A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.
A long, long time ago, when Fairies, Sprites, and Witches dwelt in the forests, there lived a tiny Fairy King whose name was Oberon, and though a wee mite, he felt very large, and would strut around in a most amusing manner.
His Queen — Titania — was a beautiful fairy, and for so small a body she carried herself with great grace and dignity.
Now, we find that fairies sometimes quarrel and do naughty things, just as do little girls and boys — and even grown-ups at times.
Fairy King Oberon and Queen Titania often quarreled because Titania refused to give a little boy (whom she had reared) to King Oberon for a page.
The boy’s mother, while she lived, was a firm friend of Titania, and when she died gave her child to Titania to bring up as her own. So he grew up in the forest among the fairies, and was the innocent cause of constant trouble between the Fairy King and Queen.
King Oberon thought so grand a person as himself should be attended by a page, and thus it was that every time he and his Queen would meet, there were angry words, and both would go away with saddened hearts.
Finally, the Fairy King grew so angry that he determined to punish his Queen, and thus make her only too glad to give the lad into his service. He sent for Puck, — and now I must tell you who little Puck was: the merriest, maddest elf imaginable. He had the happiest, jolliest face in all Fairyland, and would laugh and laugh while all the time playing pranks and jokes.
Of course people would not get angry at Puck, because he was such a dear little fellow and never meant any wrong. Everybody loved him. He made many a sad heart gay and chased away many tears with his bright and cheerful smile. So King Oberon would always send for little Puck to cheer him when he and Queen Titania disagreed.
Fairies Sometimes Quarrel
This time when he sent for Puck it was to be revenged on Titania!
“Come hither, Puck,” said Oberon to the funny little fellow. “Fetch me a flower that grows which the maids call ‘Love-in-idleness.’ The juice of this flower squeezed on the eyes of those who sleep will wake them, and when they wake they will love the first thing they see, no matter if it be a cat, a lion, a bear, or a monkey.”
Fairies, my dears, did not like to be made fun of any more than people do, as you will learn when you hear how King Oberon wished to tease and humble Queen Titania.
“Now,” continued Oberon to little Puck, “Titania so vexes me that I intend to squeeze the juice of this flower on her eyes as she sleeps, and I will not remove the spell — which I can do with another charm I know — until she gives me the boy for my page.”
This was great fun for Puck, and he ran off clapping his hands and laughing until his sides ached, thinking how the Queen would act and how angry she would be.
While Puck was gone, King Oberon discovered in the forest some lovers who seemed to be quarreling. This so distressed him that when Puck returned the King commanded him to seek the lovers and put some of the juice of the flower in their eyes, so that they should love each other and quarrel no more. Then away went Oberon with his purple flower to punish his Queen.
Titania was just retiring for the night. Her couch was a bank of wild thyme, cowslips, and violets, under a canopy of roses.
The King found Titania giving her orders to her Fairy attendants. When she was cozily wrapped in her coverlet of snake-skin, a chorus of tiny Fairies fanned her and sang her to sleep, and this being done, they hastened away to perform duties Titania placed upon them.
When all had gone, Oberon stole up to the sleeping Queen, squeezed the juice of the flower on her eyelids, and said:
“What thou seest when thou dost wake,
Do it for thy true-love take;
Love and languish for his sake;
Be it ounce, or cat, or bear,
Pard, or boar with bristling hair,
In thy eye that shall appear,
When thou wakest, it is thy dear;
Wake when some wild thing is near.”
Then Oberon hurried off into the wood.
But to return to our jolly friend Puck. You remember the Fairy King had sent him to squeeze the juice of the wild flower into the eyes of the quarreling lovers. Well, Puck frolicked along, finally meeting two young people who seemed to be disputing with each other. He had quite forgotten what the King had told him as to how they would be dressed, and supposed, of course, these were the lovers the King had described. So he waved the purple flower across their eyes.
Now, as it happened, they were not the lovers King Oberon had seen, and you may be sure Puck’s carelessness made a pretty bad tangle, for which he was soundly scolded by the King. However, King Oberon set the other charm to work, which straightened things out joyfully and restored his own good humor.
As it was about time for Titania to awaken, King Oberon hurried back to her bower, and much to his surprise he saw a clown standing near. A clown, my dears, as you may know, is a very foolish man who does silly things.
After staring at the foolish fellow for a moment, the King quickly waved his wand, and behold! the clown’s head was that of a donkey.
Immediately Queen Titania awakened, and as her eyes fell upon the strange creature she gave an exclamation of delight. The juice of the flower caused her to believe this monstrous being the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
She wound her arms around the big, big neck of the donkey, and commanded all her Fairy attendants to wait upon him.
To the Fairy Peaseblossom the donkey said in a deep, surly voice:
“Peaseblossom, scratch my head!”
The wee Fairy shivered with fright, but she scratched, and scratched, and scratched his head.
To the Fairy Cobweb he said:
“What, sir?” replied Cobweb.
“Kill me a red bumble-bee yonder, good Mr. Cobweb, bring me the honey-bags.”
Away ran Cobweb to do his bidding.
Then looking around, the donkey said:
“Here, here,” replied Mustardseed. “What is your will?”
“Nothing,” said the donkey, “but help Peaseblossom scratch my head.”
And so with the Fairies scratching his head, the foolish donkey fell asleep, while poor Titania twined a garland of flowers for his neck. Then, lo and behold! King Oberon appeared.
You may know the Fairy Queen felt very foolish, and King Oberon teased and made so much fun of her that she told him if he would stop he might have the small boy for his page.
This, of course, was just what King Oberon wanted, and he was so happy he immediately removed the spell and Fairy Titania was astonished that she should have loved so ugly a beast as the donkey, and asked King Oberon to drive him away.
This the King did, but not until he removed the donkey’s head and returned to the clown his own, which so pleased the fellow that he just cracked his heels together and scampered out of the wood; and he has never been back to this day.
King Oberon and his charming Queen were always happy after that and truly loved each other ever after.
And Puck — dear, laughing, little Puck! He continued his merry pranks secure m the friendship of everybody.
Now, my dears, what do you think of this story?
It is just a fairy tale — a funny little dream — A Midsummer Night’s Dream of a great man who lived long, long years ago, and whose name was —