“There they are, Sir Arthur!”
The smaller girl pointed at the small figures, under the oak tree. “You can see them dancing!”
Indeed he could, there were perhaps thirty of them, none more than five inches high, doing a kind of farandole, in and out, through the grass and the fallen acorns.
“Nanny wouldn’t come to watch them. She won’t believe they’re real.” The older girl whispered.
Sir Arthur understood. He was a medical man, after all, trained in science and logic, raised to reject as superstition the stories he had heard from his grandmother and his great aunts. The Good People, the old ones, the sidhe, the fairies, lived only in story books. They could never really exist.
But there they were, their small forms moving in and out among the fallen leaves.
“I’ve got a camera, and we've got scores of pictures!” the older girl told him. “But they aren't as good as actually seeing them.”
Nothing could be as beautiful as seeing these tiny beings dressed in clothes made from scraps of cloth, and bits of flowers, jumping and turning in the summer night. In a time when aeroplanes roared across the sky and you could send a message from London to New York in a few minutes, who would believe that fairies danced in the moonlight? Who in this age of science would think such things existed?
But once the men of science knew these creatures were real, they would want to know them inside and out.
He remembered his days in medical school and shuddered just a little.
“Photographs! No!” Sir Arthur shook his head vigorously. “Destroy them at once! If people knew about your fairies, they would want to catch them and study them.”
He imagined the small, exquisite creatures confined in cages or preserved in formaldehyde.
“You mean vivisection!” the older girl whispered, wide-eyed.
“All right then, Sir Arthur, no more photographs of fairies,” both girls agreed. “At least not real fairies.” Her eyes shone, and her smile was full of mischief.
When they displayed pictures of cut-out paper fairies, and told the world they were real, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was pleased to play along.