A sweet tale of a little girl after an adventure and a journey inside a storybook.
A Little Girl in a Book
A Fairy Story
CHRISTABEL was a little girl who read a great many books. She noticed that the girls and boys in the books were not altogether like the girls and boys who played with her in the Square and came to tea with her. The children in the books were wonderfully brave and clever, and when they were having their magnificent adventures they always did exactly the right thing at the right moment. They never had a dull minute, and they never said anything silly. The girls and boys who came to tea with Christabel were not like this, and Christabel knew that she herself was not like this. She never had any adventures, and she knew that even if she ever did have one she would not behave at all bravely or cleverly. And she was often so dull that she drummed with her fingers on the window and said—
“What on earth shall I do?”
Now, Christabel had a Big Sister who wrote books.
One day she said to her Big Sister—
“How I do wish I were a little girl in a book! Nothing ever happens to little girls in real life. It is so dull!”
The Big Sister went on writing and said nothing.
“It’s no use talking to her,” thought Christabel, “because she always goes on writing.”
A few days after this Christabel began to feel rather strange. A kind of stiffness came into all her limbs so that they would not do what she told them. And sometimes she found herself saying things that she had not intended to say at all. This puzzled her and made her very uncomfortable. She wondered if other people noticed that there was something wrong with her. She even thought of speaking to her Big Sister about it, but the Big Sister was so busy writing that it was no use to try and make her hear.
This went on for some time. Christabel grew stiffer and stiffer, and more and more uncomfortable, and her Big Sister went on writing busily.
At last one day, Christabel understood what had happened. She woke up and found that everything round her had changed; the people and the place and everything. She was frightened at first, and then the truth suddenly flashed into her mind. A most remarkable and unusual and unexpected thing had happened: her Big Sister had put her into a book!
“So I really am a little girl in a book, after all!” she said to herself.
She tried to say it aloud, but she found she couldn’t. The words were not in the book, you see.
“Now I am going to enjoy myself,” she thought, “and never be dull any more.”
There was not much chance of her being dull, for the book was full of adventures and narrow escapes, and other delightful things.
First she was captured by pirates; and after having a terrible time with them she was saved from them by a shipwreck. The shipwreck did not do her much good, however, for she at once fell into the hands of the most dreadful savages. So you will understand that she was not at all likely to be dull.
Christabel was delighted to find that she behaved, like other little girls in books, with the greatest courage and cleverness. Whenever an adventure was going on she always managed to get out of every difficulty, and she saved the lives of several of the other people in the book by her bravery. The strange thing was that she found it quite easy to be brave; while she was a little girl in real life she had not found it easy at all.
“So I really am a little girl in a book, after all!” she said to herself.”
“I do hope the book has a happy ending,” she thought sometimes.
She wished very much that she could peep into the end of the book, as she used to do when she was a little girl in real life. Meantime every chapter was more exciting than the last. Of course Christabel did not know whether she would escape from the savages at all. Perhaps they were going to eat her. That would not be a happy ending to the book, she felt.
After a great many terrible dangers, she managed to escape; for a ship sailed into the bay at the right moment, and took her home to England. This was the end of the book. The person who was reading it shut it up with a bang—and Christabel went to sleep.
By-and-by, some one else took up the book and began to read it. Then Christabel woke up and found herself at the beginning of the story. After so many adventures she was rather tired, and did not feel inclined to begin them all over again. But that was just what she had to do. Being captured by pirates is not nearly so exciting when you know you can only escape from them by a cold, wet shipwreck; and when you are shipwrecked you are not very anxious to scramble ashore when you know there are a large number of fierce savages waiting for you!
“This is rather tiresome,” thought Christabel.
She was very glad when the person who was reading the book shut it up again, and she was allowed to go quietly to sleep.
But her sleep was not long. Every time any one began to read the book poor Christabel was obliged to wake up and go through all her troubles again. She soon became horribly tired of being shipwrecked.
“Have I got to spend the rest of my life with pirates and savages?” she asked herself in despair.
It was especially annoying that they were always the same pirates and savages, who said always exactly the same things. Christabel soon knew the whole book by heart. She wished sometimes she could be one of the pirates for a change, instead of being always a little girl.
“I suppose I shall never even be grown up,” she thought sadly.
The most unpleasant thing of all was that she was never able to say what she wished to say: she was always obliged to say what was in the book. Sometimes she opened her mouth to say what was in her mind, and then found herself speaking words that had nothing to do with her thoughts.
“It is simply hateful not to be able to say and do what one likes,” she thought.
She made up her mind to try and be drowned at the very next shipwreck. Of course it was useless for her to try, for the book said she was saved by a big wave which flung her up on a rock. It was uncomfortable for her to be saved in this way, but she could not avoid it. The shipwreck happened in the usual way, in spite of her efforts to be drowned; and then, as usual, she met the savages on the Island, and soon afterwards came the end of the book.
Now, it happened this time that the person who was reading the book did not shut it up at all, but handed it at once to someone else who wished to read it. This was really too much for Christabel’s temper. She had had no sleep, and she was determined not to begin all over again without a rest. It suddenly struck her that this was her only chance—now, before the beginning of the first chapter.
She lost no time. She knew she ought to be standing up—the book said she was standing up. Finding to her great joy that she was able to move of her own accord, she calmly sat down and folded her arms. The other people in the book looked at her in surprise.
“It’s no use looking at me like that,” she said; “I’m tired of this. I’m not going on any more saying the same things over and over again. If there’s any pirate who would like to change places with me I don’t mind being a pirate for a bit. But I’m not going on being the little girl.”
Then there was indeed an outcry. All the people in the book began speaking at once. Just at that moment—before the beginning of the first chapter—they were all able to say what they chose.
“Make her stand up!” cried one.
“I never heard such nonsense!” said another.
“Why can’t she behave as we do?” asked a third angrily.
“The idea of wanting a change!”
“She’ll have to behave like other people in the end.”
“So very odd!”
So they went on, while Christabel still sat calmly, with her arms crossed.
“I’m not going to begin all over again,” she repeated firmly.
“But that poor boy is waiting to begin the book,” said some one; “and we can’t go on while you are behaving in this silly way.”
“I can’t help that,” said Christabel; “I’m tired of saying things I don’t a bit mean.”
Before she knew what was going to happen Christabel found herself in the middle of a terrible turmoil. All the people in the book seemed to be rushing at her.
Far away she heard a voice saying—
“There’s something very queer about this book. It seems all in a muddle, somehow!”
Then there was silence, and Christabel realized that the people in the book had turned her out! She was no longer a little girl in a book, but a little girl in real life. She looked round and saw her Big Sister, still writing.
“I don’t want to be in a book any more,” said Christabel. “Real life is nicer. In real life one can at least say what one thinks one’s self, instead of always saying what other people think.”
“Don’t be too sure of that,” said her Big Sister.
This story was taken from:
Fairies I Have Met is a collection of fairy tales, originally penned by Mrs Rodolph Stawell, accompanied by Edmund Dulac’s splendid colour illustrations. Written for a little girl named Penelope, ‘so that she may love the fairies, and keep the sunbeam always in her heart.’ In a like manner, it is a text which is sure to delight all its readers – both young and old alike
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