79. If two persons, while walking, divide so as to pass an obstruction one on one side and one on the other, they will quarrel. Children avert this catastrophe by exclaiming, bread and butter, which is a counter charm. On the other hand, if the... Read more of Friendship at Superstitions.caInformational Site Network Informational
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The Little Good Mouse

from The Red Fairy Book





ONCE upon a time there lived a King and Queen who loved each
other so much that they were never happy unless they were
together. Day after day they went out hunting or fishing; night
after night they went to balls or to the opera; they sang, and danced,
and ate sugar-plums, and were the gayest of the gay, and all their
subjects followed their example so that the kingdom was called the
Joyous Land. Now in the next kingdom everything was as different
as it could possibly be. The King was sulky and savage, and never
enjoyed himself at all. He looked so ugly and cross that all his
subjects feared him, and he hated the very sight of a cheerful face;
so if he ever caught anyone smiling he had his head cut off that
very minute. This kingdom was very appropriately called the Land
of Tears. Now when this wicked King heard of the happiness of
the Jolly King, he was so jealous that he collected a great army
and set out to fight him, and the news of his approach was soon
brought to the King and Queen. The Queen, when she heard of it,
was frightened out of her wits, and began to cry bitterly. `Sire,'
she said, `let us collect all our riches and run away as far as ever
we can, to the other side of the world.'

But the King answered:

`Fie, madam! I am far too brave for that. It is better to die
than to be a coward.'

Then he assembled all his armed men, and after bidding the
Queen a tender farewell, he mounted his splendid horse and rode
away. When he was lost to sight the Queen could do nothing but
weep, and wring her hands, and cry.

`Alas! If the King is killed, what will become of me and of my
little daughter?' and she was so sorrowful that she could neither eat
nor sleep.

The King sent her a letter every day, but at last, one morning,
as she looked out of the palace window, she saw a messenger
approaching in hot haste.

`What news, courier? What news?' cried the Queen, and he
answered:

`The battle is lost and the King is dead, and in another moment
the enemy will be here.'

The poor Queen fell back insensible, and all her ladies carried
her to bed, and stood round her weeping and wailing. Then began
a tremendous noise and confusion, and they knew that the enemy
had arrived, and very soon they heard the King himself stamping
about the palace seeking the Queen. Then her ladies put the little
Princess into her arms, and covered her up, head and all, in the
bedclothes, and ran for their lives, and the poor Queen lay there
shaking, and hoping she would not be found. But very soon the
wicked King clattered into the room, and in a fury because the
Queen would not answer when he called to her, he tore back her
silken coverings and tweaked off her lace cap, and when all her
lovely hair came tumbling down over her shoulders, he wound it
three times round his hand and threw her over his shoulder, where
he carried her like a sack of flour.

The poor Queen held her little daughter safe in her arms and
shrieked for mercy, but the wicked King only mocked her, and
begged her to go on shrieking, as it amused him, and so mounted
his great black horse, and rode back to his own country. When he
got there he declared that he would have the Queen and the little
Princess hanged on the nearest tree; but his courtiers said that
seemed a pity, for when the baby grew up she would be a very nice
wife for the King's only son.

The King was rather pleased with this idea, and shut the Queen
up in the highest room of a tall tower, which was very tiny, and
miserably furnished with a table and a very hard bed upon the floor.
Then he sent for a fairy who lived near his kingdom, and after
receiving her with more politeness than he generally showed, and
entertaining her at a sumptuous feast, he took her up to see the
Queen. The fairy was so touched by the sight of her misery that
when she kissed her hand she whispered:

`Courage, madam! I think I see a way to help you.'

The Queen, a little comforted by these words, received her
graciously, and begged her to take pity upon the poor little Princess, who
had met with such a sudden reverse of fortune. But the King got
very cross when he saw them whispering together, and cried harshly:

`Make an end of these fine speeches, madam. I brought you
here to tell me if the child will grow up pretty and fortunate.'

Then the Fairy answered that the Princess would be as pretty,
and clever, and well brought up as it was possible to be, and the
old King growled to the Queen that it was lucky for her that it was
so, as they would certainly have been hanged if it were otherwise.
Then he stamped off, taking the Fairy with him, and leaving the
poor Queen in tears.

`How can I wish my little daughter to grow up pretty if she is
to be married to that horrid little dwarf, the King's son,' she said
to herself, `and yet, if she is ugly we shall both be killed. If I could
only hide her away somewhere, so that the cruel King could never
find her.'

As the days went on, the Queen and the little Princess grew
thinner and thinner, for their hard-hearted gaoler gave them every
day only three boiled peas and a tiny morsel of black bread, so
they were always terribly hungry. At last, one evening, as the
Queen sat at her spinning-wheel--for the King was so avaricious
that she was made to work day and night--she saw a tiny, pretty
little mouse creep out of a hole, and said to it:

`Alas, little creature! what are you coming to look for here?
I only have three peas for my day's provision, so unless you wish
to fast you must go elsewhere.'

But the mouse ran hither and thither, and danced and capered
so prettily, that at last the Queen gave it her last pea, which she
was keeping for her supper, saying: `Here, little one, eat it up; I
have nothing better to offer you, but I give this willingly in return
for the amusement I have had from you.'

She had hardly spoken when she saw upon the table a delicious
little roast partridge, and two dishes of preserved fruit. `Truly,' said
she, `a kind action never goes unrewarded; `and she and the little
Princess ate their supper with great satisfaction, and then the
Queen gave what was left to the little mouse, who danced better
than ever afterwards. The next morning came the gaoler with
the Queen's allowance of three peas, which he brought in upon a
large dish to make them look smaller; but as soon as he set it
down the little mouse came and ate up all three, so that when the
Queen wanted her dinner there was nothing left for her. Then
she was quite provoked, and said:

`What a bad little beast that mouse must be! If it goes on like
this I shall be starved.' But when she glanced at the dish again
it was covered with all sorts of nice things to eat, and the Queen
made a very good dinner, and was gayer than usual over it. But
afterwards as she sat at her spinning-wheel she began to consider
what would happen if the little Princess did not grow up pretty
enough to please the King, and she said to herself:

`Oh! if I could only think of some way of escaping.'

As she spoke she saw the little mouse playing in a corner with
some long straws. The Queen took them and began to plait them,
saying:

`If only I had straws enough I would make a basket with them,
and let my baby down in it from the window to any kind passer-
by who would take care of her.'

By the time the straws were all plaited the little mouse had
dragged in more and more, until the Queen had plenty to make
her basket, and she worked at it day and night, while the little
mouse danced for her amusement; and at dinner and supper time
the Queen gave it the three peas and the bit of black bread, and
always found something good in the dish in their place. She
really could not imagine where all the nice things came from.
At last one day when the basket was finished, the Queen was looking
out of the window to see how long a cord she must make to
lower it to the bottom of the tower, when she noticed a little old
woman who was leaning upon her stick and looking up at her.
Presently she said:

`I know your trouble, madam. If you like I will help you.'

`Oh! my dear friend,' said the Queen. `If you really wish to
be of use to me you will come at the time that I will appoint, and
I will let down my poor little baby in a basket. If you will take
her, and bring her up for me, when I am rich I will reward you
splendidly.'

`I don't care about the reward,' said the old woman, `but there
is one thing I should like. You must know that I am very
particular about what I eat, and if there is one thing that I fancy
above all others, it is a plump, tender little mouse. If there is
such a thing in your garret just throw it down to me, and in
return I will promise that your little daughter shall be well taken
care of.'

The Queen when she heard this began to cry, but made no
answer, and the old woman after waiting a few minutes asked her
what was the matter.

`Why,' said the Queen, `there is only one mouse in this garret,
and that is such a dear, pretty little thing that I cannot bear to
think of its being killed.'

`What!' cried the old woman, in a rage. `Do you care more
for a miserable mouse than for your own baby? Good-bye, madam!
I leave you to enjoy its company, and for my own part I thank my
stars that I can get plenty of mice without troubling you to give
them to me.'

And she hobbled off grumbling and growling. As to the Queen,
she was so disappointed that, in spite of finding a better dinner
than usual, and seeing the little mouse dancing in its merriest
mood, she could do nothing but cry. That night when her baby
was fast asleep she packed it into the basket, and wrote on a slip
of paper, `This unhappy little girl is called Delicia!' This she
pinned to its robe, and then very sadly she was shutting the basket,
when in sprang the little mouse and sat on the baby's pillow.

`Ah! little one,' said the Queen, `it cost me dear to save your
life. How shall I know now whether my Delicia is being taken care
of or no? Anyone else would have let the greedy old woman have
you, and eat you up, but I could not bear to do it.' Whereupon
the Mouse answered:

`Believe me, madam, you will never repent of your kindness.'

The Queen was immensely astonished when the Mouse began
to speak, and still more so when she saw its little sharp nose turn
to a beautiful face, and its paws to hands and feet; then it suddenly
grew tall, and the Queen recognised the Fairy who had come with
the wicked King to visit her.

The Fairy smiled at her astonished look, and said:

`I wanted to see if you were faithful and capable of feeling a
real friendship for me, for you see we fairies are rich in everything
but friends, and those are hard to find.'

`It is not possible that YOU should want for friends, you charming
creature,' said the Queen, kissing her.

`Indeed it is so,' the Fairy said. `For those who are only
friendly with me for their own advantage, I do not count at all.
But when you cared for the poor little mouse you could not have
known there was anything to be gained by it, and to try you further
I took the form of the old woman whom you talked to from the
window, and then I was convinced that you really loved me.' Then,
turning to the little Princess, she kissed her rosy lips three times,
saying:

`Dear little one, I promise that you shall be richer than your
father, and shall live a hundred years, always pretty and happy,
without fear of old age and wrinkles.'

The Queen, quite delighted, thanked the Fairy gratefully, and
begged her to take charge of the little Delicia and bring her up as
her own daughter. This she agreed to do, and then they shut the
basket and lowered it carefully, baby and all, to the ground at the
foot of the tower. The Fairy then changed herself back into the
form of a mouse, and this delayed her a few seconds, after which
she ran nimbly down the straw rope, but only to find when she got
to the bottom that the baby had disappeared.

In the greatest terror she ran up again to the Queen, crying:

`All is lost! my enemy Cancaline has stolen the Princess away.
You must know that she is a cruel fairy who hates me, and as
she is older than I am and has more power, I can do nothing against
her. I know no way of rescuing Delicia from her clutches.'

When the Queen heard this terrible news she was heart-broken,
and begged the Fairy to do all she could to get the poor little Princess
back again. At this moment in came the gaoler, and when he
missed the little Princess he at once told the King, who came in a
great fury asking what the Queen had done with her. She answered
that a fairy, whose name she did not know, had come and carried
her off by force. Upon this the King stamped upon the ground, and
cried in a terrible voice:

`You shall be hung! I always told you you should.' And without
another word he dragged the unlucky Queen out into the nearest
wood, and climbed up into a tree to look for a branch to which he
could hang her. But when he was quite high up, the Fairy, who
had made herself invisible and followed them, gave him a sudden
push, which made him lose his footing and fall to the ground with
a crash and break four of his teeth, and while he was trying to
mend them the fairy carried the Queen off in her flying chariot to a
beautiful castle, where she was so kind to her that but for the loss of
Delicia the Queen would have been perfectly happy. But though
the good little mouse did her very utmost, they could not find out
where Cancaline had hidden the little Princess.

Thus fifteen years went by, and the Queen had somewhat
recovered from her grief, when the news reached her that the son of
the wicked King wished to marry the little maiden who kept the
turkeys, and that she had refused him; the wedding-dresses had been
made, nevertheless, and the festivities were to be so splendid that
all the people for leagues round were flocking in to be present at
them. The Queen felt quite curious about a little turkey-maiden
who did not wish to be a Queen, so the little mouse conveyed herself
to the poultry-yard to find out what she was like.

She found the turkey-maiden sitting upon a big stone, barefooted,
and miserably dressed in an old, coarse linen gown and cap; the
ground at her feet was all strewn with robes of gold and silver,
ribbons and laces, diamonds and pearls, over which the turkeys were
stalking to and fro, while the King's ugly, disagreeable son stood
opposite her, declaring angrily that if she would not marry him she
should be killed.

The Turkey-maiden answered proudly:

`I never will marry you I you are too ugly and too much like
your cruel father. Leave me in peace with my turkeys, which I like
far better than all your fine gifts.'

The little mouse watched her with the greatest admiration, for
she was as beautiful as the spring; and as soon as the wicked Prince
was gone, she took the form of an old peasant woman and said to
her:

`Good day, my pretty one! you have a fine flock of turkeys
there.'

The young Turkey-maiden turned her gentle eyes upon the old
woman, and answered:

`Yet they wish me to leave them to become a miserable Queen!
what is your advice upon the matter?'

`My child,' said the Fairy, `a crown is a very pretty thing, but
you know neither the price nor the weight of it.'

`I know so well that I have refused to wear one,' said the little
maiden, `though I don't know who was my father, or who was my
mother, and I have not a friend in the world.'

`You have goodness and beauty, which are of more value than
ten kingdoms,' said the wise Fairy. `But tell me, child, how came
you here, and how is it you have neither father, nor mother, nor
friend?'

`A Fairy called Cancaline is the cause of my being here,' answered
she, `for while I lived with her I got nothing but blows and harsh
words, until at last I could bear it no longer, and ran away from
her without knowing where I was going, and as I came through a
wood the wicked Prince met me, and offered to give me charge of
the poultry-yard. I accepted gladly, not knowing that I should
have to see him day by day. And now he wants to marry me, but
that I will never consent to.'

Upon hearing this the Fairy became convinced that the little
Turkey-maiden was none other than the Princess Delicia.

`What is your name, my little one?' said she.

`I am called Delicia, if it please you,' she answered.

Then the Fairy threw her arms round the Princess's neck, and
nearly smothered her with kisses, saying:

`Ah, Delicia! I am a very old friend of yours, and I am truly
glad to find you at last; but you might look nicer than you do in
that old gown, which is only fit for a kitchen-maid. Take this pretty
dress and let us see the difference it will make.'

So Delicia took off the ugly cap, and shook out all her fair shining
hair, and bathed her hands and face in clear water from the nearest
spring till her cheeks were like roses, and when she was adorned
with the diamonds and the splendid robe the Fairy had given her,
she looked the most beautiful Princess in the world, and the Fairy
with great delight cried:

`Now you look as you ought to look, Delicia: what do you
think about it yourself?'

And Delicia answered:

`I feel as if I were the daughter of some great king.'

`And would you be glad if you were?' said the Fairy.

`Indeed I should,' answered she.

`Ah, well,' said the Fairy, `to-morrow I may have some pleasant
news for you.'

So she hurried back to her castle, where the Queen sat busy with
her embroidery, and cried:

`Well, madam! will you wager your thimble and your golden
needle that I am bringing you the best news you could possibly hear?'

`Alas!' sighed the Queen, `since the death of the Jolly King
and the loss of my Delicia, all the news in the world is not worth a
pin to me.

`There, there, don't be melancholy,' said the Fairy. `I assure
you the Princess is quite well, and I have never seen her equal for
beauty. She might be a Queen to-morrow if she chose; `and then
she told all that had happened, and the Queen first rejoiced over the
thought of Delicia's beauty, and then wept at the idea of her being
a Turkey-maiden.

`I will not hear of her being made to marry the wicked King's
son,' she said. `Let us go at once and bring her here.'

In the meantime the wicked Prince, who was very angry with
Delicia, had sat himself down under a tree, and cried and howled
with rage and spite until the King heard him, and cried out from
the window:

`What is the matter with you, that you are making all this
disturbance?'

The Prince replied:

`It is all because our Turkey-maiden will not love me!'

`Won't love you? eh!' said the King. `We'll very soon see
about that!' So he called his guards and told them to go and
fetch Delicia. `See if I don't make her change her mind pretty
soon!' said the wicked King with a chuckle.

Then the guards began to search the poultry-yard, and could
find nobody there but Delicia, who, with her splendid dress and
her crown of diamonds, looked such a lovely Princess that they
hardly dared to speak to her. But she said to them very politely:

`Pray tell me what you are looking for here?'

`Madam,' they answered, `we are sent for an insignificant little
person called Delicia.'

`Alas!' said she, `that is my name. What can you want with me?'

So the guards tied her hands and feet with thick ropes, for fear
she might run away, and brought her to the King, who was waiting
with his son.

When he saw her he was very much astonished at her beauty,
which would have made anyone less hard-hearted sorry for her.
But the wicked King only laughed and mocked at her, and
cried: `Well, little fright, little toad! why don't you love my
son, who is far too handsome and too good for you? Make haste
and begin to love him this instant, or you shall be tarred and
feathered.'

Then the poor little Princess, shaking with terror, went down
on her knees, crying:

`Oh, don't tar and feather me, please! It would be so
uncomfortable. Let me have two or three days to make up my mind,
and then you shall do as you like with me.'

The wicked Prince would have liked very much to see her
tarred and feathered, but the King ordered that she should be shut
up in a dark dungeon. It was just at this moment that the Queen
and the Fairy arrived in the flying chariot, and the Queen was
dreadfully distressed at the turn affairs had taken, and said
miserably that she was destined to be unfortunate all her days.
But the Fairy bade her take courage.

`I'll pay them out yet,' said she, nodding her head with an air
of great determination.

That very same night, as soon as the wicked King had gone to
bed, the Fairy changed herself into the little mouse, and creeping
up on to his pillow nibbled his ear, so that he squealed out quite
loudly and turned over on his other side; but that was no good, for
the little mouse only set to work and gnawed away at the second
ear until it hurt more than the first one.

Then the King cried `Murder!' and `Thieves!' and all his
guards ran to see what was the matter, but they could find nothing
and nobody, for the little mouse had run off to the Prince's room
and was serving him in exactly the same way. All night long she
ran from one to the other, until at last, driven quite frantic by
terror and want of sleep, the King rushed out of the palace crying:

`Help! help! I am pursued by rats.'

The Prince when he heard this got up also, and ran after the
King, and they had not gone far when they both fell into the river
and were never heard of again.

Then the good Fairy ran to tell the Queen, and they went
together to the black dungeon where Delicia was imprisoned. The
Fairy touched each door with her wand, and it sprang open
instantly, but they had to go through forty before they came to the
Princess, who was sitting on the floor looking very dejected. But
when the Queen rushed in, and kissed her twenty times in a
minute, and laughed, and cried, and told Delicia all her history,
the Princess was wild with delight. Then the Fairy showed her all
the wonderful dresses and jewels she had brought for her, and said:

`Don't let us waste time; we must go and harangue the people.'

So she walked first, looking very serious and dignified, and
wearing a dress the train of which was at least ten ells long.
Behind her came the Queen wearing a blue velvet robe embroidered
with gold, and a diamond crown that was brighter than the sun
itself. Last of all walked Delicia, who was so beautiful that it was
nothing short of marvellous.

They proceeded through the streets, returning the salutations of
all they met, great or small, and all the people turned and followed
them, wondering who these noble ladies could be.

When the audience hall was quite full, the Fairy said to the
subjects of the Wicked King that if they would accept Delicia, who
was the daughter of the Jolly King, as their Queen, she would
undertake to find a suitable husband for her, and would promise
that during their reign there should be nothing but rejoicing and
merry-making, and all dismal things should be entirely banished.
Upon this the people cried with one accord, `We will, we will! we
have been gloomy and miserable too long already.' And they all
took hands and danced round the Queen, and Delicia, and the good
Fairy, singing: `Yes, yes; we will, we will!'

Then there were feasts and fireworks in every street in the
town, and early the next morning the Fairy, who had been all over
the world in the night, brought back with her, in her flying chariot,
the most handsome and good-tempered Prince she could find
anywhere. He was so charming that Delicia loved him from the
moment their eyes met, and as for him, of course he could not help
thinking himself the luckiest Prince in the world. The Queen felt
that she had really come to the end of her misfortunes at last, and
they all lived happily ever after.[10]

[10] La bonne vetite Souris' par Madame d'Aulnoy.





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Previous: Jack And The Beanstalk



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