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Start of Story
Now, if she had not been so alarmed by everything that had
happened, nothing could have induced her to go into this frightful cave,
but she was so afraid of what might be behind her that she would have
thrown herself even down a well at this moment. So, without hesitation,
she followed the Sheep, who went before her, down, down, down, until she
thought they must come out at the other side of the world--indeed, she
was not sure that he wasn't leading her into Fairyland. At last she saw
before her a great plain, quite covered with all sorts of flowers, the
scent of which seemed to her nicer than anything she had ever smelled
before; a broad river of orange-flower water flowed round it and
fountains of wine of every kind ran in all directions and made the
prettiest little cascades and brooks. The plain was covered with the
strangest trees, there were whole avenues where partridges, ready
roasted, hung from every branch, or, if you preferred pheasants, quails,
turkeys, or rabbits, you had only to turn to the right hand or to the
left and you were sure to find them. In places the air was darkened by
showers of lobster-patties, white puddings, sausages, tarts, and all
sorts of sweetmeats, or with pieces of gold and silver, diamonds and
pearls. This unusual kind of rain, and the pleasantness of the whole
place, would, no doubt, have attracted numbers of people to it, if the
King of the Sheep had been of a more sociable disposition, but from all
accounts it is evident that he was as grave as a judge.
As it was quite the nicest time of the year when Miranda arrived in this
delightful land the only palace she saw was a long row of orange trees,
jasmines, honeysuckles, and musk-roses, and their interlacing branches
made the prettiest rooms possible, which were hung with gold and silver
gauze, and had great mirrors and candlesticks, and most beautiful
pictures. The Wonderful Sheep begged that the Princess would consider
herself queen over all that she saw, and assured her that, though for
some years he had been very sad and in great trouble, she had it in her
power to make him forget all his grief.
"You are so kind and generous, noble Sheep," said the Princess, "that I
cannot thank you enough, but I must confess that all I see here seems to
me so extraordinary that I don't know what to think of it."
As she spoke a band of lovely fairies came up and offered her amber
baskets full of fruit, but when she held out her hands to them they
glided away, and she could feel nothing when she tried to touch them.
"Oh!" she cried, "what can they be? Whom am I with?" and she began to
At this instant the King of the Sheep came back to her, and was so
distracted to find her in tears that he could have torn his wool.
"What is the matter, lovely Princess?" he cried. "Has anyone failed to
treat you with due respect?"
"Oh! no," said Miranda; "only I am not used to living with sprites and
with sheep that talk, and everything here frightens me. It was very kind
of you to bring me to this place, but I shall be even more grateful to
you if you will take me up into the world again."
"Do not be afraid," said the Wonderful Sheep; "I entreat you to have
patience, and listen to the story of my misfortunes. I was once a king,
and my kingdom was the most splendid in the world. My subjects loved me,
my neighbors envied and feared me. I was respected by everyone, and it
was said that no king ever deserved it more.
"I was very fond of hunting, and one day, while chasing a stag, I left
my attendants far behind; suddenly I saw the animal leap into a pool of
water, and I rashly urged my horse to follow it, but before we had gone
many steps I felt an extraordinary heat, instead of the coolness of the
water; the pond dried up, a great gulf opened before me, out of which
flames of fire shot up, and I fell helplessly to the bottom of a
"I gave myself up for lost, but presently a voice said: 'Ungrateful
Prince, even this fire is hardly enough to warm your cold heart!'
"'Who complains of my coldness in this dismal place?' I cried.
"'An unhappy being who loves you hopelessly,' replied the voice, and at
the same moment the flames began to flicker and cease to burn, and I
saw a fairy, whom I had known as long as I could remember, and whose
ugliness had always horrified me. She was leaning upon the arm of a
most beautiful young girl, who wore chains of gold on her wrists and was
evidently her slave.
"'Why, Ragotte,' I said, for that was the fairy's name, 'what is the
meaning of all this? Is it by your orders that I am here?'
"'And whose fault is it,' she answered, 'that you have never understood
me until now? Must a powerful fairy like myself condescend to explain
her doings to you who are no better than an ant by comparison, though
you think yourself a great king?'
"'Call me what you like,' I said impatiently; 'but what is it that you
want--my crown, or my cities, or my treasures?'
"'Treasures!' said the fairy, disdainfully. 'If I chose I could make
any one of my scullions richer and more powerful than you. I do not
want your treasures, but,' she added softly, 'if you will give me your
heart--if you will marry me--I will add twenty kingdoms to the one you
have already; you shall have a hundred castles full of gold and five
hundred full of silver, and, in short, anything you like to ask me for.'
"'Madam Ragotte,' said I, 'when one is at the bottom of a pit where one
has fully expected to be roasted alive, it is impossible to think of
asking such a charming person as you are to marry one! I beg that you
will set me at liberty, and then I shall hope to answer you fittingly.'
"'Ah!' said she, 'if you really loved me you would not care where you
were--a cave, a wood, a fox-hole, a desert, would please you equally
well. Do not think that you can deceive me; you fancy you are going to
escape, but I assure you that you are going to stay here and the first
thing I shall give you to do will be to keep my sheep--they are very
good company and speak quite as well as you do.
"As she spoke she advanced, and led me to this plain where we now stand,
and showed me her flock, but I paid little attention to it or to her.
"To tell the truth, I was so lost in admiration of her beautiful slave
that I forgot everything else, and the cruel Ragotte, perceiving this,
turned upon her so furious and terrible a look that she fell lifeless to