It has long been the custom of the Brownies to have a great feast on the first of the merry month of May, to celebrate the return of the spring.
One springtime long ago, they got ready as usual. The King of the Brownies had invited all the leaders; the place f
"Come to the feasting! ting-a-ling-ling-ling."
A hundred glow worms were told to hurry up with their lights and be ready for that night, and busy Brownies gathered good things from woods and waters, for the feast.
May Day came bright and beautiful. The busy ones had all the "eats" in the Mandrake Hall, the glowworms were sleeping soundly to fill their storage batteries ready for the night. It made the salamanders' mouths water to see so many good things; but they were not asked, so stayed away. There were dewdrops in acorn cups, and honey on the wax. There were clam shells piled up with red checkerberries, and caddis worms on the half shell, with spicebush nubbins. A huge white Mecha-meck was the chief dish, with bog nuts on the side. There were lovely long crinkle salads. And last, there were gumdrops from the sweet birch, while at each place was a pussy willow to dust the food over with golden pollen that gave it a pleasant peppery tang. All the guests were there, and the feast was nearly over, when a terrible thing took place!
Of all the dreaded happenings in the world of beauty there is nothing else so feared as the forest fire. There is not much danger of it in springtime, but it is possible at any season, after a long dry spell. Words cannot tell of the horror it spreads, as it comes raging through the woods destroying all beautiful living things.
And right in the middle of the feast, the dreadful news was carried by a flying Night-bird.
"Fire, Fire, Fire, Fire!" he screamed, and almost at once the smoke came drifting through the banquet hall, so they knew it was true.
There was mad haste to escape, and only two ways were open. One was to get across some big stream, and the other was to hide in a cave underground. The birds took the first way, and the Brownies the second. Every Woodchuck den was just packed with Brownies within a few minutes. But the busy Brownie who was chief steward and had charge of the feast, had no idea of leaving all the good things to burn up, if he could help it. First he sent six of his helpers to make a deep pit for the big Mecha-meck, and while they did that he began hiding all the dishes in the ground. Last he dug some deep holes and quickly buried all the crinkle salads; then he ran for his life into a cave.
The raging fire came along. It is too horrible to tell about, for it was sent by the Evil One. The lovely woods were left black without a living thing. But the very next day, Mother Carey and Mother Earth and El Sol, set about saving the wreck, and in a marvellously short time actually had made it green again. The mayflowers came up a second time that year, the violets came back, and in each place where the Brownies had hid a salad there came up a curious plant that never had been seen before. It had three saw-edged leaves and a long wand, much like the one carried by the Chief Steward. I never was able to find out his name for sure, but I think it was Trileaf or Three-leaves. Anyway, if you dig under his sign and sceptre wand, you will surely find the salad, and very good indeed it is to eat; it was not hurt in the least by the fire.
But from that day, the Brownies have been very shy of feasting during dry weather in the woods. They generally have their banquets now in some meadow, and afterward you can tell the place of the feast by the circle of little toadstools called fairy rings. For you know that wherever a Brownie sits, a toadstool must spring up for him to sit on.