them, then, from the cruel stones, I pray thee, and when they have
gathered up again the stones for the Singing Brook, send them back to me.
"I shall make for them a prison house, wherein they shall be safely locked,
and never shall they stray therefrom, unless taken out by the fairies
"It is well," replied the water fairies; "thy wish is granted thee, kind
tree, because of thy love for these mischievous brownies,—but see to
they stray no more from thy side, lest they forget and other mischief do."
Then, whirling their swift little sunbeam chariots, the water fairies
galloped away through the forest, leaving the brownies to gather up the
 had thrown away, and carry them again to the Singing Brook.
Some of them they could never find, and for this reason the song of the
brook is sometimes sad.
The Wide-Spreading Chestnut Tree kept her promise, and all through the
moonlit night she worked away on their prison room, making it as dainty and
snug as possible.
Outside it is round and green and very full of prickles. But inside there
are two velvety cradles, as soft as down, and fit for the cradle of a king's
To-day you may find it out in the woods, with the brownies locked snugly
within, still dressed in their suits of velvety brown.
Do not try to let them out of their prison,—you will surely prick your
And do not pound them out with stones, either,—for the sake of the
Wide-Spreading Chestnut Tree.
Wait, it is the frost fairies who will turn them out! They will come
tripping through the silent woods, scattering their white powder everywhere.
They will tap gently on the prison doors of the little brownies,
will laugh when the doors burst open and the little brownies come tumbling
down to the ground beneath the Wide-Spreading Chestnut Tree.
Peep into their thorn-clad prison, so green and round, and you will see the
snug little cradles as soft as down.