"Melodio lay snoring in a ginger flower when it first sounded in the garden that morning. That is always the way with unexpected things. They rain down on you when you have your face upturned and are scarce aware of it. The child's laugh was a waste of music. As if someone had tipped over the cup of the sun just to see it run all over everything. Melodio swiftly jumped up onto the shoulder of the child to hear what it was thinking.
"You startled me, playful girl," said Melodio to the big laughing child walking through the garden, who only just now had bothered to notice him, "and where has that nosey beagle of yours got to?"
The child only sent another peal of laughter ringing through the clean transparent air. "Be a good girl now," went on Melodio, "give me my breakfast and I will reward you by telling you something about my days in town."
The child obeyed, pinching the dew from a snapdragon's lips into the tiny mouth of the fairy. Melodio began, "As you know, I was not always a wild sprite. I used to be quite respectable and live in town like everyone else. And for a time I roomed with a marionette family that had fallen on hard times. Martin and Marion, those were their names, worked very hard, responding to every tug of every string just to keep their three children in pointed shoes and fresh paint."
"Every morning Marion would sketch a new smile on Martin's face and they would put on their little red vests and go out to knock their wooden heads upon the world. But every day the strings would grow more slack and the people of the town would allow themselves to be less and less diverted. Pina, their eldest daughter, hated her strings, and begged me to help her cut them off. I resisted. I told her that without her strings she would be as defenceless as a wooden doll in an age of porcelain. Secretly However, I wanted to see them all without their strings, I wanted the strings to search in vain for the eye-holes of their shoulders and their knees, for the tensions to get lost and never become gestures and jokes."
"One day Pina came up close to me, I could feel her sawdust breath on my eyelashes. She said she knew how we could cut her strings and it would be okay. She said I could give her my wings. She said that even though she was made of wood, my wings were strong and would carry her. I told her it was a bad idea. Even then I knew a fairy can never give its wings away. But there I was, tying with cherry stems my beautiful butterfly wings to her back. She asked me to give them a coat of lacquer, to make them look less strange, and I did that too. I guess I was a little in love with her." At this moment, Melodio saw Carlo, the child's rambunctious beagle, bounding over cypress bushes toward them.
"Keep the beast away or I will not finish my story." The child looked sternly at the dog and Carlo stopped, barked, and leapt off in another direction. "And a sip would definitely ease the telling." The child splashed the contents of a brimming rose on the fairy's face, drenching his entire head and collar and shoulders. Melodio sneezed and continued, "The night came for Pina to be free, to try out her wings beneath the stars. The moon watched out of the corner of its eye as she rose. The points of light held the dark blue between them like a cloth in which to catch her. She rose like a sparkling dragonfly, and I could hear her giggling in the eaves. But then something went wrong. I could hear Pina breathing heavily with the effort of trying to stay in the air. I begged her to come down. But she refused to ever touch earth again, and beat her wings even harder. Finally, in exhaustion, she made one last tremendous push up into the sky, and for a moment it was as if she were another star glowing in the firmament, and she flew higher than all the strings in the world. Then, after a breath, down she came, like something falling, confused, a bundle. I heard her wooden body hit the tiles of the roof of one of the houses. For the next few days I could hear her moaning, and sometimes I thought I heard her calling my name. I tried to climb up to her on the tinkling of lunchtime bells and on the tolling of churchbells, but no tintinnabulation was strong enough to lift me where I wanted to be. And so I wept for days and nights. I wept so long that finally the birds came to drink my fairy tears. A lady turtle-dove said to me then, 'Why do you cry so, fairy child?'"
"'I could not save her and I helped to cut her strings. It is my fault,' I replied"
"'What a curious fairy to speak of fault,' said she. 'Pina is more beautiful without her strings. And if it comes to that, she has been saved, after a fashion.'"
"'Please tell me how,' I said."
"'Take my word for it,' she said. 'Her arm caresses the swollen belly of a lady sparrow, her cheek warms the eggs of a barn swallow, her small hands hold up the edge of a finch's nest. Don't worry. We that fly have Pina in safekeeping.'"
"It was when the lady turtle-dove said this that I noticed the first buds on my shoulders sprouting the new leaves of my wings again." Here Melodio stopped talking. The air was still. The garden exuded the warmth of mid-morning.
"Why are you looking at me that way?" Melodio said."