Gateway to the Classics: A Child's Book of Stories by Penrhyn W. Coussens
A Child's Book of Stories by  Penrhyn W. Coussens

The Enchanted Hind

A QUEEN was one day sitting by a fountain weeping. She wished very much to have a child of her own, and she thought it sad that she had none. As she wept, she saw a craw-fish rise on the water, and she started as she heard it speak. "Great Queen," it said, "you will soon have a child. Near this spot is a palace of the fairies, my sisters; I will take you there, if you like to go." The Queen said that she would like. Then the craw-fish turned into a pretty little old lady, who led the Queen to a beautiful palace, where six fairies came out to meet them. They said that they were glad to see the Queen, and they gave her a bouquet of jewels, a rose, and tulip, an anemone, a hyacinth, a pink, and an auricula. "Madam," said one of them, "we are glad to tell you that you will soon have a little girl baby. You must call her 'Welcome.' As soon as she is born call us. You have only to take the bouquet we have given in your hands, and name each of the six flowers, and we will be with you to offer our gifts to little Welcome." The Queen stayed some hours with the fairies after the old lady had left them. She then went home very happy, and, as the fairies had said, a baby was soon after born, whom she said should be called Welcome. Then she took the bouquet and named the flowers. As she spoke, the six fairies came into the room. They kissed the baby, and all gave it gifts. One said it should have a good temper, the second said that she should be clever, the third that she should be beautiful, the fourth that she should have good fortune, the fifth gave her health, the last said that whatever she tried to do would be well done. At that moment a great craw-fish came into the room. "Oh," it said, "you ungrateful Queen! you never once thought of me! Yet I took you to my sisters' palace."

The Queen was very sorry that she had not asked the craw-fish to come and see her, and she begged her pardon with tears, asking her to forgive her, and not to hurt the baby. The other fairies also begged the old fairy to be kind to the child; and at last she said, "Well, I forgive the Queen, but if that baby sees the light of day before she is fifteen years old, she will have to suffer." And she went away still as a craw-fish. The Queen in great fear asked the fairies what she should do. They advised her to build a palace with no doors or window in it, the entrance being far down under the ground, and to shut the Princess up in it till she was fifteen years old.

The King and Queen did so; the baby was not let see the light of day, and when the palace was built she and her nurses were put in it. There she grew up, and was taught everything that a Princess ought to know. The fairies often came to see the Queen, and begged her to take great care not to let the Princess see the light. As she grew up to nearly fifteen, the Queen, who was proud of her beauty, had her likeness painted, and sent copies of the pictures to all the kings and queens, her friends. One young Prince, named Valiant, was so struck by its beauty, that he begged his father to ask the Princess's father to give her to him for his wife. The King consented, and an ambassador was sent to Welcome's father to ask for the hand of the Princess. He was the friend of Prince Valiant, and his name was Becafica. Just before he arrived the Fairy Tulip came to see the Queen, and begged her not to let the ambassador see Welcome, and above all, not to let her leave the tower till she was quite fifteen. So the King and Queen would not let Becafica see the Princess, but they consented to let her see the portrait of the young Prince that he had brought. Welcome was delighted with it, and kept it in her room; and the King told Becafica about the fairies, but promised that in three months' time he would bring his daughter to the court of Valiant's father to become the bride of his son.

But when Prince Valiant heard this message, he doubted whether the King would keep his word, and grew so ill that the doctors said he would die unless the Princess was sent to him at once. The King, his father, was miserable, in fear of the death of his only son. He sent Becafica again to Welcome's father with such a sad letter, saying that they would be cruel not to let the Princess come, as it would kill his only son, that they felt they must consent.

So they had a carriage made into which no ray of light could come, and sent Welcome away in it, accompanied by the Mistress of the Robes, her daughter Narcissa, and a maid of honor named Flora. Flora loved Welcome, but Narcissa hated her and loved Valiant; so she and her mother laid a plot that Narcissa should pretend to be the Princess, and, in order to gain their end, they would let Welcome see the light, so that it might kill her. At noon the next day the old mother cut a large hole in the side of the carriage, and the Princess, seeing the light, was changed into a white hind. The door was thrown open, and she at once sprang out and ran into the forest, afterwards seeking shelter at a cottage near by. Flora immediately followed her.

When the wicked Mistress of the Robes and Narcissa reached the kingdom of Prince Valiant, he and his father came to meet them; but when they saw Narcissa, they cried out at once that some wicked deed had been done, for that she was not the Princess. In vain Narcissa declared that she was Welcome; she and her mother were taken to the town and lodged in a dungeon.

Then Prince Valiant declared that he could not live at court, and he and Becafica left the palace secretly, and went to stay in the forest. As it chanced, it was the one in which the White Hind lived. Flora had found her, and taken her with her to a shepherd's cot, where she hired a bedroom; and then, to their joy, they found that Welcome was a hind only by day, and at night she took her own form. Prince Valiant's only amusement was hunting, and, seeing a White Hind the next day in the wood, he chased it and shot several arrows at it, but did not wound it, and Welcome came home safely, but very tired from her chase. The next day the Prince again chased the White Hind, but, feeling tired, lay down under a tree at noon and fell asleep, where the White Hind found him, and saw, to her grief, that she was chased by none other than her beloved Valiant. Presently the Prince awoke, and the chase was continued, and at last Valiant shot the White Hind. He ran to the spot as she fell, and was sorry to have hurt the pretty deer. He thought that he would keep her for a pet, and tied her to a tree, where Flora found her, and of course set her free. But Becafica had seen Flora, and recollected her at the court of Welcome's father. So he watched in the garden of the cottage that night, and there by moonlight he saw the Princess herself. He ran to tell the Prince, who at once hastened to the same spot, and threw himself on his knees before the Princess. From that moment the spell was broken, and Welcome did not again become a hind.

Valiant now took Welcome to the old King, his father, who was charmed with her, and told him the whole story.

The Prince and Princess were married, and Becafica was wedded the same day to Flora. The two wicked prisoners were set free, but sent out of the kingdom. The fairies came to the marriage feast, and were glad to wish all happiness to the White Hind.

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