The Heart of a Neutral

As may happen to the humblest of us, and not merely to princesses, the fairies came to my christening.

Those whom my parents invited were the different nations. And each brought me the gift of understanding her greatness and beauty, and enriching my life with such knowledge. England and Italy came with their poetry and humor and practical wisdom, the ripeness of modern times and the heritage of oldest civilizations; France came with her humane laughing lucidity; and Germany with her music and philosophy and the children’s tales roosting in her Christmas tree. Even Russia and Poland, whose soil I was never to tread, came as the foster-mothers (unreconciled sisters!) of my father’s boyhood. And all of them said, ‘This child shall have the joy of loving us.’

Now my parents had forgotten to invite one fairy, who came to my christening to do me an ill turn.

‘These gifts,’ she said, ‘I cannot indeed take away, for even a fairy and an angry one has no power to remove fairy gifts. But I will add mine, which may spoil them all. For with the knowledge of the good of each nation, this child shall know in sadness the weakness and folly also of them all. And every nation shall say to her, “You are an alien, and though you love me, shall have no power over my heart. ” ’

And as the unkind fairy willed, so it was to be.

But, even as in the story, one kind and helpful fairy had foreseen what would happen; and hiding behind the arras, kept the bestowal of her gift until that unkind one should have done her worst.

She too has come forward, not at my christening, but at least before the other and last sacrament.

And behold! I find her gift in my old and unworthy hands. For she had said: —

‘When all the nations shall welter in the pollution of warfare, this child’s eyes shall remain clear from its fratricide fumes; she shall drink deep of sorrow, but recognize and put away from her lips the sweetened and consecrated cup of hatred.’