One moonlit night a fisherman named Thomas was returning home from the sea. As he was nearing the cliffs on the seashore, he heard a faint sound of a child crying. The sound seemed to be coming from the Maidenhead Rock - a place where bright green feathery ferns and delicate sweet smelling cliff flowers were growing. Thomas knew that the wild gardens of Maidenhead were tended by fairies and that the Maidenhead Rock was a favorite gathering place of the Small Folk - the creatures who lived in the nearby cliffs and caves. People avoided this place for fear of being trapped in it by an evil spell cast by its inhabitants.
The cliffs looked very eerie in the cool silvery light of the full moon, but Thomas was a brave man. He took his boat ashore and searched the nearby rocks. Under one of them, he found a little girl shivering with cold and weeping bitterly. She was wearing a white satin gown adorned with the finest lace and a strange-looking necklace: a tiny silver cylinder with several incisions engraved on it. The girl was very pale and thin, almost transparent. Her skin shimmered like the whitest pearls in the moonlight. Her eyes shined like stars. She did not know where she came from or how she got to the cliffs of Maidenhead. All she knew was that her name was Mabyn and that she got lost. The kind fisherman took pity on the poor child. He wrapped the shivering girl in his thick woolen sweater and brought her home with him.
Thomas and his wife Anne were an elderly couple. They spent their whole life in poverty and never had children of their own even though they had always wished for them. So, when Thomas brought Mabyn home, Anne was overjoyed. She seated the girl near the hearth to warm her up and gave her fish and chips to eat. Mabyn liked sitting by the fire very much and she certainly seemed very hungry, but she wouldn't even touch her fish and chips. The only food she would eat was freshly harvested green beans and berries. For a while, Thomas and Anne were worried that Mabyn would not thrive on beans and berries alone, but, little by little, the girl got used to other food and grew up strong and healthy.
Mabyn was a hardworking girl. She liked helping Anne with cooking, cleaning, spinning, and knitting and she often helped Thomas to mend his fishing nets. Whatever work she did she always did it well. Every spring and summer Mabyn worked in a small garden that she planted near the south wall of the fisherman's hut. She grew flowers, herbs, green beans, and most delicious vegetables. They were said to be the best-tasting vegetables in the whole village. She also had a special way with animals. They loved her because the girl understood their language and always treated them kindly.
When Mabyn was ten years old, Thomas bought her a little lamb at the local fair. By the time she was fourteen, Mabyn had a whole flock of her own sheep. Every morning she took her sheep out to the lush green Brehyfryd valley pastures and brought her flock back home at sunset. Now, with Mabyn's help, Thomas and Anne were able to get their own vegetables and wool and they even sold some of their goods at the market. Their little household prospered and, for the first time in years, they felt happy and content with their lot. Their only wish was that Mabyn would marry a nice fellow and bring them many grandchildren.
* * *
Mabyn grew into a beautiful maiden, pretty as spring blossom, graceful as a swan. She had green eyes glittering like jewels and sun-kissed locks shining like gold. Her gait was light as feather. Her cheeks blushed like delicate rose petals. A lovely smile dwelled in the corners of her coral lips. Bright as a sunrise, her smile was said to bring sunshine to a gloomy day and to lighten the hearts of the burdened. The word of Mabyn's beauty spread far and wide. The local village lads often had fights over who would invite the girl for a village dance. Any stranger wishing to court Mabyn was risking his neck.
Anne, who had never been very pretty herself, was very proud of her daughter's beauty. Her dearest wish was that Mabyn would marry a wealthy gentleman and become a fine lady. An ambitious mother, she discouraged the poor village folk from courting her daughter and was very pleased when Mabyn did the same. What the poor woman didn't realize though was that the girl was not waiting for a wealthy gentleman to come along. She simply had no interest in marriage as such. Sweet and polite with all of her suitors, Mabyn never showed her preference to anyone in particular and refused all offers of marriage she had received. She even refused Mr. Bircher -- a very wealthy owner of the wood mill in the nearby village.
There was something very odd about Mabyn. A fine dancer, she was always welcome at the village dance, but she didn't seem to like it very much. Mabyn could spend an entire evening watching others dance without joining them. She always had a distant and detached look about her when others were merrymaking. She looked as if she had a secret that she could not share with anyone, the secret that made her a stranger among the good-natured simple village folk. Mabyn would never admit it to anyone, even to herself, but the truth was that, even when the best village fiddlers were playing, their music sounded hollow and lifeless to her. The best village dancers looked awkward and clumsy to her. They were amusing to watch, but watching them always made her long for something different, something distant, something that could not be found in the world she lived in. Little by little, it became clear to everyone: Mabyn was not like other girls and courting her was a waste of time.
"We are not good enough for her. She is waiting for a prince," her rejected suitors would say. Soon, they all abandoned her and switched their affections to other girls. All, except Mr. Bircher.
to be continued
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