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Start of Story
On arriving at the door, which blazed with gold and jewels,
she ordered her servants to knock loudly, but it was useless; it seemed
as if all the inhabitants of the castle must be asleep or dead. Now the
more difficult it became to obtain the fruit, the more the Queen was
determined that have it she would. So she ordered that they should bring
ladders, and get over the wall into the garden; but though the wall did
not look very high, and they tied the ladders together to make them very
long, it was quite impossible to get to the top.
"The Queen was in despair, but as night was coming on she ordered
that they should encamp just where they were, and went to bed herself,
feeling quite ill, she was so disappointed. In the middle of the night
she was suddenly awakened, and saw to her surprise a tiny, ugly old
woman seated by her bedside, who said to her:
"'I must say that we consider it somewhat troublesome of your Majesty to
insist upon tasting our fruit; but to save you annoyance, my sisters
and I will consent to give you as much as you can carry away, on one
condition--that is, that you shall give us your little daughter to bring
up as our own.'
"'Ah! my dear madam,' cried the Queen, 'is there nothing else that you
will take for the fruit? I will give you my kingdoms willingly.'
"'No,' replied the old fairy, 'we will have nothing but your little
daughter. She shall be as happy as the day is long, and we will give her
everything that is worth having in fairy-land, but you must not see her
again until she is married.'
"'Though it is a hard condition,' said the Queen, 'I consent, for I
shall certainly die if I do not taste the fruit, and so I should lose my
little daughter either way.'
"So the old fairy led her into the castle, and, though it was still the
middle of the night, the Queen could see plainly that it was far more
beautiful than she had been told, which you can easily believe, Prince,"
said the White Cat, "when I tell you that it was this castle that we are
now in. 'Will you gather the fruit yourself, Queen?' said the old fairy,
'or shall I call it to come to you?'
"'I beg you to let me see it come when it is called,' cried the Queen;
'that will be something quite new.' The old fairy whistled twice, then
"'Apricots, peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, pears, melons, grapes,
apples, oranges, lemons, gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries, come!'
"And in an instant they came tumbling in one over another, and yet they
were neither dusty nor spoilt, and the Queen found them quite as good as
she had fancied them. You see they grew upon fairy trees.
"The old fairy gave her golden baskets in which to take the fruit away,
and it was as much as four hundred mules could carry. Then she reminded
the Queen of her agreement, and led her back to the camp, and next
morning she went back to her kingdom, but before she had gone very far
she began to repent of her bargain, and when the King came out to meet
her she looked so sad that he guessed that something had happened, and
asked what was the matter.
At first the Queen was afraid to tell him,
but when, as soon as they reached the palace, five frightful little
dwarfs were sent by the fairies to fetch me, she was obliged to confess
what she had promised. The King was very angry, and had the Queen and
myself shut up in a great tower and safely guarded, and drove the little
dwarfs out of his kingdom; but the fairies sent a great dragon who ate
up all the people he met, and whose breath burnt up everything as he
passed through the country; and at last, after trying in vain to rid
himself of this monster, the King, to save his subjects, was obliged to
consent that I should be given up to the fairies. This time they came
themselves to fetch me, in a chariot of pearl drawn by sea-horses,
followed by the dragon, who was led with chains of diamonds. My cradle
was placed between the old fairies, who loaded me with caresses, and
away we whirled through the air to a tower which they had built on
purpose for me. There I grew up surrounded with everything that was
beautiful and rare, and learning everything that is ever taught to a
princess, but without any companions but a parrot and a little dog, who
could both talk; and receiving every day a visit from one of the old
fairies, who came mounted upon the dragon. One day, however, as I sat at
my window I saw a handsome young prince, who seemed to have been hunting
in the forest which surrounded my prison, and who was standing and
looking up at me. When he saw that I observed him he saluted me with
great deference. You can imagine that I was delighted to have some one
new to talk to, and in spite of the height of my window our conversation
was prolonged till night fell, then my prince reluctantly bade me