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Long, long ago, in a land not far away from here, the silver moon shone brightly over the vast, cold land. The stars twinkled above, and the people slept, wrapped beneath thick, warm blankets. And while the world lay so peacefully, a fairy carrying a heavy bundle of dreams was hurrying home. She had spent many hours collecting her great bundle of lovely dreams. Now at last she had enough for all the people.

Looking up at the moon to check the time, she suddenly realized that she would have to hurry if she were to return home on time. The Fairy Queen had been quite clear: "Be home before dawn, my fairies, else we will have no dreams to disperse to your people."Now the fairy began to run. In her haste she tripped over tree roots and scraped her shins against the sharp wild rose bushes. "Hurry, hurry," she said to herself, and then, suddenly, she ran smack into a spider web.

The web held her fast. Sticky silver threads clung to her wings. She turned to twist free and another thread caught her. She struggled and struggled, turning this way and that. At last she saw it was no use. She was caught. She burst into frustrated, angry tears and her bundle of dreams fell to the ground.

She could do nothing but lie still and wait for the dawn. It came suddenly, dazzling displays of red and gold, and woke the tired fairy.

The daylight woke Mrs. Spider as well. Crawling out of her den, she caught sight of the fairy. "What's this?" she cried. "A new kind of fly! How lovely!"

The fairy was quite insulted. "Mrs. Spider," she said angrily, "I am not a fly at all. I am a little fairy and I flew into your web last night in my haste to return home."

Mrs. Spider frowned. "Just a fairy!" she said crossly, "I suppose you are one of those fairies who help the flies to fly away from me."

"I help anyone in trouble," the fairy said gently.

"And now that you are in trouble," snapped Mrs. Spider, "I am sure the flies won't come to help you."

Now the fairy was quite certain this was true, but she hoped Mrs. Spider would be kind. "Won't you help me?" she asked, as sweetly as she could. She began to weep. "The Fairy Queen likes me. The Fairy Queen trusts me. Who will do my work if I am gone? Tell me that."

Mrs. Spider stood very still and watched the fairy's teardrops fall like dew on the silver threads of her web. The sunbeams lit the drops so that they glistened like the Fairy Queen's diamonds. Mrs. Spider was dazzled and amazed. "Your tears are beautiful," she said under her breath. "And just what sort of work is it that you do?" she asked.

At that the fairy stopped crying, for she remembered all the wonderful errands she had long performed. "Once," she said, "I set free a beautiful mockingbird trapped in a cage."

"Why free a mockingbird?" asked Mrs. Spider.

"Oh, if you had only heard him sing," sighed the fairy. "His voice was like a thousand angels' voices, but in the cage he stopped singing. He longed for his home, for the lovely treetops and the freedom of the bright, blue skies."

The fairy smiled to herself, remembering the mockingbird's song. "Listen," she said. "I will sing you a song that might lighten your heart." And she burst into song:

Oh! listen well, and I will tell,

Of the land where the fairies dwell;

The lily bells ring clear and sweet

And green grass grows beneath your feet

In the land where fairies dwell.

In the land where fairies dwell.

Now Mrs. Spider felt calm and peaceful, for she adored music. She begged the fairy to go on.

There's love, sweet love, for one and all -

For love is best for great and small -

In the land where fairies dwell,

In the land where fairies dwell.

Mrs. Spider was so moved by the music that she could not help herself. "Here," she said, "I will help set you free," and she showed the fairy how to break the slender threads, one by one.

When the little fairy was free at last, she reached down and picked up her bundle of dreams. "Now, dear friend," she said, looking with gratitude at Mrs. Spider, "what can I do for you?"

Mrs. Spider thought and thought. At last she smiled to herself and said, "I only wish you to sing me a song now and then."

"Very well," said the little fairy, and off she flew home.

Now as it happened, when she arrived, the Fairy Queen approached her. "My trusted fairy," she said, "I've been so worried about you that I can't be angry. Besides, I need a glorious dress for the grand ball."

The fairy smiled. "I know where I can find some lace and a wonderful spinner," she told the Queen.

"Go then," said the Queen. "Bring the spinner to me, and tell her she too may attend the ball and sit at my table."

The little fairy flew back at once to see Mrs. Spider. "You are invited to Fairyland to spin for the Queen," she said. "And you will be her guest at the grand ball."

"Will there be music?" asked Mrs. Spider.

"The greatest music you will ever hear," said the fairy.

When Mrs. Spider finished the dress, it was the most beautiful that anyone had seen. Of course, the Fairy Queen rewarded her with a position as the court spinner, and from that day on Mrs. Spider heard the fairies singing every single day as they carried their dreams to the people.

1993 Universal Press Syndicate