The fairy Trueheart came to the earth-world one day in search of a good child.
All day she walked the streets of a great city where many children were at play, scattered here and there in merry groups, on the sidewalks, in the parks, and along grassy squares.
The fairy Trueheart liked to watch the children play, and though they did not know a fairy was near, she stood close to them and listened to see if their words and deeds were always kind.
But there was a shadow on her sweet face to-day, for, as I told you, she had come to the earth-world expressly to find a good child, and her search had been in vain.
She had patiently stood among group after group of children, and just as she thought perhaps she had found the good child, why, she would straightway hear ugly, cross words, and this very little child whom she had thought to be good would join with the others and fuss and quarrel because the game did not go just right. Then they would call one another ugly names, and the fairy Trueheart would turn sorrowfully away and hasten on, because she knew the good child was not there. And then she would stop by some other group, where children with fair faces and sunny hair were at play, and the fairy Trueheart would say, "Surely, a good child plays here." But, no! for just at this moment there would be a piercing scream, and she would see a very little boy sobbing and crying because a great big boy had taken his marbles away.
And so once more the fairy Trueheart would hasten on her way, only to find in other groups the same sad sight,—perhaps a baby girl crying, with face tear-stained and soiled, because the sister whom she loved best of all had slapped her, and then ran away and hidden so that the tiny footsteps might not follow.
Trueheart stooped down and kissed the tears away from the sweet blue eyes, and taking the chubby hand in hers, led her away to her home.
Perhaps, after all, she might find the good child there. But no! in the children's homes it was the same. They would fuss because one had a larger slice of cake or another a redder apple, until the fairy Trueheart was sad indeed. Placing her gentle hand on the heads of the children, she looked down into the depths of their clear, bright eyes and asked why it was they acted thus, when it was so much happier a way to do the right.
But the children only bowed their heads and answered softly, "It is because we forgot."
And thus the night had come, and the fairy Trueheart had gone back to fairyland very sorrowful, because she had failed to find the good child.
"What shall I do?" she asked over and over again. "What shall I do to help the earth-children to remember?"
That was a hard thing to answer, because, while the earth-children's eyes are bright and beautiful, they do not always see the right, and though their ears are keen and good, they do not always hear the right.
And even though their hands are soft and fair, they do not always do the right, nor do their feet keep from going astray.
And so the fairy Trueheart thought and thought until far into the night, and at last a plan came to her. "I shall gather a great basketful of tiny thorns," she said, "and at night while the earth-children are fast asleep, I shall place deep down in each child's heart a tiny, tiny little thorn.
"The earth-child will never know the thorn is hidden there until he forgets to do the right, and every time he forgets, why, the little thorn will prick him, and this will cause him to remember."
The plan pleased her so much that the fairy Trueheart took the basket on her arm at once, and went in search of the tiny thorns.
But alas! though she searched and searched, no thorns could she find, because in fairyland then flowers did not have thorns, as many of them do now.
At last she entered the Garden Beautiful, and told her story to the queen of the flowers,—an exquisite white rose.
"Beautiful indeed is thy mission, Fairy Trueheart," said the rose queen, "and for the lack of thorns it shall not fail.
"I myself will be glad to bear the thorns for you, because it is my joy to help, and I should be, oh, so glad! if through me, only one little earth-child should remember to do right.
"Come to me again to-morrow night,—thy thorns shall be ready for thee."
Thus spoke the lovely rose queen, and the fairy Trueheart hastened away with a glad heart.
And so it was that the fair rose queen bore her first thorns. Others, seeing her good work, asked to join, until by and by all the roses and their kindred delighted to bear the tiny, tiny thorns, which the fairy Trueheart buried deep within the heart of every little earth-child to help him to remember.
But the blessing returned again to the rose queen, as a good gift always does. For when roses began to bloom in the earth-world to please the eyes of mortal man, the dogs and cows and other animals of the earth might have eaten or trampled the roses underfoot were it not for these same thorns, which are always there to prick them and drive them away.
And you, little earth-child of to-day, should you ever feel the prick of a tiny thorn within, think of the fairy Trueheart and remember.
The roses are here, and are watching you, though you may not see the fairy.