Once upon a time there were two little sky fairies. One lived in the moon palace, and the other lived in the sun palace,—and like all other fairies, they had work to do in the earth-world.
Now the little fairy who lived in the sun palace was called the dawn fairy, because it was she who came to the earth just at the very peep of day and awakened everything; while the other little fairy, who lived in the moon palace, was called the twilight fairy, and he came just at nightfall to put the world to sleep.
So, you see, one was a day fairy and the other was a night fairy, and the queer thing about them was that if the little dawn fairy should stop by the way to play, the day would be too long for the earth-children, and if the little twilight fairy stopped to play, the night would be too long for them; and then, of course, the night and the day would be so mixed up that the earth-world would not know whether to wake or to go to sleep.
The fairy queen had told the little fairies all about this, and she told them, too, if they ever did stop to play, why, they would at once lose their beautiful wings, and go tumbling down to the earth-world where they would have to stay. For how could they ever get back to the sky without wings I should just like to know?
Now the little dawn fairy was very beautiful indeed.
She always dressed in the rainbow colours, with slippers, wings, and crown of shining gold, and as she came dancing toward the earth, a soft, rosy light shone about her head and left a crimson pathway leading from earth to sky, while the tinkle, tinkle, tinkle of many golden bells made music and kept time with her dancing feet.
You know she must have been beautiful, and you do not wonder that the earth-children loved her, as did the flowers that she awakened, and the bees and butterflies and drowsy birdlings sleeping in their nests.
They liked to greet her as she came dancing through the gardens and orchards in the early, early morning, singing and ringing her shower of golden bells:
"Wake, wake, wake!
The morning sun is shining,
Wake, wake, wake!
The birds are sweetly singing.
Wake, wake, wake!
The flowers are gaily blooming,
Wake, wake, wake!
And greet the day."
Then, all in a twinkle, the whole world was astir with work and joyous laughter, which mingled with the melody of the dawn fairy's bells.
Throughout the long day she danced and played with those in the earth-world, until, by and by, they grew weary of work, and then she slipped away to the sun palace again and in her place came the twilight fairy to lull the world to sleep.
His clothes were made of the stuff the fleecy clouds are made from, all spangled over with silver stars. His wings were white, and his slippers and crown of frosted silver, and as he danced down the milky way, across the heavens, he scattered a ribbon of silver stars which trailed behind him and sparkled like diamonds along his pathway.
Very softly, very silently tripped the twilight fairy to the earth-world, his sweet, silver bells making music for his feet.
"Tinkle, Tinkle, Tinkle,
Ring the twilight bells,
Rest little flowers,
Slumber little birds,
The night time is here.
Tinkle, Tinkle, Tinkle,
Hear the bells, silver bells."
Fainter and fainter grew the sound to the drowsy world as the twilight fairy danced over the hills,—kissing the soft cheeks of the flowers good-night, crooning lullabies to sleepy birds in their nests, and hastening the children from the streets, seeing them tucked into soft, white beds, whispering gently, good-night, good-night.
And now comes the sad part of my story, for the two little sky fairies forgot what the fairy queen had told them, and stopped to dance by the wayside. It happened in the night time just before the morning, when the fairy twilight had started home again, and met face to face the beautiful fairy of the dawn, trailing her rosy light behind her and singing to the music of her golden bells.
He had never been quite so close to her before, though they had passed every day on their way from the earth to the sky. Perhaps the little twilight fairy had always looked the other way,—I do not know,—but now he thought she was the most beautiful fairy he had ever seen.
And then, before either one of them knew it, they had stopped in the pathway and were dancing and laughing with each other, while silver bells and golden bells rang joyously together.
But soon, very soon, their laughter ceased, for the little sky fairies felt themselves falling, falling,—down, down to the earth-world,—and when they reached the ground,—why, their wings were gone! just as the fairy queen had told them would happen if they stopped by the wayside to dance or play.
Of course the fairy queen knew at once that the night and day were mixed, and she felt very sorry for the little sky fairies who had disobeyed her.
A whole ribbon of little sunbeam fairies were sent to ring the bells of dawn and awaken the earth, and it is said the earth-people have ever since had one night that is longer than any other in the year.
Then, too, she sent a whole band of little moonbeam fairies to ring the twilight bells, because one little fairy might forget again.
And what do you suppose happened to the little sky fairies who had disobeyed?
The fairy queen touched the little twilight fairy with her magical wand and changed him into an evening-glory plant, and you may have seen his silvery white bells which blossom only in the twilight.
The beautiful dawn fairy she changed into a morning-glory plant,—her bells are of many colours, to match those of the rainbow hues, and she blossoms only in the morning time.
They both climb high, it is said, because they long so to reach the sky again, but though they never can, they still ring their beautiful bells to tell you of the twilight and the dawn.