Once upon a time a little girl, named Jessie, was wandering in the wood, and lost her way. It was Summer time, and the air was warm. She wandered on and on, trying to find her way home, but she could not find the path out of the wood. Twilight came, and weary and footsore she sat down under a fir tree, and began to cry.
“Why are you crying, little girl?” said a voice behind her.
Jessie looked around, and saw a pretty little man dressed in moss and green leaves. His eyes were dark as dark, and his hair was black as black, and his mouth was large and showed a hundred white teeth as small as seed pearls. He was smiling merrily, and his cream-yellow cheeks were dimpled, and his eyes soft and kindly. Indeed, he seemed so friendly that Jessie quite forgot to be afraid.
“Why are you crying, little girl?” he asked again. “Your tear-drops are falling like dew on the blue flowers at your feet!”
“I’ve lost my way,” sobbed Jessie, “and the night is coming on.”
“Do not cry, little girl,” said he gently. “I will lead you through the wood. I know every path—the rabbit’s path, the hare’s path, the fox’s path, the goat’s path, the path of the deer, and the path of men.”
“Oh, thank you! Thank you!” exclaimed Jessie, as she looked the tiny man up and down, and wondered to see his strange clothes.
“Where do you dwell, little girl?” asked he.
So Jessie told him, and he said: “You have been walking every way but the right way. Follow me, and you’ll reach home before the stars come out to peep at us through the trees.”
Then he turned around, and began to trip lightly in front of her, and she followed on. He went so fast that she feared she might lose sight of him, but he turned around again and again and smiled and beckoned. And when he saw that she was still far behind, he danced and twirled about until she came up. Then he scampered on as before.
At length Jessie reached the edge of the wood, and, oh, joy! there was her father’s house beside the blue lake. Then the little man, smiling, bade her good-bye.
“Have I not led you well?” said he. “Do not forget me. I am the Gillie Dhu from Fairyland. I love little girls and boys. If you are ever lost in the wood again, I will come and help you! Good-bye, little girl! Good-bye!”
And laughing merrily, he trotted away, and was soon lost to sight among the trees.