The Envious Sisters





A king had three daughters whose names were Pride, Gentleness, and

Kindness. The king was very fond of them all, but he loved the youngest

one, Kindness, the most, as she knew best how to please him. Many

clever young gentlemen came to visit Kindness, but no one ever came near

the other two, and so they were very envious of her, and decided they

would get rid of her somehow or other. One morning they asked their

father's permission to go out into the fields, and from thence they went

into the forest. Kindness was delighted at having liberty to roam about

in such pretty places; the other two were pleased that they had at last

got the bird into their hands. As the dew dried up the two eldest

sisters strolled about arm in arm, whilst the youngest chased

butterflies and plucked the wild strawberries, with the intention of

taking some home to her father; she spent her time in great glee,

singing and listening to the songs of the birds, when suddenly she

discovered that she had strolled into an immense wood. As she was

considering what to do, her two sisters appeared by her side, and said

spitefully, "Well, you good-for-nothing! you have never done anything

but try to make our father love you most and to spoil our chances in

every way, prepare yourself for your end, for you have eaten your last

piece of bread." Kindness lifted up her hands, and besought them not to

harm her, but they cut off her hands, and only spared her life under the

condition that she would never go near her home again; they then took

her beautiful precious mantle from her, and dressed her in old rags;

they then led her to the highest part of the forest, and showed her an

unknown land, bidding her go there and earn her living by begging. The

blood streamed from Kindness's arms, and her heart ached in an

indescribable way, but she never uttered the slightest reproach against

her sisters, but started off in the direction pointed out to her.

Suddenly she came to a beautiful open plain, where there was a pretty

little orchard full of trees, and their fruit was always ripening all

the year round. She gave thanks to God that he had guided her there,

then, entering the garden, she crouched down in a by-place. As she had

no hands to pluck the fruit with she lived upon what grew upon low

boughs; thus she spent the whole summer unnoticed by any one.



But towards autumn, when every other fruit was gone save grapes, she

lived on these, and then the gardener soon discovered that the bunches

had been tampered with and that there must be some one about: he watched

and caught her. Now it so happened that the garden belonged to a prince,

who spent a great deal of his time there, as he was very fond of the

place. The gardener did not like to tell him of what had happened, as he

pitied the poor handless girl and was afraid his master would punish her

severely. He decided therefore to let her go. Accidentally, however, the

prince came past and asked who she was. "Your highness," replied the

gardener, "I know no more of her than you do. I caught her in the

garden, and to prevent her doing any more damage I was going to turn her

out." "Don't lead her away," said the prince; "and who are you,

unfortunate girl?" "You have called me right, my lord," said Kindness,

"for I am unfortunate, but I am not bad; I am a beggar, but I am of

royal blood. I was taken from my father because he loved me most;

crippled because I was a good child. That is my story." To this the

prince replied, "However dirtily and ragged you are dressed, still it is

clear to me that you are not of low birth: your pretty face and polished

speech prove it. Follow me; and whatever you have lost you will find in

my house." "Your highness, in this nasty, dirty dress--how can I come

into your presence? Send clothes to me which I can put on, and then I

will do whatever you order." "Very well," said the prince; "stay here,

and I will send to you." He went and sent her a lady-in-waiting with

perfumed water to wash with, a gorgeous dress, and a carriage. Kindness

washed and dressed herself, got into the carriage, and went to the

prince. Quite changed in her appearance, not at all like as she was

before, however much she suffered she was as pretty as a Lucretia; and

the prince fell so much in love with her that he decided on the spot

that he would marry her; and so they got married, with great splendour,

and spent their time together in great happiness.



When the two elder sisters came home from the forest their father

inquired where Kindness was. "Has she not come home?" said they; "we

thought that she would have been home before us. As she was running

after butterflies she got separated from us. We looked for her

everywhere and called for her; as we got no answer we set off home

before the darkness set in."



The king gave orders that Kindness was to be looked for everywhere; they

searched for days but could not find her; then the king got so angry in

his sorrow that he drove the two elder girls away because they had not

taken proper care of their sister. They set out into the world in quite

another direction, but by accident arrived in the country where Kindness

was queen; here they lived a retired life in a small town unknown to

all. Kindness at this time was enceinte; and as war broke out with a

neighbouring nation her royal husband was obliged to go to the field of

battle. The war lasted a long time, and in the meantime Kindness gave

birth to twins, two handsome sons; on the forehead of one was the sign

of the blessed sun, on the other the sign of the blessed moon; in great

joy the queen's guardian sent a letter containing the good news to the

king by a messenger to the camp. The messenger had to pass through the

small town where the envious sisters dwelt; it was quite dark when he

arrived, and as he did not see a light anywhere but in their window he

went and asked for a night's lodging; while he stayed there he told them

all about the object of his journey; you may imagine how well he was

received, and with what pleasure they offered him lodging, these envious

brutes! When the messenger fell asleep they immediately took possession

of the letter, tore it open, read it, and burnt it, and put in its place

another to the king, saying that the queen had given birth to two

monsters which looked more like puppies than babes; in the morning they

gave meat and drink to the messenger, and pressed him to call and see

them on his way back, as they would be delighted to see him. He accepted

their kind invitation, and promised that he would come to them, and to

no one else, on his return. The messenger arrived at the camp and

delivered his letter to the king, who was very downcast as he read it;

but still he wrote back and said that his wife was not to be blamed; "if

it has happened thus how can I help it? don't show her the slightest

discourtesy," wrote he. As the messenger went back he slept again in the

house of the two old serpent-sisters; they stole the king's letter and

wrote in its place: "I want neither children nor mother; see that by the

time I come home those monsters be out of my way, so that not even so

much as their name remain." When this letter was read every one was very

sorry for the poor queen, and couldn't make out why the king was so

angry, but there was nothing for it but for the king's orders to be

carried out, and so the two pretty babes were put in a sheet and hung

round Kindness's neck, and she was sent away. For days and days poor

Kindness walked about suffering hunger and thirst, till at last she came

to a pretty wood; passing through this she travelled through a valley

covered with trees; passing through this at last she saw the great

alpine fir-trees at the end of the vale; there she found a clear spring;

in her parching thirst she stooped to drink, but in her hurry she lost

her balance and fell into the water; as she tried to drag herself out

with her two stumps, to her intense astonishment she found that by

immersion her two hands had grown again as they were before; she wept

for joy. Although she was hiding in an unknown place with no husband, no

father, no friend, no help whatever, with two starving children in this

great wilderness, still she wasn't sorrowful, because she was so

delighted to have her hands again. She stood there, and could not make

up her mind in which direction to go; as she stood looking all round she

suddenly caught sight of an old man coming towards her. "Who are you?"

said the old man. "Who am I?" she replied, sighing deeply; "I'm an

unfortunate queen." She then told him all she had suffered, and how she

had recovered her hands that very minute by washing in the spring. "My

poor good daughter," said the old man, bitterly, "then we are both

afflicted ones; it's quite enough that you are alive, and that I have

found you. Listen to me: your husband was warring against me, he drove

me from my country, and hiding from him I came this way; not very far

from here with one of my faithful servants I have built a hut and we

will live together there." The old man, in order to prove the miraculous

curing power of the spring, dipped his maimed finger into it, which was

shot off in the last war; as he took it out, lo! it was all right once

more.



When the war was over, Kindness's husband returned home and inquired

after his wife. They told him all that had happened, and he was deeply

grieved, and went in search of her with a great number of his people,

and they found her at last with her two pretty babes, living with her

old father. On inquiry it was also found out where the messenger with

the letters had slept and how the letters were changed. Pride and

Gentleness were summoned and sentenced to death; but Kindness forgave

them all their misdeeds, and was so kind to them that she obtained their

pardon, and also persuaded her father to forgive them.



There is no more of this speech to which you need listen, as I have told

it to the very end and I have not missed a word out of it. Those of whom

I have spoken may they be your guests, every one of them, to-morrow!





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