The Tardy Fawn

The Tardy FawnThe nights were growing cooler, and the fairies in the town of Summer began to make preparations for the long winter ahead. They loved to play in the snow and skate on the ice, so they didn't mind the onset of winter. Some of the more artistic fairies even made intricate frost patterns on the windows of the Big People's houses. Such art pieces drew fairies from far and wide. Yes, winter was a happy time in Summer. Yet it did require special preparation. Thus, fairies spent the month of September preserving food and chopping wood—when they weren't too busy enjoying the crisp autumn days.

Asarum and his cousins had noticed that a branch of the Big People's potentilla had died, so they cut it free from the rest of the shrub to turn it into firewood. They took turns at the chore, with one wielding the axe, while another carried the split wood to the wheelbarrow. A third fairy hauled the wheelbarrow to the wood shed, where the fourth fairy stacked it.

It was Dicentra's turn to stack the wood, but she had gotten ahead of Levisticum, who was bringing the wheelbarrow. She flew around the shed for a moment to enjoy the air while she waited for him to return with another load. As she turned the corner, there nestled almost invisibly in the grass, lay a little fawn. Just then, her brother returned. "Levi, come see the fawn!"

"A fawn in the fall? How strange!" He took a look at the defenseless little creature. "What should we do?"

"Let's ask Nymphaea and Asarum." So away they went. Nymphaea was splitting the wood while Asarum hauled it to the wheelbarrow. Dicentra called out, "There's a fawn by the shed!"

Asarum dropped his bundle of wood and grew pale. "A faun? What should we do?"

"Let's go see," said Nymphaea.

"No!" cautioned Asarum. "Fauns can be very temperamental. And some are none too fond of fairies."

"Don't be silly, Asarum," replied Dicentra. "We've already seen him and he's quite harmless."

Reluctantly, Asarum accompanied his cousins back to the shed. When he saw the little creature he cried out with relief. "Oh, it's a fawn, not a faun!" They looked at him uncomprehendingly. "Fauns," he explained, "are woodland creatures that are very strong and full of magic. Though many are gentle, some of them can be rather cruel and it's always best to be cautious. But no need for caution with this sort of fawn."

They laughed, then grew serious again. "Can you speak to it in its language?" None of the town fairies could speak to deer.

So Asarum flew close to the fawn. "Are you okay?"

The baby deer had, up until now, still been trying to pretend it was invisible. "Oh, yes, my mother will be back this evening, and I'll be fine." The fairies exchanged worried glances. How could a fawn born in September survive the winter cold and snow? They put their heads together.

That night, when the doe returned, the fairies were waiting. "Excuse me, ma'am," Asarum began. "Could we speak with you privately a moment?" The doe seemed wary, but stepped a few paces away, where the fawn wouldn't hear them. "We've been concerned about your baby, because he seems so young as winter comes on."

The doe nodded her head, "Yes, I don't know what to do."

"I am only a visitor here. In a few weeks, I will be returning to my home and my cousins will have a spare cottage. We have plenty of wood, and we thought that on cold nights you and your fawn might like to stay in that cottage. My cousins will start a fire and bring you some food."

She agreed readily, and promised to leave the cottage clean for him if he should ever wish to return. It gladdened Asarum's heart to think that his departure would help the little deer family and that his cottage would not be empty.

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