Poppypink sat up in bed and yawned. "Why is everybody getting up so early?" she asked. "Is it a holiday?"
The older fairies were dressing themselves and brushing their long fine hair. "Wonderwings is coming to see us," they said. "Jump up, little Poppypink."
"Who is Wonderwings?" she asked.
"You will see when you are dressed. Hurry, or you will miss her."
"Oh dear! I am so sleepy," said Poppypink, and she yawned again. "I don't care about Wonderwings." She snuggled down into the bedclothes again, and went to sleep.
Presently she was awakened by the sound of the sweetest singing she had ever heard, and a flash of brilliant colour went past her window pane of crystal set in pearl.
"That must be Wonderwings," she said. "Oh, I must see her. I hope I am not too late."
She sprang from bed and dressed so hurriedly that I am afraid her hair did not receive its due amount of brushing. Then she ran out into the garden.
The older fairies stood all in a group, saying loudly "I will go," and "I will go." And before them, scarcely touching the ground with the tip of her foot, stood poised a glorious fairy, taller than any other there. She was altogether beautiful; and her wings—as soon as Poppypink saw them she knew why the visitor had been called Wonderwings. For they reached high above her head and almost to the ground, and they glowed with so many colours that it seemed as if a million jewels had been Hung upon them and had stuck, growing into a million flashing stars that made a million little rainbows with every sway and movement of her body.
"How lovely! Oh, how lovely!" cried Poppypink. She crept nearer to the beautiful fairy and sat among the daisies at her feet. "See," she cried. "My wings are small and colourless. Tell me how I may grow wings like yours." Just as little girls adore beautiful hair, so do little fairies adore beautiful wings.
Wonderwings smiled down at her. "Such wings as mine are only to be won in sadder lands than these," she said. "If you would have them you must leave your fairyland and come where humans live, and where hunger and sorrow and death trample the city streets."
"I will come!" cried Poppypink. "I will come!"
"Come then," said Wonderwings. She took the little fairy's hand, and up they all rose into the clear air, flying far and far away till they left their fairyland behind and came at last to the sadder lands where humans lived. There Wonderwings showed them where hunger and sorrow and death trampled thecity streets, and the band of fairies flew lower and lower to look.
"The children tumble and fight in the dirty lanes, and cry for bread," cried Poppypink. "The little ones, I cannot bear to hear them sob."
"Perhaps you can help them," said Wonderwings.
"I am only a little fairy. What can I do?" asked Poppypink. "I have no bread to give them."
She flew a little lower, to gaze at them more nearly. "What can I do?" she asked again.
No answer came. She looked around, and found herself alone. Wonderwings and the older fairies had in a moment gone from sight.
Below, a crippled child sat among rags in a dark corner of a dreary room, and tears ran down her cheeks. "The sunshine, the pretty yellow sunshine!" she wailed. "If only I could run and play in the pretty sunshine!"
"Here is something I can do," thought Poppypink. She gathered armfuls of the golden sunbeams, and flying with them through the glass as only a fairy can fly, herself unseen, she heaped them over the twisted hands and pale thin face of the child, and left her playing with them and smiling happily.
Lower she flew to help the little ones who cried about the gutters. She led the starving and shelterless to comfort, the toddlers to safety; she brought a flower to the hopeless, ease to sick ones racked with pain; at night she flew with glittering dreams from room to room, so that even sad-eyed feeble babies laughed for pleasure in their sleep. Day after day, night after night she toiled, for weeks and months and years. There was so much to do! The time passed like a moment. So busy was she that she had forgotten all about her wings.
One day there came a flash of colour in the air beside her, and Wonderwings and all the older fairies stood around her. "Dear Poppypink," cried one, "how your wings have grown! And how beautiful they are! They are so tall that they reach above your head and almost to the ground, and they glow with so many colours that it seems as if a million jewels had been flung upon them and had stuck, growing into a million flashing stars that make a million little rainbows with every sway and movement of your body."
Poppypink laughed with joy. "I am so glad, so very glad!" she said. "I had forgotten all about my wings."
"Yet they have grown with use," said Wonderwings; "and for every deed of kindness done a star has sprung, to shine in beauty there for evermore."