The Ten Fairies by Sara Cone Bryant
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
"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
"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.