All this water was yesterday flowing busily, or falling drop by drop, or floating invisibly in the air; now it is all caught and spell-bound — by whom? By the enchantments of the frost-giant who holds it fast in his grip and will not let it go.
But wait awhile, the deliverer is coming. In a few weeks or days, or it may be in a few hours, the brave sun will shine down; the dull-grey, leaden sky will melt before his, as the hedge gave way before the prince in the fairy tale, and when the sunbeam gently kisses the frozen water it will be set free. Then the brook will flow rippling on again; the frost-drops will be shaken down from the trees, the icicles fall from the roof, the moisture trickle down the window-pane, and in the bright, warm sunshine all will be alive again.
Is not this a fairy tale of nature? and such as these it is which science tells.
Again, who has not heard of Catskin, who came out of a hollow tree, bringing a walnut containing three beautiful dresses — the first glowing as the sun, the second pale and beautiful as the moon, the third spangled like the star-lit sky, and each so fine and delicate that all three could be packed into a walnut shell; and each one of these tiny structures is not the mere dress but the home of a living animal. It is a tiny, tiny shell-palace made of the most delicate lacework, each pattern being more beautiful than the last; and what is more, the minute creature that lives in it has built it out of the foam of the sea, though he himself is nothing more than a drop of jelly.
Lastly, anyone who has read the ‘Wonderful Travellers’ must recollect the man whose sight was so keen that he could hit the eye of a fly sitting on a tree two miles away. But tell me, can you see gas before it is lighted, even when it is coming out of the gas-jet close to your eyes? Yet, if you learn to use that wonderful instrument the spectroscope, it will enable you to tell one kind of gas from another, even when they are both ninety-one millions of miles away on the face of the sun; nay more, it will read for you the nature of the different gases in the far distant stars, billions of miles away, and actually tell you whether you could find there any of the same metals which we have on the earth.
We might find hundreds of such fairy tales in the domain of science, but these three will serve as examples, and we much pass on to make the acquaintance of the science-fairies themselves, and see if they are as real as our old friends.
Tell me, why do you love fairy-land? what is its charm? Is it not that things happen so suddenly, so mysteriously, and without man having anything to do with it? In fairy-land, flowers blow, houses spring up like Aladdin’s palace in a single night, and people are carried hundreds of miles in an instant by the touch of a fairy wand.
And then this land is not some distant country to which we can never hope to travel. It is here in the midst of us, only our eyes must be opened or we cannot see it. Ariel and Puck did not live in some unknown region. On the contrary, Ariel’s song is