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Wonderful sheep.

From The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.
Age Rating 8 Plus.

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Once upon a time--in the days when the fairies lived--there was a king who had three daughters, who were all young, and clever, and beautiful; but the youngest of the three, who was called Miranda, was the prettiest and the most beloved. The King, her father, gave her more dresses and jewels in a month than he gave the others in a year; but she was so generous that she shared everything with her sisters, and they were all as happy and as fond of one another as they could be. Now, the King had some quarrelsome neighbors, who, tired of leaving him in peace, began to make war upon him so fiercely that he feared he would be altogether beaten if he did not make an effort to defend himself. So he collected a great army and set off to fight them, leaving the Princesses with their governess in a castle where news of the war was brought every day--sometimes that the King had taken a town, or won a battle, and, at last, that he had altogether overcome his enemies and chased them out of his kingdom, and was coming back to the castle as quickly as possible, to see his dear little Miranda whom he loved so much. The three Princesses put on dresses of satin, which they had had made on purpose for this great occasion, one green, one blue, and the third white; their jewels were the same colors. The eldest wore emeralds, the second turquoises, and the youngest diamonds, and thus adorned they went to meet the King, singing verses which they had composed about his victories. When he saw them all so beautiful and so gay he embraced them tenderly, but gave Miranda more kisses than either of the others.



Presently a splendid banquet was served, and the King and his daughters sat down to it, and as he always thought that there was some special meaning in everything, he said to the eldest: "Tell me why you have chosen a green dress." "Sire," she answered, "having heard of your victories I thought that green would signify my joy and the hope of your speedy return." "That is a very good answer," said the King; "and you, my daughter," he continued, "why did you take a blue dress?" "Sire," said the Princess, "to show that we constantly hoped for your success, and that the sight of you is as welcome to me as the sky with its most beautiful stars." "Why," said the King, "your wise answers astonish me, and you, Miranda. What made you dress yourself all in white? "Because, sire," she answered, "white suits me better than anything else." "What!" said the King angrily, "was that all you thought of, vain child?" "I thought you would be pleased with me," said the Princess; "that was all." The King, who loved her, was satisfied with this, and even pretended to be pleased that she had not told him all her reasons at first. "And now," said he, "as I have supped well, and it is not time yet to go to bed, tell me what you dreamed last night." The eldest said she had dreamed that he brought her a dress, and the precious stones and gold embroidery on it were brighter than the sun. The dream of the second was that the King had brought her a spinning wheel and a distaff, that she might spin him some shirts. But the youngest said: "I dreamed that my second sister was to be married, and on her wedding-day, you, father, held a golden ewer and said: 'Come, Miranda, and I will hold the water that you may dip your hands in it.'"



The King was very angry indeed when he heard this dream, and frowned horribly; indeed, he made such an ugly face that everyone knew how angry he was, and he got up and went off to bed in a great hurry; but he could not forget his daughter's dream. "Does the proud girl wish to make me her slave?" he said to himself. "I am not surprised at her choosing to dress herself in white satin without a thought of me. She does not think me worthy of her consideration! But I will soon put an end to her pretensions!" He rose in a fury, and although it was not yet daylight, he sent for the Captain of his Bodyguard, and said to him: "You have heard the Princess Miranda's dream? I consider that it means strange things against me, therefore I order you to take her away into the forest and kill her, and, that I may be sure it is done, you must bring me her heart and her tongue. If you attempt to deceive me you shall be put to death!" The Captain of the Guard was very much astonished when he heard this barbarous order, but he did not dare to contradict the King for fear of making him still more angry, or causing him to send someone else, so he answered that he would fetch the Princess and do as the King had said. When he went to her room they would hardly let him in, it was so early, but he said that the King had sent for Miranda, and she got up quickly and came out; a little black girl called Patypata held up her train, and her pet monkey and her little dog ran after her. The monkey was called Grabugeon, and the little dog Tintin.



The Captain of the Guard begged Miranda to come down into the garden where the King was enjoying the fresh air, and when they got there, he pretended to search for him, but as he was not to be found, he said: "No doubt his Majesty has strolled into the forest," and he opened the little door that led to it and they went through. By this time the daylight had begun to appear, and the Princess, looking at her conductor, saw that he had tears in his eyes and seemed too sad to speak. "What is the matter?" she said in the kindest way. "You seem very sorrowful." "Alas! Princess," he answered, "who would not be sorrowful who was ordered to do such a terrible thing as I am? The King has commanded me to kill you here, and carry your heart and your tongue to him, and if I disobey I shall lose my life." The poor Princess was terrified, she grew very pale and began to cry softly. Looking up at the Captain of the Guard with her beautiful eyes, she said gently: "Will you really have the heart to kill me? I have never done you any harm, and have always spoken well of you to the King. If I had deserved my father's anger I would suffer without a murmur, but, alas! he is unjust to complain of me, when I have always treated him with love and respect." "Fear nothing, Princess," said the Captain of the Guard. "I would far rather die myself than hurt you; but even if I am killed you will not be safe: we must find some way of making the King believe that you are dead." "What can we do?" said Miranda; "unless you take him my heart and my tongue he will never believe you."

       


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