Elva loved to sit under the apple tree and gaze up at the pretty pinky-white petals. It made her think of beautiful things which she never thought of anywhere else.
"I don't see how anybody could help loving you, you pretty thing," she cried one afternoon, throwing her arms around the tree.
"We are very glad you like us, little Elva, because most little girls never seem to look at us," she heard somebody say. She looked up to see where the voice was coming from, and was very much surprised to see a nature spirit peeking out from each pinky-white blossom.
"Why -- why -- you're fairies," cried Elva. "I never knew you lived up there."
"We live wherever it is beautiful," replied the nature spirit who had spoken before.
"That must be nice," sighed Elva.. "I wish I were a fairy."
"Now, isn't that queer?" replied the nature spirit. "I was just wishing that I were a little girl."
"Oh, would -- would you like to change places with me?" cried Elva eagerly.
"We'll have to ask the fairy princess," replied the nature spirit. "Why, here she is now!" she exclaimed, as a fairy in shining garments glided down the path.
"Fairy princess," said Elva timidly, "I wish I were a fairy, and there's a fairy up there that wishes she were a little girl, so will you please change us?"
"Are you quite sure that you would like to be a fairy?" asked the fairy princess, looking searchingly at Elva.
"Oh, I would just love it," cried the little girl, with a look of delight on her face.
The fairy princess seemed quite satisfied, and in a few minutes Elva found herself up among the pinky-white blossoms -- a truly-truly fairy, and all around her were other little fairies, or nature spirits.
After Elva had been in the apple tree for some time, she felt sleepy, and nestling in the pinky-white blossoms she was just wandering off into dreamland when the fairy next to her whispered, "You mustn't go to sleep. This is the time when we do our work."
In a few moments, when the stars had all come out and the moon was shedding its silvery beams upon the earth, all the nature spirits popped out of the blossoms and ran hither and thither with such speed that it fairly took Elva's breath away to watch them. She noticed that wherever they went some fresh note of beauty was added to the place.
"What shall I do, fairy princess?" she asked. "Everybody seems to be doing something but me."
"You could slip into the old lady's cottage down the road and tidy up the place for her," said the fairy princess with a smile.
"But, princess," protested Elva, "I want to do something beautiful. Cleaning up a cottage -- why, anybody can do that."
"Now, Elva," said the fairy princess gravely, "if you are going to be a fairy, you must be prepared to do anything so long as it is helping someone. Don't you do things like that to help one another in the world you came from?"
"Not exactly like that," said Elva slowly. "Now, Saturday I took old Mrs. Brown, who has rheumatism, a bunch of lilacs. I could have washed the dishes for her, but I didn't because I-"
"Oh, I understand," said the fairy princess. "You thought you had done your duty when you had taken the flowers."
"Yes," replied Elva, "that's exactly how I felt."
"Well, I am quite certain that Mrs. Brown would have felt far more grateful toward you if you had tidied up her place for her," said the princess.
"Remember, Elva, little deeds like that are far more beautiful than doing things which require no sacrifice."
"I never thought about it in that light before," said Elva thoughtfully. "And I 'm so glad, princess, that you've shown me how I can help people in the right way."
"It's getting quite late, Elva," said the fairy princess. "Quick! We must hide."
Then she blew softly on a silver horn, and immediately all the nature spirits scrambled back into the pinky-white blossoms. They looked so funny that Elva just stood and laughed till the tears ran down her cheeks.
"Quick, quick!" said the fairy princess to Elva, "or you'll be caught." But the warning came too late, for coming toward her was all old, old woman leaning on a stick.
"Who are you?" asked Elva fearfully.
"Sure, ye know me right well," said the old woman in a quavering voice. "It's old Mrs. Brown down the street -- the one ye bring flowers to now and then. I've often wished that ye'd redd up my place a bit for me."
"I never knew, Mrs. Brown, indeed, I didn't," said Elva, earnestly. "Not until the fairy princess told me; and I'm coming the very first thing in the morning to help you -- just see if I don't."
"Ye've a kind heart, that ye have," muttered old Mrs. Brown as she limped away on her stick.
Just then Elva felt something soft on her face, and she woke up to find herself lying at the foot of the apple tree, covered with the pinky-white blossoms.
"Why, I must have been dreaming," said Elva, looking up at the tree. But the blossoms only laughed and nodded their pretty heads.