Sweet-One-Darling And The Dream-Fairies by Eugene Field

Story type: Literature

A wonderful thing happened one night; those who never heard of it before will hardly believe it. Sweet-One-Darling was lying in her little cradle with her eyes wide open, and she was trying to make up her mind whether she should go to sleep or keep awake. This is often a hard matter for little people to determine. Sweet-One-Darling was ready for sleep and dreams; she had on her nightgown and her nightcap, and her mother had kissed her good-night. But the day had been so very pleasant, with its sunshine and its play and its many other diversions, that Sweet-One-Darling was quite unwilling to give it up. It was high time for the little girl to be asleep; the robins had ceased their evening song in the maple; a tree-toad croaked monotonously outside, and a cricket was chirping certain confidences to the strange shadows that crept furtively everywhere in the yard and garden. Some folk believe that the cricket is in league with the Dream-Fairies; they say that what sounds to us like a faint chirping merely is actually the call of the cricket to the Dream-Fairies to let those pretty little creatures know that it is time for them to come with their dreams. I more than half believe this myself, for I have noticed that it is while the cricket is chirping that the Dream-Fairies come with their wonderful sights that seem oftentimes very real.

Sweet-One-Darling heard the voice of the cricket, and may be she knew what it meant. There are a great many things which Sweet-One-Darling knows all about but of which she says nothing to other people; although she is only a year old, she is undoubtedly the most knowing little person in all the world, and the fact that she is the most beautiful and the most amiable of human beings is the reason why she is called by that name of Sweet-One-Darling. May be–and it is quite likely that–with all the other wonderful things she knew, Sweet-One-Darling understood about the arrangement that existed between the cricket and the Dream-Fairies. At any rate, just as soon as she heard that cricket give its signal note she smiled a smile of gratification and looked very wise, indeed–as much as to say: “The cricket and I know a thing worth knowing.”

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Then, all of a sudden, there was a faint sound as of the rustle of gossamer, silken wings, and the very next moment two of the cunningest fairies you ever saw were standing upon the window-sill, just over the honeysuckle. They had come from Somewhere, and it was evident that they were searching for somebody, for they peered cautiously and eagerly into the room. One was dressed in a bright yellow suit of butterfly silk and the other wore a suit of dark-gray mothzine, which (as perhaps you know) is a dainty fabric made of the fine strands which gray moths spin. Each of these fairies was of the height of a small cambric needle and both together would not have weighed much more than the one-sixteenth part of four dewdrops. You will understand from this that these fairies were as tiny creatures as could well be imagined.

“Sweet-One-Darling! oh, Sweet-One-Darling!” they cried softly. “Where are you?”

Sweet-One-Darling pretended that she did not hear, and she cuddled down close in her cradle and laughed heartily, all to herself. The mischievous little thing knew well enough whom they were calling, and I am sure she knew what they wanted. But she meant to fool them and hide from them awhile–that is why she did not answer. But nobody can hide from the Dream-Fairies, and least of all could Sweet-One-Darling hide from them, for presently her laughter betrayed her and the two Dream-Fairies perched on her cradle–one at each side–and looked smilingly down upon her.

“Hullo!” said Sweet-One-Darling, for she saw that her hiding-place was discovered. This was the first time I had ever heard her speak, and I did not know till then that even wee little babies talk with fairies, particularly Dream-Fairies.

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“Hullo, Sweet-One-Darling!” said Gleam-o’-the-Murk, for that was the name of the Dream-Fairy in the dark-gray mothzine.

“And hullo from me, too!” cried Frisk-and-Glitter, the other visitor–the one in the butterfly-silk suit.

“You have come earlier than usual,” suggested Sweet-One-Darling.

“No, indeed,” answered Frisk-and-Glitter; “this is the accustomed hour, but the day has been so happy that it has passed quickly. For that reason you should be glad to see me, for I bring dreams of the day–the beautiful golden day, with its benediction of sunlight, its grace of warmth, and its wealth of mirth and play.”

“And I,” said Gleam-o’-the-Murk, “I bring dreams, too. But my dreams are of the night, and they are full of the gentle, soothing music of the winds, of the pines, and of the crickets! and they are full of fair visions in which you shall see the things of Fairyland and of Dreamland and of all the mysterious countries that compose the vast world of Somewhere away out beyond the silvery mist of Night.”

“Dear me!” cried Sweet-One-Darling. “I should never be able to make a choice between you two, for both of you are equally acceptable. I am sure I should love to have the pleasant play of the daytime brought back to me, and I am quite as sure that I want to see all the pretty sights that are unfolded by the dreams which Gleam-o’-the-Murk brings.”

Sweet-One-Darling was so distressed that her cunning little underlip drooped and quivered perceptibly. She feared that her indecision would forfeit her the friendship of both the Dream-Fairies.

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“You have no need to feel troubled,” said Frisk-and-Glitter, “for you are not expected to make any choice between us. We have our own way of determining the question, as you shall presently understand.”

Then the Dream-Fairies explained that whenever they came of an evening to bring their dreams to a little child they seated themselves on the child’s eyelids and tried to rock them down. Gleam-o’-the-Murk would sit and rock upon one eyelid and Frisk-and-Glitter would sit and rock on the other. If Gleam-o’-the-Murk’s eyelid closed first the child would dream the dreams Gleam-o’-the-Murk brought it; if Frisk-and-Glitter’s eyelid closed first, why, then, of course, the child dreamt the dreams Frisk-and-Glitter brought. It would be hard to conceive of an arrangement more amicable.

“But suppose,” suggested Sweet-One-Darling, “suppose both eyelids close at the same instant? Which one of you fairies has his own way, then?

“Ah, in that event,” said they, “neither of us wins, and, since neither wins, the sleeper does not dream at all, but awakes next morning from a sound, dreamless, refreshing sleep.”

Sweet-One-Darling was not sure that she fancied this alternative, but of course she could not help herself. So she let the two little Dream-Fairies flutter across her shoulders and clamber up her cheeks to their proper places upon her eyelids. Gracious! but how heavy they seemed when they once stood on her eyelids! As I told you before their actual combined weight hardly exceeded the sixteenth part of four dewdrops, yet when they are perched on a little child’s eyelids (tired eyelids at that) it really seems sometimes as if they weighed a ton! It was just all she could do to keep her eyelids open, yet Sweet-One-Darling was determined to be strictly neutral. She loved both the Dream-Fairies equally well, and she would not for all the world have shown either one any partiality.

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Well, there the two Dream-Fairies sat on Sweet-One-Darling’s eyelids, each one trying to rock his particular eyelid down; and each one sung his little lullaby in the pipingest voice imaginable. I am not positive, but as nearly as I can remember Frisk-and-Glitter’s song ran in this wise:

Dream, dream, dream
Of meadow, wood, and stream;
Of bird and bee,
Of flower and tree,
All under the noonday gleam;
Of the song and play
Of mirthful day–
Dream, dream, dream!

This was very soothing, as you would suppose. While Frisk-and-Glitter sung it Sweet-One-Darling’s eyelid drooped and drooped and drooped until, goodness me! it seemed actually closed. But at the critical moment, the other Dream-Fairy, Gleam-o’-the-Murk, would pipe up his song somewhat in this fashion:

Dream, dream, dream
Of glamour, glint, and gleam;
Of the hushaby things
The night wind sings
To the moon and the stars abeam;
Of whimsical sights
In the land o’ sprites
Dream, dream, dream!

Under the spell of this pretty lullaby, the other eyelid would speedily overtake the first and so for a goodly time there was actually no such thing even as guessing which of those two eyelids would close sooner than the other. It was the most exciting contest (for an amicable one) I ever saw. As for Sweet-One-Darling, she seemed to be lost presently in the magic of the Dream-Fairies, and although she has never said a word about it to me I am quite sure that, while her dear eyelids drooped and drooped and drooped to the rocking and the singing of the Dream-Fairies, it was her lot to enjoy a confusion of all those precious things promised by her two fairy visitors. Yes, I am sure that from under her drooping eyelids she beheld the scenes of the mirthful day intermingled with peeps of fairyland, and that she heard (or seemed to hear) the music of dreamland harmonizing with the more familiar sounds of this world of ours. And when at last she was fast asleep I could not say for certain which of her eyelids had closed first, so simultaneous was the downfall of her long dark lashes upon her flushed cheeks. I meant to have asked the Dream-Fairies about it, but before I could do so they whisked out of the window and away with their dreams to a very sleepy little boy who was waiting for them somewhere in the neighborhood. So you see I am unable to tell you which of the Dream-Fairies won; maybe neither did; may be Sweet-One-Darling’s sleep that night was dreamless. I have questioned her about it and she will not answer me.

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This is all of the wonderful tale I had to tell. May be it will not seem so wonderful to you, for perhaps you, too, have felt the Dream-Fairies rocking your eyelids down with gentle lullaby music; perhaps you, too, know all the precious dreams they bring. In that case you will bear witness that my tale, even though it be not wonderful, is strictly true.

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