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WHY THE PRINCESS HAS A STORY ABOUT HER
HERE was once a little princess who—
"But Mr. Author, why do you always write about princesses?"
"Because every little girl is a princess."
"You will make them vain if you tell them that."
"Not if they understand what I mean."
"Then what do you mean?"
"What do you mean by a princess?"
"The daughter of a king."
"Very well, then every little girl is a princess, and there would be no need
to say anything about it, except that she is always in danger of forgetting
her rank, and behaving as if she had grown out of the mud. I have seen little
princesses behave like children of thieves and lying beggars, and that is why
they need to be told they
 are princesses. And that is why when I tell a story
of this kind, I like to tell it about a princess. Then I can say better what I
mean, because I can then give her every beautiful thing I want her to have."
"Please go on."
There was once a little princess whose father was king over a great
country full of mountains and valleys. His palace was built upon
one of the mountains, and was very grand and beautiful. The
princess, whose name was Irene, was born there, but she was sent
soon after her birth, because her mother was not very strong, to be
brought up by country people in a large house, half castle, half
farmhouse, on the side of another mountain, about half-way between
its base and its peak.
The princess was a sweet little creature, and at the time my story
begins was about eight years old, I think, but she got older very
fast. Her face was fair and pretty, with eyes like two bits of
night sky, each with a star dissolved in the blue. Those eyes you
would have thought must have known they came from there, so often
were they turned up in that direction. The ceiling of her
was blue, with stars in it, as like the sky as they could make it.
But I doubt if ever she saw the real sky with the stars in it, for
a reason which I had better mention at once.
These mountains were full of hollow places underneath; huge
caverns, and winding ways, some with water running through them,
and some shining with all colours of the rainbow when a light was
taken in. There would not have been much known about them, had
there not been mines
 there, great deep pits, with long galleries
and passages running off from them, which had been dug to get at
the ore of which the mountains were full. In the course of
digging, the miners came upon many of these natural caverns. A few
of them had far-off openings out on the side of a mountain, or into
Now in these subterranean caverns lived a strange race of beings,
called by some gnomes, by some kobolds, by some goblins. There was
a legend current in the country that at one time they lived above
ground, and were very like other people. But for some reason or
other, concerning which there were different legendary theories,
the king had laid what they thought too severe taxes upon them, or
had required observances of them they did not like, or had begun to
treat them with more severity, in some way or other, and impose
stricter laws; and the consequence was that they had all
disappeared from the face of the country. According to the legend,
however, instead of going to some other country, they had all taken
refuge in the subterranean caverns, whence they never came out but
at night, and then seldom showed themselves in any numbers, and
 never to many people at once. It was only in the least frequented
and most difficult parts of the mountains that they were said to
gather even at night in the open air. Those who had caught sight
of any of them said that they had greatly altered in the course of
generations; and no wonder, seeing they lived away from the sun, in
cold and wet and dark places. They were now, not ordinarily ugly,
but either absolutely hideous, or ludicrously grotesque both in
face and form.
 There was no invention, they said, of the most
lawless imagination expressed by pen or pencil, that could surpass
the extravagance of their appearance. But I suspect those who said
so had mistaken some of their animal companions for the goblins
themselves—of which more by and by. The goblins themselves were
not so far removed from the human as such a description would
imply. And as they grew misshapen in body they had grown in
knowledge and cleverness, and now were able to do things no mortal
could see the possibility of. But as they grew in cunning, they
grew in mischief, and their great delight was in every way they
could think of to annoy the people who lived in the open-air storey
above them. They had enough of affection left for each other to
preserve them from being absolutely cruel for cruelty's sake to
those that came in their way; but still they so heartily cherished
the ancestral grudge against those who occupied their former
possessions and especially against the descendants of the king who
had caused their expulsion, that they sought every opportunity of
tormenting them in ways that were as odd as their inventors; and
although dwarfed and misshapen, they had strength equal to their
cunning. In the process of time they had got a king and a
government of their own, whose chief business, beyond their own
simple affairs, was to devise trouble for their neighbours. It
will now be
 pretty evident why the little princess had never seen
the sky at night. They were much too afraid of the goblins to let
her out of the house then, even in company with ever so many
attendants; and they had good reason, as we shall see by and by.