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´╗┐Title: A Double Story
Author: MacDonald, George, 1824-1905
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Double Story" ***

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A DOUBLE STORY


BY GEORGE MACDONALD.


NEW YORK:



A DOUBLE STORY



I.


There was a certain country where things used to go rather oddly. For
instance, you could never tell whether it was going to rain or hail, or
whether or not the milk was going to turn sour. It was impossible to
say whether the next baby would be a boy, or a girl, or even, after he
was a week old, whether he would wake sweet-tempered or cross.

In strict accordance with the peculiar nature of this country of
uncertainties, it came to pass one day, that in the midst of a shower
of rain that might well be called golden, seeing the sun, shining as it
fell, turned all its drops into molten topazes, and every drop was good
for a grain of golden corn, or a yellow cowslip, or a buttercup, or a
dandelion at least;--while this splendid rain was falling, I say, with
a musical patter upon the great leaves of the horse-chestnuts, which
hung like Vandyke collars about the necks of the creamy, red-spotted
blossoms, and on the leaves of the sycamores, looking as if they had
blood in their veins, and on a multitude of flowers, of which some
stood up and boldly held out their cups to catch their share, while
others cowered down, laughing, under the soft patting blows of the
heavy warm drops;--while this lovely rain was washing all the air clean
from the motes, and the bad odors, and the poison-seeds that had
escaped from their prisons during the long drought;--while it fell,
splashing and sparkling, with a hum, and a rush, and a soft
clashing--but stop! I am stealing, I find, and not that only, but with
clumsy hands spoiling what I steal:--

    "O Rain! with your dull twofold sound,
     The clash hard by, and the murmur all round:"

--there! take it, Mr. Coleridge;--while, as I was saying, the lovely
little rivers whose fountains are the clouds, and which cut their own
channels through the air, and make sweet noises rubbing against their
banks as they hurry down and down, until at length they are pulled up
on a sudden, with a musical plash, in the very heart of an odorous
flower, that first gasps and then sighs up a blissful scent, or on the
bald head of a stone that never says, Thank you;--while the very sheep
felt it blessing them, though it could never reach their skins through
the depth of their long wool, and the veriest hedgehog--I mean the one
with the longest spikes--came and spiked himself out to impale as many
of the drops as he could;--while the rain was thus falling, and the
leaves, and the flowers, and the sheep, and the cattle, and the
hedgehog, were all busily receiving the golden rain, something
happened. It was not a great battle, nor an earthquake, nor a
coronation, but something more important than all those put together. A
BABY-GIRL WAS BORN; and her father was a king; and her mother was a
queen; and her uncles and aunts were princes and princesses; and her
first-cousins were dukes and duchesses; and not one of her
second-cousins was less than a marquis or marchioness, or of their
third-cousins less than an earl or countess: and below a countess they
did not care to count. So the little girl was Somebody; and yet for all
that, strange to say, the first thing she did was to cry. I told you it
was a strange country.

As she grew up, everybody about her did his best to convince her that
she was Somebody; and the girl herself was so easily persuaded of it
that she quite forgot that anybody had ever told her so, and took it
for a fundamental, innate, primary, first-born, self-evident,
necessary, and incontrovertible idea and principle that SHE WAS
SOMEBODY. And far be it from me to deny it. I will even go so far as to
assert that in this odd country there was a huge number of Somebodies.
Indeed, it was one of its oddities that every boy and girl in it, was
rather too ready to think he or she was Somebody; and the worst of it
was that the princess never thought of there being more than one
Somebody--and that was herself.

Far away to the north in the same country, on the side of a bleak hill,
where a horse-chestnut or a sycamore was never seen, where were no
meadows rich with buttercups, only steep, rough, breezy slopes, covered
with dry prickly furze and its flowers of red gold, or moister, softer
broom with its flowers of yellow gold, and great sweeps of purple
heather, mixed with bilberries, and crowberries, and cranberries--no, I
am all wrong: there was nothing out yet but a few furze-blossoms; the
rest were all waiting behind their doors till they were called; and no
full, slow-gliding river with meadow-sweet along its oozy banks, only a
little brook here and there, that dashed past without a moment to say,
"How do you do?"--there (would you believe it?) while the same cloud
that was dropping down golden rain all about the queen's new baby was
dashing huge fierce handfuls of hail upon the hills, with such force
that they flew spinning off the rocks and stones, went burrowing in the
sheep's wool, stung the cheeks and chin of the shepherd with their
sharp spiteful little blows, and made his dog wink and whine as they
bounded off his hard wise head, and long sagacious nose; only, when
they dropped plump down the chimney, and fell hissing in the little
fire, they caught it then, for the clever little fire soon sent them up
the chimney again, a good deal swollen, and harmless enough for a
while, there (what do you think?) among the hailstones, and the
heather, and the cold mountain air, another little girl was born, whom
the shepherd her father, and the shepherdess her mother, and a good
many of her kindred too, thought Somebody. She had not an uncle or an
aunt that was less than a shepherd or dairymaid, not a cousin, that was
less than a farm-laborer, not a second-cousin that was less than a
grocer, and they did not count farther. And yet (would you believe it?)
she too cried the very first thing. It WAS an odd country! And, what is
still more surprising, the shepherd and shepherdess and the dairymaids
and the laborers were not a bit wiser than the king and the queen and
the dukes and the marquises and the earls; for they too, one and all,
so constantly taught the little woman that she was Somebody, that she
also forgot that there were a great many more Somebodies besides
herself in the world.

It was, indeed, a peculiar country, very different from ours--so
different, that my reader must not be too much surprised when I add the
amazing fact, that most of its inhabitants, instead of enjoying the
things they had, were always wanting the things they had not, often
even the things it was least likely they ever could have. The grown men
and women being like this, there is no reason to be further astonished
that the Princess Rosamond--the name her parents gave her because it
means Rose of the World--should grow up like them, wanting every thing
she could and every thing she couldn't have. The things she could have
were a great many too many, for her foolish parents always gave her
what they could; but still there remained a few things they couldn't
give her, for they were only a common king and queen. They could and
did give her a lighted candle when she cried for it, and managed by
much care that she should not burn her fingers or set her frock on
fire; but when she cried for the moon, that they could not give her.
They did the worst thing possible, instead, however; for they pretended
to do what they could not. They got her a thin disc of brilliantly
polished silver, as near the size of the moon as they could agree upon;
and, for a time she was delighted.

But, unfortunately, one evening she made the discovery that her moon
was a little peculiar, inasmuch as she could not shine in the dark. Her
nurse happened to snuff out the candles as she was playing with it; and
instantly came a shriek of rage, for her moon had vanished. Presently,
through the opening of the curtains, she caught sight of the real moon,
far away in the sky, and shining quite calmly, as if she had been there
all the time; and her rage increased to such a degree that if it had
not passed off in a fit, I do not know what might have come of it.

As she grew up it was still the same, with this difference, that not
only must she have every thing, but she got tired of every thing almost
as soon as she had it. There was an accumulation of things in her
nursery and schoolroom and bedroom that was perfectly appalling. Her
mother's wardrobes were almost useless to her, so packed were they with
things of which she never took any notice. When she was five years old,
they gave her a splendid gold repeater, so close set with diamonds and
rubies, that the back was just one crust of gems. In one of her little
tempers, as they called her hideously ugly rages, she dashed it against
the back of the chimney, after which it never gave a single tick; and
some of the diamonds went to the ash-pit. As she grew older still, she
became fond of animals, not in a way that brought them much pleasure,
or herself much satisfaction. When angry, she would beat them, and try
to pull them to pieces, and as soon as she became a little used to
them, would neglect them altogether. Then, if they could, they would
run away, and she was furious. Some white mice, which she had ceased
feeding altogether, did so; and soon the palace was swarming with white
mice. Their red eyes might be seen glowing, and their white skins
gleaming, in every dark corner; but when it came to the king's finding
a nest of them in his second-best crown, he was angry and ordered them
to be drowned. The princess heard of it, however, and raised such a
clamor, that there they were left until they should run away of
themselves; and the poor king had to wear his best crown every day till
then. Nothing that was the princess's property, whether she cared for
it or not, was to be meddled with.

Of course, as she grew, she grew worse; for she never tried to grow
better. She became more and more peevish and fretful every
day--dissatisfied not only with what she had, but with all that was
around her, and constantly wishing things in general to be different.
She found fault with every thing and everybody, and all that happened,
and grew more and more disagreeable to every one who had to do with
her. At last, when she had nearly killed her nurse, and had all but
succeeded in hanging herself, and was miserable from morning to night,
her parents thought it time to do something.

A long way from the palace, in the heart of a deep wood of pine-trees,
lived a wise woman. In some countries she would have been called a
witch; but that would have been a mistake, for she never did any thing
wicked, and had more power than any witch could have. As her fame was
spread through all the country, the king heard of her; and, thinking
she might perhaps be able to suggest something, sent for her. In the
dead of the night, lest the princess should know it, the king's
messenger brought into the palace a tall woman, muffled from head to
foot in a cloak of black cloth. In the presence of both their
Majesties, the king, to do her honor, requested her to sit; but she
declined, and stood waiting to hear what they had to say. Nor had she
to wait long, for almost instantly they began to tell her the dreadful
trouble they were in with their only child; first the king talking,
then the queen interposing with some yet more dreadful fact, and at
times both letting out a torrent of words together, so anxious were
they to show the wise woman that their perplexity was real, and their
daughter a very terrible one. For a long while there appeared no sign
of approaching pause. But the wise woman stood patiently folded in her
black cloak, and listened without word or motion. At length silence
fell; for they had talked themselves tired, and could not think of any
thing more to add to the list of their child's enormities.

After a minute, the wise woman unfolded her arms; and her cloak
dropping open in front, disclosed a garment made of a strange stuff,
which an old poet who knew her well has thus described:--

    "All lilly white, withoutten spot or pride,
     That seemd like silke and silver woven neare;
     But neither silke nor silver therein did appeare."

"How very badly you have treated her!" said the wise woman. "Poor
child!"

"Treated her badly?" gasped the king.

"She is a very wicked child," said the queen; and both glared with
indignation.

"Yes, indeed!" returned the wise woman. "She is very naughty indeed,
and that she must be made to feel; but it is half your fault too."

"What!" stammered the king. "Haven't we given her every mortal thing
she wanted?"

"Surely," said the wise woman: "what else could have all but killed
her? You should have given her a few things of the other sort. But you
are far too dull to understand me."

"You are very polite," remarked the king, with royal sarcasm on his
thin, straight lips.

The wise woman made no answer beyond a deep sigh; and the king and
queen sat silent also in their anger, glaring at the wise woman. The
silence lasted again for a minute, and then the wise woman folded her
cloak around her, and her shining garment vanished like the moon when a
great cloud comes over her. Yet another minute passed and the silence
endured, for the smouldering wrath of the king and queen choked the
channels of their speech. Then the wise woman turned her back on them,
and so stood. At this, the rage of the king broke forth; and he cried
to the queen, stammering in his fierceness,--

"How should such an old hag as that teach Rosamond good manners? She
knows nothing of them herself! Look how she stands!--actually with her
back to us."

At the word the wise woman walked from the room. The great folding
doors fell to behind her; and the same moment the king and queen were
quarrelling like apes as to which of them was to blame for her
departure. Before their altercation was over, for it lasted till the
early morning, in rushed Rosamond, clutching in her hand a poor little
white rabbit, of which she was very fond, and from which, only because
it would not come to her when she called it, she was pulling handfuls
of fur in the attempt to tear the squealing, pink-eared, red-eyed thing
to pieces.

"Rosa, RosaMOND!" cried the queen; whereupon Rosamond threw the rabbit
in her mother's face. The king started up in a fury, and ran to seize
her. She darted shrieking from the room. The king rushed after her;
but, to his amazement, she was nowhere to be seen: the huge hall was
empty.--No: just outside the door, close to the threshold, with her
back to it, sat the figure of the wise woman, muffled in her dark
cloak, with her head bowed over her knees. As the king stood looking at
her, she rose slowly, crossed the hall, and walked away down the marble
staircase. The king called to her; but she never turned her head, or
gave the least sign that she heard him. So quietly did she pass down
the wide marble stair, that the king was all but persuaded he had seen
only a shadow gliding across the white steps.

For the princess, she was nowhere to be found. The queen went into
hysterics; and the rabbit ran away. The king sent out messengers in
every direction, but in vain.

In a short time the palace was quiet--as quiet as it used to be before
the princess was born. The king and queen cried a little now and then,
for the hearts of parents were in that country strangely fashioned; and
yet I am afraid the first movement of those very hearts would have been
a jump of terror if the ears above them had heard the voice of Rosamond
in one of the corridors. As for the rest of the household, they could
not have made up a single tear amongst them. They thought, whatever it
might be for the princess, it was, for every one else, the best thing
that could have happened; and as to what had become of her, if their
heads were puzzled, their hearts took no interest in the question. The
lord-chancellor alone had an idea about it, but he was far too wise to
utter it.



II.


The fact, as is plain, was, that the princess had disappeared in the
folds of the wise woman's cloak. When she rushed from the room, the
wise woman caught her to her bosom and flung the black garment around
her. The princess struggled wildly, for she was in fierce terror, and
screamed as loud as choking fright would permit her; but her father,
standing in the door, and looking down upon the wise woman, saw never a
movement of the cloak, so tight was she held by her captor. He was
indeed aware of a most angry crying, which reminded him of his
daughter; but it sounded to him so far away, that he took it for the
passion of some child in the street, outside the palace-gates. Hence,
unchallenged, the wise woman carried the princess down the marble
stairs, out at the palace-door, down a great flight of steps outside,
across a paved court, through the brazen gates, along half-roused
streets where people were opening their shops, through the huge gates
of the city, and out into the wide road, vanishing northwards; the
princess struggling and screaming all the time, and the wise woman
holding her tight. When at length she was too tired to struggle or
scream any more, the wise woman unfolded her cloak, and set her down;
and the princess saw the light and opened her swollen eyelids. There
was nothing in sight that she had ever seen before. City and palace had
disappeared. They were upon a wide road going straight on, with a ditch
on each side of it, that behind them widened into the great moat
surrounding the city. She cast up a terrified look into the wise
woman's face, that gazed down upon her gravely and kindly. Now the
princess did not in the least understand kindness. She always took it
for a sign either of partiality or fear. So when the wise woman looked
kindly upon her, she rushed at her, butting with her head like a ram:
but the folds of the cloak had closed around the wise woman; and, when
the princess ran against it, she found it hard as the cloak of a bronze
statue, and fell back upon the road with a great bruise on her head.
The wise woman lifted her again, and put her once more under the cloak,
where she fell asleep, and where she awoke again only to find that she
was still being carried on and on.

When at length the wise woman again stopped and set her down, she saw
around her a bright moonlit night, on a wide heath, solitary and
houseless. Here she felt more frightened than before; nor was her
terror assuaged when, looking up, she saw a stern, immovable
countenance, with cold eyes fixedly regarding her. All she knew of the
world being derived from nursery-tales, she concluded that the wise
woman was an ogress, carrying her home to eat her.

I have already said that the princess was, at this time of her life,
such a low-minded creature, that severity had greater influence over
her than kindness. She understood terror better far than tenderness.
When the wise woman looked at her thus, she fell on her knees, and held
up her hands to her, crying,--

"Oh, don't eat me! don't eat me!"

Now this being the best SHE could do, it was a sign she was a low
creature. Think of it--to kick at kindness, and kneel from terror. But
the sternness on the face of the wise woman came from the same heart
and the same feeling as the kindness that had shone from it before. The
only thing that could save the princess from her hatefulness, was that
she should be made to mind somebody else than her own miserable
Somebody.

Without saying a word, the wise woman reached down her hand, took one
of Rosamond's, and, lifting her to her feet, led her along through the
moonlight. Every now and then a gush of obstinacy would well up in the
heart of the princess, and she would give a great ill-tempered tug, and
pull her hand away; but then the wise woman would gaze down upon her
with such a look, that she instantly sought again the hand she had
rejected, in pure terror lest she should be eaten upon the spot. And so
they would walk on again; and when the wind blew the folds of the cloak
against the princess, she found them soft as her mother's camel-hair
shawl.

After a little while the wise woman began to sing to her, and the
princess could not help listening; for the soft wind amongst the low
dry bushes of the heath, the rustle of their own steps, and the
trailing of the wise woman's cloak, were the only sounds beside.

And this is the song she sang:--

        Out in the cold,
        With a thin-worn fold
        Of withered gold
        Around her rolled,
    Hangs in the air the weary moon.
        She is old, old, old;
        And her bones all cold,
        And her tales all told,
        And her things all sold,
    And she has no breath to croon.

        Like a castaway clout,
        She is quite shut out!
        She might call and shout,
        But no one about
    Would ever call back, "Who's there?"
        There is never a hut,
        Not a door to shut,
        Not a footpath or rut,
        Long road or short cut,
    Leading to anywhere!

        She is all alone
        Like a dog-picked bone,
        The poor old crone!
        She fain would groan,
    But she cannot find the breath.
        She once had a fire;
        But she built it no higher,
        And only sat nigher
        Till she saw it expire;
    And now she is cold as death.

        She never will smile
        All the lonesome while.
        Oh the mile after mile,
        And never a stile!
    And never a tree or a stone!
        She has not a tear:
        Afar and anear
        It is all so drear,
        But she does not care,
    Her heart is as dry as a bone.

        None to come near her!
        No one to cheer her!
        No one to jeer her!
        No one to hear her!
    Not a thing to lift and hold!
        She is always awake,
        But her heart will not break:
        She can only quake,
        Shiver, and shake:
    The old woman is very cold.

As strange as the song, was the crooning wailing tune that the wise
woman sung. At the first note almost, you would have thought she wanted
to frighten the princess; and so indeed she did. For when people WILL
be naughty, they have to be frightened, and they are not expected to
like it. The princess grew angry, pulled her hand away, and cried,--

"YOU are the ugly old woman. I hate you!"

Therewith she stood still, expecting the wise woman to stop also,
perhaps coax her to go on: if she did, she was determined not to move a
step. But the wise woman never even looked about: she kept walking on
steadily, the same space as before. Little Obstinate thought for
certain she would turn; for she regarded herself as much too precious
to be left behind. But on and on the wise woman went, until she had
vanished away in the dim moonlight. Then all at once the princess
perceived that she was left alone with the moon, looking down on her
from the height of her loneliness. She was horribly frightened, and
began to run after the wise woman, calling aloud. But the song she had
just heard came back to the sound of her own running feet,--

    All all alone,
    Like a dog-picked bone!

and again,--

        She might call and shout,
        And no one about
    Would ever call back, "Who's there?"

and she screamed as she ran. How she wished she knew the old woman's
name, that she might call it after her through the moonlight!

But the wise woman had, in truth, heard the first sound of her running
feet, and stopped and turned, waiting. What with running and crying,
however, and a fall or two as she ran, the princess never saw her until
she fell right into her arms--and the same moment into a fresh rage;
for as soon as any trouble was over the princess was always ready to
begin another. The wise woman therefore pushed her away, and walked on;
while the princess ran scolding and storming after her. She had to run
till, from very fatigue, her rudeness ceased. Her heart gave way; she
burst into tears, and ran on silently weeping.

A minute more and the wise woman stooped, and lifting her in her arms,
folded her cloak around her. Instantly she fell asleep, and slept as
soft and as soundly as if she had been in her own bed. She slept till
the moon went down; she slept till the sun rose up; she slept till he
climbed the topmost sky; she slept till he went down again, and the
poor old moon came peaking and peering out once more: and all that time
the wise woman went walking on and on very fast. And now they had
reached a spot where a few fir-trees came to meet them through the
moonlight.

At the same time the princess awaked, and popping her head out between
the folds of the wise woman's cloak--a very ugly little owlet she
looked--saw that they were entering the wood. Now there is something
awful about every wood, especially in the moonlight; and perhaps a
fir-wood is more awful than other woods. For one thing, it lets a
little more light through, rendering the darkness a little more
visible, as it were; and then the trees go stretching away up towards
the moon, and look as if they cared nothing about the creatures below
them--not like the broad trees with soft wide leaves that, in the
darkness even, look sheltering. So the princess is not to be blamed
that she was very much frightened. She is hardly to be blamed either
that, assured the wise woman was an ogress carrying her to her castle
to eat her up, she began again to kick and scream violently, as those
of my readers who are of the same sort as herself will consider the
right and natural thing to do. The wrong in her was this--that she had
led such a bad life, that she did not know a good woman when she saw
her; took her for one like herself, even after she had slept in her
arms.

Immediately the wise woman set her down, and, walking on, within a few
paces vanished among the trees. Then the cries of the princess rent the
air, but the fir-trees never heeded her; not one of their hard little
needles gave a single shiver for all the noise she made. But there were
creatures in the forest who were soon quite as much interested in her
cries as the fir-trees were indifferent to them. They began to hearken
and howl and snuff about, and run hither and thither, and grin with
their white teeth, and light up the green lamps in their eyes. In a
minute or two a whole army of wolves and hyenas were rushing from all
quarters through the pillar like stems of the fir-trees, to the place
where she stood calling them, without knowing it. The noise she made
herself, however, prevented her from hearing either their howls or the
soft pattering of their many trampling feet as they bounded over the
fallen fir needles and cones.

One huge old wolf had outsped the rest--not that he could run faster,
but that from experience he could more exactly judge whence the cries
came, and as he shot through the wood, she caught sight at last of his
lamping eyes coming swiftly nearer and nearer. Terror silenced her. She
stood with her mouth open, as if she were going to eat the wolf, but
she had no breath to scream with, and her tongue curled up in her mouth
like a withered and frozen leaf. She could do nothing but stare at the
coming monster. And now he was taking a few shorter bounds, measuring
the distance for the one final leap that should bring him upon her,
when out stepped the wise woman from behind the very tree by which she
had set the princess down, caught the wolf by the throat half-way in
his last spring, shook him once, and threw him from her dead. Then she
turned towards the princess, who flung herself into her arms, and was
instantly lapped in the folds of her cloak.

But now the huge army of wolves and hyenas had rushed like a sea around
them, whose waves leaped with hoarse roar and hollow yell up against
the wise woman. But she, like a strong stately vessel, moved unhurt
through the midst of them. Ever as they leaped against her cloak, they
dropped and slunk away back through the crowd. Others ever succeeded,
and ever in their turn fell, and drew back confounded. For some time
she walked on attended and assailed on all sides by the howling pack.
Suddenly they turned and swept away, vanishing in the depths of the
forest. She neither slackened nor hastened her step, but went walking
on as before.

In a little while she unfolded her cloak, and let the princess look
out. The firs had ceased; and they were on a lofty height of moorland,
stony and bare and dry, with tufts of heather and a few small plants
here and there. About the heath, on every side, lay the forest, looking
in the moonlight like a cloud; and above the forest, like the shaven
crown of a monk, rose the bare moor over which they were walking.
Presently, a little way in front of them, the princess espied a
whitewashed cottage, gleaming in the moon. As they came nearer, she saw
that the roof was covered with thatch, over which the moss had grown
green. It was a very simple, humble place, not in the least terrible to
look at, and yet, as soon as she saw it, her fear again awoke, and
always, as soon as her fear awoke, the trust of the princess fell into
a dead sleep. Foolish and useless as she might by this time have known
it, she once more began kicking and screaming, whereupon, yet once
more, the wise woman set her down on the heath, a few yards from the
back of the cottage, and saying only, "No one ever gets into my house
who does not knock at the door, and ask to come in," disappeared round
the corner of the cottage, leaving the princess alone with the
moon--two white faces in the cone of the night.



III.


The moon stared at the princess, and the princess stared at the moon;
but the moon had the best of it, and the princess began to cry. And now
the question was between the moon and the cottage. The princess thought
she knew the worst of the moon, and she knew nothing at all about the
cottage, therefore she would stay with the moon. Strange, was it not,
that she should have been so long with the wise woman, and yet know
NOTHING about that cottage? As for the moon, she did not by any means
know the worst of her, or even, that, if she were to fall asleep where
she could find her, the old witch would certainly do her best to twist
her face.

But she had scarcely sat a moment longer before she was assailed by all
sorts of fresh fears. First of all, the soft wind blowing gently
through the dry stalks of the heather and its thousands of little bells
raised a sweet rustling, which the princess took for the hissing of
serpents, for you know she had been naughty for so long that she could
not in a great many things tell the good from the bad. Then nobody
could deny that there, all round about the heath, like a ring of
darkness, lay the gloomy fir-wood, and the princess knew what it was
full of, and every now and then she thought she heard the howling of
its wolves and hyenas. And who could tell but some of them might break
from their covert and sweep like a shadow across the heath? Indeed, it
was not once nor twice that for a moment she was fully persuaded she
saw a great beast coming leaping and bounding through the moonlight to
have her all to himself. She did not know that not a single evil
creature dared set foot on that heath, or that, if one should do so, it
would that instant wither up and cease. If an army of them had rushed
to invade it, it would have melted away on the edge of it, and ceased
like a dying wave.--She even imagined that the moon was slowly coming
nearer and nearer down the sky to take her and freeze her to death in
her arms. The wise woman, too, she felt sure, although her cottage
looked asleep, was watching her at some little window. In this,
however, she would have been quite right, if she had only imagined
enough--namely, that the wise woman was watching OVER her from the
little window. But after all, somehow, the thought of the wise woman
was less frightful than that of any of her other terrors, and at length
she began to wonder whether it might not turn out that she was no
ogress, but only a rude, ill-bred, tyrannical, yet on the whole not
altogether ill-meaning person. Hardly had the possibility arisen in her
mind, before she was on her feet: if the woman was any thing short of
an ogress, her cottage must be better than that horrible loneliness,
with nothing in all the world but a stare; and even an ogress had at
least the shape and look of a human being.

She darted round the end of the cottage to find the front. But, to her
surprise, she came only to another back, for no door was to be seen.
She tried the farther end, but still no door. She must have passed it
as she ran--but no--neither in gable nor in side was any to be found.

A cottage without a door!--she rushed at it in a rage and kicked at the
wall with her feet. But the wall was hard as iron, and hurt her sadly
through her gay silken slippers. She threw herself on the heath, which
came up to the walls of the cottage on every side, and roared and
screamed with rage. Suddenly, however, she remembered how her screaming
had brought the horde of wolves and hyenas about her in the forest,
and, ceasing at once, lay still, gazing yet again at the moon. And then
came the thought of her parents in the palace at home. In her mind's
eye she saw her mother sitting at her embroidery with the tears
dropping upon it, and her father staring into the fire as if he were
looking for her in its glowing caverns. It is true that if they had
both been in tears by her side because of her naughtiness, she would
not have cared a straw; but now her own forlorn condition somehow
helped her to understand their grief at having lost her, and not only a
great longing to be back in her comfortable home, but a feeble flutter
of genuine love for her parents awoke in her heart as well, and she
burst into real tears--soft, mournful tears--very different from those
of rage and disappointment to which she was so much used. And another
very remarkable thing was that the moment she began to love her father
and mother, she began to wish to see the wise woman again. The idea of
her being an ogress vanished utterly, and she thought of her only as
one to take her in from the moon, and the loneliness, and the terrors
of the forest-haunted heath, and hide her in a cottage with not even a
door for the horrid wolves to howl against.

But the old woman--as the princess called her, not knowing that her
real name was the Wise Woman--had told her that she must knock at the
door: how was she to do that when there was no door? But again she
bethought herself--that, if she could not do all she was told, she
could, at least, do a part of it: if she could not knock at the door,
she could at least knock--say on the wall, for there was nothing else
to knock upon--and perhaps the old woman would hear her, and lift her
in by some window. Thereupon, she rose at once to her feet, and picking
up a stone, began to knock on the wall with it. A loud noise was the
result, and she found she was knocking on the very door itself. For a
moment she feared the old woman would be offended, but the next, there
came a voice, saying,

"Who is there?"

The princess answered,

"Please, old woman, I did not mean to knock so loud."

To this there came no reply.

Then the princess knocked again, this time with her knuckles, and the
voice came again, saying,

"Who is there?"

And the princess answered,

"Rosamond."

Then a second time there was silence. But the princess soon ventured to
knock a third time.

"What do you want?" said the voice.

"Oh, please, let me in!" said the princess.

"The moon will keep staring at me; and I hear the wolves in the wood."

Then the door opened, and the princess entered. She looked all around,
but saw nothing of the wise woman.

It was a single bare little room, with a white deal table, and a few
old wooden chairs, a fire of fir-wood on the hearth, the smoke of which
smelt sweet, and a patch of thick-growing heath in one corner. Poor as
it was, compared to the grand place Rosamond had left, she felt no
little satisfaction as she shut the door, and looked around her. And
what with the sufferings and terrors she had left outside, the new kind
of tears she had shed, the love she had begun to feel for her parents,
and the trust she had begun to place in the wise woman, it seemed to
her as if her soul had grown larger of a sudden, and she had left the
days of her childishness and naughtiness far behind her. People are so
ready to think themselves changed when it is only their mood that is
changed! Those who are good-tempered because it is a fine day, will be
ill-tempered when it rains: their selves are just the same both days;
only in the one case, the fine weather has got into them, in the other
the rainy. Rosamond, as she sat warming herself by the glow of the
peat-fire, turning over in her mind all that had passed, and feeling
how pleasant the change in her feelings was, began by degrees to think
how very good she had grown, and how very good she was to have grown
good, and how extremely good she must always have been that she was
able to grow so very good as she now felt she had grown; and she became
so absorbed in her self-admiration as never to notice either that the
fire was dying, or that a heap of fir-cones lay in a corner near it.
Suddenly, a great wind came roaring down the chimney, and scattered the
ashes about the floor; a tremendous rain followed, and fell hissing on
the embers; the moon was swallowed up, and there was darkness all about
her. Then a flash of lightning, followed by a peal of thunder, so
terrified the princess, that she cried aloud for the old woman, but
there came no answer to her cry.

Then in her terror the princess grew angry, and saying to herself, "She
must be somewhere in the place, else who was there to open the door to
me?" began to shout and yell, and call the wise woman all the bad names
she had been in the habit of throwing at her nurses. But there came not
a single sound in reply.

Strange to say, the princess never thought of telling herself now how
naughty she was, though that would surely have been reasonable. On the
contrary, she thought she had a perfect right to be angry, for was she
not most desperately ill used--and a princess too? But the wind howled
on, and the rain kept pouring down the chimney, and every now and then
the lightning burst out, and the thunder rushed after it, as if the
great lumbering sound could ever think to catch up with the swift light!

At length the princess had again grown so angry, frightened, and
miserable, all together, that she jumped up and hurried about the
cottage with outstretched arms, trying to find the wise woman. But
being in a bad temper always makes people stupid, and presently she
struck her forehead such a blow against something--she thought herself
it felt like the old woman's cloak--that she fell back--not on the
floor, though, but on the patch of heather, which felt as soft and
pleasant as any bed in the palace. There, worn out with weeping and
rage, she soon fell fast asleep.

She dreamed that she was the old cold woman up in the sky, with no home
and no friends, and no nothing at all, not even a pocket; wandering,
wandering forever, over a desert of blue sand, never to get to
anywhere, and never to lie down or die. It was no use stopping to look
about her, for what had she to do but forever look about her as she
went on and on and on--never seeing any thing, and never expecting to
see any thing! The only shadow of a hope she had was, that she might by
slow degrees grow thinner and thinner, until at last she wore away to
nothing at all; only alas! she could not detect the least sign that she
had yet begun to grow thinner. The hopelessness grew at length so
unendurable that she woke with a start. Seeing the face of the wise
woman bending over her, she threw her arms around her neck and held up
her mouth to be kissed. And the kiss of the wise woman was like the
rose-gardens of Damascus.



IV.


The wise woman lifted her tenderly, and washed and dressed her far more
carefully than even her nurse. Then she set her down by the fire, and
prepared her breakfast. The princess was very hungry, and the bread and
milk as good as it could be, so that she thought she had never in her
life eaten any thing nicer. Nevertheless, as soon as she began to have
enough, she said to herself,--

"Ha! I see how it is! The old woman wants to fatten me! That is why she
gives me such nice creamy milk. She doesn't kill me now because she's
going to kill me then! She IS an ogress, after all!"

Thereupon she laid down her spoon, and would not eat another
mouthful--only followed the basin with longing looks, as the wise woman
carried it away.

When she stopped eating, her hostess knew exactly what she was
thinking; but it was one thing to understand the princess, and quite
another to make the princess understand her: that would require time.
For the present she took no notice, but went about the affairs of the
house, sweeping the floor, brushing down the cobwebs, cleaning the
hearth, dusting the table and chairs, and watering the bed to keep it
fresh and alive--for she never had more than one guest at a time, and
never would allow that guest to go to sleep upon any thing that had no
life in it All the time she was thus busied, she spoke not a word to
the princess, which, with the princess, went to confirm her notion of
her purposes. But whatever she might have said would have been only
perverted by the princess into yet stronger proof of her evil designs,
for a fancy in her own head would outweigh any multitude of facts in
another's. She kept staring at the fire, and never looked round to see
what the wise woman might be doing.

By and by she came close up to the back of her chair, and said,

"Rosamond!"

But the princess had fallen into one of her sulky moods, and shut
herself up with her own ugly Somebody; so she never looked round or
even answered the wise woman.

"Rosamond," she repeated, "I am going out. If you are a good girl, that
is, if you do as I tell you, I will carry you back to your father and
mother the moment I return."

The princess did not take the least notice.

"Look at me, Rosamond," said the wise woman.

But Rosamond never moved--never even shrugged her shoulders--perhaps
because they were already up to her ears, and could go no farther.

"I want to help you to do what I tell you," said the wise woman. "Look
at me."

Still Rosamond was motionless and silent, saying only to herself,

"I know what she's after! She wants to show me her horrid teeth. But I
won't look. I'm not going to be frightened out of my senses to please
her."

"You had better look, Rosamond. Have you forgotten how you kissed me
this morning?"

But Rosamond now regarded that little throb of affection as a momentary
weakness into which the deceitful ogress had betrayed her, and almost
despised herself for it. She was one of those who the more they are
coaxed are the more disagreeable. For such, the wise woman had an awful
punishment, but she remembered that the princess had been very ill
brought up, and therefore wished to try her with all gentleness first.

She stood silent for a moment, to see what effect her words might have.
But Rosamond only said to herself,--

"She wants to fatten and eat me."

And it was such a little while since she had looked into the wise
woman's loving eyes, thrown her arms round her neck, and kissed her!

"Well," said the wise woman gently, after pausing as long as it seemed
possible she might bethink herself, "I must tell you then without; only
whoever listens with her back turned, listens but half, and gets but
half the help."

"She wants to fatten me," said the princess.

"You must keep the cottage tidy while I am out. When I come back, I
must see the fire bright, the hearth swept, and the kettle boiling; no
dust on the table or chairs, the windows clear, the floor clean, and
the heather in blossom--which last comes of sprinkling it with water
three times a day. When you are hungry, put your hand into that hole in
the wall, and you will find a meal."

"She wants to fatten me," said the princess.

"But on no account leave the house till I come back," continued the
wise woman, "or you will grievously repent it. Remember what you have
already gone through to reach it. Dangers lie all around this cottage
of mine; but inside, it is the safest place--in fact the only quite
safe place in all the country."

"She means to eat me," said the princess, "and therefore wants to
frighten me from running away."

She heard the voice no more. Then, suddenly startled at the thought of
being alone, she looked hastily over her shoulder. The cottage was
indeed empty of all visible life. It was soundless, too: there was not
even a ticking clock or a flapping flame. The fire burned still and
smouldering-wise; but it was all the company she had, and she turned
again to stare into it.

Soon she began to grow weary of having nothing to do. Then she
remembered that the old woman, as she called her, had told her to keep
the house tidy.

"The miserable little pig-sty!" she said. "Where's the use of keeping
such a hovel clean!"

But in truth she would have been glad of the employment, only just
because she had been told to do it, she was unwilling; for there ARE
people--however unlikely it may seem--who object to doing a thing for
no other reason than that it is required of them.

"I am a princess," she said, "and it is very improper to ask me to do
such a thing."

She might have judged it quite as suitable for a princess to sweep away
the dust as to sit the centre of a world of dirt. But just because she
ought, she wouldn't. Perhaps she feared that if she gave in to doing
her duty once, she might have to do it always--which was true
enough--for that was the very thing for which she had been specially
born.

Unable, however, to feel quite comfortable in the resolve to neglect
it, she said to herself, "I'm sure there's time enough for such a nasty
job as that!" and sat on, watching the fire as it burned away, the
glowing red casting off white flakes, and sinking lower and lower on
the hearth.

By and by, merely for want of something to do, she would see what the
old woman had left for her in the hole of the wall. But when she put in
her hand she found nothing there, except the dust which she ought by
this time to have wiped away. Never reflecting that the wise woman had
told her she would find food there WHEN SHE WAS HUNGRY, she flew into
one of her furies, calling her a cheat, and a thief, and a liar, and an
ugly old witch, and an ogress, and I do not know how many wicked names
besides. She raged until she was quite exhausted, and then fell fast
asleep on her chair. When she awoke the fire was out.

By this time she was hungry; but without looking in the hole, she began
again to storm at the wise woman, in which labor she would no doubt
have once more exhausted herself, had not something white caught her
eye: it was the corner of a napkin hanging from the hole in the wall.
She bounded to it, and there was a dinner for her of something
strangely good--one of her favorite dishes, only better than she had
ever tasted it before. This might surely have at least changed her mood
towards the wise woman; but she only grumbled to herself that it was as
it ought to be, ate up the food, and lay down on the bed, never
thinking of fire, or dust, or water for the heather.

The wind began to moan about the cottage, and grew louder and louder,
till a great gust came down the chimney, and again scattered the white
ashes all over the place. But the princess was by this time fast
asleep, and never woke till the wind had sunk to silence. One of the
consequences, however, of sleeping when one ought to be awake is waking
when one ought to be asleep; and the princess awoke in the black
midnight, and found enough to keep her awake. For although the wind had
fallen, there was a far more terrible howling than that of the wildest
wind all about the cottage. Nor was the howling all; the air was full
of strange cries; and everywhere she heard the noise of claws
scratching against the house, which seemed all doors and windows, so
crowded were the sounds, and from so many directions. All the night
long she lay half swooning, yet listening to the hideous noises. But
with the first glimmer of morning they ceased.

Then she said to herself, "How fortunate it was that I woke! They would
have eaten me up if I had been asleep." The miserable little wretch
actually talked as if she had kept them out! If she had done her work
in the day, she would have slept through the terrors of the darkness,
and awaked fearless; whereas now, she had in the storehouse of her
heart a whole harvest of agonies, reaped from the dun fields of the
night!

They were neither wolves nor hyenas which had caused her such dismay,
but creatures of the air, more frightful still, which, as soon as the
smoke of the burning fir-wood ceased to spread itself abroad, and the
sun was a sufficient distance down the sky, and the lone cold woman was
out, came flying and howling about the cottage, trying to get in at
every door and window. Down the chimney they would have got, but that
at the heart of the fire there always lay a certain fir-cone, which
looked like solid gold red-hot, and which, although it might easily get
covered up with ashes, so as to be quite invisible, was continually in
a glow fit to kindle all the fir-cones in the world; this it was which
had kept the horrible birds--some say they have a claw at the tip of
every wing-feather--from tearing the poor naughty princess to pieces,
and gobbling her up.

When she rose and looked about her, she was dismayed to see what a
state the cottage was in. The fire was out, and the windows were all
dim with the wings and claws of the dirty birds, while the bed from
which she had just risen was brown and withered, and half its purple
bells had fallen. But she consoled herself that she could set all to
rights in a few minutes--only she must breakfast first. And, sure
enough, there was a basin of the delicious bread and milk ready for her
in the hole of the wall!

After she had eaten it, she felt comfortable, and sat for a long time
building castles in the air--till she was actually hungry again,
without having done an atom of work. She ate again, and was idle again,
and ate again. Then it grew dark, and she went trembling to bed, for
now she remembered the horrors of the last night. This time she never
slept at all, but spent the long hours in grievous terror, for the
noises were worse than before. She vowed she would not pass another
night in such a hateful haunted old shed for all the ugly women,
witches, and ogresses in the wide world. In the morning, however, she
fell asleep, and slept late.

Breakfast was of course her first thought, after which she could not
avoid that of work. It made her very miserable, but she feared the
consequences of being found with it undone. A few minutes before noon,
she actually got up, took her pinafore for a duster, and proceeded to
dust the table. But the wood-ashes flew about so, that it seemed
useless to attempt getting rid of them, and she sat down again to think
what was to be done. But there is very little indeed to be done when we
will not do that which we have to do.

Her first thought now was to run away at once while the sun was high,
and get through the forest before night came on. She fancied she could
easily go back the way she had come, and get home to her father's
palace. But not the most experienced traveller in the world can ever go
back the way the wise woman has brought him.

She got up and went to the door. It was locked! What could the old
woman have meant by telling her not to leave the cottage? She was
indignant.

The wise woman had meant to make it difficult, but not impossible.
Before the princess, however, could find the way out, she heard a hand
at the door, and darted in terror behind it. The wise woman opened it,
and, leaving it open, walked straight to the hearth. Rosamond
immediately slid out, ran a little way, and then laid herself down in
the long heather.



V.


The wise woman walked straight up to the hearth, looked at the fire,
looked at the bed, glanced round the room, and went up to the table.
When she saw the one streak in the thick dust which the princess had
left there, a smile, half sad, half pleased, like the sun peeping
through a cloud on a rainy day in spring, gleamed over her face. She
went at once to the door, and called in a loud voice,

"Rosamond, come to me."

All the wolves and hyenas, fast asleep in the wood, heard her voice,
and shivered in their dreams. No wonder then that the princess
trembled, and found herself compelled, she could not understand how, to
obey the summons. She rose, like the guilty thing she felt, forsook of
herself the hiding-place she had chosen, and walked slowly back to the
cottage she had left full of the signs of her shame. When she entered,
she saw the wise woman on her knees, building up the fire with
fir-cones. Already the flame was climbing through the heap in all
directions, crackling gently, and sending a sweet aromatic odor through
the dusty cottage.

"That is my part of the work," she said, rising. "Now you do yours. But
first let me remind you that if you had not put it off, you would have
found it not only far easier, but by and by quite pleasant work, much
more pleasant than you can imagine now; nor would you have found the
time go wearily: you would neither have slept in the day and let the
fire out, nor waked at night and heard the howling of the beast-birds.
More than all, you would have been glad to see me when I came back; and
would have leaped into my arms instead of standing there, looking so
ugly and foolish."

As she spoke, suddenly she held up before the princess a tiny mirror,
so clear that nobody looking into it could tell what it was made of, or
even see it at all--only the thing reflected in it. Rosamond saw a
child with dirty fat cheeks, greedy mouth, cowardly eyes--which, not
daring to look forward, seemed trying to hide behind an impertinent
nose--stooping shoulders, tangled hair, tattered clothes, and smears
and stains everywhere. That was what she had made herself. And to tell
the truth, she was shocked at the sight, and immediately began, in her
dirty heart, to lay the blame on the wise woman, because she had taken
her away from her nurses and her fine clothes; while all the time she
knew well enough that, close by the heather-bed, was the loveliest
little well, just big enough to wash in, the water of which was always
springing fresh from the ground, and running away through the wall.
Beside it lay the whitest of linen towels, with a comb made of
mother-of-pearl, and a brush of fir-needles, any one of which she had
been far too lazy to use. She dashed the glass out of the wise woman's
hand, and there it lay, broken into a thousand pieces!

Without a word, the wise woman stooped, and gathered the fragments--did
not leave searching until she had gathered the last atom, and she laid
them all carefully, one by one, in the fire, now blazing high on the
hearth. Then she stood up and looked at the princess, who had been
watching her sulkily.

"Rosamond," she said, with a countenance awful in its sternness, "until
you have cleansed this room--"

"She calls it a room!" sneered the princess to herself.

"You shall have no morsel to eat. You may drink of the well, but
nothing else you shall have. When the work I set you is done, you will
find food in the same place as before. I am going from home again; and
again I warn you not to leave the house."

"She calls it a house!--It's a good thing she's going out of it
anyhow!" said the princess, turning her back for mere rudeness, for she
was one who, even if she liked a thing before, would dislike it the
moment any person in authority over her desired her to do it.

When she looked again, the wise woman had vanished.

Thereupon the princess ran at once to the door, and tried to open it;
but open it would not. She searched on all sides, but could discover no
way of getting out. The windows would not open--at least she could not
open them; and the only outlet seemed the chimney, which she was afraid
to try because of the fire, which looked angry, she thought, and shot
out green flames when she went near it. So she sat down to consider.
One may well wonder what room for consideration there was--with all her
work lying undone behind her. She sat thus, however, considering, as
she called it, until hunger began to sting her, when she jumped up and
put her hand as usual in the hole of the wall: there was nothing there.
She fell straight into one of her stupid rages; but neither her hunger
nor the hole in the wall heeded her rage. Then, in a burst of
self-pity, she fell a-weeping, but neither the hunger nor the hole
cared for her tears. The darkness began to come on, and her hunger grew
and grew, and the terror of the wild noises of the last night invaded
her. Then she began to feel cold, and saw that the fire was dying. She
darted to the heap of cones, and fed it. It blazed up cheerily, and she
was comforted a little. Then she thought with herself it would surely
be better to give in so far, and do a little work, than die of hunger.
So catching up a duster, she began upon the table. The dust flew about
and nearly choked her. She ran to the well to drink, and was refreshed
and encouraged. Perceiving now that it was a tedious plan to wipe the
dust from the table on to the floor, whence it would have all to be
swept up again, she got a wooden platter, wiped the dust into that,
carried it to the fire, and threw it in. But all the time she was
getting more and more hungry and, although she tried the hole again and
again, it was only to become more and more certain that work she must
if she would eat.

At length all the furniture was dusted, and she began to sweep the
floor, which happily, she thought of sprinkling with water, as from the
window she had seen them do to the marble court of the palace. That
swept, she rushed again to the hole--but still no food! She was on the
verge of another rage, when the thought came that she might have
forgotten something. To her dismay she found that table and chairs and
every thing was again covered with dust--not so badly as before,
however. Again she set to work, driven by hunger, and drawn by the hope
of eating, and yet again, after a second careful wiping, sought the
hole. But no! nothing was there for her! What could it mean?

Her asking this question was a sign of progress: it showed that she
expected the wise woman to keep her word. Then she bethought her that
she had forgotten the household utensils, and the dishes and plates,
some of which wanted to be washed as well as dusted.

Faint with hunger, she set to work yet again. One thing made her think
of another, until at length she had cleaned every thing she could think
of. Now surely she must find some food in the hole!

When this time also there was nothing, she began once more to abuse the
wise woman as false and treacherous;--but ah! there was the bed
unwatered! That was soon amended.--Still no supper! Ah! there was the
hearth unswept, and the fire wanted making up!--Still no supper! What
else could there be? She was at her wits' end, and in very weariness,
not laziness this time, sat down and gazed into the fire. There, as she
gazed, she spied something brilliant,--shining even, in the midst of
the fire: it was the little mirror all whole again; but little she knew
that the dust which she had thrown into the fire had helped to heal it.
She drew it out carefully, and, looking into it, saw, not indeed the
ugly creature she had seen there before, but still a very dirty little
animal; whereupon she hurried to the well, took off her clothes,
plunged into it, and washed herself clean. Then she brushed and combed
her hair, made her clothes as tidy as might be, and ran to the hole in
the wall: there was a huge basin of bread and milk!

Never had she eaten any thing with half the relish! Alas! however, when
she had finished, she did not wash the basin, but left it as it was,
revealing how entirely all the rest had been done only from hunger.
Then she threw herself on the heather, and was fast asleep in a moment.
Never an evil bird came near her all that night, nor had she so much as
one troubled dream.

In the morning as she lay awake before getting up, she spied what
seemed a door behind the tall eight-day clock that stood silent in the
corner.

"Ah!" she thought, "that must be the way out!" and got up instantly.
The first thing she did, however, was to go to the hole in the wall.
Nothing was there.

"Well, I am hardly used!" she cried aloud. "All that cleaning for the
cross old woman yesterday, and this for my trouble,--nothing for
breakfast! Not even a crust of bread! Does Mistress Ogress fancy a
princess will bear that?"

The poor foolish creature seemed to think that the work of one day
ought to serve for the next day too! But that is nowhere the way in the
whole universe. How could there be a universe in that case? And even
she never dreamed of applying the same rule to her breakfast.

"How good I was all yesterday!" she said, "and how hungry and ill used
I am to-day!"

But she would NOT be a slave, and do over again to-day what she had
done only last night! SHE didn't care about her breakfast! She might
have it no doubt if she dusted all the wretched place again, but she
was not going to do that--at least, without seeing first what lay
behind the clock!

Off she darted, and putting her hand behind the clock found the latch
of a door. It lifted, and the door opened a little way. By squeezing
hard, she managed to get behind the clock, and so through the door. But
how she stared, when instead of the open heath, she found herself on
the marble floor of a large and stately room, lighted only from above.
Its walls were strengthened by pilasters, and in every space between
was a large picture, from cornice to floor. She did not know what to
make of it. Surely she had run all round the cottage, and certainly had
seen nothing of this size near it! She forgot that she had also run
round what she took for a hay-mow, a peat-stack, and several other
things which looked of no consequence in the moonlight.

"So, then," she cried, "the old woman IS a cheat! I believe she's an
ogress, after all, and lives in a palace--though she pretends it's only
a cottage, to keep people from suspecting that she eats good little
children like me!"

Had the princess been tolerably tractable, she would, by this time,
have known a good deal about the wise woman's beautiful house, whereas
she had never till now got farther than the porch. Neither was she at
all in its innermost places now.

But, king's daughter as she was, she was not a little daunted when,
stepping forward from the recess of the door, she saw what a great
lordly hall it was. She dared hardly look to the other end, it seemed
so far off: so she began to gaze at the things near her, and the
pictures first of all, for she had a great liking for pictures. One in
particular attracted her attention. She came back to it several times,
and at length stood absorbed in it.

A blue summer sky, with white fleecy clouds floating beneath it, hung
over a hill green to the very top, and alive with streams darting down
its sides toward the valley below. On the face of the hill strayed a
flock of sheep feeding, attended by a shepherd and two dogs. A little
way apart, a girl stood with bare feet in a brook, building across it a
bridge of rough stones. The wind was blowing her hair back from her
rosy face. A lamb was feeding close beside her; and a sheepdog was
trying to reach her hand to lick it.

"Oh, how I wish I were that little girl!" said the princess aloud. "I
wonder how it is that some people are made to be so much happier than
others! If I were that little girl, no one would ever call me naughty."

She gazed and gazed at the picture. At length she said to herself,

"I do not believe it is a picture. It is the real country, with a real
hill, and a real little girl upon it. I shall soon see whether this
isn't another of the old witch's cheats!"

She went close up to the picture, lifted her foot, and stepped over the
frame.

"I am free, I am free!" she exclaimed; and she felt the wind upon her
cheek.

The sound of a closing door struck on her ear. She turned--and there
was a blank wall, without door or window, behind her. The hill with the
sheep was before her, and she set out at once to reach it.

Now, if I am asked how this could be, I can only answer, that it was a
result of the interaction of things outside and things inside, of the
wise woman's skill, and the silly child's folly. If this does not
satisfy my questioner, I can only add, that the wise woman was able to
do far more wonderful things than this.



VI.


Meantime the wise woman was busy as she always was; and her business
now was with the child of the shepherd and shepherdess, away in the
north. Her name was Agnes.

Her father and mother were poor, and could not give her many things.
Rosamond would have utterly despised the rude, simple playthings she
had. Yet in one respect they were of more value far than hers: the king
bought Rosamond's with his money; Agnes's father made hers with his
hands.

And while Agnes had but few things--not seeing many things about her,
and not even knowing that there were many things anywhere, she did not
wish for many things, and was therefore neither covetous nor avaricious.

She played with the toys her father made her, and thought them the most
wonderful things in the world--windmills, and little crooks, and
water-wheels, and sometimes lambs made all of wool, and dolls made out
of the leg-bones of sheep, which her mother dressed for her; and of
such playthings she was never tired. Sometimes, however, she preferred
playing with stones, which were plentiful, and flowers, which were few,
or the brooks that ran down the hill, of which, although they were
many, she could only play with one at a time, and that, indeed,
troubled her a little--or live lambs that were not all wool, or the
sheep-dogs, which were very friendly with her, and the best of
playfellows, as she thought, for she had no human ones to compare them
with. Neither was she greedy after nice things, but content, as well
she might be, with the homely food provided for her. Nor was she by
nature particularly self-willed or disobedient; she generally did what
her father and mother wished, and believed what they told her. But by
degrees they had spoiled her; and this was the way: they were so proud
of her that they always repeated every thing she said, and told every
thing she did, even when she was present; and so full of admiration of
their child were they, that they wondered and laughed at and praised
things in her which in another child would never have struck them as
the least remarkable, and some things even which would in another have
disgusted them altogether. Impertinent and rude things done by THEIR
child they thought SO clever! laughing at them as something quite
marvellous; her commonplace speeches were said over again as if they
had been the finest poetry; and the pretty ways which every moderately
good child has were extolled as if the result of her excellent taste,
and the choice of her judgment and will. They would even say sometimes
that she ought not to hear her own praises for fear it should make her
vain, and then whisper them behind their hands, but so loud that she
could not fail to hear every word. The consequence was that she soon
came to believe--so soon, that she could not recall the time when she
did not believe, as the most absolute fact in the universe, that she
was SOMEBODY; that is, she became most immoderately conceited.

Now as the least atom of conceit is a thing to be ashamed of, you may
fancy what she was like with such a quantity of it inside her!

At first it did not show itself outside in any very active form; but
the wise woman had been to the cottage, and had seen her sitting alone,
with such a smile of self-satisfaction upon her face as would have been
quite startling to her, if she had ever been startled at any thing; for
through that smile she could see lying at the root of it the worm that
made it. For some smiles are like the ruddiness of certain apples,
which is owing to a centipede, or other creeping thing, coiled up at
the heart of them. Only her worm had a face and shape the very image of
her own; and she looked so simpering, and mawkish, and self-conscious,
and silly, that she made the wise woman feel rather sick.

Not that the child was a fool. Had she been, the wise woman would have
only pitied and loved her, instead of feeling sick when she looked at
her. She had very fair abilities, and were she once but made humble,
would be capable not only of doing a good deal in time, but of
beginning at once to grow to no end. But, if she were not made humble,
her growing would be to a mass of distorted shapes all huddled
together; so that, although the body she now showed might grow up
straight and well-shaped and comely to behold, the new body that was
growing inside of it, and would come out of it when she died, would be
ugly, and crooked this way and that, like an aged hawthorn that has
lived hundreds of years exposed upon all sides to salt sea-winds.

As time went on, this disease of self-conceit went on too, gradually
devouring the good that was in her. For there is no fault that does not
bring its brothers and sisters and cousins to live with it. By degrees,
from thinking herself so clever, she came to fancy that whatever seemed
to her, must of course be the correct judgment, and whatever she
wished, the right thing; and grew so obstinate, that at length her
parents feared to thwart her in any thing, knowing well that she would
never give in. But there are victories far worse than defeats; and to
overcome an angel too gentle to put out all his strength, and ride away
in triumph on the back of a devil, is one of the poorest.

So long as she was left to take her own way and do as she would, she
gave her parents little trouble. She would play about by herself in the
little garden with its few hardy flowers, or amongst the heather where
the bees were busy; or she would wander away amongst the hills, and be
nobody knew where, sometimes from morning to night; nor did her parents
venture to find fault with her.

She never went into rages like the princess, and would have thought
Rosamond--oh, so ugly and vile! if she had seen her in one of her
passions. But she was no better, for all that, and was quite as ugly in
the eyes of the wise woman, who could not only see but read her face.
What is there to choose between a face distorted to hideousness by
anger, and one distorted to silliness by self-complacency? True, there
is more hope of helping the angry child out of her form of selfishness
than the conceited child out of hers; but on the other hand, the
conceited child was not so terrible or dangerous as the wrathful one.
The conceited one, however, was sometimes very angry, and then her
anger was more spiteful than the other's; and, again, the wrathful one
was often very conceited too. So that, on the whole, of two very
unpleasant creatures, I would say that the king's daughter would have
been the worse, had not the shepherd's been quite as bad. But, as I
have said, the wise woman had her eye upon her: she saw that something
special must be done, else she would be one of those who kneel to their
own shadows till feet grow on their knees; then go down on their hands
till their hands grow into feet; then lay their faces on the ground
till they grow into snouts; when at last they are a hideous sort of
lizards, each of which believes himself the best, wisest, and loveliest
being in the world, yea, the very centre of the universe. And so they
run about forever looking for their own shadows, that they may worship
them, and miserable because they cannot find them, being themselves too
near the ground to have any shadows; and what becomes of them at last
there is but one who knows.

The wise woman, therefore, one day walked up to the door of the
shepherd's cottage, dressed like a poor woman, and asked for a drink of
water. The shepherd's wife looked at her, liked her, and brought her a
cup of milk. The wise woman took it, for she made it a rule to accept
every kindness that was offered her.

Agnes was not by nature a greedy girl, as I have said; but self-conceit
will go far to generate every other vice under the sun. Vanity, which
is a form of self-conceit, has repeatedly shown itself as the deepest
feeling in the heart of a horrible murderess.

That morning, at breakfast, her mother had stinted her in milk--just a
little--that she might have enough to make some milk-porridge for their
dinner. Agnes did not mind it at the time, but when she saw the milk
now given to a beggar, as she called the wise woman--though, surely,
one might ask a draught of water, and accept a draught of milk, without
being a beggar in any such sense as Agnes's contemptuous use of the
word implied--a cloud came upon her forehead, and a double vertical
wrinkle settled over her nose. The wise woman saw it, for all her
business was with Agnes though she little knew it, and, rising, went
and offered the cup to the child, where she sat with her knitting in a
corner. Agnes looked at it, did not want it, was inclined to refuse it
from a beggar, but thinking it would show her consequence to assert her
rights, took it and drank it up. For whoever is possessed by a devil,
judges with the mind of that devil; and hence Agnes was guilty of such
a meanness as many who are themselves capable of something just as bad
will consider incredible.

The wise woman waited till she had finished it--then, looking into the
empty cup, said:

"You might have given me back as much as you had no claim upon!"

Agnes turned away and made no answer--far less from shame than
indignation.

The wise woman looked at the mother.

"You should not have offered it to her if you did not mean her to have
it," said the mother, siding with the devil in her child against the
wise woman and her child too. Some foolish people think they take
another's part when they take the part he takes.

The wise woman said nothing, but fixed her eyes upon her, and soon the
mother hid her face in her apron weeping. Then she turned again to
Agnes, who had never looked round but sat with her back to both, and
suddenly lapped her in the folds of her cloak. When the mother again
lifted her eyes, she had vanished.

Never supposing she had carried away her child, but uncomfortable
because of what she had said to the poor woman, the mother went to the
door, and called after her as she toiled slowly up the hill. But she
never turned her head; and the mother went back into her cottage.

The wise woman walked close past the shepherd and his dogs, and through
the midst of his flock of sheep. The shepherd wondered where she could
be going--right up the hill. There was something strange about her too,
he thought; and he followed her with his eyes as she went up and up.

It was near sunset, and as the sun went down, a gray cloud settled on
the top of the mountain, which his last rays turned into a rosy gold.
Straight into this cloud the shepherd saw the woman hold her pace, and
in it she vanished. He little imagined that his child was under her
cloak.

He went home as usual in the evening, but Agnes had not come in. They
were accustomed to such an absence now and then, and were not at first
frightened; but when it grew dark and she did not appear, the husband
set out with his dogs in one direction, and the wife in another, to
seek their child. Morning came and they had not found her. Then the
whole country-side arose to search for the missing Agnes; but day after
day and night after night passed, and nothing was discovered of or
concerning her, until at length all gave up the search in despair
except the mother, although she was nearly convinced now that the poor
woman had carried her off.

One day she had wandered some distance from her cottage, thinking she
might come upon the remains of her daughter at the foot of some cliff,
when she came suddenly, instead, upon a disconsolate-looking creature
sitting on a stone by the side of a stream.

Her hair hung in tangles from her head; her clothes were tattered, and
through the rents her skin showed in many places; her cheeks were
white, and worn thin with hunger; the hollows were dark under her eyes,
and they stood out scared and wild. When she caught sight of the
shepherdess, she jumped to her feet, and would have run away, but fell
down in a faint.

At first sight the mother had taken her for her own child, but now she
saw, with a pang of disappointment, that she had mistaken. Full of
compassion, nevertheless, she said to herself:

"If she is not my Agnes, she is as much in need of help as if she were.
If I cannot be good to my own, I will be as good as I can to some other
woman's; and though I should scorn to be consoled for the loss of one
by the presence of another, I yet may find some gladness in rescuing
one child from the death which has taken the other."

Perhaps her words were not just like these, but her thoughts were. She
took up the child, and carried her home. And this is how Rosamond came
to occupy the place of the little girl whom she had envied in the
picture.



VII.


Notwithstanding the differences between the two girls, which were,
indeed, so many that most people would have said they were not in the
least alike, they were the same in this, that each cared more for her
own fancies and desires than for any thing else in the world. But I
will tell you another difference: the princess was like several
children in one--such was the variety of her moods; and in one mood she
had no recollection or care about any thing whatever belonging to a
previous mood--not even if it had left her but a moment before, and had
been so violent as to make her ready to put her hand in the fire to get
what she wanted. Plainly she was the mere puppet of her moods, and more
than that, any cunning nurse who knew her well enough could call or
send away those moods almost as she pleased, like a showman pulling
strings behind a show. Agnes, on the contrary, seldom changed her mood,
but kept that of calm assured self-satisfaction. Father nor mother had
ever by wise punishment helped her to gain a victory over herself, and
do what she did not like or choose; and their folly in reasoning with
one unreasonable had fixed her in her conceit. She would actually nod
her head to herself in complacent pride that she had stood out against
them. This, however, was not so difficult as to justify even the pride
of having conquered, seeing she loved them so little, and paid so
little attention to the arguments and persuasions they used. Neither,
when she found herself wrapped in the dark folds of the wise woman's
cloak, did she behave in the least like the princess, for she was not
afraid. "She'll soon set me down," she said, too self-important to
suppose that any one would dare do her an injury.

Whether it be a good thing or a bad not to be afraid depends on what
the fearlessness is founded upon. Some have no fear, because they have
no knowledge of the danger: there is nothing fine in that. Some are too
stupid to be afraid: there is nothing fine in that. Some who are not
easily frightened would yet turn their backs and run, the moment they
were frightened: such never had more courage than fear. But the man who
will do his work in spite of his fear is a man of true courage. The
fearlessness of Agnes was only ignorance: she did not know what it was
to be hurt; she had never read a single story of giant, or ogress or
wolf; and her mother had never carried out one of her threats of
punishment. If the wise woman had but pinched her, she would have shown
herself an abject little coward, trembling with fear at every change of
motion so long as she carried her.

Nothing such, however, was in the wise woman's plan for the curing of
her. On and on she carried her without a word. She knew that if she set
her down she would never run after her like the princess, at least not
before the evil thing was already upon her. On and on she went, never
halting, never letting the light look in, or Agnes look out. She walked
very fast, and got home to her cottage very soon after the princess had
gone from it.

But she did not set Agnes down either in the cottage or in the great
hall. She had other places, none of them alike. The place she had
chosen for Agnes was a strange one--such a one as is to be found
nowhere else in the wide world.

It was a great hollow sphere, made of a substance similar to that of
the mirror which Rosamond had broken, but differently compounded. That
substance no one could see by itself. It had neither door, nor window,
nor any opening to break its perfect roundness.

The wise woman carried Agnes into a dark room, there undressed her,
took from her hand her knitting-needles, and put her, naked as she was
born, into the hollow sphere.

What sort of a place it was she could not tell. She could see nothing
but a faint cold bluish light all about her. She could not feel that
any thing supported her, and yet she did not sink. She stood for a
while, perfectly calm, then sat down. Nothing bad could happen to
HER--she was so important! And, indeed, it was but this: she had cared
only for Somebody, and now she was going to have only Somebody. Her own
choice was going to be carried a good deal farther for her than she
would have knowingly carried it for herself.

After sitting a while, she wished she had something to do, but nothing
came. A little longer, and it grew wearisome. She would see whether she
could not walk out of the strange luminous dusk that surrounded her.

Walk she found she could, well enough, but walk out she could not. On
and on she went, keeping as much in a straight line as she might, but
after walking until she was thoroughly tired, she found herself no
nearer out of her prison than before. She had not, indeed, advanced a
single step; for, in whatever direction she tried to go, the sphere
turned round and round, answering her feet accordingly. Like a squirrel
in his cage she but kept placing another spot of the cunningly
suspended sphere under her feet, and she would have been still only at
its lowest point after walking for ages.

At length she cried aloud; but there was no answer. It grew dreary and
drearier--in her, that is: outside there was no change. Nothing was
overhead, nothing under foot, nothing on either hand, but the same
pale, faint, bluish glimmer. She wept at last, then grew very angry,
and then sullen; but nobody heeded whether she cried or laughed. It was
all the same to the cold unmoving twilight that rounded her. On and on
went the dreary hours--or did they go at all?--"no change, no pause, no
hope;"--on and on till she FELT she was forgotten, and then she grew
strangely still and fell asleep.

The moment she was asleep, the wise woman came, lifted her out, and
laid her in her bosom; fed her with a wonderful milk, which she
received without knowing it; nursed her all the night long, and, just
ere she woke, laid her back in the blue sphere again.

When first she came to herself, she thought the horrors of the
preceding day had been all a dream of the night. But they soon asserted
themselves as facts, for here they were!--nothing to see but a cold
blue light, and nothing to do but see it. Oh, how slowly the hours went
by! She lost all notion of time. If she had been told that she had been
there twenty years, she would have believed it--or twenty minutes--it
would have been all the same: except for weariness, time was for her no
more.

Another night came, and another still, during both of which the wise
woman nursed and fed her. But she knew nothing of that, and the same
one dreary day seemed ever brooding over her.

All at once, on the third day, she was aware that a naked child was
seated beside her. But there was something about the child that made
her shudder. She never looked at Agnes, but sat with her chin sunk on
her chest, and her eyes staring at her own toes. She was the color of
pale earth, with a pinched nose, and a mere slit in her face for a
mouth.

"How ugly she is!" thought Agnes. "What business has she beside me!"

But it was so lonely that she would have been glad to play with a
serpent, and put out her hand to touch her. She touched nothing. The
child, also, put out her hand--but in the direction away from Agnes.
And that was well, for if she had touched Agnes it would have killed
her. Then Agnes said, "Who are you?" And the little girl said, "Who are
you?" "I am Agnes," said Agnes; and the little girl said, "I am Agnes."
Then Agnes thought she was mocking her, and said, "You are ugly;" and
the little girl said, "You are ugly."

Then Agnes lost her temper, and put out her hands to seize the little
girl; but lo! the little girl was gone, and she found herself tugging
at her own hair. She let go; and there was the little girl again! Agnes
was furious now, and flew at her to bite her. But she found her teeth
in her own arm, and the little girl was gone--only to return again; and
each time she came back she was tenfold uglier than before. And now
Agnes hated her with her whole heart.

The moment she hated her, it flashed upon her with a sickening disgust
that the child was not another, but her Self, her Somebody, and that
she was now shut up with her for ever and ever--no more for one moment
ever to be alone. In her agony of despair, sleep descended, and she
slept.

When she woke, there was the little girl, heedless, ugly, miserable,
staring at her own toes. All at once, the creature began to smile, but
with such an odious, self-satisfied expression, that Agnes felt ashamed
of seeing her. Then she began to pat her own cheeks, to stroke her own
body, and examine her finger-ends, nodding her head with satisfaction.
Agnes felt that there could not be such another hateful, ape-like
creature, and at the same time was perfectly aware she was only doing
outside of her what she herself had been doing, as long as she could
remember, inside of her.

She turned sick at herself, and would gladly have been put out of
existence, but for three days the odious companionship went on. By the
third day, Agnes was not merely sick but ashamed of the life she had
hitherto led, was despicable in her own eyes, and astonished that she
had never seen the truth concerning herself before.

The next morning she woke in the arms of the wise woman; the horror had
vanished from her sight, and two heavenly eyes were gazing upon her.
She wept and clung to her, and the more she clung, the more tenderly
did the great strong arms close around her.

When she had lain thus for a while, the wise woman carried her into her
cottage, and washed her in the little well; then dressed her in clean
garments, and gave her bread and milk. When she had eaten it, she
called her to her, and said very solemnly,--

"Agnes, you must not imagine you are cured. That you are ashamed of
yourself now is no sign that the cause for such shame has ceased. In
new circumstances, especially after you have done well for a while, you
will be in danger of thinking just as much of yourself as before. So
beware of yourself. I am going from home, and leave you in charge of
the house. Do just as I tell you till my return."

She then gave her the same directions she had formerly given
Rosamond--with this difference, that she told her to go into the
picture-hall when she pleased, showing her the entrance, against which
the clock no longer stood--and went away, closing the door behind her.



VIII.


As soon as she was left alone, Agnes set to work tidying and dusting
the cottage, made up the fire, watered the bed, and cleaned the inside
of the windows: the wise woman herself always kept the outside of them
clean. When she had done, she found her dinner--of the same sort she
was used to at home, but better--in the hole of the wall. When she had
eaten it, she went to look at the pictures.

By this time her old disposition had begun to rouse again. She had been
doing her duty, and had in consequence begun again to think herself
Somebody. However strange it may well seem, to do one's duty will make
any one conceited who only does it sometimes. Those who do it always
would as soon think of being conceited of eating their dinner as of
doing their duty. What honest boy would pride himself on not picking
pockets? A thief who was trying to reform would. To be conceited of
doing one's duty is then a sign of how little one does it, and how
little one sees what a contemptible thing it is not to do it. Could any
but a low creature be conceited of not being contemptible? Until our
duty becomes to us common as breathing, we are poor creatures.

So Agnes began to stroke herself once more, forgetting her late
self-stroking companion, and never reflecting that she was now doing
what she had then abhorred. And in this mood she went into the
picture-gallery.

The first picture she saw represented a square in a great city, one
side of which was occupied by a splendid marble palace, with great
flights of broad steps leading up to the door. Between it and the
square was a marble-paved court, with gates of brass, at which stood
sentries in gorgeous uniforms, and to which was affixed the following
proclamation in letters of gold, large enough for Agnes to read:--

"By the will of the King, from this time until further notice, every
stray child found in the realm shall be brought without a moment's
delay to the palace. Whoever shall be found having done otherwise shall
straightway lose his head by the hand of the public executioner."

Agnes's heart beat loud, and her face flushed.

"Can there be such a city in the world?" she said to herself. "If I
only knew where it was, I should set out for it at once. THERE would be
the place for a clever girl like me!"

Her eyes fell on the picture which had so enticed Rosamond. It was the
very country where her father fed his flocks. Just round the shoulder
of the hill was the cottage where her parents lived, where she was born
and whence she had been carried by the beggar-woman.

"Ah!" she said, "they didn't know me there. They little thought what I
could be, if I had the chance. If I were but in this good, kind,
loving, generous king's palace, I should soon be such a great lady as
they never saw! Then they would understand what a good little girl I
had always been! And I shouldn't forget my poor parents like some I
have read of. _I_ would be generous. _I_ should never be selfish and
proud like girls in story-books!"

As she said this, she turned her back with disdain upon the picture of
her home, and setting herself before the picture of the palace, stared
at it with wide ambitious eyes, and a heart whose every beat was a
throb of arrogant self-esteem.

The shepherd-child was now worse than ever the poor princess had been.
For the wise woman had given her a terrible lesson one of which the
princess was not capable, and she had known what it meant; yet here she
was as bad as ever, therefore worse than before. The ugly creature
whose presence had made her so miserable had indeed crept out of sight
and mind too--but where was she? Nestling in her very heart, where most
of all she had her company, and least of all could see her. The wise
woman had called her out, that Agnes might see what sort of creature
she was herself; but now she was snug in her soul's bed again, and sue
did not even suspect she was there.

After gazing a while at the palace picture, during which her ambitious
pride rose and rose, she turned yet again in condescending mood, and
honored the home picture with one stare more.

"What a poor, miserable spot it is compared with this lordly palace!"
she said.

But presently she spied something in it she had not seen before, and
drew nearer. It was the form of a little girl, building a bridge of
stones over one of the hill-brooks.

"Ah, there I am myself!" she said. "That is just how I used to
do.--No," she resumed, "it is not me. That snub-nosed little fright
could never be meant for me! It was the frock that made me think so.
But it IS a picture of the place. I declare, I can see the smoke of the
cottage rising from behind the hill! What a dull, dirty, insignificant
spot it is! And what a life to lead there!"

She turned once more to the city picture. And now a strange thing took
place. In proportion as the other, to the eyes of her mind, receded
into the background, this, to her present bodily eyes, appeared to come
forward and assume reality. At last, after it had been in this way
growing upon her for some time, she gave a cry of conviction, and said
aloud,--

"I do believe it is real! That frame is only a trick of the woman to
make me fancy it a picture lest I should go and make my fortune. She is
a witch, the ugly old creature! It would serve her right to tell the
king and have her punished for not taking me to the palace--one of his
poor lost children he is so fond of! I should like to see her ugly old
head cut off. Anyhow I will try my luck without asking her leave. How
she has ill used me!"

But at that moment, she heard the voice of the wise woman calling,
"Agnes!" and, smoothing her face, she tried to look as good as she
could, and walked back into the cottage. There stood the wise woman,
looking all round the place, and examining her work. She fixed her eyes
upon Agnes in a way that confused her, and made her cast hers down, for
she felt as if she were reading her thoughts. The wise woman, however,
asked no questions, but began to talk about her work, approving of some
of it, which filled her with arrogance, and showing how some of it
might have been done better, which filled her with resentment. But the
wise woman seemed to take no care of what she might be thinking, and
went straight on with her lesson. By the time it was over, the power of
reading thoughts would not have been necessary to a knowledge of what
was in the mind of Agnes, for it had all come to the surface--that is
up into her face, which is the surface of the mind. Ere it had time to
sink down again, the wise woman caught up the little mirror, and held
it before her: Agnes saw her Somebody--the very embodiment of miserable
conceit and ugly ill-temper. She gave such a scream of horror that the
wise woman pitied her, and laying aside the mirror, took her upon her
knees, and talked to her most kindly and solemnly; in particular about
the necessity of destroying the ugly things that come out of the
heart--so ugly that they make the very face over them ugly also.

And what was Agnes doing all the time the wise woman was talking to
her? Would you believe it?--instead of thinking how to kill the ugly
things in her heart, she was with all her might resolving to be more
careful of her face, that is, to keep down the things in her heart so
that they should not show in her face, she was resolving to be a
hypocrite as well as a self-worshipper. Her heart was wormy, and the
worms were eating very fast at it now.

Then the wise woman laid her gently down upon the heather-bed, and she
fell fast asleep, and had an awful dream about her Somebody.

When she woke in the morning, instead of getting up to do the work of
the house, she lay thinking--to evil purpose. In place of taking her
dream as a warning, and thinking over what the wise woman had said the
night before, she communed with herself in this fashion:--

"If I stay here longer, I shall be miserable, It is nothing better than
slavery. The old witch shows me horrible things in the day to set me
dreaming horrible things in the night. If I don't run away, that
frightful blue prison and the disgusting girl will come back, and I
shall go out of my mind. How I do wish I could find the way to the good
king's palace! I shall go and look at the picture again--if it be a
picture--as soon as I've got my clothes on. The work can wait. It's not
my work. It's the old witch's; and she ought to do it herself."

She jumped out of bed, and hurried on her clothes. There was no wise
woman to be seen; and she hastened into the hall. There was the
picture, with the marble palace, and the proclamation shining in
letters of gold upon its gates of brass. She stood before it, and gazed
and gazed; and all the time it kept growing upon her in some strange
way, until at last she was fully persuaded that it was no picture, but
a real city, square, and marble palace, seen through a framed opening
in the wall. She ran up to the frame, stepped over it, felt the wind
blow upon her cheek, heard the sound of a closing door behind her, and
was free. FREE was she, with that creature inside her?

The same moment a terrible storm of thunder and lightning, wind and
rain, came on. The uproar was appalling. Agnes threw herself upon the
ground, hid her face in her hands, and there lay until it was over. As
soon as she felt the sun shining on her, she rose. There was the city
far away on the horizon. Without once turning to take a farewell look
of the place she was leaving, she set off, as fast as her feet would
carry her, in the direction of the city. So eager was she, that again
and again she fell, but only to get up, and run on faster than before.



IX.


The shepherdess carried Rosamond home, gave her a warm bath in the tub
in which she washed her linen, made her some bread-and-milk, and after
she had eaten it, put her to bed in Agnes's crib, where she slept all
the rest of that day and all the following night.

When at last she opened her eyes, it was to see around her a far poorer
cottage than the one she had left--very bare and uncomfortable indeed,
she might well have thought; but she had come through such troubles of
late, in the way of hunger and weariness and cold and fear, that she
was not altogether in her ordinary mood of fault-finding, and so was
able to lie enjoying the thought that at length she was safe, and going
to be fed and kept warm. The idea of doing any thing in return for
shelter and food and clothes, did not, however, even cross her mind.

But the shepherdess was one of that plentiful number who can be wiser
concerning other women's children than concerning their own. Such will
often give you very tolerable hints as to how you ought to manage your
children, and will find fault neatly enough with the system you are
trying to carry out; but all their wisdom goes off in talking, and
there is none left for doing what they have themselves said. There is
one road talk never finds, and that is the way into the talker's own
hands and feet. And such never seem to know themselves--not even when
they are reading about themselves in print. Still, not being specially
blinded in any direction but their own, they can sometimes even act
with a little sense towards children who are not theirs. They are
affected with a sort of blindness like that which renders some people
incapable of seeing, except sideways.

She came up to the bed, looked at the princess, and saw that she was
better. But she did not like her much. There was no mark of a princess
about her, and never had been since she began to run alone. True,
hunger had brought down her fat cheeks, but it had not turned down her
impudent nose, or driven the sullenness and greed from her mouth.
Nothing but the wise woman could do that--and not even she, without the
aid of the princess herself. So the shepherdess thought what a poor
substitute she had got for her own lovely Agnes--who was in fact
equally repulsive, only in a way to which she had got used; for the
selfishness in her love had blinded her to the thin pinched nose and
the mean self-satisfied mouth. It was well for the princess, though,
sad as it is to say, that the shepherdess did not take to her, for then
she would most likely have only done her harm instead of good.

"Now, my girl," she said, "you must get up, and do something. We can't
keep idle folk here."

"I'm not a folk," said Rosamond; "I'm a princess."

"A pretty princess--with a nose like that! And all in rags too! If you
tell such stories, I shall soon let you know what I think of you."

Rosamond then understood that the mere calling herself a princess,
without having any thing to show for it, was of no use. She obeyed and
rose, for she was hungry; but she had to sweep the floor ere she had
any thing to eat.

The shepherd came in to breakfast, and was kinder than his wife. He
took her up in his arms and would have kissed her; but she took it as
an insult from a man whose hands smelt of tar, and kicked and screamed
with rage. The poor man, finding he had made a mistake, set her down at
once. But to look at the two, one might well have judged it
condescension rather than rudeness in such a man to kiss such a child.
He was tall, and almost stately, with a thoughtful forehead, bright
eyes, eagle nose, and gentle mouth; while the princess was such as I
have described her.

Not content with being set down and let alone, she continued to storm
and scold at the shepherd, crying she was a princess, and would like to
know what right he had to touch her! But he only looked down upon her
from the height of his tall person with a benignant smile, regarding
her as a spoiled little ape whose mother had flattered her by calling
her a princess.

"Turn her out of doors, the ungrateful hussy!" cried his wife. "With
your bread and your milk inside her ugly body, this is what she gives
you for it! Troth, I'm paid for carrying home such an ill-bred tramp in
my arms! My own poor angel Agnes! As if that ill-tempered toad were one
hair like her!"

These words drove the princess beside herself; for those who are most
given to abuse can least endure it. With fists and feet and teeth, as
was her wont, she rushed at the shepherdess, whose hand was already
raised to deal her a sound box on the ear, when a better appointed
minister of vengeance suddenly showed himself. Bounding in at the
cottage-door came one of the sheep-dogs, who was called Prince, and
whom I shall not refer to with a WHICH, because he was a very superior
animal indeed, even for a sheep-dog, which is the most intelligent of
dogs: he flew at the princess, knocked her down, and commenced shaking
her so violently as to tear her miserable clothes to pieces. Used,
however, to mouthing little lambs, he took care not to hurt her much,
though for her good he left her a blue nip or two by way of letting her
imagine what biting might be. His master, knowing he would not injure
her, thought it better not to call him off, and in half a minute he
left her of his own accord, and, casting a glance of indignant rebuke
behind him as he went, walked slowly to the hearth, where he laid
himself down with his tail toward her. She rose, terrified almost to
death, and would have crept again into Agnes's crib for refuge; but the
shepherdess cried--

"Come, come, princess! I'll have no skulking to bed in the good
daylight. Go and clean your master's Sunday boots there."

"I will not!" screamed the princess, and ran from the house.

"Prince!" cried the shepherdess, and up jumped the dog, and looked in
her face, wagging his bushy tail.

"Fetch her back," she said, pointing to the door.

With two or three bounds Prince caught the princess, again threw her
down, and taking her by her clothes dragged her back into the cottage,
and dropped her at his mistress' feet, where she lay like a bundle of
rags.

"Get up," said the shepherdess.

Rosamond got up as pale as death.

"Go and clean the boots."

"I don't know how."

"Go and try. There are the brushes, and yonder is the blacking-pot."

Instructing her how to black boots, it came into the thought of the
shepherdess what a fine thing it would be if she could teach this
miserable little wretch, so forsaken and ill-bred, to be a good,
well-behaved, respectable child. She was hardly the woman to do it, but
every thing well meant is a help, and she had the wisdom to beg her
husband to place Prince under her orders for a while, and not take him
to the hill as usual, that he might help her in getting the princess
into order.

When the husband was gone, and his boots, with the aid of her own
finishing touches, at last quite respectably brushed, the shepherdess
told the princess that she might go and play for a while, only she must
not go out of sight of the cottage-door.

The princess went right gladly, with the firm intention, however, of
getting out of sight by slow degrees, and then at once taking to her
heels. But no sooner was she over the threshold than the shepherdess
said to the dog, "Watch her;" and out shot Prince.

The moment she saw him, Rosamond threw herself on her face, trembling
from head to foot. But the dog had no quarrel with her, and of the
violence against which he always felt bound to protest in dog fashion,
there was no sign in the prostrate shape before him; so he poked his
nose under her, turned her over, and began licking her face and hands.
When she saw that he meant to be friendly, her love for animals, which
had had no indulgence for a long time now, came wide awake, and in a
little while they were romping and rushing about, the best friends in
the world.

Having thus seen one enemy, as she thought, changed to a friend, she
began to resume her former plan, and crept cunningly farther and
farther. At length she came to a little hollow, and instantly rolled
down into it. Finding then that she was out of sight of the cottage,
she ran off at full speed.

But she had not gone more than a dozen paces, when she heard a growling
rush behind her, and the next instant was on the ground, with the dog
standing over her, showing his teeth, and flaming at her with his eyes.
She threw her arms round his neck, and immediately he licked her face,
and let her get up. But the moment she would have moved a step farther
from the cottage, there he was it front of her, growling, and showing
his teeth. She saw it was of no use, and went back with him.

Thus was the princess provided with a dog for a private tutor--just the
right sort for her.

Presently the shepherdess appeared at the door and called her. She
would have disregarded the summons, but Prince did his best to let her
know that, until she could obey herself, she must obey him. So she went
into the cottage, and there the shepherdess ordered her to peel the
potatoes for dinner. She sulked and refused. Here Prince could do
nothing to help his mistress, but she had not to go far to find another
ally.

"Very well, Miss Princess!" she said; "we shall soon see how you like
to go without when dinner-time comes."

Now the princess had very little foresight, and the idea of future
hunger would have moved her little; but happily, from her game of romps
with Prince, she had begun to be hungry already, and so the threat had
force. She took the knife and began to peel the potatoes.

By slow degrees the princess improved a little. A few more outbreaks of
passion, and a few more savage attacks from Prince, and she had learned
to try to restrain herself when she felt the passion coming on; while a
few dinnerless afternoons entirely opened her eyes to the necessity of
working in order to eat. Prince was her first, and Hunger her second
dog-counsellor.

But a still better thing was that she soon grew very fond of Prince.
Towards the gaining of her affections, he had three advantages: first,
his nature was inferior to hers; next, he was a beast; and last, she
was afraid of him; for so spoiled was she that she could more easily
love what was below than what was above her, and a beast, than one of
her own kind, and indeed could hardly have ever come to love any thing
much that she had not first learned to fear, and the white teeth and
flaming eyes of the angry Prince were more terrible to her than any
thing had yet been, except those of the wolf, which she had now
forgotten. Then again, he was such a delightful playfellow, that so
long as she neither lost her temper, nor went against orders, she might
do almost any thing she pleased with him. In fact, such was his
influence upon her, that she who had scoffed at the wisest woman in the
whole world, and derided the wishes of her own father and mother, came
at length to regard this dog as a superior being, and to look up to him
as well as love him. And this was best of all.

The improvement upon her, in the course of a month, was plain. She had
quite ceased to go into passions, and had actually begun to take a
little interest in her work and try to do it well.

Still, the change was mostly an outside one. I do not mean that she was
pretending. Indeed she had never been given to pretence of any sort.
But the change was not in HER, only in her mood. A second change of
circumstances would have soon brought a second change of behavior; and,
so long as that was possible, she continued the same sort of person she
had always been. But if she had not gained much, a trifle had been
gained for her: a little quietness and order of mind, and hence a
somewhat greater possibility of the first idea of right arising in it,
whereupon she would begin to see what a wretched creature she was, and
must continue until she herself was right.

Meantime the wise woman had been watching her when she least fancied
it, and taking note of the change that was passing upon her. Out of the
large eyes of a gentle sheep she had been watching her--a sheep that
puzzled the shepherd; for every now and then she would appear in his
flock, and he would catch sight of her two or three times in a day,
sometimes for days together, yet he never saw her when he looked for
her, and never when he counted the flock into the fold at night. He
knew she was not one of his; but where could she come from, and where
could she go to? For there was no other flock within many miles, and he
never could get near enough to her to see whether or not she was
marked. Nor was Prince of the least use to him for the unravelling of
the mystery; for although, as often as he told him to fetch the strange
sheep, he went bounding to her at once, it was only to lie down at her
feet.

At length, however, the wise woman had made up her mind, and after that
the strange sheep no longer troubled the shepherd.

As Rosamond improved, the shepherdess grew kinder. She gave her all
Agnes's clothes, and began to treat her much more like a daughter.
Hence she had a great deal of liberty after the little work required of
her was over, and would often spend hours at a time with the shepherd,
watching the sheep and the dogs, and learning a little from seeing how
Prince, and the others as well, managed their charge--how they never
touched the sheep that did as they were told and turned when they were
bid, but jumped on a disobedient flock, and ran along their backs,
biting, and barking, and half choking themselves with mouthfuls of
their wool.

Then also she would play with the brooks, and learn their songs, and
build bridges over them. And sometimes she would be seized with such
delight of heart that she would spread out her arms to the wind, and go
rushing up the hill till her breath left her, when she would tumble
down in the heather, and lie there till it came back again.

A noticeable change had by this time passed also on her countenance.
Her coarse shapeless mouth had begun to show a glimmer of lines and
curves about it, and the fat had not returned with the roses to her
cheeks, so that her eyes looked larger than before; while, more
noteworthy still, the bridge of her nose had grown higher, so that it
was less of the impudent, insignificant thing inherited from a certain
great-great-great-grandmother, who had little else to leave her. For a
long time, it had fitted her very well, for it was just like her; but
now there was ground for alteration, and already the granny who gave it
her would not have recognized it. It was growing a little liker
Prince's; and Prince's was a long, perceptive, sagacious nose,--one
that was seldom mistaken.

One day about noon, while the sheep were mostly lying down, and the
shepherd, having left them to the care of the dogs, was himself
stretched under the shade of a rock a little way apart, and the
princess sat knitting, with Prince at her feet, lying in wait for a
snap at a great fly, for even he had his follies--Rosamond saw a poor
woman come toiling up the hill, but took little notice of her until she
was passing, a few yards off, when she heard her utter the dog's name
in a low voice.

Immediately on the summons, Prince started up and followed her--with
hanging head, but gently-wagging tail. At first the princess thought he
was merely taking observations, and consulting with his nose whether
she was respectable or not, but she soon saw that he was following her
in meek submission. Then she sprung to her feet and cried, "Prince,
Prince!" But Prince only turned his head and gave her an odd look, as
if he were trying to smile, and could not. Then the princess grew
angry, and ran after him, shouting, "Prince, come here directly." Again
Prince turned his head, but this time to growl and show his teeth.

The princess flew into one of her forgotten rages, and picking up a
stone, flung it at the woman. Prince turned and darted at her, with
fury in his eyes, and his white teeth gleaming. At the awful sight the
princess turned also, and would have fled, but he was upon her in a
moment, and threw her to the ground, and there she lay.

It was evening when she came to herself. A cool twilight wind, that
somehow seemed to come all the way from the stars, was blowing upon
her. The poor woman and Prince, the shepherd and his sheep, were all
gone, and she was left alone with the wind upon the heather.

She felt sad, weak, and, perhaps, for the first time in her life, a
little ashamed. The violence of which she had been guilty had vanished
from her spirit, and now lay in her memory with the calm morning behind
it, while in front the quiet dusky night was now closing in the loud
shame betwixt a double peace. Between the two her passion looked ugly.
It pained her to remember. She felt it was hateful, and HERS.

But, alas, Prince was gone! That horrid woman had taken him away! The
fury rose again in her heart, and raged--until it came to her mind how
her dear Prince would have flown at her throat if he had seen her in
such a passion. The memory calmed her, and she rose and went home.
There, perhaps, she would find Prince, for surely he could never have
been such a silly dog as go away altogether with a strange woman!

She opened the door and went in. Dogs were asleep all about the
cottage, it seemed to her, but nowhere was Prince. She crept away to
her little bed, and cried herself asleep.

In the morning the shepherd and shepherdess were indeed glad to find
she had come home, for they thought she had run away.

"Where is Prince?" she cried, the moment she waked.

"His mistress has taken him," answered the shepherd.

"Was that woman his mistress?"

"I fancy so. He followed her as if he had known her all his life. I am
very sorry to lose him, though."

The poor woman had gone close past the rock where the shepherd lay. He
saw her coming, and thought of the strange sheep which had been feeding
beside him when he lay down. "Who can she be?" he said to himself; but
when he noted how Prince followed her, without even looking up at him
as he passed, he remembered how Prince had come to him. And this was
how: as he lay in bed one fierce winter morning, just about to rise, he
heard the voice of a woman call to him through the storm, "Shepherd, I
have brought you a dog. Be good to him. I will come again and fetch him
away." He dressed as quickly as he could, and went to the door. It was
half snowed up, but on the top of the white mound before it stood
Prince. And now he had gone as mysteriously as he had come, and he felt
sad.

Rosamond was very sorry too, and hence when she saw the looks of the
shepherd and shepherdess, she was able to understand them. And she
tried for a while to behave better to them because of their sorrow. So
the loss of the dog brought them all nearer to each other.



X.


After the thunder-storm, Agnes did not meet with a single obstruction
or misadventure. Everybody was strangely polite, gave her whatever she
desired, and answered her questions, but asked none in return, and
looked all the time as if her departure would be a relief. They were
afraid, in fact, from her appearance, lest she should tell them that
she was lost, when they would be bound, on pain of public execution, to
take her to the palace.

But no sooner had she entered the city than she saw it would hardly do
to present herself as a lost child at the palace-gates; for how were
they to know that she was not an impostor, especially since she really
was one, having run away from the wise woman? So she wandered about
looking at every thing until she was tired, and bewildered by the noise
and confusion all around her. The wearier she got, the more was she
pushed in every direction. Having been used to a whole hill to wander
upon, she was very awkward in the crowded streets, and often on the
point of being run over by the horses, which seemed to her to be going
every way like a frightened flock. She spoke to several persons, but no
one stopped to answer her; and at length, her courage giving way, she
felt lost indeed, and began to cry. A soldier saw her, and asked what
was the matter.

"I've nowhere to go to," she sobbed.

"Where's your mother?" asked the soldier.

"I don't know," answered Agnes. "I was carried off by an old woman, who
then went away and left me. I don't know where she is, or where I am
myself."

"Come," said the soldier, "this is a case for his Majesty."

So saying, he took her by the hand, led her to the palace, and begged
an audience of the king and queen. The porter glanced at Agnes,
immediately admitted them, and showed them into a great splendid room,
where the king and queen sat every day to review lost children, in the
hope of one day thus finding their Rosamond. But they were by this time
beginning to get tired of it. The moment they cast their eyes upon
Agnes, the queen threw back her head, threw up her hands, and cried,
"What a miserable, conceited, white-faced little ape!" and the king
turned upon the soldier in wrath, and cried, forgetting his own decree,
"What do you mean by bringing such a dirty, vulgar-looking, pert
creature into my palace? The dullest soldier in my army could never for
a moment imagine a child like THAT, one hair's-breadth like the lovely
angel we lost!"

"I humbly beg your Majesty's pardon," said the soldier, "but what was I
to do? There stands your Majesty's proclamation in gold letters on the
brazen gates of the palace."

"I shall have it taken down," said the king. "Remove the child."

"Please your Majesty, what am I to do with her?"

"Take her home with you."

"I have six already, sire, and do not want her."

"Then drop her where you picked her up."

"If I do, sire, some one else will find her and bring her back to your
Majesties."

"That will never do," said the king. "I cannot bear to look at her."

"For all her ugliness," said the queen, "she is plainly lost, and so is
our Rosamond."

"It may be only a pretence, to get into the palace," said the king.

"Take her to the head scullion, soldier," said the queen, "and tell her
to make her useful. If she should find out she has been pretending to
be lost, she must let me know."

The soldier was so anxious to get rid of her, that he caught her up in
his arms, hurried her from the room, found his way to the scullery, and
gave her, trembling with fear, in charge to the head maid, with the
queen's message.

As it was evident that the queen had no favor for her, the servants did
as they pleased with her, and often treated her harshly. Not one
amongst them liked her, nor was it any wonder, seeing that, with every
step she took from the wise woman's house, she had grown more
contemptible, for she had grown more conceited. Every civil answer
given her, she attributed to the impression she made, not to the desire
to get rid of her; and every kindness, to approbation of her looks and
speech, instead of friendliness to a lonely child. Hence by this time
she was twice as odious as before; for whoever has had such severe
treatment as the wise woman gave her, and is not the better for it,
always grows worse than before. They drove her about, boxed her ears on
the smallest provocation, laid every thing to her charge, called her
all manner of contemptuous names, jeered and scoffed at her
awkwardnesses, and made her life so miserable that she was in a fair
way to forget every thing she had learned, and know nothing but how to
clean saucepans and kettles.

They would not have been so hard upon her, however, but for her
irritating behavior. She dared not refuse to do as she was told, but
she obeyed now with a pursed-up mouth, and now with a contemptuous
smile. The only thing that sustained her was her constant contriving
how to get out of the painful position in which she found herself.
There is but one true way, however, of getting out of any position we
may be in, and that is, to do the work of it so well that we grow fit
for a better: I need not say this was not the plan upon which Agnes was
cunning enough to fix.

She had soon learned from the talk around her the reason of the
proclamation which had brought her hither.

"Was the lost princess so very beautiful?" she said one day to the
youngest of her fellow-servants.

"Beautiful!" screamed the maid; "she was just the ugliest little toad
you ever set eyes upon."

"What was she like?" asked Agnes.

"She was about your size, and quite as ugly, only not in the same way;
for she had red cheeks, and a cocked little nose, and the biggest,
ugliest mouth you ever saw."

Agnes fell a-thinking.

"Is there a picture of her anywhere in the palace?" she asked.

"How should I know? You can ask a housemaid."

Agnes soon learned that there was one, and contrived to get a peep of
it. Then she was certain of what she had suspected from the description
given of her, namely, that she was the same she had seen in the picture
at the wise woman's house. The conclusion followed, that the lost
princess must be staying with her father and mother, for assuredly in
the picture she wore one of her frocks.

She went to the head scullion, and with humble manner, but proud heart,
begged her to procure for her the favor of a word with the queen.

"A likely thing indeed!" was the answer, accompanied by a resounding
box on the ear.

She tried the head cook next, but with no better success, and so was
driven to her meditations again, the result of which was that she began
to drop hints that she knew something about the princess. This came at
length to the queen's ears, and she sent for her.

Absorbed in her own selfish ambitions, Agnes never thought of the risk
to which she was about to expose her parents, but told the queen that
in her wanderings she had caught sight of just such a lovely creature
as she described the princess, only dressed like a peasant--saying,
that, if the king would permit her to go and look for her, she had
little doubt of bringing her back safe and sound within a few weeks.

But although she spoke the truth, she had such a look of cunning on her
pinched face, that the queen could not possibly trust her, but believed
that she made the proposal merely to get away, and have money given her
for her journey. Still there was a chance, and she would not say any
thing until she had consulted the king.

Then they had Agnes up before the lord chancellor, who, after much
questioning of her, arrived at last, he thought, at some notion of the
part of the country described by her--that was, if she spoke the truth,
which, from her looks and behavior, he also considered entirely
doubtful. Thereupon she was ordered back to the kitchen, and a band of
soldiers, under a clever lawyer, sent out to search every foot of the
supposed region. They were commanded not to return until they brought
with them, bound hand and foot, such a shepherd pair as that of which
they received a full description.

And now Agnes was worse off than before. For to her other miseries was
added the fear of what would befall her when it was discovered that the
persons of whom they were in quest, and whom she was certain they must
find, were her own father and mother.

By this time the king and queen were so tired of seeing lost children,
genuine or pretended--for they cared for no child any longer than there
seemed a chance of its turning out their child--that with this new
hope, which, however poor and vague at first, soon began to grow upon
such imaginations as they had, they commanded the proclamation to be
taken down from the palace gates, and directed the various sentries to
admit no child whatever, lost or found, be the reason or pretence what
it might, until further orders.

"I'm sick of children!" said the king to his secretary, as he finished
dictating the direction.



XI.


After Prince was gone, the princess, by degrees, fell back into some of
her bad old ways, from which only the presence of the dog, not her own
betterment, had kept her. She never grew nearly so selfish again, but
she began to let her angry old self lift up its head once more, until
by and by she grew so bad that the shepherdess declared she should not
stop in the house a day longer, for she was quite unendurable.

"It is all very well for you, husband," she said, "for you haven't her
all day about you, and only see the best of her. But if you had her in
work instead of play hours, you would like her no better than I do. And
then it's not her ugly passions only, but when she's in one of her
tantrums, it's impossible to get any work out of her. At such times
she's just as obstinate as--as--as"--

She was going to say "as Agnes," but the feelings of a mother overcame
her, and she could not utter the words.

"In fact," she said instead, "she makes my life miserable."

The shepherd felt he had no right to tell his wife she must submit to
have her life made miserable, and therefore, although he was really
much attached to Rosamond, he would not interfere; and the shepherdess
told her she must look out for another place.

The princess was, however, this much better than before, even in
respect of her passions, that they were not quite so bad, and after one
was over, she was really ashamed of it. But not once, ever since the
departure of Prince had she tried to check the rush of the evil temper
when it came upon her. She hated it when she was out of it, and that
was something; but while she was in it, she went full swing with it
wherever the prince of the power of it pleased to carry her. Nor was
this all: although she might by this time have known well enough that
as soon as she was out of it she was certain to be ashamed of it, she
would yet justify it to herself with twenty different arguments that
looked very good at the time, but would have looked very poor indeed
afterwards, if then she had ever remembered them.

She was not sorry to leave the shepherd's cottage, for she felt certain
of soon finding her way back to her father and mother; and she would,
indeed, have set out long before, but that her foot had somehow got
hurt when Prince gave her his last admonition, and she had never since
been able for long walks, which she sometimes blamed as the cause of
her temper growing worse. But if people are good-tempered only when
they are comfortable, what thanks have they?--Her foot was now much
better; and as soon as the shepherdess had thus spoken, she resolved to
set out at once, and work or beg her way home. At the moment she was
quite unmindful of what she owed the good people, and, indeed, was as
yet incapable of understanding a tenth part of her obligation to them.
So she bade them good by without a tear, and limped her way down the
hill, leaving the shepherdess weeping, and the shepherd looking very
grave.

When she reached the valley she followed the course of the stream,
knowing only that it would lead her away from the hill where the sheep
fed, into richer lands where were farms and cattle. Rounding one of the
roots of the hill she saw before her a poor woman walking slowly along
the road with a burden of heather upon her back, and presently passed
her, but had gone only a few paces farther when she heard her calling
after her in a kind old voice--

"Your shoe-tie is loose, my child."

But Rosamond was growing tired, for her foot had become painful, and so
she was cross, and neither returned answer, nor paid heed to the
warning. For when we are cross, all our other faults grow busy, and
poke up their ugly heads like maggots, and the princess's old dislike
to doing any thing that came to her with the least air of advice about
it returned in full force.

"My child," said the woman again, "if you don't fasten your shoe-tie,
it will make you fall."

"Mind your own business," said Rosamond, without even turning her head,
and had not gone more than three steps when she fell flat on her face
on the path. She tried to get up, but the effort forced from her a
scream, for she had sprained the ankle of the foot that was already
lame.

The old woman was by her side instantly.

"Where are you hurt, child?" she asked, throwing down her burden and
kneeling beside her.

"Go away," screamed Rosamond. "YOU made me fall, you bad woman!"

The woman made no reply, but began to feel her joints, and soon
discovered the sprain. Then, in spite of Rosamond's abuse, and the
violent pushes and even kicks she gave her, she took the hurt ankle in
her hands, and stroked and pressed it, gently kneading it, as it were,
with her thumbs, as if coaxing every particle of the muscles into its
right place. Nor had she done so long before Rosamond lay still. At
length she ceased, and said:--

"Now, my child, you may get up."

"I can't get up, and I'm not your child," cried Rosamond. "Go away."

Without another word the woman left her, took up her burden, and
continued her journey.

In a little while Rosamond tried to get up, and not only succeeded, but
found she could walk, and, indeed, presently discovered that her ankle
and foot also were now perfectly well.

"I wasn't much hurt after all," she said to herself, nor sent a single
grateful thought after the poor woman, whom she speedily passed once
more upon the road without even a greeting.

Late in the afternoon she came to a spot where the path divided into
two, and was taking the one she liked the look of better, when she
started at the sound of the poor woman's voice, whom she thought she
had left far behind, again calling her. She looked round, and there she
was, toiling under her load of heather as before.

"You are taking the wrong turn, child." she cried.

"How can you tell that?" said Rosamond. "You know nothing about where I
want to go."

"I know that road will take you where you won't want to go," said the
woman.

"I shall know when I get there, then," returned Rosamond, "and no
thanks to you."

She set off running. The woman took the other path, and was soon out of
sight.

By and by, Rosamond found herself in the midst of a peat-moss--a flat,
lonely, dismal, black country. She thought, however, that the road
would soon lead her across to the other side of it among the farms, and
went on without anxiety. But the stream, which had hitherto been her
guide, had now vanished; and when it began to grow dark, Rosamond found
that she could no longer distinguish the track. She turned, therefore,
but only to find that the same darkness covered it behind as well as
before. Still she made the attempt to go back by keeping as direct a
line as she could, for the path was straight as an arrow. But she could
not see enough even to start her in a line, and she had not gone far
before she found herself hemmed in, apparently on every side, by
ditches and pools of black, dismal, slimy water. And now it was so dark
that she could see nothing more than the gleam of a bit of clear sky
now and then in the water. Again and again she stepped knee-deep in
black mud, and once tumbled down in the shallow edge of a terrible
pool; after which she gave up the attempt to escape the meshes of the
watery net, stood still, and began to cry bitterly, despairingly. She
saw now that her unreasonable anger had made her foolish as well as
rude, and felt that she was justly punished for her wickedness to the
poor woman who had been so friendly to her. What would Prince think of
her, if he knew? She cast herself on the ground, hungry, and cold, and
weary.

Presently, she thought she saw long creatures come heaving out of the
black pools. A toad jumped upon her, and she shrieked, and sprang to
her feet, and would have run away headlong, when she spied in the
distance a faint glimmer. She thought it was a Will-o'-the-wisp. What
could he be after? Was he looking for her? She dared not run, lest he
should see and pounce upon her. The light came nearer, and grew
brighter and larger. Plainly, the little fiend was looking for her--he
would torment her. After many twistings and turnings among the pools,
it came straight towards her, and she would have shrieked, but that
terror made her dumb.

It came nearer and nearer, and lo! it was borne by a dark figure, with
a burden on its back: it was the poor woman, and no demon, that was
looking for her! She gave a scream of joy, fell down weeping at her
feet, and clasped her knees. Then the poor woman threw away her burden,
laid down her lantern, took the princess up in her arms, folded her
cloak around her, and having taken up her lantern again, carried her
slowly and carefully through the midst of the black pools, winding
hither and thither. All night long she carried her thus, slowly and
wearily, until at length the darkness grew a little thinner, an
uncertain hint of light came from the east, and the poor woman,
stopping on the brow of a little hill, opened her cloak, and set the
princess down.

"I can carry you no farther," she said. "Sit there on the grass till
the light comes. I will stand here by you."

Rosamond had been asleep. Now she rubbed her eyes and looked, but it
was too dark to see any thing more than that there was a sky over her
head. Slowly the light grew, until she could see the form of the poor
woman standing in front of her; and as it went on growing, she began to
think she had seen her somewhere before, till all at once she thought
of the wise woman, and saw it must be she. Then she was so ashamed that
she bent down her head, and could look at her no longer. But the poor
woman spoke, and the voice was that of the wise woman, and every word
went deep into the heart of the princess.

"Rosamond," she said, "all this time, ever since I carried you from
your father's palace, I have been doing what I could to make you a
lovely creature: ask yourself how far I have succeeded."

All her past story, since she found herself first under the wise
woman's cloak, arose, and glided past the inner eyes of the princess,
and she saw, and in a measure understood, it all. But she sat with her
eyes on the ground, and made no sign.

Then said the wise woman:--

"Below there is the forest which surrounds my house. I am going home.
If you pledge to come there to me, I will help you, in a way I could
not do now, to be good and lovely. I will wait you there all day, but
if you start at once, you may be there long before noon. I shall have
your breakfast waiting for you. One thing more: the beasts have not yet
all gone home to their holes; but I give you my word, not one will
touch you so long as you keep coming nearer to my house."

She ceased. Rosamond sat waiting to hear something more; but nothing
came. She looked up; she was alone.

Alone once more! Always being left alone, because she would not yield
to what was right! Oh, how safe she had felt under the wise woman's
cloak! She had indeed been good to her, and she had in return behaved
like one of the hyenas of the awful wood! What a wonderful house it was
she lived in! And again all her own story came up into her brain from
her repentant heart.

"Why didn't she take me with her?" she said. "I would have gone
gladly." And she wept. But her own conscience told her that, in the
very middle of her shame and desire to be good, she had returned no
answer to the words of the wise woman; she had sat like a tree-stump,
and done nothing. She tried to say there was nothing to be done; but
she knew at once that she could have told the wise woman she had been
very wicked, and asked her to take her with her. Now there was nothing
to be done.

"Nothing to be done!" said her conscience. "Cannot you rise, and walk
down the hill, and through the wood?"

"But the wild beasts!"

"There it is! You don't believe the wise woman yet! Did she not tell
you the beasts would not touch you?"

"But they are so horrid!"

"Yes, they are; but it would be far better to be eaten up alive by them
than live on--such a worthless creature as you are. Why, you're not fit
to be thought about by any but bad ugly creatures."

This was how herself talked to her.



XII.


All at once she jumped to her feet, and ran at full speed down the hill
and into the wood. She heard howlings and yellings on all sides of her,
but she ran straight on, as near as she could judge. Her spirits rose
as she ran. Suddenly she saw before her, in the dusk of the thick wood,
a group of some dozen wolves and hyenas, standing all together right in
her way, with their green eyes fixed upon her staring. She faltered one
step, then bethought her of what the wise woman had promised, and
keeping straight on, dashed right into the middle of them. They fled
howling, as if she had struck them with fire. She was no more afraid
after that, and ere the sun was up she was out of the wood and upon the
heath, which no bad thing could step upon and live. With the first peep
of the sun above the horizon, she saw the little cottage before her,
and ran as fast as she could run towards it, When she came near it, she
saw that the door was open, and ran straight into the outstretched arms
of the wise woman.

The wise woman kissed her and stroked her hair, set her down by the
fire, and gave her a bowl of bread and milk.

When she had eaten it she drew her before her where she sat, and spoke
to her thus:--

"Rosamond, if you would be a blessed creature instead of a mere wretch,
you must submit to be tried."

"Is that something terrible?" asked the princess, turning white.

"No, my child; but it is something very difficult to come well out of.
Nobody who has not been tried knows how difficult it is; but whoever
has come well out of it, and those who do not overcome never do come
out of it, always looks back with horror, not on what she has come
through, but on the very idea of the possibility of having failed, and
being still the same miserable creature as before."

"You will tell me what it is before it begins?" said the princess.

"I will not tell you exactly. But I will tell you some things to help
you. One great danger is that perhaps you will think you are in it
before it has really begun, and say to yourself, 'Oh! this is really
nothing to me. It may be a trial to some, but for me I am sure it is
not worth mentioning.' And then, before you know, it will be upon you,
and you will fail utterly and shamefully."

"I will be very, very careful," said the princess. "Only don't let me
be frightened."

"You shall not be frightened, except it be your own doing. You are
already a brave girl, and there is no occasion to try you more that
way. I saw how you rushed into the middle of the ugly creatures; and as
they ran from you, so will all kinds of evil things, as long as you
keep them outside of you, and do not open the cottage of your heart to
let them in. I will tell you something more about what you will have to
go through.

"Nobody can be a real princess--do not imagine you have yet been any
thing more than a mock one--until she is a princess over herself, that
is, until, when she finds herself unwilling to do the thing that is
right, she makes herself do it. So long as any mood she is in makes her
do the thing she will be sorry for when that mood is over, she is a
slave, and no princess. A princess is able to do what is right even
should she unhappily be in a mood that would make another unable to do
it. For instance, if you should be cross and angry, you are not a whit
the less bound to be just, yes, kind even--a thing most difficult in
such a mood--though ease itself in a good mood, loving and sweet.
Whoever does what she is bound to do, be she the dirtiest little girl
in the street, is a princess, worshipful, honorable. Nay, more; her
might goes farther than she could send it, for if she act so, the evil
mood will wither and die, and leave her loving and clean.--Do you
understand me, dear Rosamond?"

As she spoke, the wise woman laid her hand on her head and looked--oh,
so lovingly!--into her eyes.

"I am not sure," said the princess, humbly.

"Perhaps you will understand me better if I say it just comes to this,
that you must NOT DO what is wrong, however much you are inclined to do
it, and you must DO what is right, however much you are disinclined to
do it."

"I understand that," said the princess.

"I am going, then, to put you in one of the mood-chambers of which I
have many in the house. Its mood will come upon you, and you will have
to deal with it."

She rose and took her by the hand. The princess trembled a little, but
never thought of resisting.

The wise woman led her into the great hall with the pictures, and
through a door at the farther end, opening upon another large hall,
which was circular, and had doors close to each other all round it. Of
these she opened one, pushed the princess gently in, and closed it
behind her.

The princess found herself in her old nursery. Her little white rabbit
came to meet her in a lumping canter as if his back were going to
tumble over his head. Her nurse, in her rocking-chair by the chimney
corner, sat just as she had used. The fire burned brightly, and on the
table were many of her wonderful toys, on which, however, she now
looked with some contempt. Her nurse did not seem at all surprised to
see her, any more than if the princess had but just gone from the room
and returned again.

"Oh! how different I am from what I used to be!" thought the princess
to herself, looking from her toys to her nurse. "The wise woman has
done me so much good already! I will go and see mamma at once, and tell
her I am very glad to be at home again, and very sorry I was so
naughty."

She went towards the door.

"Your queen-mamma, princess, cannot see you now," said her nurse.

"I have yet to learn that it is my part to take orders from a servant,"
said the princess with temper and dignity.

"I beg your pardon, princess," returned her nurse, politely; "but it is
my duty to tell you that your queen-mamma is at this moment engaged.
She is alone with her most intimate friend, the Princess of the Frozen
Regions."

"I shall see for myself," returned the princess, bridling, and walked
to the door.

Now little bunny, leap-frogging near the door, happened that moment to
get about her feet, just as she was going to open it, so that she
tripped and fell against it, striking her forehead a good blow. She
caught up the rabbit in a rage, and, crying, "It is all your fault, you
ugly old wretch!" threw it with violence in her nurse's face.

Her nurse caught the rabbit, and held it to her face, as if seeking to
sooth its fright. But the rabbit looked very limp and odd, and, to her
amazement, Rosamond presently saw that the thing was no rabbit, but a
pocket-handkerchief. The next moment she removed it from her face, and
Rosamond beheld--not her nurse, but the wise woman--standing on her own
hearth, while she herself stood by the door leading from the cottage
into the hall.

"First trial a failure," said the wise woman quietly.

Overcome with shame, Rosamond ran to her, fell down on her knees, and
hid her face in her dress.

"Need I say any thing?" said the wise woman, stroking her hair.

"No, no," cried the princess. "I am horrid."

"You know now the kind of thing you have to meet: are you ready to try
again?"

"MAY I try again?" cried the princess, jumping up. "I'm ready. I do not
think I shall fail this time."

"The trial will be harder."

Rosamond drew in her breath, and set her teeth. The wise woman looked
at her pitifully, but took her by the hand, led her to the round hall,
opened the same door, and closed it after her.

The princess expected to find herself again in the nursery, but in the
wise woman's house no one ever has the same trial twice. She was in a
beautiful garden, full of blossoming trees and the loveliest roses and
lilies. A lake was in the middle of it, with a tiny boat. So delightful
was it that Rosamond forgot all about how or why she had come there,
and lost herself in the joy of the flowers and the trees and the water.
Presently came the shout of a child, merry and glad, and from a clump
of tulip trees rushed a lovely little boy, with his arms stretched out
to her. She was charmed at the sight, ran to meet him, caught him up in
her arms, kissed him, and could hardly let him go again. But the moment
she set him down he ran from her towards the lake, looking back as he
ran, and crying "Come, come."

She followed. He made straight for the boat, clambered into it, and
held out his hand to help her in. Then he caught up the little
boat-hook, and pushed away from the shore: there was a great white
flower floating a few yards off, and that was the little fellow's goal.
But, alas! no sooner had Rosamond caught sight of it, huge and glowing
as a harvest moon, than she felt a great desire to have it herself. The
boy, however, was in the bows of the boat, and caught it first. It had
a long stem, reaching down to the bottom of the water, and for a moment
he tugged at it in vain, but at last it gave way so suddenly, that he
tumbled back with the flower into the bottom of the boat. Then
Rosamond, almost wild at the danger it was in as he struggled to rise,
hurried to save it, but somehow between them it came in pieces, and all
its petals of fretted silver were scattered about the boat. When the
boy got up, and saw the ruin his companion had occasioned, he burst
into tears, and having the long stalk of the flower still in his hand,
struck her with it across the face. It did not hurt her much, for he
was a very little fellow, but it was wet and slimy. She tumbled rather
than rushed at him, seized him in her arms, tore him from his
frightened grasp, and flung him into the water. His head struck on the
boat as he fell, and he sank at once to the bottom, where he lay
looking up at her with white face and open eyes.

The moment she saw the consequences of her deed she was filled with
horrible dismay. She tried hard to reach down to him through the water,
but it was far deeper than it looked, and she could not. Neither could
she get her eyes to leave the white face: its eyes fascinated and fixed
hers; and there she lay leaning over the boat and staring at the death
she had made. But a voice crying, "Ally! Ally!" shot to her heart, and
springing to her feet she saw a lovely lady come running down the grass
to the brink of the water with her hair flying about her head.

"Where is my Ally?" she shrieked.

But Rosamond could not answer, and only stared at the lady, as she had
before stared at her drowned boy.

Then the lady caught sight of the dead thing at the bottom of the
water, and rushed in, and, plunging down, struggled and groped until
she reached it. Then she rose and stood up with the dead body of her
little son in her arms, his head hanging back, and the water streaming
from him.

"See what you have made of him, Rosamond!" she said, holding the body
out to her; "and this is your second trial, and also a failure."

The dead child melted away from her arms, and there she stood, the wise
woman, on her own hearth, while Rosamond found herself beside the
little well on the floor of the cottage, with one arm wet up to the
shoulder. She threw herself on the heather-bed and wept from relief and
vexation both.

The wise woman walked out of the cottage, shut the door, and left her
alone. Rosamond was sobbing, so that she did not hear her go. When at
length she looked up, and saw that the wise woman was gone, her misery
returned afresh and tenfold, and she wept and wailed. The hours passed,
the shadows of evening began to fall, and the wise woman entered.



XIII.


She went straight to the bed, and taking Rosamond in her arms, sat down
with her by the fire.

"My poor child!" she said. "Two terrible failures! And the more the
harder! They get stronger and stronger. What is to be done?"

"Couldn't you help me?" said Rosamond piteously.

"Perhaps I could, now you ask me," answered the wise woman. "When you
are ready to try again, we shall see."

"I am very tired of myself," said the princess. "But I can't rest till
I try again."

"That is the only way to get rid of your weary, shadowy self, and find
your strong, true self. Come, my child; I will help you all I can, for
now I CAN help you."

Yet again she led her to the same door, and seemed to the princess to
send her yet again alone into the room. She was in a forest, a place
half wild, half tended. The trees were grand, and full of the loveliest
birds, of all glowing gleaming and radiant colors, which, unlike the
brilliant birds we know in our world, sang deliciously, every one
according to his color. The trees were not at all crowded, but their
leaves were so thick, and their boughs spread so far, that it was only
here and there a sunbeam could get straight through. All the gentle
creatures of a forest were there, but no creatures that killed, not
even a weasel to kill the rabbits, or a beetle to eat the snails out of
their striped shells. As to the butterflies, words would but wrong them
if they tried to tell how gorgeous they were. The princess's delight
was so great that she neither laughed nor ran, but walked about with a
solemn countenance and stately step.

"But where are the flowers?" she said to herself at length.

They were nowhere. Neither on the high trees, nor on the few shrubs
that grew here and there amongst them, were there any blossoms; and in
the grass that grew everywhere there was not a single flower to be seen.

"Ah, well!" said Rosamond again to herself, "where all the birds and
butterflies are living flowers, we can do without the other sort."

Still she could not help feeling that flowers were wanted to make the
beauty of the forest complete.

Suddenly she came out on a little open glade; and there, on the root of
a great oak, sat the loveliest little girl, with her lap full of
flowers of all colors, but of such kinds as Rosamond had never before
seen. She was playing with them--burying her hands in them, tumbling
them about, and every now and then picking one from the rest, and
throwing it away. All the time she never smiled, except with her eyes,
which were as full as they could hold of the laughter of the spirit--a
laughter which in this world is never heard, only sets the eyes alight
with a liquid shining. Rosamond drew nearer, for the wonderful creature
would have drawn a tiger to her side, and tamed him on the way, A few
yards from her, she came upon one of her cast-away flowers and stooped
to pick it up, as well she might where none grew save in her own
longing. But to her amazement she found, instead of a flower thrown
away to wither, one fast rooted and quite at home. She left it, and
went to another; but it also was fast in the soil, and growing
comfortably in the warm grass. What could it mean? One after another
she tried, until at length she was satisfied that it was the same with
every flower the little girl threw from her lap.

She watched then until she saw her throw one, and instantly bounded to
the spot. But the flower had been quicker than she: there it grew, fast
fixed in the earth, and, she thought, looked at her roguishly.
Something evil moved in her, and she plucked it.

"Don't! don't!" cried the child. "My flowers cannot live in your hands."

Rosamond looked at the flower. It was withered already. She threw it
from her, offended. The child rose, with difficulty keeping her lapful
together, picked it up, carried it back, sat down again, spoke to it,
kissed it, sang to it--oh! such a sweet, childish little song!--the
princess never could recall a word of it--and threw it away. Up rose
its little head, and there it was, busy growing again!

Rosamond's bad temper soon gave way: the beauty and sweetness of the
child had overcome it; and, anxious to make friends with her, she drew
near, and said:

"Won't you give me a little flower, please, you beautiful child?"

"There they are; they are all for you," answered the child, pointing
with her outstretched arm and forefinger all round.

"But you told me, a minute ago, not to touch them."

"Yes, indeed, I did."

"They can't be mine, if I'm not to touch them."

"If, to call them yours, you must kill them, then they are not yours,
and never, never can be yours. They are nobody's when they are dead."

"But you don't kill them."

"I don't pull them; I throw them away. I live them."

"How is it that you make them grow?"

"I say, 'You darling!' and throw it away and there it is."

"Where do you get them?"

"In my lap."

"I wish you would let me throw one away."

"Have you got any in your lap? Let me see."

"No; I have none."

"Then you can't throw one away, if you haven't got one."

"You are mocking me!" cried the princess.

"I am not mocking you," said the child, looking her full in the face,
with reproach in her large blue eyes.

"Oh, that's where the flowers come from!" said the princess to herself,
the moment she saw them, hardly knowing what she meant.

Then the child rose as if hurt, and quickly threw away all the flowers
she had in her lap, but one by one, and without any sign of anger. When
they were all gone, she stood a moment, and then, in a kind of chanting
cry, called, two or three times, "Peggy! Peggy! Peggy!"

A low, glad cry, like the whinny of a horse, answered, and, presently,
out of the wood on the opposite side of the glade, came gently trotting
the loveliest little snow-white pony, with great shining blue wings,
half-lifted from his shoulders. Straight towards the little girl,
neither hurrying nor lingering, he trotted with light elastic tread.

Rosamond's love for animals broke into a perfect passion of delight at
the vision. She rushed to meet the pony with such haste, that, although
clearly the best trained animal under the sun, he started back,
plunged, reared, and struck out with his fore-feet ere he had time to
observe what sort of a creature it was that had so startled him. When
he perceived it was a little girl, he dropped instantly upon all fours,
and content with avoiding her, resumed his quiet trot in the direction
of his mistress. Rosamond stood gazing after him in miserable
disappointment.

When he reached the child, he laid his head on her shoulder, and she
put her arm up round his neck; and after she had talked to him a
little, he turned and came trotting back to the princess.

Almost beside herself with joy, she began caressing him in the rough
way which, not-withstanding her love for them, she was in the habit of
using with animals; and she was not gentle enough, in herself even, to
see that he did not like it, and was only putting up with it for the
sake of his mistress. But when, that she might jump upon his back, she
laid hold of one of his wings, and ruffled some of the blue feathers,
he wheeled suddenly about, gave his long tail a sharp whisk which threw
her flat on the grass, and, trotting back to his mistress, bent down
his head before her as if asking excuse for ridding himself of the
unbearable.

The princess was furious. She had forgotten all her past life up to the
time when she first saw the child: her beauty had made her forget, and
yet she was now on the very borders of hating her. What she might have
done, or rather tried to do, had not Peggy's tail struck her down with
such force that for a moment she could not rise, I cannot tell.

But while she lay half-stunned, her eyes fell on a little flower just
under them. It stared up in her face like the living thing it was, and
she could not take her eyes off its face. It was like a primrose trying
to express doubt instead of confidence. It seemed to put her half in
mind of something, and she felt as if shame were coming. She put out
her hand to pluck it; but the moment her fingers touched it, the flower
withered up, and hung as dead on its stalks as if a flame of fire had
passed over it.

Then a shudder thrilled through the heart of the princess, and she
thought with herself, saying--"What sort of a creature am I that the
flowers wither when I touch them, and the ponies despise me with their
tails? What a wretched, coarse, ill-bred creature I must be! There is
that lovely child giving life instead of death to the flowers, and a
moment ago I was hating her! I am made horrid, and I shall be horrid,
and I hate myself, and yet I can't help being myself!"

She heard the sound of galloping feet, and there was the pony, with the
child seated betwixt his wings, coming straight on at full speed for
where she lay.

"I don't care," she said. "They may trample me under their feet if they
like. I am tired and sick of myself--a creature at whose touch the
flowers wither!"

On came the winged pony. But while yet some distance off, he gave a
great bound, spread out his living sails of blue, rose yards and yards
above her in the air, and alighted as gently as a bird, just a few feet
on the other side of her. The child slipped down and came and kneeled
over her.

"Did my pony hurt you?" she said. "I am so sorry!"

"Yes, he hurt me," answered the princess, "but not more than I
deserved, for I took liberties with him, and he did not like it."

"Oh, you dear!" said the little girl. "I love you for talking so of my
Peggy. He is a good pony, though a little playful sometimes. Would you
like a ride upon him?"

"You darling beauty!" cried Rosamond, sobbing. "I do love you so, you
are so good. How did you become so sweet?"

"Would you like to ride my pony?" repeated the child, with a heavenly
smile in her eyes.

"No, no; he is fit only for you. My clumsy body would hurt him," said
Rosamond.

"You don't mind me having such a pony?" said the child.

"What! mind it?" cried Rosamond, almost indignantly. Then remembering
certain thoughts that had but a few moments before passed through her
mind, she looked on the ground and was silent.

"You don't mind it, then?" repeated the child.

"I am very glad there is such a you and such a pony, and that such a
you has got such a pony," said Rosamond, still looking on the ground.
"But I do wish the flowers would not die when I touch them. I was cross
to see you make them grow, but now I should be content if only I did
not make them wither."

As she spoke, she stroked the little girl's bare feet, which were by
her, half buried in the soft moss, and as she ended she laid her cheek
on them and kissed them.

"Dear princess!" said the little girl, "the flowers will not always
wither at your touch. Try now--only do not pluck it. Flowers ought
never to be plucked except to give away. Touch it gently."

A silvery flower, something like a snow-drop, grew just within her
reach. Timidly she stretched out her hand and touched it. The flower
trembled, but neither shrank nor withered.

"Touch it again," said the child.

It changed color a little, and Rosamond fancied it grew larger.

"Touch it again," said the child.

It opened and grew until it was as large as a narcissus, and changed
and deepened in color till it was a red glowing gold.

Rosamond gazed motionless. When the transfiguration of the flower was
perfected, she sprang to her feet with clasped hands, but for very
ecstasy of joy stood speechless, gazing at the child.

"Did you never see me before, Rosamond?" she asked.

"No, never," answered the princess. "I never saw any thing half so
lovely."

"Look at me," said the child.

And as Rosamond looked, the child began, like the flower, to grow
larger. Quickly through every gradation of growth she passed, until she
stood before her a woman perfectly beautiful, neither old nor young;
for hers was the old age of everlasting youth.

Rosamond was utterly enchanted, and stood gazing without word or
movement until she could endure no more delight. Then her mind
collapsed to the thought--had the pony grown too? She glanced round.
There was no pony, no grass, no flowers, no bright-birded forest--but
the cottage of the wise woman--and before her, on the hearth of it, the
goddess-child, the only thing unchanged.

She gasped with astonishment.

"You must set out for your father's palace immediately," said the lady.

"But where is the wise woman?" asked Rosamond, looking all about.

"Here," said the lady.

And Rosamond, looking again, saw the wise woman, folded as usual in her
long dark cloak.

"And it was you all the time?" she cried in delight, and kneeled before
her, burying her face in her garments.

"It always is me, all the time," said the wise woman, smiling.

"But which is the real you?" asked Rosamond; "this or that?"

"Or a thousand others?" returned the wise woman. "But the one you have
just seen is the likest to the real me that you are able to see just
yet--but--. And that me you could not have seen a little while
ago.--But, my darling child," she went on, lifting her up and clasping
her to her bosom, "you must not think, because you have seen me once,
that therefore you are capable of seeing me at all times. No; there are
many things in you yet that must be changed before that can be. Now,
however, you will seek me. Every time you feel you want me, that is a
sign I am wanting you. There are yet many rooms in my house you may
have to go through; but when you need no more of them, then you will be
able to throw flowers like the little girl you saw in the forest."

The princess gave a sigh.

"Do not think," the wise woman went on, "that the things you have seen
in my house are mere empty shows. You do not know, you cannot yet
think, how living and true they are.--Now you must go."

She led her once more into the great hall, and there showed her the
picture of her father's capital, and his palace with the brazen gates.

"There is your home," she said. "Go to it."

The princess understood, and a flush of shame rose to her forehead. She
turned to the wise woman and said:

"Will you forgive ALL my naughtiness, and ALL the trouble I have given
you?"

"If I had not forgiven you, I would never have taken the trouble to
punish you. If I had not loved you, do you think I would have carried
you away in my cloak?"

"How could you love such an ugly, ill-tempered, rude, hateful little
wretch?"

"I saw, through it all, what you were going to be," said the wise
woman, kissing her. "But remember you have yet only BEGUN to be what I
saw."

"I will try to remember," said the princess, holding her cloak, and
looking up in her face.

"Go, then," said the wise woman.

Rosamond turned away on the instant, ran to the picture, stepped over
the frame of it, heard a door close gently, gave one glance back, saw
behind her the loveliest palace-front of alabaster, gleaming in the
pale-yellow light of an early summer-morning, looked again to the
eastward, saw the faint outline of her father's city against the sky,
and ran off to reach it.

It looked much further off now than when it seemed a picture, but the
sun was not yet up, and she had the whole of a summer day before her.



XIV.


The soldiers sent out by the king, had no great difficulty in finding
Agnes's father and mother, of whom they demanded if they knew any thing
of such a young princess as they described. The honest pair told them
the truth in every point--that, having lost their own child and found
another, they had taken her home, and treated her as their own; that
she had indeed called herself a princess, but they had not believed
her, because she did not look like one; that, even if they had, they
did not know how they could have done differently, seeing they were
poor people, who could not afford to keep any idle person about the
place; that they had done their best to teach her good ways, and had
not parted with her until her bad temper rendered it impossible to put
up with her any longer; that, as to the king's proclamation, they heard
little of the world's news on their lonely hill, and it had never
reached them; that if it had, they did not know how either of them
could have gone such a distance from home, and left their sheep or
their cottage, one or the other, uncared for.

"You must learn, then, how both of you can go, and your sheep must take
care of your cottage," said the lawyer, and commanded the soldiers to
bind them hand and foot.

Heedless of their entreaties to be spared such an indignity, the
soldiers obeyed, bore them to a cart, and set out for the king's
palace, leaving the cottage door open, the fire burning, the pot of
potatoes boiling upon it, the sheep scattered over the hill, and the
dogs not knowing what to do.

Hardly were they gone, however, before the wise woman walked up, with
Prince behind her, peeped into the cottage, locked the door, put the
key in her pocket, and then walked away up the hill. In a few minutes
there arose a great battle between Prince and the dog which filled his
former place--a well-meaning but dull fellow, who could fight better
than feed. Prince was not long in showing him that he was meant for his
master, and then, by his efforts, and directions to the other dogs, the
sheep were soon gathered again, and out of danger from foxes and bad
dogs. As soon as this was done, the wise woman left them in charge of
Prince, while she went to the next farm to arrange for the folding of
the sheep and the feeding of the dogs.

When the soldiers reached the palace, they were ordered to carry their
prisoners at once into the presence of the king and queen, in the
throne room. Their two thrones stood upon a high dais at one end, and
on the floor at the foot of the dais, the soldiers laid their helpless
prisoners. The queen commanded that they should be unbound, and ordered
them to stand up. They obeyed with the dignity of insulted innocence,
and their bearing offended their foolish majesties.

Meantime the princess, after a long day's journey, arrived at the
palace, and walked up to the sentry at the gate.

"Stand back," said the sentry.

"I wish to go in, if you please," said the princess gently.

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed the sentry, for he was one of those dull people
who form their judgment from a person's clothes, without even looking
in his eyes; and as the princess happened to be in rags, her request
was amusing, and the booby thought himself quite clever for laughing at
her so thoroughly.

"I am the princess," Rosamond said quietly.

"WHAT princess?" bellowed the man.

"The princess Rosamond. Is there another?" she answered and asked.

But the man was so tickled at the wondrous idea of a princess in rags,
that he scarcely heard what she said for laughing. As soon as he
recovered a little, he proceeded to chuck the princess under the chin,
saying--

"You're a pretty girl, my dear, though you ain't no princess."

Rosamond drew back with dignity.

"You have spoken three untruths at once," she said. "I am NOT pretty,
and I AM a princess, and if I were dear to you, as I ought to be, you
would not laugh at me because I am badly dressed, but stand aside, and
let me go to my father and mother."

The tone of her speech, and the rebuke she gave him, made the man look
at her; and looking at her, he began to tremble inside his foolish
body, and wonder whether he might not have made a mistake. He raised
his hand in salute, and said--

"I beg your pardon, miss, but I have express orders to admit no child
whatever within the palace gates. They tell me his majesty the king
says he is sick of children."

"He may well be sick of me!" thought the princess; "but it can't mean
that he does not want me home again.--I don't think you can very well
call me a child," she said, looking the sentry full in the face.

"You ain't very big, miss," answered the soldier, "but so be you say
you ain't a child, I'll take the risk. The king can only kill me, and a
man must die once."

He opened the gate, stepped aside, and allowed her to pass. Had she
lost her temper, as every one but the wise woman would have expected of
her, he certainly would not have done so.

She ran into the palace, the door of which had been left open by the
porter when he followed the soldiers and prisoners to the throne-room,
and bounded up the stairs to look for her father and mother. As she
passed the door of the throne-room she heard an unusual noise in it,
and running to the king's private entrance, over which hung a heavy
curtain, she peeped past the edge of it, and saw, to her amazement, the
shepherd and shepherdess standing like culprits before the king and
queen, and the same moment heard the king say--

"Peasants, where is the princess Rosamond?"

"Truly, sire, we do not know," answered the shepherd.

"You ought to know," said the king.

"Sire, we could keep her no longer."

"You confess, then," said the king, suppressing the outbreak of the
wrath that boiled up in him, "that you turned her out of your house."

For the king had been informed by a swift messenger of all that had
passed long before the arrival of the prisoners.

"We did, sire; but not only could we keep her no longer, but we knew
not that she was the princess."

"You ought to have known, the moment you cast your eyes upon her," said
the king. "Any one who does not know a princess the moment he sees her,
ought to have his eyes put out."

"Indeed he ought," said the queen.

To this they returned no answer, for they had none ready.

"Why did you not bring her at once to the palace," pursued the king,
"whether you knew her to be a princess or not? My proclamation left
nothing to your judgment. It said EVERY CHILD."

"We heard nothing of the proclamation, sire."

"You ought to have heard," said the king. "It is enough that I make
proclamations; it is for you to read them. Are they not written in
letters of gold upon the brazen gates of this palace?"

"A poor shepherd, your majesty--how often must he leave his flock, and
go hundreds of miles to look whether there may not be something in
letters of gold upon the brazen gates? We did not know that your
majesty had made a proclamation, or even that the princess was lost."

"You ought to have known," said the king.

The shepherd held his peace.

"But," said the queen, taking up the word, "all that is as nothing,
when I think how you misused the darling."

The only ground the queen had for saying thus, was what Agnes had told
her as to how the princess was dressed; and her condition seemed to the
queen so miserable, that she had imagined all sorts of oppression and
cruelty.

But this was more than the shepherdess, who had not yet spoken, could
bear.

"She would have been dead, and NOT buried, long ago, madam, if I had
not carried her home in my two arms."

"Why does she say her TWO arms?" said the king to himself. "Has she
more than two? Is there treason in that?"

"You dressed her in cast-off clothes," said the queen.

"I dressed her in my own sweet child's Sunday clothes. And this is what
I get for it!" cried the shepherdess, bursting into tears.

"And what did you do with the clothes you took off her? Sell them?"

"Put them in the fire, madam. They were not fit for the poorest child
in the mountains. They were so ragged that you could see her skin
through them in twenty different places."

"You cruel woman, to torture a mother's feelings so!" cried the queen,
and in her turn burst into tears.

"And I'm sure," sobbed the shepherdess, "I took every pains to teach
her what it was right for her to know. I taught her to tidy the house
and"--

"Tidy the house!" moaned the queen. "My poor wretched offspring!"

"And peel the potatoes, and"--

"Peel the potatoes!" cried the queen. "Oh, horror!"

"And black her master's boots," said the shepherdess.

"Black her master's boots!" shrieked the queen. "Oh, my white-handed
princess! Oh, my ruined baby!"

"What I want to know," said the king, paying no heed to this maternal
duel, but patting the top of his sceptre as if it had been the hilt of
a sword which he was about to draw, "is, where the princess is now."

The shepherd made no answer, for he had nothing to say more than he had
said already.

"You have murdered her!" shouted the king. "You shall be tortured till
you confess the truth; and then you shall be tortured to death, for you
are the most abominable wretches in the whole wide world."

"Who accuses me of crime?" cried the shepherd, indignant.

"I accuse you," said the king; "but you shall see, face to face, the
chief witness to your villany. Officer, bring the girl."

Silence filled the hall while they waited. The king's face was swollen
with anger. The queen hid hers behind her handkerchief. The shepherd
and shepherdess bent their eyes on the ground, wondering. It was with
difficulty Rosamond could keep her place, but so wise had she already
become that she saw it would be far better to let every thing come out
before she interfered.

At length the door opened, and in came the officer, followed by Agnes,
looking white as death and mean as sin.

The shepherdess gave a shriek, and darted towards her with arms spread
wide; the shepherd followed, but not so eagerly.

"My child! my lost darling! my Agnes!" cried the shepherdess.

"Hold them asunder," shouted the king. "Here is more villany! What!
have I a scullery-maid in my house born of such parents? The parents of
such a child must be capable of any thing. Take all three of them to
the rack. Stretch them till their joints are torn asunder, and give
them no water. Away with them!"

The soldiers approached to lay hands on them. But, behold! a girl all
in rags, with such a radiant countenance that it was right lovely to
see, darted between, and careless of the royal presence, flung herself
upon the shepherdess, crying,--

"Do not touch her. She is my good, kind mistress."

But the shepherdess could hear or see no one but her Agnes, and pushed
her away. Then the princess turned, with the tears in her eyes, to the
shepherd, and threw her arms about his neck and pulled down his head
and kissed him. And the tall shepherd lifted her to his bosom and kept
her there, but his eyes were fixed on his Agnes.

"What is the meaning of this?" cried the king, starting up from his
throne. "How did that ragged girl get in here? Take her away with the
rest. She is one of them, too."

But the princess made the shepherd set her down, and before any one
could interfere she had run up the steps of the dais and then the steps
of the king's throne like a squirrel, flung herself upon the king, and
begun to smother him with kisses.

All stood astonished, except the three peasants, who did not even see
what took place. The shepherdess kept calling to her Agnes, but she was
so ashamed that she did not dare even lift her eyes to meet her
mother's, and the shepherd kept gazing on her in silence. As for the
king, he was so breathless and aghast with astonishment, that he was
too feeble to fling the ragged child from him, as he tried to do. But
she left him, and running down the steps of the one throne and up those
of the other, began kissing the queen next. But the queen cried out,--

"Get away, you great rude child!--Will nobody take her to the rack?"

Then the princess, hardly knowing what she did for joy that she had
come in time, ran down the steps of the throne and the dais, and
placing herself between the shepherd and shepherdess, took a hand of
each, and stood looking at the king and queen.

Their faces began to change. At last they began to know her. But she
was so altered--so lovelily altered, that it was no wonder they should
not have known her at the first glance; but it was the fault of the
pride and anger and injustice with which their hearts were filled, that
they did not know her at the second.

The king gazed and the queen gazed, both half risen from their thrones,
and looking as if about to tumble down upon her, if only they could be
right sure that the ragged girl was their own child. A mistake would be
such a dreadful thing!

"My darling!" at last shrieked the mother, a little doubtfully.

"My pet of pets?" cried the father, with an interrogative twist of tone.

Another moment, and they were half way down the steps of the dais.

"Stop!" said a voice of command from somewhere in the hall, and, king
and queen as they were, they stopped at once half way, then drew
themselves up, stared, and began to grow angry again, but durst not go
farther.

The wise woman was coming slowly up through the crowd that filled the
hall. Every one made way for her. She came straight on until she stood
in front of the king and queen.

"Miserable man and woman!" she said, in words they alone could hear, "I
took your daughter away when she was worthy of such parents; I bring
her back, and they are unworthy of her. That you did not know her when
she came to you is a small wonder, for you have been blind in soul all
your lives: now be blind in body until your better eyes are unsealed."

She threw her cloak open. It fell to the ground, and the radiance that
flashed from her robe of snowy whiteness, from her face of awful
beauty, and from her eyes that shone like pools of sunlight, smote them
blind.

Rosamond saw them give a great start, shudder, waver to and fro, then
sit down on the steps of the dais; and she knew they were punished, but
knew not how. She rushed up to them, and catching a hand of each said--

"Father, dear father! mother dear! I will ask the wise woman to forgive
you."

"Oh, I am blind! I am blind!" they cried together. "Dark as night!
Stone blind!"

Rosamond left them, sprang down the steps, and kneeling at her feet,
cried, "Oh, my lovely wise woman! do let them see. Do open their eyes,
dear, good, wise woman."

The wise woman bent down to her, and said, so that none else could
hear, "I will one day. Meanwhile you must be their servant, as I have
been yours. Bring them to me, and I will make them welcome."

Rosamond rose, went up the steps again to her father and mother, where
they sat like statues with closed eyes, half-way from the top of the
dais where stood their empty thrones, seated herself between them, took
a hand of each, and was still.

All this time very few in the room saw the wise woman. The moment she
threw off her cloak she vanished from the sight of almost all who were
present. The woman who swept and dusted the hall and brushed the
thrones, saw her, and the shepherd had a glimmering vision of her; but
no one else that I know of caught a glimpse of her. The shepherdess did
not see her. Nor did Agnes, but she felt her presence upon her like the
beat of a furnace seven times heated.

As soon as Rosamond had taken her place between her father and mother,
the wise woman lifted her cloak from the floor, and threw it again
around her. Then everybody saw her, and Agnes felt as if a soft dewy
cloud had come between her and the torrid rays of a vertical sun. The
wise woman turned to the shepherd and shepherdess.

"For you," she said, "you are sufficiently punished by the work of your
own hands. Instead of making your daughter obey you, you left her to be
a slave to herself; you coaxed when you ought to have compelled; you
praised when you ought to have been silent; you fondled when you ought
to have punished; you threatened when you ought to have inflicted--and
there she stands, the full-grown result of your foolishness! She is
your crime and your punishment. Take her home with you, and live hour
after hour with the pale-hearted disgrace you call your daughter. What
she is, the worm at her heart has begun to teach her. When life is no
longer endurable, come to me.

"Madam," said the shepherd, "may I not go with you now?"

"You shall," said the wise woman.

"Husband! husband!" cried the shepherdess, "how are we two to get home
without you?"

"I will see to that," said the wise woman. "But little of home you will
find it until you have come to me. The king carried you hither, and he
shall carry you back. But your husband shall not go with you. He cannot
now if he would."

The shepherdess looked and saw that the shepherd stood in a deep sleep.
She went to him and sought to rouse him, but neither tongue nor hands
were of the slightest avail.

The wise woman turned to Rosamond.

"My child," she said, "I shall never be far from you. Come to me when
you will. Bring them to me."

Rosamond smiled and kissed her hand, but kept her place by her parents.
They also were now in a deep sleep like the shepherd.

The wise woman took the shepherd by the hand, and led him away.

And that is all my double story. How double it is, if you care to know,
you must find out. If you think it is not finished--I never knew a
story that was. I could tell you a great deal more concerning them all,
but I have already told more than is good for those who read but with
their foreheads, and enough for those whom it has made look a little
solemn, and sigh as they close the book.





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