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The light princess.
Start of Story
This was a very disheartening revelation to the king--not that he was
unwilling to sacrifice a subject, but that he was hopeless of finding a
man willing to sacrifice himself. No time was to be lost however, for
the princess was lying motionless on her bed, and taking no nourishment
but lake-water, which was now none of the best. Therefore the king
caused the contents of the wonderful plate of gold to be published
throughout the country.
No one, however, came forward.
The prince, having gone several days' journey into the forest, to
consult a hermit whom he had met there on his way to Lagobel, knew
nothing of the oracle till his return.
When he had acquainted himself with all the particulars, he sat down and
"She will die if I don't do it, and life would be nothing to me without
her; so I shall lose nothing by doing it. And life will be as pleasant
to her as ever, for she will soon forget me. And there will be so much
more beauty and happiness in the world! To be sure, I shall not see it."
(Here the poor prince gave a sigh.) "How lovely the lake will be in the
moonlight, with that glorious creature sporting in it like a wild
goddess! It is rather hard to be drowned by inches, though. Let me
see--that will be seventy inches of me to drown." (Here he tried to
laugh, but could not.) "The longer the better, however," he resumed,
"for can I not bargain that the princess shall be beside me all the
time? So I shall see her once more, kiss her perhaps--who knows? and die
looking in her eyes. It will be no death. At least, I shall not feel it.
And to see the lake filling for the beauty again! All right! I am
He kissed the princess's boot, laid it down, and hurried to the king's
apartment. But feeling, as he went, that anything sentimental would be
disagreeable, he resolved to carry off the whole affair with
nonchalance. So he knocked at the door of the king's counting-house,
where it was all but a capital crime to disturb him.
When the king heard the knock, he started up, and opened the door in a
rage. Seeing only the shoeblack, he drew his sword. This, I am sorry to
say, was his usual mode of asserting his regality when he thought his
dignity was in danger. But the prince was not in the least alarmed.
"Please your majesty, I'm your butler," said he.
"My butler! you lying rascal! What do you mean?"
"I mean, I will cork your big bottle."
"Is the fellow mad?" bawled the king, raising the point of his sword.
"I will put the stopper--plug--what you call it, in your leaky lake,
grand monarch," said the prince.
The king was in such a rage that before he could speak he had time to
cool, and to reflect that it would be great waste to kill the only man
who was willing to be useful in the present emergency, seeing that in
the end the insolent fellow would be as dead as if he had died by his
majesty's own hand.
"Oh!" said he at last, putting up his sword with difficulty, it was so
long; "I am obliged to you, you young fool! Take a glass of wine?"
"No, thank you," replied the prince.
"Very well," said the king. "Would you like to run and see your parents
before you make your experiment?"
"No, thank you," said the prince.
"Then we will go and look for the hole at once," said his majesty, and
proceeded to call some attendants.
"Stop, please your majesty, I have a condition to make," interposed the
"What!" exclaimed the king, "a condition! and with me! How dare you?"
"As you please," returned the prince, coolly. "I wish your majesty a
"You wretch! I will have you put in a sack, and stuck in the hole."
"Very well, your majesty," replied the prince, becoming a little more
respectful, lest the wrath of the king should deprive him of the
pleasure of dying for the princess. "But what good will that do your
majesty? Please to remember that the oracle says the victim must offer
"Well, you have offered yourself," retorted the king.
"Yes, upon one condition."
"Condition again!" roared the king, once more drawing his sword.
"Begone! Somebody else will be glad enough to take the honour off your
"Your majesty knows it will not be easy to get another to take my
"Well, what is your condition?" growled the king, feeling that the
prince was right.
"Only this," replied the prince; "that, as I must on no account die
before I am fairly drowned, and the waiting will be rather wearisome,
the princess, your daughter, shall go with me, feed me with her own
hands, and look at me now and then to comfort me; for you must confess
it is rather hard. As soon as the water is up to my eyes, she may go
and be happy, and forget her poor shoeblack."
Here the prince's voice faltered, and he very nearly grew sentimental,
in spite of his resolution.
"Why didn't you tell me before what your condition was? Such a fuss
about nothing!" exclaimed the king.
"Do you grant it?" persisted the prince.
"Of course I do," replied the king.
"Very well. I am ready."
"Go and have some dinner, then, while I set my people to find the
The king ordered out his guards, and gave directions to the officers to
find the hole in the lake at once. So the bed of the lake was marked out
in divisions and thoroughly examined, and in an hour or so the hole was
discovered. It was in the middle of a stone, near the centre of the
lake, in the very pool where the golden plate had been found. It was a
three-cornered hole of no great size. There was water all round the
stone, but very little was flowing through the hole.
This Is Very Kind of You
The prince went to dress for the occasion, for he was resolved to die
like a prince.
When the princess heard that a man had offered to die for her, she was
so transported that she jumped off the bed, feeble as she was, and
danced about the room for joy. She did not care who the man was; that
was nothing to her. The hole wanted stopping; and if only a man would
do, why, take one. In an hour or two more everything was ready. Her maid
dressed her in haste, and they carried her to the side of the lake. When
she saw it she shrieked, and covered her face with her hands. They bore
her across to the stone, where they had already placed a little boat for
her. The water was not deep enough to float in, but they hoped it would
be, before long. They laid her on cushions, placed in the boat wines and
fruits and other nice things, and stretched a canopy over all.
In a few minutes the prince appeared. The princess recognised him at
once, but did not think it worth while to acknowledge him.
"Here I am," said the prince. "Put me in."
"They told me it was a shoeblack," said the princess.