In America, where so much cotton grows, they have a special fairy belonging to the cotton plant, and those who pick the cotton tell this story. .
Many, many years ago, there lived a tiny fairy on the edge of a great swamp in America, and she spent all her time spinning thread from which she made fairy frocks. The thread she spun was finer than gossamer, and it made the loveliest, most delicate fabrics, so that all the fairies wanted it for their party frocks when the Fairy Queen gave a grand ball. Her wheel whirled as fast as a fly's wing when it gets tangled in a flower, and what do you think she used for a spindle? Why, the sting of a bumblebee.
That bumblebee was her uncle, and he really was such a grumbling, grouching, cross old fellow that not another living creature would have anything to do with him. But, when he came to die, he felt sorry for all his bad temper, so he called his niece, the fairy, and said to her, "Take my old sting, and use it for any good purpose you can think of".
Well in that swamp where she lived there was another creature, even more unpleasant than the bumblebee; and that was a great big spider. He was a really enormous spider, as big as a bird, and his huge body was coloured bright red and yellow. Now this spider was a spinner too, and used to spin fine silk webs, but beside the fairy's delicate tissue, his looked like rope, and this made the spider so jealous of the poor fairy that he decided to destroy her.
Poor little fairy, she was sitting spinning her lovely thread one day when she looked up, and there was the great enormous spider just letting himself down from a tree to gobble her up.
She caught up her spindle and wheel and ran away as fast as ever she could with the spider running after her. Just then, she caught sight of a mouse peeping out of his hole.
"Oh, Mr. Mouse, Mr. Mouse,' cried the fairy, "please let me in! Old Man Spider is after me". But the mouse was far too frightened of the spider himself. He bolted into his house and shut the door in her face.
On and on ran the fairy, and next she saw the toad. "Oh, Mr. Toad, please let me in; here's Old Man Spider after me". But the toad only stuck his tongue out at her and would not let her in.
The poor fairy thought she must fall in a minute, as she was so tired, but just then she saw a firefly coming along with his little lantern. "Oh, Mr. Firefly, please,' pleaded the fairy. "Do help me! Here is Old Man Spider after me".
"Just come along with me,' said the firefly. "Follow my little lantern and I'll soon find a safe place for you".
So the fairy followed the firefly's lantern, and soon it led her to a large bush with a beautiful pink flower on it.
"Jump into that flower,' said the firefly.
The fairy was so tired she could scarcely jump, but she made one great effort and grasping her spindle and her wheel she jumped right into the heart of the flower.
She was only just in time, for along came the bad old spider, and seeing where she was, he caught hold of the lowest petal of the flower to pull himself up after her. Quick as thought, the fairy seized her uncle's sting and jabbed the spider's claw. Old Man Spider lost his hold on the flower stalk and down he fell to the ground.
The next moment the lovely flower closed her petals tightly over the fairy.
When the spider picked himself up and found he couldn't get in. he was furious. He determined that at any rate the fairy shouldn't get out again, so he spun a strong web all around and about the flower. Then he went off home, meaning to come back next day, when he did not feel so sore.
But when the morning came, there was no sign anywhere of the fairy, and though he waited and waited for her to try to get out of the flower so he could eat her up, she just didn't appear. The spider sat watching the flower until one day the petals began to fall and he knew in his mind that as soon as the last petal fell to the ground, he would at last be able to gobble up the little fairy.
The last petal fell, but the little fairy was nowhere to be seen!
You'll never believe what happened next! The rotten old grumpy got so angry he started snapping at everything, and without realizing it, he bit his own leg and immediately fell down dead.
So what did become of the little fairy? Had she died, trapped in the flower? No, she didn't die, oh dear me no! She had crept into the flower's little seed box, all tucked away nice and snug. And of course, when all the petals fell to the ground, the seed box stayed behind. Then after a few days it flew open, sending all the tiny seeds far and wide so they could make new flowers. However when this seed box opened, out poured all the lovely gossamer thread which the fairy proceeded to spin whilst she was living inside the box. The spun yarn hung there like a snowy white tassel, and when the fairy flew away she left it hanging there as a present to the kind flower that had protected her from Old Man Spider.
By and by, some humans came walking by, and when they saw the fairy's lovely spinning they took it home and wove it into cloth for themselves and their families. The story goes that the little fairy fell in love with the red flowers and she decided to stay there and make it her home. And ever since then she sits and spins inside the cotton plants, and all the people love her and rejoice the day she fled from the great hairy spider.