And so the Old Woman came home to put the flowers on her table and the finishing touches to her saucepans before her guests arrived for dinner. Earlier in the day she had swept the broken floorboards and set the small wooden table for the meal she was to share. On the way home she had stepped off the path to pick some flowers. The Old Woman had not wanted to be seen picking flowers like some maiden. Though the village was far away she did not want to hear the ridicule that would come to pass if she were seen as frolicking or otherwise not behaving. The flowers just off the path and into the woods were vibrant with blue and yellow and the Old Woman could not help but smile as she gathered these flowers to adorn her meager table.
The Old Woman turned to walk back to the path and go along on her way home. A sprite flew in front of the Old Woman and blocked her way. The Old Woman blushed to be found in the woods with her hand-picked flowers, even by a sprite. The sprite hovered in front of the woman and smiled back, “Where are you going Old Woman, with my cousins in blue and my neighbors in yellow? Where would you take my friends and family?”
The Old Woman was surprised to hear the sprite talking to her. She was even more surprised to hear the flowers she had picked would be the friends and relatives of a sprite. “The flowers are so lovely. I wanted to bring them to my cottage to grace my table tonight as I have friends and relatives too that are coming to share a meal with me this very day.” The Old Woman began to gather up the flowers in her basket to hand them back to the sprite. Though the Old Woman was not sure how a sprite would re-plant what she had picked, she was nonetheless willing to believe the sprite would want her friends and family returned.
The sprite was quite pleased with the Old Woman’s response. “Please keep the flowers as they are picked for your table, and Grace is their middle name. Yet, know this that if you will take my cousins and my neighbors to enjoy your meal, then you will have no problem accepting myself and my sisters to enjoy your meal as well.”
The Old Woman became nervous. She had few dishes prepared and only a bit of tea to share with the guests she had already invited. The Old Woman was not sure what a sprite should eat, but she was trying to remember if any sugar was in the larder, or if any cream had been put by in the morning. She spoke as clearly as she could to the sprite. “I have so very little to offer you or your sisters. There will be only mortals as old as I for guests and we are set in our ways. I am sure I have not enough food to fill your bellies, nor enough interesting conversations to set to your ears. If you will still come, you are welcome, but I know not what I can feed you. I am sorry I cannot offer more. I am most grateful for the flowers and I thank you. I am sure you will not wish to come.”
The Old Woman hurried back to the path with her basket of flowers. She looked out over the wooded landscape wondering how many sprites had seen her, and how many sisters a sprite can have. The Old Woman saw no sprites, or fairies, or elves. She saw lovely blue flowers vibrant in the shadows of the tall thick trees. She saw broken expanses of yellow flowers almost bright enough to make sun rise from the forest floor. She was glad of all the relatives and neighbors that flourished in the wood. The Old Woman then hurried home. Her guests would be arriving soon.
The Old Woman had found an earthen jar to place the flowers in. They graced her table quiet agreeably. The Old Woman opened her door for the Seamstress and her daughter, the Woodsman and the Sawyer. They enjoyed a small meal together and spoke of weather and of passings. As the dishes emptied and were put by to wash, and the tea was served the Old Woman heard a tap, tap, tapping at the window. She saw the glowing light that a sprite will shine in the dark when it is happy. The Old Woman was aghast that all the food was eaten and she and her guests were already enjoying the end of the meal cup of tea. She had hoped the sprite would understand she had so very little to offer that the sprite would not come.
The Old Woman excused herself from her guests and went to the window and opened it for the sprite. In washed a handful of sprites. They filled the room with their glow and their laughter. The Seamstress and her daughter looked up from their tea and smiled at the sprites then smiled to each other. What a lovely surprise. The Woodsman and the Sawyer stood up as the sprites flittered into the room. They did not know where they should go or if the sprites were nuisance or guest. The Old Woman was surprised and smiled in spite of herself to see her guests were shocked and amused by the change in their evening. The Old Woman assured the Woodsman and the Sawyer to take their seats and enjoy their tea for as long as they wish. Though the Old Woman offered, the sprites would take no thimble full of tea, nor would they take the bit of crust, for this was all the Old Woman had left to offer.
Yet, the sprites fluttered about the room and lit upon the table laughing together and merrily dancing around the tea cup of the Seamstress and her daughter. The Old Woman’s guests heartily enjoyed the entertainment and clapped along as the sprites sang. Eventually, the Woodsman invited the Seamstress’s daughter to dance along. The sprites glad to have a merry spirit join them circled around the room lighting the corners and the ceiling as all the guests, and the Old Woman too, took to the broken floorboards and danced for a tune or two. The sprites shared their laughter and their smiles. They played merry songs and told jokes for everyone. The evening came on and the dinner party stayed late without a single candle being lit. The sprites lit up the room more than any candle could.
At long last the Seamstress and her daughter, happy and full and tired, excused themselves to go home. The Woodsman and the Sawyer excused themselves to walk the ladies home. The Old Woman hugged them all and bade them a good walk and a lovely night. As the door shut behind her guests the Old Woman turned to see her small cottage bright and cheerful. The blue and yellow flowers seemed to smile from her table. Her heart was full. Her house was haven. Her friends were family. The sprites gently flew up to the Old Woman one by one and each quickly kissed her on the cheek then flew back out the window into the night. As the last sprite left and the cottage was dark the Old Woman closed the window and standing before the window stuck the match to light her candle. In the glow of the candle her window made a mirror. The Old Woman saw a young maiden staring back at her, and smiled.