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The Child Who Came From An Egg

from The Violet Fairy Book





Once upon a time there lived a queen whose heart was sore because
she had no children. She was sad enough when her husband was at
home with her, but when he was away she would see nobody, but sat
and wept all day long.

Now it happened that a war broke out with the king of a
neighbouring country, and the queen was left in the palace alone.

She was so unhappy that she felt as if the walls would stifle
her, so she wandered out into the garden, and threw herself down
on a grassy bank, under the shade of a lime tree. She had been
there for some time, when a rustle among the leaves caused her to
look up, and she saw an old woman limping on her crutches towards
the stream that flowed through the grounds.

When she had quenched her thirst, she came straight up to the
queen, and said to her: 'Do not take it evil, noble lady, that I
dare to speak to you, and do not be afraid of me, for it may be
that I shall bring you good luck.'

The queen looked at her doubtfully, and answered: 'You do not
seem as if you had been very lucky yourself, or to have much good
fortune to spare for anyone else.'

'Under rough bark lies smooth wood and sweet kernel,' replied the
old woman. 'Let me see your hand, that I may read the future.'

The queen held out her hand, and the old woman examined its lines
closely. Then she said, 'Your heart is heavy with two sorrows,
one old and one new. The new sorrow is for your husband, who is
fighting far away from you; but, believe me, he is well, and will
soon bring you joyful news. But your other sorrow is much older
than this. Your happiness is spoilt because you have no
children.' At these words the queen became scarlet, and tried to
draw away her hand, but the old woman said:

'Have a little patience, for there are some things I want to see
more clearly.'

'But who are you?' asked the queen, 'for you seem to be able to
read my heart.'

'Never mind my name,' answered she, 'but rejoice that it is
permitted to me to show you a way to lessen your grief. You
must, however, promise to do exactly what I tell you, if any good
is to come of it.'

'Oh, I will obey you exactly,' cried the queen, 'and if you can
help me you shall have in return anything you ask for.'

The old woman stood thinking for a little: then she drew
something from the folds of her dress, and, undoing a number of
wrappings, brought out a tiny basket made of birch-bark. She
held it out to the queen, saying, 'In the basket you will find a
bird's egg. This you must be careful to keep in a warm place for
three months, when it will turn into a doll. Lay the doll in a
basket lined with soft wool, and leave it alone, for it will not
need any food, and by-and-by you will find it has grown to be the
size of a baby. Then you will have a baby of your own, and you
must put it by the side of the other child, and bring your
husband to see his son and daughter. The boy you will bring up
yourself, but you must entrust the little girl to a nurse. When
the time comes to have them christened you will invite me to be
godmother to the princess, and this is how you must send the
invitation. Hidden in the cradle, you will find a goose's wing:
throw this out of the window, and I will be with you directly;
but be sure you tell no one of all the things that have befallen
you.'

The queen was about to reply, but the old woman was already
limping away, and before she had gone two steps she had turned
into a young girl, who moved so quickly that she seemed rather to
fly than to walk. The queen, watching this transformation, could
hardly believe her eyes, and would have taken it all for a dream,
had it not been for the basket which she held in her hand.
Feeling a different being from the poor sad woman who had
wandered into the garden so short a time before, she hastened to
her room, and felt carefully in the basket for the egg. There it
was, a tiny thing of soft blue with little green spots, and she
took it out and kept it in her bosom, which was the warmest place
she could think of.

A fortnight after the old woman had paid her visit, the king came
home, having conquered his enemies. At this proof that the old
woman had spoken truth, the queen's heart bounded, for she now
had fresh hopes that the rest of the prophecy might be fulfilled.

She cherished the basket and the egg as her chiefest treasures,
and had a golden case made for the basket, so that when the time
came to lay the egg in it, it might not risk any harm.

Three months passed, and, as the old woman had bidden her, the
queen took the egg from her bosom, and laid it snugly amidst the
warm woollen folds. The next morning she went to look at it, and
the first thing she saw was the broken eggshell, and a little
doll lying among the pieces. Then she felt happy at last, and
leaving the doll in peace to grow, waited, as she had been told,
for a baby of her own to lay beside it.

In course of time, this came also, and the queen took the little
girl out of the basket, and placed it with her son in a golden
cradle which glittered with precious stones. Next she sent for
the king, who nearly went mad with joy at the sight of the
children.

Soon there came a day when the whole court was ordered to be
present at the christening of the royal babies, and when all was
ready the queen softly opened the window a little, and let the
goose wing fly out. The guests were coming thick and fast, when
suddenly there drove up a splendid coach drawn by six
cream-coloured horses, and out of it stepped a young lady dressed
in garments that shone like the sun. Her face could not be seen,
for a veil covered her head, but as she came up to the place
where the queen was standing with the babies she drew the veil
aside, and everyone was dazzled with her beauty. She took the
little girl in her arms, and holding it up before the assembled
company announced that henceforward it would be known by the name
of Dotterine--a name which no one understood but the queen, who
knew that the baby had come from the yolk of an egg. The boy was
called Willem.

After the feast was over and the guests were going away, the
godmother laid the baby in the cradle, and said to the queen,
'Whenever the baby goes to sleep, be sure you lay the basket
beside her, and leave the eggshells in it. As long as you do
that, no evil can come to her; so guard this treasure as the
apple of your eye, and teach your daughter to do so likewise.'
Then, kissing the baby three times, she mounted her coach and
drove away.

The children throve well, and Dotterine's nurse loved her as if
she were the baby's real mother. Every day the little girl
seemed to grow prettier, and people used to say she would soon be
as beautiful as her godmother, but no one knew, except the nurse,
that at night, when the child slept, a strange and lovely lady
bent over her. At length she told the queen what she had seen,
but they determined to keep it as a secret between themselves.

The twins were by this time nearly two years old, when the queen
was taken suddenly ill. All the best doctors in the country were
sent for, but it was no use, for there is no cure for death. The
queen knew she was dying, and sent for Dotterine and her nurse,
who had now become her lady-in-waiting. To her, as her most
faithful servant, she gave the lucky basket in charge, and
besought her to treasure it carefully. 'When my daughter,' said
the queen, 'is ten years old, you are to hand it over to her, but
warn her solemnly that her whole future happiness depends on the
way she guards it. About my son, I have no fears. He is the
heir of the kingdom, and his father will look after him.' The
lady-in-waiting promised to carry out the queen's directions, and
above all to keep the affair a secret. And that same morning the
queen died.

After some years the king married again, but he did not love his
second wife as he had done his first, and had only married her
for reasons of ambition. She hated her step-children, and the
king, seeing this, kept them out of the way, under the care of
Dotterine's old nurse. But if they ever strayed across the path
of the queen, she would kick them out of her sight like dogs.

On Dotterine's tenth birthday her nurse handed her over the
cradle, and repeated to her her mother's dying words; but the
child was too young to understand the value of such a gift, and
at first thought little about it.

Two more years slipped by, when one day during the king's absence
the stepmother found Dotterine sitting under a lime tree. She
fell as usual into a passion, and beat the child so badly that
Dotterine went staggering to her own room. Her nurse was not
there, but suddenly, as she stood weeping, her eyes fell upon the
golden case in which lay the precious basket. She thought it
might contain something to amuse her, and looked eagerly inside,
but nothing was there save a handful of wool and two empty
eggshells. Very much disappointed, she lifted the wool, and
there lay the goose's wing. 'What old rubbish,' said the child
to herself, and, turning, threw the wing out of the open window.

In a moment a beautiful lady stood beside her. 'Do not be
afraid,' said the lady, stroking Dotterine's head. 'I am your
godmother, and have come to pay you a visit. Your red eyes tell
me that you are unhappy. I know that your stepmother is very
unkind to you, but be brave and patient, and better days will
come. She will have no power over you when you are grown up, and
no one else can hurt you either, if only you are careful never to
part from your basket, or to lose the eggshells that are in it.
Make a silken case for the little basket, and hide it away in
your dress night and day and you will be safe from your
stepmother and anyone that tries to harm you. But if you should
happen to find yourself in any difficulty, and cannot tell what
to do, take the goose's wing from the basket, and throw it out of
the window, and in a moment I will come to help you. Now come
into the garden, that I may talk to you under the lime trees,
where no one can hear us.'

They had so much to say to each other, that the sun was already
setting when the godmother had ended all the good advice she
wished to give the child, and saw it was time for her to be
going. 'Hand me the basket,' said she, 'for you must have some
supper. I cannot let you go hungry to bed.'

Then, bending over the basket, she whispered some magic words,
and instantly a table covered with fruits and cakes stood on the
ground before them. When they had finished eating, the godmother
led the child back, and on the way taught her the words she must
say to the basket when she wanted it to give her something.

In a few years more, Dotterine was a grown-up young lady, and
those who saw her thought that the world did not contain so
lovely a girl.

About this time a terrible war broke out, and the king and his
army were beaten back and back, till at length they had to retire
into the town, and make ready for a siege. It lasted so long
that food began to fail, and even in the palace there was not
enough to eat.

So one morning Dotterine, who had had neither supper nor
breakfast, and was feeling very hungry, let her wing fly away.
She was so weak and miserable, that directly her godmother
appeared she burst into tears, and could not speak for some time.

'Do not cry so, dear child,' said the godmother. 'I will carry
you away from all this, but the others I must leave to take their
chance.' Then, bidding Dotterine follow her, she passed through
the gates of the town, and through the army outside, and nobody
stopped them, or seemed to see them.

The next day the town surrendered, and the king and all his
courtiers were taken prisoners, but in the confusion his son
managed to make his escape. The queen had already met her death
from a spear carelessly thrown.

As soon as Dotterine and her godmother were clear of the enemy,
Dotterine took off her own clothes, and put on those of a
peasant, and in order to disguise her better her godmother
changed her face completely. 'When better times come,' her
protectress said cheerfully, 'and you want to look like yourself
again, you have only to whisper the words I have taught you into
the basket, and say you would like to have your own face once
more, and it will be all right in a moment. But you will have to
endure a little longer yet.' Then, warning her once more to take
care of the basket, the lady bade the girl farewell.

For many days Dotterine wandered from one place to another
without finding shelter, and though the food which she got from
the basket prevented her from starving, she was glad enough to
take service in a peasant's house till brighter days dawned. At
first the work she had to do seemed very difficult, but either
she was wonderfully quick in learning, or else the basket may
have secretly helped her. Anyhow at the end of three days she
could do everything as well as if she had cleaned pots and swept
rooms all her life.

One morning Dotterine was busy scouring a wooden tub, when a
noble lady happened to pass through the village. The girl's
bright face as she stood in the front of the door with her tub
attracted the lady, and she stopped and called the girl to come
and speak to her.

'Would you not like to come and enter my service?' she asked.

'Very much,' replied Dotterine, 'if my present mistress will
allow me.'

'Oh, I will settle that,' answered the lady; and so she did, and
the same day they set out for the lady's house, Dotterine sitting
beside the coachman.

Six months went by, and then came the joyful news that the king's
son had collected an army and had defeated the usurper who had
taken his father's place, but at the same moment Dotterine
learned that the old king had died in captivity. The girl wept
bitterly for his loss, but in secrecy, as she had told her
mistress nothing about her past life.

At the end of a year of mourning, the young king let it be known
that he intended to marry, and commanded all the maidens in the
kingdom to come to a feast, so that he might choose a wife from
among them. For weeks all the mothers and all the daughters in
the land were busy preparing beautiful dresses and trying new
ways of putting up their hair, and the three lovely daughters of
Dotterine's mistress were as much excited as the rest. The girl
was clever with her fingers, and was occupied all day with
getting ready their smart clothes, but at night when she went to
bed she always dreamed that her godmother bent over her and said,
'Dress your young ladies for the feast, and when they have
started follow them yourself. Nobody will be so fine as you.'

When the great day came, Dotterine could hardly contain herself,
and when she had dressed her young mistresses and seen them
depart with their mother she flung herself on her bed, and burst
into tears. Then she seemed to hear a voice whisper to her,
'Look in your basket, and you will find in it everything that you
need.'

Dotterine did not want to be told twice! Up she jumped, seized
her basket, and repeated the magic words, and behold! there lay
a dress on the bed, shining as a star. She put it on with
fingers that trembled with joy, and, looking in the glass, was
struck dumb at her own beauty. She went downstairs, and in front
of the door stood a fine carriage, into which she stepped and was
driven away like the wind.

The king's palace was a long way off, yet it seemed only a few
minutes before Dotterine drew up at the great gates. She was
just going to alight, when she suddenly remembered she had left
her basket behind her. What was she to do? Go back and fetch
it, lest some ill-fortune should befall her, or enter the palace
and trust to chance that nothing evil would happen? But before
she could decide, a little swallow flew up with the basket in its
beak, and the girl was happy again.

The feast was already at its height, and the hall was brilliant
with youth and beauty, when the door was flung wide and Dotterine
entered, making all the other maidens look pale and dim beside
her. Their hopes faded as they gazed, but their mothers
whispered together, saying, 'Surely this is our lost princess!'

The young king did not know her again, but he never left her side
nor took his eyes from her. And at midnight a strange thing
happened. A thick cloud suddenly filled the hall, so that for a
moment all was dark. Then the mist suddenly grew bright, and
Dotterine's godmother was seen standing there.

'This,' she said, turning to the king, 'is the girl whom you have
always believed to be your sister, and who vanished during the
siege. She is not your sister at all, but the daughter of the
king of a neighbouring country, who was given to your mother to
bring up, to save her from the hands of a wizard.'

Then she vanished, and was never seen again, nor the
wonder-working basket either; but now that Dotterine's troubles
were over she could get on without them, and she and the young
king lived happily together till the end of their days.

[Ehstnische Marchen.]





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