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The Little Princess Of The Fearless Heart

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - MODERN FAIRY TALES





BY B. J. DASKAM


Once upon a time the great, yellow stork carried a baby Princess to the
Queen of that country which lies next to fairy-land.

All throughout the kingdom the bells rang, the people shouted, and the
King declared a holiday for a whole year. But the Queen was very
anxious, for she knew that the fairies are a queer lot, and their
borders were very close indeed.

"We must be very careful to slight none of them at the christening," she
said, "for goodness knows what they might do, if we did!"

So the wise-men drew up the lists, and when the day for the christening
arrived, the fairies were all there, and everything went as smoothly as
a frosted cake.

But the Queen said to the Lady-in-waiting:

"The first fairy godmother gave her nothing but a kiss! I don't call
that much of a gift!"

"'Sh!" whispered the Lady-in-waiting. "The fairies hear everything!"

And indeed, the fairy heard her well enough, and very angry she was
about it, too. For she was so old that she knew all about it, from
beginning to end, and she was sure that the Wizard with Three Dragons
was sitting in the Black Forest, watching the whole matter in his
crystal globe. So she had whispered her gift--which was nothing more nor
less than a Fearless Heart--into the ear of the Little Princess. But the
Queen thought she had only kissed her.

So, when the clock was on the hour of four (which, as every one knows,
is the end of christenings and fairy gifts) the first godmother went up
to the golden cradle.

"Since my first gift was not satisfactory to every one," she said,
angrily, "I will give the Little Princess another. And that is, that
when the time comes she shall marry the Prince of the Black Heart!"

Then the clock struck four, while the Queen wept on the bosom of the
Lady-in-waiting.

And that was the end of the christening.

Then the King called the wise-men together, and for forty days and
nights they read the books and studied the stars.

In the end, they laid out a Garden, with a wall so high that the sun
could not shine over it until noon, and so broad that it was a day's
journey for a swift horse to cross it. One tiny door there was: but the
first gate was of iron, and five-and-twenty men-at-arms stood before it,
day and night, with drawn swords; the second gate was of beaten copper,
and before that were fifty archers, with arrows on the string; the third
gate was of triple brass, and before it a hundred knights, in full
armor, rode without ceasing.

Into the Garden went the Little Princess, and the Queen, and all her
ladies; but no man might pass the gates, save the King himself. And
there the Princess dwelt until her seventeenth birthday, without seeing
any more of the world than the inside of the wall.

Now it happened that, some time before, a young Prince had ridden out of
the west and set about his travels. For the wise-man on the hill had
come to him and said:

"In the kingdom which lies next to fairyland dwells a Little Princess
who has a Fearless Heart. There is a wall which will not be easy to
climb, but the Princess is more beautiful than anything else in the
world!"

And that was enough for the Prince, so he girded on his sword, and set
out, singing as he went for pure lightness of heart.

But it is not so easy to find fairyland as it is to eat a ripe apple,
and the Prince could have told you that, before he was through. For in
some places it is so broad that it takes in the whole world, and in
others so narrow that a flea could cross it in two jumps. So that some
people never leave it all their lives long, but others cross at a single
step, and never see it at all.

Finally, the Prince came to the place where all roads meet, and they
were as much alike as the hairs on a dog's back. But it was all one to
him, so he rode straight ahead and lost himself in fairyland.

When the first fairy godmother saw him, she laughed to herself and flew
away, straight over his head, to the wall around the Garden. But you may
be sure that she did not trouble the guards at the triple gates: for, if
one has wings, what is the use of stairs? So over the wall she flew to
the room where the Little Princess lay sleeping.

You may readily believe that the Princess was astonished when she awoke
to find the fairy beside her bed, but she was not in the least alarmed,
for, you see, she did not know that there was anything in the world to
be afraid of.

"My dear," said the old lady, "I am your first fairy godmother."

"How do you do, Godmother?" said the Princess, and she sat up in bed and
courtesied. Which is a very difficult trick, indeed, and it is not every
Princess who can do it.

Her godmother was so delighted that she leaned over and kissed her.

"That is the second time I have kissed you," she said. "When I go, I
will kiss you again, and you had better save the three of them, for they
will be useful when you go out into the world. And, my dear, it is high
time that you were going out."

Then the Little Princess was overjoyed, but she only nodded her head
wisely and said:

"I know, the world is as big as the whole Garden, and wider than the
wall. But I can never go out, for the gates are always locked."

"If you do not go now," said the fairy, "you will have to go later, and
that might not be so well. And you should not argue with me, for I am
older than you will ever be, and your godmother, besides. Now kiss me,
for I must be going."

So she flew away, about her other affairs, for she was a very busy old
lady indeed.

In the morning the Princess went to breakfast with the King and the
Queen.

"Mother," she said, "it is high time that I went out into the world!"

The Queen was so startled that she dropped her egg on the floor and the
King was red as a beet with anger.

"Tut! Tut!" he shouted. "What nonsense is this?"

"My fairy godmother was here last night," said the Princess, "and she
told me all about it. I will go this morning, please, if I may."

"Nonsense!" roared the King.

"You will do no such thing!" wailed the Queen.

"There could have been no one here," said the King, "for the gates were
all locked."

"Who told you that you had a fairy godmother?" asked the Queen.

And there was an end of that.

But that night, after the Princess had said her prayers and crept into
bed, she heard her godmother calling to her from the Garden, so she
slipped on her cloak and stole out into the moonlight. There was no one
to be seen, so she pattered along in her little bare feet until she came
to the gate in the wall.

While she was hesitating whether or not to run back to her little white
bed, the gates of triple brass opened as easily as if her godmother had
oiled them, and the Little Princess passed through the copper gates, and
the iron gate, and out into fairyland.

But if you ask me why she saw the guards at the gates no more than they
saw her, I can only tell you that I do not know, and you will have to be
satisfied with that.

As for the Princess, she was as happy as a duck in a puddle. As she
danced along through the forests, the flowers broke from their stems to
join her, the trees dropped golden fruit into her very hands, and the
little brook which runs through fairyland left its course, and followed
her, singing.

And all the while, her godmother was coming down behind her, close at
hand, to see that she came to no harm; but the Princess did not know
that.

At last she came to the place where the Prince from the west lay
sleeping. He was dreaming that he had climbed the wall and had found
the Princess, so that he smiled in his sleep and she knelt above him,
wondering, for she had never seen a man before, save her father, the
King, and the Prince was very fair. So she bent closer and closer, until
her breath was on his cheek, and as he opened his eyes, she kissed him.

As for the Prince, he thought that he was still asleep, till he saw that
she was many times more beautiful than in his dreams, and he knew that
he had found her at last.



"You are more beautiful than anything else in the world," he said, "and
I love you better than my life!"

"And I love you with all my heart!" said the Little Princess.

"Will you marry me," asked the Prince, "and live with me forever and
ever?"

"That I will," said the Princess, "and gladly, if my father, the King,
and my mother, the Queen, will let me leave the Garden."

And she told the Prince all about the wall with the triple gates.

The Prince saw that it would be no easy task to win the consent of the
King and the Queen, so nothing would do but that he must travel back to
the west and return with a proper retinue behind him.

So he bade the Princess good-by and rode bravely off toward the west.

The Princess went slowly back through fairyland, till she came to the
wall, just as the sun was breaking in the east. As every one knows,
White Magic is not of very much use in the daytime, outside of
fairyland, and if you ask why this is not so at christenings, I will
send you to Peter Knowall, who keeps the Big Red Book.

So the guards at the triple gates saw the Princess, and they raised such
a hub-bub, that the King and the Queen rushed out to see what all the
noise was about. You can easily believe that they were in a great way
when they saw the Little Princess, who they thought was safe asleep in
her bed.

They lost no time in bundling her through the gates, and then they fell
to kissing her, and scolding her, and shaking her, and hugging her, all
in the same breath.

But the Princess said, "I have been out into the world, and I am going
to marry the Prince!"

Then perhaps there was not a great to-do about the Garden!

They bullied and coaxed and scolded and wept, but the Princess only
said,

"I love him with all my heart and when the time comes I will go to him,
if I have to beg my way from door to door!"

At that the King flew into a towering rage.

"Very well, Miss!" he shouted. "But when you go, you may stay forever! I
will cut your name off the records, and any one who speaks it will be
beheaded, if it is the High Lord Chancellor, himself!"

Then it was the turn of the Princess to weep, for she loved her parents
dearly, but she could not promise to forget the Prince.

So matters went from pence to ha'pennies, as the saying goes, till
finally the Princess could bear it no longer, so she found her cloak and
stole down to the triple gates.

Everything went very much as it had before, save that there was no
Prince asleep under the tree where she had first found him. Then the
Princess would have turned back, but the little brook which followed at
her heel had swollen out into a broad, deep river, and there was nothing
to do but go ahead, till she came to a cottage among the trees, and
before the door sat an old, old woman, spinning gold thread out of
moonlight. And by that any one could have told that she was a fairy, but
the Princess thought it was always done that way in the world.

"Oh, Mother," she cried, "how shall I find my way out of the forest?"

But the old woman went on spinning, and the Princess thought that she
had never seen anything fly so fast as the shuttle.

"Where were you wanting to go?" she asked.

"I am searching for the Prince from the west," said the Princess sadly.
"Can you tell me where to find him?"

The fairy shook her head and went on with her spinning, so fast that you
could not see the shuttle at all.

But the Princess begged so prettily that finally she said,

"If I were looking for a Prince, I would follow my nose until I came to
the Black Forest, and then I would ask the Wizard with Three Dragons,
who knows all about it, and more, too! That is, unless I thought that I
would be afraid in the Black Forest."

"What is afraid?" asked the Little Princess. "I do not know that."

And no more she did, so the fairy laughed, for she saw trouble coming
for the Wizard. She stopped her wheel with a click, but for all her fast
spinning, there was only enough gold thread to go around the second
finger of the Princess's left hand.

As for the Princess, she thanked the old lady very kindly, and set
bravely off toward the Black Forest.

But the Wizard with Three Dragons only laughed as he gazed into his
crystal globe, for in it he could see everything that was happening in
any place in the world, and I do not need Jacob Wise-man to tell me that
a globe like that is worth having!

Now, when the Prince had left the Princess in fairyland, he lost no time
in riding back to the west. The old King, his father, was overjoyed when
he heard of the Little Princess, and he gave the Prince a retinue that
stretched for a mile behind him.

But when they came to the place where all roads meet, the Prince was
greatly perplexed, for this time, you see, he knew where he wanted to
go. In the end, he trusted to chance and rode ahead, but they had not
gone far before they came to the castle of the Wizard with Three
Dragons, in the middle of the Black Forest.

In the great hall sat the Wizard, himself, waiting for them, and he was
as soft as butter.

Yes, yes, he knew the Princess well enough, but it was too late to go
further that night. So the Prince and all his train had best come into
the castle and wait till morning.

That was what the Wizard said, and the Prince was glad enough to listen
to him, for he was beginning to fear that he would never find the
Princess again. But hardly had the last bowman come within the doors
than the Wizard blew upon his crystal globe, and muttered a spell.

At that, the Prince and his entire train were changed to solid stone, in
the twinkling of an eye, and there they remained till, at the proper
time, the Little Princess of the Fearless Heart came up the great stone
steps of the castle.

The Wizard was sitting on his throne with his Dragons behind his
shoulder, staring into his crystal globe as it spun in the air, hanging
on nothing at all.

He never took his eyes away when the Princess came up to the throne, and
she was far too polite to interrupt him when he was so busy. So for a
long, long time she stood there waiting, and the Wizard chuckled to
himself, for he thought that she was too frightened to speak. So he
breathed upon his crystal globe and muttered a spell.

But of course, nothing happened, for the Little Princess had a Fearless
Heart!

Then the Wizard grew black as night, for he saw that the matter was not
so easy as plucking wild flowers, so he turned away from the crystal
globe and stared at the Princess. His eyes burned like two hot coals,
so that she drew her cloak closer about her, but you cannot hide your
heart from a Wizard with Three Dragons, unless your cloak is woven of
sunlight, and the Little Black Dwarf has the only one of those in the
whole world, stowed away in an old chest in the garret.

So the Wizard saw at once that the Little Princess had a Fearless Heart,
and his voice was soft as rain-water.

"Oh, Little Princess," he said. "What is it that you want of me in the
Black Forest?"

"I am looking for the Prince from the west," said the Princess, eagerly.
"Can you tell me where to find him?"

"Yes," said the Wizard. "I can tell you that, and perhaps some other
things, besides. But what will you give me for my trouble?"

Then the Little Princess hung her head, for she had nothing about her
that was worth so much as a bone button, and the Wizard knew that as
well as you and I. So he said, very softly, "Will you give me your
Fearless Heart?"

And there was the whole matter in a nutshell!

But the Princess stamped her foot on the stone floor. "Of course I will
not give you my heart," she said. "And if you will not tell me for
kindness, I will be going on, for I have nothing with which to pay you!"

"Not so fast!" cried the Wizard--for he was as wise as a rat in a
library--"If you will not give me your heart, just let me have a kiss
and I will call it a bargain!"

Then the Princess remembered her godmother's three kisses, and she
thought that this was the place for them, if they were ever to be used
at all, although she liked the thought of kissing the Wizard about as
much as she liked sour wine. She crept up to the throne, and, with her
eyes tight closed, gave the Wizard the first of the three kisses.

At that the whole Black Forest shook with the force of the Magic,
hissing through the trees, and the Wizard, with his Three Dragons turned
into solid stone!

The crystal globe spun around in the air, humming like a hive full of
bees and sank slowly to the foot of the throne.

Hardly had it touched the ground than the whole castle rent and split
into a thousand pieces, and I would not like to have been there, unless
I had a bit of gold thread spun out of moonlight around my finger, for
the huge rocks were falling as thick as peas in a pan!

But the Princess hardly noticed the rocks at all, for, as the sun rose
over the Black Forest, she recognized the marble figure of the Prince,
standing among the ruins. You may be sure that she was heartbroken as
she went up to him, weeping very bitterly and calling and calling on his
name. Then in her sorrow she reached up and kissed the cold stone face
with the second magic kiss.

Then suddenly she felt the marble grow soft and warm beneath her touch,
and the Prince came back to life and took her in his arms.

When he recognized the silent figures of his gay train, he was sad as
death, and the Princess wept with him. But suddenly they saw an old, old
woman picking her way among the fallen stones.

"Oh," said the Little Princess, "that is the old woman whom I met in the
forest, spinning!"

At that the fairy laughed so hard that her hair tumbled down about her
feet, and it turned from gray to silver, and silver to gold. The years
fell from her like a cloak, until she was more beautiful than the
thought of man could conceive!

"Ah! I know you now!" cried the Little Princess. "You are my first fairy
godmother!"

And that was the way of it, so she kissed them both for pure joy. But
when they asked her as to which of the stone figures should have the
third magic kiss, she shook her head,

"None of them at all!" she said. "But give me back that bit of gold
thread, for you will have no further use for it."

Then she stretched the thread between her two hands until it was so fine
that you could not see it at all, and laid it on the ground around the
Wizard and his Dragons, and tied a magic knot, just behind the crystal
globe.

"Now give the third kiss to the crystal globe," she said, "and see what
will happen!"

So the Little Princess kissed the globe, and from the place where her
lips touched it, a stream of water trickled down. As it touched the feet
of each statue, the marble softened to flesh and blood, and the breath
came back to it until all of the Prince's train were alive again; but as
for the Wizard, the water could not pass the gold thread, so there he
sits until this day--unless some busybody has untied the magic knot.
Then the fairy flew away, singing a low, happy song.

When the Prince and the Princess came to the Garden, there was a wedding
which lasted a month, and then they rode off toward the west.

After they had gone, the Queen whispered to the Lady-in-waiting,

"You see what careful parents can do! The first fairy godmother was
quite wrong about the Prince of the Black Heart!"

But at that very moment, the Prince had bared his arm to pluck a
water-flower, as they rested beside the way.

"What is that black mark on your arm?" asked the Princess.

"Oh," said the Prince, laughing, "that is just a scar I have borne from
birth. It is in the shape of a heart, and so, for a jest, my people call
me the Prince of the Black Heart."

"Black Heart, indeed!" cried the Little Princess, angrily.

And that is the end of the story, for if you have no fear in your heart,
black magic is no such great thing after all.

But if any old fogy should wag his gray beard and say there is not a
word of truth in it, you may be very sure that he came to fairyland at
the narrow place, and never saw it at all. So you may just smile at him,
for there is one thing, at least, that you know more about than he does!





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