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The Hind Of The Forest
by [?]

A beautiful queen, whose subjects adored her, and whose husband thought her the best woman in the world, had but one sorrow, which was equally a sorrow both to the king and the country–she brought him no heir to the throne. She, at last, grew so melancholy, that she was ordered for her health to drink the medicinal waters that were found in a celebrated wood; and one day, sitting beside one of these fountains, which fell into a marble and porphyry basin, she sent all her ladies away, that she might the better weep and lament unobserved.

“How unhappy am I,” said she; “five years I have been married, and am still childless, while the poorest women in the land have children by the dozen. Am I to die without ever giving the king an heir?”

While she spoke, she noticed that the water of the fountain was slightly disturbed, and there issued thence a large cray-fish, who thus addressed her, “Great queen, you shall have what you desire; but first you must go to the fairy-palace which is near here, though so surrounded by mists and clouds as to be invisible to mortal eyes, unless you will be conducted there by a poor cray-fish.”

Though very much surprised, the queen answered courteously that she had no objection, except that the animal’s method of walking would not well suit her own.

The shell-fish smiled–if a shell-fish can smile–and immediately took the shape of a pretty little old woman. “Madam,” said she, “we now need not walk crab-fashion. Consider me as your friend, for, indeed, I am desirous of being so.”

So saying, she jumped out of the fountain, her clothes not being the least wet, though they were made of white and crimson velvet, nor her grey hair damp: it was tied with green ribbons, and appeared all in order and smooth as silk. She saluted the queen, and then conducted her by a road which, strange to say, well as she knew every portion of the wood, her majesty had never before seen, to a palace of which the walls, roofs, and balconies were built entirely of diamonds.

“Is all this a dream?” cried the delighted queen.

But no, it was a reality, for the gates straightway opened, and six beautiful fairies appeared, who, making her a profound reverence, presented her with six flowers composed of jewels: a rose, a tulip, an anemone, a jasmine, a carnation, and a heartsease.

“Madam,” said they, “we could not give you a greater mark of our favour than in permitting you to come here. We are delighted to tell you that by and by you will have a little daughter, whom you must name Desiree–the Desired. As soon as she is born, call us, and we will endow her with all sorts of good qualities. You have only to take this bouquet, and name each separate flower, thinking of us, when immediately we shall be present in your chamber.”

The queen, transported with joy, embraced all the fairies, spent the day with them, and returned, laden with presents, to the fountain side; where the little old woman jumped into the water, became a cray-fish again, and disappeared.

In due time the Princess Desiree was born, and the queen did as she was told in naming the flowers. Soon, all the six fairies appeared, in different chariots; of ebony, drawn by white pigeons–of ivory, drawn by black crows, and so on, in great variety. They entered the royal chamber with an air at once cheerful and majestic, embraced the queen and the little princess, and spread out all their presents. These were, linen, so fine that none but fairy hands could have spun it; lace and embroidery without end; and a cradle, the wonder of the world. It was made of wood more precious than gold, and at each corner stood four animated images, little cupids, who, as soon as the baby cried, began to rock it of their own accord. Then the six fairies kissed and dandled the princess, bestowing on her for her portion beauty, good temper, good health, talents, long life, and the faculty of doing thoroughly well everything she tried to do. The queen, overcome with gratitude, was thanking them with all her heart for their kindness to her little daughter, when she saw enter her chamber a cray-fish, so large that it could hardly pass through the door.