The Tell-tale Goblin
Military Handbooks: Infantry Drill Regulations United States Army 1911
Once upon a time there was a Little Fairy who loved to wander by the
river, and as the Fairy Queen does not like her subjects to go too near
the water, the Little Fairy had to steal away.
Always when they held a revel this Little Fairy would fly away from the
dance and wander down by the river to watch the ripple of the water as
it flowed over the pebbles and stones.
One night a Goblin, who
lways watched the fairies, happened to be
sitting under a bush and saw the Little Fairy.
"What is she doing here all alone?" he said to himself. "She has run
away from her sisters, and I am quite sure the Queen does not know
where she is. I'll watch her, and if she is up to mischief I'll tell
the Queen. Maybe she will give me a new red coat for telling her."
Now, this little tell-tale Goblin began to watch, and pretty soon he
saw a mist rise from the river; then it looked like foam, all silvery,
in the moonlight.
And then suddenly as he watched, the goblin saw a handsome youth rise
from the river and hold out his arms to the Little Fairy standing on
"Ah-ha!" said the Goblin. "She has a lover, has she? Well I'll tell
the Queen and I guess these midnight meetings will be stopped, and I am
sure now I shall get a new coat for telling."
The River Youth called to the Fairy just then, and the Goblin forgot
the red coat to watch what happened.
"Come, my love," called the White Youth, "take the willow path and you
will be safe from the water."
The Little Fairy flew to the willow tree beside the river and tripped
lightly along a slender bough which dipped its tip into the water.
When she reached the end the White Youth was there to take her in his
arms. He carried her to the middle of the river, where there was a
little island, and the watching Goblin saw them sit upon the soft green
grass in the moonlight, but he could not hear what they said.
"I'll run and tell her Queen and let her catch them," said the Goblin,
and, forgetting that his red coat could be plainly seen in the
moonlight, he jumped up and ran along the river bank toward the dell.
"Oh, oh!" cried the Little Fairy, with alarm, when she saw the Goblin,
"whatever will become of me? There is a Goblin, and I am sure he has
seen me and is going to tell the Queen. Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be
The River Youth, who really was a River God, reached for a horn of
white shell which hung from his shoulder by a coral chain, and blew a
shrill blast, and the Goblin fell upon his face on the ground.
"Rise!" called the River God, "and tell me where you are going?"
"Oh! Your Majesty," said the sly little Goblin, "I was about to go to
the Fairy Queen and tell her one of her fairies was being carried off,
but of course I shall not do so now. I see whom she is with. I
thought it was old Neptune himself and he might change her into a
The River God knew the bad little fellow was telling him a wrong story,
but something must be done, so he pretended to believe the Goblin, and
said: "Well, now you know the Fairy is safe, what can I do for you if
you keep our secret?"
"Give me a silver cap," said the Goblin, quickly.
"Very well. Come here to-morrow night at midnight hour and you shall
have the cap if you have not told the Fairy Queen what you have seen,"
said the River God.
The Goblin promised and off he ran to his home in the rocks, and the
River God took the Fairy back to the willow tree. "Come tomorrow
without your wand, my love," he said; "we must not delay, now that the
Goblin has seen us, for he cannot be trusted after he gets the silver
The next night the Goblin was by the river waiting when the Little
"Where is your wand?" he asked, for he saw at once she did not have it.
Before she could reply there was splash in the middle of the river and
out of the mist and foam the River God lifted his head and called to
the Fairy. At the same time he held up a little silver cap to the
The Little Fairy went to her lover by the same path as before, but she
took from his hand the little silver cap and tossed it to the Goblin
before she flew into her lover's outstretched arms.
"Now tell him where your wand is," said the River God.
"I have left it behind me in the dell," she said, blushing and hanging
"What! are you not going back to the Queen?" asked the Goblin, in
astonishment. "Are you to become a river sprite?"
"You have guessed it," said the River God. "This night we are to be
married at the bottom of the river. Farewell, you little tell-tale
Goblin. I hope your silver cap fits your peaked little head."
The Goblin watched the Fairy and her lover as they slowly sank from
sight, and then he ran off as fast as he could to the dell to tell the
Queen what he had seen. "I'll get a red coat, too," he said. "I did
not promise not to tell to-night."
The tell-tale Goblin was so bent on telling the Queen what he knew that
he quite forgot his new silver cap until he reached the dell where the
fairies were dancing; then throwing away his old cap, he clapped the
silver cap on his head so hard he cried out with pain.
For a second he saw stars, and the cold silver felt very different from
his soft, warm peaked cap which he had tossed aside.
The little fairies, seeing the Goblin hopping about in the moonlight,
called to the Queen: "Oh, look, dear Queen. Drive away the Goblin; he
acts quite mad and may mean mischief."
The Queen, knowing that Goblins, when they were quite sane, were not
friendly to her fairies, held up her wand and cast a ray of light
straight into the Goblin's eye. "Leave our dell," she said, "or
something will happen to you that you will not like."
"Oh, wait, wait and hear what I have to tell!" called the Goblin. "I
know a secret you must hear."
"Oh, don't listen to him, dear Queen!" said all the little fairies.
"It is wrong to tell secrets. Go away, we will not listen."
But the Goblin would not go; he wanted to win a red coat, and he was
sure the Queen would give it to him for the secret he could tell.
"If you will give me a new red coat I will tell you something about one
of your fairies you would like to know," said the Goblin.
"Oh, what a funny head he has!" said a fairy as the Goblin lifted off
the silver cap, because it was so uncomfortable.
All the fairies began to laugh, and on his head he clapped the cap
again to hide his queer peaked head, and again the cap made him see
stars until he jumped with pain.
"Oh, he is quite mad, you may be sure!" said the Queen.
"I am not mad. Listen and I will tell you the secret, and you will
know then I am very clever to have discovered it," said the Goblin.
"But first I must know if you will give me the red coat. I shall not
tell you if you do not."
The tell-tale Goblin did not think for a minute the Queen of the
fairies would refuse to pay to hear a secret, and when the Queen told
him he was a bad, mad fellow and to be off, he was quite surprised.
"You will be sorry," he said as he hopped away, and then he thought he
would tell it, anyway, for what was the use of knowing a secret if you
did not surprise others by showing how much you know.
Back he ran, but the fairies and their Queen put their fingers in their
ears and ran away, so they could not hear. The telltale Goblin,
however, was bound to tell, and he ran until he was near enough to
shout: "She has married a River God and she left her wand in the dell;
they gave me this silver cap not to tell."
When the Queen and the fairies heard this they stopped and the Goblin
thought they wished to hear more, so he went to them and said he would
help them hunt for the wand, if they would come to the dell.
The Queen put her finger on her lips to warn the fairies not to speak,
and back they went to the dell, following the Goblin, who was hopping
and jumping along before them.
"Here it is," he said, stooping to pick up a little gold wand.
"Hold!" cried the Queen; "do not touch it. I will pick it up, and now
that you have told us the secret you shall have your reward."
The Goblin hopped with delight, for he was sure the Queen would touch
him with the wand and he would have a new red coat at once.
"You shall wear the silver cap the rest of your life," she said, and
before the Goblin could jump away the Queen tapped him on the head, and
in place of the tell-tale Goblin there stood a silver thistle, all
prickly and shining among the leaves and bushes.
"Your sister has left us, and we must forget her," said the Queen as
the fairies followed her home. "Let her be forgotten by you all; her
wand shall be saved for a more worthy sister."
The Little Fairy never regretted marrying her River God, for she lived
happy ever after, and sometimes when they come up from the river bottom
to sit in the moonlight she will say to the River God: "What do you
suppose became of the Goblin? Do you think he ever told the Queen?"
"Of course he did," replied the River God. "He ran as fast as he could
to the Queen, but the silver cap was so uncomfortable for him to wear
that I am sure he has discarded it long before this. So he gained
nothing for playing the spy."
"Perhaps his conscience pricked him and he is sorry," said the Little
The Little Fairy was right. The Goblin was sorry when it was too late,
and the silver thistle swayed in the breeze. It tried to tell the
breeze it was sorry for telling tales, but even the breeze did not wish
to listen to a prickly thistle, so there it had to bloom unloved and
alone the rest of its life.