Once on a time there lived two children in the same village, one called Sylvain and the other Jocosa. Their parents were not friends because of a quarrel that had taken place so long ago that they had quite forgotten what it was all about, but still they were not friends.
Sylvain and Jocosa on the other hand were never happy when apart. Day after day they fed their flocks of sheep together, and spent the long sunshiny hours in playing or resting upon some shady bank.
One day the fairy of the meadows passed by and noticed them, and liked what se saw so much that she took them under her protection. As time went by, the older they grew the dearer they became to her. At first she showed her interest by leaving in their favourite haunts many little gifts. The fairy took a great delight in how they enjoyed the cakes and sweetmeats she gave them nearly every day.
When they were grown up she made herself known to them at last, when they were sheltering from the noonday sun in the deep shade of a flowery hedgerow. They were startled at first by the woman dressed in green and crowned with a garland of flowers. But when she told them it was she who had given them all the pretty things which it had so surprised them to find, they thanked her gratefully and took pleasure in answering the questions she put to them.
When she bade them farewell, she told them never to tell anyone else that they had seen her. "You will often see me again," added she, "and I shall often be with you even when you do not see me." So saying she vanished, and left them in a state of wonder and excitement.
After this she came often and taught them numbers of things and showed them many of the marvels of her beautiful kingdom, and at last one day she said to them, "I have always been kind to you; now I hope you will do something for me also. You both remember the fountain I call my favourite? If you will go to it every day at early dawn and clear away any stone that hinders its course and every dead leaf or twig that sullies its clear waters, I shall take it as a proof of your gratitude. Do not forget nor delay this duty, and I promise that so long as the sun's earliest rays find my favourite spring the clearest and sweetest in all my meadows, you two shall not be parted from one another."
Sylvain and Jocosa willingly undertook this service, and indeed felt that it was but a very small thing in return for all that the fairy had given and promised to them. So for a long time the fountain was tended with great care, and was the clearest and prettiest in all the country round. But one morning in the spring, long before the sun rose, they were hastening towards it from opposite directions, when, tempted by the beauty of the myriads of happy flowers which grew thickly on all sides, they paused each to gather some for the other.
"I will make Sylvain a garland," said Jocosa, and "How pretty Jocosa will look in this crown!" thought Sylvain.
Here and there they strayed, led ever farther and farther, for the brightest flowers seemed always just beyond them, until at last they were startled by the first bright rays of the rising sun. With one accord they turned and ran towards the fountain, reaching it at the same moment, though from opposite sides. But its usually tranquil waters were seething and bubbling. As they looked, a mighty stream rushed out of it and whirled along as a wide and swiftly-rushing river, carrying the two with it a long way till they found themselves stranded on each side of the river.
It was an error to follow the river downward, trying to get together further down its course, for the stream only grew wider and wilder, at last it was so wide that it was only with difficulty they could distinguish each other. Night and day they struggled on along the river, enduring many hardship, trying to get across it, but in vain.
At last they stood on some cliffs where the river flowed into the sea. They seemed farther apart than ever, but Sylvain could now brave the calm waters of the sea. After an hour's swim he stood side by side with Jocosa on the sand. They were happy to be together again, and clasped each other by the hand contentedly. Now the fairy appeared to them and said she forgave them the little neglect that started the flood of happenings. She sent for a carriage and soon they were back to the well-known pastures.
Sylvain and Jocosa were very happy to see their homestead once more after the wanderings. The fairy led the to a charming little cottage close to the fountain, which now flowed gently as before, down into a little brook which enclosed the garden and orchard and pasture which belonged to the cottage. Sylvain and Jocosa explored and admired all that and much else till they were tired. Then they sat down to rest under the rose-covered porch gave their faithful promise to each other.
The wedding took place at once with great festivities and rejoicings, and their families made peace with one another. Sylvain and Jocosa lived to a good old age, always loving one another with all their hearts. Since they kept their wedding promise and were true to each other, they lived in peace and prosperity too.
[By the Comte de Caylus.]
❋ The happy influence of the lovely meadow is so often overlooked.