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The light princess.
Start of Story
He did not speak again. The princess gave him some wine for the last
time: he was past eating. Then she sat down again, and looked at him.
The water rose and rose. It touched his chin. It touched his lower lip.
It touched between his lips. He shut them hard to keep it out. The
princess began to feel strange. It touched his upper lip. He breathed
through his nostrils. The princess looked wild. It covered his nostrils.
Her eyes looked scared, and shone strange in the moonlight. His head
fell back; the water closed over it, and the bubbles of his last breath
bubbled up through the water. The princess gave a shriek, and sprang
into the lake.
She laid hold first of one leg, and then of the other, and pulled and
tugged, but she could not move either. She stopped to take breath, and
that made her think that he could not get any breath. She was frantic.
She got hold of him, and held his head above the water, which was
possible now his hands were no longer on the hole. But it was of no use,
for he was past breathing.
Love and water brought back all her strength. She got under the water,
and pulled and pulled with her whole might, till at last she got one leg
out. The other easily followed. How she got him into the boat she never
could tell; but when she did, she fainted away. Coming to herself, she
seized the oars, kept herself steady as best she could, and rowed and
rowed, though she had never rowed before. Round rocks, and over
shallows, and through mud she rowed, till she got to the landing-stairs
of the palace. By this time her people were on the shore, for they had
heard her shriek. She made them carry the prince to her own room, and
lay him in her bed, and light a fire, and send for the doctors.
"But the lake, your highness!" said the chamberlain, who, roused by the
noise, came in, in his nightcap.
"Go and drown yourself in it!" she said.
This was the last rudeness of which the princess was ever guilty; and
one must allow that she had good cause to feel provoked with the lord
Had it been the king himself, he would have fared no better. But both he
and the queen were fast asleep. And the chamberlain went back to his
bed. Somehow, the doctors never came. So the princess and her old nurse
were left with the prince. But the old nurse was a wise woman, and knew
what to do.
They tried everything for a long time without success. The princess was
nearly distracted between hope and fear, but she tried on and on, one
thing after another, and everything over and over again.
At last, when they had all but given it up, just as the sun rose, the
prince opened his eyes.
Look at the Rain !
The princess burst into a passion of tears and fell on the floor.
There she lay for an hour, and her tears never ceased. All the pent-up
crying of her life was spent now. And a rain came on, such as had never
been seen in that country. The sun shone all the time, and the great
drops, which fell straight to the earth, shone likewise. The palace was
in the heart of a rainbow. It was a rain of rubies, and sapphires, and
emeralds, and topazes. The torrents poured from the mountains like
molten gold; and if it had not been for its subterraneous outlet, the
lake would have overflowed and inundated the country. It was full from
shore to shore.
But the princess did not heed the lake. She lay on the floor and wept.
And this rain within doors was far more wonderful than the rain out of
doors. For when it abated a little, and she proceeded to rise, she
found, to her astonishment, that she could not. At length, after many
efforts, she succeeded in getting upon her feet. But she tumbled down
again directly. Hearing her fall, her old nurse uttered a yell of
delight, and ran to her, screaming:
"My darling child! she's found her gravity!"
"Oh, that's it! is it?" said the princess, rubbing her shoulder and her
knee alternately. "I consider it very unpleasant. I feel as if I should
be crushed to pieces."
"Hurrah!" cried the prince from the bed. "If you've come round,
princess, so have I. How's the lake?"
"Brimful," answered the nurse.
"Then we're all happy."
"That we are indeed!" answered the princess, sobbing.
And there was rejoicing all over the country that rainy day. Even the
babies forgot their past troubles, and danced and crowed amazingly. And
the king told stories, and the queen listened to them. And he divided
the money in his box, and she the honey in her pot, among all the
children. And there was such jubilation as was never heard of before.
Of course the prince and princess were betrothed at once. But the
princess had to learn to walk, before they could be married with any
propriety. And this was not so easy at her time of life, for she could
walk no more than a baby. She was always falling down and hurting
"Is this the gravity you used to make so much of?" said she one day to
the prince, as he raised her from the floor. "For my part, I was a great
deal more comfortable without it."
"No, no, that's not it. This is it," replied the prince, as he took her
up, and carried her about like a baby, kissing her all the time. "This
"That's better," said she. "I don't mind that so much."
And she smiled the sweetest, loveliest smile in the prince's face. And
she gave him one little kiss in return for all his; and he thought them
overpaid, for he was beside himself with delight. I fear she complained
of her gravity more than once after this, notwithstanding.
It was a long time before she got reconciled to walking. But the pain of
learning it was quite counterbalanced by two things, either of which
would have been sufficient consolation. The first was, that the prince
himself was her teacher; and the second, that she could tumble into the
lake as often as she pleased. Still, she preferred to have the prince
jump in with her; and the splash they made before was nothing to the
splash they made now.
The lake never sank again. In process of time it wore the roof of the
cavern quite through, and was twice as deep as before.
The only revenge the princess took upon her aunt was to tread pretty
hard on her gouty toe the next time she saw her. But she was sorry for
it the very next day, when she heard that the water had undermined her
house, and that it had fallen in the night, burying her in its ruins;
whence no one ever ventured to dig up her body. There she lies to this
So the prince and princess lived and were happy; and had crowns of gold,
and clothes of cloth, and shoes of leather, and children of boys and
girls, not one of whom was ever known, on the most critical occasion, to
lose the smallest atom of his or her due proportion of gravity.