WHAT THEY TURNED INTO.
AND OTHER FAIRY TALES. by
The Author of Susy's Six Birthdays."
New York W. L. ALLISON CO., Publishers.
Six Little Princesses page
I.The Queen's Wish............................. 9
II.The Countess* Gift.........,................... 22
III.A Wicked Fairy............................... 41
IV.Strength in Union.............................. 66
Little Ella, and the Fire-Ting....................... 76
The Wonderful Apple-Tree......................... 103
Hazel and Fair, or the Flies' Hospital.............. 120
A. Pig for an Hour.................................... 144
Amabel and the Cherries............................. 156
The Golden Cow...................................... 178
The Silver Dog and his Puppies...................... 196
I.The Lumber-Rooni.............................. 211
IIAn Excursion.................................. 222
iii.The Moon Dance...............................230
The Story of the Little Pond........................ 238
What the Animal said............................... 247
The Story of Little Maggie.......................... 261
A Story about a Wasp................................ 270
SIX LITTLE PRINCESSES.
THE QUEEN'S WISH.
On a clear, frosty day of the twentieth, winter of her life, the beautiful Queen Anitta sat in her sledge, enveloped in ermine, and inhaled the air with smiles of satisfaction. Before and behind her, a retinue of attendants made a brilliant parade of gay trappings and many-colored garments, which contrasted finely with the white snow over which they flew.
The young queen had almost everything in the world to make her happy. The king gratified her every wish, as far as it was possible to do so; her people always received her with acclamations; when she was tired of living in one palace she could go to another. It follows,
then, as a natural consequence, that she was happy.
By no means. She had one wish that had never been gratified, and never would be; for whereas the king delighted in dogs and horses, her great pleasure was in little children, and of these she had none. Now it might seem, at first blush, that queens are the last persons in the world to possess such tastes. It is generally understood that they spend their lives, during the day, sitting on thrones, with golden crowns on their heads, which serve them at night as luxurious nightcaps, and act as constant reminders that the heads that wear them are heads of no common sort. It is true we have the highest authority for the fact that there once existed on earth a queen who went into the kitchen, like other mortals, to eat bread and honey, while the king counted out his money in the parlor. But such queens are rare, and so is the queen of our story, who actually fancied that even on the stately floors of palaces the patter of little feet would be musical. In fact, Queen Anitta was, and always had been, an
exception to all rules. She had been known to jump into her carriage with a hop and a skip which sent her crown rolling nobody knows where ; she had been seen to laugh with a fresh girlish heartiness that made her governess turn pale; and once, but this fact once published, had been suppressed by the king, she had snatched a gypsy-looking baby, with cheeks like two peaches, from its mother's arms, and actually kissed it! It is to be hoped and believed that there are not many such queens on the face of the earth, for hearts are inconvenient things on state occasions, and the life of royalty is all state.
On this particular morning she was all smiles, for she had just completed negotiations with a poor woman, who, for the sake of getting rid of some trouble, and gaining some ease, had consented to give up to her a great fat baby, who was straightway to be made a prince.
On reaching home the queen sent a special message for her dearest friend, the Countess Eeynosa, to whom she wished to display her new possession.
" The child is a perfect monster!" cried the countess, the moment her eyes fell upon this huge mass of flesh. In the first place, it is all body, without a soul of the smallest conceivable style. In the second place, its heart, if it has any, is as hard as the nether millstone. How can it be otherwise, since it was born of a mother who was willing to sell her own flesh and blood for money ?"
She who spake these sagacious words was not six feet high, as one might suppose, nor was her hair silvered by age. She was exactly one year older than the queen, and so little that if she had not been a woman, she would have been a humming-bird. Her eyes were like two stars, and saw almost as much; as to her penetration, it was almost supernatural.
To keep the baby after she had pronounced against it was not to be thought of. The whole kingdom would be up in arms at such an error. The creature was accordingly wrapped in one of the royal blankets, handed over to a royal page, and restored to its mother, who, as she was allowed to keep the price of her goods, and
the goods into the bargain, was tolerably content with her share of the operation.
The queen, however, sat pensively in a chair whose back was twelve feet high, her hands folded in her lap, and regretted that with so many excellent qualities, her dear friend, the countess, possessed such sagacity.
" No doubt I should have awakened a soul in the child in time !" she said. "And as for a heart! ah, Reynosa, you do not know what it is to have one so empty as mine."
" Nonsense !" cried the countess, whose bump of reverence was as hollow as a teacup, as if at your age you could instruct me on the subject of the human affections! It is not to babies in general I object, but to this infant in particular. Leave the matter to me. I will fill your heartwith a vengeance."
For answer the queen jumped down from her seat of state, and looked and acted so much like common people that the prime minister had to be sent for to remind her that she was uncommon.
Meanwhile, the countess, nibbling at a bit of straw, tossed her head and floated out of the
palace and into her chariot, whether on wings or on her feet it would be hard to say. In less than an hour she came back with a basket, which, with mock ceremony and profound salutations, she placed at the feet of the queen.
"May it please your majesty," said she, here is a little babyI entreat pardona babe, which I have the honor to present to your majesty upon my bended knees."
The babe was a charming little creature, with a brown skin, under which the red blood could be seen as plainly as under the fairest; it had large brown eyes, a pretty mouth, and dimples where other people have knuckles.
"This child has a heart," continued the countess, resuming her usual gay tone, "for when I took it from its mother's arms she gave three such terrific wails that I nearly let it fall to the floor. As for tears, the poor thing is wet with them still, as if it had been out in the rain."
" I cannot accept a child thus torn from its mother," said the queen, shrinking back.
" Listen before you decide !" cried the countess. "The mother lay upon her deathbed. She but
parted with her child a few days in advance. She is overwhelmed with gratitude that she can leave it in such hands."
Thus reassured, the queen gave herself up to the enjoyment of her new acquisition, while she did not forget to send to the dying mother every solace her tender heart could conceive of. Nurses were at once sought, dainty garments replaced the coarse clothing of the child, and several apartments were made ready for its use. An hour sufficed to transform the unconscious little sleeper into a princess. Pure water, perfumes, white robes, a host of attendants: are not these advantages equal to royal blood ?
It was necessary, however, to select names for the child. While the daughter of an obscure widow, one name had, it is true, sufficed. But here lies the distinction between plebeians and aristocrats. The one may be Polly or Sally. The other must bear the titles of her ancestors, and stagger through life with their honors upon her. In this case there were of course no ancestors. Children born in poverty have only fathers and mothers. But what the baby lacked
The Queen and First Baby.
But for everyday wear and tear it was only the Princess Novella.
For some weeks the queen was in raptures over her child ; and its infantine graces, wherein it bid defiance to ministers of state, and all the principalities and powers on earth afforded her
the queen possessed, and she endowed it with all the best names of her own high-born race.
infinite delight. Even the king felt some respect for a being who at so tender an age ventured to yawn while he was addressing it, and to seize his nose in its hands and pull his hair without the smallest compunction. He began to flatter himself that such royal airs denoted royal blood, and it was not long before he almost forgot its plebeian origin.
Now everybody knows that the gratification of one want does not preclude the uprising of another. The human soul is hydra-headed; what you crop off here will sprout out there. Consequently the queen oegan to say to herself that a princess was next to no princess at all, and that one more at least would be necessary to complete her felicity.
When the Countess Reynosa heard this piece of news she shook her sagacious little head and said :
" Yes, yes, I thought so !"
Indeed, it was quite impossible that anything under the sun should happen of which she had not thought. "This time, I suppose, it must be a prince !" she said to the queen.
But the queeu declared that, young and inexperienced though she was, she could not venture on the fearful responsibility of undertaking the charge of boys.
"But what does the king say ?" asked the countess.
"The king, alas, is so absorbed in his horses, his dogs, and his hunts, that he leaves all domestic arrangements to me. If I choose to adopt as many princesses as he possesses four-footed favorites, he will not thwart me."
The countess shook her head again. But what this shake portended she would not explain. Only it was not long before she brought to the palace a man who looked frightened out of his wits, and who had something in his hand tied up in a large red cotton handkerchief.
In his terror at the idea of speaking face to face with a live queen, he gave her to understand a number of impossible things, the most important being the fact that this handkerchief contained an infant who not only possessed no parents, but never had had any, and was now
Prince Fair and the Fairy. Page 139.
left destitute and forlorn to his care, he being its uncle in a remote way.
The queen received the gift with as much delight as if it were the only baby on earth. The process of turning it into a princess of the blood royal was gone through with, and in a few hours there slumbered by the side of her dusky sister a fair-haired, pale little maiden, whom everybody treated with respect, and called the Princess Mosella.
To make a long story short, the queen took such pleasure in her children that she could not rest satisfied with only two. In a very short space of time the Countess Reynosa had ransacked the kingdom to such purpose that six little cradles rocked gallantly in as many royal nurseries. Dark-haired and light-haired, blue-eyed and black-eyed, there they were, and, for all they knew or cared, had a king for their father and a queen for their mother.
They all bore the same marks of royalty in a supreme disregard of place and position ; every one of the six took its turn at discomfitino; the prime minister and routing the secretary of
state; and there was not one who thought the king made for any earthly purpose but to pick up their toys as fast as they threw them down.
When the queen had made all the dainty fingers in the land embroider garments sufficiently costly and beautiful for the purpose, she resolved to have a grand christening, and display her daughters to the court.
All the nobles and grandees were invited to witness this remarkable sight. The whole kingdom was in commotion. The men put on their court garments, and the women exhausted themselves in inventing new dresses. Some of the ladies had to have their hair dressed a week beforehand, and it is to be presumed did not go to bed during that period; silks and satins and laces and diamonds formed the staple of conversation, and filled all the heads and hands that were not already full. One would need to write a whole book if one would describe the crush and the rush, the wear and the tear, the destruction and the ruin. The end of it all was ten extra Court Journals," and six princesses, each with more names than it had fingers and
toes. Somehow, in spite of the splendor of the scene, the display of jewels, and the destruction of robes, the young creatures got actually christened, and were borne away in triumph to their own domains.
As to the presents laid at their unconscious feet, and which they all received with that sublime indifference peculiar to high breeding, time would fail to enumerate the tithe of them. It is only on those who already possess everything that costly gifts are lavished. What should poor people do with such things ?
The Countess Reynosa alone, of all the friends of the king and queen, presented the royal infants with no gift whatever. One shake of her sagacious bead answered the purpose and explained this omission. Ah! what a thing it is to have a reputation The only difficulty is when one possesses without deserving it. Then indeed one has to float one banner in public and fi^ht under another in secret. For instance, when one has the credit of being amiable, can one box everybody's ears when one is out of humor with everybody ?
THE COUNTESS' GIFTS.
After the grand christening was over, things subsided gradually into the old routine. The six babies were washed and dressed, and taken out for an airing every morning; what happened to one happened to all without regard to any natural differences of constitution. And as the queen ch;>se to dress them exactly alike, and blue was her favorite color, Novella, who was as brown as a gypsy, had to wear sashes that made her look yellower than ever. However, she cared not a whit what she wore, and in process of time she had a mouthful of little white pearls intended for teeth, that made her as pretty as her fair sister Mosella. A charming little set they were, and in her devotion to them the queen was in danger of forgetting
affairs of state, and all the formalities due to her station. It was whispered abroad that as soon as the princesses got upon their feet there were seven children in the palace instead of six ithe queen being coaxed into romping with her pets instead of training them in the way they should go.
The Countess Reynosa, meanwhile, studied the children while the queen amused herself with thern, and made herself mistress of the characters and dispositions of each. She then announced that her long-delayed gifts were now to be presented. Not a little curiosity was felt to know what these gifts might be. The Court Journal" stopped the press in order to learn the news, and to convey it at once to all parts of the kingdom. If a nod of the head of the countess was significant, what must it be with her presents She was well known to be very rich, and to possess old family jewels of fabulous value, and as she had taken a vow never to marry, what could be more natural than that she should divide these treasures among the princesses? What then was the consternation
of the whole court, when her gift to Novella proved to be nothing but a pen!
To Mosella, nothing daunted by the suppressed whispers of amazement about her, she presented an old piano that had stood unmolested in one corner of her palace half a dozen years.
To Reima, the third sister, she gave a box of colors and a handful of pencils.
To Papeta she offered all the half-worn sheets her own singing-master had left behind him, when he had fled from her palace declaring that mortal man never heard such a voice.
To Moina, a pair of scissors, a thimble, and some needles.
Last of all it was the turn of Delicieuse, and the little creature was led by her nurse to receive what every one felt was to be the crowning gift of all. For the child held every heart at her fingers' ends; whether it was her extraordinary beauty, or her sweet, graceful manners and winning way, or all together, she was the favorite of the king, the idol of the queen, the pride and the glory of the whole court. As she ap-
proached the countess, curiosity made every one silent, yet even the grim prime minister would have been glad to press the charming creature to his heart. A murmur of surprise and displeasure ran through the court when the countess stooped and hissed the young princess, and then only gave her one of her sagacious little nods !
Delicieuse herself seemed perfectly satisfied. She rejoined her sisters with a brow as serene as ever, and took leave of the king and queen with her usual grace and sweetness, soon disappearing among the little princesses, each of whom contended for the privilege of walking hand in hand with her.
The queen, used as she was to the vagaries of Reynosa, found it hard to submit to this new freak, looking, as it did, so much like child's play. But as she felt a sincere respect and affection for her, and was, besides, too kind-hearted to wish to wound even an enemy, if she had one, she thanked her friend for her interest in her children, and promised that her gifts should be carefully preserved and cared for.
" By no means !" cried the countess. Each
child is to have charge of its own gift. Otherwise, my object in presenting it will be defeated."
The queen smiled and yielded. It was not really worth while to dispute about such trifles. The ancestral diamonds of the countess would have been quite another affair. She had quite forgotten the whole thing, when one morning she saw Novella perched at a table in a high chair, so intent upon business as to take no heed of her presence.
On approaching the child, what was her surprise to find the little creature engaged in copying, from a book before her, the letters of the alphabet. As, thus far, no attempt had been made to educate the young princesses, this spectacle was wonderfully quaint, and the queen, after gazing upon it a moment in silence, burst forth into a merry laugh. The attendants hastened to explain that the princess would have ink and paper, as well as the pen the countess had given her, and that the delight of the child in their use made it quite impossible to keep her robes and her hands in the immaculate condition due to her rank.
As to the princess, she could hardly spare time to look at the queen or answer her questions. Her little Lands trembled with eagerness, and her eyes glowed like suns and stars, as she formed the rude characters upon the paper, sighed at their want of perfection, and patiently studied her model.
The queen could not help sympathizing with the child's pleasure, though she wished the countess had not, by her gift, suggested an amusement that made its fingers such a sight to behold.
Passing into the next apartment, she found Moina seated on the carpet, with half a dozen dolls about her, a little work-basket by her side.
In her small white hands she held the scissors given her by Eeynosa, and fashioned a garment, tiny in form, but exquisite in shape. Delicieuse, with her arms full of dolls, sat beside her, looking on.
" What, are you two little darlings playing ?" asked the queen, stooping down to caress them.
" I have such nice things!" cried Moina. See scissors, thimble, needles, thread I am
making new dresses for all the dolls in the palace."
And as she spoke she used the scissors with a deft and womanly air that set the queen laughing once more with that musical laugh of hers that would have scandalized the court.
"I am doing nothing," said Delicieuse, rising, and throwing herself into the arms of her royal mother. "When Moina has dressed all the dolls we shall play with them together."
Meanwhile, she wound the queen's curls around her fingers, kissed her twenty or thirty times, and looked like a little white angel that never soiled its fingers with ink, or littered the carpet with scraps. What a beautiful, what a lovely child she is !" thought the queen, and then, with the little princess by the hand, she passed on to the room devoted to Reima.
Here she found new cause for surprise and amusement, for Reima had spread out her box of colors, and was making vigorous daubs on an enormous sheet of paper, with such zeal that she did not hear the approach of her visitors.
Her nurse came forward to excuse herself for
permitting such employment. She declared that all the interest the princess now took in her toys was as models for copy; her dolls, in fact, had all been turned into lay figures, and were arranged in attitudes for the purpose.
After greeting the child, and bidding her good-morning, the queen, who began to find the aspect of things growing serious, proceeded to the apartment of the Princess Mosella. As she approached it she heard sounds, not, on the whole, unmusical, pealing from it, and beheld this small scrap of humanity gravely occupied at her piano, with the air of a master. Near her stood Papeta, music in hand, singing in a clear, sweet voice that transfixed the queen upon the threshold. Delicieuse ran up to them with kisses and caresses. The two little mites stopped playing and singing, to glance upon her with condescension, and to return her caress, though with a somewhat preoccupied air. The concert then proceeded.
At this moment the Countess Reynosa came flying in; she fluttered from one to another, saluted the queen with mock reverence, kissed
Mosella and Papeta, and then snatching at De-licieuse, she folded the charming child in her arms as in a transport of affection.
It was now the hour for the morning airing of the princesses, and with great labor their attendants were coaxing, threatening, and conjuring them to tear themselves away from their employments, in order to be arrayed for the purpose. Moina begged for one moment in which to put in order the little garment she was cutting; Reima was afraid some one would touch her colors in her absence; Novella wanted to finish her page, and Mosella and Papeta their song. Delicieuse alone, having nothing of such vast importance to do, thought of the drive with pleasure, and was docile under the infliction of dressing. At last, after long bustle and parade, during which some tears were shed, and some frowns displayed, all six were got comfortably off, the scraps were gathered from Moina's carpet, Novella's pen and ink were put away, the piano closed, and the music laid in order. Reima's possessions alone remained untouched;
she had won a promise to that effect before she could be persuaded to leave her treasures.
The queen led Reynosa to her own apartments, and the two sat down to talk like other mortals.
"Well!" cried the countess, "I wish you joy of your five geniuses !"
"My five geniuses !" repeated the queen.
" Oh, I am willing to allow that there are six, if that pleases you better. Indeed, one may almost say with truth that Deliceuse is a genius as well as her sisters. For her power of winning everybody's heart is almost like an inspiration."
" What can you mean, you barbarous creature ?" cried the queen.
" Only that Novella will one day astonish you with her writings, Mosella and Papeta with their music, Reima with her paintings, and Moina with a skill only inferior to theirs because so practical in its character."
The queen hardly knew what to say. Reynosa, however, hummed a tune, and went and looked out of the window with a nonchalant air,
" I suppose it is too late to help it now," the queen said at last.
" It is, indeed," replied the countess, returning to her seat. Genius may not be needed by princesses; in fact, I can see that it may have its inconveniences. But you must remember that your daughters were not made to order. When nature endowed them with these choice gifts, she did not know that you were going to present them with royalty also."
"But they are still very young. Education may modify, if it does not positively alter, their tastes."
"I advise you to try," replied the countess dryly, and she gave one of those dreadful little nods that meant just the contrary.
For once in her life, which, as she was a queen, seems rather singular, her majesty determined to have her own way, nod who might. She summoned all the wisest, most skillful masters in the land to the palace, and directed them to take charge of the education of the princesses forthwith, Their studies were to be alike, and they were to learn everything save
needlework, and all were to become alike accomplished.
The princesses were not angels; they were only geniuses. They cried and pouted over their lessons very much like other children, wore out an unaccountable number of books, used up a stock of stationery, and thrummed six pianos out of tune. Moina learned to read and to write, and got a smattering of a number of other things. She drew and painted horribly, and played and sang like a machine. Reima learned all that Moina did, and a good deal beside, but it was through floods of tears that she fixed in her brain the tasks assigned her. Most of her masters found her very dull, and thought it a mercy that she could hide this dullness under the glitter and show of royalty. But he whose happy lot it was to guide her ringers over the canvas deplored the fate that had made her a princess, and envied her the talents she did not need.
Mosella and Papeta learned also a little of everything. But they flew from books as birds fly from cages. Mosella made her piano obe-
SIX LITTLE! PRINCESSES.
dient to every throb of her heart. Papeta sang in away that almost drew angels down to listen.
As to Novella, she picked up everything with enthusiasm. Her paintings were not execrable like those of Moina, and music was not without some charm for her. She devoured rather than read the books selected for her, and outran the tasks assigned by her masters, in her eagerness to know more. Yet she contrived to be in disgrace half the time. Her fingers, that should have been white, were always black; her dresses had an innate faculty of getting torn and soiled ; she never saw anything an inch before her nose, and was constantly tumbling about in a most inglorious way. As to etiquette, no mortal could teach her the meaning of the word. She never knew where to put her hands, never sat straight in her chair, never looked as if she had just come out of a bandbox.
Delicieuse, meanwhile, learned nicely of everything a little. She had some respectable drawings, could sing and play with a certain precision, and never vexed her masters by dullness or inattention. Her sisters all fancied her to be
vastly superior to themselves, since she was as beautiful as a fairy, never got into disgrace, said her lessons without ever a failure, and wrote her copies with never a blot. Withal she had caresses and gay words for everybody, and was always in good humor.
Thus the childhood of the six sisters passed away amid the sorrows and the joys, the tears and the smiles that are inseparable from that period of life. At sixteen a more charming little group could be found nowhere. Masters attended them no longer, petty childish follies were outgrown; they loved each other dearly, and were seldom separated. By degrees, in spite of the efforts of the queen to make them all alike, each fell into the place designed for her by nature. Moina sat all day with her scissors or her needle in her hand, and fashioned her own dresses and those of her sisters. She could not find time to read, she said, nor to practice, and wondered how others could. She made herself and the other princesses look as if their garments grew upon their youthful figures ; once having worn one of her dresses, they quar-
reled with their seamstresses, complained of being pinched here and pulled there, and kept her completely busy and completely happy. The queen no longer resisted the tide; she had a spacious apartment fitted up for the use of the princesses, and sat among them, watching them with admiration and delight. In her corner, Moina sat at her work, saying little, but hearing all that went on, and accomplishing a great deal. Reima had her easel not far off; no one was allowed to touch her portion of the sanctuary, and her skillful hand produced in exquisite colors the creations of her brain. Mosella and Papeta sang and played and composed, and made the lofty apartment resound with wondrous harmony. Novella, in a remote corner, sat at her desk and wrote. Sometimes, as her pen flew over her paper, she laughed aloud, and sometimes she cried; then when the mood was over, and the inspiration fled, her sisters liked to rouse her flagging spirits by making her read aloud to them the tales and verses she had written. While she read, Moina worked patiently and cheerfully in her corner, and Reima
painted iu hers, while Mosella and Papeta copied music in theirs. As for Delicieuse, she wanted no corner of her own, but was any and everywhere as her mood led her. Sometimes she watched Moina while she fashioned the dresses destined for her own graceful figure, beguiling the time with lively chat; at others she hovered near Reima, admiring the skill and the enthusiasm with which she pursued her art. She was welcomed by all, for as she had no decided taste of her own, she had no hobbies to thrust in people's way, nor was she ever so busy that she was not glad at any moment to listen to Novella when she read, or to Papeta when she sang. Her facile nature made her drop whatever she had in hand, to seize whatever the world threw at and asked her to catch.
Nothing could be more delightful than this innocent family group; it came near being a little heaven below.
But the king complained that the queen kept his charming daughters all to herself. He had pretty nearly forgotten that they were not his own children; and sometimes, when a little off
his guard, was known to. boast that Delicieuse had inherited her beauty and her extraordinary power to please from his mother, the illustrious Queen Ariana. Reima's love of art was also derived from one of his ancestors, as were the musical powers of Mosella and Papeta. As to Moina, that good and useful creature, he was sure he should have had some relative precisely like her, had not royal etiquette forbidden the display of such homely talents. The queen found these little delusions of his somewhat amusing, but on the whole they gave her pleasure, as showing that the king was proud and fond of their adopted children. To gratify him she had them introduced at court, where, arrayed in the graceful folds of Moina's disposing, and the charms of a simple, unspoiled girlhood, they were received almost with acclamations. The Countess. Reynosa's sagacity in the choice of six such rare maidens was the admiration of every one; people said there never was a little head so full of wit as hers.
A WICKED FAIRY.
After a dazzling evening, spent in the most brilliant society, the sisters went to bed, tired and more or less out of sorts. Moina was the first to awake next morning. She rose at once, and, after a time, took her work and. sat down with it in her usual place. Many costly and beautiful fabrics lay scattered about her, from which she was to fashion new robes for the second appearance of herself and sisters at court. The scissors moved in her skillful hands as by magic: she seemed to cut and slash at random, while she really used them with precision. Presently she took her pretty golden thimble from her basket, and would have placed it on her finger but that some substance entirely filled it.
" How tiresome !" said she, and with the point
of her scissors she picked at the obstruction a little impatiently. Moina was not an angel. She was only a kind-hearted little workwoman. She recoiled in some alarm when, at the touch of the scissors, there flew from the thimble what she at first supposed to be a horrible winged insect. It lighted on the edge of the table, and looked at her out of two large, greenish eyes. She saw now that it was no insect, but a diminutive, fearfully ugly little creature in human shape: its wings suggested the idea of a cherub, its face that of a demon.
" Poor child!" it began, in a voice as fine and as sharp as a number twelve needle; "here you sit, stitch, stitch, stitch, while your sisters preserve their beauty by lying in bed. How exquisite your work is! How industrious and patient you are It is strange that the world overlooks such merit as yours."
" I do not work in order to please the world," returned Moina, recovering from her terror. "I do so because I have no talent like my sisters, and because I thus make myself useful to them."
" I know how unselfish you are," replied the
other, whom we will call Neida; and her hideous yellow face grew yellower as she spoke. It is on this very account I feel such sympathy with and pity for you. I saw you last night sit alone and neglected, while all the young princes and noblemen paid homage to your sisters."
Now, Moina, absorbed in the novelty of the brilliant scene about her, had not asked herself how much attention she had received, nor felt herself neglected. But it is the easiest thing in the world to persuade people that they are miserable, and that justice is not done them.
"It is true," she replied thoughtfully, "that I sat alone and neglected nearly the whole evening. People gathered about my sisters, and quite forgot me."
" You were too modest, and allowed your sisters to put forth all their efforts to shine, and to win admiration. And not one of them would have been fit to be seen but for you. The Princess Novella never knows what she has on ; as long as she can scribble as if her life depended upon it, she would be content to go clothed in sackcloth. With the Princesses Mo-
sella and Papeta, it is almost as bad. The Princess Reima lias no taste, and never has put on a sash otherwise than awry. As to the Princess Delicieuse, she is a mere butterflyall wings and gay colors; well enough to look at and admire, but the idlest, most useless creature imaginable. Think, now, that this -worthless character attracts everybody, while your sterling virtues are despised."
Moina might have replied, if she had had her wits about her, that to be admired is not the main business of life. But she only threw down the robe she had just cut so tastefully, saying :
"My sisters shall see that, if I have not their talents and their beauty, I am yet of some importance, after all. I will not sit at work all day like a common seamstress."
Neida, quite satisfied with her morning's work, flew away, leaving Moina sitting moping in her chair. Some insects, not content with stinging their victims, must needs leave their sting be-hind. Neida took care to leave hers wherever she went.
When Mosella came to her piano half an hour
later, she found Moina seated afc it, making all sorts of discords. She stood waiting a few moments, expecting her sister to rise and give her the place she always occupied at this time. As she stood, Moina's execution really distressed her.
" Moina, dear," she said at last, music does not seem to be your fortedoes it ?"
'; It is time I became something more than a mere seamstress," said Moina, drumming away. 'Why should you monopolize all the music?"
Before Mosella had time to answer, her attention was attracted by a strange buzzing at one of the windows.
"What hideous noise is that?" thought she ; and she ran to the window, where Neida was making these sounds in order to draw her away to this corner.
" Good-morning, ray child," she began; are you feeling quite yourself after last night's fatigue ?"
" I was not much fatigued," Mosella replied in great surprise.
" Indeed People said that being forced to
play for such, a length of time must have been wearisome. Indeed, it seemed almost cruel to let you exert yourself so much where so few listened to your performances." Mosella colored.
I did not observe that people failed to listen," she said. However, I enjoyed playing because I am so fond of music."
" But is it not strange that, rather than listen to such music as yours, everybody should run wild after that pretty sister of yours, who hasn't a talent or an accomplishment of any sort ?"
" Do you mean the Princess Delicieuse ?" asked Mosella. "Ah, but she has something better than talent. She has the art of making everybody like her."
" That is just what I am saying. Real genius like yours passes unnoticed, unrewarded ; while a pleasing face, a few soft purrs, a pat of a velvet paw, draw crowds of worshippers."
" I wish, indeed, that I were as charming as Delicieuse," said Mosella. She forgot, for the moment, all the unalloyed delight she had had in the exercise of the gift nature had lavished
upon her. To win admiration and applause seemed now the only object worthy pursuit.
She stood looking listlessly from the window, that poor resource of the disconsolate; and Neida flew off to finish her work.
Papeta sat at her piano and composed a song. Her voice rose clear and sweet, and filled' the lofty apartment with melody. Neida hovered near, ready to put in a word, and finally alighted on the shoulder of the princess, where she could whisper in her ear.
" Your voice is perfectly exquisite !" she cried. I was at court last night, and heard you sing. But I could not fully enjoy it, such a chattering and talking went on all the time."
" I sang for those only who preferred not to talk," replied Papeta.
" But how could people talk when such heavenly sounds filled the rooms ? I looked at the Princess Novella with amazement. She had a troop of young noblemen about her, and kept them intent on every word that fell from her lips. Their ears were for her alone."
" It must be delightful to have such a flow of
speech as the Princess Novella," replied Mosella. "And she writes with as much ease as she talks. I do not wonder people like to be in her company."
" You speak like a loyal, true-hearted sister, as I am sure you are," returned Neida. "But it is hard that such a voice as yours should not silence every other voice. Why, in the midst of one of your most touching, tender songs, when every sound should have been hushed, I heard the Countess Montanelle whisper to her neighbor: 'This singing and thrumming is all very well, but the Princess Moina is worth all her sisters put together. She actually makes with her own hands all the exquisite dresses they wear !'"
"Poor Moina! Her mind is so empty that she finds her scissors and thimble quite a resource!" she said.
As she uttered these words she felt no little contempt for the Countess Montanelle.
While this conversation was going on, Beima stood before her easel, her fine face all in a glow.
Mosella and Papeta,
A conception of wondrous beauty had come to her during the early hours of the night, when unusual excitement kept her awake.
She had made a hasty sketch, and now with eager joy had prepared her colors, and was ready for the details of her work. A bee, as she fancied, alighted on the canvas; and she was about to brush it off, when Neida, for she it was, cried out:
" Do not drive me away, beautiful princess I have much to say to you before you begin your day's work."
"Another time will do as well," said Reima. "Pray do not disturb me."
" I saw your paintings as they were exhibited last night," said Neida. "Among them are works of real genius. But genius is not worth much in this world. A pretty face, a winning address, a thrum or two of music, an agreeable voicethese attract the multitude, while such as you are passed by and overlooked."
"One cannot expect to have genius and beauty, and all the gifts of nature," returned Reima. "For my part, I am content with the
share that has fallen to me. No tongue can tell the delight I take in ray art."
" That is all very well while the enthusiasm of youth sustains you," replied Neida. "But, ere long, your heart will assert its rights. It will cry out for love, and will not be pacified by admiration."
"Admiration!" cried Beima; "who talks of admiration ?"
" Everybody talks of it. Your sister, the Princess Delicieuse, does more. She wins it."
" Let her have it, then," said Reima, a little pensively. I, for one, can do without it."
" Can you do without love ?"
"Nay, I cannot and do not," cried Reima. My sisters all love me. And so does the queen, my mother."
Neida laughed. Her laugh was more horrible than words can tell.
"Paint away, then !" she cried ; "and, while you are absorbed in your art, let the world pass you by and forget you. The merest daub from the Princess Delicieuse will be fought for;
while you, a child of genius, must remain sufficient unto yourself."
So saying, Neida flew off. Reima remained silent and perplexed.
"I, too, crave the joy of winning love and favor, but it is denied me !" she thought. Delicieuse wins both without an effort. Why should she possess so divine a gift, and I have merely the power to spread colors over canvas?"
As she spoke she threw her brushes from her in disgust.
" What can have happened to my ink ?" cried Novella. It has all dried up, and I am in such haste to write. Ah, such beautiful images are floating in my brain They will be gone forever if I do not seize them at once !"
"It is I who have dried up your ink, noble lady," said Neida, coming forth and sitting down on the desk of the princess.
"And who are you ?" asked Novella, looking with disgust at the hateful little figure.
"I am one who cannot bear the injustice of the world," replied Neida. "When I listen to your words, so full of fire and passion; when I
look over your shoulder and read what you write in those favored moments when you enchain and imprison the exquisite images that come to you as by an inspiration; when I do this, I say, I am lost in amazement and filled with shame. Half the world prefers to you a simple girl, who has not a thought beyond her needle. The other half runs after a beautiful face or an agreeable voice. You may talk like an oracle, and write with a pen dipped in fire, yet only here and there will you find a worshipper."
" I do not write because I want worshippers," returned Novella, much amused. "I write because I cannot help it. I enjoy the thoughts that come to me as dreams come, I know not how or whence. I put forth my hand to catch them, as I would catch the birds that fly over my head."
" Yet I see you often retire to a hidden corner, there to sit in darkness and sadness. This does not look like enjoyment."
"I believe," replied Novella, "that a certain sadness ever follows, if it does not accompany,
moments of inspiration. Perfect, unalloyed felicity I do not expect to find on earth."
Your sister Papeta has no hours of despondency. She is as joyous as the birds like which she sings. The Princess Moina sits all day in calm content, the victim of no moods and tenses like yours. The Princess Delicieuse, without a ray of genius, is preferred before you by high and low, the learned as well as the unlearned."
"I should gladly be beloved as she is !" she said. "I should like Moina's calm and placid nature; at least, there are times when I would gladly exchange my gifts for hers."
"I feel for you !" cried Neida. "Your happiness is a fitful thing, that comes and goes with the passing moment. You are on the mountain tops one day and down in the abyss the next."
" It is true !" cried Novella. But I riot on the mountain tops when I am there !"
" I have still business on hand; I must go. Think of all I have said," returned Neida, fluttering off.
Novella threw herself back in a chair.
"What would I not give," she thought, "to be as beautiful, as charming, as Delicieuse! Everything she says delights everybody, yet she talks only little nothings. As for me, nobody understands me. My heart is as warm as hers, nay, warmer; it is a furnace in full glow; but because I do not carry it about in my hands, as she carries hers, nobody believes in it. I am not happy No, I am wretched !"
At this moment Delicieuse was putting one foot out of bed. She had made up, in a long morning nap, all the sleep she had lost the previous night, and looked as fresh and pretty as a rose just opened. Peace and good-will toward everybody, including herself, filled her heart. As she thrust her little foot into her slipper, she perceived some foreign substance there, and sprang back into bed, where she sat, half-frightened, half-amused, the prettiest picture imaginable.
"I verily believe a mouse has taken up its abode in my slipper," thought she.
As she spoke, Neida bounded out of her
hiding-place and seated herself on the bed, face to face with the young princess.
"You are a beautiful creature !" she began. "More so at this moment, in your simple nightdress, with your hair floating over your shoulders, than you were last evening, when arrayed in robes of state."
"I wish I could return the compliment," said Delicieuse good-humoredly.
"I make no pretensions to beauty," replied Neida, with a fearful roll of her great green eyes. "I am, therefore, the more dazzled by yours. But, my poor child, beauty is an evanescent charm. When old age and disease have destroyed yours, all your sisters will retain a power to please, \vhich you will desire in vain. Even now you see what crowds cluster about the Princesses Mosella and Papeta, and what homage is paid by men of genius to the gifts of Reima and Novella. A certain class of admirers will always be yours, but the most cultivated minds will ever prefer the society of your sisters."
Delicieuse replied by leaning over a little,
and with her finger and thumb she sent Neida spinning through the air at a rate quite fitted to turn her brain, if she had any. Then, springing out of bed, the gay young princess rang a silver bell to summon her attendants to assist her in dressing. While this process was going on, she tried, by chatting half to herself, half to them, to escape the unpleasant fancies Neida had awakened in her.
When at last she joined her sisters, she was astonished that not one of them came to meet and to caress her as usual.
" Their heads were all turned last evening, I suppose," she said to herself. Grood-morning, Moina! What! not at work ? It is not possible that my dress for to-night is already finished ?"
"I am not the family seamstress," replied Moina. Why should I rise early to prepare your dresses, while you lie idling in bed ? Do you really imagine, because you happen to be prettier than I, that I am to spend my whole time in serving you ?"
Delicieuse made no answer, but her eyes filled
Delicieuse was putting one tot out of bed.
Six Little Princesses
with tears. Never before had harsh language fallen upon her ears. She hurried away, hoping to find refuge with Reima.
" You see I am behind you all this morning," she said, approaching her sister. "Are you at work on a new picture ? Have you finished my portrait ?"
" Your portrait ?" cried Reima scornfully; not I! Why should I finish it, pray ? Are you not content with seeing everybody at your feet, but must you see yourself on canvas also ?"
"My dear, you must have eaten something that disagreed with you last night," said Delicieuse. Otherwise I do not see what makes you so ill-humored."
"I am not ill-humored," said Reima. "I am only out of spirits. Do go away, child, and leave me in peace."
" I am going, you may depend," returned Delicieuse. For my part, I am quite willing to leave you to yourself."
"Delicieuse is getting positively disagreeable !" thought Reima. She thinks that because she is so handsome she can talk as she likes. And,
to be sure, so she can. Ah I wish I were as beautiful! But all I am good for is to stand here and daub !"
Delicieuse passed on, ruffled and displeased. I suppose Reima takes airs upon herself because so much was said of her genius last evening," thought she. It must be delightful to be a genius As to beauty, I must own that I am tired already of mine. What an amount of nonsense it makes people talk !"
At this moment she espied Mosella, who sat reading by herself, and Papeta, who picked a faded bouquet to pieces, at a little distance.
" Have you inseparables quarreled also ?" she cried.
"What do you mean?" asked Mosella. "Cannot one take up a book without being taken to task ?"
"And is picking a bouquet to pieces worse than lying in bed all the morning ?" demanded Papeta.
"Everybody seems out of humor," said Delicieuse. I feel low-spirited myself. If I could sing and play as you two can I would soon
cheer myself up. Come, do play a little, Mosella And you, Papeta, pray sing till you charm us all into good spirits again."
"There's no use in playing. Nobody will listen," replied Mosella.
" Nor in singing, for it sets everybody to talking," said Papeta. Ah, Delicieuse you lucky creature Why should you have all the beauty of the family V
"And why should the rest of you have all the talent?" ashed Delicieuse, half-crying. "But where is Novella?"
"Novella," replied Papeta, "is meditating suicide. She has lowered like a thunder-cloud all the morning. I saw her with my own eyes tear up all her papers and throw them away."
"All her amusing tales and lovely poems ?" cried Delicieuse. Oh, if I could but "write as she does But I can do nothing. I cannot cut in the magical way Moina does, nor paint like Reima, nor sing and play like you two gifted creatures. All I am fit for is to be dressed like a doll, and to hear people say silly things about my face and my figure."
So saying, Delicieuse, hitherto the gayest, gladdest of' mortals, began to cry in good earnest.
In the midst of this scene, the queen, who also had slept late, came to rejoice in the sight of her darling children, and was shocked to find the state they were in. In vain she coaxed, scolded, and at last shed tears. Not one would confess the cause of her melancholy.
In her despair the queen sent for the Countess Eeynosa, who soon made her appearance, with her usual nonchalant air.
"You dear creatures!" she cried, on seeing the six woeful faces, each of you shall confess to me in turn, and I will promise to put you out of misery before this day closes. Come, Moina, I will begin with you."
She drew the reluctant princess away to the queen's private cabinet, and caressed and condoled with her, until at last she learned all about the visit of Neida.
" Has that little monster really made you a visit ?" she exclaimed. You should know her, then, by her real name, and never again permit
her so much as to whisper a word in your ear. Her name is Envy." Moina shuddered.
"She has made me very unhappy," said she, and made me lose all pleasure in the only gift I really possess. And, indeed, why should I, a princess royal, sit always at work like a common seamstress ?"
"Like an uncommon seamstress, you mean," replied the countess. Indeed, I know of no reason save this : People who have gifts always exercise them, as babies do their arms and legs. They find pleasure in this exercise themselves, and give pleasure to others besides."
" But my sisters are all admired so much more than I!"
"Yes, they too have their gifts. Why not? Why should nature give you a talent and withhold her gifts from them ?"
" But my talent is so small when compared with theirs!"
" Then, because it is small, you fancy it best to let it lie idle. Then how will you employ yourself ?"
"I do not know," said Moida despondently. "I cannot draw, I have no ear for music ; I am not fond of reading, and, if I were, could not read all the time. But when I get an idea of a new dress in my head the scissors seem to move of their own accord, and I am quite happy, as I sit at my work, both at my success and at the pleasure I can give others. My sisters cannot bear to wear anything that is not of my workmanship."
"Then, my dear Moina, go back to your own little corner. Exercise your gift, humble though it be. The time may come when she will see that nature has dealt as kindly with you as with your sisters."
In like manner the countess encouraged and set right each of the princesses.
Moina caught up the robe she was preparing for Delicieuse, ami took pleasure in completing it. Mosella and Papeta returned to their music with fresh ardor; while Reima drew forth the half-finished portrait of Delicieuse, which she had begun as a work of love, and put to it some finishing touches,
Novella seized her pen as a lost mariner seizes the compass he has thought gone overboard in the storm. All her papers had indeed perisbed in the tempest, but her brain was full of images of grace and beauty, and her imagination did not care a whit that its sails had been taken in during stress of weather.
The countess went from one to another, admiring their work, and putting in the right word here and there.
" This family circle is nearly perfect!" she cried at last. We have not here a race of workwomen, nor half a dozen musicians, nor a set of artists, nor a row of authors, nor six good-for-nothings like Delicieuse. We have a little of every sort, and if I can catch and kill the hideous creature who disturbed your peace, I see nothing to prevent your complete felicity."
" I believe she is already dead," said Delicieuse. Here she lies, shriveled and shrunken, and does not move a limb."
" Give me the corpse, then," said the countess, laushino;. She shall have a state funeral,"
STRENGTH IN UNION.
From this time the princesses led a happy and harmonious life together, and the queen, when weary with the burden of royalty, found among them, with all their refreshing variety of character, a solace and a joy that made her life a continual feast. One morning, however, the king, when he set forth to hunt, entreated the queen to accompany him, to witness some rare sport.
" I am ashamed to refuse you," she said, but my heart misgives me. I have a presentiment that some misfortune will befall our children."
"One should put no confidence in presentiments," replied the king. For my part I have a foreboding of evil as awaiting myself; I own it is weak to yield to it, yet it makes me shrink from going forth to the hunt without you."
These words decided the queen, yet she took
leave of her daughters with a tenderness that bordered on sadness. The princesses, on their part, responded with unusual warmth to her caresses ; never had she seemed to them so dear. They employed themselves in her absence with little devices for her pleasure. Moina began a bit of choice embroidery; Reima designed a picture for her private cabinet; Mosella and Papeta composed music for a song of welcome, written by Novella, as her welcome home ; Delicieuse ran to the window every five minutes to sae if she were coming. But night fell, and the gay cavalcade was neither seen nor heard.
The princesses assured each other that the delay betokened no evil. To beguile themselves of the time they worked with more industry. At bedtime there was still no news of the absent party.
" What can it mean ?" they whispered to each other, while Delicieuse cried herself to sleep.
At midnight wheels were heard, and the Countess Reynosa appeared, pale and tearful.
"My children!" she cried, and could say no more.
They clustered about her, and clung to her, without daring to ask a question. She gathered them in her arms, spoke a few incoherent words, and then, pushing them away, began pacing the room like one beside herself.
Then came confused sounds from without.
" They are bringing them home!" she said in a whisper.
One cannot dwell on such scenes. The king and the queen had been thrown from their chariot. Both were dead.
The days of public mourning and ceremony were over. Their private grief the young princesses concealed in the retirement of their own apartments. They did not ask themselves, for their lives had been simple and unworldly, who should reign over the desolate kingdom. But others, less simple, more worldly, did ask the question, and presently dissension and clamor arose and filled the land. Some of the people looked upon Novella as heiress to the throne. It was she whom the king and queen had first adopted as their child; she excelled her sisters in learning if not in talent; if the blood in her
veins was not royal her education was. Others contended that Delicieuse, as the favorite of the queen and the people, was best fitted to ascend the throne. A third party clung to the aristocracy of birth, and clamored for the rights of the young nephew of the king.
The Countess Reynosa weighed these conflicting" opinions, and her clear judgment assured her that the third party had justice on its side and would finally prevail. But what was to become of the six princesses ? Had any provision been made for them ? Alas none. The king and the queen, like other mistaken souls, had expected to live forever. It turned out that they were not princesses after all; merely six nobodies. The worst of it was that not one of them seriously lamented this circumstance. Moina fancied she should enjoy her scissors, her thimble, her needle, quite as much when stripped of her title as she had done with it. Reima went on painting a portrait of the queen from memory, and found consolation in the task. Mosella and Papeta set to music many plaintive little songs, composed by Novella after the first
days of speechless agony were over, and their plebeian hands aud voices made as sweet melody as ever. Novella began a long poem, wherein she tried to prove that life is a dream; only, being a genius, she did it in an original way. Delicieuse looked charming in her simple black dress, and softened and sanctified by suffering, was more attractive, more lovely than ever.
"My dear children," said the Countess Reynosa, "I foresaw this clay and made provision for it. In the first place, I avoided introducing boys into the palace, for what might prove only temporary grandeur. Less flexible, more ambitious than girls, reverses would have been a far greater shock to them than to you. In the second place, I selected each of you with a reasonable prospect that you would inherit the gifts and graces of the parents who gave you birth. In this hope I have not been disappointed. Last of all, I ever urged the queen to educate you, as far as possible, to find happiness in each other, and in the exercise of the gifts with which you were endowed by nature. You are, therefore, almost entirely independent of this
people, by whom the designs of the king and queen for you are set at naught."
"All I want," said Novella, "is some little corner where I can read and write, and have no trouble about dress, or talk about etiquette."
"As for me, I shall travel in foreign lands," said Reima, study the old masters, and perfect myself in my art. Royalty under such circumstances would only be a burden. I shall then settle down somewhere and spend my life in painting."
"And we shall devote ourselves to music," said Mosella and Papeta, and forget the court and all its tiresome observances."
"Meanwhile I will see that you are all clothed neatly," said Moina.
" That is the first sensible speech I have heard yet," said the countess. "Pray, my dear Novella, while you sit reading and writing, who is to shelter and who to feed you ? And you, Reima, how will you travel ? On foot ?"
The twain looked a little foolish, but not half so anxious as penniless maidens ought to have looked.
"Well, well, you are not quite destitute,'' continued the countess. You have the gifts presented you at your christening and other personal property. You can, with their help, secure a home, where you can all live together, or you can separate, and each face the world for herself."
" Oh, let us all keep together," said Delicieuse, "and live exactly as we have done."
"And have you a palace for this purpose, my child ?"
It was now the turn of Delicieuse to look foolish.
"You shall live with me, darling," said Reima, and so shall Moina. All the others can take care of themselves, or join us, as they like."
"But we shall want Moina and Delicieuse to live with us," cried the two musicians.
" That would leave me quite alone," said Novella, "and that I could not think of. I do not know how to manage a needle nor what to wear. And in my hours of weariness and sadness no one can cheer and arouse me like Delicieuse."
Thus there was the same strife for the possession of the useless as of the useful sister.
"I see how it is," said Reynosa. "You must live together. Each feels herself incomplete without the others. Novella needs somebody to take care of her and somebody to love. In return she will give love and endless entertainment. Reima, too, needs looking after, and some one who will watch with a friendly eye the growth of her paintings. Our two musicians must not become one-sided by thinking only of melody and of song. They must enjoy being clothed by Moina's kind hands, listening to Novella's poems, and discussing Reima's works. And you must all train your ears to appreciate the talents of these two marvelous creatures who sing and play with such rare, such exquisite harmony."
"And what shall I do ?" cried Delicieuse.
"You shall do a little of everything, dear child. You shall help Moina to guide the house and Reima to mix the colors. You shali take care that the piano is never out of tune, or Novella at a loss for pens and paper. In a
word, you shall be what you always have been, always ready with the oil of gladness, wherever you see friction, the sweetest, the most lovable creature in the world."
Delicieuse smiled, and ran to embrace all her sisters, hardly knowing which she loved best.
It was not long before these royal maidens, royal only in their virtues and their talents, found themselves in a home in a vine-clad land, where each could live as nature had designed she should live.
Moina, whose practical skill was not confined to her needle, kept the house Avith such exquisite care and neatness that her sisters preferred it to a palace. She found happiness in forgetting herself, in her pride in them, and in the freedom from petty cares from which she shielded them. Her calm, serene character Avas a continual repose to the varying moods of Reima and Novella; a balance-wheel to works that, running fast, often ran irregularly. Reima studied the old masters with no need for further travel, for her home lajr among their works. Mosella and Papeta composed music, made
in her small hands she held the scissors. Delicieuse sat beside her
Six Little Princesses
Delicieuse listen to and admire it when other hearers were wanting, and were satisfied with her criticisms.
Novella wrote boohs, and had her frenzies. She had her gentle and her gay moods, also, and made laughter ring through the house at her will. Not one of these four was conscious of her powers, or asked for fame. Nor did their aristocratic breeding make them ashamed to work for their bread. They even fancied that bread thus won needed less butter to help it down than that of charity.
As to Delicieuse, she was the bright, the golden link that bound the household together in peace and harmony. Her smiles, her caresses the love that flowed forth from her as from a living fountain, made their home glad with perpetual sunshine. Thank Grod for the gifts of genius He has scattered abroad with a bountiful hand; but thank Him also that, without such gifts, one may become a joy and a benediction !
LITTLE ELLA AND THE FIRE-KING.
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Ella. She was an only child, and lived with her widowed mother, who, having no one else to love in all the world, lavished the fondest affection on her darling; and, to tell the truth, spoiled her sadly.
Ella was very beautiful; she had large dark eyes, and golden curls that hung gracefully over her white dimpled shoulders, and her cheeks and lips were like rosebuds to look at; but she had been so often told of her beauty, that I am sorry to say she had become extremely vain, and liked nothing so much as to be well dressed, and to hear people exclaim, as she walked along the streets, "What a lovely little lady !" Vanity was not Ella's only fault; she was also far from industrious, and she would let her mother wear her eyes out in making the fine clothes she was
always asking for, while she sat idly on her stool in the warm chimney corner, and looked into the bright fire, till she fancied she could see hills and valleys, trees and houses, and even little men and women, in the glowing embers.
One winter's afternoon when the snow was on the ground, Ella's mother said to her : It will soon be Christmas time, and I wish my darling to choose what she would like best for a New Year's gift." "Oh," cried the little girl, "I want a new hat, with cherry-colored ribbons, and a blue velvet pelisse, trimmed with ermine." "Nay," said her mother, "I will buy you one of these things, my child, but I caunot afford to give you both; for you know, dear Ella, I am far from rich." "Never mind," said Ella impatiently ; a new hat and a new pelisse I must and'ioill have, and I am sure that I shall neither eat, sleep, nor play for thinking of them; so do go out this very afternoon, there's a dear, kind mother, and buy them for me. See, it has almost left off snowing, and I will keep a good fire to warm you when you come home, and make some of the nice tea and toast of which
you are so fond." And the little puss began to coax her mother, throwing her white arms round her neck and kissing her, till she could no longer resist her winning ways; so fondly patting her daughter's rosy cheek, she put on her bonnet and cloak, and trudged out into the winter cold to get the finery which Ella wished for.
Now Ella had not a bad heart; she really loved her mother dearly, but much indulgence had made her thoughtless and selfish. She looked out of the window and nodded a smiling good-by to her hind parent, and then ran shivering back to the warm chimney-corner. "Ah! how cold and dreary it looks outside," said she; "for my part, I shall amuse myself with looking at this nice, clear fire till mamma comes back ;" and quite forgetting the tea and toast she had promised to get ready, she drew her stool to the hearth, and sat looking at the flames which leaped and sparkled so merrily, and into the very depths of the glowing fire, where the trees, the gardens, and the palaces seemed more wonderful and beautiful than ever to her earnest gaze. The hail pattered against the window
panes, aud the wind whistled drearily outside, but the fire-trees had not lost their foliage, and all appeared summer in that cheerful spot. I wish, I wish,'' sighed the wayward Ella, that I could always live in the fire, it is so cold and miserable here; and I should like of all things to wander in that lovely garden which I see yonder, and to dwell in that fine palace with the tiny door of glittering gold which stands in the midst of it."
Scarcely had the words passed her lips when the golden door of the palace flew open, and, breathless with astonishment, Ella beheld a noble train of lords and ladies no higher than her little finger, who, bowing to her as they passed from the palace gate, formed a brilliant line on each side of the avenue which led to this enchanted castle. Next came a troop of young maidens, bearing on their heads small baskets of filagree coal containing black diamonds of rare value. Then followed grooms in waiting, equerries and attendants of every description in gorgeous liveries, and these were succeeded by twelve of the most exquisite pages that can be
imagined, who advanced bowing low and waving their plumed and jeweled caps to the ground. Lastly, a nourish of drums and trumpets announced the approach of royalty, and what was Ella's joy and surprise when there rode forth from the palace gates a superb young prince, far handsomer than any she had ever thought or dreamed of, mounted on a prancing fiery steed, which he managed with wonderful grace and skill. When he had reached the center of the avenue he dismounted, and, throwing the reins of his charger to an attendant, walked gracefully forward to the front of the grate and gazed at the blushing Ellamajesty and love speaking in every glance. The Fire-king was magnificently dressed in royal robes of blue flame bordered with golden sparks, and wore on his head a crown of brilliants. His appearance was altogether most dazzling ; for though his face miglit perhaps be considered a trifle too red, yet this was forgotten in the brightness of his eyes.
"Fairest of mortals," said he as he knelt before Ella, "I am the King of the Salamanders, and I have come to woo you for my queen.
Often have I watched you in the evening time as you looked into my dominions with longing eyes, sighing to live forever there. And who could gaze upon your beauty and not love you? Yes, Ella, the wish of your heart is granted. I offer you my hand and royal crown. Come, be my bride this day, and dwell with me forever in my kingdom of flame." Now, Ella was not in the least frightened by the king's address, for she had heard his voice many times before, but had then mistaken it for the popping of the coals, to which, it must be owned, it bore no small resemblance; but though her heart leaped with delight at the thought of being married to the handsome king, and wearing a diamond crown, yet she almost feared that she might be burned if she ventured into the fire, and even if she escaped that danger, her size was another obstacle to her wishes; for she saw plainly enough that it would be quite impossible for her even so much as to enter the kingdom, much more to dwell in a palace a hundred times smaller than herself. Ready to cry with vexation and disappointment, she was about to refuse
the offer of the Salamander, when she felt herself to be growing smaller every instant, and soon she became even more diminutive than the king himself, while the heat of the fire, which before had sadly scorched her face, now seemed to her no greater than the pleasant warmth of a summer's day. Yet, as she stood on the topmost bar of the grate, and lifted her dainty little foot, clad in the tiniest and most exquisite of red slippers, to spring into fireland, she paused once more; for the recollection of her doting; mother, who had ventured out on this dreary day, regardless of wind and storm, merely to gratify a selfish whim of hers, shot a pang of remorse through her heart, and a tear gathered in her eye and fell on the prince's head as he stood below awaiting her with impatience. It must be confessed he looked rather black at this, for water did not at all agree with his constitu-tion; and Ella's tear, though a very small one, threatened to put him out for the day. Do not weep, my love," said he in a hissing voice, which he tried to render as agreeable as possible; "I assure you that your mother will not
miss you so much as you imagine. She is going to marry a new husband, and then she will have other children and love them better than you. Besides which, she shall not think you ungrateful, for I will take care to scatter some ashes on the hearth-rug, which will cause her to think that you have ventured too near the fire, and so have been burned to death." Now, though Ella could not in her heart believe all this, or think that her poor mother would ever again love any other creature in the world, yet vanity and curiosity had got possession of her foolish little head, and hesitating no longer, she sprang into the open arms of her fiery lover, who clasped her in a warm embrace, and showered kisses on her ruby lips.
The lords and ladies now approached, and kneeling at Ella's feet, saluted her as their queen; and next the young maidens advanced with their baskets of jewels, the king's wedding gift to his fair young bride. Twelve of the noblest ladies of the court, who were appointed to be maids of honor, respectfully begged Ella to tell them how they might serve her majesty.
"Attend your royal mistress to her robing room," said the king, and then we must to horse, for we have far to travel this night before we can reach our palace in the bowels of the earth. You must know, my sweet queen," continued he, "that this fireplace of your mother's is only one of my many country houses, and my state residence is far more vast and magnificent; thither shall we go this night, that our wedding-feast may be all the grander. The banquet waits our coming, so haste, I pray you, love, and don your wedding-dress." Can we not stay in this palace to-night ?" said Ella, who did not altogether relish going so far from her old home. "No, no, silly one," said the king. "Pray, is not the fire raked out every night ? and then what would become of us ? A pretty mess you would make of our wed ding-feast. But do not look so sad, dear love; you shall often return to this place if it pleases you; for it is only at night that we are forced to leave it for our palace in the earth." Ella brightened up at this, and gayly entered the palace she had so much longed to live in. Her maids of honor followed.
and conducted her to her apartments, where they decked her as became a royal bride in rich robes of white flame. A circlet of sparks surrounded her golden curls, and over her head she wore a long veil of exquisitely transparent smoke. Thus attired, she looked more beautiful than the morning star, and could scarcely tear herself away from the mirror which reflected her charms, though the king was impatiently calling for her, and her horse stood saddled at the castle gate. At last she was ready, and, joining the impatient bridegroom, mounted her steed, and the whole train departed with royal pompElla and the king at the head, drums beating and trumpets sounding.
"Are you happy and content, my Ella ?" said the handsome king, fixing his piercing eyes tenderly on her blushing face as they rode away. That indeed I am, sweet prince," returned Ella ; but she was not really so ; her heart felt heavy amid all this splendor. She tried to think it was only the fear of spoiling her complexion 'which troubled her; but conscience whispered that an ungrateful child could never hope to be
happy again. After riding a long way they arrived at the king's palace in the depths of the earth. The magnificence of this subterranean dwelling quite overpowered the youthful queen with awe, as she began to realize the splendid extent of her new dominions, and she ceased to wonder at the dreadful earthquakes of which she had sometimes read, when she saw the flames that raged in the earth's center beneath the fields, the rocks, and the houses, which appeared so safe to mortal eyes. While these thoughts were passing through her mind, an attendant bounced out suddenly before the king and said: Supper is served, your gracious majesty." "And you too shall be served for your insolence, sirrah," said his gracious majesty ; who, without more ado, put an untimely end to the forward young spark with a single blow. Ella was not a little frightened by this very unpleasant interruption to the wedding gayeties, but the courtiers took no notice whatever of their companion's fate, and did not seem in the least astonished; for to let you into a secret, if everything was hut in fireland, the
king's temper was about the hottest thing of all. The banquet was served in right royal style with every dainty that could tempt a Salamander's palate. But Ella was not quite a Salamander yet, and she certainly did not find the dishes of which the king pressed her to eat half so delicious as the pluni-puclding and mince-pies she used to have at home. The king noticed that she did not eat with a good appetite, and as nothing could be too hot to please him, he took it into his head that Ella did not relish her supper because it was cold, and he flew into a terrible passion in consequence; and though Ella, trembling from head to foot at his grim looks, begged him not to disturb himself on her account, and tried her utmost to swallow the scalding food as if she liked it, a dozen or so of courtiers were blown out before the dreadful supper came to an end. But after this followed fireworks and diversions in honor of the wedding, and Ella was so delighted with the wonderful sight that the king almost forgot his ill-temper when he saw her sweet face dimpled with such rosy smiles, and the night was far spent
in these amusements, when Ella was conducted by her maids of honor to her splendid sleeping-room in the glittering palace; so that she laid her head on her crimson and gold pillow, feeling that after all it was a very grand thing to be a queen and a bride, even though her lover might not be quite such a charming prince as he had appeared at first.
In the morning the king told Ella that he had not forgotten his promise, of allowing her to spend part of the honeymoon in her mother's fireplace, and she gladly accepted his offer of going thither at once. The horses therefore were brought out, and away they rode, to the sound of trumpet and horn, along the road of flint, and through the iron gates which opened into the grate, till at last they drew rein before the shining gold gates of the Salamander's palace, which was gayly decked with banners and wreaths of flame to welcome the coming of the royal bride.
Now the king, who was a very vain prince, was in a great hurry to lead Ella into the palace so that he might show her all his treasures, and
make her feel what a grand king she had married, but she, having her own reasons for being left by herself for a while, tried all sorts of excuses to remain behind. It is very pleasant out here," said she, and I should like to sit and watch the smoke curling up the chimney, so that I may know which way the wind blows." The wind is nothing to you or me," returned the king, and it is not proper for my bride to remain by herself, so I will not allow it." But I will stay by myself, and as long as I choose, too," said the queen, her eyes beginning to sparkle, for she was not accustomed to contradiction ; do you imagine I am always going to have either you or a parcel of black, sooty maids of honor forever at my heels ?" No more sooty than you are yourself," said the king in a pet. Saying this, he sent a large coal flying in the queen's face which fairly knocked her down; and she who had never received so much as a harsh word in her life, lay upon the ground sobbing with grief and passion. The king, however, was only a young husband and a lover still; therefore when he saw how much his fair
young wife took his unkindness to heart, he felt ashamed of his violence, and, raising her tenderly from the ground, begged her pardon humbly enough, and asked what he could do to make her amends. Leave me by myself," was all that Ella would answer, and deeming it better to feign obedience, the king at last entered the palace with his train of nobles; but he made up his mind to watch well from some sly corner all that went on outside, for he felt quite certain that mischief was brewing.
As soon as Ella found herself alone she ran as fast as she could to the front of the grate, and gazed with a beating heart into the dear old room which had once been her home; but what was her grief and horror at the sight which there met her eyes! A heap of ashes was on the hearth-rug, amid which Ella could see scorched and blackened fragments of the dress she had worn the night before, and near it lay her mother, cold, pale, and senseless. Her soft brown hair had in a single night changed to silver gray, her eyes were closed, and it was only by a faint shudder which now and then passed
over her frame that Ella could tell she was yet alive. An old servant, who had once been Ella's nurse, knelt near her mistress, and chafed her cold hands while tears streamed down her cheeks, and on the ground near them lay the beautiful hat with cherry-colored ribbons, and the blue velvet pelisse, which had been the poor woman's last errand of love for her cruel little daughter.
Full of grief and repentance at this sad sight, Ella tried with all her might to jump into the room and run to her dear mamma's assistance; but the king, who, as I told you, was watching her from the castle with all his eyes, sprang quickly forward and caught her in his arms. Your folly had nearly cost you your life," said he angrily. Remember, ungrateful Ella, that you are now a Salamander and my queen, and that you can no longer exist out of the fire." With many a sigh Ella was forced to hide her misery from her husband, whom she now began to fear even more than she had before admired; and as he was unwilling to trust her any longer so near her old home, he ordered the horses to be got
ready with all dispatch, and rode with her at once to his palace in the earth's center. That beautiful palace seemed to Ella nothing better than a prison, now that she could never hope to see her dear mamma again; and indeed from that time forward there was no more happiness for the conscience-stricken Fire-queen. No one could live in so hot a country without having a proportionably warm temper; and the king began to get weary of Ella and her fretfulness, especially as her beauty changed visibly and daily. Her pretty rosy face grew quite scorched and heated-looking, and her once glossy and golden curls became rough and frizzled in this trying climate. After a time the king used to pretend that he had a great many state matters to regulate in a large mountain called Vesuvius, where he had a fine palace, and was always going off on long journeys by himself to Italy, where this mountain stood. Ella did not believe a word of his excuses, and their quarrels grew to be the scandal of the court and the talk of all the Salamanders. Whenever the king proposed going to Vesuvius the courtiers were
fain to hide themselves, for neither king nor queen were very particular who came in for a share of their blows when they had one of their angry quarrels with each other. Now, the truth of the matter was, as Ella imagined, that the king was as much in love with a beautiful Italian princess as he had once been with herself. He would not have continued to care for her even if she had smiled as sweetly, and tried to please him as much as ever; but her wicked passions made him hate her, so that he longed to be rid of her, and contradicted her in everything she wished for.
You may be sure that Ella desired more and more to revisit her home and her mother, but for a long time she sought in vain for an opportunity : the king having given strict orders that when he was away she should on no account be allowed to leave the palace. On one occasion however, he was absent for so many weeks that all the Salamanders began to hope he was dead. Now Ella had been so fortunate as to find the large golden key which opened his treasure chests, and which he had forgotten to take with
him on his last journey. She begged therefore very hard to be allowed to leave the palace, and told the courtiers that they might take as much treasure as they chose, if they would only permit her to escape. When they saw the shining heaps of gold and silver, they thought of nothing but filling their pockets and quarreling for the largest share. So Ella ran off unperceived, and saddling her horse with her own hands, leaped joyfully on his back, and rode as fast as she could gallop till she once more found herself in the fireplace of her mother's house.
When she peeped into the well-known room from between the bars, she beheld her mother old, worn, and gray, sitting mournfully by the fireside, while many a tear ran down her furrowed cheeks. Ella could see her look sorrowfully at her own little empty stool which stood in its old warm corner by the chimney nook, and she could not doubt that her poor mamma was reproaching herself with carelessness in leaving her alone on that sad day, when, she imagined, har little Ella had been burned to death. In vain did the repentant queen call to
her mamma, and try everything she could think of to make herself heard. Her voice was now the voice of a Salamander, which, as I told you before, can scarcely be distinguished by mortal ears from the crackling flames of a cheerful fire, so that the poor mother could not be comforted by the consoling words which her unhappy daughter strove in vain to render intelligible. Evening was drawing on, and Ella, almost ex-hausted by grief, had sat down to rest herself and bemoan her hard fate in a hollow coal by the roadside, when she was startled by a rushing sound beneath her, which convinced her that the Eire-king must have unexpectedly returned, and was now coming on his swiftest horse, which traveled faster than the wind, to punish his runaway queen. In another minute the iron gates at the back of the grate were thrown open with a loud crash, and the Fire-king galloped furiously up to Ella, perfectly black with the fierce passion which consumed him, and closely followed by his trembling courtiers.
" Insolent creature," cried the enraged monarch, beware how you tempt my wrath!