|Baudelaire by David X|
THE GIFTS OF THE FAIRIES
by Charles Baudelaire
It was that great assembly of the fairies, to proceed
with the repartition of gifts among the new-born who
had arrived at life within the last twenty-four hours.
All these antique and capricious sisters of destiny, all
these bizarre mothers of sadness and of joy, were most
diversified : some had a somber, crabbed air ; others were
wanton, mischievous; some, young, who had always been
young; others old, who had always been old.
All the fathers who believed in fairies had come, each
bearing his new-bom in his arms.
Gifts, Faculties, Good Fortunes, Invincible Circum-
stances, were gathered at the side of the tribunal, as
prizes on the platform for distribution. What was pe-
culiar here was that the gifts were not the reward of an
effort, but, quite the contrary, a grace accorded him
who had not yet lived, a grace with power to determine
his destiny and become as well the source of his misfor-
tune as of his good.
The poor fairies were kept very busy; for the crowd
of solicitors was great, and the intermediate world, placed
between man and God, is subject, like man, to the ter-
rible law of Time and his endless offspring, Days, Hours,
In truth, they were as bewildered as ministers on an
audience day, or as guards at the Mont-de-Piete when
a national holiday authorizes gratuitous liberations. I
really think that from time to time they looked at the
hands of the clock with as much impatience as human
judges, who, sitting since morn, cannot'help dreaming of
dinner, of the family, and of their cherished slippers.
If, in supernatural justice, there is a little of haste and
of luck, we should not be surprised sometimes to find
the same in human justice. We ourselves, in that case,
would be unjust judges.
So some shams were enacted that day which might
be thought bizarre, if prudence, rather than caprice,
were the distinctive, eternal characteristic of the fairies.
For instance, the power of magnetically attracting for-
tune was awarded the sole heir of a very wealthy fam-
ily, who, endowed with no feeling of charity, no more
than with lust for the most visible goods of life, must
later on find himself prodigiously embarrassed by his
Thus, love of the beautiful and poetic power were
given to the son of a gloomy knave, a quarry-man by
trade, who could in no way develop the faculties or sat-
isfy the needs of his deplorable offspring.
All the fairies rose, thinking their task was through;
for there remained no gift, no bounty, to hurl at all that
human fry, when one fine fellow, a poor little trades-
man, I think, rose, and grasping by her robe of multi-
colored vapors the Fairy nearest at hand, cried:
"Oh, Madam! You are forgetting us! There is still
my little one! I don't want to have come for nothing!"
The fairy could have been embarrassed, for there no
longer was a thing. However, she recalled in time a
law, well known, though rarely applied, in the super-
natural world, inhabited by those impalpable deities,
friends, of man and often constrained to mold them-
selves to his passions, such as Fairies, Gnomes, Sala-
manders, Sylphides, Sylphs, Nixies, Watersprites and Un-
dines — I mean the law which grants a Fairy, in a case
similar to this, namely, in case of the exhausting of the
prizes, power to give one more, supplementary and ex-
ceptional, provided always that she has sufficient imagi-
nation to create it at once.
Accordingly the good Fairy responded, with self-pos-
session worthy of her rank: ''I give to your son . . .
I give him . . . the gift of pleasing"
"Pleasing? How? Pleasing? Why?" obstinately asked
the little shopkeeper, who was doubtless one of those
logicians so commonly met, incapable of rising to the
logic of the Absurd.
"Because! Because!" replied the incensed Fairy, turn-
ing her back on him; and, rejoining the train of her
companions, she said to them: "What do you think of
this little vainglorious Frenchman, who wants to know
everything, and who, having secured for his son the best
of gifts, dares still to question and to dispute the indis-