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Prince Harweda and the magic prison.

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

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Little Harweda was born a prince. His father was king over all the land, and his mother was the most beautiful queen the world had ever seen, and Prince Harweda was their only child. From the day of his birth, everything that love or money could do for him had been done. The pillow on which his head rested was made out of the down from humming-birds' breasts. The water in which his hands and face were washed was always steeped in rose leaves before being brought to the nursery. Everything that could be done was done, and nothing which could add to his ease or comfort was left undone. But his parents, although they were king and queen, were not very wise, for they never thought of making the young prince think of anyone but himself. Never in all his life had he given up one of his comforts that someone else might have a pleasure. So, of course, he grew to be selfish and peevish, and by the time he was five years old he was so disagreeable that nobody loved him. "Dear! dear! what shall we do?" said the poor queen, and the king only sighed and answered, "Ah, what indeed!" They were both very much grieved, for they well knew that little Harweda would never grow up to be really a great king unless he could make his people love him.



At last they determined to send for his fairy godmother to see if she could cure Prince Harweda of always thinking about himself. "Well, well, well!" exclaimed his godmother when they laid the case before her, "this is a pretty state of affairs! And I his godmother, too! Why wasn't I called in sooner?" She told them she would have to think a day and a night and a day again before she could offer them any help. "But," added she, "if I take the child in charge, you must let me have my way for a whole year." The king and queen gladly promised that they would not even speak to or see their son for the year if the fairy godmother would only cure him of his selfishness. "We'll see about that," said the godmother. "Humph, expecting to be a king some day and not caring for anybody but himself--a fine king he'll make!" With that she flew off, and the king and queen saw nothing more of her for a day and a night and another day. Then back she came in a great hurry. "Give me the prince," said she, "I have a house all ready for him. One month from to-day I'll bring him back to you. Perhaps he'll be cured and perhaps he won't. If he is not cured then, we shall try two months next time. We'll see, we'll see." Without any more ado she picked up the astonished young prince and flew away with him as lightly as if he were nothing but a feather or a straw. In vain the poor queen wept and begged for a last kiss. Before she had wiped her eyes, the fairy godmother and Prince Harweda were out of sight.



They flew a long distance, until they reached a great forest. When they had come to the middle of it, down flew the fairy, and in a minute more the young prince was standing on the green grass beside a beautiful pink marble palace that looked something like a good-sized summer-house. "This is your home," said the godmother. "In it you will find everything you need, and you can do just as you choose with your time." Little Harweda was delighted at this, for there was nothing in the world he liked better than to do as he pleased. He tossed his cap up into the air and ran into the lovely little house without so much as saying "Thank you" to his godmother. "Humph," said she, as he disappeared, "you'll have enough of it before you have finished, my fine prince." With that, off she flew. Prince Harweda had no sooner set his foot inside the small rose-coloured palace than the iron door shut with a bang and locked itself. This was because it was an enchanted house, as of course all houses are that are built by fairies. Prince Harweda did not mind being locked in, as he cared very little for the great beautiful outside world. The new home was very fine, and he was eager to examine it. Then, too, he thought that when he was tired of it, all he would have to do would be to kick on the door and a servant from somewhere would come and open it--he had always had a servant to obey his slightest command.



His fairy godmother had told him that it was his house, therefore he was interested in looking at everything in it. The floor was made of a beautiful red copper that shone in the sunlight like burnished gold and seemed almost a dark red in the shadow. He had never seen anything half so fine before. The ceiling was of mother-of-pearl, with tints of red and blue and yellow and green, all blending into gleaming white, as only mother-of-pearl can. From the middle of this handsome ceiling hung a large gilded bird-cage containing a beautiful bird, which just at this moment was singing a glad song of welcome to the prince. Harweda, however, cared very little about birds, so he took no notice of the singer. Around on every side were couches with richly embroidered coverings and soft down pillows. "Ah," thought the prince, "here I can lounge at my ease with no one to call me to stupid lessons!" Wonderfully carved jars and vases of gold and silver stood about on the floor, and each was filled with a different perfume. "This is delicious," said Prince Harweda. "Now I can have all the sweet odours I want without the trouble of going into the garden for roses or lilies." In the centre of the room was a fountain of sparkling water which leaped up and fell back into its marble basin with a faint, dreamy music very pleasant to hear.

       



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