I have already told you about the little pixie prince who had the ennui disease. Now the persimmon tree makes me think of a little brownie who had the meddler disease, and I must not forget to tell you about him.
The meddler disease was considered by the fairies to be quite as bad as the ennui disease, though it was just the opposite kind of trouble.
You see, while the ennui disease made you lie in bed and yawn all the time and wish to do nothing at all, the meddler disease kept you moving all the time, and always going into things that were none of your business.
The bees had already tried to teach this little brownie a lesson by leaving their sharp stings in his fingers for meddling with their honey. And the wasps had tried to teach him a lesson too, about meddling with their wonderfully-made house and tearing it down.
It was said that even the billy-goat had taken a hand in trying to teach this little brownie to stop meddling with other people's affairs, but he would not stop.
By and by the orchard princess went to the queen of the fairies one night, and told her that someone—she knew not who—was meddling with the orchard trees.
It was in the spring when all the trees were so busy trying to grow large luscious fruit. They had spent weeks and weeks nursing baby buds and blossoms into green fruit, and now, before they could ripen the fruit, ready to eat, the orchard princess found the baby pears, peaches, and plums lying all over the grass under the trees—each with the print of somebody's tooth in it.
When the fairy queen heard about the green fruit being pulled she was very sorry indeed.
"The first thing to be done," she said, "is to find out who it is that is troubling the trees. Have you any idea?"
But the orchard fairy shook her head. "I think it must be the little brownie who has the meddler disease," she replied, "but I am not sure."
"Then we will find out," said the fairy queen.
So calling two of her fairies to her, she changed one into a green caterpillar and the other into a blue bird and sent them into the orchard to watch.
They had not watched very long when, sure enough, this very same little brownie with the meddler disease hopped over the orchard fence and began climbing the trees, biting the fruit to see if it was ripe, and then throwing it on the ground.
"And now," said the fairy queen to the orchard princess, when she heard about it,
"we must try and cure this little meddler brownie before he grows any worse, or he will spoil the fruit crop for the earth-children every year, and they will have neither pears, plums, nor apples to eat. Something must be done at once."
And so the queen and her fairies gathered together and talked and talked about the best way to cure the little brownie of his troublesome disease.
Some of them thought it might be a good idea to let the spiders spin a web-bag all around him so he couldn't get out to go to the trees.
And others thought it would be a good thing to tie a block to his foot so he could not climb over the orchard fence.
But the fairy queen is wiser than all the fairies, you know, so she shook her head at these plans and said:
"No, I hardly think that will really cure the little brownie of his disease. We do not wish to tie him so he cannot go to the trees, but we want to manage so that he will not wish to meddle with the trees—that is the best cure," said the fairy queen.
She thought for a few moments longer, and then she smiled and said, "Come, I have a plan now. I had almost forgotten about a queer seed Old Mother Nature gave me the last time she was here—a persimmon seed which has never yet been planted on the earth. "This tree bears a fruit which will surely cure the little brownie if he dares eat it before it is ripe. We will plant it at once."
So, with a band of fairies dancing after her, the fairy queen led the way, and in the midst of the shady orchard trees they planted the queer persimmon seed.
Now as the queen wanted the tree to be growing in the orchard the next morning when the little meddler brownie visited the trees, she blew some of her magic fairy-dust over the spot where the seed had been planted, and a very wonderful thing happened.
Up, up, up, the persimmon tree grew, taller and larger than any other tree in the orchard, with every limb full of fine, green fruit, larger than that on any other tree. And then the fairies tripped away.
The next morning, when the little meddler brownie climbed over the fence, he saw the new tree the very first thing, and with a hop and a skip he ran towards it, singing:
"Mi, mi, me, ne O!
Why haven't I seen that tree before!"
And then he pulled the biggest persimmon he could find, popped it into his mouth and began to chew.
It was a bitter dose, and the little brownie tried his best to spit it out, but the queer thing about it was that he could not spit it out, so there was nothing to do but to keep on chewing until it was all gone.
And then when he had swallowed it, why, his mouth was all shrivelled up on the inside like an egg skin, and when he tried to straighten out the outside of his face, why, it seemed as if it had been frozen into shrivelled-up wrinkles, and try as he would, he couldn't straighten a single wrinkle out.
So there he was with his mouth puckered inside, and the right side of his face all wrinkled outside.
But the meddler disease is a hard disease to cure, and the very next morning the little brownie was back in the orchard as before, and when he saw the new tree again the green persimmons were no longer there, but in their place hung large, golden-yellow persimmons, as large and smooth as could be.
And again the little meddler brownie ran quickly across the grass to it, singing:
"Mi, mi, me, ne O!
Why haven't I seen that fruit before!"
And again he scrambled up the tree and popped a big yellow persimmon into his mouth.
He thought because the persimmon was yellow it surely must be ripe.
But the little brownie was very much mistaken indeed, for the dose was as bitter as the first, and spit it out he could not, so he had to chew and chew, as before, until it was all gone, and then,—why, the left side of his cheek was all shrivelled up too, inside and out, just as the right side had been.
That wasn't any fun I can tell you, and though the little brownie smoothed and smoothed and tried his very best to straighten out his wrinkled face he could not do it, and now he looked more like a shrivelled up potato than anything else.
For the first time in his whole life the little brownie began to feel ashamed that he was such a foolish little meddlesome brownie, and he decided he would stop meddling with things that were not his; then, as he didn't know what else to do, he sat on the grass at the foot of the tree and began to cry.
It was then that the orchard princess felt sorry for the miserable little brownie and came from behind the tree where she had been watching him all along.
"Why are you crying, little brownie?" she asked. "Can I help you?"
"Oh, if you would only straighten out my face!" cried the little brownie:
"Mi, mi, me, ne O!
I never was in such a fix before."
"I wish I could straighten your face for you," replied the orchard princess, "but I cannot. I fear you have the meddler disease, and it has settled in your face from eating green fruit.
"Why do you meddle with things that are not yours?"
"Oh, I do not know," said the little brownie, "but I never shall again. Tell me what will cure me, do please."
" A ripe persimmon is the only thing that can cure you and straighten out your face," said the orchard princess.
"The fruit you have been eating is from a tree sometimes called the meddler's tree. Its fruit is first green, then yellow, and at last a beautiful orange-red.
"It is only then that the fruit is fit to eat; so mellow and sweet are the luscious persimmons then, that just one mouthful will part your lips into smiles.
"But until that time when the persimmons are full ripe will you have to wait for your face to be straightened out,—eat but one then and you shall be cured."
Then, all in a twinkle, the orchard princess was gone.
Well, it was a long weary time for the little brownie to wait,—with his face all shrivelled up too,—because persimmons do not ripen from yellow to orange-red until the frost fairies sprinkle their powder over them, and the frost fairies did not put themselves out to hurry for a little meddlesome brownie, I can tell you.
But while he did wait, the little brownie had plenty of time to learn his lesson well, and that pleased the fairy queen very much.
He visited the orchard every day, to be sure, but only to watch for the ripe orange-red persimmons, and not a time was the little brownie known to meddle with anything else.
But one morning he was made very, very happy indeed, for when he awoke he found that the frost fairies had surprised him in the night and sprinkled their white powder everywhere.
How the little brownie did skip and hop to the tree, singing:
"Mi, mi, me,
ne O! Never was I so happy before!"
And sure enough, the tree hung full of luscious ripe persimmons, of orange-red, and when the little brownie pulled and ate one it was so sweet and delicious, why, the little brownie laughed out loud, and all in a twinkle—
He was cured of the ugly meddler disease!
And how glad he was to have his face straightened out once more!
So now you know why the persimmon tree has her fruit in three colours—green, yellow, and orange-red. It is the way she has of imposing upon meddlers. Were you ever imposed upon or cheated