She was usually a busy little fairy, but one year she grew lazy. "I am
going to take a rest," she said; "I don't see why I should work so
hard. I shall sleep all the winter and play all the summer, and the
apple-tree can take care of itself."
She curled herself up in her snug little bed, down amongst the roots of
the apple-tree, and there she slept through the winter, creeping out
only now and again to peep and shiver at the cold, wet world outside.
No work was done in the workroom, where in other winters she had been
so busy, and so, when the spring came, and all the other apple-trees
were wreathed in sweet pink flowers, hers alone stood bare and brown.
The bees came round the tree, buzzing their surprise and
disappointment. "Wake up, Apple Fairy!" they called. "The spring has
come, and your tree is bare. Where are our honey-cups and
pollen-bags?" The moths and early butterflies came fluttering round
the bees, for they too were anxious about the honey-cups. But the
Apple Fairy gave them no satisfaction. "Go away," she called from her
bed; "I don't care about your old honey-cups; I am going to rest." So
they had to fly away to other trees.
The birds came next. "Why, Apple Fairy, where are your flowers?" they
chirped. "At this rate there will be no apples, and that will be a sad
loss to us, for yours were the sweetest in the garden."
"Go away," called the Apple Fairy. "I don't care about your old
apples; I am going to rest."
"How very strange!" said the birds to one another. "This is not like
our little Apple Fairy of other springs." They flew away to the
flowered trees to sing.
The sun shone brightly, the air was clear and warm, and the apple
fairies came up from their workrooms for their spring dance on the
young clover-leaves. "But where is our little sister?" they asked.
They ran to her tree, only to find it bare and empty.
"Where are you, little sister?" they called.
She came up and stood on a branch to look at them.
"What is the matter?" they asked. "Why has your tree no flowers, while
ours are pink? Where are your petals? Perhaps you have not yet had
time to unroll them all. Shall we help you?"
"No, thank you," she said; "I am having a rest; there will be no apples
this year on my tree, for I have slept all the winter and am going to
play all the summer."
The fairies looked shocked. "You mustn't do that!" they cried. "Why,
if we all did that there would be no apples at all!"
"I don't care about the old apples," she said sulkily, and down she
She came up a few minutes later to peep at the happy fairies dancing on
the clover, while the birds sang their gayest songs, and the crickets
played their little banjos; but she did not join them, for she felt
that they did not approve of her laziness. "Ah, well, my leaves will
soon be out, for I put the buds on last summer," she said to herself.
"When they come I shall make a swing, and swing all through the long
Soon the leaves opened out. She made the swing, hung it on a branch,
and sat in it in the pleasant shade, while the other fairies polished
up the growing apples and formed the buds for the next year's leaves.
She was not really happy, but she tried to think she was. She was
rather lonely, and, somehow, it was dull when there was nothing to do.
But she did not go down to her work; she swung herself to and fro, to
and fro, till the autumn came, and the apples on the other trees were
One day a merry, childish voice floated through the garden: "Oh,
grandpa! it's my birthday, so I have come for an apple off your best
Then at last the Apple Fairy hung her head, and was sorry, for her
punishment had come. Every year, on her birthday, pretty little Elsie
had been given the best apple in the garden, and every year until now
the Apple Fairy had been proud to know that it had been picked from her
tree. Now, alas! she had no apples. Elsie would be disappointed; and
she was very fond of Elsie.
Elsie was indeed disappointed. She listened to her grandfather as he
told her how his best apple-tree had failed this year, and how he
thought he must cut it down if it did not do better next year. Then
Elsie came and stood under the tree and looked up anxiously into the
branches. "I am so sorry!" she said aloud. "I wonder if it will have
apples on next year? I do hope it will."
"It shall! Indeed it shall!" cried the Apple Fairy. She sprang to the
end of a branch so that Elsie could see her. "I have been lazy," she
said. "I have slept all the winter and have played all the summer, but
now I shall work. You shall have apples next year. Good-bye, little
Elsie! Here is my swing."
She took down her swing, put it into Elsie's hands, and went down to
her workroom. Elsie was so astonished at the sight of a real fairy and
a real fairy swing that she could find nothing to say; but, when she
came again the next year, the apples on her favourite tree were again
the finest in the garden, and the Apple Fairy was again busy and happy.