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Prince Harweda and the magic prison.

By ELIZABETH HARRISON
From The Book of Stories for the Storyteller by Fanny E. Coe.

Start of Story

On a table near at hand were various baskets of the most tempting pears and grapes and peaches, and near them were dishes of sweetmeats. "Good," said the greedy young prince, "that is what I like best of all." Thereupon he fell to eating the fruit and sweetmeats as fast as he could cram them into his mouth. He ate so much that he had a pain in his stomach, but strange to say, the table was just as full as when he began, for no sooner did he reach his hand out and take a soft, mellow pear or a rich, juicy peach than another pear or peach took its place in the basket. The same thing happened when he helped himself to chocolate drops or marsh-mallows, for of course, as the little palace was enchanted, everything in it was enchanted also. When Prince Harweda had eaten until he could eat no more, he threw himself down upon one of the couches and fell asleep. When he awoke, he noticed, for the first time, the walls which, by the way, were really the strangest part of his new home. They had in them twelve long, chequered windows which reached from the ceiling to the floor. The spaces between the windows were filled with mirrors exactly the same size as the windows, so that the whole room was walled in with windows and looking-glasses. Through the three windows that looked to the north could be seen far distant mountains, towering high above the surrounding country.



From the three windows that faced the south could be seen the great ocean, tossing and moving and gleaming with white and silver. The eastern windows gave each morning a glorious view of the sunrise. The windows on the west looked out upon a great forest of tall fir-trees, and at the time of sunset most splendid colours could be seen between the dark, green branches. But little Harweda cared for none of these beautiful views. In fact he scarcely glanced out of the windows at all, he was so taken up with the broad handsome mirrors. In each of them he could see himself reflected, and he was very fond of looking at himself in a looking-glass. He was much pleased when he noticed that the mirrors were so arranged that each one not only reflected his whole body, head, arms, feet, and all, but that it also reflected his image as seen in several of the other mirrors. He could thus see his front, and back, and each side, all at the same time. As he was a handsome boy, he enjoyed these many views of himself immensely, and would stand and sit and lie down just for the fun of seeing the many images of himself do the same thing.



He spent so much time looking at and admiring himself in the wonderful looking-glasses that he had very little time for the books and games in the palace. Hours were spent each day first before one mirror and then another, and he did not notice that the windows were growing narrower and narrower and the mirrors wider, until the former had become so small that they hardly admitted light enough for him to see himself in the looking-glass. Still, this did not alarm him very much, as he cared nothing for the outside world. It only made him spend more time at the mirror, as it was now getting quite difficult for him to see himself at all. The windows at last became mere slits in the wall, and the mirrors grew so large that they not only reflected little Harweda but all of the room besides in a dim kind of way. Finally, however, Prince Harweda awoke one morning and found himself in total darkness. Not a ray of light came from the outside world, and, of course, not an object in the room could be seen. He rubbed his eyes and sat up to make sure that he was not dreaming. Then he called loudly for someone to come and open a window for him, but no one came. He got up and groped his way to the iron door and tried to open it, but it was--as you know--locked.



He kicked it, and beat upon it, but he only bruised his fists and hurt his toes. He grew quite angry now. How dare any one shut him, a prince, up in a dark prison like this! He abused the fairy godmother, calling her all sorts of names. In fact, he blamed everybody and everything but himself for his trouble, but it was of no use. The sound of his own voice was his only answer. The whole of the outside world seemed to have forgotten him. As he felt his way back to his couch, he knocked over one of the golden jars which had held the liquid perfume, but the perfume was all gone now and only an empty jar rolled over the floor. He laid himself down on the couch, but its soft pillows had been removed and a hard iron framework received him. He was dismayed, and lay for a long time thinking of what he had best do with himself. All before him was blank darkness, as black as the darkest night you ever saw. He reached out his hand to get some fruit to eat, but only one or two withered apples remained on the table. Was he to starve to death? Suddenly he noticed that the tinkling music of the fountain had ceased. He hastily groped his way to it, and he found in the place of the dancing, running stream a silent pool of water. A hush had fallen upon everything about him; a dead silence was in the room. He threw himself down upon the floor and wished that he were dead also. He lay there for a long, long time.

       



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