« PreviousContinue »
the fawn the day before, “Come now, and show me the hut where he dwells.” On reaching the door, he knocked, and said, “Dear sister, let me come in.” The door flew open, and the king walked in, and beheld the most beautiful maiden he had ever seen. But the poor girl was very much frightened when she saw the king with his golden crown on his head, instead of her beloved fawn. Then the king looked at her in a kindly manner, and held out his hand to her, saying, “Will you accompany me to my palace, and become my queen ?” “Yes,” replied the maiden, “provided I may take my fawn with me; for I cannot abandon him.” “The fawn shall remain with you as long as you live,” rejoined the king, "and he shall want for nothing." Meantime the fawn came bounding home, when his sister fast
ened the rope to his collar, and led him away with her.
The king took the beautiful girl to his palace; where their marriage was celebrated with great pomp; and he lived very happily with his new queen, while the fawn was fondled and pampered, and had the run of the palace-gardens. Meantime the wicked stepmother, whose cruelty had obliged the children to go forth into the wide world, had hoped all along that the little girl had been torn to pieces by the wild beasts in the forest, and that the little boy had been shot dead by some huntsmen, mistaking him for a real fawn. So when she heard how happy they were, envy and malice were continually gnawing at her heart; and she thought of nothing else but how she should bring them into trouble again. Her own daughter, too, who was one-eyed and as ugly as sin,
kept kindling her bad passions by incessant reproaches, and saying, that it was she who ought to have been a queen. “Be easy,” said the old beldame; “when a good opportunity offers, I will not let it slip.”
Accordingly, as soon as she heard that the queen had become the mother of a fine little boy, the old witch went to the palace while the king was out hunting; and having assumed the shape of one of the queen's maids, she went into her bedchamber, and said, “ The bath is now ready, and if it pleases your majesty to get up before it gets cold, no doubt it will do you good.” The witch's daughter, who was likewise at hand, then helped to lift the sick queen into the bath. No sooner had they done this than they closed the door of the bath-room, where they had made such a fire that they felt certain the beautiful young queen would be instantly stifled.
The old crone then put a cap on her daughter's head, and laid her in the queen's bed, and tried to make her look as much like her majesty as possible ; only, not being able to give her back the eye that was missing, she bade her lie on that side, so as to conceal the defect. Towards evening the king came home, and hearing that a son was born to him, was delighted at the news, and immediately went to see his beloved wife. As he approached the bed, the old crone cried out to him, “For goodness' sake, do not draw the curtain, for the queen wants rest, and the light would hurt her.” So the king retired, without imagining that a false queen was lying in the bed.
Towards midnight, when every one was asleep except the nurse, who sat watching beside the cradle in the nursery, the door opened, and the real queen came in. She took the baby out of the cradle, and
gave it some drink. She then shook up its little pillow, and put it back into the cradle, and covered it up with the counterpane. Nor did she forget the fawn, but went in the corner where it lay, and stroked its back. She then retired as silently as she had come; and the nurse inquired next morning of the sentinels whether any one had entered the palace during the night. But they all answered that they had seen nobody. She came in this manner for several nights, but never spoke a word; and the nurse always saw her, but did not dare mention any thing about it.
After a time, the queen began to speak in the night, and her words ran as follows:
* Say, how is my baby, and how is my fawn?
Twice more will I come, and then ranish at dawn."
The nurse made no answer; but when she had