|A Child's Book of Stories|
|by Penrhyn W. Coussens|
|A choice collection of favorite fairy tales, to delight children of all ages. The 86 stories selected for this collection include folk tales from England, Norway, and India, as well as the best fairy tales from Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault. The volume also contains a handful of fables from Aesop and several tales from the Arabian Nights. Ages 5-9 |
THE YELLOW DWARF
NCE upon a time there lived a queen who had been the mother
of a great many children, and of them all only one
daughter was left. But then she was worth at least a
Her mother, who since the death of the king, her
father, had nothing in the world she cared for so much
as this little princess, was so terribly afraid of
losing her that she quite spoiled her, and never tried
to correct any of her faults. The consequence was that
this little person, who was as pretty as possible and
was one day to wear a crown, grew up so proud and so in
love with her own beauty that she despised every one
else in the world.
The queen, her mother, by her caresses and flatteries,
helped to make her believe that there was nothing too
good for her. She was dressed almost always in the
prettiest frocks, as a fairy or as a queen going out to
hunt, and the ladies of the court followed her dressed
as forest fairies.
And to make her more vain than ever the queen caused
her portrait to be taken by the cleverest painters and
sent it to several neighboring kings with whom she was
When they saw this portrait they fell in love with the
princess—every one of them, but upon each it had
a different effect. One fell ill, one went crazy, and a
few of the luckiest set off to see her as soon as
possible; but these poor princes became her slaves the
moment they set eyes on her.
 Never has there been a gayer court. Twenty delighted
kings did everything they could think of to make
themselves agreeable, and after having spent ever so
much money in giving a single entertainment thought
themselves very lucky if the princess said "That's
All this admiration vastly pleased the queen. Not a day
passed but she received seven or eight thousand
sonnets, and as many elegies, madrigals, and songs,
which were sent her by all the poets in the world. All
the prose and the poetry that was written just then was
about Bellissima—for that was the princess'
name—and all the bonfires that they had were made
of these verses, which crackled and sparkled better
than any other sort of wood.
Bellissima was already fifteen years old and every one
of the princes wished to marry her, but not one dared
to say so. How could they when they knew that any of
them might have to cut off his head five or six times a
day just to please her, and she would have thought it a
mere trifle, so little did she care? You may imagine
how hard-hearted her lovers thought her; and the queen,
who wished to see her married, did not know how to
persuade her to think of it seriously.
"Bellissima," she said, "I do wish you would not be so
proud. What makes you despise all these nice kings? I
wish you to marry one of them and you do not try to
"I am so happy," Bellissima answered: "do leave me in
peace, madam. I don't want to care for any one."
"But you would be very happy with any of these
princes," said the queen, "and I shall be very angry if
you fall in love with any one who is not worthy of
But the princess thought so much of herself that she
did not consider any one of her lovers clever or
handsome enough for her; and her mother, who was
getting really angry at her determination not to be
married, began to wish that she had not allowed her to
have her own way so much.
 At last, not knowing what else to do, she resolved to
consult a certain witch who was called the Fairy of the
Desert. Now, This was very difficult to do, as she was
guarded by some terrible lions, but happily the queen
had heard a long time before that whoever wanted to
pass these lions safely must throw to them a cake made
of millet flour, sugar-candy, and crocodile's eggs.
This cake she prepared with her own hands, and putting
it in a little basket, she set out to seek the fairy.
But as she was not used to walking far, she soon felt
very tired and sat down at the foot of a tree to rest,
and presently fell fast asleep. When she awoke she was
dismayed to find her basket empty. The cake was all
gone! and to make matters worse, at that moment she
heard the roaring of the great lions, who had found out
that she was near and were coming to look for her.
"What shall I do?" she cried; "I shall be eaten up,"
and being too much frightened to run a single step, she
began to cry and leaned against the tree under which
she had been asleep.
Just then she heard some one say: "H'm! h'm!"
She looked all round her and then up at the tree, and
there she saw a little tiny man who was eating oranges.
"Oh! queen," said he, "I know you very well and I know
how much afraid you are of the lions, and you are quite
right, too, for they have eaten many other people: and
what can you expect, as you have not any cake to give
"I must make up my mind to die," said the poor queen.
"Alas! I should not care so much if only my dear
daughter were married."
"Oh! you have a daughter," cried the yellow dwarf (who
was so called because he was a dwarf and had such a
yellow face and lived in the orange-tree). "I'm really
glad to hear that, for I've been looking for a wife all
over the world. Now if you will promise that she shall
marry me, not one of the lions, tigers, or bears shall
 The queen looked at him and was almost as much afraid
of his ugly little face as she had been of the lions
before, so that she could not speak a word.
"What! you hesitate, madam?" cried the dwarf. "You must
be very fond of being eaten up alive."
And as he spoke the queen saw the lions, which were
running down a hill toward them.
Each one had two heads, eight feet, and four rows of
teeth, and their skins were as hard as turtle-shells
and were bright red.
At this dreadful sight the poor queen, who was
trembling like a dove when it sees a hawk, cried out as
loud as she could: "Oh! dear Mr. Dwarf, Bellissima
shall marry you."
"Oh, indeed!" said he disdainfully. "Bellissima is
pretty enough, but I don't particularly want to marry
her—you can keep her."
"Oh! noble sir," said the queen in great distress, "do
not refuse her. She is the most charming princess in
"Oh! well," he replied, "out of charity I will take
her; but be sure you don't forget that she is mine."
As he spoke a little door opened in the trunk of the
orange-tree, in rushed the queen only just in time, and
the door shut with a bang in the faces of the lions.
The queen was so confused that at first she did not
notice another little door in the orange-tree, but
presently it opened and she found herself in a field of
thistles and nettles. It was encircled by a muddy
ditch, and a little further on was a tiny thatched
cottage, out of which came the yellow dwarf with a very
jaunty air. He wore wooden shoes and a little yellow
coat, and as he had no hair and very long ears he
looked altogether a shocking little object.
"I am delighted," said he to the queen, "that as you
are to be my mother-in-law, you should see the little
house in which your Bellissima will live with me. With
these thistles and nettles
 She can feed a donkey which she can ride whenever she
likes; under this humble roof no weather can hurt her;
she will drink the water of this brook and eat
frogs—which grow very fat about here; and then
she will have me always with her, handsome, agreeable,
and gay as you see me now. For if her shadow stays by
her more closely than I do I shall be surprised."
The unhappy queen, seeing all at once what a miserable
life her daughter would have with this dwarf, could not
bear the idea and fell down insensible without saying a
When she revived she found to her great surprise that
she was lying in her own bed at home, and what was
more, that she had on the loveliest lace nightcap that
she had ever seen in her life. At first she thought
that all her adventures, the terrible lions, and her
promise to the yellow dwarf that he should marry
Bellissima must have been a dream, but there was the
new cap with its beautiful ribbon and lace to remind
her that it was all true, which made her so unhappy
that she could neither eat, drink, nor sleep for
thinking of it.
The princess, who in spite of her willfulness really
loved her mother with all her heart, was much grieved
when she saw her looking so sad, and often asked her
what was the matter, but the queen, who didn't want her
to find out the truth, only said that she was ill, or
that one of her neighbors was threatening to make war
against her. Bellissima knew quite well that something
was being hidden from her—and that neither of
these was the real reason of the queen's uneasiness. So
she made up her mind that she would go and consult the
Fairy of the Desert about it, especially as she had
often heard how wise she was, and she thought that at
the same time she might ask her advice as to whether it
would be as well to be married or not.
So with great care she made some of the proper cake to
pacify the lions and one night went up to her room very
early, pretending that she was going to bed; but
instead of that she
 Wrapped herself up in a long white veil and went down a
secret staircase and set off all by herself to find the
But when she got as far as the same fatal orange-tree
and saw it covered with flowers and fruit, she stopped
and began to gather some of the oranges—and then
putting down her basket she sat down to eat them. But
when it was time to go on again the basket had
disappeared, and though she looked everywhere, not a
trace of it could she find. The more she hunted for it
the more frightened she got, and at last she began to
cry. All at once she saw the yellow dwarf.
"What's the matter with you, my pretty one?" said he.
"What are you crying about?"
"Alas!" she answered; "no wonder that I am crying,
seeing that I have lost the basket of cake that was to
help me to get safely to the cave of the Fairy of the
"And what do you want with her, pretty one?" said the
little monster, "for I am a friend of hers, and for the
matter of that I am quite as clever as she is."
"The queen, my mother," replied the princess, "has
lately fallen into such deep sadness that I fear that
she will die; and I am afraid that perhaps I am the
cause of it, for she very much wishes me to be married,
and I must tell you truly that as yet I have not found
any one I consider worthy to be my husband. So for all
these reasons I wished to talk to the fairy."
"Do not give yourself any further trouble, princess,"
answered the dwarf. "I can tell you all you want to
know better than she could. The queen, your mother, has
promised you in marriage—"
"Has promised me!" interrupted the princess. "Oh! no.
I'm sure she has not. She would have told me if she
had. I am too much interested in the matter for her to
promise anything without my consent—you must me
"Beautiful princess," cried the dwarf suddenly,
 himself on his knees before her, "I flatter myself that
you will not be displeased at her choice when I tell
you that it is to me she has promised the happiness of
"You!" cried Bellissima, starting back. "My mother
wishes me to marry you! How can you be so silly as to
think of such a thing?"
"Oh! it isn't that I care much to have that honor,"
cried the dwarf angrily; "but here are the lions
coming; they'll eat you up in three mouthfuls and there
will be an end of you and your pride."
And, indeed, at that moment the poor princess heard
their dreadful howls coming nearer and nearer.
"What shall I do?" she cried. "Must all my happy days
come to an end like this?"
The malicious dwarf looked at her and began to laugh
spitefully. "At least," said he, "you have the
satisfaction of dying unmarried. A lovely princess like
you must surely prefer to die rather than be the wife
of a poor little dwarf like myself."
"Oh! don't be angry with me," cried the princess,
clasping her hands. "I'd rather marry all the dwarfs in
the world than die in this horrible way."
"Look at me well, princess, before you give me your
word," said he. "I don't want you to promise me in a
"Oh!" cried she, "the lions are coming. I have looked
at you enough. I am so frightened. Save me this minute
or I shall die of terror."
Indeed, as she spoke she fell down insensible, and when
she recovered she found herself in her own little bed
at home; how she got there she could not tell, but she
was dressed in the most beautiful lace and ribbons and
on her finger was a little ring, made of a single red
hair which fitted so tightly that try as she might she
could not get it off. When the princess saw all these
things and remembered what had happened, she, too fell
 the deepest sadness, which surprised and alarmed the
whole court, and the queen more than any one else. A
hundred times she asked Bellissima if anything was the
matter with her, but she always said that there was
At last the chief men of the kingdom, anxious to see
their princess married, sent to the queen to beg her to
choose a husband for her as soon as possible. She
replied that nothing would please her better, but that
her daughter seemed so unwilling to marry and she
recommended them to go and talk to the princess about
it themselves; so this they at once did. Now,
Bellissima was much less proud since her adventure with
the yellow dwarf, and she could not think of a better
way of getting rid of the little monster than to marry
some powerful king, therefore she replied to their
request much more favorably than they had hoped, saying
that though she was very happy as she was, still to
please them she would consent to marry the King of the
Gold Mines. Now, he was a very handsome and powerful
prince who had been in love with the princess for
years, but had not thought that she would ever care
about him at all. You can easily imagine how delighted
he was when he heard the news, and how angry it made
all the other kings to lose forever the hope of
marrying the princess; but after all, Bellissima could
not have married twenty kings—indeed, she had
found it quite difficult enough to choose one, for her
vanity made her believe that there was nobody in the
world who was worthy of her.
Preparations were begun at once for the grandest
wedding that had ever been held at the palace. The King
of the Gold Mines sent such immense sums of money that
the whole sea was covered with the ships that brought
it. Messengers were sent to all the gayest and most
refined courts, particularly to the court of France, to
seek out everything rare and precious to adorn the
princess, although her beauty was so perfect that
nothing she wore could make her look prettier. At least
 is what the King of the Gold Mines thought, and he was
never happy unless he was with her.
As for the princess, the more she saw of the king the
more she liked him; he was so generous, so handsome and
clever, that at last she was almost as much in love
with him as he was with her. How happy they were as
they wandered about in the beautiful gardens together,
sometimes listening to sweet music! and the king used
to write songs for Bellissima. This is one that she
liked very much:
"In the forest all is gay
When my princess walks that way.
All the blossoms then are found
Downward fluttering to the ground,
Hoping she may tread on them.
And bright flowers on slender stem
Gaze up at her as she passes,
Brushing lightly through the grasses.
Oh! my princess, birds above
Echo back our songs of love,
As through this enchanted land
Blithe we wander, hand in hand."
They really were as happy as the day was long. All the
king's unsuccessful rivals had gone home in despair.
They said good-bye to the princess so sadly that she
could not help being sorry for them.
"Ah! madam," the King of the Gold Mines said to her,
"how is this? Why do you waste your pity on these
princes, who love you so much that all their trouble
would be well repaid by a single smile from you?"
"I should be sorry," answered Bellissima, "if you had
not noticed how much I pitied these princes who were
leaving me forever; but for you, sire, it is very
different: you have every
 reason to be pleased with me, but they are going
sorrowfully away, so you must not grudge them my
The King of the Gold Mines was quite overcome by the
princess' good-natured way of taking his interference,
and throwing himself at her feet, he kissed her hand a
thousand times and begged her to forgive him.
At last the happy day came. Everything was ready for
Bellissima's wedding. The trumpets sounded, all the
streets of the town were hung with flags and strewn
with flowers, and the people ran in crowds to the great
square before the palace. The queen was so overjoyed
that she had hardly been able to sleep at all, and she
got up before it was light to give the necessary orders
and to choose the jewels that the princess was to wear.
These were nothing less than diamonds, even to her
shoes, which were covered with them, and her dress of
silver brocade was embroidered with a dozen of the
sun's rays. You may imagine how much these had cost,
but then nothing could have been more brilliant except
the beauty of the princess! Upon her head she wore a
splendid crown, her lovely hair waved nearly to her
feet, and her stately figure could easily be
distinguished among all the ladies who attended her.
The King of the Gold Mines was not less noble and
splendid. It was easy to see by his face how happy he
was, and every one who went near him returned loaded
with presents, for all round the great banqueting hall
had been arranged a thousand barrels full of gold and
numberless bags made of velvet embroidered with pearls
and filled with money, each one containing at least a
hundred thousand gold-pieces, which were given away to
every one who liked to hold out his hand, which numbers
of people hastened to do, you may be sure; indeed, some
found this by far the most amusing part of the wedding
The queen and the princess were just ready to set out
with the king when they saw advancing towards them from
 of the long gallery two great basilisks dragging after
them a very badly made box; behind them came a tall old
woman, whose ugliness was even more surprising than her
extreme old age. She wore a ruff of black taffeta, a
red velvet hood, and a farthingale all in rags, and she
leaned heavily upon a crutch. This strange old woman
without saying a single word hobbled three times round
the gallery followed by the basilisks, then stopping in
the middle and brandishing her crutch threateningly she
"Ho, ho, queen! Ho, ho, princess! Do you think you are
going to break with impunity the promise that you made
to my friend the yellow dwarf? I am the Fairy of the
Desert; without the yellow dwarf and his orange-tree my
great lions would soon have eaten you up, I can tell
you, and in Fairyland we do not suffer ourselves to be
insulted like this. Make up your minds at once what you
will do, for I vow that you shall marry the yellow
dwarf. If you don't, may I burn my crutch!"
"Ah! princess," said the queen, weeping, "what is this
that I hear? What have you promised?"
"Ah! my mother," replied Bellissima sadly, "what did
you promise yourself?"
The King of the Gold Mines, indignant at being kept
from his happiness by this wicked old woman, went up to
her, and threatening her with his sword said:
"Get away out of my country at once and forever,
miserable creature, lest I take your life and so rid
myself of your malice."
He had hardly spoken these words when the lid of the
box fell back on the floor with a terrible noise and to
their horror out sprang the yellow dwarf, mounted upon
a great Spanish cat. "Rash youth!" he cried, rushing
between the Fairy of the Desert and the king. "Dare to
lay a finger upon this illustrious fairy! Your quarrel
is with me only. I am your enemy and your rival. That
faithless princess who would have married you is
promised to me. See if she has not upon her finger a
 of one of my hairs. Just try to take it off and you
will soon find out that I am more powerful than you
"Wretched little monster!" said the king; "do you dare
to call yourself the princess' lover and to lay claim
to such a treasure? Do you know that you are a
dwarf—that you are so ugly that one cannot bear
to look at you—and that I should have killed you
myself long before this if you had been worthy of such
a glorious death?"
The yellow dwarf, deeply enraged at these words, set
spurs to his cat, which yelled horribly and leaped
hither and thither—terrifying everybody except
the brave king, who pursued the dwarf closely, till he,
drawing a great knife with which he was armed,
challenged the king to meet him in single combat, and
rushed down into the courtyard of the palace with a
terrible clatter. The king, quite provoked, followed
him hastily, but they had hardly taken their places
facing one another, and the whole court had only just
had time to rush out upon the balconies to watch what
was going on, when suddenly the sun became as red as
blood, and it was so dark that they could scarcely see
at all. The thunder crashed and the lightening seemed
as if it must burn up everything; the two basilisks
appeared, one on each side of the bad dwarf like giants
mountains high, and fire flew from their mouths and
ears until they looked like flaming furnaces. None of
these things could terrify the noble young king, and
the boldness of his looks and actions reassured those
who were looking on, and perhaps even embarrassed the
yellow dwarf himself; but even his courage gave way
when he saw what was happening to his beloved princess.
For the Fairy of the Desert, looking more terrible than
before, mounted upon a winged griffin and with long
snakes coiled round her neck, had given her such a blow
with the lance she carried that Bellissima fell into
the queen's arms bleeding and senseless. Her fond
mother, feeling as much hurt by the blow as the
princess herself, uttered such
 piercing cried and lamentations that the king, hearing
them, entirely lost his courage and presence of mind.
Giving up the combat, he flew towards the princess to
rescue her or to die with her, but the yellow dwarf was
too quick for him. Leaping with his Spanish cat upon
the balcony, he snatched Bellissima from the queen's
arms, and before any of the ladies of the court could
stop him he had sprung upon the roof of the palace and
disappeared with his prize.
The king, motionless with horror, looked on
despairingly at this dreadful occurrence, which he was
quite powerless to prevent, and to make matters worse
his sight failed him, everything became dark, and he
felt himself carried along through the air by a strong
This new misfortune was the work of the wicked Fairy of
the Desert, who had come with the yellow dwarf to help
him carry off the princess, and had fallen in love with
the handsome young King of the Gold Mines directly she
saw him. She thought that if she carried him off to
some frightful chasm and chained him to a rock, then
the fear of death would make him forget Bellissima and
become her slave. So as soon as they reached the place
she gave him back his sight, but without releasing him
from his chains, and by her magic power she appeared
before him as a young and beautiful fairy and pretended
to have come there quite by chance.
"What do I see?" she cried. "Is it you, dear prince?
What misfortune has brought you to this dismal place?"
The king, who was quite deceived by her altered
"Alas! beautiful fairy, the fairy who brought me here
first took away my sight, but by her voice I recognized
her as the Fairy of the Desert, though what she should
have carried me off for I cannot tell you."
"Ah!" cried the pretended fairy, "if you have fallen
 hands, you won't get away until you have married her.
She has carried off more than one prince like this, and
she will certainly have anything she takes a fancy to."
While she was thus pretending to be sorry for the king
he suddenly noticed her feet, which were like those of
a griffin, and knew in a moment that this must be the
Fairy of the Desert, for her feet were the one thing
she could not change, however pretty she might make her
Without seeming to have noticed anything, he said, in a
"Not that I have any dislike to the Fairy of the
Desert, but I really cannot endure the way in which she
protects the yellow dwarf and keeps me chained here
like a criminal. It is true that I love a charming
princess, but if the fairy should set me free my
gratitude would oblige me to love her only."
"Do you really mean what you say, prince?" said the
fairy, quite deceived.
"Surely," replied the prince; "how could I deceive you?
You see it is so much more flattering to my vanity to
be loved by a fairy than by a simple princess. But even
if I am dying of love for her, I shall pretend to hate
her until I am set free."
The Fairy of the Desert, quite taken in by these words,
resolved at once to transport the prince to a
pleasanter place. So making him mount her chariot, to
which she had harnessed swans instead of the bats which
generally drew it, away she flew with him. But imagine
the distress of the prince when, from the giddy height
at which they were rushing through the air, he saw his
beloved princess in a castle built of polished steel,
the walls of which reflected the sun's rays so hotly
that no one could approach it without being burned to a
cinder! Bellissima was sitting in a little thicket by a
brook, leaning her head upon her hand and weeping
bitterly, but just as they passed she looked up and saw
the king and the Fairy of the Desert. Now the fairy was
 clever that she could not only seem beautiful to the
king, but even the poor princess thought her the most
lovely being she had ever seen.
"What!" she cried; "was I not unhappy enough in this
lonely castle to which that frightful yellow dwarf
brought me: Must I also be made to know that the King
of the Gold Mines ceased to love me as soon as he lost
sight of me? But who can my rival be whose fatal beauty
is greater than mine?"
While she was saying this the king, who really loved
her as much as ever, was feeling terribly sad at being
so rapidly torn away from his beloved princess, but he
knew too well how powerful the fairy was to have any
hope of escaping from her except by great patience and
The Fairy of the Desert had also seen Bellissima, and
she tried to read in the king's eyes the effect that
this unexpected sight had had upon him.
"No one can tell what you wish to know better than I
can," said he. "This chance meeting with an unhappy
princess for whom I once had a passing fancy before I
was lucky enough to meet you has affected me a little,
I admit, buy you are so much more to me than she is
that I would rather die than leave you."
"Ah! prince," she said, "can I believe that you really
love me so much?"
"Time will show, madam," replied the king; "but if you
wish to convince me that you have some regard for me,
do not I beg of you, refuse to aid Bellissima."
"Do you know what you are asking?" said the Fairy of
the Desert, frowning and looking at him suspiciously.
"Do you want me to employ my art against the yellow
dwarf, who is my best friend, and take away from him a
proud princess whom I can but look upon as my rival?"
The king sighed, but made no answer—indeed, what
was there to be said to such a clear-sighted person? At
 reached a vast meadow, gay with all sorts of flowers; a
deep river surrounded it and many little brooks
murmured softly under the shady trees, where it was
always cool and fresh. A little way off stood a
splendid palace, the walls of which were of transparent
emeralds. As soon as the swans which drew the fairy's
chariot had alighted under a porch, which was paved
with diamonds and had arches of rubies, they were
greeted on all sides by thousands of beautiful beings,
who came to meet them joyfully singing theses words:
"When Love within a heart would reign,
Useless to strive against him 'tis.
The proud but feel a sharper pain,
And make a greater triumph his."
The Fairy of the Desert was delighted to hear them sing
of her triumphs. She led the king into the most
splendid room that can be imagined and left him alone
for a little while, just that he might not feel that he
was a prisoner; but he felt sure that she had not
really gone quite away, but was watching him from some
hiding-place. So walking up to a great mirror he said
to it: "Trusty counselor, let me see what I can do to
make myself agreeable to the charming Fairy of the
Desert; for I can think of nothing but how to please
And he at once set to work to curl his hair, and seeing
upon a table a grander coat than his own he put it on
carefully. The fairy came back so delighted that she
could not conceal her joy.
"I am quite aware of the trouble you have taken to
please me," said she, "and I must tell you that you
have succeeded perfectly already. You see it is not
difficult to do if you really care for me."
The king, who had his own reasons for wishing to keep
the old fairy in a good humor, did not spare pretty
speeches, and after a time he was allowed to walk by
himself upon the
sea-  shore. The Fairy of the Desert had by her enchantments
raised such a terrible storm that the boldest pilot
would not venture out in it, so she was not afraid of
her prisoner's being able to escape; and he found it
some relief to think sadly over his terrible situation
without being interrupted by his cruel captor.
Presently, after walking wildly up and down, he wrote
these verses upon the sand with his stick:
"At last may I upon this shore
Lighten my sorrow with soft tears.
Alas! alas! I see no more
My love, who yet my sadness cheers.
"And thou, O raging, stormy sea,
Stirred by wild winds, from depth to height,
Thou hold'st my loved one far from me,
And I am captive to thy might.
"My heart is still more wild than thine,
For fate is cruel unto me.
Why must I thus in exile pine?
Why is my princess snatched from me?
"O lovely nymphs, from ocean caves,
Who know how sweet true love may be,
Come up and calm the furious waves
And set a desperate lover free!"
While he was still writing he heard a voice which
attracted his attention in spite of himself. Seeing
that the waves were rolling in higher than ever he
looked all round him, and presently saw a lovely lady
floating gently toward him upon the crest of a huge
billow, her long hair spread all about her; in one hand
she held a mirror and in the other a comb, and instead
of feet she had a beautiful tail like a fish, and which
The king was struck dumb with astonishment at this
unex-  pected sight, but as soon as she came within speaking
distance she said to him: "I know how sad you are at
losing your princess and being kept a prisoner by the
Fairy of the Desert; if you like I will help you to
escape from this fatal place, where you may otherwise
have to drag on a weary existence for thirty years or
The King of the Gold Mines hardly knew what answer to
make to this proposal. Not because he did not wish very
much to escape, but he was afraid that this might be
only another device by which the Fairy of the Desert
was trying to deceive him. As he hesitated the mermaid,
who guessed his thoughts, said to him:
"You may trust me; I am not trying to entrap you. I am
so angry with the yellow dwarf and the Fairy of the
Desert that I am not likely to wish to help them,
especially since I constantly see your poor princess,
whose beauty and goodness make me pity her so much: and
I tell you that if you will have confidence in me I
will help you to escape."
"I trust you absolutely," cried the king, "and I will
do whatever you tell me; but if you have seen my
princess I beg of you to tell me how she is and what is
happening to her."
"We must not waste time in talking," said she. "Come
with me and I will carry you to the castle of steel,
and we will leave upon this shore a figure so like you
that even the fairy herself will be deceived by it."
So saying she quickly collected a bundle of sea-weed,
and blowing it three times she said:
"My friendly sea-weeds, I order you to stay here
stretched upon the sand until the Fairy of the Desert
comes to take you away." And at once the sea-weeds
became like the king, who stood looking at them in
great astonishment, for they were even dressed in a
coat like his, but they lay there pale and still as the
king himself might have lain if one of the great waves
had overtaken him and thrown him senseless upon the
 then the mermaid caught up the king and away they swam
"Now," said she, "I have time to tell you about the
princess. In spite of the blow which the Fairy of the
Desert gave her, the yellow dwarf compelled her to
mount behind him upon his terrible Spanish cat; but she
soon fainted away with pain and terror and did not
recover till they were within the walls of his
frightful castle of steel. Here she was received by
the prettiest girls it was possible to find, who had
been carried there by the yellow dwarf, who hastened to
wait upon her and showed her every possible attention.
She was laid upon a couch covered with cloth-of-gold,
embroidered with pearls as big as nuts."
"Ah!" interrupted the King of the Gold Mines, "if
Bellissima forgets me and consents to marry him, I
shall break my heart."
"You need not be afraid of that," answered the mermaid;
"the princess thinks of no one but you, and the
frightful dwarf cannot persuade her to look at him."
"Pray go on with your story," said the king.
"What more is there to tell you?" replied the mermaid.
"Bellissima was sitting in the wood when you passed and
saw you with the Fairy of the Desert, who was so
cleverly disguised that the princess took her to be
prettier than herself; you may imagine her despair, for
she thought that you had fallen in love with her."
"She believes that I love her!" cried the king. "What a
fatal mistake! What is to be done to undeceive her?"
"You know best," answered the mermaid, smiling kindly
at him. "When people are as much in love with one
another as you two are they don't need advice from any
As she spoke they reached the castle of steel, the side
next the sea being the only one which the yellow dwarf
had left unprotected by the dreadful burning walls.
 "I know quite well," said the mermaid, "that the
princess is sitting by the brook-side just where you
saw her as you passed, but as you will have many
enemies to fight with before you can reach her, take
this sword; armed with it you may dare any danger and
overcome the greatest difficulties, only beware of one
thing—that is never to let it fall from your
hand. Farewell; now I will wait by that rock, and if
you need my help carrying off your beloved princess I
will not fail you, for the queen her mother is my best
friend, and it was for her sake that I went to rescue
So saying she gave to the king a sword made from a
single diamond, which was more brilliant than the sun.
He could not find words to express his gratitude, be he
begged her to believe that he fully appreciated the
importance of her gift, and would never forget her help
We must now go back to the Fairy of the Desert. When
she found that the king did not return she hastened out
to look for him, and reached the shore with a hundred
of the ladies of her train, loaded with splendid
presents for him. Some carried baskets full of
diamonds, others golden cups of wonderful workmanship,
and amber, coral, and pearls, others again balanced
upon their heads bales of the richest and most
beautiful stuffs, while the rest brought fruit and
flowers and even birds. But what was the horror of the
fairy, who followed this gay troop, when she saw
stretched upon the sands the image of the king which
the mermaid had made with the sea-weeds. Struck with
astonishment and sorrow, she uttered a terrible cry and
threw herself down beside the pretended king, weeping
and howling and calling upon her eleven sisters, who
were also fairies and who came to her assistance. But
they were all taken in by the image of the king, for
clever as they were the mermaid was still cleverer, and
all they could do was to help the Fairy of the Desert
to make a wonderful monument over what they thought was
the grave of
 the King of the Gold Mines. But while they were
collecting jasper and porphyry, agate and marble, gold
and bronze, statues and devices, to immortalize the
king's memory, he was thanking the good mermaid and
begging her still to help him, which she graciously
promised to do as she disappeared; and then he set out
for the castle of steel. He walked fast, looking
anxiously round him and longing once more to see his
darling Bellissima, but he had not gone far before he
was surrounded by four terrible sphinxes, who would
very soon have torn him to pieces with their sharp
talons if it had not been for the mermaid's diamond
sword. For no sooner had he flashed it before their
eyes than down they fell at his feet quite helpless,
and he killed them with one blow. But he had hardly
turned to continue his search when he met six dragons
covered with scales that were harder than iron.
Frightful as this encounter was, the king's courage was
unshaken, and by the aid of his wonderful sword he cut
them in pieces one after the other. Now he hoped his
difficulties were over, but at the next turning he was
met by one which he did not know how to overcome.
Twenty-four pretty and graceful nymphs advanced toward
him, holding garlands of flowers with which they barred
"Where are you going, prince?" they said; "it is our
duty to guard this place, and if we let you pass great
misfortune will happen to you and to us. We beg you not
to insist upon going on. Do you want to kill
twenty-four girls who have never displeased you in any
The king did not know what to do or to say. It went
against all his ideas as a knight to do anything a lady
begged him not to do; but as he hesitated a voice in
his ear said:
"Strike! strike! and do not spare, or your princess is
So without replying to the nymphs he rushed forward
instantly, breaking their garlands and scattering them
di-  rections; and then went on without further hindrance to
the little wood where he had seen Bellissima. She was
seated by the brook looking pale and weary when he
reached her, and he would have thrown himself down at
her feet, but she drew herself away from him with as
much indignation as if he had been the yellow dwarf.
"Ah! princess," he cried, "do not be angry with me. Let
me explain everything. I am not faithless or to blame
for what has happened. I am a miserable wretch who has
displeased you without being able to help himself."
"Ah!" cried Bellissima, "did I not see you flying
through the air with the loveliest being imaginable?
Was that against your will?"
"Indeed it was, princess," he answered; "the wicked
Fairy of the Desert, not content with chaining me to a
rock, carried me off in her chariot to the other end of
the earth, where I should even now be a captive but for
the unexpected help of a friendly mermaid, who brought
me here to rescue you, my princess, from the unworthy
hands that hold you. Do not refuse the aid of your most
faithful lover." So saying he threw himself at her
feet and held her my her robe. But, alas! in doing so
he let fall the magic sword, and the yellow dwarf, who
was crouching behind a lettuce, no sooner saw it than
he sprang out and seized it, well knowing its wonderful
The princess gave a cry of terror on seeing the dwarf,
but this only irritated the little monster; muttering a
few magical words he summoned two giants, who bound the
king with great chains of iron.
"Now," said the dwarf, "I am master of my rival's fate,
but I will give him his life and permission to depart
unharmed if you, princess, will consent to marry me."
"Let me die a thousand times rather," cried the unhappy
 "Alas!" cried the princess, "must you die? Could
anything be more terrible?"
"That you should marry that little wretch would be far
more terrible," answered the king.
"At least," continued she, "let us die together."
"Let me have the satisfaction of dying for you, my
princess," said he.
"Oh, no, no!" she cried, turning to the dwarf; "rather
than that I will do as you wish."
"Cruel princess!" said the king, "would you make my
life horrible to me by marrying another before my
"Not so," replied the yellow dwarf; "you are a rival of
whom I am much too afraid: you shall not see our
marriage." So saying, in spite of Bellissima's tears
and cries, he stabbed the king to the heart with the
The poor princess, seeing her lover lying dead at her
feet, could no longer live without him; she sank down
by him and died of a broken heart.
So ended these unfortunate lovers, whom not even the
mermaid could help, because all the magic power had
been lost with the diamond sword.
As to the wicked dwarf, he preferred to see the
princess dead rather than married to the Kind of the
Gold Mines; and the Fairy of the Desert, when she heard
of the king's adventure, pulled down the grand monument
which she had built, and was so angry at the trick that
had been played her that she hated him as much as she
had loved him before.
The kind mermaid, grieved at the sad fate of the
lovers, caused them to be changed into two tall palm
trees, which stand always side by side, whispering
together of their faithful love and caressing one
another with their interlacing branches.
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