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Elmina, or the Flower that never fades; a Tale for the young Ladies.
A LONG while ago, in a country a great way off, there lived a young princefs called Elmina. She was beautiful, and very amiable; thofe are always fo who are young and innocent but innocence and beauty very often disappear with infancy, unless pains be taken to fix them in the heart. The young princefs was an orphan; and a beneficent fairy called Lindorine took care of her education. Elmina knew not that he was a fairy; but he loved Lindorine as a friend, and honoured her as a mother.
The princefs obtained permiffion one day to go and divert herself with her companions on the green. Soon did this joyous troop difperfe themselves acrofs the mead in purfuit of butterflies, and along the rivulet in fearch of flowers.
When they had gathered a great quantity of these, they fat down under the shade of a tree, to form bouquets, and crowns and garlands; and while they were engaged in this agreeable amufement, fome told tales, whilft the reft liftened for young girls like to hear tales, and they never forget what they understand. Elmina, lefs curious and lefs talkative, fung while fhe arranged her flowers. Her friends ftopped to listen to her fong. I fuppofe the fairy had taught it to her. Here it is:
Lovely flow'rs that deck our meads,
Ye flowr's that now adorn our heads,
The dew befprinkled rofe, at morn,
The modeft vi'let hides its head;
No perfume marks where 't may be found.
The nofogay that adorns the bride,
I've heard my fifters, there's a flow'r,
I've fearch'd in vain; all these do fade;
Elmina flopt. All the garlands were finished, and her companions rofe up. What fhall we do now, faid they? We have fine garlands and crowns. Let us play the beauty of the rondeau. That was a play which the young girls of that country had invented. They chose the most amiable of the company, drest her out in the gayeft manner, and crowned her with flowers; then they fung and danced around her. It was, however, a very delicate affair to make this choice, and what I fhould not like to meddle with, to choose the most beautiful among a troop of young girls: nor could they eafily agree among themfelves on this point. Several of them wished to crown Elmina; but he was too modest to believe herself the most amiable; and fhe thought feveral of her companions were charming: for fhe was not in the leaft jealous of the beauty of others. My friends, faid fhe to them, a notion has come into my head-Let each of us gather a favourite flower, and put them all into a hat; then throw the whole up in the air; and the girl whofe flower fhall go fartheft, fhall be the beauty of the rondeau. They all approved of this happy thought, and went each to choose her favourite flower,
Among the companions of Elmina, there was one young princefs who was called Malinette, and who was very malignant and vain. She ran into a neighbouring field and picked out a blewet, which the put into the hat, after having dexterously rolled the ftalk about a fmall pebble.
It is eafy to devife why this fly girl did fo: by this trick, her flower becoming the heaviest, ought to be thrown
the fartheft. The other girls chofe without artifice the flowers they really preferred. One brought a ranunculus, another a primrofe, a third a violet. As to Elmina, the went in queft of an eglantine that, was the flower fhe chofe. She faw a bufh covered with them; but I know not why the modest Elmina chofe the smallest and the light. eft.
At the moment when they threw up the flowers from the hat, to fee which of them would go fartheft, a light zephyr arose, and carried off the eglantine. It was however falling short of the bluet; but a fine butterfly ftruck it as it defcended, and carried it far beyond the bluet. The girls made a fhout of joy on feeing this little miracle, crowned Elmina, and dreffed her out as the belle of the rondeau. This was no difficult task; for Elmina was beautiful, and they had plenty of flowers. The princess drest and crowned, was placed upon a small throne of fod; and in dancing as sound her, they fung,
Join hand in hand, and gayly fing,
Nimbly trip it as ye go,
On the light fantastic toe;"
Round, and round, and round again,
Three times round, then back again.
Now ftop, loose hands, and curtfey low,
Each with obeifance due to fair Eimina,
Let each prefent a flow'ry bow
To our youthful chofen queen;
Hail! fair Elmina, beauty's queen,
Long may thy presence glad this lovely green.
The play would have continued; but it was interrupted by fome noife which they heard in the grove; out of which came a little old woman, and approached the cheerful dan cers. The girls were at firft afraid, and thought of running away; but the affable air of the old woman, and the foftnefs of her voice calmed their fears. She had a robe all of green; her hat was of rushes of the fame colour, adorned with a bouquet of green leaves: She had green gloves, and carried in her hand a green pot, in which was a little green tree.
It was because of all this verdure, that they who knew the old woman, called her Verdurine. "My children, faid
fhe, I come not to interrupt your mirth; but I heard Elmina fing a ballad, in which the fpoke of a flower that never fades; by what I have heard her fay, and what I have feen of her, I think her worthy of the precious gift I mean to bestow upon her. My love, continued fhe, in approaching to the young princefs, who-listened to her with astonishment, take this branch, on which there are four flowers and two buds; it is the flower which never fades; I make you a prefent of it; cultivate it with care; but know, my fweet love, it is not by watering that you will preferve it. Obferve this flower of fuch a lively carnation; it is the flower of modefty: as long as your cheeks can be fuffused with this colour, it will preserve its own in all its luftre. The fecond flower is of the pureft white; it is called the flower of virtue: it will be fullied whenever you fail in your duty. The third, of a yellow brilliant as gold, is called the flower of beneficence: if you fhall be always good, it will continue beautiful. The fourth is of a celeftial blue it is the flower of gentleness: every time that Elmina becomes impatient or fretful, this charming flower will tarnifh. This bud, which begins to open, continued the old woman, will produce the flower of genius: it will expand in proportion as your mind becomes more cultivated, and thus mark the progress you make in knowledge. The other bud contains the flower of graceful elegance: it will expand without your thinking of it, if the others continue to flourish, and will ferve to add fresh luftre, and inimitable beauty to the whole." Ah madam, cried the princefs in taking the flower, how shall I express my gratitude for this precious gift? Come, I pray you, with me; Lindorine shall testify her gratitude and mine. My child, faid Verdurine, you cannot give me a more pleafing proof of your gratitude, than by fhewing me, fome time hence, the flower I now give you, in all its original freshnefs. I will return hither in three years; and if then you can fhew me this flower in all its freshness and purity, it will continue for ever the fame.
In faying this, Verdurine made up to the other young ladies, and gave each of them fome flowers from her enchanted tree to cultivate; to fome of them she gave five, to others four, according as the knew the goodness of their difpofitions. It is pretended,, that Malinette only received one
bud, and that the never could make it expand. I cannot however fay any thing certain on this head; for that young lady having been very univerfally difliked, on account of the naughty things the did, no one would take the trouble of writing her history.
The fairy, (you will eafily perceive that Verdurine was one), after having diftributed her gifts, entered again the arbour, and disappeared. The young girls remained loft in aftonishment at this apparition; they abandoned their play, and the flowers they had gathered, and only thought of those they had received. Every one made hafte to fhew them to their parents; and the young Elmina was no fooner got home, than fhe ran to Lindorine, and related to her every thing that had happened; and put her precious flower into a fine porcelane vafe which the had. Lindorine appeared to be very much astonished at the adventure; though we shall afterwards fee that Lindorine and Verdurine were the fame.
Elmina went to bed highly pleased; but her head was fo full of the objects that had occupied her during the day, that the dreamt the whole night of meadows, rondeaus, fairies, and enchanted flowers. Her first care on awaking, was to go to fee if hers had fuffered no change during the night; fhe ran towards the vafe where fhe had put it; but in coming near the window, fhe heard a great noise in the street, and faw a troop of unlucky boys who followed a poor woman. The geftures and fooleries of thefe boys amused the princess, and made her laugh; and it was only after the loft fight of them, that she retired from the window to examine her flower. But, O heavens! what was her furprise and grief! She faw the flower of modefly beginning to lofe its beautiful carnation colour, and the flower of beneficence alfo faded a little. Lindorine then entering, found the princefs loft in grief and aftonishment, and asked the reafon of it. Ah! faid Elmina, look at the flowers; they fade, they die, yet I have done nothing.
In truth the princefs was innocent; for fhe had not perceived that there was any thing bad in what had made her laugh; nevertheless the flower of modesty had occafion to fade, and the flower of beneficence to languish, because a young girl ought never to indulge an indifcreet curiofity, far lefs laugh when they make a mock of any one.