Old-Fashioned Fairy Book, The


ONCE upon a time there lived a king and queen who loved each other so dearly that they were an example to all the married couples in their kingdom. In an adjoining country lived a wicked king, who spent his life in envying the happiness of his neighbors. He was a sworn enemy to all good and charitable people, and his chosen companions were robbers and murderers. His air was stern and forbidding. He was lean and withered, dressed always in black, and his hair hung in long elf-locks over his fiery eyes. This wicked wretch, determined to end the happiness of his neighbor, raised an immense army and marched to attack the kingdom of the Land of Sweet Content, for so the good king's country was called.

The king of Sweet Content made a brave defence, but it was all in vain. The immense numbers of the[90] adversary overpowered him and his troops. One day when his poor queen was sitting with her infant daughter in her arms, waiting for news from the battle-field, a messenger on horseback galloped up to the door, and entered the room where she was, with every sign of terror.

"Oh! madam," he cried, "all is lost. The king is slain, the army defeated, and the ferocious King Grimgouger is even now marching to take you prisoner."

The queen fell senseless on the floor; and while her attendants were making every effort to provide a means of flight for her and the little princess, the army of the foe, with banners flying and with music playing, marched into the city. Surrounding the palace, they called on the queen to surrender. No answer was given, and the horrid King Grimgouger instantly ordered a file of his most blood-thirsty soldiers to march through the palace and to kill everybody they met, except the queen and princess.

Now nothing was heard but shrieks and lamentations from the doomed attendants of the queen. When all were sacrificed, the tyrant Grimgouger walked into the apartment where the terrified queen stood, clasping her child in her arms, and prepared for death.[91]

"You won't die now, madam," he thundered, seizing her by the long hair, and dragging her after him down the stairs and over the stones of the courtyard to his chariot. She was all bruised and bleeding, and knew nothing more till she found herself in a tower-room, where dampness dripped from the walls, and the light of day could scarcely reach through a small grated window. She lay upon a little heap of mouldy straw, and her child cried for food beside her, while over her stood a wicked fairy to whom King Grimgouger had given the prisoners in charge. The fairy threw her a few crusts without any butter on them, and the baby seized one eagerly, and stopped crying as she sucked it.

The Queen & the Princess in prison.

"That is all either of you shall have to-day," said the fairy. "To-morrow they will decide what to do with you. Probably you, queen, will be hanged, and your daughter be saved to marry the son of our good King Grimgouger."

"What! That ugly little reptile of a prince!" screamed the queen. "Hang me, if you will, but don't give my beautiful angel to a husband like that!"

"Then she, too, will be hanged," said the fairy, grinning maliciously, and flying away with a fizz of[92] flame, leaving behind her the smell of sulphur matches.

Next day the fairy gave the queen three boiled peas, and a small bit of black bread, and the next, and the next, until the poor queen wasted to skin and bone, and the baby looked like a wax doll that had been left out in the rain all night.

"In a few days it will be over," thought the poor queen. "We shall be starved to death."

She fell to spinning with what strength remained to her (for the fairy made her work, to pay her board, she said), and just then she saw, entering at a small hole, a pretty little mouse as white as snow.

"Ah! pretty creature," cried the queen, "you have come to a poor place for food. I have only three peas, which are to last me and my child all day. Begone, if you, too, would not starve."

The little mouse ran about, here and there, skipping so like a little monkey that the baby smiled, and gave it the pea she had for her supper.[93]

The instant she had fed the mouse, what was the queen's surprise to see, start out of the prison floor, a neat little table, covered with a white cloth, having on it silver dishes, containing a roast partridge, a lovely cake, some raspberry jam, and for the baby a big bowl of fresh bread and milk, with a silver spoon! How they did eat! I leave you to imagine it!

Next day the mouse came again, and devoured the queen's three peas, her whole day's supply. The queen sighed, for she did not know where anything else was to come from. She stroked the little mouse, and said gently, "Pretty creature, you are welcome." Immediately the same little table sprang up out of the floor. This time there was broiled chicken and ice-cream, green peas, marsh-mallows and custard, with a fresh bowl of bread and milk for the baby. "Oh! you dear little mouse," said the queen. "This must be your work! If you could only help me to get my baby out of this dreadful place, I would thank you forever."

The mouse ran up to her with some straws in its mouth. This gave the queen an idea, and taking them she began to weave a basket, for she was a clever queen, and knew how to use her pretty white hands in a variety of useful ways. The mouse understood her,[94] and brought her more straws, until she had made a nice covered basket large enough to hold the baby. Then the queen cut her petticoat into strips, and plaited them, till she had a long and strong cord. She tied the basket to this, and wrapping the beautiful little smiling princess in the only covering she had, laid her in the basket, crying all the time as if her heart would break. Then she climbed up to the window, and (the little white mouse watching her with a very friendly air) looked down to see if she could attract the attention of any charitable person who might be passing in the street below.

There she saw an old woman leaning upon a stick and looking up at her.

"Pray, goody," said the queen, "have pity on an innocent babe, and save it from destruction. Feed and nurse her, and heaven will reward you, if I cannot."

"I don't want money," said the old woman; "but I am very nice in my eating, and I have a positive longing for a nice, little, fat, white mouse. If you can find such an one in your prison, kill it and throw it out to me. Then, right willingly, will I take your pretty babe and nurse it carefully."

When the queen heard this, she exclaimed to herself,[95] "Oh! the dreadful old thing!" and began to cry. "There is only one mouse here, madam," she said aloud, "and that is so pretty and engaging that I can't find it in my heart to kill it, even to save my child."

"Hoity-toity!" said the angry old creature, thumping her stick on the ground below. "If you think more of a miserable little mouse than of your child, keep them both, and be hanged to you!"

So saying, her staff changed to a broom-stick, and with a fizz and a bang the old hag shot up into the sky like a rocket. And there was again a strong smell of sulphur matches in the air!

The queen, seeing that this was, without doubt, the wicked fairy come to try her, gave way to new grief. She kissed her hapless little one, and just then the mouse jumped into the basket. The baby's rough clothes changed to finest linen and lace, and a pillow of down was under her head, while a gay silver rattle was put into her hand.

More surprises! As the queen watched, the mouse's paws changed to tiny hands with jewelled rings upon them. The little face grew into the image of a smiling old woman's, and a figure of a pretty old-time fairy stood before her. As these fairies have been rather[96] out of fashion lately, I will tell you just how she was dressed. She wore a chintz gown, looped up over a blue silk quilted petticoat. A lace ruff was around her throat, and her long-pointed bodice was laced with silver. Over her mob-cap she had a high sugar-loaf hat tied on with pink ribbons, and her feet were clad in the prettiest black silk stockings and high-heeled black satin slippers, with big diamond buckles. When you remember that she was just of a size with the baby princess, you will agree that you would have liked to see her.

"What is the baby's name?" said the fairy.

"Oh—Juliet; I thought I had mentioned it," said the queen, apologetically.

"I have never heard anything but 'pecious wecious,' and 'mother's blessing,' and things like that," said the fairy. "You may stop crying now, for I will save Juliet. If you had given me to the wicked fairy, she would have gobbled me up in a minute, so you see I owe my life to you. Henceforth I will take Juliet under my protection. She shall live to be an hundred years old, and never have an illness or a wrinkle."

Fancy it, children! No mumps, no measles, no[97] whooping-cough, no castor-oil! What rapture in the thought!

The queen kissed the fairy's little hand, and begged that Juliet should at once be taken away. So the weeping princess was put into the basket, and carefully let down to the bottom of the tower. Then the fairy resumed the shape of a mouse and ran after her down the string, which the queen still held in her hands. Suddenly she came running back again. "Alas! alas!" she cried to the terrified queen, "our enemy, the fairy Cancaline, was hidden below, and seized upon the child, and flew away with it. Unfortunately she is older and more powerful than I am, and I don't know how to rescue Juliet from her hands."

At these words the queen uttered a loud cry, and in came running the jailer of the tower, his men, some soldiers, and after them, gnashing his teeth with rage, the horrid Grimgouger himself.

"Where is the child?" he said, stamping.

"Alas, I know not, king," said the mother. "A fairy has taken it off."[98]

"Then you shall be hanged at once," he cried in a fury. "Seize her, guards."

They dragged the poor queen by the hair of her head to the gallows. Just as the executioner was about to tie the rope around her neck, the gallows fell down beneath him and knocked out all his front teeth, while invisible hands carried the queen through the air to a safe retreat in the mountains. She found herself in a beautiful castle, where all her attendants were white mice. Here the queen lived for eighteen years, surrounded by luxury and tender care. But she always thought of her little daughter, and dreamed of her by day and night. The mouse fairy made every attempt to find news of the lost princess, but failed to do so.

At this period the son of the wicked King Grimgouger had grown up, and everybody was talking about his strange fancy for a poultry-woman's maid-servant, who had refused to marry him in spite of his rank and fine clothes. The story went that the prince sent her, every day, a new gown of silk or velvet, and that the girl would not look at them. So the little white mouse fairy determined, through curiosity, to have a peep at this strange damsel. Accordingly she[99] visited King Grimgouger's capital, and entering the poultry-yard found there an extremely beautiful young creature dressed in a coarse woollen gown, with her feet bare, and a cap of goat-skin on her head. Lying by her side were magnificent dresses, embroidered with gold and silver and ornamented with precious stones; the turkeys and other fowls that surrounded her trampled on them and spoiled them. The poultry-girl sat upon a stone in the yard when the king's son arrived; he was crooked, and hump-backed, and horrible to look upon.

"Do you still refuse to marry me, fair maiden?" he asked. "If so, I shall have you put to death immediately."

"I am not afraid of you, prince," the girl replied, modestly. "I certainly should prefer death to marriage with you. And I like the society of my chickens and turkeys better than yours, if it please your highness."

The prince went off in a rage, and the mouse fairy appeared, in her real shape as a little old lady.

"Good-day, fair damsel," she said. "I respect you and admire you—let me be your friend."

"Willingly, good madam," said the girl. "I am greatly in need of friends, as you may see."[100]

"Have you, then, no father or mother, my child?"

"None, madam; I am an orphan, and this poultry-yard is my refuge from the cruelty of the only protector I have ever known. The fairy Cancaline, who had charge of me, used to beat me until I was nearly killed. Weary of suffering I ran away from her at last; and while wandering in a wood I met the prince, who promised to befriend me, and placed me here as poultry-girl. Alas! now that I find he is in love with me, I must leave this place, and where to go I know not."

"And what is your name, my dear?" asked the mouse fairy, affectionately.

"Juliet, madam."

"Then, kiss me, my dear; I knew you before you knew yourself," the fairy cried, joyfully. "I am delighted to see you so sensible. But your complexion is a little dark. Bathe in yonder fountain. And you should be better dressed. Put on one of these dresses, and then let me see you."

The girl obeyed. On taking off her cap of goat-skin her long golden curls fell nearly to her knees. After bathing in the fountain she revealed a complexion more bright and transparent than the choicest[101] pearls of India. Roses bloomed in her cheeks, and her eyes shone like the brightest diamonds. Her figure was light and graceful as a young fir-tree. The fairy gazed at her in wonder and delight. Her next thought was to restore the lost child to her mother.

"Stay here one moment," she said, "while I fly back to your mother, and prepare her for this happiness, lest she should die of joy."

The son of the wicked King Grimgouger went back to his father, and cried and groaned dreadfully. His boo-hoo might have been heard for miles, and the king naturally desired to stop it.

"What in the world are you roaring about?" asked the father.

"I'll roar as much as I like," said the spoiled prince. "If I can't marry the poultry-girl, I'll roar for a week without stopping."

"Good gracious!" cried the alarmed king; "guards, go and fetch her here at once."

The guards went to the poultry-yard, and found the princess Juliet, dressed in gorgeous attire, and looking more beautiful than the new moon.

"Whom do you seek, my good men?" she said in a soft voice.[102]

"Madam," they answered humbly, "we are looking for a vile creature named Juliet; but you would never have stooped to notice her."

"I am she," the princess said, proudly.

Upon this the guards seized her, bound her hands and feet, and roughly carried her into the presence of the king.

"So you won't have my son, miss," shouted the king. "Don't love him, hey? Stuff and nonsense! Love! Gammon and spinach! Marry him at once, or I'll have you flayed alive! Here, you rascal (addressing his son, who had now roared himself quite black in the face), stop that racket, for goodness' sake, or you'll split my head."

But the princess held out firmly. They sent for a chaplain, but the princess said "no," instead of "yes," and when they shook her till she couldn't utter a syllable, she nodded her head from side to side. So, finding it quite a hopeless matter, the king ordered the prince put to bed with ice upon his head, and the princess to be shut up for life in a high tower, where she would never more see the light of day.

At this moment the good mouse fairy returned in her flying chariot, and with her was the queen mother,[103] who was almost crazy with delight at the prospect of embracing her child. When they heard the sad fate of Juliet, the queen wrung her hands in agony; but the fairy bade her cheer up, as she would find a way to help the captive.

King Grimgouger had gone to bed in a rage, and the little white mouse ran up on his pillow. First she bit one ear, and made him turn over in his sleep. Then she bit the other, and made him turn back again. Now the king woke up, and howled for his attendants. They came running in, and while they sought to stanch the blood that flowed from his royal ears, the little white mouse ran to the chamber of the sleeping prince, and served him exactly the same way. The prince, who, to the great relief of the household, had fallen asleep in the very act of crying, now woke up and began again, this time with a vengeance.

"Confound that fellow, he's at it again," said the king, smarting from his wounds. "Stop him, somebody; and get me the court-plaster, and the arnica, and the Pond's extract, and the chloroform; and send for all the surgeons."

While the attendants ran hither and thither the mouse returned to visit the king. She bit his nose,[104] and bit his toes, and bit his fingers; and when he opened his mouth to scold and yell, she bit a piece of his tongue off, so that he could not articulate, but could only make absurd mouthings, at which everybody wanted to laugh, yet dared not.

Then she ran back to the prince, and ate out both of his eyes, which sent him flying out of bed. He seized his sword, and ran storming and swearing into the apartment of his father, who, on his side, had taken a sword, and vowed to kill everybody around him if they did not catch the mouse who had done this mischief.

The prince could not understand what his father said, and as he was blind, attacked the king furiously. The king made a violent cut back at him, and in ten minutes they were in the thick of an awful fight, which ended in both being mortally wounded at exactly the same moment. Seeing them fall, their attendants, who hated the wicked tyrants, made haste to tie them hands and feet, and tumbled them into the swiftly flowing river.

Thus ended the horrible King Grimgouger and his son. The good fairy now took her own shape, and, leading the queen by the hand, opened the door of the[105] tower where Juliet was confined. Juliet flew into her mother's arms, and all was happiness.

The kingdom of Grimgouger and that of Sweet Content, which he had joined to his, were now without a sovereign, and the people, by universal consent, chose Juliet to reign over them. Juliet became their queen, and in due time married a young king, who was rich and handsome, and wise and witty, and brave and modest—all that a young husband ought to be. The little white mouse continued to be their chief friend and counsellor.[106]

Simon's Benefactor.


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