Not long ago it had been a happy house. Minnarose had lived there with her blonde and brunette mommies and her beloved Amalah, Sura-chei, and the cook, Miss Meltrine, and the housemaid, Tilly. All of them had wonderful times together and laughed a lot, except for ’Nettie who was often away on business, but she was more fun than anyone when she was there.
But then a lot of things happened. ’Nettie went on a “very long journey” which Minnarose knew meant she was no longer in this life. Then Miss Meltrine went away, and Auntie Phelyan came. Auntie Phelyan was a rather sober and unhappy looking brunette, and although she had come to help ’Londie, she didn’t seem to make her any happier. Then Tilly went away.
And then it got colder and darker until it was nearly Nativity. And ’Londie said that Minnarose’s dear Amalah could stay for Nativity, but then she would have to go away too. And Minnarose asked if she could have a Wish Doll. Now just in case you haven’t heard about Wish Dolls, they are very traditional and special dolls made by people down south in the Dachertha Mountains. They are beautifully painted and they are said to grant a maid her dearest wish. They always work, it is said, so if your dearest wish cannot be granted, you just won’t be able to get a Wish Doll.
Well, that was the way it looked for poor Minnarose. Her ’Londie said, “I am sorry, honey, I don’t think the Star Fairy is coming this year—or if she is, she will bring only very little presents. There won’t be a Wish Doll.”
“But Mamala,” asked Minnarose, “how can you know what the Star Fairy will do?”
“Well, honey,” she said, “I am just guessing, of course. But don’t get your hopes up this year.”
It all made Minnarose feel so sad that later that day she decided to find her Amalah even though she was supposed to having her afternoon rest. She crept up the stairs from the nursery and she passed by the dining room where Auntie Phelyan was talking to Mommy in her usual gloomy voice.
“No, you didn’t do wrong, Silla-cheri. The child has to find out some time that there are no Star Fairies in this world.”
Minnarose felt a strange tingling chill run through her whole body, and not a nice one. What could Auntie Phelyan mean? Surely no one ever said there was more than one Star Fairy, unless she meant all the little air-spirit fairies that help her. Perhaps she was misunderstanding the whole thing.
She hurried on to Amalah-chei’s room and knocked quietly on her door.
“Come in, Pumpkin,” said Amalah-chei.
Minnarose came in.
“How did you know it was me?” she asked.
“It was your knock,” she said.
“Do I have a special knock, like my own special face?” she asked, fascinated.
“Of course you do. It is called the Pumpkin Knock. But what are you doing here? You are supposed to be resting.”
“Well, there is one Star Fairy, and of course her little helpers. But you know that, Pumpkin.”
“Auntie Phelyan told Mommy there aren’t. Was she right or wrong?”
Amalah-chei thought about that for a minute and her brow creased with a thinkle. Thinkle was what Minnarose called Amalah-chei’s thinky-wrinkle.
“Now, Pumpkin,” she said, after a moment that seemed like a year, “that all depends how you look at it. What she properly meant, I expect, was that the Star Fairy doesn’t really bring the presents you can touch. Not most of the time, anyway.”
“What does she bring then?”
“She brings the thing that makes the presents magical. Now you like a present at any time of year, don’t you, Pumpkin?”
“Yes, I sure do!”
“But is any other present the same as a Nativity present?”
Minnarose made a little thinkle of her own and then said, “No, it isn’t.”
“Because Nativity presents make you tingle all over—in a lovely way! They are magic!”
“That’s right, Pumpkin. And that magic is what the Star Fairy brings. Sometimes she brings presents you can touch, but not always. Maybe this year she will find that hard. But she always brings the magic. You’ll see.”
“But Amalah-chei, I need a Wish Doll. I have a special reason.”
“Well, we’ll have to see. But Wish Dolls are magic too, you know. They only come when the time is right. It may not be right just yet.”
“No, not just yet. But when Nativity comes?”
“Maybe then, maybe not. But don’t get your hopes up this year.”
“That is just what Mommy said.”
“Come along. I’ll take you to the nursery and sing you our special song. How about that?”
Well, it wasn’t long after Minnarose had had her special song and shut her eyes and tried and tried to sleep that she noticed that the world had grown darker, but also somehow whiter. And when she looked at the window, she saw it had started to snow.
So she went to the big french doors that in summer were nearly always open so you could just walk out of the nursery any time onto the sunny grass, and she saw the world just starting to grow white, and the lovely flakes floating down out of the yellow sky.
And in the branches of the Big Leafy Tree, that now had no leaves at all, she saw a fairy playing with the snowflakes. At least, it seemed like a fairy. Like one of the air-sprites in her book. The sort that help the great Star Fairy herself. But it was hard to be sure because the snow was swirling and the light was not good and the branches were tangly and the fairy—being an air-sprite, if it was an air-sprite—was not solid like you or me, but sort of see-through.
And so Minnarose turned the key very quietly in the big french door and crept into the swirling snow to take a closer look.
Was it a fairy? Or was it a trick of the light? It was so very hard to tell. It seemed to Minnarose that its shape kept changing—but air-sprites do change, don’t they? At one moment she was absolutely certain she saw a fairy, but the next it was just the swirling snow and the frosted branches and the funny yellow light.
She came closer and closer. Soon she would be so near to the place where the fairy was (or wasn’t) that she would be able to tell for certain. But just as she seemed to be getting near enough, the fairy jumped from the tree to the ground and started running away.
Well, that settled it. It was definitely a fairy. Or was it? Was it a little whirlwind of snow after all? It stopped running (or whirling) and stood by the gate—almost, she thought, beckoning her to follow. Then it ran out of the gate, around the house and into the little square—called Cavalry Square, though there are no cavalry in it—where Minnarose’s house stood. In the middle of the square was a little green surrounded by a spiky iron railing, and the fairy jumped from one point of the railing to another in a wild dance.
As you may guess, Minnarose was now in full pursuit. She could not let her fairy just disappear. And just as before it was very perplexing—at times she could be sure it was a fairy, and at other times she could be just as sure it was just a swirl of wind in the ever-falling snow.
Out of the square danced the fairy and down a street, and then out into a big, bright open street called Princess Parade where all the big stores are. It was noisy and busy, and high above the crowds was a glittering silver figure of the Star Fairy herself, with her long silver chariot and six horses. As the dusk came on, it would be lit up.
Whenever she was taken to Princess Parade, Minnarose stopped and stared in wonder at the great Star Fairy, but today she did not take her eyes off the little fairy as she chased it down the street. Nobody else saw the fairy for sure, though they saw the little girl running intently by herself.
After a while, the fairy turned down a funny side-road. One that looked somehow as if it belonged to another time, years and years ago. At the end of this little road was an old-looking shop, of a sort you see sometimes in books but never see in real life.
The fairy—and it really looked like a maiden creature now, and not a flurry of snow or a trick of the light; and rather bigger than before too—opened the shop door just like a regular customer and went in.