That is a grand trick of good old Mother Carey’s, and a grand answer, which she has had occasion to make several times to impertinent people.
There was once, for instance, a fairy who was so clever that she found out how to make butterflies. I don’t mean sham ones; no: but real live ones, which would fly, and eat, and lay eggs, and do everything that they ought; and she was so proud of her skill that she went flying straight off to the North Pole, to boast to Mother Carey how she could make butterflies.
But Mother Carey laughed.
“Know, silly child,” she said, “that any one can make things, if they will take time and trouble enough: but it is not every one who, like me, can make things make themselves.”
But people do not yet believe that Mother Carey is as clever as all that comes to; and they will not till they, too, go the journey to the Other-end-of-Nowhere.
“And now, my pretty little man,” said Mother Carey, “you are sure you know the way to the Other-end-of-Nowhere?”
Tom thought; and behold, he had forgotten it utterly.
“That is because you took your eyes off me.”
Tom looked at her again, and recollected; and then looked away, and forgot in an instant.
“But what am I to do, ma’am? For I can’t keep looking at you when I am somewhere else.”
“You must do without me, as most people have to do, for nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of their lives; and look at the dog instead; for he knows the way well enough, and will not forget it. Besides, you may meet some very queer-tempered people there, who will not let you pass without this passport of mine, which you must hang round your neck and take care of; and, of course, as the dog will always go behind you, you must go the whole way backward.”
“Backward!” cried Tom. “Then I shall not be able to see my way.”
“On the contrary, if you look forward, you will not see a step before you, and be certain to go wrong; but, if you look behind you, and watch carefully whatever you have passed, and especially keep your eye on the dog, who goes by instinct, and therefore can’t go wrong, then you will know what is coming next, as plainly as if you saw it in a looking-glass.”
Tom was very much astonished: but he obeyed her, for he had learnt always to believe what the fairies told him.
“So it is, my dear child,” said Mother Carey; “and I will tell you a story, which will show you that I am perfectly right, as it is my custom to be.
“Once on a time, there were two brothers. One was called Prometheus, because he always looked before him, and boasted that he was wise beforehand. The other was called Epimetheus, because he