Kings And Queens And Peasant Folk
: The Green Forest Fairy Book,
Once upon a time, in a splendid palace on the top of a high hill, there
dwelled a very old king and his wife, who was likewise a very old queen.
Now this royal old couple lived in great state and luxury. Their diamond
crowns glittered and sparkled like the sunbeams on a summer sea; and
their trailing velvet robes were so thickly embroidered with gold that
they stood alone. This very old king and his wife, the very old queen,
had a coach of gold and glass drawn by eight white horses in silver
harness. But with all this splendor and magnificence, this royal old
couple were not happy or contented. Indeed they were called Queen Grumpy
and King Crosspatch, which names were most suitable, for they were
discontented and disagreeable as the day was long.
Queen Grumpy fretted because she had a hundred ladies-in-waiting. She
said they bothered her. King Crosspatch scolded and sulked because Lord
High Chancellor would not permit him to smoke a briarwood pipe. They
both declared their diamond crowns gave them a headache, and they were
tired of their trailing velvet robes. Queen Grumpy and King Crosspatch
refused to ride in their royal coach of gold and glass. The eight white
horses trotted too swiftly and shook their old bones about. So this very
old king and this very old queen went afoot; but even so, they
complained and scolded because all the roads about the palace led either
up a hill or down, and they puffed and panted for breath before their
walk was done.
Now often and often at sunset, as they rested on their way up the high
hill, Queen Grumpy and King Crosspatch looked with longing on a certain
snug little cottage down in the valley. Within this snug little cottage
lived a very old man and his very old wife. They were peasants. There
were rows and rows of sunflowers and hollyhocks before this snug little
cottage and behind, while to the left and right stretched green pastures
thick with blackberry vines.
"Ah, my dear!" King Crosspatch would sigh, as he watched the old man at
work. "How pleasant it must be to live in such a snug little cottage.
That old man goes every evening to fetch the cows. How I wish I were
that old man!"
"Indeed, yes!" Queen Grumpy would reply with an answering sigh. "How I
wish I were that old woman. She goes about from morning until night, so
brisk and blithe. She can bake bread and churn butter herself; she is
not bothered with a hundred ladies-in-waiting as I am."
Now most remarkable to tell, often as Queen Grumpy and King Crosspatch
gazed thus longingly at the little cottage so snug, and wished
themselves the old man and the old woman, the old man and the old woman
gazed just as longingly on the splendid palace and wished themselves
King Crosspatch and Queen Grumpy. For if you will believe me, this old
man and his old wife were a most discontented couple too!
So it happened one evening, when Queen Grumpy and King Crosspatch were
walking down the hill, they met the old man and his old wife climbing
up. So while they sat to rest on a stone stile, these four discontented
old folk fell to talking.
"Ah!" exclaimed King Crosspatch to the old man, "I have often watched
you fetch the cows home from pasture in the evening, and what fun it
seems, to be sure! Then you often go a-berrying too. You should be very
"Indeed, Your Royal Highness, I am not!" replied the old man with bitter
feeling. "I am tired of fetching cows, and I would like to sit still all
day with folded hands. I often wish I were you. As for going a-berrying;
I go only because I am so fond of blackberry pie. There's one for my
supper to-night," he added, and smacked his lips with relish. And then,
oh, how King Crosspatch envied the old man! King Crosspatch had longed
to eat blackberry pie all his life, but the court physician would not
permit such ordinary food on the royal table. So the poor old king had
never had even a taste of a blackberry pie.
"And you too," said Queen Grumpy to the old woman, "you should be very
happy. You loop your dress above your red flannel petticoat and trot
round all day, baking bread and churning butter. You have nothing ever
to vex or worry you."
"Nothing to vex or worry me!" repeated the old woman in astonishment.
"Why, I am vexed that I must churn my butter, and at this very minute I
am worried lest the loaves I left baking in the oven may burn before I
am home again. And indeed, Your Royal Highness, I loop my dress above my
red flannel petticoat only because I must. A hundred times a day I wish
I were you and could wear trailing velvet robes sewn thick with gold!"
Now as these four discontented old folk talked on, a curious plan popped
into their heads. They decided to change places. Accordingly, Queen
Grumpy took the old woman's dress and looped it above the red flannel
petticoat; the old woman buttoned herself into Queen Grumpy's trailing
velvet robes. King Crosspatch put on the old man's battered hat; the old
man set the sparkling diamond crown above his sunburned brow, and all
was done. Then singing and laughing, these four old folk went on their
separate ways. All four felt assured that they were really walking on
the road to happiness at last, and all were very pleased and jolly in
"Oh, there's no place like a palace,
A palace, a palace!
Oh, there's no place like a palace
Upon a hill so high!"
sang the old man and his old wife as they climbed up the steep hill.
"Oh, there's no place like a cottage,
A cottage, a cottage!
Oh, there's no place like a cottage
Down in a valley green!"
sang King Crosspatch and Queen Grumpy, and they went trudging down. Then
when they reached the snug little cottage, how pleased they were to be
sure! Everything was so cozy and comfortable to behold. The kettle on
the hearth was boiling, and the loaves in the oven were browning; the
bird in the cage was singing, and the cat on the cushion was purring.
The table was laid with all manner of good things for tea.
"The blackberry pie! The blackberry pie! My dear, let's have it at
once!" cried King Crosspatch, and went searching through cupboard and
larder to find it.
"Wait just a moment until I have made the tea," answered Queen Grumpy,
busily bustling about the kitchen. She made the tea, and he found the
blackberry pie, and then they both sat down to supper. There were ever
and ever so many good things on the table. There were cold roast fowls
and quince preserves; there were strawberry tarts and plum as well;
there was fresh new butter, and there was thick sweet cream. Queen
Grumpy and King Crosspatch ate them all and then began to think about
"Now would you mind, my dear, if I should eat all the blackberry pie
myself?" asked King Crosspatch of Queen Grumpy. "You see, I have only
read about blackberry pie in books and have never tasted one in all my
"Not at all, my dear!" replied Queen Grumpy most amiably. "I intend to
eat all this ginger cake which I have never seen or tasted before." And
so this royal old couple continued to eat until both larder and cupboard
"How fine this little cottage is and how very snug!" said Queen Grumpy,
seating herself in a rocker before the blazing logs. She began to knit
on a gray wool sock she found. "I think we shall be very happy here."
"And I think so too," agreed King Crosspatch. "We have eaten a fine
supper in a very few minutes and without any fuss of footmen or
ladies-in-waiting either." He found a briarwood pipe and began to doze
peacefully in deep contentment. Queen Grumpy knitted busily until the
logs burned low, when she began to nod and doze also. Then they both
went to bed.
But the beds in the snug little cottage were not of the excellent
quality of its cold roasted fowls and new butter and jam. The mattresses
were rough affairs. They were stuffed here with corn husks and there
with straw and yet again with goose feathers, which pricked Queen Grumpy
and King Crosspatch like so many pins. On these rough husky beds the
royal old couple tossed restlessly until morning. They vowed they did
not sleep a wink. (Perhaps they had eaten too much blackberry pie and
ginger cake; what do you think about it?) When it was daylight at last,
King Crosspatch clapped his hands to call his servants to attend.
"Ah, my dear!" said Queen Grumpy, "have you forgotten that we are no
longer royal folk but simple cottagers instead?"
"Indeed, I had quite forgotten all about it," replied King Crosspatch.
"Well, I am glad we are," and he began to dress.
Together they set about making breakfast; but again the breakfast proved
a different matter from supper. You will remember that they had eaten
everything in the cupboard and larder the night before. There was no
milk, for they had forgotten to milk the cow, and neither were there
eggs. They had neglected to search the nests. Moreover, the wood box was
empty, and the fire was out.
"Now do you go out and chop some wood for the fire, my dear," said Queen
Grumpy. "I shall milk the cow. I have always liked to look at pictures
of milkmaids." She took the pail on her arm and went in search of the
three-legged stool. Then she seated herself beside Bossy-Cow and began
to milk. But sad to tell, Bossy-Cow, who herself was rather
disagreeable, waited until the pail was nearly filled, and then she
gave a sudden kick. Such a vicious kick it was, too! It upset the
milk-pail, three-legged stool, Queen Grumpy and all, and frightened the
poor old queen half out of her wits. She began to scream so loudly that
she quite frightened King Crosspatch, and the hatchet slipped and
chopped a bit of his little finger.
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" wailed King Crosspatch at the very top of his voice. "I
think this hatchet is bewitched! Oh! Oh! Oh!" he wept, holding up his
little finger. (It was not much of a cut; just a little scratch; but he
was a great crosspatch, you know.) "Oh, what shall I do? What shall I
do?" he wailed. "With this terrible cut on my little finger, I can't do
anything at all!"
"There now, there now," petted Queen Grumpy soothingly. "Don't chop any
more wood. There are still a few drops of milk left in my pail, and we
shall drink that and eat bread for our breakfast." She led her weeping
husband within the snug little cottage, but when she looked in the oven
she found another disappointment. Queen Grumpy had forgotten to take
the loaves out of the oven the night before, and they were burned to a
"Oh, this plagued cottage!" exclaimed Queen Grumpy, thoroughly vexed.
"Everything goes wrong here. I wish I were back in my own palace once
more! I would never sigh again to leave it."
"Neither would I," agreed King Crosspatch, drying his tears suddenly.
"Let's go back!"
They made up their minds in an instant, and slamming the door of the
snug little cottage, they began to climb the steep hill to their
splendid palace. Every step of the way they were in a perfect torment of
fear lest the old man and the old woman would refuse to change places
"That old woman will never want to give me my trailing velvet robes,"
said Queen Grumpy, as they sat to rest on the stone stile.
"And I have been thinking that the old man will fight to keep my diamond
crown," said King Crosspatch anxiously. But at that very minute they
heard voices, and behold! around the turn in the road came the old man
and old woman, hurrying as though an army were after them. The old man
was thumping his stick, and the old woman was making angry gestures with
her hands; and both the old man and the old woman looked very cross and
"Ah, here you are!" exclaimed the old man, stopping short before the
stone stile. "Now give me my hat and take back your hateful crown
without any further nonsense! I could not sleep a wink last night,
because it was so heavy on my head. Such a hateful palace too! I never
saw the like! I could not smoke my briarwood pipe which I brought along
for company, and this morning two villains were like to drown me in a
pool before I was fully awake."
"They did not try to drown you," replied King Crosspatch haughtily.
"That pool was a bath. Here is your hat; give me my crown."
"You may call it a bath or not, just as you choose," declared the old
man warmly, "but let those two villains drown you instead of me, is what
I say! I was never so disappointed in all my life as I was with your
palace. The royal throne was hard as stone; the royal beds were soft as
dough; everything was wrong."
Meanwhile Queen Grumpy and the old woman were having a time of it.
"Your cow has no manners," complained Queen Grumpy. "She kicked me, and
she spilled the milk. I should behead her if she were mine."
"Would you, indeed?" asked the old woman scornfully, "and drink water
and eat bread without butter all the rest of your life, I suppose? Let
me tell you, Your Royal Highness, that your servants are lazy and
good-for-nothing! I saw dust on the tops of all the doors and windows,
and the silver flagon was not polished as brightly as my old pewter
pots. Your royal cooks make griddlecakes heavy as lead; you had best
behead them instead of my good Bossy-Cow." Then she added, "Did you feed
my bird and give him water?"
"I could hardly feed myself in that awkward cottage of yours!" retorted
"Oh, my poor bird!" exclaimed the old woman. "Here, hurry and give me
back my own dress that I may loop it above my red flannel petticoat and
be comfortable once more. I suppose you took the bread out of the oven
in time--did you?"
"I forgot it, and it burned," sulkily replied Queen Grumpy, buttoning
herself into her trailing velvet robes.
"Oh, what stupid folk are kings and queens!" cried the old woman in a
passion. "Come along, husband," she called, and down the hill they went.
"And what stupid folk are cottagers!" called King Crosspatch after them.
"Come along, wife," said he, and up the hill they went.
And so these four old folk again went on their separate ways. All four
were sure that they were walking on the road to happiness at last, and
so all were very jolly and smiling in consequence.
"Oh, there's no place like home!
Oh, there's no place like home!"
sang the old man and his old wife, as they went trudging down to the
little cottage so snug.
"Oh, there's no place like home!
Oh, there's no place like home!"
sang Queen Grumpy and King Crosspatch, as they went climbing to their
splendid palace on the top of a high hill; and there we will bid them