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Contents > Author > Sara Cone Bryant > The Ten Fairies 1873- Unknown
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Sara Cone Bryant
The Ten Fairies
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[Adapted from the facts given in the German of Die Zehn
{Feeen?}, by H. A. Guerber.]


Once upon a time there was a dear little
girl, whose name was Elsa. Elsa's father
and mother worked very hard and became
rich. But they loved Elsa so much that
they did not like to have her do any work;
very foolishly, they let her play all the
time. So when Elsa grew up, she did not
know how to do anything; she could not
make bread, she could not sweep a room,
she could not sew a seam; she could only
laugh and sing. But she was so sweet and
merry that everybody loved her. And by
and by, she married one of the people who
loved her, and had a house of her own to
take care of.

Then, then, my dears, came hard times
for Elsa! There were so many things to
be done in the house, and she did not know
how to do any of them! And because she
had never worked at all it made her very
tired even to try; she was tired before
the morning was over, every day. The
maid would come and say, "How shall I
do this?" or "How shall I do that?"
And Elsa would have to say, "I don't
know." Then the maid would pretend
that she did not know, either; and when
she saw her mistress sitting about doing
nothing, she, too, sat about, idle.

Elsa's husband had a hard time of it;
he did not have good things to eat, and they
were not ready at the right time, and the
house looked all in a clutter. It made him
sad, and that made Elsa sad, for she wanted
to do everything just right.

At last, one day, Elsa's husband went
away quite cross; he said to her, as he
went out the door, "It is no wonder that
the house looks so, when you sit all day
with your hands in your lap!"

Little Elsa cried bitterly when he was
gone, for she did not want to make her
husband unhappy and cross, and she
wanted the house to look nice. "Oh, dear,"
she sobbed, "I wish I could do things
right! I wish I could work! I wish--I
wish I had ten good fairies to work for me!
Then I could keep the house!"

As she said the words, a great gray man
stood before her; he was wrapped in a
strange gray cloak that covered him from
head to foot; and he smiled at Elsa.
"What is the matter, dear?" he said. "Why
do you cry?"

"Oh, I am crying because I do not know
how to keep the house," said Elsa. "I
cannot make bread, I cannot sweep, I
cannot sew a seam; when I was a little
girl I never learned to work, and now I
cannot do anything right. I wish I had
ten good fairies to help me!"

"You shall have them, dear," said the
gray man, and he shook his strange gray
cloak. Pouf! Out hopped ten tiny fairies,
no bigger than that!

"These shall be your servants, Elsa,"
said the gray man; "they are faithful
and clever, and they will do everything
you want them to, just right. But the
neighbors might stare and ask questions if
they saw these little chaps running about
your house, so I will hide them away for
you. Give me your little useless hands."

Wondering, Elsa stretched out her pretty,
little, white hands.

"Now stretch out your little useless
fingers, dear!"

Elsa stretched out her pretty pink fingers.

The gray man touched each one of the
ten little fingers, and as he touched them
he said their names: "Little Thumb; Fore-
finger; Thimble-finger; Ring-finger;
Little Finger; Little Thumb; Forefinger;
Thimble-finger; Ring-finger; Little Finger!"
And as he named the fingers, one
after another, the tiny fairies bowed their
tiny heads; there was a fairy for every
name.

"Hop! hide yourselves away!" said the
gray man.

Hop, hop! The fairies sprang to Elsa's
knee, then to the palms of her hands, and
then-whisk! they were all hidden away
in her little pink fingers, a fairy in every
finger! And the gray man was gone.

Elsa sat and looked with wonder at her
little white hands and the ten useless
fingers. But suddenly the little fingers
began to stir. The tiny fairies who were
hidden away there weren't used to staying
still, and they were getting restless.
They stirred so that Elsa jumped up and
ran to the cooking table, and took hold
of the bread board. No sooner had she
touched the bread board than the little
fairies began to work: they measured the
flour, mixed the bread, kneaded the loaves,
and set them to rise, quicker than you
could wink; and when the bread was done,
it was the nicest you could wish. Then the
little fairy-fingers seized the broom, and in
a twinkling they were making the house
clean. And so it went, all day. Elsa flew
about from one thing to another, and the
ten fairies did it all, just right.

When the maid saw her mistress working,
she began to work, too; and when she
saw how beautifully everything was done,
she was ashamed to do anything badly
herself. In a little while the housework was
going smoothly, and Elsa could laugh and
sing again.

There was no more crossness in that
house. Elsa's husband grew so proud of
her that he went about saying to everybody,
"My grandmother was a fine housekeeper,
and my mother was a fine housekeeper, but
neither of them could hold a candle to my
wife. She has only one maid, but, to see
the work done, you would think she had
as many servants as she has fingers on her
hands!"

When Elsa heard that, she used to laugh,
but she never, never told.

 

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